Fun and games at old store

Staff photos by Clay Schuldt Joe Oleighton (left) teaches four-year-old Mya Rieke the finer points of ball and cup.

NEW ULM — It was time for fun and games the old-fashioned way at the historic Harkin Store.

Sunday, visitors were able to try out games from yester year, such as pick up sticks, tic-tac-toe, checkers, dominoes, graces and rolling hoops.

All of these games would have been popular in the 1870s, when the Harkin Store was first in business. Today, dominoes and checkers are still popular, but at the Harkin Store, the game of graces is making a comeback.

Harkin Store volunteer Robin Grewe said graces comes out most weekends, even when the program theme has nothing to do with games. It’s a fun game that most children find unique.

In graces, each player has two long tapered rods, used to fling a small hoop to the other players who must catch it with their own rods. Once a player gets use to playing a second hoop is added for an extra challenge.

Graces was played through most of the 19th century. It began as a game for boys and girls, but it gradually became known as a game for ladies. Graces is first mentioned as game in an “American Girls Book” written in 1831.

“Graces is really fun if you know what you’re doing,” Robin Grewe said. The learning curve for the game in not too hard, but those with strong coordination have the easiest time getting the hang of it.

Site manager Ruth Grewe said this was likely the original purpose of the game, to teach coordination.

“Graces was good exercise for the ladies,” Ruth Grewe said. The game was called graces because you needed to be graceful to play it. “It wasn’t like football. You didn’t need to physically exert yourself to be good at it.”

Another fun stand-by was the game of Jacks. The game goes back to the 1800s, but was still popular well into the 20th century. The game was a mystery to four-year-old Mya Rieke, but her grandmother Janet Rieke able to teach the finer points.

Marbles was also popular in the 1870s. Robin Grewe said the store had a marble set, but no place to draw a marble circle. The Harkin Store gift shop does sell a wide assortment of marbles ranging from the small cat’s eye marbles to the big shooters.

Next Sunday the Harkin Store will celebrate the 39th Annual West Newton Day from 1 p.m. t o 4 p.m. The event celebrates the heritage of the Minnesota settlement of West Newton, which once existed between New Ulm and Fort Ridgely.