When we were kids growing up on the ranch at Morapos, we didn’t have a television, telephone, computer or any of the electronic games kids have these days. In fact, we didn’t even have electricity until we were older. So what did we do to pass the time, particularly during long winter months when we were apt to be snowbound?
First, because the teacher lived in the teacherage next to our country school, it didn’t matter if it snowed or not — we always went to school. So we got to be with the neighborhood kids. Sometimes we spent recesses making snow forts. Then we made piles of snowballs, formed teams, hid behind the forts and enjoyed a big snowball fight.
Other times, if there was a snowstorm, we stayed inside during recess, playing hangman on the blackboard or finding places on the big maps, or other games.
In those days we relied on our imaginations to come up with ideas for play, both at school and at home. For example, we had a big dress-up box that was filled with discarded dresses, shoes, hats and accessories that we put on to pretend we were high-society ladies, moms, frontier schoolteachers and cowboys, among others. An adult lady’s white dress reached the floor when one of us put it on, and a discarded sheer white curtain became a veil so we could imagine the outfit being worn by a bride. And what fun it was to clomp around in old high-heeled shoes!
We girls had our dolls, too, and doll beds, blankets and toy dishes so we could pretend we were moms. My favorite dolls were a baby made of hard rubber that wet when fed, “Sparkle Plenty” (inspired by the Dick Tracy comics), and a beautiful Toni doll with red hair, curlers and a pretend Toni perm (popular with ladies at that time).
Perhaps more than anything else, we girls played with our paper dolls. There were baby dolls with clothes, but what we enjoyed the most were the celebrity dolls, such as Doris Day, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner. Costumes for these celebrities included fancy ball dresses that inspired us to make our own fancy dresses for our dolls. We drew, colored and cut out the dresses, which were added to the clothes we had cut from the paper doll book.
We also cut furniture, dishes and other household items from old catalogs and used them to make pretend rooms for our dolls. It provided hours of imaginary fun!
Reading books was encouraged in our home. When the weather allowed for traveling to Craig, we borrowed books from the library. We read everything that was available on our country school shelves, too. We also had our own books, gifts for birthdays and holidays, and I can still remember Mom reading to us, especially fairy tales.
We wrote our own stories, too. I still have some of them that were written on tablets with cover pictures of cowboy stars such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
Sometimes we cut pictures from old magazines and made books about living in different countries.
Even though we didn’t have TV (at least not until I was a teen), we did have a battery-powered radio. During the daytime hours we were able to listen to cowboy shows and some other kid shows. In the evening, our family listened to “Gunsmoke” and a wealth of other shows, but we kids were not allowed to listen to “Dragnet.”
The winters were long, but my sisters and I had plenty to do.