By Mary Ellen Shaw
As adults we have occasions to observe how small something actually is that seemed large to us when we were children.
That happened to me just before the school year came to an end at Christ the King School. I drove by as students were taking part in an activity on the south side of the building. I went to school there back in the 1950s and the south side was where the girls were assigned to play in the morning before school started.
That section seemed like a pretty big play area to me back then. As I watched the kids having fun I was thinking how lucky they are to have grass where there was pavement “back in the day.” Although there were only about 20 students in that play area it didn’t look very spacious. During my time at the school there were at least 10 girls in each of the eight grades. That would mean about 80 girls playing in that section. I guess when you are little yourself a tight area can seem large just because everyone fits into it.
A trip to Lake Dunmore as an adult provided me with another comparison of large to small. Growing up, my parents loved going to Lake Dunmore on a Sunday afternoon. It was a time to swim and have a picnic. The lake seemed huge at the time. Many years passed before the “adult me” went back to that lake. As I was walking toward it I couldn’t get over how small it seemed. By that time in my life I had been on vacations to the ocean in Maine and Cape Cod. After seeing the ocean it’s no wonder Dunmore looked small on my return visit!
A childhood friend came to my family home after not having been here for over 30 years. We spent some time on the back porch and she commented how small the porch seemed. We used to spend countless hours playing jacks on the porch floor. We had plenty of room to do that even with a large table and chairs and a couch. When you are little yourself, you don’t need much room. If we could manage to get our bodies down on the porch floor today for a game of jacks we would be bumping into something for sure.
The plot plan that shows the lot sizes for ours is 50 feet by 150 feet. There were several vacant lots on our street during the 1950s and some parents made them available as play areas for us. The lot next to my family home is a good example. My parents bought it in order to prevent a house from being built closer than they wanted. During the summer months there was always a badminton net and croquet wickets on our side lawn. It seemed like a huge play space at the time.
Another neighbor mowed their side lawn so we could play baseball. It never seemed small. In fact it seemed like a big ball field to all of us.
In the winter months another side lawn became a skating rink. It was flooded by one of the parents and lights were put up so we could skate at night. It seemed pretty massive at the time as a dozen kids skated in any direction their little hearts desired. When we went to public rinks we realized that they were more than triple the size of our neighborhood rink.
Back in the ’50s there was a lot on Piedmont Drive that was full of apple trees. To us kids it was an orchard but looking at the size of that property today it probably didn’t have anywhere near enough trees to be considered an orchard. But they were great to climb! A friend and I brought her horse to the orchard and he enjoyed the apples and water from Moon Brook. Even Moon Brook looked pretty large as we tried to jump from one side to the other. I guess I had better not trample over anyone’s property today to compare the size to yesteryear!
How we rate large versus small even applies to people. I remember watching TV shows when I was a youngster and some of the characters seemed to fit into the large or plus size category. But in viewing the reruns on TV the adult me does not see them as chunky by any means. They may have been carrying around a few extra pounds back then but so am I today! A couple of TV characters who seemed plus size back in the day were Hazel, the maid to the Baxter family and, Ethel Mertz, the neighbor and friend of Lucille Ball. They don’t look plus size to me in today’s world…but maybe I am just in denial about what is considered plus-size.
Looking back can certainly give us new perspectives on many things. Size is one of them!