Nicholas Balesterri’s Childhood Games Inspire a Book and (maybe) a Reality Show
In the 1960s, Nicholas Balesterri and his pals – all Baby Boomers – grew up around 7th and Brunswick Street in Jersey City and played all sorts of games on one of the greatest game boards in town – the four corners of their neighborhood. This was back in the day before Nintendo, IBox and other electronic games that are giving our kids “couch potato syndrome.”
Balesterri remembers those street games and the fun he had with his pals when all they had to amuse themselves was a Spalding, a high-bouncing, pink rubber ball they picked up at the corner store for 19 cents. Balesterri and his pals would use that Spalding for all sorts of inventive challenges: Stick Ball, Box Ball, Stick Ball against the Wall, OUT, Point on the Ledge – games they played with sticks, cans and their own ingenuity.
These games and others like them are the theme for the book Balesterri and his sister Amelia Fano are working on, “”The Games We Used to Play, Sticks, Balls and Cans,” that explains how the games are played and features anecdotes of Balesterri’s memories “growing up on the corner.”
“Four corners was right on 7th and Brunswick, right down from Dickinson High School,” Balesterri recalls, “and each corner was just right for different games. On one corner was a butcher store. It had a nice flat wall. We could play stickball against that wall. The Lakewood Tavern across the street was a nice place to play OUT a game where you would throw the rubber ball and the next person would hit it and if you missed the ball it was “O,” and your next out was “U” and your third out was “T,” and then you were OUT. The third corner was Holy Rosary grammar school’s courtyard where we played Stick Ball. The fourth corner had a plumbing supply store. It had a great ledge for Point on the Ledge, where you threw the ball against the ledge, it would pop and you had to hop on one leg to get the fly. If you fell down you were out.”
Balesterri has about 20 games in the book, so far, and he’s even taking his idea one step further – a reality TV game show with teams of families compete against each other by spinning a game wheel and performing the game the pointer lands on.
“It’s something like ‘Family Feud’ but with street games,” Balesterri says. “It gets the families out of the house, they’re getting exercise and they’re having fun. As a reality show, you would get to know the families because they have a film crew coming around to the house. And you could actually make a set of a street like the four corners of my neighborhood and play these games. I think the kids would love it and they might be interested in playing these games in their neighborhoods.”
Balesterri has already started pitching the show to producers and hopes to get a celebrity involved.
“I gave a copy to a friend of mine to get it to Joe Piscapo,” Balesterri says. “He can put some humor into it and he played these games.”
Some of the games Balesterri and his pals made up and some were neighborhood staples, like Jump the White Horse, which can be seen in the film, “The Bronx Tale.” And another point Balesterri remembers: all the games were played by boys. And when they got a little older, Balesterri says the games moved indoors and that’s when girls were invited.
“When girls got involved, it was trouble,” Balesterri laughs.
And that would be a different type of game show.