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From Marbles and Packs
The following article may be considered a continuation to my
previous report, since it also touches upon a couple of favorite pastimes from
our Shanghai youth. We already learned how the children that lived in the
Hongkew Ghetto invented their own esoteric playthings from empty discarded
cigarette packages found in the streets and gutters. Thanks to Peter Nash
(formerly Nachemstein) for explaining one version of the game we called “Packs
“The game that we used to play consisted of folding the
cigarette pack into itself so that it was about two or three inches square. A
ring was formed by chalk and each player held his between the thumb and index
finger and tried to knock out an opponent’s pack from the ring by flicking it.
If you succeeded, then you retained the “pack.”
An assembled “pack” is illustrated in
figure one, courtesy,
Andreas Heinsius, Los Angeles.
Playing marbles also became a favorite pastime during the early years in the ghetto. And who remembers those exotic marbles called “maxies“, “crystals“, and “milkies. “A maxie had five or more colors, whereas a milkie had only one color and was opaque. A crystal was clear and translucent. Each of those marbles were worth about ten or fifteen shooters.
Not everyone, however, was able to afford those costly marbles. Because of the austere conditions that affected many of our refugees, especially during the war, securing food for life instead of toys became the order of each day.
At this point it should be mentioned that usually only boys played packs and marbles.
We now turn our attention to a very popular, and at the time, upscale board game called “Shanghai Millionaire,” known in many countries as ‘Monopoly.” The streets shown on the 48.5 x 48.5 cm Game board, illustrated in figure two, courtesy, “Old China Hands Archive,” are named the way we Shanghailanders remember them, being from “GO” onward*. The property cards belonging to the game are illustrated in figure three thru figure six. It was a game that most parents could not afford to buy for us for the same reason stated above. Yours truly remembers playing “Shanghai Millionaire” every Sunday afternoon at a friend’s house (flat) on Wayside Road that was lucky to own this exciting game.
The “Shanghai Millionaire” game was likely manufactured in Shanghai around the late 30‘s or early 40‘s as a pirated edition, and sold in major department stores like Wing On. Invented in the USA by Charles Darrow in 1933, it arrived in the United Kingdom in 1935. While most emigrants living in Shanghai came from Europe, it stands to reason that the game was designed in English, and most likely was a copy of the English Waddington‘s London edition. It is interesting to note that all European issues of the game were based on that design rather than on the American Parker Bros. Design.
Today it is the best selling board game in the world, licensed or sold in 80 countries and produced in 26 languages.
While most Jewish refugee children that came from Europe and were living in Shanghai did not have the toys and games found in homes during normal times, they had to use their own imagination to invent things to play with, with few, if any, resources available to them.
It is this writer‘s opinion that the scarcity of food and accessories in the Ghetto, combined with our total Shanghai experience during our formative years, taught us to be more appreciative of things in life, and made many of us later, where we immigrated, high achievers in schools and colleges, and an important asset to our community
*If we were to play this game today, would we be able to pronounce all the new names of the streets?