I mentioned this game to someone last week and she never heard of it. That shocked me because the kids in my Philadelphia neighborhood played it almost every day during the summer. I can’t believe we were the only ones playing it.
This is how Baby in the Air is played.
Each player is given a number before the game starts. The oldest player starts the game by throwing the ball in the air as high as he can and yells “Baby in the Air number [whatever].”
The kid whose number is called runs up, catches the ball and screams “Halt.” Then he takes three giant steps toward the other players (usually the closest person) who have now stopped in their tracks. The kid with the ball throws it trying to hit the frozen figure in front of him.
If he hits the quarry, that player gets a “B.” If he misses, the “B” is given to the ball-thrower. The first person to spell out the word “Baby” is ejected from the game.
This may sound like an uneventful game, but it cost me three stitches through my eyebrow one afternoon.
Since you have to look up to catch the ball if your number is called, collisions can occur if you mistakenly think your number has been called. That’s how my friend Bunny and I crashed into each other. Her number was NOT called (I like to point that out) and she didn’t sustain a scratch, while I ended up in the emergency room, a bloody mess. From that day on, I was able to call her “hardhead” with impunity.
Now, can you honestly tell me you don’t remember this fun game? Sheesh!
Maybe they’re pretty good. I’m going to try to mellow out. But you haven’t lived if you’ve never tried to conquer a pinball machine.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of what my day looked like when a new pinball machine was delivered to Marge’s Luncheonette. Marge kept three pinball machines lined up in her store at all times. When an old one was switched out for a new one, it didn’t take more than twenty-four hours for the buzz to circulate throughout the neighborhood.
So, here’s my perfect Saturday afternoon before video games ever existed.
A couple of my friends and I converged on Marge’s. First stop–the soda fountain. I always ordered a cherry coke; the cherry syrup came straight from the fountain, not a bottle. One of my friends ordered a vanilla coke, the other a chocolate coke.
While we waited for a turn at the new machine, we interrogated anyone who already had taken a stab at it. How much shaking would it tolerate before it blared out the dreaded “TILT” sign and the game ended? Who had high score so far? Did the flippers drag or were they smooth?
The wait wasn’t too long because no one had that much money and each game cost a dime, after all. But in the meantime, if the jukebox wasn’t playing, we’d pool our money and select three of our favorite songs. It cost three for a quarter.
Then our time would come. If we were lucky the darned machine wouldn’t Tilt. But that was rare for a first try. It took time and patience and practice to learn the idiosyncrasies of every pinball machine. But when you did, it was heaven, even though in all those years my name never appeared on the readout as the top-scoring player.
Pinball machines were my generation’s video games. If I were forced to admit it–both are pretty cool.