Depression Era Toys: Pop Guns and Wooden Stilts

Missourian recalls her brothers making homemade toys like pop guns, bean shooters, and wooden stilts while growing up during the depression era.

| Good Old Days

We did have fun and good times during the depression. We usually had relatives nearby and we kids played with their kids. We made homemade ice cream, and got together to eat watermelon we had grown. We exchanged homemade gifts and even had good times working together.

At one time the town drew crowds by having a silent moving picture company come one night a week and showed the movies in an outdoor theater. They were free, and families came and sat in their cars to see them. They were cowboys and black and white. The stores stayed open so they got some business that way. Also contest and entertainments. Our family got the prize of a sack of flour for the biggest family there once. They got us all up on the bandstand. But most of our fun was right there on the farm.
My brothers were clever at making things for fun. They made wooden stilts to "walk tall," and they made pop guns. These were hollow pieces of sticks and then a smaller stick was fitted to be pushed thru the hollow one. They cut bows and arrows out of strong wood. They had ''bean shooters" made of a forked stick with strips of inner tubes tied or wired on and a piece of leather to hold the ammunition (usually a small pebble). They made their sleds and they pulled me on one because of my disability as they skated on the pond. They always had inexpensive clamp-on ice skates and marbles and harmonicas. We made some of our balls by unraveling old socks and rolling into string balls. There were cheap rubber balls, too. They made wooden tops by carving them with a notch to wind string at the top.
We had swings hanging from trees, and a cellar door to slide on, a teeter totter was made by nailing a sturdy board on a stump; rather a merry go round.
We could ride hay and grain wagons pulled by the horses. We had picnics in the grove of trees by the pond or down by the branch, and later soon got in the water to celebrate birthdays. We played in the hayloft in the barn, and sometimes took sandwiches up there.
I guess my brothers did not miss having a bike, for few did that we knew anyway. They made a two-wheel cart with a wooden bed to ride in. When taken to the top of the dug cellar, it could take young passengers for a long thrilling ride as the ground sloped clean down to the road.
My brothers made little farms on the ground by fencing off fields and putting board, etc., for buildings. We girls played store by using cracked dishes, empty boxes of household items. The boys also made little tractors and boats by using empty thread spools and rubber bands, with a match to wind up on the end. The boats had a paddle powered by a rubber band and a match wound up.
A lot of fun was just exploring all over the farm, and with cute young animals and poultry we always had, too. We never did get a broken bone, but not because we were not daring. We got plenty of bruises, bee and wasp stings, and sunburns.

Jewell Cooper
Bolivar, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 




September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

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