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Monopoly: capitalists under a card table

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SUMMER is over; time for the first day of school, time for the teacher to ask my kids what they did over summer vacation. They will have to 'fess up to playing Monopoly! As they are encamped right now in the back bedroom, I begin to have flashbacks, reliving those memories. Monopoly was an adult game even kids were allowed to play. When I was growing up, there were three kids in our family, but add to that my four boy cousins of the same last name who lived just down the street. Our ages dovetailed, so that, taken as a group, we covered a 10-year age span. Everybody in the neighborhood knew at least one of us.

During those carefree summers of the 1950s, before television had become the all-consuming attraction for children, we would play baseball in the dust, build tents out of blankets, dam up rainwater, climb trees, and just swing. Swinging developed into an art form and could easily take up half a day.

My Uncle Jack, who was a plumber, had built the most elaborate swing set in the neighborhood - in the world, I thought. It was made up of odd bits and pieces of pipe left over from jobs. A special big section of pipe was from the Boys' Home. Each section stood about 15 feet high, with four swings. You could pump like crazy, building up speed, and then coast to a standstill or jump off at the highest spot.

A nearby tree provided cover for any would-be ``attackers'' and, very conveniently, ammunition in the form of little green berries that were hard enough to sting whenever you swung into range. The sand pile at the end of the slide also offered hours of make-believe for those future architects of everything from caves to castles.

If I have painted a picture of joy and fun, it was. Into this world came Monopoly, not to displace but to enhance. What a privilege it was for the older group of us to be taught to play, and play we did. This game required thinking, skill, and true salesmanship when trying to talk some younger relative out of property that would give you three of a kind.

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