My playground was the alley between our apartment and my mother’s shop. There was a ton of things to play with and I rarely got bored. Plus a number of my friends were there too.
We did have other playgrounds in the neighborhood. There was the one at my school as well as another school nearby. They had jungle gyms and swings and all the usual stuff, but they were also quite a few blocks away in either direction. Much simpler to just walk out the back door and play where you were.
I had invented a toy for myself at one point. I’m sure I got the idea from something I saw on TV because I can’t see myself coming up with it on my own. Some medieval show about maces, perhaps, or some aboriginal show in which the tribe being studies made skillful use of a bola. In any case, I got the idea to put one of my super bouncy rubber balls into one of my mother’s stockings. This gave me a good foot or more of material, the “more” coming over time as the stocking stretched, and spinning the ball beside me before letting go had it launching an incredible distance.
It was fantastic. My friends and I played with it all day. We went for distance, of course, and then competed for height. We then began playing a game of catch on opposite sides of our building. I’m flat out amazed we didn’t take out any windows because we didn’t always get the aim right. Once in a while the ball would arc low and we’d bounce it off the side of the building. Quite often we wouldn’t arc it forward enough and it would bounce off the roof. Being a three story walk up built in the sixties our apartment had a perfectly flat roof so bouncing it wasn’t much of a problem.
We were lucky in a lot of ways, thinking back now. We were lucky the street at the front, named the ubiquitous “main” street, hardly ever had any traffic, so when the ball came over the top of the building it would frequently get out into the road but never encountered any traffic. We were also lucky that the return shot to the back lane miraculously avoided hitting any of the cars parked there. I don’t know how we managed that, we certainly weren’t taking it into consideration. Given the force we were generating to get the ball over the building I’m sure if any one of them had landed on a windshield it would have cracked it at least, if not broken it outright.
My mother, you might imagine, was considerably less than impressed with my fantastic invention. She now had one stocking a good two feet longer than it’s former mate. She chewed me out and expressed her exasperation at my lack of forethought. Then she let me keep the stocking because 1) it was already ruined and 2) the damned toy was at least getting me outside to play.
She was much less enthused when, on the following day, we managed to land the sock ball on the roof without it bouncing off. I then replaced the toy with another bouncy ball (one of my friend’s, as I recall) and her other stocking. After all, it was already without it’s mate and therefore useless, wasn’t it? I hadn’t considered at the time that my mother had decided to keep it as a spare in case one of her other stockings got a run.
That was the last I got to play our fantastic game of sock ball.