"One foot off the gutter" rules?

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The street game "One Foot Off the Gutter" was mentioned about a year ago in a television documentary about San Francisco, and I remembered my father saying they used to play this in his neighborhood around 1920. Did the game originate in San Francisco, and does anybody recall the rules? Thank you.

-- Gloria Delgado (gloriad@jps.net), March 01, 1999


When we played it in the 50's, we simply would keep one foot on the gutter until we would try to run across the street without getting tagged by the person, or persons on the other team if there were enough folks. Variations would be two handed tag, grab the handkerchief out of one's pocket, or once one's foot left the curb one could not return to that curb but complete the run all the way across the street. If we could get enough players it was Skins vs. Shirts until the girls.....well, you know.

-- Len (len@sonic.net), May 24, 1999.

In the 40's I played One Foot Off the Gutter at school or, on warm summer evenings in the street. Two teams lined up on opposite curbs. Some one was "IT" and called out a runner on the other team. They had to get to the other side without being tagged. If tagged, they went to the other team until one side was wiped out. Last one tagged was "IT". The game could run for w

-- Dr. Jain (MsTwiz@aol.com), August 14, 2002.

Hi, I grew up during the 1950's about 45 miles south of San Francisco in, what at that time was a little country town called Saratoga, California. On summer evenings all the kids in the neighborhood would be out until 9 o'clock at night playing football, baseball, kickball, dodgeball, Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, or the infamous "One Foot off the Gutter." There were always plenty of kids because the Cox family had 13 children, the Nerney's had 6 daughters, the Berwicks had 3 kids as did the Evans family, the Garavaglia had 3 or 4 (I don't remember which), and last but hopefully not least, my brother and I completed the group. Two team captains would be be chosen - in our neighborhood it was always Bruce and Richard - and they would alternate picking team members until the smallest, slowest, little kid had finally been chosen. Then a coin was flipped to determine which team was up first. The team that lost had to choose one member to be in the center of the street (imagine parents allowing their children to play a game that required a little kid to stand in the middle of the street!) If I remember correctly, members of one team then lined up on both sides of the street and the game began. The person in the middle of the street would try to tag anyone who crossed the street. Once a person was tagged, he or she was "out." The "tagger" was then switched for another member of the up team and the whole game continued. One member of the "up" team also served as a timekeeper of sorts. He or she would start counting outloud because a person could only one side of the street for 30 seconds (I'm not positive about the time - it could have been 60 seconds.) If you stood with your foot on the gutter you were safe and couldn't be tagged out but you could only be safe for 30 seconds and then you had to run. If you didn't run, you were automatically out. Gradually, the number of players was reduced until it was just one person in the middle of the street and one person with their foot on the gutter. If the "gutter" person made it across the street twice without getting tagged, the "gutter" team won. If the "tagger" caught the last person, the tagger's team won. There was some strategy to the game since it was up to the captain of each team to decide which player would be "it." As the slower players were usually eliminated first, it was usually the a good idea to save the faster runners to be "it" until later in the game. I'm sure my memory has some of this confused but I do remember having a wonderful time spending summer evenings playing "One Foot off the Gutter" on Ravenwood Drive in Saratoga. Thanks for reminding me of my wonderful childhood. Diane Simpson

-- Diane Simpson (diane14sim@aol.com), April 30, 2004.

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