Since the days the first crude historical accounts
were chiseled into stone, the same surfaces have been used as game
boards and score sheets.
"A diagram for Tit-Tat-Toe was among seven found incised in the roofing
slabs of an ancient Egyptian temple at Kurna, built at Thebes in the
14th century B.C.," Merilyn Simonds Mohr wrote in "The Games Treasury."
"The game boards had obviously been cut into the stones before they were
trimmed to form tiles, which leads archaeologists to speculate that they
are relics of some game-playing stonemasons who relaxed, perhaps, with a
few rounds of Tit-Tat-Toe during lunch."
Games are simply part of who we are as humans. We use them to educate
and entertain. They sharpen the mind, channel our competitive natures
and spark conversation.
"Games are an essential aspect of social activity, comparable in some
ways to the performing arts,"
DavidParlett wrote in "The Oxford
History of Board Games." "All but the rarest of primitive communities
Children in early PolkCounty no doubt had an odd
assortment of games they enjoyed at gatherings or during their brief
periods of free time. "Gator" (similar to today's "MarcoPolo"), "Bull in the
Pen" (which resembled dodge ball) and "Drop the Handkerchief" (a
variation of "Duck Duck Goose" still played at historical reenactments)
were among the games pioneer family member Ray
recalled in the June 1994 issue of the Polk County Historical Quarterly.
"Play was only permitted in the daytime when chores were finished,"
Albritton wrote. "When night fell the children had to be indoors. Night
air was believed to be poisonous and playing outside after dark would
result in fever."
Not all games were child's play. Polk's
pioneers would have been familiar with many of the centuries-old games
we know today, including chess, checkers, backgammon, cribbage and a
variety of card and dice games. Some of these games have existed for
centuries, and they were seen as an agreeable way for adults to spend a
sociable hour or two.
"The playing of formal games - as opposed to 'just playing' - has
throughout history been essentially adult activity," Parlett wrote.
"Children have hither played with toys, not games. The development of
board games and card games for children is historically recent."
It's difficult to catalog precisely which games early Polk Countians
played - it's not a subject that garners much attention from historians
except in the most negative connotations.
"Christmas week Bartow's Courier-Informant had condemned the 'card
games, dice games, phony race track transactions, and even outright
pocket-picking (that) have been too much in evidence,'" Canter Brown Jr.
wrote in "In the Midst of All That Makes Life Worth Living."
Nonetheless, it's easy to imagine that games were as important to their
social life and culture as they are to ours.