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Kick the Can Every Summer

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Running games

Running games

Outdoor Game

Did you ever play Kick the Can as a child? It has many names including Kick the Block, Guard the Block, Can-Can, 40 40, Pom Pom, Tip the Can, Tin Can Copper, and Can Up Can Down. It is a fun outdoor children’s game somewhat related to tag, hide and seek, and capture the flag all rolled into one game. The number of players can be from three to a dozen or more. It is the game my siblings and I played all summer when I was growing up. All you need is a kickable object and a designated playing field. Apparently, the origin is unknown but goes back as far as the Great Depression at least.

Sometimes, real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles.

— Autism Spectrum Disorder, through my eyes.

As the sun goes down and shadows lengthen...

As the sun goes down and shadows lengthen...

The Playing Field

We marked out the patio as the place for the Can and the Jail. Around the house was a wide strip of lawn bordered by flower beds that we made our playing field. The kids would sneak up hiding behind trees and bushes and even behind flowers as they got closer to the patio where the light was they had to be stealthy. If I/It could run to the can and put one foot on it and call their name, they were caught. But if they could run up and kick it before I could put my foot on it, it was all over. I would have to go get the dinted can and replace it to start over catching people.

Neighbor boys come to play Kick the Can at dusk.

Neighbor boys come to play Kick the Can at dusk.

Neighbors

Every summer the burr-head boys from two houses away would walk to our house on the corner and get up a rousing game of Kick the Can. All you need is plenty of space to hide and an old coffee can sometimes with rocks in it for noise. For those who never were blessed enough to play the game, the rules were simple. One person was “It” and guarded the can while trying to “spy” the others’ hiding places. All you had to do to catch someone was call out that you see them with one foot on the can and they were caught. They had to wait in the “jail” until someone managed to sneak up and kick the can, freeing everyone to run and hide. Once the It person caught everyone, the first person caught was the next “It”. This game could go on for hours. Mom loved it because it got us out of the house during those long summer vacations from school.

When was the last time you saw neighbor children all playing together? Other than street hockey or basketball?

Me and my siblings after I got glasses.

Me and my siblings after I got glasses.

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.”

— Diane Ackerman

Entertainment of the 1960s

Mom didn’t appreciate us spending all day in front of the TV and would often order us out to get “fresh air” and exercise. This was one of the reasons she taught us the game of Kick the Can. Because it got so hot during the day, we loved playing at dusk when the evening was cooling down and we could play till bedtime.

My Astigmatism

Personally, I hated being “It.” Not because I was a poor sport but because I had the hardest time seeing my siblings and the neighbor boys. No one realized it until I was 13 but my vision was impaired and I couldn’t see clearly beyond 2 feet in front of me. I did manage to catch my siblings often by memorizing what colors they wore and by bending low to look for movement against the lights on the horizon. The hardest part was that we often played this game after dark and I almost always lost because someone could sneak up and kick the can before I saw them coming, freeing all the inmates in my “jail.”

The cat eye glasses are not too becoming!

The cat eye glasses are not too becoming!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Glasses

At the age of 12, almost 13, my aunt discovered my vision problem and suggested my mom take me to an ophthalmologist. He said without glasses I was legally blind. I sure had no idea before that. When you can’t see things, you assume everyone has the same vision you do. The adults around me should have had a clue. For one, I squinted a lot. I found squinting put some things into better focus. For another thing, several teachers in different grades had noticed. I remember one, in particular, had placed the class in alphabetical order. As a Scott, I landed in the rear of the class. This same teacher had the habit of putting the homework assignment on the chalkboard (yes, that long ago when the boards were green and the chalk was white) each afternoon. For the longest time, she announced the homework assignment and I would immediately write it down. After several months, though, she assumed we were aware that she would put it on the board and it was our responsibility to read it and be aware. That next day she called for homework and I had none. She called me out in front of everyone asking for an explanation as to why I didn’t do my homework assignment. I said, “what homework assignment?” She said she had it written on the board. I told her there was nothing on the board. She frowned at me and said come here. So I got up and walked to the front of the room and like magic, the writing appeared on the board. “Oh,” I said dumbly. She must have been aware that I couldn’t see because she immediately changed my seating so I had a desk in the front of the room. Why didn’t she tell my mother about the problem?

kick-the-can-every-summer

Stealthy

Catching my siblings at Kick the Can was no longer a challenge, even after dark, once I got glasses. They were pretty disappointed that I could see so well and could find their hiding places from farther away. What is more, they had gotten used to just crouching down and holding still while I was looking in their direction. That’s how they had been able to sneak up on me so easily. They knew I couldn’t see them at a certain distance even if they were out in the open and not behind a tree or bush. What sneaky siblings.

Final Thoughts

Have you ever played Kick the Can? Did you know it by another name? What are some of your experiences with these stealthy hide-and-seek type games? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Ann Carr,

I'm glad you found me in the feed too. I understand the same as you that an article will stay longer in the feed if people are commenting on it. I never heard of "What is the time Mr. Wolf" but that sounds fun and very similar but without a can. It is good for children to play such physical games and good for their strategy development. We are well and safe, thank you. I hope stay safe as well.

Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Chitrangada Sharan,

Thank you so much for agreeing and understanding the vision problems. If the parents don't notice, it is a teacher who should be able to identify the problem. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Kalpana Iyer,

How funny your parents didn't believe you. I really didn't want glasses. It was even worse when they were so very heavy and gave me sores on my nose. I never thought they were cool or fashionable. As a matter of fact, I heard my parents arguing over who's "fault" my eyesight was. Dad said "no one in MY family wears glasses" and Mom said, "my family has perfect vision." I lay awake that night ashamed that I had somehow let them down. It made me hate the glasses even more. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Rochelle Frank,

I liked the Kick the Can variation on hide and seek. I really like knowing that I wasn't the only one who had no idea I couldn't see until I got glasses. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

John Hansen,

Hey, do you wear contact lenses like me? I never played cricket but it sounds like a fun game too. I don't think my mom wanted us to have bats though. Kick the Can only called for a can, so there is a minimum of equipment. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

Oh, you are very dear! But those glasses were ghastly. The sales lady who recommended them claimed they were the latest thing and that the jewels on the points made me look very beautiful. That's my first experience with salespeople lying to me. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Mary Norton,

I had always been a doodler as a child but suddenly being able to "see" at 13, I was drawn to painting what I could now see. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

I really can't figure out how she failed to mention that to my parents. It must have slipped her mind and for some reason, she didn't write it down. Oh well, it was eventually caught a few years later. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Liz Westwood,

I'm so glad they took you with them so it could be caught early on. It makes such a difference, doesn't it? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

BRENDA ARLEDGE,

It did open up a whole new world of clear vision. I hated the kids calling me "four eyes" but I love being able to see. I used to memorize what people wore to school each day and their walk in order to recognize them at a distance. That experience stayed with me. Did you know that everyone has a particular stride to their walk; as individual as fingerprints. I still notice people's stride even though I don't need that to recognize them anymore. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

I agree that children would benefit from more of these kinds of physical running and jumping games. I sure did even with the vision problems. I can see about 1 foot in front of my nose before things start blurring up. The ophthalmologist said that makes me legally blind! Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Linda Lum,

Absolutely! How can we know something is off? We have to assume our experience is everyone's experience at that age. Because my glasses are so heavy, I wear contact lenses to this day. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 29, 2021:

Devika Primić,

I'm surprised and pleased to hear this game is more universal than I thought. Yes, the whole thing with my eyes was a trial. I wear contact lenses now to see.

Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Ann Carr from SW England on April 20, 2021:

Finally I've found this! I never know how long these stay in the feed. I get the feeling, having read others, that if we keep commenting (ourselves) it stays for longer. Not sure if I'm correct though.

I had never heard of this game, though we have several alternatives to the hide and seek idea here in Britain. I used to enjoy our playground game of 'What's the time Mr Wolf?', when the 'wolf' would say a time, e.g. 3 o'clock, and we'd all have to get 3 paces closer. As soon as the wolf said 'supper time!' it was time to run! The one who was caught would become the wolf.

It's great when children go out to play such things, so much better than being on the computer for one reason or another. My grandchildren get out and about a lot, thank goodness, and play lots of sport too.

Glad I've managed to comment, Denise. Hope you're keeping safe and well.

Ann

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 20, 2021:

Interesting read, Denise. I enjoyed the information about the game, ‘kick the can.’

Sounds familiar with some of the games like, hide and seek, which we used to play in our childhood. Those were lovely days- - -

You make an important point regarding vision problem in the kids. It’s the parents and the teachers, who can help to identify, whether the child is having vision problems. One child in my family had similar vision issues, and the parents came to know of it, when the teacher wrote the remark in his notebook, that the child was copying wrong from the blackboard. Eventually, the kid’s eyes were tested and he was advised to wear glasses.

As always, a well written, engaging article. Thank you for sharing.

Kalpana Iyer from India on April 19, 2021:

Loved reading through this. Never heard of the game before. The things you learn every day because of HubPages!

Your article also reminded me of my own eyesight issue when I was a kid. My parents thought I and my sis (both had sight problems) were bluffing about our vision so that we could get cool eyewear as all our friends had one!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on April 19, 2021:

When i was about to graduate from high school I was called into the nurse's office where I was asked why I had never gotten glasses. I was confused. Why woud I get glasses? The nurse said, according to my records, I had needed them for several years. No one had ever told me about that. When I got the ne lenses I was very surprised. I could see the wires between the telephone poles!! Like you, I had no way of knowing that my normal vision wasn't really normal, but some people have a hard time understanding that I didn't know. At least my last name started with B... so I sat near the front of the class. Never played Kick the Can, it was mostly Hide and Seek for our neighborhood.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 19, 2021:

Hi Denise, I have never heard of “Kick the can” but it sounds like a fun game. We payed ones like tiggy, force-em-back (a football game) and back yard cricket.

I too had vision problems that developed in high school and I couldn't see the blackboard. I had to copy it down from a friend sitting next to me or go check the blackboard when class finished. It really affected my grades for a time in certain subjects.

I enjoyed this article, thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 19, 2021:

Never played that game, but you brought back many childhood memories of playing outside. Children, in my opinion were happier and healthier. Oooh, these glasses (smile) but you were always beautiful!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 19, 2021:

I don't think I have ever played this, but it sounds like fun. I am amazed at how you got into painting when for years, you had a problem seeing.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2021:

I never played kick the can, but rode bikes, climbed trees, played hopscotch, hula hoops, jacks, and many other things. I first started wearing glasses as an adult and at one time had those same cat's eye frames. It is too bad that your vision problems were not detected earlier. At least your teacher compensated by moving you to the front of the class. She should have told your parents about it.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 19, 2021:

This article made me reflect back on games we played in childhood. My shortsightedness was picked up by chance. I went with my parents for their optician's appointment and commented that I couldn't see the letters on the wall.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 19, 2021:

Interesting write.

We never played kick the can with any rules or jail time .

We just simply kicked the can usually down the street.

Our streets were not busy and some had no sidewalks, so we were walking on the street.

I can't imagine not being able to see at such a young aga and no one noticing, except your teacher.

I do understand that you assumed everyone could see the same because you were a kid.

So glad you got those glasses, even if they were cat woman frames.

It opened up a whole new world for you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 19, 2021:

I enjoyed reading this account of your young years, Denise. I started wearing glasses at the same age, but I didn't have so much trouble with kick-the-can. I couldn't see the black board at school.

We loved to play outside at dusk also, and we had a variety of games we played. I wish children played out more these days.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 19, 2021:

Denise, like you I had poor eyesight as a child. I don't know if my teacher(s) clued my parents into the problem or if they figured it out on their own, but I was amazed, at the age of 10, to find out what clear vision really is. I remember my Mom asking, "Why didn't you tell us that you couldn't see?" and I couldn't get her to understand that I thought everyone saw what things the way I did.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 19, 2021:

Wow! Denise you have been through a challenging time and glad you shared about your experience. I am familiar with these games and loved it. A time that I can still remember playing and running around the garden with cousins and friends.

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