My one-room school dismissed at four o’clock. By the time my sisters and I finished such chores as feeding the milk cows and carrying in coal for the stove, it was too dark and cold to play outside.
We spent most of our evenings listening to our favorite radio programs (including The Lone Ranger, Red Skelton, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Aldrich Family, The Life of Riley, and The Judy Canova Show) and playing games.
My older sister and I played a lot of checkers, but after a few hundred games you’ve used every possible strategy for reaching the king row and taking the other person’s checkers. Chinese checkers presented more possibilities, and several people could play at once, moving their marbles across the board my father had made.
My younger sister and I played checkers occasionally, but she didn’t have my capacity for enduring loss at the hands of an older sibling. We played cards a lot, especially Rook, 7 Up, and Authors. If we had four players, we’d play Pitch, the game my father and his siblings sometimes played at family gatherings. Some people considered it a sinful game, although I couldn't figure out why.
One winter we played ferocious games of jacks—often with 20 rather than the standard 10—at school at noon on the teacher’s desk and at home at night on the kitchen table.
My parents, busy or exhausted, rarely played with us, but occasionally we could talk them into a game of Bingo. We shelled an ear of corn and put a kernel on each number that came up.
I still think these games—particularly jacks—can be a lot of fun.