The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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


By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986

Issue: July, 1986

One beautiful spring Sunday afternoon, my friend "Sarah Bee" and I were hiking through the woods when we spied a huge rhododendron. Sarah Bee exclaimed, "Oh! What a great, playhouse that would make!" That turned our conversation to our childhood days and building playhouses. If you have never built a playhouse, you have missed out on something special in a child's life.

My cousin and I used to spend hours out in the woods building playhouses. It would take an entire evening to gather materials and get things in order. We went to the creek bank and swampy areas for soft mosses to cover the floor, then got our houses in order. Next we built a store, complete with items for sale. Sticks and rocks were used for money. We played like a family with mother, father and children. I always liked to be the mother and dress up, and put on make up. A red cucumber fruit from the beautiful cucumber tree made a nice lipstick. When I went to the play store, my umbrella was from the huge leaves of the cucumber tree. Sometimes I made a hat from the white blossoms. One day recently as I walked by a cucumber tree, I found myself breaking off a branch with big flat leaves and making an umbrella. I'm glad childhood memories still linger and I can still put a few in action.

If the woods at he Old Mountain View School could talk, they would tell of happy days filled with laughter and shouts of glee. These woods had some of the best places for a playhouse. Recess time was spent working on them. These playhouses were especially nice since they had a roof and walls made of small branches. What a thrill to take our lunch buckets and eat there!

"Sarah Bee," say's, "We used to make furniture for our playhouse out of cockleburs. They stick together and we made nice beds and chairs from them. There's no end to what I could do with a cocklebur. My playhouses always had to have the best moss for the floor. Now a days you can hardly get children out of the house away from the television set. Too bad! They are missing so much.

That day when I got home, my mother told me how she played in her playhouse. She says, "I like to dress up forked sticks as people. You can take the ivy blossoms and make them look like frilly clothes. These blossoms have holes in the center and can be easily slipped onto the twigs. I made little girls outfits, and they looked like they were wearing ruffled panties."

Here in our Blue Ridge Mountains, there are lovely woods, waiting to hear the laughter of children. They beckon all, come and enjoy childhood days again.

Editor's Note... I can never discuss playhouses without secretly wishing I could go right out and make another playhouse again. Foolish? Maybe, but anyone who knew the joy of making their own playhouse in the woods as a child will understand.

Countless hours were spent collecting moss carpets; bark plates, acorn cap cups, just the right rocks for walkways, dragging off items your mother discarded to become treasured furnishings. The list could go on forever.

Every person had their own version of a playhouse. I delight in hearing details one person's imagination built into their playhouse that I didn't think of in my own.

Generations have played this age old game. Playhouses weren't just "homes," they could also be stores, churches, whatever a child fancied. My mother told me she went to the trouble of digging a hole, burying a large tin can and filling it with water. This made a well for her playhouse. She even found sticks and constructed a windlass to pull up tiny "buckets."

Some people built many playhouses, always seeing another tempting site. I personally found one perfect location and stuck to it for years. I could walk through the woods behind my parent's house today and go straight to the very spot.

It wasn't just a girl's game either boys filled the role of father or called their playhouse a fort. Undoubtedly, playhouses reflected the society we lived in. The exception was that playhouses weren't restricted to reality. After seeing an exciting Saturday afternoon matinee western, I begged an old blanket from Mother and converted it into an Indian teepee until a heavy rain "dampened" my enthusiasm. I reverted to imaginary walls and roofs. They were much sturdier.

Playhouses were a part of childhood taken for granted when we were children and savored memories in our adult minds.