Things were a lot different when we were kids and I think we had more good clean fun than a lot of today's children do.

We didn't have television, video games or anything that used batteries. If we wanted it to move, we had to push it, pull it, throw it, spin it or wind it up with a key.

I don't remember seeing any overweight children back then either; we hardly ever just sat around. We were outside busy playing games, running and exploring new places, if we could find any. The main rule our parents gave us was to be home for dinner when the streetlights came on.

Brooms and or sticks became horses for us to ride while playing cowboys and Indians. Our index fingers were guns, but we didn't shoot them off very often, it was more of a run-and-chase game for us. Red Rover, Mother May I, Red Light, Green Light, Tag, Hide and Seek, Blind Man's Bluff, Hop Scotch, Marbles and many others didn't need much equipment, if any, to play.

If someone fell and got a boo boo, there was always someone at home to fix it for them. Not all homes had a phone back then, but if they did, it was black and when you picked it up a nice lady would chime, "Operator," and you would tell her who you wanted to talk with. No answering machines, no pushing 10 or more numbers to get to a live person. It was always a real person who answered the phone at home or in a business. After phone numbers came out, the operator would then say, "Number please," and you would answer, "Yellowstone 1315" or something like that. Our phones were clean tin cans connected with a string. Of course they didn't work, but we still had fun with them.

We had board games to play, too, and I loved to play checkers with childhood friends and my family. For some reason I got hooked on Chinese checkers, but the adults weren't as interested in playing that with me. Another board game we used to play that's still popular now is Monopoly. It was invented by an American woman in 1903 and released by her in 1906 as The Landlord's Game. That was before Parker Brothers took over and called it Monopoly.

Card games were also popular when we couldn't go outside and play due to snow in the cold states. Go Fish, Old Maid and others would keep us busy and out of our parents' hair for hours at a time. If it stopped snowing long enough to go out, first we'd shovel the sidewalk, then with our parents' blessings, we pulled our sleds to the nearest hill to slide down. We were to come home before our feet got too cold, but we'd stay a bit longer, pull our sled up to the top once more, then race each other down to the bottom.

Every neighborhood sidewalk had a Hop Scotch diagram laid out on it for the kids to play on. It was mainly a girl's game and each of us had our own marker to show where we were. You wanted one that would slide just a bit when you tossed it and yet be heavy enough not to slide too far. Mine was a small chain circle with a few metal charm prizes from Cracker Jack boxes.

Remember holding a dandelion under someone's chin to see if he liked butter? Of course everyone's chin turned gold from the reflection. Simple but fun, wasn't it?

A native of Minnesota, Carol Olson grew up in South Dakota and Walnut Creek and now lives in Pittsburg. She can be reached at carolleeolson@aol.com.