John Carlson: Kids Games Not The Same

Pie Face! Racks up yet another innocent victim. Photos by: Jimmy HayesPie Face! Racks up yet another innocent victim. Photos by: Jimmy Hayes

By: John Carlson—

When I was a kid, I spent a fair number of rainy day hours playing jacks and pick-up sticks.

Remember them?

My Mom’s old pick-up sticks were stored in a cylindrical cardboard container at my grandfolks’ house, the skinny sticks being about a foot long and pointed on each end. You’d dump the sticks on the floor, then try to pick them up from the pile, one at a time, without accidentally moving any of the others.

Sounds boring compared to Donkey Kong, I suppose, but it was fun and easier said than done.

As for jacks, they were those little metal pointy things shaped like three-dimensional snowflakes. You’d bounce the little rubber ball that came with them off the floor, then try to pick up as many jacks as you could in a sweeping hand motion before the ball bounced again. Like pick-up sticks, this was a simple, innocent game. It was, at least, until you misplaced a jack somewhere and stepped on it barefoot.

For many of us, the resultant excruciating pain was our first experience with hopping around a room on one foot, hollering words our Sunday School teachers had warned would land us in hell.

The point is, Nancy and I recently went on vacation with our friends Jimmy and Cathy Hayes and a family gathering that included their adorable grandchildren, Braison and Cora. In the course of the week, we discovered something about modern kids’ games.

They’ve come a long way, baby.

Take Jelly Belly’s Bean Boozled. It includes a spin dial and a tray full of typical Jelly Belly jelly beans featuring delicious flavors like buttered popcorn, licorice, peach and chocolate pudding. Wherever your spin lands it instructs you to eat a certain colored jelly bean. Unfortunately, other jelly beans with matching colors feature flavors like pepper, rotten eggs, skunk spray, barf, pencil shavings and canned dog food.

Until you’ve popped the jelly bean into your mouth and chewed, you don’t know what flavor you’re getting.

So I was playing this game when I suddenly envisioned a successful young Jelly Belly chemist – a brilliant person whose original career goal may have been to change the world by finding a cure for, say, pimples.  But now, arriving home from the lab, he or she proudly announces the development of that brand new Jelly Belly flavor they’d been laboring over all year.

“You mean … ?” asks his or her spouse, fraught with excitement and anticipation.

“Yep! Baby wipes!”

This scenario came to mind because at the time, having previously eaten a pepper one, which tasted like somebody emptied a pepper shaker in my mouth, and skunk spray, which tasted pretty much like it sounds, I was trying to choke down a baby wipes Jelly Belly.

Gross? Yeah, but we were all laughing our heads off, at least when we weren’t leaning over a trash can spitting.

Of course, Bean Boozled was fun, but nothing was more fun than Pie Face! How do I explain Pie Face!? OK, I got it.

It’s like Russian roulette with Cool Whip.

First, you poke your face through a big hole, resting your chin on a plastic thing just like at the eye doctor’s. Then somebody thickly spoons Cool Whip on a springy thing that’s aimed at your face. Spinning a dial directs how many times between two and five you must crank what I’ll call the activator. If you’re lucky, the activator doesn’t activate the springy thing while you’re cranking. If it does … whap! The springy thing launches the Cool Whip directly at you.

Now, I’ve got to say, as far as taste goes, I would pick scraping Cool Whip from my forehead into my mouth any day over eating another baby wipe Jelly Belly. Ditto for barf, skunk spray and pencil shavings. Of course, for serious gamers, there’s nothing to say you couldn’t secretly mix the Cool Whip with some horseradish or pickled herring chunks, just to make it less appealing and more interesting.

Anyway, maybe it’s a sign of the times, but I have to admit that for pure laughs, Bean Boozled and Pie Face! have it all over pick-up sticks and jacks.

On the other hand, pick-up sticks taught us kids a measure of patience, which seems in short-supply these days, while misplaced jacks taught us how to swear a blue streak, which remains fairly prevalent.


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.