We all love telling our children how hard things were in the three-channels-and-nothing’s-on days. How we amused ourselves with refrigerator boxes, bent nails and rocks. How our electronic options were pretty much limited to a transistor radio (AM, baby) through a single earphone. And how, in those days, the simplest things passed for amusement.
In the summers of my youth, while my parents were working, my great great aunt would usually take us up to her house in “the country,” way out in the wilds of West Glenville. A few miles up in the hills from our house, it might as well have been time travel out of the ’70s and into the Great Depression. There was no indoor plumbing at all – we had to pump water at the outside pump and bring it into the kitchen (where the sink drained into another bucket, which then had to be carried out to the field). The outhouse was an experience that taught me how to hold it in until it was time to go home. On beautiful summer days, I had a delightful up there, lying in the hammock, walking up to the cemetery, wandering through the neighboring cornfields. But on rainy days, there was precious little for an eleven-year-old boy to do in a 65-year-old spinster’s house.
There was a tremendous library, left by a previous occupant, of hundred-year-old books (many of which I still have). There was a copious collection of Photoplay movie magazines and National Enquirers, much of which fed my aunt’s odd fixation with the terrible harm that Peter Lawford had done the Kennedys. (She would never forgive him.) There were exactly two editions of Mad Magazine, which I studied like the Torah. There was a tiny television that on some days could get one channel – luckily it was the channel that aired her favorite “stories.” There was a Victrola, with a wide selection of fox trots and bamboo needles that broke easily. And there were three games: Carrom, which we played in every one of its endless variations; Yahtzee, a dice rolling game; and “The Game of Peter Coddle’s Trip to New York.”
“Peter Coddle” was apparently first published in about 1889, by Parker Brothers of Salem, Massachusetts. It wasn’t really a game, but an amusement very similar to “mad libs,” except that the fill-in words were supplied by the game. Players would take turns reading Peter’s adventure, and when you came to a blank in the story, you would fill it in with words on paperboard slips pulled from the box. Hilarity ensued, especially since at the time many of the words (“pandowdy,” “a boodle alderman”) were incomprehensible to me.
I’m not sure what edition of the game my aunt had, but it was handed down to me and has been hidden away for ages. But now, you can enjoy it too – just go to Hoxsie’s Peter Coddle page. Every time you refresh the page, the blanks will be refilled randomly. (Just a note: there were exactly as many word slips as there were blanks, but three of them have disappeared over the years; I made up three of my own, and I defy anyone who isn’t a Parker Brother to tell me which entries aren’t original.)
The Game of Peter Coddle’s Trip To New York
The game was also produced by other publishers, and there were many different editions through the years. Learn more at BoardGameGeek.