Throwback Games for Play

Throwback to Checkers, Jacks, Marbles, and Pick-up Sticks

I know it isn’t Thursday, but today at the Barker Mansion we are having an event that takes us back to a simpler time of playing games. Nowadays, when people hear the word “games” many will think of Mario, or Call of Duty, or a plethora of other video games. Some people will even think of board games like Clue or Monopoly. However, none of those are what we are planning for today. Today, people who visit the mansion have the chance to play the same kind of games a child like Catherine Barker would play when she was growing up. These games include marbles, jacks, pick-up sticks, and checkers.

I’m young, but I remember playing all of these games growing up. I remember how much fun these games were even though they are very simple. It wouldn’t surprise me if my generation was the last to really play these kind of games. Many children today have probably never played or even heard of these games (besides checkers). These were some of the most popular games when Catherine Barker was a child, but now they sound more like relics. However, these games are the talk of the town for today. Below you can read about the some experiences people had and learn how games children play today compare and contrast with those that were played for the event.

We had a handful of families arrive and partake in playing the games. One of the most popular games was pick-up sticks. I believe its simplicity made it easy for everyone, irregardless of age, to play. I had the opportunity to go around and speak a bit with each family. Across the board, the families enjoyed themselves, the children especially having fun. My theory that checkers is still a game many children play held true as well.

Playing checkers and pick-up sticks with the whole family

One family saw grandparents bring their three grandchildren, Nate, Jessie, and Natalie, to the event. When I asked about their time they told me that they were having a lot of fun. The children really liked playing pick-up sticks and checkers. Pick-up sticks saw everyone sharply keeping an eye on the sticks, quickly pointing out if any extra sticks moved. To me, the most interesting part of this entire event was how games then compared and contrasted with games today. When I asked Nate, Jessie, and Natalie what games they normally play I got interesting answers. They told they play Monopoly, cards, Connect Four, and video games. Their grandparents said they also spend a good amount of time on iPad’s and computers. I found it intriguing that there was an even mix of “traditional” games (Monopoly) and “new” games (video games). Their grandfather told me that part of the reason they brought the children was to show them how to have fun without electronics. I found this noble, not because electronics are bad, but for the fact that these are fun games that people should play. It was also nice to hear that all three of them would play these games again if they had them at home.

Learning the game of marbles

Another group saw two friends bring their children, Dakota and Liliana, to have some fun. They played many games and enjoyed the popcorn and cocoa. It was adorable to watch the children really compete. When asked what kind of games Liliana likes to play at home, her mother told that Candy Land and Jenga are two that she plays a lot. Dakota’s mother said that Stratego is a popular one as well as other board games. When I first thought about the idea of games played today, video games kept popping up. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it does seem like every child has some video games. However, Liliana and Dakota were the children that video games weren’t mentioned for. Now, age might play a factor in that, but it’s still exciting that they are mainly playing board games at home.

Steady hands and concentration are definitely needed

Another family that joined in on the fun saw a mother and father bring their son, Sean. The cool thing about Sean was that he had already played all the games, but jacks. His mother told that he was very excited to finally play jacks. They all had a lot of fun, and Sean definitely looked in his element when it came to pick-up sticks. Games he regularly plays are Disney Infinity (video game), The Game of Life, and Jenga. Once again, there’s this even balance of “traditional” and “new” when it comes to playing games. I remember growing up and playing the same games as all these children. Pick-up sticks was always a favorite, but I also loved playing Candy Land and Jenga like those that I talked to.

Always go for the easy sticks

As nice as it was to speak and learn the perspective of children, I also had the opportunity to talk with an older family that decided to play some games. The parents, Ed and Eve, once visited the mansion shortly after the Purdue years and today they had their daughters, Polly and Susan, with them for some games of checkers and pick-up sticks. All of them remembered playing the same games when they were all growing up. Polly and Susan said that jacks was a little outdated though. Susan has children of her own (around my age) and mentioned how they grew up playing games like Uno, Boggle, Jenga, and Parcheesi. Once again, I remembered how I also grew up playing Uno and Boggle. Uno was definitely my favorite card game.

Fun games for any age

Susan and I then started talking about how much has changed in such a short amount of time. We talked about how her two oldest children and I didn’t grow up with cell phones and when we did finally have them, they were basically for calls and texts. She then mentioned how her youngest has practically grew up with a smart phone (possibly an iPhone or some type of Android) in hand. There’s only about a six year gap there, but a lot has happened in that small gap. However, where technology is always changing quickly, games seem to have a more slow burn effect.

As stated before, I remember growing up and playing the same games that we had for the event. Some of the children have even played these games prior. Even if they didn’t before, they all enjoyed the games. This is interesting because I thought many children have just moved on to playing mainly video games, thinking older games to be outdated. While this holds some truth, many children are still playing games like checkers, and pick-up sticks, and board games. If I learned anything today it’s that while the times may change, and change they will, a good game of marbles and jacks will always be fun for everyone.


Miguel Valencia


3 thoughts on “Throwback Games for Play

  1. The Mansion is such an important link to our past, and, of course, games are just one facet of that life. Kudos to Jessica and to you, Miguel, for exposing some of today’s kids to those times. Maybe pick-up-sticks and jacks, etc. will catch on again.


  2. We had a hilarious time playing games that were part of our growing up. Checkers is still around,pick up sticks not so much so it was fun to have a chance to play both in such charming surroundings. Thanks Jessica et al,
    Eve and Ed Noonan( from Tryon Farm.)


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