As you are purchasing the latest popular “toys” for children on the upcoming holidays, stop to think how these toys have changed in just the last 50-75 years.  Television is bombarding us with the latest electronic gifts of this season.  Fifty to seventy-five years ago in Maine very few people even had television to see such advertisements!  And, if they did have a TV, the number of channels was limited to three at the most even with a large antenna and rotor on the roof or “Rabbit Ears” on top of the set!  Children spent very little time watching television compared to today.  The first children’s show in Maine was the popular puppet, Howdy Doody!  How many remember the opening song, “It’s Howdy Doody time?”

Children were outside and active everyday.  After “supper” children in a neighborhood gathered to playhideandseek Hide and Seek, kickKick the Can, Giant Steps, Red Rover, Simon Says and Duck Duck Goose.  It was safe to rungames1 around the neighborhood and some games like Street Hockey were played in the street.  As dark approached, the mothers would call their children or ring a bell announcing it was time to come home.

Because safety was not an issue in those days, children were more independent.  At a young age, they could walk or ride their bikes to a neighborhood store, school or a friend’s house to play.  They learned to make good decisions and solve problems on their own.

Indoorpickupsticks games included Jacks, Pick up Sticks, dominoes Dominoes, Checkers, Mr. Potato Head, Rag Dolls, Yo-Yos, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Dress Up, Comic Books, Paper Dolls, Tops and View-masters.  For contemporary  children it is hard to imagine having fun doing these things.  The lack of video games, ipads, television cell phones, etc. forced children tojacks spend more time outside and play creatively.  They used their imaginations to create games from what they found.duckduckgoose

Families took car trips and played games with their children as they traveled.  Games included I Spy, Searching for License Plates, Counting Cows (you doubled the number if you passed a church and lost them all if you passed a cemetery) and singing songs.

The elementary school playgrounds offered other games.  Jumping Rope was big and the children jumped to wonderful rhymes such as:

House to let,

Apply within,

When I go out,

Mrs  ? (surname of next child) comes in.


I had a little puppy,

His name was Tiny Tim.

I put him in the bathtub,

To see if he could swim.

He drank up all the water,

He ate a bar of soap.

The next thing you know,

He had a bubble in his throat.

In came the doctor

(person jumps in)

In came the nurse

(person jumps in)

In came the lady with the alligator purse.

(person jumps in)

Out went the doctor

(person goes out)

Out went the nurse

(person  goes out)

Out went the lady

With the alligator purse.

(person goes out)


Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, switch off the light,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say goodnight.

Goodnight, Teddy Bear, goodnight.


Polly in the kitchen,

Doing a bit of stitching,

In came a bogeyman,

And frightened her away!


All in together girls,

Very fine weather girls.

When I say your birthday

Please run out.

January, February, March, etc.


Hopscotch was popular.  The pattern was drawn in the dirt with a stick.  If you played on the sidewalk, the pattern was drawn with a piece of chalk.  The chalk was often pocketed from the classroom blackboard!

Marbles were played on the playground.  Children had a cloth bag to hold their marbles and they often traded marbles with friends.games3

Ball Against the Wall games could be played by an individual or a group taking turns.  Girls were more likely than boys to be drawn to this activity.  The accompanying rhymes determined how the game was played.  The following defines common actions with the small pink rubber ball.

Plainy:  The ball is simply thrown against the wall and caight.

Clappy:  As for Plainy, but clap hands when the ball is in the air.

Rolley:  Roll arms over one another when ball is in the air.

To Backey:  Clap hand behind back

Hippy:  Place hands on hips

Tippy:  Touch the ground

Jelly Bag:  The two hands are held together at the wrists and the fingers are spread wide to catch the ball.

Basket:  Weave and lock fingers of both hands together, with the knuckles facing backwards to you; the ball is caught in locked palms or “basket.”

The following rhyme includes the above actions.  “Plainy, clappy, rolley, to backey, Hippy, tippy, a jelly bag and basket”


Farmer in the Dell was a circle game that starts with one child, the farmer, in the center.  Another popular circle game was “Ring Around a Rosie, Pocket full of Posies,Ashes, ashes, We all fall down.”


Skipping was a favorite game and it too was done to rhymes like the one below.

Charlie Chaplin went to France

To teach the ladies how to dance.

First he did a heel-toe, then he did the kicks,

Then he did the rhumba, then he did the splits.



Ice skating was a winter activity that most children enjoyed.  They skated on local ponds, flooded school playgrounds and flooded backyards.  The ‘rinks” were often lighted and they skated in the iceskatingevening as well.  No one complained about having to help shovel the snow off the ice or the occasional frostbite in a toe!  Sidewalk skating was done with the metal skates that buckled over your shoes.

These games and toys are a far cry from the games and toys used today!  AS you have children around for the holidays or home on school vacation, try playing some of these games of the past with them.  They may actually have fun!



Have you ever heard of mincemeat?  Have you ever eaten mincemeat? If you answered yes to these questions, you probably grew up in a home in Maine or New England where it was a tradition in years past.  Read on to learn about mincemeat and its history!

Mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without having to salt it or smoke it some 500 years ago in England.  mince1This pie is partly from a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, especially minced mutton.  These pies became know as “Christmas Pies.”

Today mincemeat pie is served as a dessert with more fruit than meat.  When spices becamemince8 more plentiful in the 17th century, the spices in mincemeat increased.

The Christmas Pie started when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Land with an assortment of oriental spices.   It was important to add three spices, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, to represent the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi.  It was considered very lucky to eat a mince pie on each of mince4the twelve days of Christmas,

In 1413, King Henry V of England was served mince pie at his coronation.  In 1545, a recipe for mince pie was in a book on Tudor cookery and feasts.  In 1588, “Mynst Pie” was in “Good Hous-Wives Treasurie” by Edward Allde.

From 1649 to 1658 Oliver Cromwell saw Christmas as a pagan holiday and he abolished it on December 22, 1657. The traditional mincemeat pie was banned and not restored until 1666 when King Charles !! rose to the throne.mince6

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mince pies were made in exotic shapes.  In 1659 the Puritan influence reached the American British Colonies.  Boston banned mince pies from 1659-1681.  Those caught celebrating with a pie were fined.

If you did not grow up with mincemeat, chances are you do not know what it is.  From the name you might assume that meat was the main ingredient, but this is not the case.  It is mostly fruit and spices.  Brandy is often added, but the suet has been replaced by butter.mince5

Mincemeat was brought to New England by English settlers in the 17th century.  It was originally a “Christmas Pie”, but the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas.  the pie began to appear as a Thanksgiving tradition.

In the “old days” Mincemeat Pie was traditionally served in Maine on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Today it has lost its popularity except with some of us “old timers!”  I happen to love it,mince3 but the younger generations have little or no interest in trying it.  As a child growing up in Maine we had venison mincemeat pies for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Mincemeat is readily available in the grocery stores and can be used pies, tarts, cookies, bars, ice cream, ice cream sauce, cake, muffins, scones and crumble.  In my opinion, it is delicious in any form!mince7

Try it – you may like it!