About Me

My photo
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Secret Order of the Sugarhouse Hoppy Taw Society

The first morning in our new home, we spotted Lorri Christensen in the back yard as we ate breakfast. I asked why a girl was in our yard and the finer points of duplex living were shared with me. OK, I didn't mind sharing. "Limes, she looks near your age. Why don't you go out and make friends?" I was a child who wouldn't look a parent in the eye and say "no", but I did all right at simply remaining seated, saying nothing. My father knew I could use a little help in the ice breaking department and took me outside. Dad started a conversation I joined within moments. Lorri and Limes became fast friends very quickly.

She showed me around the back yard where her father had installed a swing set complete with slide and seesaw, a sandbox, a spot for a wading pool and a painted-onto-the-black-asphalt-driveway hopscotch course. We talked about the things we liked to do. She had a little pee wee bike upon which she was a hellion in the neighborhood. I said that I was getting a bike this summer. She had Mr. Potato Head and I had Cootie. She owned a ViewMaster, while I claimed a record player and all the Mickey Mouse Club records, including the Davy Crockett theme. She loved a toy accordion and I was proud of the piano Uncle Ralph and Aunt Martha had given me. We liked jumping rope and we loved to Hula Hoop, but the activity that could eat up entire afternoons in the sun was hopscotch.

Lorri asked me that first morning how many hoppy taws I owned. I didn't understand the words. I looked at my dad and he didn't seem to understand, either. Lorri got a little heated, saying, "Hoppy taws - for hopscotch!" We were still drawing a blank. "Wait here!" She huffed off into her side of the duplex. She reappeared, carrying a small flannel bag with a drawstring. From it, she pulled some articles that resembled hockey pucks. These were round, real rubber (not plastic) disks about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. They were rather flat and they were wildly patterned with swirls and whorls of many colors. Dad and I still didn't understand. I managed to squeak out, "I don't have any of those." She gaped at me. "Well you're going to need some." She stepped up to the hopscotch course with one hoppy taw in her hand. With a small flick of her wrist, she landed it in the square marked "1". She hopped scotch exactly the way that I did, but she used her hoppy taw in place of the rock or crumpled paper or small plastic toy I'd always employed. She moved the hoppy taw along with her hand, by tossing it, or scooted it ahead with her toe, just like the rules of hopscotch required. My father and I caught on pretty quickly to how the hoppy taw was used, but we still didn't understand that it was a requirement where we now lived.

Lorri seated us on the back porch and proceeded to teach us the ropes of hopscotch culture in Sugarhouse, circa 1958. If a girl had no hoppy taw, no other girl would want to play hopscotch with her. If a girl owned one hoppy taw, she was barely alive. Lorri seemed certain that three hoppy taws were the best number to have, and I noticed that she had three. A girl was highly regarded if she had a drawstring bag in which to carry her hoppy taws, but was regarded as a dabbler if she carried them loose in her hands or her lunch box. Dad asked why a girl needed more than one hoppy taw, and Lorri replied that maybe she would switch them each day or use one hoppy taw for "evens" and one for "odds". Maybe one favored hoppy taw would be a girl's good luck charm, or certain ones might be used only for school or only for after school. Then Lorri let us know that girls who carried five or more hoppy taws were just show-offs and usually delayed the games with little rituals of using all their disks in every game. Excessive hoppy taw use was not considered good form. A few minutes with 5-year-old Lorri had put us in the know!

My dad is a practical man. Where did one buy hoppy taws and was Lorri certain three was the correct number and were the drawstring bags purchased along with the hoppy taws? The hoppy taws could be purchased at the mom-and-pop store down a very long block of 6th East. No street crossing was involved in getting there. The hoppy taws cost 10-cents each and no two were alike. One's mother had to make the drawstring bag and that gave Dad and me a little pause, because my mother didn't . . . well, let's get the hoppy taws first. I was given the princely sum of $1. Lorri and I walked that long block to the store with wooden floors and spent a proper amount of time and consideration selecting three hoppy taws sufficiently different from one another to give me legitimacy. There was enough money left in change to buy two bottles of YooHoo which we enjoyed on the long walk back home. Mrs. Christensen had quickly sewed me a drawstring bag while we were on our shopping expedition, and I was in business!

There followed many, many months of hopscotch. We played it at school, we played it at other girls' homes, we hosted tournaments in our own backyard at which we sold lemonade and cookies. I became good at hopscotch because I played it incessantly. I tore chunks out of my bloodied knees from falling on burning asphalt and frozen asphalt alike. I got good at more things than simply navigating a simple course by hopping on one foot. Hopscotch is the first activity I can remember that called upon me to strategize, to size up an opponent, to predict what another player would do (after observing her through many, many games), to learn the strengths and weaknesses of other players. It was the first arena in which I spotted cheaters with my own eyes and I concluded that some people had to win - it was all that mattered to them. My father is a man who believes a person should pursue any activity he or she takes on with total spirit, total commitment. He believes we learn from every single thing we do and, therefore, every single thing we do is important. He talked to me about hopscotch. He coached me at hopscotch. He encouraged me to chase after something I loved, and to be good at it, drawing every lesson I could from it.

These are the things I learned about myself on the hopscotch court, something I recognized decades later: I am fair and honest and big enough to lose if someone else beats me. I am not aggressive, needing to win and also crush my opponent. I am a keen observer of people and situations. If I am quiet and absorb what is happening, I can draw on that information later. I can be cautious and aware that others in a situation are bigger or more experienced than I, but that doesn't give them the win. I can look the dragon in the eye and roar back. And I learned that a kid with Father Now's DNA was never, ever to fold. For any reason. Bad weather, nasty tumble on the asphalt, too tired, bored. Uh-uh. You don't walk away or stop trying about anything that's important.

In my 30s and 40s, I was a kickin' labor union rep, a position I landed upon by defying seemingly all odds. I was not educated or experienced to do this work. I had to work hard to win the privilege. The employers of our members always, but always, hired attorneys to meet with the union for contract negotiations, disciplinary hearings before the school boards and other matters of labor relations. I have seen grown men blanch at the thought of going up against this shyster from that law firm or a fabled hired gun. Trust me, reader, I have qualms about many things, but meeting a giant in the board room never terrified me. Because I'm fair and honest and big enough to lose if someone else beats me. I'm not aggressive, but I'm unfailingly assertive and I'm still a keen observer of people and situations. I still absorb information and draw on it later. I'm cautious and keenly aware of an opponent's strong points, but that still doesn't give them the win. I can look the dragon in the eye and roar back. And I never, ever fold. I won far more hearings than I lost. I settled contracts that people said would never be settled. I'm not a braggart, or even particularly remarkable. I'm simply saying that what I learned on the hopscotch court helped me to be successful in life. You see, The Secret Order of the Sugarhouse Hoppy Taw Society really did prepare young girls for future life.

True story: I lived in Salt Lake City in two separate residencies with some L.A. in between, and never after age 13. For decades, in California and Nevada, when adult women friends talked about their childhoods, the subject of hopscotch would come up. I never failed to ask about other womens' hoppy taws. I never failed to get blank stares. Not one friend had ever heard of such a thing. What, did that old man of the mom-and-pop store whip hoppy taws up in a laboratory behind the house and only sell them out of their tiny store? Were Sugarhouse girls the only kids in the world to have known about such things? I began to think I was delusional and eventually stopped bringing it up. One doesn't like to feel others think she's just a bit odd. I've not asked anyone about hoppy taws since before the age of the internet. I decided to try one time in the privacy of my own office to research online about hoppy taws before writing this post. No one would know. I didn't have to be embarrassed.

The information highway is a wonderful thing! Guess what I learned? Hoppy Taws, LLC, is a Salt Lake City business, operating for many, many years. No wonder I didn't connect with others who knew about them. I wasn't mingling with Salt Lake City women. It pleases me that hoppy taws can be purchased online everywhere now. Maybe the word will spread and before I am doddering, I can say "hoppy taw" to another woman whose eyes will light up at the memories. By the way, hoppy taws cost upward of $4 each online. I'm no John Maynard Keynes, but I'd say that's quite a lesson in economics from a 50 year perspective.

In my ears right now: Still the Rolling Stones, "Waiting on a Friend". I posted the lyrics on my blog sidebar. I'm planning a short post to tell why something I found on YouTube charms me, as related to this song. When Justin came in from his route yesterday, he said, "Limes, that same song was playing when I left here this morning!" "And all day long, Justin."

Something that charmed me: I have a new Salt Lake City friend. More specifically, she is a Sugarhouse friend. I have $1 that says she knows about hoppy taws, and her daughter(s) and her granddaughters.


  1. Yeppers, I also had many a Hoppy Taw. I'm not sure my daughter or granddaughters have an inkling about them. I'll have to check. Oh wait, I think I remember seeing one at my mom's house in the game closet. I'll have to check that out too.

    Boy, this post really brought back the memories. I was NOT the Hop Scotch Queen. Anita Land was. It was poetry in motion to watch her - and this was back in the days when we wore dresses to school. There was something about her skinny legs and the way she danced through the numbers, swishing her skirt around her knobby knees - still vivid in my mind.

    Previous post comments: Blogging etiquette - I have really struggled trying to figure out how to size pictures. I finally ended up arbitrarily lowering the numbers within html to get pictures side by side. How do you get your pictures smaller than the 4 choices we are given in 'compose?' - and....check previous post comments.
    WV=soccolmel - if you soccolmel, he will flinch.

  2. Good morning! I'm going to comment fully on your comments, but first a question. When I know the answer, I can help you with the picture sizing. You'll be an expert in 15 minutes.

    Tell me if you have Microsoft Office Picture Manager or Hewlett Packard Photosmart or any other image management software on your computer. I find MOPicture Manager to be the easiest to use, but that's just what I'm accustomed to using. Any of the common software will get you where you want to go.

  3. My son got me my computer on eBay. Yeh, I know - what a bad idea! - and I hadn't even asked him to look. I think he got involved in a bidding war, but I eventually paid WAY too much for it. It's a Mac, and I have been pretty lucky with it. Like the other crafts and arts I've dabbled in, I'm not particularly skilled, I'm just VERY patient, plus I have OCD, so I get where I want to be, it just takes longer. Long way of saying - the Mac came with NO iPhoto. Can I do it from flickr? I'll browse around google and see if there is a free application I can do this from. I'm toying with the idea of buying a laptop, but then I would really be on it ALL the time.

    OCD sidebar: Now I'm obsessing about where I saw the Hoppy Taw. Was it at Mom's - one of my kids? the cabin? Oh well, as you say, I can get one online if I get desperate.
    WV= munam - munam a na, doot doot - di doo da, manamana, doot do di doo, etc. - wish I could give you the time signature for that one - you would get it for sure (I think it's a Muppet tune).

  4. OK, so much to say back. And PLEASE - promise me - please return here today because I am going to post a comment that will seem like code to everyone else, but I am choosing my words with care right now.

    OCD! Ha! Though I've never had a formal diagnosis, I certainly have been called a dog with a bone often enough in life. What? Stop thinking about something that's tickling inside my skull? Never happen.

    All right, I don't speak Mac. Not even Mac-hello or Mac-goodbye. I'm only slightly more fluent in Flickr, but I do think Flickr would have what you need. This seems the common thread in reducing the size of pictures. The purpose is to make smaller files and allow faster loading. I've just looked at 3 different forms of software. In each of them, when one goes to "Edit Picture", one of the choices is to Resize or Compress. Within Resize or Compress, there are options such as resize for Documents, E-mail Messages, or Web Pages. You want to select Web Pages. Keep in mind, your image may still be a large size that you'll have to reduce in Compose. It's the resolution you're reducing in photo software.

    As to hopscotch memories, our swirling skirts were a big part of it. I remember playing it at Columbus School during recess in the winter. I dumped onto the frozen asphalt, tearing a hole in both knees of my tights (which we called leotards in that time and place). It didn't matter. I got up and played some more. I wasn't the best. But I was far from the worst. Pretty accomplished, I would say.

    You're putting me to shame on you WV fun. I need to sharpen my head this morning.

  5. Google "hoppy taw" and see how close you are to the top. Now I want a hoppy taw.

  6. Well, Erin, I'll take fame and fortune any way I can get it. If you provided an address, I'd be pleased to provide that hoppy taw as an offering of appreciation to a woman who has inspired me.

  7. I played plenty of hopscotch in my day (although jump rope and jacks were what I loved best) but I never ever heard of a hoppy taw. My favorite marker was a little chain with the round links. It would hit and slide just a tiny bit. Three days a week was what we were allowed in the "quiet" playground. Two days a week we got to switch with the boys and play on the swings and slide. Yes, we were segregated--wouldn't want any first grade boys getting any ideas! I remember playing hopscotch and having my socks slowly sink down into my shoes--what a horrible feeling! Mom would scold me for wearing the same socks over and over--but I couldn't explain why I liked a certain pair best. Now if a pair of socks bug my feet--out they go!

  8. OH ~ the socks slipping down into the shoes thing is awful. I remember the really thin nylon socks peeking playfully out of saddle shoes. Blecchhh. I am fortunate today to have been introduced to the best cool girl socks. I might be called a sock snob. When I step out of my car at work in the morning, home dudes come running to see if it's the cherries, the kokopelli, the candy ones, California flag. Which will she wear today?

  9. Loved playing Hoppy Taw during the summer program @ the elementary school down the street! I remember getting into a fight w/a kid we didn't know who was trying to cheat! We played for hours on end!!

  10. @ Anonymous ~ I sure thank you for stopping by! I loved hopscotch, too. I remember some summer days spending the entire day, except for meals, pushing the hoppy taw around with my Keds. I don't think many children do such innocent activities outside any more. They all gone indoors to play X-box games and PlayStation and more. I think it is tragic.

  11. I grew up in Sugarhouse and yes indeed I had hoppy taws. Solid and varigated colored ones. We traded them at school like baseball cards. I had no idea that they were a SLC made item. You learn something new everyday. I am buying them for my 5 granddaughters this year as a stocking stuffer.

  12. @ Anonymous #2 ~ Wow, is THIS a late reply. I didn't realize you'd rung in last November, though I had to allow your comment in at the time. Please forgive me for not saying something. I was pretty ill at the time. I don't remember trading hoppy taws. But maybe that's because I loved my own so much that I'd have never parted with them. You can't trade up when you already own perfection. Thanks for dropping by!