Diana West

When I was kid, my family played Totopoly during long, very black, Irish winter nights unbroken by the garish glare of television (which we didn't have) and other plug-in distractions. And we played with a perhaps peculiar intensity. Or at least I did, age 8. I still remember, after a particularly rigorous training round, the sting of losing my last mount, Marmaduke Jenks, before the race on Side 2 had begun. The poor horse was deemed "unfit" by a "Veterinary Surgeon's Report" card and -- chilling words -- "SCRATCHED from the Race." That's when I felt the sting.

Actually, I bawled, striking a deep chord of sympathy in my rather softhearted parents, who went on to sponsor Marmaduke Jenks' unprecedented, indeed, miraculous recovery. The horse, to the chagrin of some people (my brother), went on to win "the Race."

I enjoyed playing my "new" Totopoly this month, although there was something missing -- no quarantine for heelbug, no incurable "coughing trouble," and nobody's horse got "SCRATCHED from the Race." This I put down to our good luck, or maybe my bad memory. Then I noticed that the separate bag of older accessories -- playing cards, metal horse-markers and the like -- included a stack of vet reports that, sure enough, delivered the odd wallop of bad news that had once felled my Marmaduke Jenks. This element of the game had been eliminated in the game's more modern incarnation.

Why? The answer may offer a glimpse of where Totopoly originally fit into the Erector-Monopoly era of adult influence. If Erector sets taught us to build, and Monopoly taught us to bank, then maybe Totopoly taught a little something about the school of hard knocks -- something more familiar to the gamesters, young and old, of the 1930s than the 1970s. By then, the shield of affluence protecting perpetual childhood warded against such "blows." Soon, even winners and losers would be barred from the playground, a recreational protection that serves the current cult of "self-esteem" and other dumbed-down standards.

All of which places classic Totopoly in that earlier era -- where I like to play.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).