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?