Entertaining Ourselves In The 1930s


White County Historical Society

hat did kids do for entertainment during the 1930s? Not many could afford store toys so we made sling-shots (sometimes called beanflips) and sometimes we made a wheel and paddle to push. Took a three-foot stick, nailed a flattened and slightly crimped Prince Albert can to one end, took a rim or a hoop from an old wagon wheel hub and you had a nice toy. Also old discarded tires made a good toy. I never had a little Honda or even a bicycle as a kid but I rolled a tire along red dirt roads for many a mile clad only in overalls. Another use for an old tire was to make a tree swing. And still another use was to make a petunia bed. We also made tree swings with a tow sack half filled with hay or sawdust. As a kid I owned two air rifles, sold Cloverine Salve for one and garden seed for one.

On the school ground girls played hop-scotch, drop the handkerchief, and pitch washers. Boys spun tops and shot marbles, part of the time in a big ring and part playing “rolly-hole.” An agate cost more than an “imp” and they were both more valuable than the lowly “doogie.” Each boy’s favorite marble was his “shooting taw.” Boys also played “one and over” and both boys and girls played “shove-up” or “workup” with a twine ball. Also both groups played “pop the whip” and on a line of 40 or 50 kids making a bend, the two or three on the end would become airborne. Then away from school we had corncob fights and rubber gun fights. One just was not a “real” boy until he had been clobbered on the head with a water- and-manure-soaked cob. One Sunday afternoon a group of us boys were having a real shoot-out with rubber guns. We must have been about age 13 or 14. A group of girls walked up and seems like it was Lola who said, “You guys are too old for that.” And Mary chimed in, “Yeah, let’s go for a stroll and walk the train rails.” Houston came back with “Aw come now, fellows, we’re growing up – or haven’t you noticed?” We looked at the girls and then at each other. And Doc or Paul says, “Know something? I think they are right.” So we went and walked the rails toward Cedar Hill. And from that day forward never again would we play rubber guns!

As we grew up we began going to play parties. Here we played games like Musical Chairs, Pin the Donkey, Spin the Plate, and oh yes, don’t forget Three-minute Date. At school we had various programs. There were the Junior and Senior Class plays, there were Halloween and Christmas plays, and there were “stunt nite” programs. Many former students will remember the Arkansas Centennial Pageant we put on in 1936.

Some may wonder why write about the Depression period ‘30s. Like many of you I was a child of the Roaring ‘20s, a teenager of the ‘30s, and a young adult of the early ‘40s war years. We were products of the red clay Ozark foothills of north central Arkansas. Sights, sounds and scents of this region and of this era leave a more indelible imprint in my mind than any other place or time.


The author, R.C. McCourt, is shown in the photo above with some of his second grade playground partners at Pangburn in 1928. From left to right they are Vernon Wallis, Thomas Moss, Rex Humbard and McCourt. Yes, this is the same Rex Humbard who became a famous television evangelist.