Orleans County Grammar School History
Written by E. A. Stewart
The games among the students between 40 and 50 years ago were mostly “ball” and “pull-away.” There were two kinds of ball, single and round. Single ball could be played by three persons: a thrower, knocker and catcher. To be a knocker was the coveted place, but when a knocked ball was caught by either the other two, before it touched the ground or on the first bound, the knocker was “out” and the catcher was “in” and took his place.
Round ball was more like the present game of “base ball.” There was no permanent organization but each side “chose up” on the spot. The right of the first choice was determined by throwing up the bat- or ball-club as it was then called- by the leader of one side and the other side catching it as it came down, and then each side clasping it by the hand one over the other, the one having the end of the bat instantly choosing his man. The ball of those days was made of woolen yarn. Many has been the old stocking unraveled to make balls for the boys. It was wound tight enough to be hard but not hard enough to hurt one if it should hit.
There was no market for balls then; every one made his own ball and the boy who had a ball well wound and neatly covered with leather possessed an indispensable treasure. Everything being ready the game proceeded in much the same way as at present. The right to “go in” first was determined in the same way as to make the first choice, by throwing up the bat. It sometimes happened there was not space enough at the top of the bat to clasp it but if the hold was sufficient so it could be thrown over one’s head, it was enough. “Tally” was usually kept by cutting notches in a stick. A knocker had to make four or five bounds before getting “home” safe for another knock.
With the smaller pupils pull-away was a common game. Though simple it was full of excitement and fun. The great point was alertness in keeping out of the way of one’s adversary. A mass of boys stood on one bound or goal and one boy on the opposite bound some four or five rods away. When he shouted “pull-away” the boys opposite pulled for his bound before being caught by him. If he caught one, that one was his helper in catching the rest, and so on through the game. When all were caught, the game was closed. This game was destructive to clothes and a sharp scolding was very often awaiting the boy who indulged in it when he arrived home.
“I Spy” was still another game that was almost universal with the smaller boys. To “blind” was the part to be avoided and the choice had to be made by some rule. This was done by a counting out process. A self appointed leader collects a number of children, more or less about him and repeats a certain formula, which in my day ran as follows:
One-ery, your-ery, ickery-Ann
Fillicy, follicy, Nicholas John,
Queeby, Quoby, Irish Mary,
Stinckelum, Stankelum, Stylo Buck.
Pointing to each child with his finger as he repeated these lines, he allots to each one including himself, one word of the mysterious formula and the one the last word falls to is “out,” and his goes through the same process again till all are counted out except a luckless one who has to “blind.” There were several of these formulas. If a boy wanted to be a little more refined he would repeat the following:
Eny meny mony might
Tensy lensy, bony, strike,
Hulty, culty, boo.
And still another, occasionally used:
Entry, mentry cutry corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, brier limber lock
Six geese in a flock
Set and sing by the spring
Old rotten dish clout.
The rule for the one who blinded was to count a hundred with his eyes closed, in order to give time to all to hide. The tendency was to shorten this part of the game by counting the short way. Some would quiet their consciences by simply repeating “ten, ten double ten, forty-five, fifteen,” and call that counting one hundred; but usually all were held to the rule. Having got through “blinding” the point was to spy out all the hiders. When he found one he turned back on the keen run to his starting point, crying out: “I spy Ned Blank and touch the goal before him.”
Other games more or less played were, “pitching quoits” which tore up the lawn, “goal” and “snap the whip.”