Let’s Get Back to the Games We Played as Kids

Tonight my wife, son, and I played cards, rummy to be specific. As we were playing, it brought back memories of some of the games I used to play as a kid.

Since we were playing cards, the first one that came to mind was a game called “knuckles”. I don’t remember the exact rules, but I vaguely recall that at the end at the end of the game the winner got to hit the loser’s knuckles with the deck of cards. How hard and how often depended on the color of the card drawn and its rank. If you were the one delivering the blows, it was perfectly acceptable to try and draw blood while hitting someone’s knuckles based on the card drawn. I remember some kids showing no mercy while playing this game, making sure they realigned the cards after each blow so as to deliver maximum pain. Looking back, it’s amazing to think that we would voluntarily play such a game,

Another game I remember was “kill the guy with the ball”. The name pretty much says it all, but here’s a good description I came across while searching the web. The article was written by Big Daddy Graham, a local comedian, who I’ve seen a few times:

Normally played with a football with virtually no rules. Five guys could play. Fifteen could play. Someone would throw the ball in the air and whoever caught it then ran like the dickens, because the other participants were then allowed to tackle that guy and do whatever they could to get that ball away from him. Punch, kick, scratch, bite, whatever it took. All for the right to then have everyone rip YOU to shreds to get that ball. Some logic, huh?

Big Daddy mentions a few other games he played as a kid, including knuckles. One of the other games he mentions, which I seem to recall also playing when I was a kid, was Buck-Buck. Once again, here’s his description of Buck-Buck:

One guy would wrap his fingers through a chain link fence and bend over. Then another guy would wrap his arms around that guy’s waist line forming a two-man chain. Then a third guy would run about fifty yards and jump into the air and come down on the back of one of these guys trying to break the chain. If he failed, he then joined the chain and some other joker would then get the opportunity to break it. Eventually, some three hundred pound slob would come rumbling down the lane and destroy the chain and the backs of everyone playing leading to neighborhood chiropractors making a healthy living.

Finally, Big Daddy mentions a game I don’t ever remember playing, and for that I think I am grateful. The game was called Hide the Belt, and like Knuckles, sounded like it could be pretty painful:

If you thought KNUCKLES was a fun, sadistic game, then HIDE THE BELT is right up your alley. And that’s where it was usually played. In an alley. The guy with the biggest, heaviest belt buckle took his belt off and hid it. Then the other guys would try to hide it while they guy who hid it barked out hints pertaining to where the belt was. Whoever found the belt then had the right to beat the other players with that belt until they ran back on to a predetermined base.

Big Daddy notes that these were games he played growing up in Philly, and so I was curious if these games were unique to the area.

  • Wikipedia talks about a game called Scabby Queen that was played in the UK that sounds quite similar to knuckles.
  • Wikipedia has an entry that talks about American street football, and one of the variations mentioned is Kill the Guy with the ball.
  • Wikipedia also has an entry about Buck-Buck, which seems to be played all around the world. In fact, the picture above is Children’s Gamesan oil-on-panel painting by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1560. If you look in the bottom right of the photo, it appears that a group of children are playing buck-buck.
  • Reddit has a reference to someone from California recalling playing hide the belt.

So I guess these games weren’t unique to our little part of the world, which is kind of nice to know. It seems likely that most people around the world have many similar childhood experiences, such as the games noted above.

If only we could focus on what we have in common, like playing buck-buck as kids, instead of our differences, I think the world would be a better place.

Maybe what we need are to have international disputes settled by a game of knuckles or buck buck. There might be some pain involved, but hopefully, just like when I played those games as a kid, everyone would be friends afterwards.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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