Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Special Sundays helped make ’20s childhood fun

On those preaching days, there was usually a basket dinner and someone brought water in a barrel in his wagon. We had a few water fights with the boys and sometimes dabbled in the mud where the barrel dripped. Of course, our moms cleaned us up a bit before the second preaching service. William McHarg’s store was open between services, and farmers traded butter and eggs for coal oil and tobacco and other things they didn’t raise on the farm. The kids bought penny candy when we had pennies.

Most families were large enough to form a ball team, but our fun things were jumping rope, playing table games on the floor, marbles with brother Jim and playing with kittens, puppies and two goats. "Peas’ Porridge Hot" was for two; jack straws were for several. "Jacks" was fun to play alone but "sissy" for boys. We often strung a button on a long twine string to make noisy "buzz saws" by manipulating the string out and back. String came on packages, cloth bags, in balls from the dime store and many places; we had no sticky plastic tape. People wound strings into balls - I still do. I’ve forgotten how to make the crow’s foot and so many tricks we used to do with twine. We played in dry creeks or in branches in shallow running water. Families got together for evening swims, ice cream freezing, night ice skating and to make popcorn balls and taffy pulls.

The first Olivet Church, built in 1874, became known as Harg by 1894 at a country crossroads. The building we kids loved still stands firmly in its original place and serves an active Presbyterian congregation. The country school grounds with unfenced, unpaved playgrounds were converted to home sites and farmland.

My brother and I attended University Elementary School, which faced Sixth Street at Conley Road in Columbia. When I pass there, I remember the row of swings, trapeze bars, rings and stationary parallel bars about 5 feet above the ground. I see teeter-totters and that wonderful device called a "Giant Stride."

Six metal chains hung from the top of the Giant Stride’s tall pole, and each chain had a handhold I could just barely reach from the ground. Six kids at a time grabbed the six handles, and we all ran in the well-worn circle around the pole. Soon momentum carried us up and around fast, spreading our bodies out like a partly open umbrella. We were flying! Few learned to do this without first getting banged on the head when someone panicked and let go of a handle. You obviously don’t see many Giant Strides on school playgrounds anymore, but how we hated to see the recess end.

In a 1920s photograph of that playground, in a publication by the Missouri School of Education, I’m the little girl in the plaid dress, standing up on the tall stationary parallel bars.


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