My informant used to play a variant of Wallball at his Bay Area elementary school called “Butts Up.” Like with regular Wallball, the game was played against the wall of a building or room, with one ball and many participants. Players had to throw the ball against the wall without the ball first bouncing off the ground. If the ball touches a player and then touches the floor, that player must run to the wall before the next time someone performs a successful wall bounce (player -> wall without touching floor). If a player makes it to the wall in time, he or she is safe and may resume play. If the ball makes it there first, that player receives a point. Additionally, a player may attempt to perform a fast catch, whereby the player catchs the ball immediately after it has bounced off the wall, before it touches the floor again. If the player successfully performs a fast catch, then the player who threw the ball gets a point.
My informant’s version of the game uses letters instead of points. Each point spells out the word B-U-T-T-S and when a player has gotten all 5 letters, they must stand against the wall with their butt in the air while every other player gets a chance to peg them in the ass with balls. Additionally, instead of a rubber playground ball, Butts Up was played exclusively with a tennis ball, and players were allowed to catch the ball in between throws, instead of just fast catches. Also after a player has been ass-pegged for spelling BUTTS, instead of being out, the player simply returns to the game with a clean slate, albeit a sore ass. Another one of my informants also said that some kids from his elementary school, back in New York, played this version of Wallball, and even called it by the same name of “Butts Up.” According to him, this version of the game was reserved for the hardest of hardcore children.
One of the games my informant used to play back in elementary school was a game called Wallball. According to him, Wallball is played against the wall of a building or structure with a playground ball or tennis ball. The object of the game was to hit the ball with your hand and have it hit the wall without first touching the ground. If the ball hits the ground first instead, you must run to the wall before someone else is able to successfully hit the ball at the wall, or else you are “out.” However, my informant says that usually a player could receive 3 or 5 outs before actually being forced out of the game. Games were played with a large number of students. There were a few additional rules in his version of Wallball. Players were not allowed to bobble the ball, any player bobbling the ball was forced to drop it and run for the wall just as if they had failed to make a proper hit. If a player was able to catch another player’s ball after it had hit the wall but before touching the ground, the player who hit the ball received an out. A player was also allowed to peg another player with the ball, thus forcing both players to run for the wall. This was only to be performed if teachers were not watching because teachers would usually stop the game if they saw this. Players were also forbidden from having “Tea parties” which is where a player hits the ball back to his or herself 3 or more times in a row. Also at any time, one player could challenge another player by throwing over his or her shoulder. Both players then had to run to the wall before someone else hit it there. Perhaps this challenge rule was instigated to replace pegging in the presence of teachers, but never left the game even when teachers weren’t present. This version of Wallball is very similar to the version of Wallball that I played in elementary school, except without the challenge rule.
My informant played a game similar to what is now known today as Wallball. His version of the game was called Ledgeball due to the ledge against which it was played. Ledgeball does not have the same free-for-all nature that Wallball does, and is played for points instead of for staying power. However, it still involves throwing a ball against a flat surface and catching it.
According to my informant, the game was played by a group of throwers and one or two defenders. Throwers would take turns throwing the ball against the ledge and trying to get it to land inside a marked area. The defenders would attempt to catch the ball before it hit the ground. If it hit the ground the throwers got a point. If the defenders caught it or if it landed outside the marked area, then the defenders got a point. One of the strategies that throwers could use was aiming very low on the ledge, so that the ball would only go a little bit before hitting the ground. Another strategy was to throw it so that it would bounce over the heads of the defenders. People who frequently defended would get really fast and develop good reflexes. Ledgeball was played with either a tennis ball or a rubber playground ball, with tennis balls being preferred.
While this is markedly different from the Wallball that I played in my youth, this has many of the same traits. Players throw a ball against a wall, other players attempt to catch it. And most importantly it is played with either a tennis ball or a playground ball, both of which are still used in Wallball today. Granted, this version of Wallball was played back in the 30’s so it will understandably be very different from what we know today, although it could be an ancestor or cousin of modern Wallball.
According to my informant, he and his classmates would play a game they called Handball during recess. The ‘court’ was a specific area in the school between a set of stairs one one side and a railing on the other. Games were played with a rubber playground ball. If a player hit the ball at either of these points, that player was out. Also there was a small hole in the court, and hitting the ball there also merited an out. Additionally, there was a grey line partway up the wall, and if a player hit the ball above this line, that player would be out.
In a way, this game seems to be similar to regular handball, where the player must hit the ball against a wall in between a lower and upper line. However, my informant’s version of the game involved a large number of players, usually 15 to 20 at the start, and had more specific boundaries that can be attributed to the nature of the court they used. Overall, this appears to be a mix of regular handball and playground wallball.