August 4, 2021
At Gordon Elementary we didn’t have video games, we didn’t have electric bicycles or sit around looking at our phones. Recess consisted of playground equipment and the games we played. One of the games was ‘Annie, Annie Over’.
We would choose up two teams. One on each side of the schoolhouse. One team would yell, “Annie, Annie Over!” and throw a ball over the school house. The other team would try to catch the ball before it hit the ground. If they missed they would yell “Annie, Annie Over” and throw it back. If someone on the team caught the ball they would run around to the side of the other team and throw the ball at someone on the other team. Like Dodge ball if you hit a person they were out. You would keep playing until one team ran out of players or the bell rang and you had to go back to class. If that happened the team with the most players left won.
It was important to have a soft ball since you were going to throw it at the school and each other. A Tennis ball would have been perfect but back then you didn’t often see a tennis ball. Who played tennis in the country? There were no tennis courts and none of the kids had the money to buy tennis gear anyway. We would play with a large rubber ball a little bigger than a baseball. It was heavy but pretty gushy. Unless you threw it hard right at a window, you weren’t going to break anything and though it did smart when you hit someone with it, no real damage would be done.
Our little one-story schoolhouse was perfect as most of the kids could throw the ball over the building. We played this a lot but the most memorable game happened over lunch hour on a warm fall day. We got a full hour for lunch. Mrs. Hudlemeyer or one of us kids would say the prayer then we would all grab our lunch buckets or bags and eat. We could eat anywhere we wanted. Sometimes outside but most of the time 3 to 4 kids would bunch up at a time around a desk and eat together.
This day we all ate our lunches quickly so we would have more time for the game. We went out and chose up teams. My team was me, my brother Phil, Gene Daniels who was my best friend, Larry Whitman and Susie Davis. We had a great strategy. Whoever catches the ball would hand it to Susie. She was so fast she could get to the other side before the other team team could get away. She wasn’t a great thrower, but she could always catch someone and hit them with the ball.
It was going great! We were halfway through recess and had only lost one man, that was my brother Phil. Phil had a tendency to daydream. We had just thrown the ball and were listening for footsteps. They came at us from both ends of the schoolhouse. Rocky Ealey had the ball and tossed it at Phil the minute he got to our side. Phil didn’t even see it coming. Rocky caught him on the side of the head, Phil lost his balance and went rolling. “You’re out Phil” Rocky yelled. Even though Phil was down, Susie had knocked out 3 of their team. All that was left on their side was Carl King and Rocky. We smelled victory. It was our turn to throw. We all yelled, “Annie, Annie Over“ then Gene threw the ball.
The ball hit the top of the roof just at the edge. Normally the ball would have bounced and gone on over but Gene hit a place at the top where a woodpecker had made a hole. As a side note we all had heard that bird drilling that hole. We would be sitting in class and it would sound like a jackhammer. Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam. Mrs. H would run out there and yell and that bird would take off. However he would always come back. Finally Mrs. H got Tim Anderson who was in the 8th grade, to bring his 4-10 shotgun to school and had him sitting out like a Russian sniper by the well.
It took a couple of days but Tim was a crack shot and that bird met his maker on a Tuesday morning just after school had started. We heard the shot and everyone ran to a window to see. The bird rolled off the roof, Tim brandished a big smile and held it up like a big game hunter. We cheered him like a returning war hero and Mrs. H said he didn’t have to do homework for a week.
Ok, back to the ball game. Gene couldn’t have hit that hole on purpose in a hundred throws but this time the ball stuck and was wedged tight in that woodpecker hole. Both teams got together to muse over our dilemma. We didn’t have anything long enough to try to knock it out of the hole. We threw a few rocks at it but no one could hit it and it was in so tight it probably wouldn’t have come out if we did.
There was no ladder to climb the roof so we decided to make a human ladder. Larry Whitman was the biggest so he was on the bottom and he leaned against the school building. Gene climbed up to his shoulders and I climbed up on Gene. Then Rocky who was thin and wiry used us as a ladder to get past the eve and then he pulled himself up to the top of the roof by grabbing the overhang at the end of the building. Rocky scurried up that roof like a monkey and when he got to the top he reached for the ball. He pulled but it was in so tight that he couldn’t get it with one hand. He let his grip off the end of the building to pull the ball with two hands and when he did his feet slipped and he started sliding down the roof. We were all standing in a bunch watching this as Rocky slid off that roof right on top of the whole group. You could hear him yelling “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”, as he slid down the side of the roof. He fell right into to the middle of the group of kids, which broke his fall, but like dominos, one kid hit the next and the next. He knocked most of us down like bowling pins and we were all rolling on the ground.
Hearing Rocky slide down the roof, everyone including Mr. H came outside to see what was happening. When we got to our senses and saw no one was hurt, we all started laughing because that ball was still stuck in the hole. Mrs. H wouldn’t let us go up again so the game was called, which was sad, because my team was ahead. The next day Rocky’s dad came out with a ladder. He got the ball and fixed the hole in the roof. We played a lot more “Annie, Annie Over” but that game will live on forever.