How Did I Survive My Childhood?

Knuckles. Buck-Buck. Kill the Man with the Ball. With games like those, it's amazing any of us Philly kids made it out alive

The radio station I work at, WIP, recently had an event titled PLAY DAY. It was a fun nostalgic day where games like Step Ball, Soft Ball, and Street Hockey were played at South Philly’s FDR Park. A real family day.

It got me to thinking. Thank God WIP didn’t feature the “alternative” street games I grew up “playing” at Finnegan Playground in Southwest Philly. Bloodcurdling, vicious “games” perpetrated by the neighborhood’s “oldhead” on its “younghead.” I’m not even sure the concept of “younghead” and “oldhead” even exists anymore. When I grew up, NO ONE STAYED HOME. You were always out on the corner or the playground. There were so many thousands of grubby kids squeezed into one block, turf wars were always rising up. When you weren’t fighting another neighborhood, you fought each other. Hence, “oldhead/younghead” wars. An “oldhead” was any dude who was two or three years older than a “younghead.” When there was simply nothing else to do, inevitably some “oldhead” would stand up and say, “Let’s beat some younghead ass!” When they got bored with simply physically pummeling them, they would force them to participate in these “games.” Here’s a few that might bring on a nightmare or two. [SIGNUP]
Knuckles was a card game with basically the same rules as rummy. Except the red cards that you were holding when another player went out added up as “death points.” For example, if you were holding a Queen and a seven of hearts, that was 17 points. Which meant the player who went out was now allowed to dole out 17 points worth of pain. Five points was worth a “Choo-Choo Charlie.” The winning player would actually take the deck of cards, hold your arm out, and then run the edge of the deck down your arm actually producing blood! Then there a “knuckle sandwich” (ten points) where you would put your hand in the middle of the deck and the other guy was allowed to stomp down on your hand with his foot. Fun, eh?

EXACTLY as it sounds. Normally played with a football with virtually no rules. Five guys could play. Fifteen could play. Someone would throw the ball in the air and whoever caught it then ran like the dickens, because the other participants were then allowed to tackle that guy and do whatever they could to get that ball away from him. Punch, kick, scratch, bite, whatever it took. All for the right to then have everyone rip YOU to shreds to get that ball. Some logic, huh?

One guy would wrap his fingers through a chain link fence and bend over. Then another guy would wrap his arms around that guy’s waist line forming a two-man chain. I know, the whole thing sounds pretty gay. NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Then a third guy would run about fifty yards and jump into the air and come down on the back of one of these guys trying to break the chain. If he failed, he then joined the chain and some other joker would then get the opportunity to break it. Eventually, some three hundred pound slob would come rumbling down the lane and destroy the chain and the backs of everyone playing leading to neighborhood chiropractors making a healthy living.

If you thought KNUCKLES was a fun, sadistic game, then HIDE THE BELT is right up your alley. And that’s where it was usually played. In an alley. The guy with the biggest, heaviest belt buckle took his belt off and hid it. Then the other guys would try to hide it while they guy who hid it barked out hints pertaining to where the belt was. Whoever found the belt then had the right to beat the other players with that belt until they ran back on to a predetermined base.

Look at these games and ask yourself why the Philly murder rate is so high!

It’s not too soon to get your tix for the next TWO FUNNY PHILLY GUYS show starring Joe Conklin and myself. It’s at the Borgata on Friday night, Sept. 24th at 9pm. Go to for tix. DON’T MISS THIS SHOW!