Tuesday, March 30, 2010


the potato sack race




how many still remember the gunny sack race you took part in on sports day when you were in primary school? the sack race used to be something universal: primary or junior school pupils all over the world have had the experience of the wrestling with the rough sack as they tried to haul it across the field as quickly as possible to the finish line. in singapore, it looks like not many primary schools have retained this fun event as part of their sports day programme.

i remember in our primary school days, we referred to it as the potato sack race. why potato sack? it is because the jute bag's original use was to pack agricultural produce such as potatoes, corn, coffee beans and grains like wheat and rice.


some pupils disliked the feel of the coarse jute rubbing against their body as they struggled with the sack to maintain their speed and balance. it got hilarious when some participants tripped and stumbled. this particular event is a test of speed, strength and flexibility. you were supposed to get into the sack, gripped the top tightly and jumped or hopped all the way to the finish line. if you walked or ran, you might finish but you would be unlikely to win the race.

do you know that the sack race was an olympic event in the 1904 olympics held at st louis?

what about these other events held on the school field twenty, thirty or forty years ago? do you remember them? the egg and spoon race? balancing the bean-bag on the head race? crawling through cane hoops race? throwing objects into a wicker waste-paper basket? balancing the quoit on the head race?

12 comments:

unk Dicko said...

Yes Yg...good old fashioned FUN on Sports Day! Even the parents, stallhoders, mandor and others took part. But the sack race was hilarious when some schools used it for their lower primary kids...the sacks were bigger than the kids themselves and many tripped and fell like 9 pins. For adults, did you recall the fireman's arm chair lift race which requires 3 per team. Some got injured when the one being carried was too heavy for their skinny arms...and collapsed while hobbling to finish.
The wheelbarrow race also requires some strength in the arms of the "barrow" person. Same result...some collapsed and suffered minor injuries to their face and dignity.

peter said...

There was one race we did in primary school in the 1960s. You had a pair of "runners" with their left and right ankles tied together by a ribbon. Then u race staright down for 50 meters. The first pair to reach the finishing line was the champion. what do u call this race?

yg said...

dick, the fireman's lift and the wheelbarrow events could result in injuries. another hazardous sport, sometimes designated as a staff event, was the tug-of-war.

yg said...

peter, you are describing the 3-legged race - also popular during our time.

Lam Chun See said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for bringing back to mind some of the sports events that we used to have in primary school. When I blogged about my primary school, the Braddell Rise School, I could only recall two events; the Sack Race and Fishing Ping Pong.

In Fishing Ping Pong, you had to transfer ping pong balls floating in a pail of water from one pail to another using a pair of chop sticks. And then race to the other end.

Victor said...

Some of these games were outright dangerous. I believe that they were taken off because the young participants might get seriously injured. With our over-protective parents nowadays, you could imagine the organisers (i.e. the school and the teacher) would be in for a hard time if the precious tots got injured. Now teachers are not even allowed to administer corporal punishments on the students, I believe.

I remember one of "larger" scouts in my troop broke his forearm while trying to clear a pole. He was piggy-backed by a smaller scout. The former is now a lawyer and Buddhist artifacts collector/enthusiast.

WK said...

Another hilarious event was the "Caterpillar" race.

Regards,
wee kiat

Yu-Kym said...

I hated the sack. So dirty!!
The 3-legged race was fun to watch - especially when people tripped or had to walk/hop because they couldn't coordinate their movements. It was fun to have a partner whom you could actually run with.

yg said...

wee kiat, the caterpillar race is a team event? you sit on the ground and move forward with your hands gripping the respective ankles - left hand on left ankle and right hand on right ankle - and it goes down the line. is this how it is played/raced?

yg said...

yu-kym, with small children, who are not well coordinated, any event can be fun to watch. nowadays, some do not use the gunny sacks; instead they use bags made from plastic material. not so dirty.

kimology said...

We used to call it the 'gunny sack'. I had looked forward to doing it but never had the chance. The bean bag on the head was the safest and Pr 1 kids always do it. But what I really love about Sports Day was the ice cold Milo.