“GO TO JAIL: Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.” “Fly to Paris. Take another turn.” “Quizmo!” I was an avid board game player when I was a kid. I wouldn’t say that I was addicted like the present-day video game junkies, but my best friend Patty and I would go on some binges where we played the same game for hours day after day for weeks at a time during summer vacations. And after years of competition, my beleaguered game pieces became worn, ripped, and wrinkled, and the boxes eventually fell apart.
The first board game that I can remember playing was Uncle Wiggily, which was based on a series of children’s books by Roger Garis. The main character in both the book and the game is a rabbit named Uncle Wiggily Longears. Like Candyland, Uncle Wiggily was a very simple “first” game though it did involve a bit of reading. Players begin at Uncle Wiggily’s Bungalow and advance along a track, following directions on cards as they go. The first one to arrive at Dr. Possum’s house is the winner. Introduced in 1916, Uncle Wiggily has undergone various modifications through the years but is still sold today.
For more information on Uncle Wiggily, read here at “The Game Aisle.”
Although it wasn’t a board game per se, I feel compelled to mention another of my early favorites, Tell Time Quizmo. It wasn’t one of the most popular games of the 50’s and 60’s, but it was certainly educational, and I loved it. The main game was played similar to Bingo, but instead of numbers, clocks with various times were displayed. The winner yelled, “Quizmo!”
The game included green Quizmo cards, yellow clock cards, clock hands, brads, paper markers, and a large teacher card. Additional activities were listed on the backs of the Quizmo cards.
Quizmo brings back a striking memory for me. It was my 8th birthday, I believe. I remember sitting around the dining room table with my parents, my siblings, and my homemade birthday cake. I breathlessly opened my gifts only to discover that they were all clothes! I was so heartbroken at not having received a single toy that I started to cry. Had I grown up so much that my parents considered my toy days over? I had already joined the Merry Dishwashers’ Club at age 7. Did the 8th year doom me to a life of boring presents? I had no control over the tears that burst forth. I was so disappointed. At that, my Dad grinned mischievously and stepped over to the refrigerator in the kitchen, where a wrapped gift was sitting on top. He handed it over to me, and inside was the Quizmo game. It made my day! Since I never owned a lot of toys, I cherished that game and used it often, sometimes just by myself.
Recently I was surprised to discover that Quizmo is still sold. There is not only a Telling Time Quizmo but also assorted math Quizmos, vocabulary Quizmos, and even a World Capitals Quizmo.
The next board game that I became attached to was Wide World, published in 1957. Again, it was not the most popular game in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but I played it repeatedly with my family and with my best friend. We truly did learn about the whole wide world after playing countless games. The game board was a world map divided into small squares. Below is my original set—quite timeworn but still intact.
Playing pieces were metal jet planes. You rolled dice to move the planes across the squares. The plane on the bottom right was painted pure black once upon a time.
Each time a player reaches a destination, he/she earns two product cards, which can be worth one or two points. It pays to memorize them, or you may lose a few!
Along the way, players pick up travel agent cards with specific directions.
For more detailed directions, read here at the Game Pile.
I was surprised when I checked Amazon and discovered that, like Uncle Wiggily and Quizmo, Wide World is still being sold today, 58 years later!
The board game that was closest to an addiction for me was the iconic Monopoly.
Patty and I played it incessantly. I can remember playing at her kitchen table while nursing a Pepsi Cola in her gold leaf glasses, and her black cat Midnight checking in on us from time to time. He was probably wondering what all the fuss was about.
I remember playing on my dining room table and Patty’s back porch on summer days. We usually played the long game but when there were time constraints, we played the short game—like the one day when we were sitting on Patty’s living room floor playing Monopoly, hoping that the game would end before It Takes a Thief came on the TV. It’s hard to believe, I know, but the handsome Robert Wagner trumped Monopoly. So did Michael Landon in Bonanza and Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
We played so many games over the years that we could tell you, without looking, every property around the board in order from Mediterranean to Boardwalk. . . and the buying price. We knew the rent for every property whether it had one house, three houses, or hotels. We didn’t need to look. We also knew how much we owed when landing on said properties. We didn’t have to look on the cards for that, either.
Our first Monopoly game, pictured above, eventually looked like it belonged in the land of the misfit toys. The property cards were all wrinkled. Marvin Gardens went missing, and I had to hand-make a replacement. The money, especially the one hundred dollar bills, wrinkled and ripped and curled up like the Dead Sea Scrolls. When the box finally fell apart, we threw it away and bought a new game. I saved the game board and accessories in case we ever needed replacements.
Because metal was in high demand during World War II, Monopoly game tokens were made out of wood from 1943 to 1947. My parents must have bought our game right after my dad was discharged from the Army Air Force.
My Monopoly playing days didn’t end when I went off to college and Patty moved to Florida. Before long, my son Frank had caught the Monopoly bug as well. I wouldn’t say that he was addicted to the game, but he was always trying to enlist people to play. I was happy to oblige him when I had the time. For years, Frank carried Monopoly over to his grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Easter Sunday, and as soon as the dinner table was cleared and the dishes washed, he set up the Monopoly game. Tradition dictated that his token was always the battleship. I was the man on the horse, his dad was the racing car, his sister Leslie was the shoe, Grandma was the iron, and Grandpap was the wheelbarrow.
I now own two old sets of Monopoly games minus the boxes plus a deluxe edition and a Pittsburgh edition. I expect that in a few years, my grandchildren will be old enough to play, and one day we’ll all be sitting around my large kitchen table playing Monopoly at Christmastime.
I am going to pass on explaining the rules of Monopoly. Who over the age of 8 has not played it? It’s the quintessential family game! What was your favorite board game when you were a child?
In my next post, 1950’s/1960’s Board Games This Kid Wore Out—Part 2, I continue with more games etched in my mind from the 1950’s and 1960’s—Sorry, Scrabble, Password, and more. See also 1950’s/1960’s Board Games This Kid Wore Out—Part 3.
KAREN GENNARI is the author of The Crab Hollow Chronicles, a fictitious memoir based on her experiences growing up in a neighborhood full of boys in 1961/62. It also explores the merits and challenges of life in a Catholic family of seven.
Join nine-year-old Karen Schmidt in her attempts to navigate Crab Hollow Road amidst the overwhelming male majority who beleaguer her at every opportunity. Does Karen have the fortitude to weather toadnappings, midnight escapades, false impersonation, and more? Along the way, relive the people, products, music, sports, and headlines of the early 1960’s. Virtually every page references the 1960’s. Lots of your favorite toys are mentioned in these pages.