Tag Archive | Family

Dominoes

An ancient game still popular today

August 9, 2022

From the time I was a wee tyke, this game was part and parcel of my life. There was something fascinating about these little black tiles with white dots on them. No doubt they helped me learn to count and add.

A typical set up for a game of traditional dominoes.

Additionally, they were often employed as bricks for tiny doll houses and set up in rows only to be knocked down.

The domino was first mentioned over 700 years ago. It is, no doubt, one of the oldest games known to man.

Yes, the Infallible Wikipedia has a page devoted to it:

The cover of a domino box which we discovered among my parents’ things. The inside box cover (below) is signed and has a date of 1910 in it.

“The earliest mention of dominoes is from Song dynasty China found in the text Former Events in Wulin by Zhou Mi (1232–1298). Modern dominoes first appeared in Italy during the 18th century, but they differ from Chinese dominoes in a number of respects, and there is no confirmed link between the two. European dominoes may have developed independently, or Italian missionaries in China may have brought the game to Europe.

The name ‘domino’ is probably derived from the resemblance to a kind of carnival costume worn during the Venetian Carnival, often consisting of a black-hooded robe and a white mask. Despite the coinage of the word ‘polyomino’ as a generalization, there is no connection between the word ‘domino’ and the number 2 in any language. The most commonly played domino games are Domino Whist, Matador, and Muggins (All Fives). Other popular forms include Texas 42, Chicken Foot, Concentration, Double Fives, and Mexican Train.”

Now, on the minute chance there are readers who are not familiar with dominos, the most common configuration features a set of 28 tiles. Each tile has two faces featuring from zero to six ‘spots’ on either face. The lowest denomination is double zero (blank on both faces), while the greatest is a double six (a six at either end). In between is every single combination of numbers such as one-five, three-four, two-six, etc.

The traditional game I learned was that each participant drew seven tiles and the one with the highest double would start the game by laying down their tile face up. The person to their left would either play a domino which matched their number (For example, if they played a double five, then the second player had to also play a tile with a five at one end) or draw if they did not have a play.

The game continued until one person was able to play all of their tiles before anyone else.

I have a distinct childhood memory of playing dominoes with my mother and grandmother at the family cabin. My grandmother was a keen game player and, it seemed to me, that she always won. But I’m certain my mother won her fair share also. As a kid, I never stood a chance against them!

After my mother’s dementia had taken over her brain, dominoes was the last game she was capable of playing and my sister would often get out the dominoes set which had been acquired just for Mom and engage her in the activity.

The set of dominoes acquired for Mom after her dementia diagnosis.

More recently, my sister, niece, and the niece’s hubby, introduced me to a domino game which I would describe as being on steroids. The game: Mexican Train.

Mexican Train, however, uses dominoes with up to twelve dots on each face, so there are 91 tiles. We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia once again to learn how the game is played:

“With a standard double-twelve set the double twelve is placed in the station. In each successive round the next lower double is used until all doubles are used. The double-blank is the final round.

Play continues to the left. Each person lays one legally placed domino per turn, or two if the player’s first domino is a double. If they are unable to, they must draw a domino from the boneyard. If they are able to lay that domino, they must do so immediately. Otherwise, their turn is over and play continues to the left, each player trying to place all their dominoes by playing matching dominoes one at a time, end to end.

A train can be as long as the players can make it; it ends only when all dominoes that could match its endpoint have already been played. As a result, trains can become quite long, especially with an extended domino set. It is acceptable to ‘bend’ the train 90° or 180° to keep the train on the playing surface, as long as it does not interfere with the endpoints of other trains.

All trains begin the game as ‘public’, and all players may play on them. When a player plays a domino on their train it then becomes ‘private.’ When a player draws a domino and is unable to play it, they must mark their train as ‘public’ by placing a marker on their train.

The Mexican train is an additional train that anyone may play on during their turn. They can start the train by playing a domino matching the engine (i.e. the double played at the beginning of the round) or add to the train.”

I must admit I was curious about how it became known as Mexican train. One last blurb from the Infallible Wikipedia:

The new Mexican Train dominos set up and ready for customers

“‘Mexican Train’ is a name typically used only in the United States. It is believed Mexican Train Dominoes is a variation on a Chinese game called Pai gow, which means ‘make nine’. Chinese laborers brought the game to Latin America once they began working in sugar fields in the mid to late 1800s. Cubans and other Latin American players adopted the game to use dominoes and called it ‘Domino Cubano’. It later arrived in the United States around the 1860s once Cuban laborers began working on U.S. railroads. Americans began referring to the game as ‘Mexican Train Dominoes’ because of its growing popularity among Cuban, Mexican, and other Latin American laborers brought to the United States.”

Playing the game with my sister and her gang has become one of my favorite things to do when we get together. This is in spite of the fact that the final score of the first round of 13 I ever played resulted in me taking high score honors. Oh, did I mention that you are trying to earn the ‘least’ amount of points? Exactly.  

My high score – which was somewhere in the high 600’s – has not, to my knowledge, been eclipsed by anyone else in our quartet. My niece tried hard to get there last week when the four of us spent a few days at the beach. I have yet to check with her to see if, from the past score sheets which are kept, if she is the new high score champ.

In years past, she has brought the Mexican train set she owns with her on the annual trip. But this year it was accidentally left behind. As fate would have it, the first day we were there was my birthday and, after a stop at Fred Meyer, there appeared a shiny new metal tin full of dominos as a gift.

Now one might think that since it was my birthday week, they would at least let me win the game. One would be wrong. Despite my best efforts, it was my sister who came out on top for this two day round of Mexican Train, followed by her son-in-law, then me, and then my niece.

Since I started playing with them, however, I would say each one of us has been the victor at least once.

Ultimately, however, I always come away from the game feeling as though I’m the winner, regardless of the score. For me being able to experience the joy of simply playing games with family and friends is the real win.

As for the new set of tiles, I opted to leave them in the owner’s closet at the family condo for all the to enjoy when at the beach.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominoes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Train

If you have a few minutes take a look at this YouTube video of dominoes set up and then getting knocked down. I don’t possess the patience to do something like this.

Disneyland

The Happiest Place On Earth

July 20, 2021

Where oh where to begin with this week’s topic? For those of us born from the mid-1950’s on, there was never a time when this, the ‘happiest place on earth’ did not exist.

We learned about Disneyland via Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Color which featured Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle against a back drop of colorful fireworks. It was an aspirational sort of thing, I suppose, instilling in our Baby Boomer hearts the desire to go to Disneyland and find our own happiness there.

The crowd running towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle July 17, 1955

It was the third week of July 1955, when the park officially opened, one year and one day from when construction began. Walt Disney’s concept came while sitting on a bench at a park one day and watching his two daughters play. Instead of parents just observing from the sidelines, he mused, wouldn’t it be great to have a place where kids and parents could have fun together?

It would be nearly 20 years before Disneyland would finally become a reality.

The Disneyland most people know today would be nearly unrecognizable to Disney himself. The first rides were, for lack of a better term, rather bland. There was not a roller coaster to be found anywhere within the park. It’s most popular early attractions were “Jungle Cruise,” “Autopia,” and “Rocket to the Moon” (later to Mars). Guests strolled along Main Street, hopped aboard the Disneyland Railroad, or sailed the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island for fun. There were a few carnival type rides but by today’s standards those would be considered ‘kiddie’ rides.

Opening day was a disaster. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Walt Disney and his grandson taking a break from the 101 degree temperatures on opening day

“Traffic was delayed on the two-lane Harbor Boulevard. Famous figures who were scheduled to show up every two hours showed up all at once. The temperature was an unusually high 101 °F (38 °C), and because of a local plumbers’ strike, Disney was given a choice of having working drinking fountains or running toilets. He chose the latter, leaving many drinking fountains dry. This generated negative publicity since Pepsi sponsored the park’s opening; disappointed guests believed the inoperable fountains were a cynical way to sell soda, while other vendors ran out of food. The asphalt that had been poured that morning was soft enough to let women’s high-heeled shoes sink into it. Some parents threw their children over the crowd’s shoulders to get them onto rides, such as the King Arthur Carrousel.

In later years, Disney and his 1955 executives referred to July 17, 1955, as ‘Black Sunday’. After the extremely negative press from the preview opening, Walt Disney invited attendees back for a private ‘second day’ to experience Disneyland properly.”

Despite the inauspicious start, Disney persevered, never resting and always looking for innovative ideas and opportunities to improve the park and thus the experience for paying guests.

The first roller coaster, the now iconic Matterhorn, opened in 1959. It was eventually joined by a second coaster, Space Mountain, in 1977.

The Matterhorn under construction 1959

Although many of the original attractions are still a part of Disneyland, the Disney company has never been afraid to update and upgrade to keep pace with the changing technology or the desires of the public. Many of the attractions kids of the 1960’s and 70’s remember fondly are long since gone.

As a child – and knowing about Disneyland – it was a place I wanted to go. For my family, however, it was not within reach. It was only after the passing of my grandmother in January 1970 that the wheels were set in motion for a trip which took my Dad, Mom, Sister, and me south to Anaheim. I chronicled my first Disneyland visit in a previous blog post https://barbaradevore.com/2020/05/26/the-great-american-road-trip/.

Having gotten a taste of the Disney experience, I was excited when – along with the Rainbow Girls – I had another day at the park in late July 1976. And much like the first visit, it was a one day visit. The rides were few and mostly I recall riding the Matterhorn and meeting the Big Bad Wolf.

My sister encounters the Big Bad Wolf

It was after the hubby and I had been married for nearly eight years when we hatched our ultimate Disneyland plan. We flew to California in January 1988 to spend three entire days at the theme park. While there, we agreed, we would ride EVERY ride they had to offer; see every show; eat all the food. We would immerse ourselves in all Disney, all the time.

A few things stand out from that trip. One, when we arrived at John Wayne airport it was probably 8 or 9 p.m. and 60 degrees. To us, coming from 40 and rain Seattle in January, it seemed like summer. We laughed at a woman standing near the open air luggage carousel who was, literally, wearing a parka, fur hat, and big mittens.

Second, we videotaped pretty much every ride. Alas, without the magic of the machine which can convert VHS those tapes are consigned to a dusty box in the Harry Potter closet. (see article here: https://barbaradevore.com/2020/06/30/winchester-mystery-house/) One of these days I do plan to get those old tapes digitized!

Third, it was truly one of the best vacations the hubby and I took. We were 30 and 31 years old, did not yet have children, could afford to pay for whatever we wanted, and for three days we got to act like teenagers but better. Not only did we go on ALL the rides (yes, even the ‘kiddie’ rides), but we did several of the best ones multiple times. Space Mountain? check/check. Matterhorn? check/check/check. Haunted Mansion? check/check/check. Big Thunder Railroad? check/check/check/check/check.

In the years since, we’ve taken our children to Disneyland a couple of times and to DisneyWorld once. The hubby and I even had a solo day at Epcot a few years ago. But I’m not so keen on roller coasters any more. Those are, sadly, more the province of the young and less fragile among us. Even so, I think it would be fun to return to Disneyland with our adult children (neither of whom have any children at this point) during a time of year when the crowds are reduced and we can once again ride any ride we like as many times as we want. That, to me, would be magical.

Hubby and me with the two littlest ones on the Disneyland railroad 1995
Hubby and kids waiting for Big Thunder Railroad roller coaster circa 1998
Disneyland circa 1998

As Walt Disney said on opening day in 1955:

“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Disneyland Map 1970

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland

Pigmania!

Pass The Pigs

September 29, 2020

This ancient game was first played some 3000 years ago and, according to the official rules, in the ‘renowned land of Pigalonia.’

I suppose all my readers can be forgiven their ignorance of pig tossing as an enjoyable pastime as we now live in an era when doing so would immediately draw the scrutiny of the PETA police directly to your abode.

Since most civilized people in the United States no longer have a pig or two residing in a sty or a corner of their cabin, we can assume that had it not been for Dr. Cyrus Whopper, who discovered the game while traveling in Germany, it would have been lost in the mists of time.

How the game looked in 1977.

A debt of gratitude is owed to said doctor who introduced a more mundane version of pig tossing in a game he named ‘Pigmania!’. According to the literature included with the game:

“In 1977, Cy Whopper, a lover of kosher bacon since boyhood, decided to enhance the rather tarnished image of pigs by introducing Pigmania to the modern world. ‘After all,’ snorted Whopper, ‘pigs have been pushed around long enough. Every day you hear people saying ‘you look like a pig,’ ‘you eat like a pig,’ ‘you dress like a pig,’ ‘you smell like a pig,’ ‘you’re a male chauvinist pig,’ ‘you have swine flu.’

In truth pigs are the most intelligent creatures on earth, only exceeded by some human beings and all dolphins.

Pigs are lucky, pigs are useful, pigs have class.

It is time something is done on their behalf… thus Pigmania.”

To play the game, each player takes turns tossing a pair of tiny plastic pigs out of a cup labeled ‘pig sty.’ To earn points, the players are seeking to have their pigs land in any of the following ways:

A mixed combo…. hoofer and razorback.

Siders – two pigs laying on their sides, facing the same direction

Hoofer – a single pig standing on its feet.

Double Hoofer – yes, two pigs standing on their feet.

Snouter – a single pig leaning on it’s snout and two front feet.

Double Snouter – two pigs resting on their snouts..

Razorback – a single pig laying feet up.

Double Razorback – two pigs on their backs.

Leaning Jowler – a single pig, listing to the left, using it’s left ear and left leg for support.

The rare Double Leaning Jowler

Double Leaning Jowler – the rarest and most difficult to achieve toss.

Mixed Combo – Any combination of both pigs being in two different aforementioned positions.

If the pigs land on the table with their snouts facing opposite directions, then that’s called a ‘Pig Out’ and your turn is over. Same thing if you end up “Makin’ Bacon’ which is the pigs land touching one another!

Alas, the original Pigmania! was acquired – as is the way with pretty much any successful game idea – by a much bigger farmer.

Now, if you thought the Infallible Wikipedia might draw blanks on this topic, you would be wrong:

“Pass the Pigs is a commercial version of the dice game Pig, but using custom asymmetrical throwing dice, similar to shagai. It was created by David Moffatt and published by Recycled Paper Products as Pig Mania! in 1977. The publishing license was later sold to Milton Bradley and the game renamed Pass the Pigs. In 2001, publishing rights for North America were sold to Winning Moves, which acquired the game outright from David Moffat Enterprises in early 2017.”

Pass The Pigs is also available with more pigs, giant pigs, and in a handy travel game

It was sometime in the early 1980’s when the hubby and I were introduced to Pigmania! I can no longer recall who introduced us. Undoubtedly when that person reads this article they will take their rightful credit and shout ‘soo-eee!”

Simple in its concept and play, it provided some fun as an amusing parlor game. Over time, it was relegated to the game ‘cupboard’ which was actually a repurposed credenza from a business office. When our son was about 1 ½ , he discovered the wondrous credenza full of mystery boxes. A daily favorite activity was to excavate all his favorites (which was all of them unfortunately) and soon there was a mess of Monopoly money, Clue markers and weapons, poker chips, and tiny soldiers, scattered across the floor. 

Being a first time Mom I put up with this for a while then decided that a few games could be sacrificed to the enthusiasm of a toddler. The rest, however, were stowed away on a high shelf. It was several years, and a second child, later before the games reappeared. 

Turns out that the tiny Pigmania! pigs were highly popular. Said second child left her mark on the directions, ‘coloring’ the pictures of pigs with a Number 2 pencil. At some point she either used a thumb tack to post the story and rules to a wall or poked the pencil through the paper.

Our well loved Pigmania! directions ‘colored’ by my youngest child.

Over time the obsession faded and Pigmania! – rather worse for the wear – returned to the game cupboard, forgotten. Or so I thought. 

This past weekend we had a planned trip with our daughter and her fiance to the beach. Being that it was the beach, and the weather is always a question mark, I asked her if there were any games the hubby and I should bring along in case of inclement weather. Her response: Uno!

Her reply was followed with this text message exchange:

Me: “Only Uno?”

Her: “I don’t really know what the other options are.”

Me: “Well, I’ll bring Uno. Padre is willing to play that. I put in a couple decks of cards also. There’s Sequence. And Skipbo.”

Then I sent a photo of our current game cupboard. The following one word reply was all she included:

Her: “Pigmania!!”

Me: “I didn’t get it and we are in the car. Do I need to go back? I can. We haven’t left the driveway.”

The middle shelf of the game cupboard. As you can see it took some doing for the daughter to pick out Pigmania! from the jumble.

Her: “Nope.”

Of course, I could almost hear the disappointment through the text message. And even though it was raining Noah and his ark sort of rain, I returned to the house and got Pigmania.

On Saturday, my 27 year old daughter, her fiancé, and I played Pigmania! We competed, we threw shade at one another, we laughed, and we connected. 

For both she and I it was reliving just a bit of her childhood in the very best of ways. When the mud had settled from our three way Pig Sty battle, the daughter and I each had a pair of victories in our columns, while her poor fiancé was left out in the cold.

Even more than that, however, is that I was glad Pigmania! had survived the purges of a couple of moves as well as the enthusiastic scribblings of a little girl. In the process it became a tangible symbol of the best of childhood and will always have a home in our game cupboard, no matter how shabby. Pass The Pigs! and may your Pig Out’s be few.

Looking rather worse for the wear is our Pigmania! box.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pass_the_Pigs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_(dice_game)