Sepia Saturday #343: A Barrel of Monkeys







This puppy is bringing a barrel of birthday wishes to my Aunt Sadie. His (or maybe her) barrel is very decorative with pink flowers all around to match the puppy’s pink tongue and big pink bow.

Genealogy concentrates on accurately reconstructing families and placing them within a certain timeframe and at certain places. As genealogists, we strive to describe their lives and activities. To share what we’ve learned, we write research reports and biographies. Many times they are written about folks who’ve long since passed. But in constructing those lives, I have often wished I had an ancestor’s diary or travel journal or knew what it was like to grow up when and where they did. What did they do to learn, play, grow? I thought I’d share some of my childhood toys with you and possible family historians years from now wanting to know what my sisters and I played with when we were growing up in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. I shared the story of Dad’s rubber rabbit earlier in the year.

From the barrel in the photo prompt, the very first thing that came to my mind was a Barrel of Monkeys first released by Lakeside Toys in 1965. The monkeys originally came in a blue, red, or yellow barrel. These little plastic monkeys had arms that would link and the game rules were pretty simple:Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 6.40.16 AM

  • Dump monkeys on a table.
  • Pick up one monkey by an arm.
  • Hook the other arm by a second monkey’s arm.
  • Continue making a chain.
  • Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 7.04.57 AMFor the single player, the goal was to get 12 monkeys on the chain in the quickest time.
For two or more players, each monkey left on the chain was worth one point and the first player to get to 12 points won.

Another game that we spent hours playing was a very noisy one. It was called Don’t Break the Ice. Mom’s eyes would roll when this game came out because she knew tap, tap, tapping was Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 7.09.12 AMinevitable. The “game” board was plastic “ice” blocks squeezed into a raised frame. A plastic man was placed on top of one of the blocks. Each player was given a little hammer to start tapping away at the ice. The first player to cause the ice to completely fall out of the frame and make the man fall off the ice lost. Not only was the tapping annoying but the blocks falling apart at the end of the game was very noisy.

We also played the game of Sorry! This board game required each player to get the Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 7.48.33 AMfour pawns of their chosen color to “home base.” You would draw a card from the pile and follow its instructions. For some reason, there were no 6s or 9s in the card deck. The tricky part was to land on your color’s slide spaces which allowed you to get around the boardScreen Shot 2016-05-23 at 8.27.35 AM faster and knock anyone on those spots back to their start space. Thus, the name. When you knocked someone back to the start, you were supposed to say, “SORRY!”

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 9.14.59 AMAnother game that we spent a lot of time with was Connect Four. It is similar to tic-tac-toe but instead of x’s and o’s there are black and red checkers. To win Connect Four you had to be the first player to get four of your colored checkers in a row either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The checkers were dropped into the top of the game “grid” until it was either filled up or someone won. There was a release lever that you pushed to dump the checkers out of the bottom when the game was done. It must still be a fun game since there is a bar in downtown Tucson that currently has a super-sized version of this on their outdoor patio for their patrons’ entertainment.

And who wouldn’t want a childhood without at least one dangerous play toy? Clackers fulfilled that for us. They came out in the late 1960s and early 1970s and seemed like they should be fun… The toy consisted of two very hard acrylic balls attached to each end of a heavy cord. You held the cord in the middle. I remember that our sets had a plastic tab you held onto but many just had a metal ring. If you moved your hand Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 12.18.24 PMvigorously up and down at just the right pace, the two balls would strike each other; once at the top and once at the bottom, repeatedly. They made a loud clacking noise each time they struck. The dangerous part was two-fold. If you didn’t have your hand movement right, the balls (did I already mention that they were very hard?) would miss each other and strike your hands, wrists or upper arms. Even wrapping your sweaters around your arm for padding didn’t help eliminate the bruises. We walked around for weeks with bruised arms trying to get the knack of those clackers. The other danger was that after repeated “clacking” the balls had the potential to shatter into pieces that would fly everywhere. It wasn’t long before Clackers were pulled from the market.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 5.11.49 PMSimon was a memory game that started to bring us into the world of hand-held games but it wasn’t any where near as sophisticated as our modern Nintendo DS or Xbox consoles. The object of Simon was to match the random sequence that the computer-generated game put out for you. The sequences started out as just one light (red, yellow, blue, or green). The people playing would press that color. The machine would then add a color to the sequence (even it it was a repeat) and the players would have to copy it. Not only did the sequence get longer and longer but the speed at which the sequence was given to you increased. You would feel your heart rate increase as green, blue, blue, red, yellow, green, red, red, red, yellow started coming at you faster and faster. We’d look up at each other when it got intense and we weren’t sure which button to press next. “NO! Red, push, RED next!” could be heard throughout the house.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 6.28.21 PM

Parcheesi board

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 6.31.16 PM

Dapper Dan & Dressy Bessy

For board games, we played Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Life, Checkers, Monopoly, and Parchessi. Our dolls included Dressy Bessy and Dapper Dan who taught us how to tie, snap, zipper, and button; Raggedy Ann and Andy who kept us company during the dark nights; Barbie, Skipper, and Ken who taught us to accessorize with fast cars, fancy clothes, handsome horses, and Dream Houses.

9 Merriams Oak Tree

The oak tree at 9 Merriam Avenue

Our outside games included catching fireflies at dusk, Simon Says, Tag, Hide-and-Seek, Red Rover, and some version of some completely made up game with ever changing rules that involved running as fast as we could to the big oak tree at least once.

I just know that, whatever (or whoever) my sisters and I played with, it was fun. A barrel of laughs that started with a simple Barrel of Monkeys!

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: Barrel

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 4.43.18 PM


7 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday #343: A Barrel of Monkeys

  1. A great idea…I wish I knew what my parents games were-I know they didn’t have many toys. On the farm they created their own toys or my grandparents made them…dolls, a wagon. Imagination.


  2. I played several of the games you’ve listed both when I was growing up, and with my own children as they were growing up. And I still play some of them. You listed a couple of rather noisy games, but the noisiest game my kids ever played was “Hungry Hippos”. That game was ear-splitting!


  3. Some of these games are known here (Netherlands) as well. Sorry = Mens erger je niet or Man don’t be annoyed; Connect Four = Vier op een rij or Four in a row and Simon = Simon. The others I have never seen. That doesn’t mean a lot since I am not one for playing games.


  4. This made me so nostalgic. We didn’t have many toys and games to play with inside–we always lived in the southwest where it never gets too cold to play outside. But you made me remember what fun we had. I need to write about it. 🙂


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