Children's game ends in accident in 1900 Jamestown

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Children's games change over history. Back in 1900, one of the favorites in Jamestown was called “Pom Pom Pullaway.” It seems the game was a form of tag and the internet tells us it was also known by the name “Chase and Catch," which actually seems a more descriptive title.

The internet gives us the rules of the game which really were quite simple.

Two parallel lines were drawn on the ground between 30 and 50 feet apart. All the children but one would line up on one of the lines. The other child stood in the middle and was “it.”

The player in the middle would call out one of the kids standing at the line by calling out:

“Billy Pom Pom Pullaway, Come away or I’ll fetch you away.”


Billy would then try to run across the space to the safety of the other line. If he was tagged by the kid that was it, he then took over the task of being it. If he made it to the other side the kid who was it would try calling a slower participant from the original line.

It was quite a simple game that didn’t require any equipment end gave the children a chance to run and laugh outdoors.

There was one drawback to the game.

Too often, at least in cities, the children used the curbs of a street as the two lines in the game.

That resulted in a near tragedy in Jamestown in April of 1900.

An accident occurred on 5th Avenue, what has since been renamed as First Avenue, right in front of the Gladstone Hotel.

A child being chased in the game evidently made a maneuver without looking where he was going and ended up directly in front of a horse-drawn buggy.

It wasn’t a speeding car but it still was dangerous. The newspaper accounts describe the accident saying “both wheels of the buggy passed over the boy.”


I would guess that put an end to the game for the evening.

Fortunately, the child only received some bad bruises with no broken bones.

Even though the accident didn’t result in tragedy or permanent injury, The Jamestown Alert used the incident to issue a warning.

“It’s dangerous for boys to play marbles or games in the street particularly at night,” the paper noted as the last words of the article.

The games children play have changed over the years. Running and chasing each other outdoors have been replaced by video games and other more passive forms of entertainment.

It might have something to do with parents telling their children not to play on busy streets and in traffic these days.

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