Uncle Calvin’s No-Waste Games

Famed humorist Robert Benchley contributed an item to the January 9, 1926 issue of The New Yorker (I do seem to plunder the New Yorker archives a bit these days, and I should add that of course all these¬†materials are ¬© The New Yorker).Typing this, I thought it wasn’t really one of Benchley’s better efforts.

Uncle Calvin’s No-waste Games

“There is a time for play as well as a time for work. But even in play it is possible to cultivate the art of well-doing. Games are useful to train the eye, the hand and the muscles, and bring the body more completely under the control of the mind. When this is done, instead of being a waste of time, play becomes a means of education.” — President Calvin Coolidge’s Christmas Message to the boys and girls of the nation.

And now come, boys and girls, it’s play-time! You have worked hard enough for one day, and Uncle Calvin is going to teach you some peachy games to clear the cob-webs out of those brains of yours. Play-time! Play-time!

But first of all we must remember that play in itself, is a waste of time. And who remembers what we learned yesterday about Wasted Time? The boy or girl who wastes time, or anything else, is just as naughty as the boy or girl who steals, for, after all, wasting is stealing, isn’t it? And play, just for the sake of play, is stealing time which belongs rightfully to our parents, our teachers or our country. And we don’t want to be known as thieves, do we?

So the games which Uncle Calvin is going to teach us are games which will do us good in one way or another. While we are playing them we shall, at the same time, be helping to make our eyes, our hands, and our minds more efficient. And, as we play, we must keep thinking: “Is this helping me? Or am I wasting time which I ought to be devoting to my lessons or my work or my country?” The first game that we are going to play is called


This is just lots and lots of fun – and good for your eyes, too. The boys line up on one side, and the girls on the other. Now Uncle Calvin will stand over here and write on the board a lot of little teeny-weeny figures, problems in percentage, and we will see which can read them off and answer the problems the faster – the boys or the girls. Come now, boys, you don’t want the girls to beat you, do you? All right. . . ready, get set. . . go!

((More fun and games after the cut))

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