Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kids Playing in Liberty: Bikes, Trees, Cowboys, Marbles

As a child, what did kids do in Liberty, a town of 100 or so, counting dogs?  I remember riding bikes a lot.  From our house to the Whitaker's, just around the corner from us, or down to Bear Creek or over to church.  And back again.  Since cowboys and Indians were big on the radio (we got a 13 inch black and white TV when I was 6), the boys in the neighborhood often wore a holster with plastic handled guns while playing or riding bikes.  I remember Bobby Benson of the B Bar B Ranch on the radio.  Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey were on the radio, also, I just can't remember listening to them.

Once we started watching westerns on TV, we had visible role models to imitate with our hats and guns.  Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix were some of our heroes.  I seemed to have a beat-up hat for a while so I liked to act like Gabby Hayes.

My brother, Mike, two years older, often tried to ditch me so he could play with Bobby W.  They liked to climb trees and I was too little to get very high up, and maybe restricted by my mother according to age from climbing trees.  They could ride bikes faster and could take off before I could get started.

Marbles was popular play focus in my Liberty childhood.  I played against anyone in the neighborhood who wanted to play.  I was afraid to "play for keeps" very often because I didn't want to lose some of my favorite marbles. When we did, we didn't "play for shooters", so we could protect our favorites (not great gamblers in Liberty).  We sometimes traded marbles, too, to get ones we really liked that someone else was tired of.

I often played marbles with my Grandma Clayton, who had severe Rheumatoid Arthritis with mobility impairment (wheelchair bound).  She lived right across Back Street from us and was a real sport about playing marbles any time I wished (or so it seemed to a young boy)  My aunt Crockey had some really cool, ancient looking marbles and shooters that impressed me more than any marbles we kids had.

For play, we kids would each put ten marbles in the ring and shoot at them when our turn came until all the marbles were out of the circle (usually a piece of string).  As we got bigger shooters, the games got shorter since we could knock out more marbles per shot with the huge Shooters.  I had a favorite medium sized red shooter, then larger cat's eye shooters as my childhood marble career evolved.

Wow, I just found a jar with many of my old marbles and noticed a couple shooters I used to like.  I don't see the red one, but if I dump them all out, I might find it, but might make a mess and get in trouble with my wife (who won't let me climb trees, either).  Nothing like Liberty nostalgia.  What are your play memories from early childhood, especially if it was in or near to Liberty?

Pat Jonas

P.S. My wife showed me the last jar of marbles (and jacks) in the secret stash when I lamented not finding my red shooter (I dumped out all the marbles).  Alas, the red shooter is in front of me now, spewing nostalgia.  I hope that you all have a favorite marble or shooter that will spew for you.  See Facebook comment from P. Cox for a great message from "the girls".


  1. I guess kids growing up during the 40s & 50s were pretty much the same. My roots began in a "big city" compared to Liberty. Y-Bridge City AKA Zanesville, Ohio was around 35-40,000 souls but seemed like a small town to me because Columbus was a "real" city where we went to Christmas shop (about 50 miles west on Rt 40).

    I remember playing cowboys for hours and was embarrassed when I had to be a bad guy 'cause my cowboy hat was black! Man was I glad to get a white hat one Christmas. Then I found an old cavalry hat, Union of course. Remember the old ones with the slanted forhead? We foiled a lot of evil Indian plots and old Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief. The Shawnee pottery was just over the hill on Linden avennue so we had the inside scoop on Indians.

    Then there were the marble tournaments...I lost too many 'cause I could never get my knuckles to bend just right on the shooter hand like old John Dinen could. Good shooters got to shoot off the tip of their index finger instead of the crook of it and were really accurate. I then concentrated on my Yo-Yo skills which provided more evidence that my motor skills were lagging behind other kids my age.

    But I was good (I mean real good) at building log and brush forts in the unending woods behind our house...not to mention a great penchant for building dugouts. One year we built a dugout and threw an old grease drum with a downspout chimmney and had a furnace for winter. Dad would bring big cardboard sheets home from his factory and we even had stunning cardboard walls with Train calanders hanging on them! I remember the day when we all went home for lunch and the firetruck came to douse what was left of our winter dugout...major bummer but pretty neat.

    Sorry about that, Pat. I really love this blog 'cause it takes a few years off each time I read it.

  2. Thanks, Dave. The Yo-Yo and Fort comments will trigger more nostalgia. Pocket knives will soon follow but we're still a long way from high school when the Beatles showed up.