Home -> Other California History Books -> Vignettes of San Francisco -> Children on the Sidewalk

Previous Page Home Up One Level Next Page

Children on the Sidewalk

When you were a little girl, when you were a little boy, where did you play? Was it in a barn? Was it a city park? Did you hunt gophers on the plains of Iowa? Perhaps it was in a California poppy field. Perhaps a graveyard. I played in one, and remember very vividly the grave of Josephine Sarah Huthinson who died at the age of 11 months, and had a little lamb on the top of her stone and an inscription: "Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." Many delightful games we played around the grave of little Josephine.

Wherever childhood found us we played, and out of our environment and often in spite of it, lived in a delightful world of our own into which no grownup ever really entered. Now, you and I, grownup, walk along the sidewalks of San Francisco and all we see under our calloused old feet is a sidewalk. But to children even a sidewalk blossoms with possibilities. Who but a child invented: "Step on a crack, you break your mother's back." Only the other day I saw a kiddie avoiding every crack and muttering some incantation as he walked along.

And out of the sidewalk grew all the different types of kiddie kars and coasters that are so prevalent. I saw a whole load of children zipping down a steep San Francisco hill the other day much as we children coasted down winter hills on wicked "double rippers." A hill and gravity and a lot of kids, what possibilities. And out of the sidewalk have evolved those nameless explosives that have been so popular over the recent Fourth. A row of kids sitting on a curb, one of them darts out to the car track, a car comes, great expectancy from the kids, terrific noise, annoyed looks on the faces of sour adults, unbounded joy from a row of kids sitting on the curb.

Recently I saw a tomboy who had organized the children in her block, and had confiscated an alley between two straight gray houses, and I don't know what the game was but it entailed trips on a car down the alley and a very bossy motorman, and "turns," over which everyone quarreled.

Some dainty little Chinese girls were playing a sidewalk game with a white stone which was a version of an old, old child game. The child would hop to the stone and kick it away and hop to it again until she missed, the object being to beat her opponent in the distance traveled. And I saw some exquisite little Japanese girls playing jump rope and chanting one of the numerous litanies that go with that beautiful game.

The sidewalks of San Francisco. They are full of adventure. Robert Louis Stevenson would have seen it all. But to our dull eyes are only gray cement block. Just a sidewalk to us and to kiddies there are mountains in which Roy Gardner hides, and woods, and Tom Mix on a horse dashes right past us and we never see him at all.

Previous Page
Up One Level
Next Page