Old time Toys, Games and Tools
We had the chance to help with a summer camp in Menifee County.
We decided to show the kids some toys, games, and tools that would have been familiar to pioneers in our area.
They made "Whizzers" out of a piece of string and wooden disks cut from a branch.
The disk has two holes near the center.
They put the string through one hole and back through the other and then tied the ends together.
Then they put a finger through the
loop on either side of the disk and adjusted the string so the disk was
near the middle of the loop.
Then they swung the disk in a circle to get a few twists in the string and pulled, relaxed, pulled, relaxed ...
If they did it just right the disk would spin first one way then the other faster and faster.
It took a little practice but eventually all of them were successful.
Here the kids are learning the game Nine men's Morris.
I learned it from my Dad many years ago and he told me that it had been around for a long time.
But I was surprised by how long when I did a little research for the campers.
Here is the handout we gave them with information telling about the game, its rules, and the board layout.
They used red and white beans for markers that can be played on any corner or intersection of the board.
We know that this game was played in
the Jamestown colony. In fact people have been playing it for at least 3400
years! It has been found carved into stones in Egypt, Sri Lanka, Greece and
Ireland. Nine Men‘s Morris was even mentioned in William Shakespeare’s “A
Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The game begins with an empty board.
The players determine who plays first, and then take turns placing their men
one per play on empty points. If a player is able to place three of his pieces
in a straight line, vertically or horizontally, he has formed a mill and may remove one of his
opponent's pieces from the board and the game. Any piece can be chosen for the
removal, but a piece not in an opponent's mill must be selected, if possible.
Players continue to alternate moves,
this time moving a man to an adjacent point. A piece may not "jump"
another piece. Players continue to try to form mills and remove their
opponent's pieces in the same manner as in phase one. A player may
"break" a mill by moving one of his pieces out of an existing mill,
then moving the piece back to form the same mill a second time (or any number
of times), each time removing one of his opponent's men.
When a player only has three pieces
left on the board, they can choose one of them and it can “fly” to any vacant
The campers then learned how to move a heavy weight.
A pioneer may have to move a rock or lift a log if they were building a cabin.
We started out using a lever (the plank you see on the floor in many of the pictures below).
Sorry, I don't have pictures of a
lift but by placing the fulcrum (support point) close to the load (me)
they could easily pick me up.
Building that cabin the settler could try to use a pulley to lift the log (or me as a stand in).
But a simple pulley only has a mechanical advantage of one, with some loss to friction.
That means that the same force is pulling up on the load as you are pulling down on the free end.
So there was no possibility that a kid would be able to lift me.
No matter how hard any of them pulled my shoulders and feet stayed on the floor.
A more complex system of pulleys shown in this diagram has a mechanical advantage of six.
Again with some loss to friction.
You can understand how that comes
about if you consider the force on the free end is the same force on
all the other parts of the rope.
So each of the ropes to the lower pulley is pulling equally hard and sharing the load.
My nearly 200 pounds would be supported by 6 ropes each pulling up with 33 pounds of force.
Diagram 1 shows a more schematic view while diagram 2 is a lot more like what a block and tackle usually looks like.
With that arrangement they took turns picking me up.
Yes, I am entirely off the floor in all these pictures.
Sometimes only by an inch or two but all lifts were successful.
Not every lift was graceful though.
I was eventually lifted off the floor even with this one.
This girl lifted me then just kept pulling hand over hand until I was well off the floor.
I got a little concerned but she let me down easy..
And this guy did a one hand lift.
One camper wanted to see what it was like to be a log.
As usual I had a great time with a bunch of kids and I think they enjoyed it and learned a few things too.
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