Thursday, August 04, 2011
The Games We Played
Back in the old days, when I was a kid...
Radio was our main source of “home entertainment” (the expression wasn’t even coined until more than 30 years later) It was News and “Arthur Godfrey”* in the morning, “Jack Armstrong- All American Boy, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow” et al in the evening. Late at night, (10:00) I’d listen to the baseball games and jazz on the portable in my bedroom until my mother turned it off when she checked on me on her way to bed.
; During the day, after school, we’d play in the yard outside the kitchen. My first playmates were mainly my cousins, Patsy, Kathleen and Billy.
We’d play School: I’ll be the teacher and you’re the kids...
Doctor: OK what’s wrong with you? Here’s a prescription, take it to the drugstore...
House: I’ll be the daddy. Kathleen, you’re the mom and Patsy you’re the daughter...
Store: Good morning Mrs. Smith, what can I get for you today...
War: (When Billy was playing with us or with some of the boys in the neighborhood)
Cops and Robbers (with Billy and /or neighborhood boys)
Cowboys and Indians (“Whoever heard of girl cowboys?”)
We gave our imaginations full workouts every day in our play and visualizing the people, places and action we heard on the radio. Saturdays we gave our imaginations a rest when we went to the Children’s Show at the neighborhood movie theater. Eleven cents for admission to a four and a half hour extravaganza. Three or four serials (Lone Ranger, Superman, etc.), a few cartoons like Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, “Stooges” or “The Ritz Brothers” and two full-length features. Plus a comic book and three cents worth of penny candy. Besides taking a break from our imagination-training, Saturdays gave us a chance to verify or modify our imaginative images of our radio heroes - sometimes. Or sometimes we thought “Tonto doesn’t really look like that at all”
In some ways, reading was my favorite entertainment. When I read, it was all in my imagination and I could return to important events in a book any time I wanted to.
The earliest reading experiences I can remember were comics. First, the “funnies” in the newspapers (we got the morning and evening papers every day and they all had “funnies”. ) “Lil Abner” “Dagwood” and “Donald Duck” were my early favorites and then I discovered comic books - that I devoured almost insatiably until one day, when I was about eight, I decided that they were a waste of time and money and I switched to real books. A friend of the family had given me her sons childhood library and I soon became obsessed with “The Boy Allies” Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” , “Tom Sawyer”, Huckleberry Finn, later “My Friend Flicka”, “Call of the Wild” and more
> Whenever I think of my childhood reading, the book that comes first to mind is “Scaramouche” by Rafael Sabatini. The book opens with these lines “ He was born with the gift of laughter...and with a feeling that the whole world was mad... and this was his entire inheritance”
> The events that were taking place in Europe and the Pacific were frequently in the News and on our minds and many kids like me dreamed of being war heroes- fighting the Nazis in Europe and the “Japs” in the Pacific.
> Our uncles and cousins were in the Army or Navy and many of the kids were secretly disappointed when the war came to an end in 1945 and I was eleven. We hoped to join join up as soon as we were old enough but World War II ended before we had a chance. Little did I suspect that I’d have an opportunity to live out my fantasies before I was 20.
> The thing I’ve been wondering about for a long time is how do kids develop their imaginative muscles today when almost nothing is left to the imagination. They watch “Cops and Robbers”, “Doctor” “House” “War” etc. on 40 inch TV screens or play it on their Xboxes. When do they exercise their imaginations, flex their poers of visualization and build-up their mucles of creativity. Their grandparents, the baby-boomers or “flower-power” people as they were known in the ‘sixties, had at least one imagination-expanding exercise, they watched TV with the sound turned off, supplying dialogue for the images on the screen, frequently inspired by and facilitated through the use of recreational drugs i.e. marijuana and sometimes (rarely LCD or “acid”). Please note:
> “Don’t do this at home” or anywhere else for that matter. The side effects (including arrest and detention) aren’t worth the “trip”
> So please tell me, how do you insure that the imaginative/creative synapses are connected? What pratctices or devices can you think of that might help develop those intellectual and emotional qualities that will help make your creative juices flow and your empathetic feeling develop and thrive. Or doesn't that matter anymore?