Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spending All My Play Money at the Five and Dime

By Susanne Dietze

On a visit to my parents’ house this past weekend, I did something which probably hasn’t been done in a very long time. I opened the game closet. I hunted through the titles printed on the cardboard-boxed board games wedged inside and I exclaimed over Clue, Pictionary, and other favorites from my childhood (including Emergency! Now a Game Based on the Hit TV Show!). But I had one goal in mind that day: I wanted to introduce my kids to a board game called Park and Shop, a 1950s gem which belonged to my mother when she was a kid.

In Park and Shop, players drive their car tokens from home to a parking lot using one die (because cars have one engine). From there, players move their pedestrian tokens using two dice (because people walk on two legs) to a number of retail establishments, as directed by the drawing of cards. Along the way, there are pitfalls, additional errands tacked on, and rewards, but the first person to complete his or her shopping list, retrieve their car, and get home wins the game.

I figured my kids would like this game. After all, they enjoy a dozen other shopping games. Whether it’s Monopoly or our modern Park and Shop counterpart, Mall Madness, my kids adore money games. (I try to not spend too much time considering why I like them, too. Is it my secret compulsion to spend oodles of moolah? Hmm. Maybe I’d better not answer that where my husband will see it.)

What I love about Park and Shop isn’t the play money, though. It’s where I spend it.

I write historical fiction. I read a lot of it, too. The past has always drawn me, however, as evidenced by my life-long love of this silly board game. I’m not sure it makes rational sense, but there’s something about the very stores plotted out on the game board that entice me. I love reading their names. The Haberdasher. Oil & Coal. The Fur Shop (and I don’t even wear fur). These sorts of establishments still may exist, but they are more often bypassed for the convenience of Target, Wal-Mart and the Supermarket. In the land of Park and Shop, there’s a store just for nuts, another for cheese, and another for fish. Woman's Wear, Men's Wear, and Tot's Toggery are not departments in Macy's, but their own retail establishments. Magazines are sold at the toy store, and the Radio Station is joined with its fledgling TV counterpart. The ideas of these specialized stores have always sounded as foreign and delicious to me as street names in Paris. I can’t explain why, but The Car Washery sounds so much more romantic than a drive-thru equipped with hoses and brushes.

And then there’s the nature of the errands! If one’s imagination wasn’t enough to come up with a reason to stop at the 5 & 10, the penalty and bonus cards offer story-sparking insight. “My, but you’re hungry! Stop at a drug store for lunch.” Drawing that penalty card adds an extra stop to my shopping trip, but I never minded getting it. My mouth watered for a tuna melt and chocolate milkshake as I pictured myself perched at the lunch counter. “It’s a swell day. Everybody’s feeling generous. Take another turn.” When I pulled that card, I always imagined myself in hat, gloves, and skirt, smiling and nodding hello to gentlemen who tipped their hats to me.

Like all periods of history, the 1950s had a dark side, and Park and Shop reflects a bit of it. One penalty card reads, “There’s a woman driver in front of you. Lose one turn.” Police officers – who are responsible for a handful of penalty and reward cards – seem capricious, catching players in speed traps on one roll of the dice, and feeling “courteous” enough to stop traffic for them on the next. And I always thought there was something weird about including The Smoke Shop in a game for children.

But last weekend, I loved pulling this game out again. Playing it reminded me of my own childhood, and I relished a glimpse into a bygone era with each snap of the cards. Playing with my kids also gave me an opportunity to share something I’d loved with them, even though they couldn’t believe the inefficiency of having to make so many stops throughout their journey.

But the best part of dragging out Park and Shop was playing it with my mom. She sat down with us to play, and as we rolled the dice and moved our tokens, she laughed with us over the crazy-sounding stores and talked about what it was like to really visit them. My kids were astonished to hear that she’d gone to the movies on Saturday afternoons all by herself without her mom in tow – a foreign experience for my school-age kids. And she told us how she’d received Park and Shop, as a birthday present, and loved it enough to keep it sixty years.

When she talked, I could see her as a nine-year-old, all brown curls and skinned knees and bobby socks, playing the game and moving her pedestrian to one of the stores on the board. It was a glimpse into the past, and to me, that’s one of the best kinds of history to enjoy. The kind that gives you a little more insight into somebody you love.

What’s your favorite board game from childhood? Have you played it in a while?

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  1. Susie, I loved this post. I've never even heard of this game, but your delight in it convinces me of its charm. What a fun trip down memory lane.

    Growing up I always enjoyed CLUE. What can I say, you guys know how I feel about mysteries.

  2. I've never heard of it, either, but it sounds like fun.
    The store names are great!

    Lisa - of course, you'd like Clue!

    I played rummy with my grandmother all the time when I was a kid. Being an only child (oh, there she goes with the only child thing again...) it was hard to get a good board game going!

    I do love Pop O Matic Trouble. That always came out when the power went out. Even as late as a year or two ago, my mom and I would play that by candlelight.
    I don't suppose you can get Park and Shop anymore unless you're willing to spend the big bucks - real money- that is and find one online.

    Cool stuff, Susie!

  3. I loved this post.I was thinking about games the other day and I always had a favorite as a kid called Operation. However, I have to find this really old game and play it.

  4. Good morning! I'm in the mood for something 50s-ish today, so here's some orange juice in itty bitty glasses and some of my Grandma's egg casserole. Pull up a fork!

    Louise, I loved Operation too! Not being particularly dexterous, I was never great at it, but it was *fun* wasn't it? I've noticed that now they've come out with themed versions of it, where you operate on Iron Man, Buzz Lightyear, and SpongeBob. Same old puns for the body parts, though! Thanks for coming by and I hope you have a great day.

  5. Lisa, of course you love CLUE! It's both mysterious and awesome! I loved it too; same thing as Park and Shop, I imagined myself in all of the rooms. (Did you ever see the movie based on it? tee hee.)

    Have you played any of the new versions? There's a spinning component to the board. And themed versions too. My family particularly enjoys the Harry Potter version.

  6. Deb, I have never played Pop O Matic Trouble! We have a mini travel version of Trouble but yours sounds way more fun. Especially by candlelight!

    I looked online for Park and Shop to see what it's going for. I didn't look very hard, but I did learn a few things. They updated it in the 60s, perhaps, and started using plastic game pieces (as opposed to the metal ones, which are probably, er, lead or something). Not sure if they updated the sexist cards, though! I saw one for about $60. I wonder what it went for initially.

  7. Ooh, PS, if you haven't already entered the drawing to win one of FIVE copies of Judy Christie's new release, Goodness Gracious Green, scroll down to Jen's post from yesterday and leave a comment! I wish I could enter!

  8. Of course, I always imagined myself in all the rooms, Susie! And of course I was whatever character I was playing. Typically Miss Scarlet or Mrs. Peacock. Sadly, not only have I seen the movie, I own it. Bad as it is, I couldn't resist. And it does make me laugh.

  9. Yeah I was never terribly good at Operation and my brother was the whiz at it in his day. As far as, Clue goes now that was my game along with Scrabble.

    My brother called me Lizard the bookworm as kids because when it came down to it. I usually beat the entire family at Scrabble.

  10. Okay, I thought I was the only one who wanted to crawl in the board games, and I assumed it had something to do with being an only child and conjuring up ways to play by myself! Glad to know I'm not alone!
    For me, it was the game of LIFE. Spinning the dial to determine the course of your future, your career, how many little pink or blue plastic twig people you could shove in the car, whether you got a house or a shack or a mansion... *sigh* Loved that game. I still have it. But I think the dogs chewed up all the little people.

  11. Oh Niki, yes! Life is so much fun! I love how that dial sounds when you spin it really hard -- like a zipper. I was always disappointed when I played if I didn't have any children. I loved those little blue and pink twigs.

    And despite having to buy insurance and pay a mortgage, that game is so unlike real life that it's still escapist. Which is just what I'm going for!

  12. Loved, loved, loved this post, Susie. Especially your mom's part.

    I'm not familiar with Park and Shop. Talk about not being politically correct. LOL I clenched my fists when I read “There’s a woman driver in front of you. Lose one turn.”
    However, I think it's because Nelson always jokes about women drivers. He is joking about it. Really, he is. Honest.

    So, It’s a swell day huh? Haha

    I think I'd enjoy playing this game.

    We always played Snakes and Ladders, Parchesi or Aggravation. Of course, there's not much difference between the latter 2 except you get to send someone back to the start in Aggravation.

    Actually, I think Aggravation is a non-Pop-o-matic Trouble, is it not?

    I had a love/hate relationship with Clue because I enjoyed the game but could never guess the culprit.

    And, the only time I liked Monopoly was when Going to the Chapel was playing in the background, I was 14, and 15 yr old Alan Sewchuck looked at me as he sang the chorus, 'Will you mar-ry me-e-e'.

    Aw Susie, thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Anita Mae.

  13. Hi Susie and Inkies,
    My favorite game to play at family gatherings was and still is PIT! Anyone ever play? It's a trading game and you are collecting commodities like Wheat, Rye, Flax, etc. If you end up at the end of the game though with the Bear you're going to lose points whereas the Bull can work to your advantage. It's a very noisy game with lots of shouting and card swapping that sometimes gets a little wild. :)

    Thanks for the memories. Haven't played that for awhile.

  14. Great post Susie,

    Oh the memories of afternoon's whiled away playing Monopoly, Trouble, Clue, Life, Parcheezi. And then there were the card games, and then when we got board of playing cards we'd start building things with cards.

    A month ago I bought two board games for our trailer. I was shocked at the cost - almost $100! But on the weekend when my teenage children and friends spent two whole evenings playing Trivial Pursuit (and parents acted as consultants - NOT!) I thought, a bargain compared to taking us all to a movie, or even buying a DVD that will get watched once.

  15. Hey, Jack! Thanks for stopping by!

    Jill, I've definitely played Pit. It's so fun and loud and noisy! Great card game. Since getting married I had to learn to play Rook. Apparently it's missionary poker. A requirement before you're allowed to go overseas.

  16. Anita, when I was a kid, my brother loved getting that Woman Driver card. He thought it was hi-lar-ious. Ugh. (He and Nelson could wink together.) You know, as much as this game sparked my imagination, I never concocted a scenario for a why a woman driver would cause me to lose a turn. I thought it was so ridiculous! Well, I'll think about it now. Maybe she's lost. Or in labor. Yeah. Labor. Poor lady.

    I loved Parchesi! I got it in 2nd grade and it shows the wear of years of use.

    Ok, when we all meet up at a convention, I'm bringing a game! Just kidding. But I wish we could all sit around and play a game together. Wouldn't that be fun? :-)

  17. Hi Jack! Welcome to the Inkwell!

    Jillian, I'm happy to see you! I've never played Pit. It sounds like fun! I'm going to have to look for it. I love learning new games.

    We're blessed to have family friends who introduced us to our new favorite card game. It's called Saboteur and (I can't imagine pitching this idea) you're a gnome, digging a tunnel to find gold. But (duh duh duh) someone is a saboteur gnome, out to wreak havoc on the good gnomes. Up to 10 people can play and we can get rowdy, full of mock accusations and righteous indignation as we all protest our innocence and insist we aren't the bad gnomes!

    I love these kinds of memories.

  18. Hey Louise, Scrabble is intense! You must have a great vocabulary! Remind me to have you on my team!

    Lisa, I think the Clue movie is a kick too. Silly, yup, but it cracked me up. It made me re-evaluate whether or not I wanted to be Miss Scarlet from there on out, though, LOL.

    Hi Wenda! I love Trivial Pursuit but haven't played in ages. Hours of fun, just like you said. I remember howling with laughter over the deliberately poor answers we sometimes offered when we were clueless. I bet that was a wonderful evening with your family. What a memory!

  19. Susie, my son and I love playing board and card games. There are the traditional ones like Sorry, Clue, Trivial Pursuit, and Scrabble. And some of the more unique ones like Small World, Carcassonne, Race for the Galaxy, and Ticket to Ride. There's nothing like game night with the family!

  20. Jen, I love game night. It's a fun way to make memories with our kids, isn't it? I confess I've never heard of Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride...I need to check these out! Thanks!


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