Friday, 5 February 2016

Being it...

I can’t remember the last time I saw a line of boys with their fists clenched stiffly out in front of them, waiting to see if they would be ‘It’. Being ‘It’ varied from game to game, but basically if you were ‘It’ you were the chaser or finder and the others were runners or hiders. Choosing who would be ‘It’ was a game in itself and some of the rhymes we used were very strange.

Take ‘Olica Bolica’ for instance. One boy, usually the one who suggested the game or at least the one with the loudest voice, would become the ‘Olica’. All the other boys would form a straight line in front of him and hold out their two clenched fists. Then the Olica would move down the line striking their outstretched fists with his own and chanting:

‘Olica, Bolica, Ruby, Solika, Olika, Bolica, Knob!

Whoever’s fist was struck on the ‘Knob’ word would then hide that hand behind their back and the Olica would continue down the line repeating the chant until only one fist was left outstretched on a single boy. Sometimes it took ages, longer than the game occasionally, but the boy with the last outstretched fist was ‘It’. I think that the boys who had both fists behind their back shouted ‘Out’ as soon as they were fully ‘Knobbed’ or it may have been the ‘Olica’ who said this. Another rhyme used to decide who was ‘It’ was equally as nonsensical:

‘Eerie, orie, ickery, am. Pick ma nick, and slick ma slam. Oram, scoram. pick ma noram, Shee, show, sham, shutter. You – are - out!’

This one was always said in what we thought was a Scottish accent (I have no idea why) and the ‘You – are - out!’ was screamed at the top of our tinny voices. There were lots of alternative rhymes and of course this was the sixties so political correctness was a long way off. It was commonplace to hear boys and girls deciding who was ‘It’ by chanting:

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Catch a nigger by the toe. When he hollers, let him go.
Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.’

Today anyone saying that repeatedly would probably end up being cautioned by the police. But back then even the teachers in the playground didn’t bat an eyelid. I think that at some point in the late eighties it was a tiger being caught by the toe, but in the early sixties the playground was a dangerous place. Long lines of shoulder linked boys whirled around shouting, ‘All in who wants to play British Bulldog,’ or some other such game. Then there were the dangers of conkers (that could take your eye out), the perilous marble tournaments (you’ll break your leg if you slip on those), the stress of flick cards which would often lead to a fight if someone won your ‘bestie’, and yes, we were only playing leapfrog
The girls were almost as dangerous, whirling ropes and jumping in and out, hula-ing hoops at speed, skipping over and under stretched elastic which entwined their ankles, chucking multiple balls at the classroom walls repeatedly, and throwing sharp stones onto chalked hopscotch courts.

Nobody lost an eye, and there weren’t many broken legs and we all survived without helmets, knee and elbow pads, goggles and stab vests, but then we didn’t have phones either.


  1. Lindsey Messenger on FB
    Yes the play ground was very active.... Loved French skipping , which was the one with elastic. Can remember going round with our arms linked around each other's necks singing..... All in who wants to play...whatever we were playing. Thing was we spend so long gathering kids to play we used up all the play time!!!

    1. Andrew Height
      It was a bit rough and tumble I remember. Winter was best with the ice slides!