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Spielzeit at Sophienburg Saturday

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Picture this: Every day after school, a group of elementary school boys rushed home and met at a vacant lot behind Hollmig’s Drive-In at the intersection of Seguin and Zink streets. Their goal: to play baseball their way. (See the 1958 photo below for names.) George House, owner of the drive-in, called this group the Zink Street Stinkers.

This joy in playing games like sandlot baseball is the subject of a program this Saturday (June 18) for children and adults. The program is called “Spielzeit at the Sophienburg” (Playtime at the Sophienburg). Another brainchild of Amber Miller, the interesting program will center on games that children played and toys that they can make.

The purpose of the program is to teach children that toys don’t have to be purchased, and that they can use their imagination to create toys.

To demonstrate toy making will be folk toymaker, Lee Haile. If weather permits, Haile will set up under the trees on the Sophienburg grounds and show the children early folk toys. He uses only natural and available materials. Haile demonstrates flying propellers, kites, tubes and water toys, paddle boats, spool cars, stilts, tops, and the list goes on and on.

Then replicas of some of these early toys may be purchased in Sophie’s Shop.

Inside the Museum, videos will feature children’s activities. These videos have been made from the Sophienburg’s vast collection of photographs. They show local children engaging in games like baseball, marbles, kite flying and organized dress-up activities like Kindermaskenball, parades, school plays.

The supply is limitless and adults who grew up in this area are likely to spot themselves on the screen.

Another feature of the day will be a “marionette contraption” by John Ryan of San Antonio. For decades, Ryan has had the hobby of putting together these models. He has donated this exhibit to the Sophienburg. It’s a 3-foot-high, 4-foot-long early pioneer house. Under the overhang of the front porch are three carved people. Ryan recorded music that he coordinated with the moving figures, and as it plays, the figures dance, stomp, and play instruments. Children will love it. The exhibit is called “Family Fun 100 Years Ago”.

A book called Texas Toys and Games by Francis Edward Abernathy gives a good description of “Spielzeit” using information from Haile. I like the games section the best because I remember the games described in the book. Games like Blindman’s Bluff, Red Rover, Seven Up, Fruit Basket Turn Over, Crack the Whip, Leap Frog, Drop the Handkerchief, Hide and Seek, and — don’t forget — Spin the Bottle. Then there were other games like marbles, jacks, and pick-up sticks.

At Lamar School, the girls played jacks daily at recess and the boys played marbles. There were definitely gender oriented games. Girls would bring their dolls to school and boys would bring cars. One of the activities that I remember everyone playing would today be considered taboo.

We would break glass thermometers and extract the liquid mercury. The mercury formed little balls and we would roll them around in the pencil holder on the desk. When I think about it, it doesn’t even make sense, but we loved that activity. It just proves that when no toys are around, children will make their own.

Being an only child, I did have lots of toys, but the activity I remember most was the string dolls that I made.

These dolls played out the soap opera of life in my window sill. Psychiatrists would love it.

What fun the day will be for children and adults. No reservations needed, just show up this Saturday, June 18, anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a $5 charge per adult and $2 per child. What a bargain!

Even smart people like Plato said, “Life must be lived as play.”

The Zink Street Stinkers, 1958 — front row: Texas Jack Alves; middle row: Rodney Krebs, Jimmy Jentsch, Craig Hollmig, Clayton Krebs, Sonny House; back row: George Boenig, Larry Wenzel, Larry Krebs, Kim Rice. (Source: Sophienburg Archives)

Myra Lee Adams Goff’s column is published every other Tuesday in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.