What’s the modern equivalent of the old game kick the can?

It was usually close to dusk on a hot and humid late summertime evening when our games would start at the standpipe on Genesee Avenue NE. Carly, Ronnie, Sonny, Bonnie, Bill, Bob, Bob (there were two Bobs), Jackie, Bev, Stanley, Dale, my sister and I would gather around the base of that gargantuan water tower to play one of our favorite games — kick the can. Ages ranged from 7 (mine) to about 14.

There was a large concrete slab — level with the surrounding ground — that served as the roof for the underground pumps that brought the water uphill from the waterworks at the corner of Summit Street NW and Mahoning Avenue NW by the Summit Street bridge. A tin can would be placed in the center of the slab. The designated goal was an access hole bolted into the base of the tower. Someone would kick the can and everyone would scatter. Whoever was “it” would replace the can, count to 200 by fives at that goal while the rest of us hid in the well-manicured shrubs and bushes. The “it” person would yell “ready or not, coming!” and then search about in the dark to find anybody hiding.

The only illumination was from the streetlights, which dimly lit the area. The evening dew would be falling, and a chorus of the crickets, katydids and tree frogs hid any rustling of the bushes. As soon as anyone was spotted, the “it” person would rush back to the goal, touch one of its huge bolts, and say “1, 2, 3 on Bob” — or whomever. Soon, many of the hiders would be flushed out and become prisoners — until some brave soul would come running out of hiding to kick the can and rescue all of those prisoners previously brought in.

About every half hour or so, Officer Kelly, (we called him Kelly the Cop), would drive by in his old Dodge coupe to sweep his spotlight across the standpipe lot. The neighborhood had hired him to drive by to see if there were any suspicious persons lurking about. All we did, when he would drive by, was fall flat on the ground or stand stock still. He either never saw us, or he knew that we kids were no threat.

We would stay out way past the sound of the nine o’clock curfew, since the younger kids were emboldened by the older ones. We just had to remember that Kelly would be driving by again.

Once, and only once, when I was “it”, I tried to very cleverly sit on that tin can. I thought nobody would be able to kick the can with me sitting on it. Wrong! One of the big kids came running out of the dark and kicked the can right out from under me! I got kicked along with the can, and ran tearfully home. Later, I had a huge bruise on my rear that I kept concealed from my mom.

No matter what games we played, we’d all return to our homes later than we should, all sweaty and dirty, and happy — but we had to deal with the parental repercussions.

A bath and bed would put us all in order for another night of games at the water tower. School would be starting soon.

When I was in U.S. Army training at Fort Campbell, Ky., I felt completely at ease in the darkness of our night maneuvers. Maybe our games at the water tower were a help. I didn’t even have to worry about Kelly the Cop driving by with his spotlight.

I wonder what the modern-day equivalent of playing those games would be. I suppose it would be hard to get all sweaty and dirty while using a smartphone.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com

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