Hey, Hey! Get Out of My Way! I Just Got Back From the USA!Posted: May 30, 2012
By Kim Medders
Of the many memories that come pouring back to me of my years of being a military brat, are those spent playing behind the base apartment buildings and the school playground at recess. As kids would do in the fifties and sixties before IPods and cell phones, we spent as much time outdoors as we could, finding ways to entertain ourselves. With the creativity inherent in all kids, we would find all sorts of things to do and would invent all sorts of games to play.
One of the things we would do in Karlsruhe was to walk over to the Green Stand. This was a small kiosk located on the edge of Paul Revere Village. If mom would give you a Mark, which at the time was equivalent to about 25 cents, you could get all kinds of weird, but exciting German candies. For the price of a couple of pfennigs you could buy a little tüte (sack) of gummi bears. One of my favorites was sour sticks which were sticks of compressed dextrose that were extremely tart. A small sack would cost about 20 pfennig. One candy I stayed away from was marzipan. It was deceptively pretty and came in some unique shapes and colors, but as it was made from almond paste, it tasted like crap!
One game readily comes to mind is playing Army. Living on Army bases in Germany, it was a game of war mainly against the Germans. Just about every kid in the housing area had his own “footlocker” of cast off Army gear from his dad. Things like helmet liners, entrenching shovels, canteens, and mess kits. Add in some cap guns, toy walkie talkies, and a couple pine cone hand grenades and the arsenal was complete.
The only problem was who was going to be the Germans. A few kids who had German mothers automatically were chosen whether they liked it or not. Hey, if you had a name like Wolfgang or Helmut, that was the price you paid. Wolfie usually picked a pretty good team of soldiers, but you knew that if you were on the German side of the battle, you were destined to lose. When the sides were settled on, we would set up our lines and attack each other. General Patton would have been proud of the heroism displayed on those fields of honor! I think I even fell on a pine cone grenade once to save my comrades.
In 1962 we moved to the Army Garrison in Hohenfels which was a training base near the Czechoslovakian border. At the time it had a small dependent housing area in front of this vast forest used by the Army for maneuvers. When soldiers weren’t in there playing Army, we were up there playing Army. G.I.s had a bad habit of leaving stuff out in the field. We would find spent shell casings and other cool stuff just lying around for us to collect. Just about every kid had an ammo box full of military junk. It seems this was worrisome to the adults, because periodically they would march us all from the school to the base theater and tell us what not to pick up. One item was a brass colored object the size of a pencil which as a detonator. A graphic demonstration was performed where the soldier would insert the “pencil” into a hole drilled into a block of wood with a child’s hand painted on it. It was then placed into a garbage can and blown up on stage. How exciting, although it just made us want to find them if we could!
The movies often influenced our games. Action and warfare movies gave us all sorts of ideas. If there was a really good shoot‘em up at the show, we would play out that movie for days and weeks. I remember seeing one movie involving pirates. I went home and begged an old handkerchief from my dad and got him to draw a skull and crossbones on it. I colored it in black with a magic marker, found some string and took some curtain clips. Outside on a tree, I hoisted the Jolly Roger and called all me mateys to action! We wore patches over eyes, boarded many a ship, buried treasure, and were buccaneers for several days thereafter.
Another activity we indulged in on almost a daily basis was marbles. Paul Revere Village in Karlsruhe, Germany had the best marble court I had ever seen. It was located in area between the last two buildings just before the tennis courts. In a strange coincidence, I lived in both of those buildings eight years apart. There was an area between the swing set and a chin up bar that was manicured into a first class Five Pot court. Five Pot as the name suggests was five holes dung in the ground in the five on a dice pattern. The center pot held the ante and was the goal. I loved that game! Other games such as Ringer, Potsie, and Poison were played under the tall trees that shaded the area.
The rules were slightly different on each base, but as kids we would adapt to the dissimilarities very rapidly and would adopt the local nuances of the games. Every kid I knew had an old sock full of marbles. Aggies, clearies, steelies, boulders, catseyes were in every arsenal. The most prized of these were the clear ones called clearies. The catseyes were fairly common, but on the bottom of the food chain were the German clay marbles. I didn’t trade in the clay ones myself although mom bought me some. They weren’t even very round and were weird in color. Nobody wanted the clay ones.
The thought of a clear, cold marble between my thumb and index finger still gives me chills! After the lag, we would play until it was time for dinner. No fudging was allowed, and if you did you might be penalized a marble. Most of the time we played for keepsies, which meant we anted up and whoever won got the pot. Playing for “fun” meant you had to give back what you won and was generally only used on the school playground, if the teacher or school allowed you to bring marbles to school. Generally they were confiscated if they were found on you so we ended up playing the school sanctioned games.
Usually the school yard games required little or no equipment, other than our imagination. The two games that did require at least a pink rubber ball was Two Square and Four Square. I don’t remember the rules very well, but I played each of these games incessantly. You only needed two people to play Two Square and you had to round up four or more to play Four Square. Both games required you put someone out by having them miss a returned ball in their court to win. I remember it was important to get a commitment from the teacher to get the ball before recess in order to be sure to be part of a game for the short fifteen minutes you had to play.
Other games we regularly engaged in were Red Rover, Simon Says, and Red Light Green Light. Red Rover has a pretty bad rap these days, but it was exhilarating to hear the words, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Kimmy on over!” Racing at all possible speed, you tried to break through the clasped hands of your enemies. Many a time a kid got “clothes lined” trying to win for your side. Fairly picking the person to be “it” by the famous, “eeny, meeny, miney, moe”, and “one potato, two potato”, was important. Girls tended to like Simon Says and Red Light a lot, and the boys usually played them if there wasn’t anything better to do.
One other curious game was played by us military brats, at least overseas. It really wasn’t much of a game, but more of a declaration. Usually two or more kids would link arms and walk around the playground yelling at the top of their lungs, “Hey, hey, get out of my way. I just got back from the USA!” I suppose in the grand scheme of things, those you just arrived from the “World” would be that important as to demand the tribute of moving out of their way. After all, they were privy to the knowledge of what was cool stateside, and we did want to know what was going on in the States. We desperately wanted to hear about the new TV shows, toys, music, and fashions. I tried it a few times on my return from our visits back to the land of the “Round Doorknobs”, and it was elating to do.
I do not know how the children of service men in foreign lands play these days, but in my era our play was definitely special and memorable. Whether we were recreating the war our fathers had fought in Europe and Korea, as we waged battles between apartment buildings, or the endless marble matches, it seemed that we had a quality of fun unsurpassed by sitting on your butt playing a video game. If I was confronted by those kids proclaiming their return from the “World” today, I would probably tell them, “Hey, hey are you out of your mind? Go back to the USA you idiots. I like it here just fine!”