Of Tether Ball and Mercury

(C) Sam Ballard - this house was similar to what we lived in on Clark AFB in the Philipines between 1958 and 1959.

(C) Sam Ballard – this house was similar to what we lived in on Clark AFB in the Philippines between 1958 and 1959.

When I was eight years old, I lived in the Philippines and had a friend named Mick Briggs…well, Michelle and most of the time she was called Micky, but she liked calling herself Mick.

She was a year older than I was and had two older brothers.  We used to pass the time inventing games, playing “Easy Money” or bopping around the tether ball her dad had put up for her brothers.  We also used to play war with our other next door neighbors, two very rude boys who used to think that being bully was being cool.

The so-called permanent housing on Clark AFB were a strange affair.  They were huge wooden T shaped affairs on high cement blocks (the photo above is not quite but very close to the house I lived in as we had one of the bigger three bedroom houses.).  All along the house at floor level, there were screened openings, with a little corrugated metal roofing to keep eventual rain from entering; they were natural air ducts.  The windows were huge!  All of this was to keep the houses cool in a time when air conditioning didn’t exist.  I have to admit, the architects did a good job, I don’t remember it ever feeling really hot!

The cool thing was playing under the houses!  Mick and I would build sand castles in the sandy dirt for hours.  Unfortunately I picked up infantigo which was really awful.  These were the days before antibiotic ointments.  I remember my mom washing the scabs off with surgical soap and a rough wash cloth, then my mom would put on some sort of cream and put gauze on the sores.  I also picked up pin worms twice!  So eventually, we were encouraged not to play under the house anymore.

I think one of the greatest days we had together was when her bother broke a thermometer.  He put the mercury into a little bottle and told Mick not to touch the stuff.  When I came over to her place, the first thing she did was to get the bottle and take it to her room.  We poured the stuff out and had a great time pushing the beads of silver all over the place.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, her brother came home and found us out!  Of course he shouted at us and put the stuff back in the bottle and marched us into the bathroom to was our hands.

Today, I’m going to talk about tether ball with my students during English conversation and looking up material about the game, I’ve found that the game has become nearly extinct!  Our tether ball pole had a rope nailed to the top of it, and a cloth bag in which we put the ball.  We’d play for hours (or until her brother’s wanted to play, which wasn’t often) and I go pretty good at it.

Christmas 1959, Clark AFB the photo was taken by my Mom

Christmas 1959, Clark AFB the photo was taken by my Mom

Funny how a game can become nearly extinct.  Have you ever come across a game or pass time that just ceased to exist?

26 thoughts on “Of Tether Ball and Mercury

  1. What wonderful memories! I remember playing foursquare and hopscotch with my sisters when I was a little girl. So when my kids were small and winter raged in Champaign, Illinois I painted an elaborate hopscotch and foursquare onto the cement floor of our basement. Not only did the whole neighborhood spend hours there, but recently I was invited to join my little nieces and grandniece playing on a very similar set painted onto their California patio. So glad some things don’t change!


    • I loved to play hopscotch too. But those were later years when I lived in New Jersy. We also used to draw houses with chalk in the big back parking lot we had out back of our house…but that’s another mother! Glad the tradition carried over with your kids! You were quite an inventive Mom…I too am glad that some things don’t change! Thanks for dropping by and have a good one!


  2. I remember encountering a tether ball set up when I was a kid. It was a small inn that my family stayed at during a road trip to Florida. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how the game worked or that it was even a game. I thought it was a homemade toy to keep kids occupied.


  3. I think tether and ball is now swingball? if so we have it at home and I used to play it alot. Hop scotch is still in my sons playground. I also used to play a game where you had two long strings with a ball in the middle and you would pull the strings apart to make it whizz to the other end, the fun part was watching the dog go mental LOL as he never got the ball!

    Lovely memories x


    • Swingball is a variation of tether ball and you play it with paddles. When I was growing up, boys didn’t play hopscotch because “that’s a girls game”. That string ball game you’re talking about here is really interesting now, that one I don’t remember at all, I can just imagine that poor dog trying to catch the ball! A few years ago we had a cat and used to tease him with a red laser pen..h’e run all over the place trying to catche that dot! 🙂 Glad you had fun with the story and the walk down memory lane!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s the kind of thing you need to video, I don’t think home videos were common place at least I don’t think we had one, begins to show my age now, hehe. Red lazer sounds fun I wonder if my boys have one…plots


    • It never made it over the “pond” from what I’ve read, the nearest thing is swing ball, which is a sort of tennis on a string! I loved the Philippins, from what I can remember about it. The only place where I could have a garden birthday party when I was a kid…I was born in February 😉


      • I have only been to Philippines once and I have very mixed feeling about it – found some areas so poor … and others so stunningly beautiful. I celebrated my 30th birthday at one of the small islands of Mindoro. Coral reefs, waterfalls .. monkeys. Just stunningly beautiful.


        • well, I’d say you were better suited to speak about the Philippines than I. I’ve found though that in most developing countries there are always pockets of extreme poverty, and that will be there for a while…fact is, I’m beginning to see a lot of degradation in the rich Northern countries as well … the dark with the light no?


  5. tetherball was called swingball herein uk (or, at least, it was to my friends and family). we also referred toit as ‘death-ball’ when playing it against my grandfather, who took it rather seriously and we swore he attempted to kill anyone foolish enough to play by hitting it so hard, really good fun. thanks for the memories! best wishes, dear bastet, hugs from baldy


    • hello Baldy, nice to see you and read about the uk version of tetherball! I don’t think I’d have cared to play against you grandfather, he sounds formidable! Glad the story brought back memories, did for me too! hugs to you, Bastet!


in shadows light - walking under weeping pines - spring rain

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