The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Park and Shop, A Love Story

By Anne Chudobiak

We’ve all heard it before. Bloggers are bad writers with big egos. They go on and on about themselves without any thought to their readers.

I might be a bad writer with a big ego, but I will never forget the readers. If anything, blogging has made them more real to me. Never before have they made themselves so obvious, with their ISP numbers in our site meter, with their comments or lack thereof. This is not a diary. If it was, I wouldn’t feel the need to pitch my blog ideas to my husband, like I did before posting last week.

“You remember how when my grandma died, my mom asked us if there was anything of hers that we would like, and me and my brother both asked for exactly the same thing?”

“No,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “You do. It was that board game, Park and Shop.”

Park and Shop was released in 1960 by Milton Bradley. It was billed as “The Nation’s Traffic Game Sensation,” the object of which was to “drive your car from your home to the nearest Park & Shop parking lot, park your car, then move your pedestrian marker to all the stops on your shopping list.” There really wasn’t that much more to it, which is perhaps why it was never re-released.

The game was mentioned in the New Yorker last week. The article (by Jill Lepore) was about another Milton Bradley invention, the Game of Life. In the 60s version of that game, players manoeuvred tiny station wagons stuffed with plastic-peg representations of themselves—pink for girls, blue for boys—around a board, acquiring degrees, money, insurance, investments and progeny along the way. People like me who grew up playing that game have exceedingly sentimental feelings about it, even though it’s all about being a good consumer in a consumerist society, and could have easily gone the way of other equally vapid and immoral games, like Park and Shop: “Who still plays Park and Shop?” Lepore asks, the point being that nobody remembers that game, except for me and my brother. This, I told my husband, would be the basis of my next blog.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “What do you want to say about Park and Shop?”

“That my favourite board game got mentioned in the New Yorker as being totally forgotten, and it’s not.”

“That’s it?”

“Is that not enough?”

“I think you need an angle. You could make it into a social commentary. Talk about how weird it is that generations of kids have grown up playing games that promote questionable ideals.”

“But the New Yorker already did that. And they did it really well. They went back centuries. They talk about board games in England and in India. They talk about babies dying violent deaths, choking on hot coals, in the colonies. I can’t fit all of that into my blog. It’s too much.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. You can write about Park and Shop, but none of your readers are going to have the slightest idea what you’re talking about, except for maybe your brother. Is that what you want?”

Of course I didn’t want to subject readers to a sub-par post about a minor Milton Bradley game. I would find a more exciting topic, the kind of thing that anyone could relate to, something like Middlemarch, sexism and hockey—that would do it! I could still write about Park and Shop, but in my diary. Not every reflection was meant to be shared with the world.


Blogger tamara said...

I nearly spit coffee, Anne. Hilarious. (Ah, the Game of Life...I was so much better at the game version.)

Great post! ;)

Tue May 22, 09:47:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger sass said...

i love blogs about conversations about blogs. i see it all unfolding before my eyes. it's very magical.

we loved playing the game of life growing up. i think my mom sat out every time (no patience), and we made my sister be a blue peg, just to kind of challenge conventions (my dad wanted boys).

Tue May 22, 12:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Too funny. I'm so thankful my kids didn't ask for Park and Shop. The game of Life was more than enough to warp their burgeoning values.

Tue May 22, 01:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

This was so much fun - I'm dying to sit down and play 'Park & Shop' right this very minute.

Tue May 22, 02:16:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Park and Shop! Wow. What a great idea. My family played board games once a week during my entire childhood. Our favourite was "Masterpiece".

Tue May 22, 04:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andi said...

My Great Grandmother owns a cabin that has a 1954 copy of Milton Bradley's Park and Shop. it is in AWFUL condition, but whenever i go to the cabin i make my aunts sit down with me and play it. I'm only 21, but it is the favorite game of my childhood memories. I am so glad i am not the only person in the world who knows what this game is. There is a copy on sale on eBay for $300 and i desperately want to buy it. unfortunately, i have to pay off my college first! Thanks

Mon Jul 09, 10:34:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger beck said...

I was born in 1954 and Park and Shop was one of my favorite board games of childhood along with Parcheesi and some of the old standbys. I probably haven't played or seen a copy up close since the early 1960's. I'm afraid I might be disappointed in it if I played it now but then again maybe not. I also think I primarily played this game alone or it must have also appealed to my imaginary playmate! Thanks for enhancing a trip down memory lane.

Thu Nov 29, 05:55:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anne C. said...

Oh, I don't think that you would be disappointed, Beck. It's oddly satisfying.

Thu Nov 29, 09:08:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're not the only one who knows this game! I played it as a child, and I now have a copy I found at a garage sale. My niece (age 12) has loved to play it for several years; she wants to play it every time we get together. She just got her very own game last night - her mom found it new in a catalog. We played it along with her younger sister and brother, and they enjoyed it too. It's very simple and basic, so it's easy for kids, and provides a way to spend time and talk about other stuff, since the game doesn't require much concentration.
- Kathy

Sat Jan 05, 06:25:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Discovered this game at my grandmother's house in the early 70's, and I fell in love with it - it is my all time favorite board game! Also, helps teach time management skills in an unconventional way. Wish I could find another one - I don't know what happened to the one that I used to play with. All ages and skill levels had a good time playing it - takes you back to a simpler, better time! NO ELSE REMEMBERS THIS GAME - SEE, EVERYBODY, I'M NOT CRAZY!!!

Thu Mar 20, 03:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Gary said...

Well, I remember...
Our family played it together in Sydney, Australia, in the 60s.

I've been trying to trace a copy of this game for a while now (which is how I stumbled into this blog).

Why? Because I'm constantly reminded of it whenever I have a list of things to achieve in a day: yes, it is all about time- (and space) management skills. It taught me about planning the best route to take in order to complete the most tasks in the least time; very eco-friendly if you think about it.

I've been telling some game-playing friends about it for a couple of years now. I think it would be a laugh to play it with them. It is a strategy game which uses life-skills... or am I looking at the past through rose-coloured glasses?

If I can't find a copy (NOT paying $200 for it!) I'm thinking of mocking up a copy. The board should be easy enough, but the cards would be the trickiest bit...
cheers, Gaz

Mon Jun 08, 11:16:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Jules said...

My friends and I played endless hours of Park and Shop. It was the BEST game. When I run around doing chores on the weekend, I always think of the game and how I should plan my route. I recently met up with a friend who played with me 40 years ago, and we died laughing, thinking about the hours we played Park and Shop!

Wed Aug 26, 05:49:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the game well. We spent many hours doing our shopping and having fun. The best memory now is laughing about how politically incorrect it was....ha ha! I don't have one in front of me but I remember a traffic card that went something like this:

Behind woman driver...lose a turn!

These games shaped our world and our view of the world without us even knowing what was going on.

Tue Feb 16, 02:21:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Benjamenta said...

My sister is absolutely crazy about this game, at the age of 54-1/2. Some others too from this timeframe. Saw it on EBAY recently for $25. Well, it was fun then, but now? Liked Chutes and Ladders better myself.

Mon Mar 01, 01:36:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just did a google search for "park & shop" and came across your post. I grew up in allentown, pa and I believe that is where park and shop originated and that the board was a sort of image of downtown allentown. we all had copies growing up there in the early 60's. the idea with park and shop was that if you got your stub stamped at a participating store you could park 2 hours for free. thanks for the memories. I could't remember if the real store names were used of just the type of stores and found an image online.
Ken Deppen

Mon Sep 26, 04:30:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Blessed said...

Hey there! I was *just* blogging about Park N Shop myself, so had to leave a comment. I too grew up having fond memories of that game, and did not know anyone else who had even heard of that game--until I met my husband, who also grew up playing it all the way across the country from where I grew up. (CA vs IL) I guess it was meant to be.

Many years later, my MIL gave us the game when it was briefly re-released some time around 2001. When I played it then, I could not stand it--why, this was a nightmare game, forcing me to do errands all evening and deal with driving at a crawl and trying to double-think my errands and route to get home the fastest (so I could make dinner for the Dear Husband before he came home from work, of course). UGH! It was like my own real life, but worse.

Funny, though, now that our kids are old enough to play, I am realizing that it does not have to be all about training us to be good little consumers. You can put a really good environmental spin on that game (since pedestrians can move twice as fast as cars in the same spaces) and I like how the strategy has such real-world connection, which the kids can get.

Anyway, your post made me want to comment back. You are not alone in your nostalgia! : )

Fri Nov 04, 01:51:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger adrienne said...

I also loved Park and Shop. I used to play it at my Grandma's house when I was little and have been searching for it for years. I only just discovered the name of it as my brother got onto the search. I would love to play it are definitely not alone.

Wed Apr 18, 05:04:00 pm GMT-4  

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