When I was a kid in the 50s there was a phrase I often heard chanted at this time of year, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!”
I really liked school, so that chant didn’t come from my lips. However, like any kid I looked forward to a summer full of fun.
Our neighborhood had about a dozen kids so there was always someone to do things with. The number of boys and girls was pretty evenly split, which made it nice.
Creating our own entertainment worked well for a few weeks but as time passed many mothers opted to enroll their children in programs at the Rutland City playgrounds. Nine city playgrounds were located throughout the various neighborhoods, so children could always walk to one. They offered many organized activities and good supervision. I have a hunch that the mothers checked with one another before suggesting to their child that he or she attend. You know the logic…if your friend was going, then you would want to go too! The playground closest to our home was at the former Meldon School on Center Street. (The fire station is currently at that site.)
The activities of the 50s speak to how simple the times were back then. The playground contests included watermelon eating, best pigtails, unusual buttons and freckle counting. Arts and Crafts offered such options as weaving potholders on metal frames, making leather key chains and painting rocks. There was plenty of room for kickball and running around to get rid of pent-up energy. The summers always ended with “Indian Day” at Rotary Field Playground. The children from all locations were invited to take part in that fun filled day.
It was probably a good thing that my cousin Betty and I didn’t have a lot of spare time to plan our fun, because that usually led us to water. We had a “Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn spirit.” We decided one summer day to float from the Piedmont Pond section of Moon Brook to the pollywog section near her house on Engrem Avenue. First of all we needed to find a raft. After looking around my house we figured the two of us could fit in a large wooden drawer. We emptied its contents on the kitchen floor and off we went to Moon Brook. We placed the drawer in the water and hopped in. You can guess how far we got…nowhere! The drawer sank and so did our rafting trip. We brought one very wet drawer back to my house and had some explaining to do! In my adult years I learned that we would have failed anyway, due to the way the brook flows.
Another water adventure took place right at the foot of my driveway. It was really hot and we thought it would be nice to stick our legs in a pond to cool off. We dug a very large hole and then got the garden hose to fill it with water. Well, you can probably guess how that went. It was one muddy mess that held the water for all of a minute. There was more explaining to do!
Another water adventure took place on a Sunday trip to Lake Dunmore. Betty and I couldn’t wait to get in the water. A relative from Connecticut was visiting. Because she was elderly and had no children she wasn’t prepared for what could happen when two kids, especially Betty and I, were near water. She accompanied us down to the lake’s edge where Betty promptly picked up a good-sized log and dropped it with full force into the water. We had one very wet relative who took it all with grace. Our own mothers were wise enough to stay back in the grassy area. They knew our reputation around water!
We were certainly old enough at that age to not need constant watching but when the two of us got together the wheels seemed to turn.
This summer will offer opportunities for kids to make their own memories. I hope looking back some day is as much fun for them as it is for me.