It takes effort. And hypnotically staring at a digital screen is simpler.
But some of our family’s best times happen while sitting around a table, playing board games. The bizarre pairings of adjectives and nouns in “Apples to Apples” lets my kids try to anticipate my sense of humor, shaped — or mishaped — by years of “The Smothers Brothers” TV show, Mad magazines through my teenage years, Steve Martin albums, and Monty Python, Mel Brooks and early “Saturday Night Live” alums. The kids, who turned out well-adjusted, expect my odd choices in the game.
“Pictionary” separates the artists from the stick-figure-sketchers. “Scrabble” is among our favorites, even though there’s a 99% likelihood that my English-teacher wife will win.
Classic board games have grown in popularity through the pandemic. Folks sheltering in place are pulling them out of the storage closet, dusting them off and getting reacquainted with the rules. They’re good for the brain and for some laughs, and sure beat doom-scrolling on cellphones.
Fran Lattanzio uncovered a board game — far more rare than “Monopoly,” “Risk” or “Clue” — during the past year. She’d retired last May as an art professor at Indiana State University, and wanted to clear out some things she’d accumulated. Lattanzio discovered a copy of the “All About Terre Haute Indiana” board game, along with Coca-Cola cans shaped like bottles.
“It ended up in the basement with toys and things that weren’t used much anymore,” she said of the game. Lattanzio bought it new, back in the early 1980s.
It’s a quirky piece of Terre Haute nostalgia.
Windsor Publications created “All About Terre Haute Indiana,” and nearly 200 similar games for cities around the country in 1981 and ’82. The board games were part of the firm’s “All About Town” limited-edition series, according to video synopsis by Jared Reeves on the Board Game Geek website.
In the video, recorded last May, Reeves opens a previously unwrapped copy, given to him by a former board game salesman.
The object of “All About Terre Haute Indiana” borrows from “Monopoly” a bit. Instead of Boardwalk and Park Place, players in the Haute game roll dice to move their piece through Terre Haute’s streets, visiting businesses on a “shopping list” card and returning home to a “residence” depicted on the city grid. The first to do so, with all of their “travel cards” for each shopping stop, wins.
A colorful mural graces the box’s cover. It features scenes of Fowler Park’s log cabins, golfers and softball players, the Vigo County Courthouse, a covered bridge, the old Hulman Center marquee, stained glass windows at First Congregational Church, a Swope Art Museum patron gazing at paintings, and a fighter jet from the former 181st Fighter Wing.
The logo probably oversells the game’s impact — “An Exciting, Fast Moving Game For The Entire Family.” Most kids wouldn’t get too worked up over imaginary trips to the supermarket, car dealerships, drug stores, tar plant, the Chamber of Commerce offices or radio stations. As Reeves says while inspecting the Terre Haute game in his Board Game Geek video, “It’s like the game play was secondary.”
“All About Town” games aimed to promote the cities and the businesses who paid to be included.
“These were mostly sold as novelty gifts to friends and family who lived there, and wanted something interesting and unique that represented not only the state but the city they lived in and a lot of the businesses that they went to or frequented,” Reeves added. “So that’s why this whole thing is very historical, a time capsule of these cities.”
Indeed, it would be a fun memory-jogger game to play in 2021 for longtime Hauteans, particularly local history buffs.
The gameboard squares include now-bygone businesses. Woolworth and the Snap Shop at Meadows Shopping Center. Great Scot Supermarket. Hillman Jewelers. Meis department store downtown. Valley Federal Savings and Loan. Radio stations WPFR, WBOQ and WAAC. The Pink Flamingo nightclub, home of “great Mexican food and the best entertainment.” Some that have survived or changed got spots, too. WTHI television and radio stations. First National Bank. Forrest Sherer Insurance. And WBAK-TV 38, “where ABC is the place.”
Of course, not every popular hangout or shop is included, because they didn’t buy ads. Maybe they didn’t have extra ad money. “All About Terre Haute” came out during a rough economic recession, when Terre Haute and several other mid-size Indiana cities struggled with some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
Folks know all about hard times in 2021. That’s why board games are resurgent. As Americans try not to spread the virus, they’re turning to time-tested ways to occupy time and have some fun.
Those interested in getting a peek at “All About Terre Haute” can find another copy of the game in the collections of the Vigo County Historical Museum on Wabash Avenue. It’s located on the first floor in the toy section, said Kerri Wilhelm, the museum’s executive director.
Imagine a modern edition of the game, complete with a downtown convention center, a new hotel and an east-side casino. Let’s skip the pandemic theme, though.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.