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If you were a little girl growing up in Southern California in the 1940’s, there were things you did and things you didn’t do. I’m not talking here about moral and ethical issues, but more about the important things–like hopscotch and bicycling and roller skating.

In our house, we learned early to share what we had. Mom and Dad saved enough for each of us to have her own skates (and her own skate key) but there was certainly not enough money to buy two bikes. The one we got came at Christmas when I had just turned six. It was in a large, flat box that had letters printed on the side.

“Card table,” my dad said. (He didn’t really forget that I could read; it just amused him to tease me.) “I’ll just put it in the garage until we need it for canasta.”

“Oh, no!  That says Schwinn!” I chortled. “That means bike!” But a look at my daddy’s face told me I’d better shut up quick. We knew from early on that the easiest way to lose out on an ice cream cone while we were out driving was to say “ice cream” instead of letting him come up with the idea. I certainly wasn’t going to take a chance on losing that “card table!”

My Sisty Ugler and I shared everything from clothes to toys to bathtime. We almost always played together, along with the other dozen or so kids on our block. It was a great group, and there was so much going on that there wasn’t really room for greed, anyway. If one of us wanted the bike to go riding with two or three of the kids, the other one played hopscotch with another two or three. Sometimes everyone would play hopscotch, which was OK, too, because we just hauled out the chalk and drew some more grids on the sidewalk. Everyone got to play, and that was fine. BUT…

One of the pieces necessary to play hopscotch (OK, the only piece once the grid is drawn) is a lagger. You might have called it something else where you lived, but it was always a lagger to us. It was the unique thing you tossed in a particular square, where it would wait for you to hop the circuit and bend down to pick it up without touching the line. No big deal, right? Wrong! Early in my life, I discovered that the best–the perfect–lagger was three regular bobby pins hooked together.Two wasn’t hefty enough for a precise throw and four just left pins in all directions to touch the lines and lose a turn. Three pins was MY lagger, and after a while everybody knew it. The trouble was that you had to declare your lagger at the beginning of the game every day, and once in a while in a fit of annoyance Sisty would manage to call three pins before I even realized my old standby was in jeopardy. The rat! The absolute fiend!

All the neighbor kids knew to stay away from me if Sisty managed to maneuver the three-pin lagger away from me. I still played. Oh, yes, and a lot of the time I’d win anyway (my balance was a lot better in those days) but the game wasn’t the same. The maddening thing was that Sisty didn’t even like the three-pin. After all these years, I’ve forgotten what her pet lagger was, but I think it had something to do with safety pins. At any rate, we both knew better than to use a rock, or–heaven forbid!–a dirt clod. We left those to the less astute hopscotch aficionados.

They were good times. We might have had to do without the fancy toys and games that another income could buy, but we had something better. All our mothers, with one exception, were stay-at-home moms. It was the done thing. They made us lunch and brushed our hair and played games with us and took us shopping on the bus. They wore housedresses to do housework, and wore curlers in their hair at night. They were all beautiful.

What’s more, every single one of them wore bobby pins in her curls. For a three-pin lagger junkie, it was heaven.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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