At the turn of the century, children and adults had less free time than is the case today. But,when they did play, it may have been with a truly Canadian game. Crokinole! It appears that thegame was invented in Perth county in Upper Canada before 1867 and had become so commonin homes that Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote that sheloathed the game as it had intruded upon almost every parlour--a sure sign of its popularity. Thisgame sold in both the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues in the 1890's and inEaton's (1892) for about $2.25. Quite a bargain considering that same game sells in Britain nowfor 370 pounds sterling or $780 Canadian.
Some toys that were loved by children of that era would be "jacks" whose origin can be tracedback 2,000 years. Also dads or grandpas may have whittled "bilboquet", "ninepins" and "whipand peg tops" which were round wooden tops that were spun by the child by winding a stringaround it and pulling. When the toy was released it would spin on its point. Bilboquet would alsohave been made of hardwood and this toy improved hand- eye coordination because you had tocatch the ball in a cup or on a stake. Ninepins may have been the forerunner of bowling as thegame consisted of nine hardwood pins and two wooden balls small enough for a child to tuckinto his pocket when he was done.
Anyone with a few tools and any skill at whittling could gift another with the joy of music bymaking a "fife" of maple. Or maybe a child might find a penny whistle or harmonica tucked intohis or her Christmas present.