Pretty, the great Treasure Hunter, occasionally brings home items that fascinate. One such find this week was two versions of a board game I played as a child growing up in rural Grimes County, Texas. Before the television set took over as our main form of entertainment, my family played all kinds of games from dominoes to gin rummy to board games Santa Claus left for me under the tree at Christmas. One of our family favorite board games was Go to the Head of the Class which was supposedly “educational” as well as fun. With school teacher parents, I played tons of “educational” games.
fifth series copyrighted in 1949 by Milton Bradley, publisher
The game was originally played with tokens that were cardboard images of children attached to wooden bases. Each game had 8 tokens, and their pictures were on the book that contained the questions.
(top row, l. to r.) Sissy, Dimples, Liz and Butch
(bottom row, l. to r.) Sonny, Buttercup, Susie and Red
I can’t find the edition when publisher Milton Bradley eliminated the unsmiling player named Sissy, but I can assure you it would have been the last token picked in my family. Buttercup would have run a close second to the last.
Take a good look at Sissy, the little boy whose two obvious distinguishing features were that he wore glasses and parted his hair down the middle like the little girl tokens.
I remembered Jim Blanton’s essay in Committed to Home where he talked about growing up in Gaffney, South Carolina and being called “sissy” as a child and teenager by bullies in school. Words, labels that cause pain.
I’m sure my parents were oblivious to the subtle cultural messages being sent to me in our educational games, but for me this game was one more nail in the coffin of internalized homophobia and intentional segregation in my childhood. Never any people of color as the tokens. No one wanted to be known as a “sissy,” and how could I explain to anyone why I always picked “Butch” first?
Be aware of bias and labels that hurt. Be kind to each other. Be safe this weekend.