Monday, 24 September 2012 19:20

Santa Fe Nights

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Santo Domingo drum originally from Fred Harvey collection. Santo Domingo drum originally from Fred Harvey collection.


  Santa Fe Nightlife or Santa Fe Kids in the Forties


Arthur Scott


    Let me define the term “night. I am not going to refer to some Coyote Club or the John Doe nightclub or to any of the trendy dance clubs or to any of the places to see or be seen between mid-night and two AM. “Night,” during the forties, when you were a pre-adolescent  between the ages of six and twelve, usually referred to the period  between the times one was excused from the dinner table(yes, the family all sat down and ate together) to the time when it was becoming seriously dark outside. Of course being kids once in a while we pushed the limits of the dark side of this totally unfair curfew. I also

must mention that ours was a segregated society. We all knew that girls were dumb, played with dolls, and had cooties so it was boys only in our clan.

   The one time that we were not allowed normal outdoor after-dinner activities was during blackout drills. I remember several of these drills. Sirens would blow and within fifteen minutes houses had to have light-proof curtains in place, all automobile traffic had to stop, and civilian block wardens made their rounds searching for any light leaks. The idea was to thwart any bombing by Japanese or German aircraft. We kids knew this was gravely serious and never tested the limits. We all knew the story of how the sneaky Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We had no idea that drills, involved the State Police patrolling for lights on US 85 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, or the specific importance to the war effort because of Santa Fe’s proximity to Los Alamos.

   So what did kids do in an age without TV, computers, smart phones, ipads, or video games? Remember, now, this was an age when “Google” was the last name of Barney Google, a cartoon character. Text referred to words in printed media. There were no frozen foods except the meat that we kept in our rented frozen meat locker at the locker plant on Cerrillos Road in the late forties.  A trip to the locker was an exciting event.

   What we did at night was play face-to-face physical games. The favorite of course was “hide and seek.”  More interesting than the game was the determination of the rules for that particular night’s game.  For example, what was the extent of the legal area of the game, just Pete’s yard from Palace to Alameda, only Pete’s front yard, or perhaps Pete’s entire yard plus Johnny’s backyard? Then there was the matter of legal tags, anyplace on the body, left arm only, right arm only, or full out football-type tackle. Most important of all, determining who would be “it.” Methods ranged from drawing for short stick, to physical combat resulting in the smallest guy being “it.”

   Another popular group game was “kick the can.”  Rules for this game were more complex and it was best played just as it was getting dark. The best I can remember was an old tin can was in the center of a pre-determined area. “It” had to stay in that area and try to tag anyone that entered before the intruder could kick the can. First one tagged was “it” for the next game. The round ended when someone successfully kicked over the can.

   When other activities were called for and darkness was approaching, we could always make a provisioning run.  Raids depended on the season. In our neighborhood we had apricot, plum, and apple trees. The basic idea was to sneak into the yard ducking under windows. Then climb the tree and fill your pockets with fruit. Then there was a stealthy return to the pre-decided fort location.

   As this was war time and soldiers were our heroes, we developed our own combat games. (Wish it were only a game during all the intervening years to present!) The most difficult part was deciding who were the bad guys (then known as Japs or Krauts) and who got the foxholes we dug, and who had to attack. We had several “weapons” first was the rubber gun. It was fashioned out of plank resembling a rifle. There was a notch cut in the end and a series of notches cut along the top. A rag was tacked over the top covering the notches. Bands were cut about half an inch wide from an old inner tube. The band was stretched from the notch in the end to one of the cloth covered notched in the top. The gun was fired by pulling on the rag which dislodged the band from the top and it was propelled like a giant rubber band ten or twenty feet towards the enemy.

    Then in the spring we had “tatone” or “tatoni” for ammo for our fights. I have no idea of the word derivation and hope it is not obscene. To us kids it referred to the green seed pods that hung in bunches from female cottonwood trees before they dried up and opened into the “cotton.” These pods made ideal throwing objects or could be propelled from a pea shooter or a sling shot.

   When called for we did not have personal video games or X-boxes or Wi, however, we didn’t really need them because we had board Games!  Favorites were the ever present Monopoly, Parcheesi, Chinese checkers, and regular checkers. These would occupy us for hours and could be played at home or by coal-oil lantern light at the Cow Creek cabin.

       As I mentioned this was before the days of TV in Santa Fe but we had something much better—a radio. I think it was better because radio required one to develop and use an imagination.  After dark or during inclement weather we all gathered around the living room radio. Most houses only had a single radio unlike today with TV in every room. Being a fortunate family with a dad that worked at the Santa Fe Radio and Typewriter repair; this was not one of the baby radios that came along with the transistor age. This was a floor-model Philco, monster with a wooden case. If you looked in the back it had wondrous glowing tubes, silver gizmos and lots of copper wire. The station dial window on the front was only about 2 in x 2 in.

   Neighbors would come over for the evening to listen to the radio. I remember Consuelo Chavez Summers sitting in the living room while I lay on the floor in front of the radio, my mother knitted, and my dad, if sober, sat sternly in the big chair at the side. From the single big speaker came the sounds of the voices FDR and Winston Churchill, the announcements of VE and VJ days. The weekly shows were “The Great Gildersleve,” “Fibber Magee and Molly,” “The Life of Riley (William Bendix,” “and the “Red Skelton Show.” I can’t forget Groucho Marx and Ralph Edwards “Truth or Consequences” before they became TV shows and the town in NM was still named Hot Springs.

   Those were Santa Fe nights growing up in war time and when the town was smaller and more gentle and all of us pulled together to cheer on our soldiers and to fight the expansionist attempts led by Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini.  

Read 2881 times Last modified on Monday, 24 September 2012 19:26


  • Comment Link Arthur Scott Saturday, 29 September 2012 14:32 posted by Arthur Scott

    @ George.
    Bobby Spitz and I used to go to each others birthday parties. He played the accordion and live across from the hospital parking lot. My aunt live east on Palace above Palin Hall. His older brother, Jerry, was closer to your age. I also knew Johnny Kinsolving. He was a hell raiser and a proverbial preacher's son. An excellent skier. His older broker was Charles, I think. I didn't know him well.

  • Comment Link Michael Miller Wednesday, 26 September 2012 00:57 posted by Michael Miller

    Two games that I remember that Maria's parents (Ramon & Emma)played with babies after baptisms at the reception (day and night) were: LANZA, LANZA
    picale la panza.
    Always gauranteed to bring laughter to all, the player makes a circle in the air over the child's mid-section and at the appropriate words pokes the baby gently in the stomach. The baby giggles with joy and the parents join in.
    Los Dos Patitos
    This game is played with the baby's feet, moving first to one then to the other to the beat of the verse:
    Estos dos patitas
    jueron a cortar lemitas
    corre la una, corre la otra,
    corren las dos juntitas.
    Then, of course, there is always kick the can and steal the flag until your Dad came out and dragged you to bed. I always played mubbly peg in the day (with my Dad's hunting knife) to avoid injury.

  • Comment Link George Pomonis Tuesday, 25 September 2012 19:12 posted by George Pomonis

    Ah Arthur I'm glad you posted "Nights" I could not have said it better and you beat me to the punch. The one thing you didn't mention was playing touch football in the street, but that was Days" in Santa Fe. Did you know Ernesto Delgado, George McNish, Kinsolvings', Rocketts and Spitz?

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Tuesday, 25 September 2012 00:54 posted by Mike Lord

    How about Mumbley Peg. Played with a pocket knife, the goal was to stick your pocket knife in the ground using increasingly complicated movements launching your knife off your hand. I became quite adept at this, although I had many small cuts on my fingers as a result. Here are the rules:

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