My 2014 post, “Street Games of the ’50s,” presented outdoor games kids played in New York City. But could we entertain ourselves indoors before the advent of video games?

We didn’t have even Pong or Frogger, but we had imagination. And maybe a touch—I’m talking boys now—of stupidity. 

For instance, we did tumbling in junior high P.E., so my friend Marty and I continued in my apartment. We’d start in the sunken living, leap up two steps, then hurtle over pillows to do a forward roll on the near Hollywood couch (long and flat) in the foyer. Obviously, my parents were out. Thank goodness, we never broke anything. 

In Marty’s apartment, we played miniature golf. We set up obstacles and something to serve as the cup, and used his father’s putter to nudge a golf ball. No breakage, either.

A great “table game”: 3–2–1. Two players sit opposite each other. Taking turns, each places a quarter over the near edge of the table then flicks it with the nail of his index finger towards the other edge. To score, the quarter has to hang over the opponent’s edge. Make it in one shot, you get three points. Two shots, two points; three shots, one. If the quarter goes over the edge, you lost a point. Fails to reach? Your opponent shoots it back from there.

I once had a miniature pool table with miniature balls and cues. The real thing at the pool hall by the 63rd Drive subway station was better. I had a bowling set: ten small, hollow, white plastic pins and a small black plastic ball. (No holes.) We played in the foyer, the bowler a dozen feet from the headpin. Re-setting the pins became a chore, so we improvised. We set one pin at each end and tried to knock it down—like picking up a spare.

Being active, we played basketball in my bedroom. I had a toy hoop that fit over the door and a lightweight plastic ball. You couldn’t dribble (bounce) the ball, so we shuffled it between hands. When the set broke, I fit a shoe box over the door and used rolled-up white athletic socks as the ball. We played standing up or on our knees.

Alone time? I devoured all the Chip Hilton sports books by Clair Bee, formerly coach of very successful Long Island University basketball teams. I loved Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. I had a set of classic novels, including Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. I read my encyclopedia (Compton’s Pictured). How nerdy is that?

I also played board games, like Red Barber’s Big League Baseball Game. (Red Barber was the former Brooklyn Dodgers radio/TV announcer who’d jumped ship to the Yankees.) You set down small wooden pieces representing defensive players on a gridded field, rolled three dice, and moved ball, fielder and runner in sequence. All-Star Baseball used individual player discs and spinners to produce somewhat realistic, rather than random, results.

Television? Friends rarely watched together. We listened to music and talked—school, sports, girls. Alone, I saw a lot of TV.

I don’t begrudge kids—and adults—their love of video games. But life existed before them, and as kids in the ’50s, we managed very nicely.

May this Memorial Day honor our servicemen and women for their ultimate sacrifice. I note my buddy, 1LT Howie Schnabolk, US Army.

The post will take off next Friday and return on June 9.

The Short (Pun Intended) Redemptive Life of Little Ned is now available in softcover or e-book from, and Or order from your favorite bookstore.

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  1. Lenny on May 26, 2023 at 11:07 am

    I remember vividly playing shoebox basketball ball with you in your apartment.
    Thank you for your service and a Happy Memorial Day.

    • David Perlstein on May 26, 2023 at 11:43 am

      We did indeed enjoy playing, Lenny. Hope all is well.

  2. jean wright on May 26, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    My five year old granddaughter, who lives in Montana, visited me in Oakland. When she saw my bedroom, she ran across the hall, did a flying leap and somersault on the bed, jumped up with arms raised, and yelled, I LOVE your bed! Her mom was a little surprised, but I grinned for a week. (This is a difficult weekend for me – it feels nice to smile, thank you.)

    • David Perlstein on May 26, 2023 at 1:42 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Jean… and your granddaughter’s response to your bed. Kids can finds lots of things to do.

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