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Anyone for a game of hopscotch?


Last week I wrote on the game of pedley, a favourite game in rural Newfoundland during pre-confederation days. Although played by both boys and girls, it was generally considered a boy's game. Today I am going to write on the game of hopscotch which would have been considered by some as a girl's game, although boys often played the game. Unlike pedley, the game of hopscotch seems to be ancient in terms of outdoor games, and seems to have been played in numerous countries. Like pedley, though, and perhaps especially here on Fogo Island, you'd be hard-pressed today to see anyone playing the game. Perhaps I am just not looking. There were a number of variations of the game on Fogo Island, but I'll dwell on the most popular one. It can be played by rather young children as well as older ones. It is best played in pairs but can be played with more players if you have patience waiting for your turn. A popular place to 'draw' a hopscotch would have been on a level part of the road keeping it perhaps to one side to avoid other people having to walk over it. It was drawn with a stick, thus: first there would be a single block which I will designate #1. Atop #1 square were two adjacent rectangular blocks #'s 2 and 3. Next to that and midway would be another single block, #4. This block was always called the 'boiler'. (I have no idea why.) The hopscotch would be completed with two adjacent blocks like #'s 2 and 3. Now, behold the typical hopscotch. Sometimes there would be extra blocks extended but generally speaking this was the one most popularly played on Fogo Island.

The View From Fogo Island - Last week I wrote on the game of pedley, a favourite game in rural Newfoundland during pre-confederation days.

Although played by both boys and girls, it was generally considered a boy's game. Today I am going to write on the game of hopscotch which would have been considered by some as a girl's game, although boys often played the game. Unlike pedley, the game of hopscotch seems to be ancient in terms of outdoor games, and seems to have been played in numerous countries. Like pedley, though, and perhaps especially here on Fogo Island, you'd be hard-pressed today to see anyone playing the game. Perhaps I am just not looking.

There were a number of variations of the game on Fogo Island, but I'll dwell on the most popular one. It can be played by rather young children as well as older ones. It is best played in pairs but can be played with more players if you have patience waiting for your turn. A popular place to 'draw' a hopscotch would have been on a level part of the road keeping it perhaps to one side to avoid other people having to walk over it. It was drawn with a stick, thus: first there would be a single block which I will designate #1. Atop #1 square were two adjacent rectangular blocks #'s 2 and 3. Next to that and midway would be another single block, #4. This block was always called the 'boiler'. (I have no idea why.) The hopscotch would be completed with two adjacent blocks like #'s 2 and 3. Now, behold the typical hopscotch. Sometimes there would be extra blocks extended but generally speaking this was the one most popularly played on Fogo Island.

Some agreed upon method would decide who would begin the game. The only piece of equipment was what was always called the 'stone', which I seem to remember was always a nail. A used horseshoe nail was especially lucky. The person in queue drops the 'stone' in square # 1. That person must then hop all the way to the end of the grid, turn around and hop back. She must hop over the square with the 'stone' inside it, and may not hop on any lines, and may not skip any squares. Single squares like 1 and the boiler must be hopped with one foot. Double squares like 2 and 3, and 5 and 6, must be straddled with one foot in each square simultaneously. When a player was stopping in #'s 2 and 3, she retrieved her 'stone', then hopped into it and then hopped home. When a player completes this mission successfully, she must throw her stone into square 2 and then repeats the above directions, but single hopping in 1, 3, 4, and then each foot rests simultaneously in 5 and 6. She then returns hopping in 4, and 2, at which time she retrieves her stone, placed her other foot in that square, and then #1, and back home. The player continues playing until a mistake is made, and that would be missing the square aimed for with the 'stone', stepping on a line, failing to stay on one foot or putting a second hand into that square for balance. When her turn came again, she would begin at the block that she was previously attempting.

When a player has successfully completed going through all the blocks, she could be then rewarded. She is then permitted to stand in front of block #1 but back on to the grid, and throw her stone over her head. If the stone landed in either block, that block became her property and hers alone. She was allowed to put her two feet in that block. The other player would be obliged to jump over it. At this point the game became difficult. This particular block was called the player's 'initial', and was so marked. As the game progressed, it often became almost impossible to finish the game without some concession. Then the player who may be finding it impossible to hop to all the squares, could be granted a small 'piece of land' adjacent to the confines of the grid, and only space for the player to put one foot. The game of hopscotch would hardly ever be completed as it was supposed to. It fact it was pretty nearly impossible.

Those of us who were involved in the teaching of reading realized that children often performed better when the material they were attempting to decipher was relevant. That may explain why to this day I am remembering a poem that was in our grade two reader. I am not sure of the title but this is how it went:

All day I play at hopscotch,

And hop, and hop, and hop,

And when I go to bed at night,

I dream I never stop,

And all the world and everything

Is one big hopscotch square,

With one tired little girl,

Hopping here, and hopping there

Does anyone else out there remember that? I can still see the picture accompanying the poem. I would appreciate any comments on the game of hopscotch, and any variation that you may be familiar with.

benson.hewitt@nf.sympatico.ca

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