Games Before Toilets

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

You will never guess what just happened at our house. One of the neighbourhood kids just knocked on our door and took off down the street. Nicky-Nicky Nine Doors! And I thought kids had forgotten that wonderful game.

Speaking of Nick-Nicky Nine Doors and other great games of days of yore – well, I guess I wasn’t, but I am about to. The kid took off on the dead-run down the street and into Homewood Park. He was about 9 or 10, I guess, and probably thought we would be upset and chase him down the street. After all it was 8:30 at night, long after the bedtime of most seniors. Had I chased him my first stop would have been the cardiac ward at Soldiers’ Memorial. I wanted to catch him of course, but not to bawl him out, I wanted to sit him down on the front porch and bore the hell out of him for an hour or two about what we used to do when we were his age.  

Remember, my childhood was 75 years ago when the highlight of a family evening was listening to a piece of furniture called a Philco radio and sound came out of it, no pictures and sadly we saw no nudity anywhere unless the lady next door forgot to pull her blinds. There were rumours that some of the wealthier folks had a thing called television, but it hadn’t come to Mortimer Avenue in East York and as far as I know it still hasn’t got there, but they have hopes. The last time I was down there I saw a guy with a set of rabbit ears under his arm so maybe they’ll have it soon. 

Maureen and I are Toronto kids, and we weren’t blessed with dozens of outhouses to push over. Which reminds me; of all the kids I knew who talked about pushing one over I never met anyone who actually did. I think the ancient game of outhouse toppling is one of those old wives’ tales that come up after the old wives have just polished off two bottles of wine in the middle of the afternoon.  

Already I am wrong. It was guys who were supposed to have toppled them and usually the stories have someone sitting inside. Moving one over a few feet after dark was another one. 

Besides, that kind of prank was limited to country kids since outhouses were few and far between inside the Orillia town limits. I remember one on Mary Street, but I was never invited to use it, although I knew the family. I guess they were just snooty. The house is still there but I don’t know about the john. Sometime over the past 70 years, they might have moved it indoors, but I’m not sure. I think I will keep an eye on the place and if I see someone wander out behind the house with the Toronto Star or under their arm I will sneak in and dump it over.  

In Toronto we robbed gardens. Kids slept out on the veranda in the summer (this was pre-pervert days) and once it got dark, off we went on a life of crime. There were lots of gardens in East York, but we were a bit chicken, so we robbed our own, an odd choice now that I think about it. Once you scrape the dirt off them, break off and hide the tops, raw carrots are quite tasty – almost as tasty as they are when they are cooked. 

In 1950 the Fosters moved to Orillia with hope of bringing some semblance of civilization and culture to that backward little town on the shores of Lake Couchiching. As I look around today, we failed. But we did bring the game of Truth or Dare, a game that I hope still goes on behind someone’s fence or in a fort, but I doubt it. The world-wide internet has destroyed childhood as we knew it and that age-old game will have been relegated to the fading memory banks of us geezers.  

You must remember Truth or Dare. “Helen, I dare you to kiss Bobby.” or “Martha, I dare you to kiss Jimmy.” The game usually went on until someone said, “Alice, I dare you to pull down your pants.” and Alice’s mother would show up out of nowhere and the game would go on hiatus for several weeks until Alice’s bottom healed up. Alas there are no homemade forts in our neighbourhood these days and it would be hard to find a secluded corner for kids to gather.  

Plus, and maybe more important, where would we find another Alice? 

(Image Supplied)

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