Games Kids Used To Play – By Peter Halder

Games Kids Used To Play

by Peter Halder

         The pastime games for kids in Albouystown and maybe elsewhere in Guyana in the 1940s were unique and unusual. They were the legacy of custom and culture. Four such that were popular were Zootal, Mariddle, Cush and Cock-a-Delo.


Zootal was a game played with sticks. It was played with 2, 3 or 4 players. The first thing was for each kid to obtain two slender sticks about a half inch in circumference. Sapodilla, mango, genip, guava or other fruit and non-fruit tree limbs of that circumference were sought  One long limb was just what the doctor ordered. Its leaves and stems were plucked off. The limb was then broken to provide two pieces, one about five inches long and the other about two feet. Next, a round hole about five inches in diameter was dug in the open ground of a yard.          

Each player placed his/her small stick across the hole firmly. One end of the long stick was then placed in the hole under the small stick while the other end was grasped firmly with both hands. The player, standing still with legs firmly grounded, then gave a sudden but deliberate and strong voops with his long stick sending the small stick in the air and as far away as possible. Noting where it landed, the player used the long stick to count the distance, in a straight line, placing it at the edge of the hole and counting to the small stick saying: Aery, Dory, Tilya, Chowry, Zampa, Zig, Zootal. Each call was a length of the stick.The amount of calls for each player was tallied. The one that voopsed the small stick the furthest, by the tally, won the game. It required both skill and strength. It was played for buttons. Each player staked one button per game. The buttons were placed near the side of the hole. The winner took all.


A popular pastime after school was Mariddle. Several kids sat on the steps. The one who was posing the riddle stood on the ground in front of them. It was all about fruits. For example, the riddler would say:

“Mariddle, Mariddle, Marie. My father had a tree. It used to bear a kind of fruit. The skin outside was painted light brown and flesh inside was painted reddish brown. The chairs inside were painted black. What kind of fruit did my father’s tree bear.”

The boys/girls sitting on the steps would think and think and think. The riddler would ask “You give up?” Some said yes and others said no. One boy raised his hand. “Well, what fruit it is?” questioned the riddler. “It is a sapodilla,” said the boy smilingly.

“You guessed right,” said the riddler. It was then the winner’s turn to pose a riddle. And so the game continued. It was played for fun but it educated kids about fruits and vegetables.


Cush was a game played for stakes which were always buttons. It was played in an open space in a yard. It was usually played by two or three players. First a line, measuring about 4 feet was drawn on the ground using a piece of slate, glass, brick or stick.

Ten paces were then counted from the line. There a circle, about 12 inches in diameter, was drawn. The game was played for two buttons each. The buttons were all placed in a pile behind the line. To start the game, each player stood in the circle and played a button to the line. They then picked up their buttons. The one whose button was nearest to the line played first. He pitched a button to the line again. The others followed suit. The one closest to the line, continued the game. He picked up all the staked buttons behind the line, held them carefully between his fingers, toed the line and threw them into the circle. Whatever stayed in the circle was won by him. Those that fell outside or bounced and went outside were picked up by the next player. He toed the line and played them into the circle. Whatever remained in the circle was won by him. If any were outside the circle, the next player would take his turn. And so it would continue until all the buttons were won. The game would re-start using the same method. The game was also called Lyng since the circle was sometimes called a lyng.


Cock-a-Delo was the equivalent of hide and seek. The kids would gather in the yard. The one electing to do the first hiding would say breadfruit leaf, for example. He would announce a leaf that was hard to find so as to give him enough time to find a difficult place to hide. The rest would run out of the yard, think where a breadfruit tree grew, run to that yard, climb the tree and pick a leaf. He would then run back and begin to seek where the hider was secreted. He could be anywhere…up a tree, under a house, in an wide, empty steel drum, on top or in a latrine, behind or inside a clump of bushes and so on. Once found, the person holding the leaf, would go to the hider, touch him with the leaf and say “Cock-a-Delo.” The hider would examine the leaf to see if it was a breadfruit tree leaf and say “I surrender.” If it was not, the finder would have to skip one month of games for being dishonest. The game was not only fun but educational. No one knew the derivation the term Cock-a-Delo. All they knew was that it was a fun word. Sometimes it was called just Delo. The game taught children about trees, leaves and being honest.


The pastime culture of kids growing up in Guyana in the 1940s was unique and quaint but fun filled.


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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On July 23, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Had to smile. As youngsters, we spent hours playing Mariddle. Especially on rainy days when we were stuck indoors.

  • Peter Halder  On July 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Those were great days!

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