For children of the ’80s or earlier, it likely involved a board game like Wahoo, whose origins date back to the Depression era, when a 15-by-15-inch piece of scrap wood could be transformed into the strategy game played with marbles and dice.
While Wahoo (also called Aggravation) went commercial with plastic and paper versions in the 1950s and ’60s, its popularity dimmed once arcades and then home video gaming took over.
Unless you went to Grandma’s house.
Thankfully, one local couple is doing its part to keep family game night alive the old-fashioned way. Piedmont’s David and Susan Hoehner own DJ’s Creations, making high-quality versions of the board games with which they grew up.
DJ’s Creations sells 14 games in all, including Wahoo, Sequence, Joker, Chinese Checkers, Triangle, Round Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe. In various stains and large and small sizes, the beautiful sets become a piece of game art in the home.
The boards range in price from $17 to $36 based on size and type. Special team color versions are available, such as orange and red for a Sooner/Cowboys match-up. The duo primarily sets up shop at craft fairs and markets such as Mistletoe Market, but the games also are available for sale online at djscreations.net.
The Hoehners attend up to six shows a year, with the largest being An Affair of the Heart in Tulsa, which boasts 450 vendors the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Established about six years ago, DJ’s Creations is just a husband-and-wife team splitting the duties of crafting and selling the games. David Hoehner does the woodworking and sculpting the marble holes, sanding and varnishing, while Susan stains the boards and adds the colored dots and backing.
The sets include the marbles, dice, cards and instructions. Although they both work full-time at other jobs, they hope to hock their homemade wares at more shows when they retire.
Currently, they sell more than 1,000 boards a year to customers of all ages. Younger patrons often buy the boards for gifts at weddings and birthdays, whereas older ones purchase the games for the childhood nostalgia factor and sharing it with their children and grandchildren.
Susan Hoehner remembers her father making a Wahoo board when she was a child, using a leftover piece of wood from putting a new countertop and sink in their house.
“Nothing was wasted,” she said. In fact, she said their best-selling game is Wahoo, which involves players maneuvering four marbles around the board to home base first without being knocked out by their opponents. It should be noted that the more players and the more marbles, the longer a game takes.
Getting unplugged and off the grid is gaining favor in homes, and psychologists like Dr. Lisa Marotta of Edmond encourage the practice.
“According to the American Psychological Association, increased screen time is associated with decreased attention, sleep, physical activity, social interaction and grades. Screens cannot substitute for the active social skill learning and connectedness that takes place during family game nights,” Marotta said. “Children who come to my office often share positive memories about playing outside and inside games as a family and choose game night as a reward for reaching a goal.”
Fortunately, the appeal of strategy and winning never goes out of style. Discovering DJ’s Creations not only brought back fond memories for this writer but did exactly what the Hoehners intended. Within minutes of me setting the Tic-Tac-Toe game on a glass table in the living room, my 16- and 8-year-old sons started playing without a single prompt. When the teenager left the game, his 13-year-old sister jumped in.
On a warm fall afternoon, a Wahoo match outside on the patio table between she and I produced something far greater than a win for each and the declaration by the teen that it was her new favorite game.
The real score? Interaction, real-life communication and sharing the same space.