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It was the summer of 1961 . . . or 1962 . . . or 1963. When I had met my quota of bike riding and roller skating for the day, when there were no whiffle ball games transpiring in the empty lot, when I had just bought a Nutty Buddy from the Goody Bar man, it was always a fine time to break out the board games. What could be more rewarding than sitting under the grape arbor, Nutty Buddy in hand, trying to beat the stuffing out of my opponents in Monopoly or Sorry!? What is more pleasing to the eye than seeing five sixes on the dice and yelling “Yahtzee!?” How about making the word “zax” on the triple word score? That’s 57 points, thank you.
In this third post on board games, I’ll wrap it up with a few more favorites of the 50’s and 60’s.
Checkers were as common in our baby boomer households as transistor radios and 45 RPM records. My husband Frank’s grandmother kept this checker board at her house to entertain his brother and him when they came to visit.
Copyright 1959, her board originally came with Popeye checkers, as pictured on the flip side, but Frank doesn’t remember them. He just remembers the standard black and red ones. Did anyone out there have the Popeye checkers?
Frank’s grandmother also kept this Chinese checkers game at her house for the boys. For many, going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a special treat, especially when your grandparents set aside ironing the sheets or trimming the hedges in order to sit down and play games with you and offer you a heaping bowl of neopolitan ice cream in between games!
Bingo was very popular in the 50’s and 60’s. We played at home, at school, and at my church’s annual fair. My mother so looked forward to playing Bingo at the St. Bart’s fair on those comfortable summer evenings. If you do not know how to play Bingo, I will assume that you were raised by wolves. This is my original Bingo game, copyright 1941, with a metal spinner, 20 cards, and square cardboard markers.
Bingo wormed its way into American culture enough to earn it a spot at Philadelphia’s Board Game Park. Notice the blue bingo markers, each with a number, undoubtedly, from 1 to 75.
Then there was Trouble. I didn’t own it, but my best friend Patty did, so we played numerous games as an alternative to Monopoly, Sorry, et al. It was unique in its method of rolling the dice. I loved pushing down on the Pop-o-Matic bubble.
Do you remember watching the game show Password on TV with celebrities such as Richard Dawson, Rose Marie, and Betty White? It first aired in 1961 with the board game following in 1962. This is my 1966 edition.
Finally, I must mention Yahtzee, a game I love to play to this day. Full house, large straight, Yahtzee! The tiny 2-inch pencil on the boxtop is my son Frank’s special “Yahtzee” pencil. He has been using it for so many years that he now has to sharpen it with a knife and wire an eraser to it. Can you tell he’s an engineer?
But the Yahtzee silliness doesn’t end there. Years ago, my son Frank got a “pooping cow” for Christmas. This is a small plastic cow that “poops out” candy such as jelly beans when you pull down its tail. It came to pass that whenever you get a Yahtzee or a large straight, you earn a candy from the pooping cow. Frank’s daughter Katie, a toddler at the time, took a liking to the pooping cow and played with it until the legs broke off. Frank attempted to replace them with a twist tie, but that prosthetic device just didn’t work out for our purposes and, sadly, we had to “retire” our pooping friend. I couldn’t find a replacement, so for Christmas 2013, I bought him . . . a pooping reindeer! Our Yahtzee tradition endures . . . .
I could go on: Chess, of course, The Game of Life, Risk, Operation, and more. Many of these games launched family affairs, where mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, even grandmas and grandpas played at the kitchen table after homework was done or when there was “nothing good” on TV. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, as you may recall, there were not 150 plus channels from which to choose. There were three channels–ABC, NBC, and CBS. Here in Pittsburgh, they were channels 2, 4, and 11. No Netflix or Hulu Plus. No cable or dish, just rabbit ears. No DVD’s, video games, smart phones, or computers to entertain yourselves on a rainy day.
And so, board games were a major source of family entertainment. I’m sure that, like me, you have fond memories that took place after the holiday meal was eaten and dishes done. That’s when Monopoly or Yahtzee or some other multi-player game was set up along with a bowl of chips and pretzels or a tray of pizzelles and bourbon balls. The frenzied days leading up to Christmas were forgotten as the family sat down to do some serious (or maybe boisterous) strategizing.
Here’s an idea: Have yourself an Old-Fashioned Board Game Party. Invite a few friends or family members over. Dress in 50’s or 60’s garb. Surely, you girls still have a poodle skirt and saddle shoes in your closet. Pull your hair back into a pony tail and attach a bow to match your skirt.
Maybe you boys can conjure up a white t-shirt with a candy cigarette pack rolled in your sleeve. Slather on some Brylcreem (if you have any hair left.) Just a little dab’ll do ya.
Drag out and dust off your old games (and maybe your pooping cow or whatever inane house rules you and your buddies concocted in your youth). Set out some Charles Chips and Jiffy Pop, a few Clark bars (especially yins yinzers from Pittsburgh) and Bonomo Turkish Taffy, and some bottles of Coca Cola or, for those watching their weight, Diet-Rite Cola. How about some ice cold Tang? And you’re good to go.
If you haven’t read the first two posts on board games, see 1950’s/1960’s Board Games This Kid Wore Out—Part 1 and 1950’s/1960’s Board Games This Kid Wore Out—Part 2.
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.