Looking Back
July 21, 2016

Summers of yesteryear

For most of us no time passes faster than the summer months. Back when you were a student on school vacation it really zipped by.

Summer vacation officially started when we left school, chanting, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.” The “lazy, hazy days of summer” were about to begin and a fun time was on the way!

So how did we spend our days back in the 1950s? With about a dozen kids in the neighborhood, there was never a lack of something to do.

Our neighborhood had several new houses under construction during that time. All of the kids seemed to think it was our “job” to check out progress once the workmen left for the day. We got into the houses via the board than ran from the dirt lawn area up to the front door. Often that meant crossing over an 8-ft. deep gully when the cellar wall section had not been filled in.

One time I was supposed to meet a friend for the daily “house check” and she didn’t show up at the scheduled time. So I decided to check things on my own. I entered the front of the house via the board but decided to leave the house from the back. There was no board, so my intention was to jump to the dirt area of the lawn. Unfortunately, I missed and fell down the 8-foot depth of the cellar wall. Why I didn’t break my neck or back I’ll never know. It certainly knocked the wind out of me. As luck would have it there was a ladder that I could use to climb up 8 feet and get out.

I was going to keep this unfortunate experience to myself but my friend came by and saw me sitting on our front steps getting my wind back. Eventually I had to ‘fess up to my parents about what happened, as it was obvious that something was wrong. Of course, they had no idea that I had been serving as one of the young neighborhood “house checkers.” Once they found out, it was the end of that “summer “job!”

We were very fortunate that empty building lots were scattered all over our neighborhood. That meant there was a place to play baseball. There was always a game going on and the girls were as welcome as the boys. It helped that the parents of one of my friends owned the lot next to her house. It guaranteed not being asked to play elsewhere.

Our game of Clue kept us busy for hours. One day the boys would hide a trail of clues and the girls had to follow them until we reached the last one. The following day the girls would hide the clues and the boys would track them down. As I look back we seemed to think that everyone’s property was “ours” as clues were hidden all over the street. We were in everyone’s yard and only one person told us we were not welcome. What was the prize for getting to the last clue? Only bragging rights!

One childhood friend remembers a parade that he and some of the boys put on. They had musical instruments and were rather loud. He said my mother came to the front door and he thought she might tell them to keep down the noise. Instead she clapped in approval of their efforts. I really appreciated hearing about this in a hand-written note from my friend when my mother passed away many years ago.

When you are a child something can look so big and when you are an adult that same thing can look so small. There was a large rock in our neighborhood that we called “Indian Rock.” We used to bring picnic lunches there. I walk in that area, since I live in my family home, and one day I turned to see if it was still there. I could see it but that large rock was not so large any more! It certainly would not be a good picnic spot for even one adult, much less the kids who sat on it long ago!

Riding bikes “back in the day” had some challenges at times. The city paved its streets quite often and a layer of sand was put over the tar-like surface. Kids were always barreling around corners and would tip over. I know from experience that getting sand and tar off a knee is not a fun experience. But did we slow down? Of course not!

Kids certainly do the dumbest things, and I was no exception. One time we decided to see who could go the farthest on our bikes with our eyes shut. Now is that a recipe for disaster or what? I must have really wanted to win that contest because I went so far down the sidewalk that I went off the curb. That scar is still visible on my knee.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the fact that summer is way too short! The fun activities of childhood are but a distant memory, definitely a cherished one. Ah, for the days when I didn’t have a care in the world!

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