It's interesting what you can learn just sitting on a park bench. Not long ago, I was down at Crystal Beach, a local park and pier on the Gulf of Mexico where I was enjoying some Florida sunshine and waiting for the sunset when I happened to overhear some kids who were bored and looking for something to do. In the course of the conversation they talked about their favorite games; they mentioned: "Call of Duty," "Batman: Arkham City," and "Portal 2." Only then did I realize they were talking about computer video games and got me thinking about the games I played as a child growing up in Connecticut.
Back then, the emphasis was to get out of the house and get some fresh air. We were fortunate to live in a wooded countryside with a stream running through our backyards in the community. We spent a lot of time swimming and fishing in the stream, where we mostly caught brook trout. The only organized sport we played back then was Little League baseball, but it seemed we were always playing a pickup game regardless where we were.
We drove our bicycles everywhere; to school, to the baseball fields, and to the store. One of our favorite endeavors was to canvas the neighborhood to collect used soft drink bottles and take them to the grocery store where we turned them in for the deposit (two cents for a regular bottle, three cents or a nickle for a quart bottle). We would then take the money and play a round of putt-putt golf at a nearby range, and stop off at a country store to buy penny candy; e.g., root beer barrels, paper strips of dots, rock candy, jaw breakers, pixie straws, wax candy, licorice sticks, and a myriad of other delicacies.
Living in a wooded setting, one of our favorite games was Hide and Seek, and we all learned some rather devious places to hide. So much so, it would take a couple of hours to play just a handful of games. We would also play Tag, Red Rover, and Red Light/Green Light. Our fathers tried to teach us "Buck Buck" (aka "Johnny on the Pony") but this never really caught on with us.
One time, the neighborhood was planning a Clam Bake party and the adults were all charged with various responsibilities, be it preparations, cooking, dessert, entertainment, cleanup or whatever. The father next door was charged with keeping the kids out of everyone's hair so the adults could do their jobs. To do so, he devised a scavenger hunt whereby he placed clues all over the neighborhood, at certain landmarks in the woods, and at our school. He broke us up into teams to make it competitive. The hunt began in the morning from a massive boulder in his backyard. After he explained the rules, he turned us loose where we had to find the carefully hidden clues and and decipher them which was rather devilish as I recall. This went on for several hours until late in the afternoon where the hunt finally led us back to his boulder in the backyard where he sat enjoying the day by reading a book. We all thought it rather ironic that the hunt ended at the same place it started. He just laughed.
Afterwards, we had dinner and were now too tired to do anything but go to bed, which the parents had hoped for as their Clam Bake was about to begin. Afterwards we realized it was a brilliant bit of strategy by the parents.
There were many other things occupying our time in those days: we whittled, we caught fireflies in mason jars, built forts in the woods, picked apples in a nearby orchard, and played a lot of Dodge Ball (we called it "German Dodge" for some unknown reason). When it rained, a group of us would get together and play marathon sessions of Monopoly. In the winter, we slowed down a bit, but still found time to ride our sleds down hills, ice skating, build snow forts, and of course engage in several snowball fights.
So, as I thought about the young men talking about their video games, I kind of felt sorry for them. Here we were sitting on the Gulf of Mexico on a beautiful day and they were bored. It never occured to them to drop a fishing line off the pier or even a simple game of catch or "pickle" (running bases). They just wanted to go home and play their favorite video game. I was tempted to teach them how to play Red Rover, but like our fathers who tried to teach us "Buck Buck," I knew this wouldn't really catch on with them. Pity.
Whenever I hear a youngster lament, "There's nothing to do," I just role my eyes and think back to my youth. There is much more to being a child than just playing with electronic gadgets. Maybe the parents just need to throw the kids outside and force them to discover the world around them.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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