Kick The Can and Other Old Kids Games


The following is a game called kick the can from my grandpa that played the game when he was a kid. My grandpa grew up in the northwest United States and went into the Navy when he was 18. He is now 74 years old. I was told about this game when asking about any possible stories that his family had when he was growing up, as he had lived an exciting life, doing many crazy things with his time. He now enjoys fishing and gold mining. I recorded him via phone call. This is a direct transcribed script of what was said in the story, with the various “umm’s” and “uhh’s” omitted.

The Game

“Oh we used to play kick the can all the time. There was rules for it. There was one person who was the can-master, you might say. And in order to be safe, there were another four or five guys and one who was the can-master, and the other four or five guys would go hide. And then the can-master had to go out and find these four or five guys. Well, if he was looking for one person and someone else came up and kicked the can then that guy was safe. And so he would set the can back up and he would go back out. And if he was able to find somebody then come back to the can and he kicked the can then that other guy would now be the can-master. We also would play stickball in the alley, we didn’t have baseball bats. We had some old baseballs though. 

There was a lot of kids in my neighborhood. We were all the generation after the war. And so most of the women got pregnant and had a lot of kids. So we had a lot of kids around there and we would play together. We had another game we would play and that, these alleys were like three blocks and they weren’t paved or anything. We would pull up the dirt clods and throw em at each other, we had wars. One of the rules was that we had to make sure that when you’re making the dirt balls, you had to make sure that there was no rocks or glass or anything like that. And so this one afternoon, we paired off, there must’ve been six or seven to a side, and we’d make all these dirt clumps and we’d rush at one another and throw them suckerrs at each other. There was this kid about my age, his name was [name], he rolled this dirt clod up and threw it at me and it hit me right in the head, whack, and right when it hit me I knew there was something in there. So I went running after him. I was gonna punch his lights out. I went running after him and got about five feet from him and blood started dripping down my forehead and I put my hand up to my forehead and there was blood. And I started running and yelling. I was like, ‘mom look at my head!’ And I had to go to the hospital and get stitches in my head. So we didn’t play that game that much anymore.”


I always knew the game kick the can growing up and knew that people actually played it. But for me it was also just that game that parents always told their kids to go play but nobody actually knew what it was. Hearing my grandpa tell me that he played it as a kid was cool because it sounds like it was just a general game that kids around the country all knew how to play. I’m not sure how different or similar his rules of the game are to the rest of the world, but I would imagine that they aren’t too far off, the name of the game is like one of the only rules after all. 

The second half of the piece is not as much folk games as it is just things kids did outside back in the day. I find it interesting how much fun kids were able to have with so little stuff. I mean, they threw dirt around in the roads. Nowadays I can’t drive in my neighborhood without seeing a children at play sign. Where did all the fun of just making up your own games go?