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For displaced, misplaced, and nostalgic ex-Brooklynites

Survey No. 6: Street Games

"Home free all!", or a reasonably garbled variation of that phrase, was a frequent cry heard from the streets of Brooklyn (which my Mom still calls "the guttah" to this day). We all know that children will play, regardless of the venue. However, some feel that Brooklyn culture imposed certain characteristics on their games, making some of them unique representations of the inner-city world they inhabited. (Three-sewer stickball was not typically played in the suburbs for obvious reasons, and neither was Off-the-Stoop.) Thanks to all who participated.

The total number of unique, usable responses was 108. Of these, 71 were from males, and 37 females. The percentages shown were calculated as a proportion of the total responses to the question for each specific group (Male, Female, or Combined).

Which of the following games do you remember playing on the streets?
(multiple responses were allowed, so the total percentages will exceed 100)

Boxball/box Baseball6085%1232%8276%
Hopscotch (Potsy)4158%3081%7166%
Jump rope3752%1128%4844%
(Mother) May I (Giant Steps)2231%3286%5450%
Off-the-stoop (curb)5375%2876%8175%
Red Light, Green Light5375%3595%8680%
Red Rover1623%1746%3331%
Slug (King-Queen, or Chinese Handball)1115%411%1514%

Among the "Other" games listed were (in no particular order):

Briefly describe some aspect of one of the games you played that you feel made it unique to Brooklyn.

Most responses mentioned the local architecture (stoops, curbs, walls, sidewalk cracks, etc.) as having the most influence in making Brooklyn street games so unique. Here is a sampling of some of the responses:

Please share one or two game-related phrases you used when playing on the streets (like "Chips on the Ball")

Almost every other person responding to this question mentioned "Hindu", which was the phrase used to describe a ball gone awry because of a crack in the cement or some other foreign object. I should mention that the term originated with the word "hinder" and was translated into kidspeak on the streets of Brooklyn. Here are some others that were offered:

How do you feel about the following statement:

The games we played in Brooklyn were almost exclusively gender-specific. Boys played their games (Johnny-on-a-pony, stickball) while the girls played theirs (hopscotch, jump rope).

Totally Agree2332%411%2725%
Not Sure34%38%66%
Totally Disagree12%514%66%

What game do you feel could only be properly played on the streets of Brooklyn? Why?

Many of the responses offered Stoop Ball or some variation ("Off the Point", for example) as Brooklyn's own because of the ubiquitous stoops that seemed to be in almost every Brooklyn neighborhood. Here are some other offerings:

Since leaving Brooklyn, have you ever played Brooklyn street games with (or taught them to) anyone?


Do you think today's kids are suffering from a loss of imaginative, physical or social games because of the popularity of video and computer games?

Not Sure47%513%98%

Amen to that last issue. I truly believe that for all their sophistication and technophilia, kids today have too much of a need to be externally entertained, rather than creating their own forms of amusement. Although I don't frequently get the opportunity to observe inner-city children at play, I believe that this problem is not confined to spoiled suburbs-kids. An ironic fact is that when I taught my daughters to play hit-the-penny, they absolutely loved it. (Certainly cheaper than another Nintendo cartridge!)

One game mentioned a few times (that wasn't mentioned at all in the Bronx Board's responses to the same survey) was Saluggi, wherein one of us would grab something from someone else (a hat, a glove, or anything which that person didn't want to relinquish), shout "Saluggi!", and throw it around to each other, keeping it from the owner. If anyone out there knows the origin of that word, I'd love to hear from you!

Notably absent from your responses were any references to the roughness inherent in so many of the games that the ex-Bronxites spoke about frequently ("knucks", "noogies", etc.). And how come so many guys from Brooklyn played jump rope and hopscotch? (Just kidding.)

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