“Let’s Play War”

rock flagWhen I was a youngster, the kids on our Oakford Drive in East Los Angeles would play after-school and certainly after homework was done.

Playing was comprised of two general categories:

1.  Sports – like baseball (complete with broken windows) or football (on our lawns spotted with metal sprinkler heads), or,

2.  War

Needless to say, I was never a member of the US forces when we played war.  (Oh, how I longed to be Sgt. Rock with his bulging biceps and Thompson machine gun blazing away…fighting for the red, white and blue.)

No, I was always the “J” or the “K”…  You know what I mean.

To be killed over and over again.

Like with elaborate booby traps: a wooden clothes pin armed with a cap and taped onto a piece of wood.  When I neared the booby trap (countless of times), Steve would pull the cord (countless of times) attached to a little string of metal from a spam can holding the clothes pin open..and “POP!”  I would crumble to the ground.  Very effective weapon if you ask me.

Or shot with John’s toy Winchester.  Wait a minute.  Winchesters were for cowboys and Indians.  I wonder how that got into our (imaginary) war.  Oh, well.  We were just playing while building our love for country.


After all, this was only a little more than 15 years after a most bitter war’s end.

Toyota wasn’t even in our vocabulary.

Sony became part of our vocabulary only because of something called a transistor radio.

“Tofu” wasn’t even a gleam in Webster’s eye.


But we were playing.  Imagining.

Today, I read this news story.


kid army suspend


The gist of it?  I hope you will read it and develop your own.


Is this a case of hysteria?  Of being afraid of being sued by spotlight-loving lawyers…  or CNN making you out to look a villain to support Obama’s political agenda?  Just my opinion, of course.

Of what HARM was it?  The toy grenade didn’t even have a paper cap…  Wait a minute.  Was there EVEN a toy grenade?  Or maybe it was a fuzzy tennis ball in place of his imaginary grenade?


Don’t punish the kid’s imagination.

Geezus H. Christ.

Maybe he just wants to be Sgt. Rock and save our country.

28 thoughts on ““Let’s Play War””

  1. As a country we are great at finding the splinter in the eye of our opponents. As a country we are horrible at finding the plank in our own eye. Sometimes, we are as messed up as a left handed football bat.

    I don’t care what you say. I think you make Sgt. Rock look like a female reproductive organ. You are a real American hero!

    1. Au contraire, mon ami. It is you who donned on the uniform of our might military, not I. And your first sentence pretty much captures it all. Great thought. (Funny you should say left-handed football bat; Obummer’s a lefty.)

      1. I did not know the President was a lefty, but as you so correctly point out, it makes sense.

        Again, not to offend, but I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you wore a shirt with a flag on it or not. You sir, are a Real American Hero. I will fight all day long to defend your patriotism. Because of the first amendment, I have the right to call you a patriot and a Real American Hero. I will exercise that right and you can cuss me in any language you like. You can’t stop me. I salute you, now get back to playing Army. 🙂

  2. We played “cops and robbers” and “war”. Everyone wanted to be the “good guy”. No one wanted to be the “bad guy”. Usually the oldest sibling or neighbor determined who was the bad guy. We learned many things from playing. And one of these things was that we ALWAYS wanted to be the good guy. It’s a shame the adults in this scenario didn’t take the opportunity to “teach” about their concerns instead of punishing a child’s imagination and play.

    1. I totally agree… In this case, silly adults have taken the fun out of being a child – if not punished a kid for trying to imagine he was the “good guy”. I hope the mom kicks some butt.

  3. Well, Koji, I know that this was not the main point in your post but I couldn’t help feeling bad about how you were treated as a Japanese American. Sure, Sgt. Rock wouldn’t have blinked at such a slight but I’m not sure how that little kid felt. I’m sorry that happened to you.
    As for the rest of what you wrote about the boy with the imaginary granade. . . .
    We live about 50 miles west of Philadelphia and last week business got slow and my son and I went out to plink at some cans with my Sig Sauer. It was so cold I only got off maybe ten shots and went inside. By the time I sat down at my desk, I could see a policed car racing up the drive. I met the young officer as he jumped out of his car. “We got a report of shots fired!” he said excitedly. “Was that here?”
    I explained that we were target shooting as we had for the past 25 years and he finally relaxed (but not before demanding to see and inspect our shooting area). It turned out OK but I was offended and frightened that in this atmosphere of hysteria, someone would “report” me for something I had been doing for decades and that I could no long shoot at cans without a potentially dangerous scene developing.
    These are scary times indeed. We need to grow heros, not discourage them.

    1. Thanks, AmishCreek. I am sorry to have caused you to feel bad about my childhood…but no need be. Certain other young people were beaten because of their color, ethnicity or religion. I was not.

      Sig Sauer? What cal? 9 mm? .40? .45? That is a very dependable firearm. I myself picked up a 9mm SIG a month ago – not because of the hysteria per se, but because I knew Obama was going to sign more Executive Orders to further his political position.

      Indeed, it is a shame as to what happened to you and your boy. Truly a sign of the times…and even then, your fingers froze! And to have them actually inspect your shooting range…

      We used to drive north of LA to somewhere a little north of Granada Hills to shoot lemons and apricots. We shot so many of them there must be an orchard by now. 🙂

      Thanks for the visit.

  4. Just a sign that we now live in a mad mad world….When I think of playing cops and robbers and war I think of how we all turned out, and there is not a murderer among us. What I do see is our generation changing the world, we are professionals, soldiers, sailors, marines and pilots. We are teachers, doctors finding a cure of cancer, inventors of the computer age and a generation that cares for the planet we live on. We are becoming the next greatest generation following in the footsteps of our parents. There is something to be said for imagination and allowing children to be children.

    1. Your words ring loud and clear. I do have my thoughts that are inappropriate for a blog but I generally feel that “rights” of the majority or a victim definitely outweigh one of political correctness. As Spock said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”

  5. When fear dictates, insanity follows, Koji. Some of my fondest memories as a child were finger pointing sixgun battles. Once I took out all of the fourth grade boys. And I was a third grader. (grin)

    1. Aw, c’mon Curt. Let’s not be toooo modest. You took out eight outlaws with your imaginary one-fingered six-shooter. 🙂

      Regards, Koji D. Kanemoto Sent from S III

  6. It’s really scary to think of what we’re doing to our kids, and probably more so for little boys. I didn’t play war as a girl, or care about guns, or do any of the things that are probably now completely forbidden in play, but I worked as an early childhood educator for years. I was fascinated watching the little boys play and almost all of them at one time or another took wooden blocks and made them weapons or painted them on the easels or “conspired” on the playground in exactly the way you describe your playtime as a child. It came naturally. Something is grossly out of balance in the prohibitions we’re putting on children.

  7. Crazy, isn’t it? Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. We played “Cars” with our Match-Box and Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning. And in every case, someone robbed and bank and tried to make a getaway while the “cops” chased him on streets drawn with chalk. We played football, basketball, and baseball all the time. Heck, I remember playing basketball with a football helmet on! And we played “War” using the entire block including backyards. We never fought the Japanese – we were always fighting Germans. We took turns being the dreaded Germans, and I always hated my turn because I actually felt guilty when I won. After all, I had to kill Americans to win at war when I played the German, and it conflicted with my values. Cowboys and Indians wasn’t much better since I am part Creek Indian.
    And even after my oldest brother was murdered by a gunshot to the head at close range, I continued to play with toy guns.
    Funny how I did NOT turn out to be a violent gun-wielding lunatic.

    Suspended for an animated hand grenade, huh? I can remember bringing real bullets to school and showing them to friends because I thought they looked like a Saturn V rocket. I was told to put them away, but I never got into trouble. We are becoming a nation of pansies. On the other hand, since parents are not teaching a lot of values anymore, kids come to school with a disregard for life and limb of others.
    Speaking of no values, I once saw to little girls playing with Barbies recently. It was a nice flashback until the girls took the clothes off Ken and Barbie and started ramming the naked dolls together because “they were out on a date.” I was shocked, to say the least! Completely lacking in morality but educated in something they, at that age, should not know.
    So let’s take the toy guns away and issue Ken & Barbie condoms…or Ken & Ken condoms so that we don’t offend. Everything is so backwards from what it should be!

  8. We played some serious war when I was young: pungi stake pits and BB guns (Daisy Spittin’ Image).. I must have gotten shot over a hundred times, LOL! Sting like bees, they did.

    We live in an age that I call the “Pussification of America”. My middle stepdaughter won’t allow her boys any toy guns, or anything resembling a weapon. So they pick up sticks and go at it playing ‘pretend’ until she catches them and whips their little asses. So where does the violence come from? Perhaps its frustration from not being able to work out a “pecking order” when they are young. (she doesn’t even allow them to go “bang-bang” at one another with pointed fingers) Oh, what DID I do wrong?? (Avid gun owner here.)

    I feel comfortable with guns; any one will do. Raised by military parents, I saw machine guns by the time I was two – fired .30 cal’s when I was 9 or so (Armed Forces day) – learned to shoot the minigun on a Huey Cobra when I was 13. (Cold War training while I was in Germany). I feel everyone should know HOW to use a gun even if you don’t own one. I also feel the screening should be a bit more careful – but the fox has left the hen house and there’s never going to be a good gun control option. There’s too many guns out there, and some in the wrong hands – therefore I have mine and carry them. For myself and the people I’m around. I’m full aware of when it is appropriate to use one in self defense or defense of someone else. Unfortunately due to the laws I can’t merely wound someone the way I was taught (for the law to take care of after) because nowadays so many criminals sue those who shot them – even if the criminal was trying to take that person’s life. Fortunately, though, I live in a part of the South where shooting a home intruder is applauded (despite a few liberals outbursts), and most people are in support of guns.

    I don’t wonder what will happen to America if someone invades us. Right now? They’d have a war on their hands – a 30 million strong army of armed citizens (and then some!). Later on in the future and invader will be able to walk right in, no opposition. If we don’t give the country to them first.

    I would love to see a world without guns or harm. But as long as the criminals have them I’m going to be keeping mine. And bearing them.

  9. “Geezus H. Christ” is right. We live in a world of them. I lived Colorado.as a young boy — I went to kindergarten in 1948. We dug foxholes and built bunkers in our backyards, threw dirt-clod hand grenades and shot at each other with rubber band guns. We had a great time. Today, I imagine that we would be subjected to intensive counseling. I don’t know what they would do to the girls who persisted in playing with dolls. But didn’t we have fun in those days?

    1. Sir, very good to hear from you in the midst of some more media-fueled insanity.

      Yes, we did have great fun back then outdoors. Playing “Army” was a great pastime then the media made all the slightly older boys (mostly drafted) become heinous villians who doing LBJ’s bidding for the most part. You got me with the dirt clog grenades and foxholes. SoCal yards were mostly clay based and if you dug in your manicured lawn, you caught it. 🙂

      My folks were too poor but my prized possession was a plastic Army helmet. No rank though. Even after it cracked, I still wore it. Nobody cared.

      Please take care during this manufactured hysteria. Any flu is hazardous to us. Too bad Sgt. Rock doesn’t exist armed with a virus killing tommy gun…

      1. In the 40s, my grandmother and her family lived at 1618 Champlain Terrace in L.A., a hilly area that still had undeveloped lots. Those under development provided ample places to play war. Clay dirt clods made excellent “hand grenades”. The sons of my grandmother’s new family were 10 and 8. They were my uncles were well trained in the art of war and the throwing of hand grenades. The Chinese kids in the area always had to play the Japs, and I remember them complaining about that. I remember one of them wanting to play a Filipino and fight on our side. That was a long, long time ago, and I was just a little kid.

      2. What great memories, sir. I can understand why dirt clod grenades were so ample! LOL about the Chinese kids; I wonder what they think about the virus if they are still around now.

        I see your grandparents is close to Dodger Stadium now. I don’t know when you played at your grandparents’ but construction for the stadium began in 1959: https://images.app.goo.gl/Gc6Uc9XCD9gvncYA7

        Take care, sir.

  10. All that happened a long, long time ago. My grandmother died in late 1948, and by then, she and her family had moved from Champlain Terrace.

    As for the Chinese kids . . . Well, who knows where they are or how their lives turned out. Are you receiving any blow back regarding the coronavirus?

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