The Gigs Guide to School-holiday Fun

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS IN THE ’70S – WESTERN SUBURBS STYLE

By Andrew Gigacz

School holidays are here again and parents everywhere have got their kids organised for a five-day tennis program, a one-day Flash animation course or an all-day video gaming fest at someone’s house.

Thinking back to my childhood term breaks, my family had no such thing. From the time I was in Grade 1, both my parents were working full time, even during the holidays. For me it was no big deal. I had five older siblings and neighbours all over the place. If it was raining, there’d be a Monopoly game going on somewhere that often lasted the duration of the holidays. When the weather broke, it was outside for a bit of kick-to-kick or a full game at the local school oval if we could get a big enough crowd together. In summer it was cricket, or French cricket.

Sometimes, though, we got a little tired of the limited range of options. If you couldn’t get a group of more than two together, even kick-to-kick or driveway cricket would wear a little thin after awhile. This is where our imaginations would kick in. With just a footy, or a cricket bat and tennis ball at our disposal, the simple lack of other options forced us to conjure up variations on the regular games to keep the holidays from becoming too boring. Here are some that I can remember.

FOOTY-UP

A simple concept but surprisingly difficult, at least for us kids. Footy-Up involved two people standing opposite each other, a few metres apart, with one person kicking the ball to the other. After the initial kick, the two players had to kick the ball back and forth to each other without letting it touch the ground and using only their feet. I imagine soccer players could do this non-stop for hours with the round ball but with the footy it was much tougher. I can’t recall us ever getting past a score of eight before one of us lost control and the footy hit the deck. This was not a game of winners or losers, just a matter of trying to break the Footy-Up record.

CHIN BALL

Requiring nothing more than a tennis ball, a flat piece of ground or floor and a chin, this was a game for all seasons (although you’d want to keep the tennis ball dry). The idea was to stand up, bounce the ball on the ground or floor and then catch it between your chin and the top of your chest. It takes a bit of practice but it’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. In our circle it was expected that you’d yell out “He’s chinned it!” after every successful attempt. The winner of this game would be the player who could “chin” the ball a nominated number of times in the lowest number of attempts. We got pretty good at this game so we used to vary the degree of difficulty by rotating between tennis balls of varying bounciness or using surfaces that weren’t totally flat.

POWER LINE FOOTY AND CRICKET

The standard outer-Melbourne suburban house had a white footpath with nature-strip out the front. Suspended above on one side of the street were the power-lines. These days they’re buried underground but when I was a lad, they provided another opportunity to invent a game. Power line footy involved standing under the power-lines and throwing a tennis ball up towards them. A player would nominate which power-line they were aiming at (our street had five lines, four thick ones and a thinner one for the phones) and attempt to hit it with the tennis ball. If successful, the player would score a “goal”. If they missed but hit a different line, they got a “point”. If you nominated the thinner phone power line and hit it, that was worth two goals. Each player had an equal number of shots and, using standard footy scoring, the highest score would win. Cricket was played along similar lines (pardon the pun) with a wicket for hitting and 10 runs to the opposition for missing.

OCKO (OUTDOOR CHAIR KNOCKOVER)

At some point in my teenage years, with the extended family expanding and outdoor barbecues becoming more popular, we ended up getting one of those green plastic outdoor settings with a table and four chairs. Inevitably the chairs became used as goalposts in the odd game of backyard soccer. The ball we used was one of those light plastic ones but if you gave it a good enough kick and hit the post, it was enough to knock the chair over. The recurrence of this event gave us the idea for OCKO. We’d set up a chair or two in the middle of the yard and from an agreed distance, kick the ball at the chairs in an attempt to knock them down. The points system varied over the years but it was pretty much along the lines of 0 points for a complete miss, 1 point for hitting the chair, 2 points for hitting it and knocking it off balance and 5 points for knocking it over completely. If two chairs were involved the perfect 10 could be scored by knocking both chairs over simultaneously.

In recent times I’ve introduced my kids to the game when visiting my parents. Using the same chairs we’ve played the game just as I did all those years ago. But plastic tends to become brittle after years in the sun so the perfect score is now 20 and achieved with a direct hit that sends the chair flying into pieces.

(I can confirm that I have purchased four new outdoor chairs for Mum and Dad.)

APPLEHOUSE

Mum and Dad built their house in the mid-1950s. Dad did the standard thing of the era, planting lawns back and front with espalier fruit trees along the fences. We had plums, apricots, peaches, pears, nectarines and apples.

The fruit was a treat to eat in summer but a fortunate by-product was that on a windy spring day, heaps of unripened fruit would fall and litter the front and back yards. Needless to say, these were used in countless war games among family and neighbours. And at some point someone came up with the idea of having kids stationed in both yards and having one kid throw the fruit from back yard to front, over the house. The kid waiting in the front yard would get a point if they caught it. Of course the piece of fruit would have to fall within the designated front lawn area or a “re-throw” would be required.

I’m not sure what variety of apple we had but they were particularly large. On one occasion we were using one of these giants and a slightly off-centre throw caught the kid next door off guard, hitting him in the head and knocking him out momentarily! I’m not really sadistic by nature but that is one of my funniest childhood memories!

So there are some of the games we came up with to ward off boredom during the school holidays. I’d be interested to know what was dreamed up by others. Or was it just us that were weird?

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. This just proves that my dad is a lunatic.

  2. pauldaffey says:

    Oliver,

    He’s a very creative lunatic. The concepts behind some of these games are mind-boggling. Has he been wasting his talents on computers?

  3. Pamela Sherpa says:

    In the 60’s country style- Holidays meant one thing -JOBS GALORE. My dad and uncles loved school holidays because it always meant having a full work force available on the farm. We loved doing jobs as we got to run around and play with our cousins at the same time. The more kids the merrier. In the paddocks, the shearing shed or out the bush, most of it was pure joy. There was only one boring job-chopping thistles in summer.(I’m sure this was character building)
    Our sport consisted of tennis in summer and netball in winter -team practise one night a week and competition on Saturdays.
    We used to have a hit of tennis at home every night after dinner in summer and we had a netball ring attached to the big electricity pole.
    At athletics time in spring we’d set up high and long jumps to practise.

  4. Incidentally, Mum and Dad are still there in St Albans (married in ’54, just after the ‘Dogs won the flag and moved in soon after) and most of the fruit trees are still there too. The odd game of Applehouse is still played on Christmas Day after a few drinks.

  5. Chin ball is huge in China

  6. The game of cricket in our neighbourhood was enhanced by the pitch being at the end of a long cul-de-sac. This allowed a permanent behind the wicket cordon to be grown along the fence with appropriate gaps. The bowler could nominate three positions plus the WK, if your snick hit the named tree you were out, while one hitting a un-nominated tree led to a great deal of despair.

    This concept led to an aquaintance near Kingaroy creating his own cricket oval with selected vegetation. Closer to the wicket fieldsman were shrubs (with limted reach), while the out fielders were larger specimens capable of greater movement wit hthe ball travelling in the air, so to speak.

    Rainy days led to indoor cricket, played witha 30cm wooden ruler and a squash ball in the hallway. Batsmen had to play on their knees with feet on one wall. This was a true two person game as any decent connection hit in the air would bounce back to the bowler, also on kness, allowing many opportunities of the spectacular catch and carpet burned knees.

    We also played ping pong to 501. One game went down to the wire. 501-498. This redefined the agony of defeat.

    The most inspired holiday pastime I recall was invented by Paul Carozza (currently Qld RU backs coach and victim of the ‘Loe blow’). One summer break at Bribie Island, he came up with the logical integration of beach umbrella and BMX bike. The fact that the test conditions were cyclonic gives you a clue of the outcome.

    He set himself up, much like a medieval jouster, and took off on his jaunt down the street

    It worked remarkably well. Young Paul got up to a significant speed before the forward thinking part of the brain fully engaged. At that point, he realised that while travelling at great speed, he couldn’t see through the umbrella and that the street ended in a ditch and then into ti-tree swamp. Whereupon he hit the end of the road, ploughed into the rain softened ditch narrowly avoiding getting impaled on the beach umbrella although he did destroy it. Subsequently he had to spend quality holiday time earning enough to replace the required summertime item.

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