The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By John C. Ewing © 1992

Issue: April, 1992

Back in the 1920's, when I was a little boy between about the ages of eight and twelve or thirteen, our after-school hours were spent out-of-doors as much as possible, largely in three kinds of activities.

Our marbles were very important to us. We played varieties of marble games throughout the spring and early summer months. All through marble season we were also continually adding to and refining our collections of favorite agates and other choice marbles, which were our pride and joy, and which we kept in cigar boxes.

Also of paramount importance to us then was a trusty slingshot. We each made our own slingshots, of course, searching out just the right Y-shaped branch or tree limb, which we trimmed to proper size. Two strips of heavy rubber cut from an automobile inner tube supplied the power, joined together by a patch of leather such as might be formed from an old shoe tongue to make the pad to hold the ammunition. The best ammunition came from old iron resistance coils (out of mine motors) that were discarded after they had overheated and become brittle. These "coils" could be broken up into dozens of metal slugs from one-half to one inch in length. Otherwise, we used small pebbles or gravel for shooting. The slingshots we made were formidable little weapons and we had to be very careful never to aim them toward anyone. They were perfect for target practice or for any kind of small game.

A third, highly desirable, possession dear to the hearts of pre-adolescent boys was a good hoop and hook. Ours was not the 1880-1890's type of hoop rolling, done by tapping or stroking along a large hoop with a short wand. Our kind of hoop rolling was done by applying continuous, gentle pressure to the back of a somewhat smaller steel hoop, using a stiff wire, the business end of which had been formed into a hook.

Really good hoops were hard to come by, but in those days there were many small wagons and carts around, whose wheels were rimmed with steel bands. Light wheel rims made ideal hoops for rolling and could be anywhere in size from about nine inches up to more than two feet in diameter. Hoops like these could easily be propelled along using a stiff wire properly hooked at the end. To roll the hoop along smoothly anywhere we went required just the right pressure applied at just the right point on the rim, a skill that took some practice to learn. But there was great satisfaction to be had in mastering this skill so that your hoop accompanied you effortlessly wherever you cared to walk or trot or run.

I don't think I have seen a boy rolling his hoop since I was a kid in the 1920's. I suppose good hoops are impossible to find. They were scarce even then and sometimes we had to resort to using certain kinds of heavy wire barrel hoops - but that type of barrel hasn't been used for years. I am surprised, though, that someone hasn't manufactured steel hoops and wire hooks and tried to reintroduce this fine pastime to preadolescent boys once again.