Sunday, February 20, 2011

Games We Played and Leisure Moments

Maybe it's with the hindsight or enlightenment of incipient senility that our remote past comes to life again and seems to be more vivid the older we get. Whatever the truth be , I'm learning to live with it more and more every day. Just this morning Rebekah and I were reminiscing about childhood passtimes ... the games we played ..... the fun we had ........ in fact , I can still hear Charlotte Johnston's voice calling out , " Red Rover , Red Rover let Gerry come over !" and picture myself , in my mind's eye, barrelling down the road .... hoping to split the human chain in front of me. Since I was  a burly lad my Mom always warned me not to be too rough though ....othrwise the girls would never invite me back again to play .... and that would have been disastrous since most of my playmates in the immediate neighbourhood during those early years .... between the head of Big Hill and Glad Hill .... were GIRLS ! .... the Campbells with Barb and Ardith , the Earles with Joan , Verna and Doreen , the Esteys with Joy , Helen and Eileen and next door with Katherine and Charlotte. There were just three boys .... Ray Earle , Tommy MacDonald and myself .... and even there , Ray wasn't always ready to hang out with small fry like me and Tommy since he was a bit older and had other interests.

There was one main leisure activity , however , that we all loved and shared whatever age group we belonged to and that was sliding down Big Hill and Burner Hill in winter time ...... each kid vying with the next , trying to outdistance the others by gliding as far as he-she could up the slope at the bottom ... opposite the old burner ... hoping to stop well beyond Lester Hovey's house ... maybe even so far as Bourque's before his-her sled ran out of "gas". Some nights there would be as many as 25 kids ... some from Lower Pokiok too ...coming "lickety" split down the hills and enjoying themselves. I can still see Tommy's Aunt Margey on her "pinder" or "pigsticker" , knees bent back behind her head whizzing down Big Hill. We thought she was a real daredevil.... and she truly was. His Aunt Marie was more delicate and the sweetest big sister to us all. Our chief killjoy and worst enemy back then was the hated city sand truck ... or as the English call it " the gritting lorry". We would see them coming from afar .... two or three men with shovels on the back of a truck speading the evil wares over our well-groomed sliding place as they manoeuvred their way slowly up the steep hills.. There were few cars back then but I guess they were simply doing what modern living imposed on them.

When Spring rolled around hop-scotch grids would appear and Tommy and I , although we wouldn't be caught dead drawing one ourselves , always triĆ©d to impress the girls that we could toss the hunk of glass into any square we chose and hop around those squares in no time flat. Another sign that Spring had arrived was the sight of kids everywhere playing marbles ... or "glassies" as we called them ....... digging a "bunny hole" with our heels and trying to "fleece" our  buddies ... relieving them of their prized possessions. Then there was skipping ... both by oneself like a boxer in training or group skippng with someone at either end of a long rope rotating it while another kid in the middle jumped to the beat. I vividly remember the following as though it were yesterday. A bunch of us were playing skipping in front of our house  ... between our driveway and the well ... Katherine was hopping to the rhythm of the rope while we were lined up waiting our turn ...... when all of a sudden the earth beneath her opened wide and gobbled her up ... she disappeared from sight right before our eyes. All we could see was a gaping hole some 10 feet in diameter and hear Katherine's cries below in the dark. I ran to the house to get my Mom while others fanned out to fetch help. Aunt Agnes was there in no time ..... leaning over the sink hole to reassure herself that Katherine was all right and tell her frightened daughter that help was on the way. Soon afterwards Charlie Dobson or Cecil Estey , I believe , lowered a ladder and up she climbed .... a few bumps and bleeding bruises on her arms and legs ...... and very happy to be back among us in the sun. The run off water from the well had been vanishing into the ground for years causing this empty space below the surface of the road and her jumping up and down had been enough to make the whole shebang cave in. That very afternoon the city dumped many loads of rock into that hole to fill it in. My Dad told me in later years that  the water had gouged out a huge subterranean cavern ... about 20 feet deep by 15 feet wide  ..... that we onlookers couldn't see from above ground.

After supper a bunch of us would gather and someone might suggest a game of hide and seek or kick the can. When I was "IT" I knew where to look for  few of the kids as they would always choose the same places to hide... time after time .... Charlotte had a favourite cedar tree and Tommy invariably jumped into the old sand box at the corner of the Clubhouse Road where the mailbox now stands. He was tiny back then and could fit in there easily. Most times I would simply bounce a couple of rocks off the box while calling out his name at the same time. This meant he must come out and go to jail until I had found the others. Then came the days of nurse and patient ... popular during the war years ... OR  playing house with Charlotte doing the "imaginary" cooking. By age 12 we had graduated from these childish antics to more mature pursuits ... such as "spin the bottle" ! I'll never forget a group of us sitting in a circle in Johnston's front veranda .... boy, girl , boy , girl , boy , girl ,etc and Tommy tugging my sleeve to get my attention and whispering in my ear his big concern .... not to say "worry" ! He wondered what we should do if he spun the bottle and it stopped pointing at me !!! ....or.vice versa !!  I think we played along until such a dramatic moment came along and then lit it out of there.

Post Scripta

1) In this post I have been geographically selective and by no means wish to imply that there were no other "kids" in Upper Pokiok . There were Marie and sister , Roberta , Evans at the foot of Big Hill and Roseena , Geraldine and Oscar (Junior) Estey half way up Big Hill. Out the road there were Margey and Harry Cross along with neighbours Gerry , Larry , Bobby and Sandra McCoy ........ both families having younger siblings whom I have never known.
2) I have posted two pictures showing the sleds we used back then. The top picture shows the ordinary sled ... exactly the one I had myself. Just below it is the "pinder" or much more commonly known as the "pigsticker"...... which was low-slung , close to the centre of gravity and very fast .... harder to steer too ! Art McGuire tells me they often hooked two together ... one behind the other ,,, steering with the first one.  


  1. Hi, Gerry. It brings alot of good memories of our young days on the big hill in pokiok, As I am older than you,I remember Ken Cross had a,I think was a 1934 Buick. And there were winters that he could not drive his car to work,as the city made no attempt to clean the road. We would make our skies out of barrel staves, and get a tea box from the old burner, take it apart,an make a toboggon,If the young kids today read what I say they would think I was kidding, but it is true,Yes we would go like the wind down the big hill,and not stopping,go down the burner hill,past Fred Cunninghams house,and always to Hoveys house,and sometimes farther. But the fastest thing that I ever used was a bobsled, That was made with two Pig Stickers.with three good wide boards nailed together,joining the sleds,you could steer the front sled,,Put three or four kids on it and you were king of the hill......Those were the days..Your old Pokiok Friend. Art McGuire.

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  3. Hey , Art.... were we still living back in the the days when Gaelic was the everyday language of our forefathers I'm sure you'd be wearing the honoured title of "seanchaĆ­ (pronounced "shawn-key" ) ... guardian of ancient lore or storyteller.And you'd be deserving of it and wear it well ! You mention that you are older than I. So be it ! I can live with that knowng that I'll soon catch up to you !!... and I remember well how in our youth we were taught to respect and honour our elders ... and likewise that the older we get , the fewer elders there are .... until , finally I guess , we ourselves earn our stripes and become eligible to join and start paying dues to that distinguished "cluster". What I'm trying to say here , Art , is simply that I'm having a barrel of fun reminiscing about old times in Pokiok and , in many respects , it's all your fault !! You are a living , animated , opinionated encyclopedia of past events and a dear friend and I admire you and thank you for being both.I wouldn't have you any other way!
    You mention Big Hill in Winter. My Dad owned an old Willys Knight back in the early 1940s. It had rained overnight followed by a quick freeze up .... making for icy roads .. that ugly ice we all hate and fear! My Dad started gingerly down Big Hill on his way to work ... lost control as he passed Hatfield's ... didn't dare brake.... kept spinning around and bouncing off snowbanks by Oscar Estey's house until he finally came to a full stop atop a snowbank across from Caddell's place ....teeter-tottering back and forth .... all the time looking straight down at Gerry Sherwood's home far below in Welch's Cove.I wasn't there , Art ..... but as we say ... "Our Dads always tell the truth and never exaggerate". Take care now , old Pokioker and yes , we'll get that rowboat for next Summer and visit every nook and cranny between the Crick and Boar's Head.

  4. hi gerry,

    'any chance you could give me a print of you, josie & tanker from september 1956 in senneville, p.q.?

    to me, this is one of the nicest shots in your wonderful collection! your parents were special people in very sense of the word.

    scotty & alma always spoke of them with deep affection.

    the name "tanker mcnulty" is STILL remembered with respect by old timers in the north end and on the port.

    your recollections and photos do them proud!