When I attended St. Michael’s Grammar School, we were allowed two fifteen minute recess breaks and a lunch break. We pretty much would count the minutes until recess or lunch, quickly ingest whatever snack or sandwich our moms packed in our lunch boxes, and head out for the schoolyard. Of course the boys and girls separated and small groups of friends would gather to play games and have fun.
The boys would engage in games of dodge ball or kick ball. Many of the boys had baseball trading cards and they played a game where they would flick the cards against a part of the cement wall on one side of the schoolyard. I think the idea was to get the cards to stand up or lean against the wall. Another favorite of the boys was playing marbles.
We girls had lots of games. Hopscotch and jump rope were two of the all-time favorites. It seemed we could play these every day and never get tired of them. Other favorites were tag and hide-and-seek, although it was often difficult to play the latter because the schoolyard was wide open and there really weren’t any places to hide.
There were also games of jacks being played. I never was any good at that one. I really like playing Simon Says and 1-2-3 Red Light. Those were fun because I didn’t have to run too much. I always got really winded when I ran a lot. (I didn’t know at the time that I was asthmatic.)
As we got older our recess and lunch activities changed a bit, especially for us girls. Somewhere around seventh grade we became aware of ‘the boys’. Although there were some girls who would still play tag we mostly stood together in threes and fours and talked about ‘the boys’.
It’s been a long time for me since those days in St. Michael’s schoolyard; I graduated from St. Mike’s in 1962 – almost a full forty-nine years ago. I can still hear the sound of the hand bell being rung by Mother Superior announcing that recess or lunch break was over. At the sound of that bell we would have to form into lines – two lines for each grade, girls in front and boys in back. When Mother Superior would give the signal, one of the other nuns would turn on the music, usually a Sousa march, and it would continue playing until the last child left the schoolyard and returned to their classroom.
That schoolyard at St. Michael’s is quiet now. All the students have been merged into one school with our rival, St. Mary’s. But for so many of us the memories of schoolyard games at St. Michael’s will live on in our hearts.