A cupful of childhood hits the spot

A cupful of childhood hits the spot

Given a weather forecast that called for snowfall up to our derrieres, the notion of being frozen in time for a day or two began to set in. What would a daily agenda for outlasting such a blizzard look like?

Well, the devastating snowcast never materialized here as predicted. Yet the preparation for impending gloom was not done in vain. It caused this particular senior citizen to reflect upon a childhood in rural Southcentral Ohio — long before the days of computerized video games, Netflix, and, egads, ESPN.

Remember cable’s Entertainment and Sports Programming Network didn’t debut until 1979. That very July, the prospect of blowing out just 28 candles was a delight in and of itself.

To be honest, we considered ourselves lucky to have one black and white television set in the house in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Cable? Not hardly. We tuned in to our entertainment and sports programming thanks to a skeleton-like device on the roof of the house, a rickety antenna that usually blew down when howling winds prevailed.

Still, as long as the power didn’t go out, there were countless ways to while away the hours when the elements outside were too treacherous to dare.

There was no Madden NFL to play. But we did have an electric football game to help us pass the time. The tin-like “field” was slightly larger than the top of a shoe box, and when plugged in, it would vibrate. (Kids back then didn’t think of such things as being kinky.)

The vibration of the game caused the teeny plastic “players” to move around on the gridiron. If memory serves me correctly, one team had yellow players, and the other team was red. A couple of the combatants were shaped so a minuscule, cotton “football” could be placed under their arms to resemble running backs.

Furthermore, there was a spring-loaded “quarterback” you could use to actually launch a pass in the vicinity of potential “receivers” who didn’t actually have to catch the ball. So long as the pass hit a receiver, the play was considered a “completion.” (Perhaps that’s a rule so simple the NFL itself should have adopted it.)

Electric football was fantastic because any runt could play alone or with another willing family member. Before each “snap,” all of the plastic players (yes, there were 11 on each team) were lined up. Turning on the hand-held power switch set everything into motion. Admittedly, the men often wandered around on the field uncontrollably and unpredictably. Frankly, that was part of the intrinsic drama and fun.

When the base of the ball carrier came into contact with the base of an opposing player, the “play” was whistled dead (and the power was switched off to allow for the repositioning of figures for the next snap). Granted, “spotting the ball” was dangerously arbitrary.

If, indeed, the player carrying the football happened to meander across the goal line (take it to the house), a touchdown was ruled. By the same token, if a “receiver” standing in paydirt was struck by a pass, that also resulted in a six-pointer.

As for the point-after, you could try for a two-point conversion by “running” the ball into the end zone, or you could use the spring-loaded QB to try to “kick” the PAT through a small, plastic goal post at the end of the field.

The good thing about electric football was there was no running clock. One (or two) could play all day (and even all night if munchies didn’t run out) while escaping winter’s fury.

Indeed, this was a far cry from what modern-day screenagers demand. However, updated electric football games are still available online. Some of them feature actual real-life NFL teams, if that would make a difference.

Way back when, there were other ways to make snow days entertaining. We had such things as slot car racing (with temperamental cars that always flew off the track because of flimsy snap-on guardrails), Monopoly, jacks, marbles, Tiddly Winks, Play-Doh, treasures that came in the cereal box, rubber zoo animals, science projects with real microscopes, checkers, dominoes, Color Forms and, dare I say, paper dolls with assorted outfits.

When push came to shove, card games seemed to work. (I knew four different ways to play Solitaire.) Victory was a rare, satisfying reward.

When Mom allowed, we actually bundled up like Eskimos and ventured outside. We built comical snowmen, slithered downhill on our dilapidated wooden sled, engaged in snowball fights, and then scurried back inside to sip a soothing hot chocolate, piping hot with marshmallows.

Blizzard or not, there are times when a cupful of childhood really hits the spot.

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