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Summer in the city

When you think about summer what do you recall? I remember my friends in the neighborhood. We all played together – boys and girls, young and old. We did not have many toys we used.

Often it was Kick-the-Can. Someone got a can out of their garbage, washed it and we used it instead of a ball. Kick-the-Can was like baseball with bases made of whatever happened to be around. We chose teams with some younger kids and some older kids. That is the only way the game was fair.

At night it was fun to play ide-and-Seek. You could hide in the shadows and no one would see you. We all had favorite hiding spots. I remember hiding on the side of the neighbors’ house in a little indent by the porch. Sometimes we just spread right out on the lawn in plain sight. No one wanted to be it because it was hard to find people under the cover of darkness.

Sometimes we played horseshoes in the neighbor’s backyard. I got so I was pretty good at that. The stakes were the standard distance apart. When they say “close only counts in horseshoes” it is because your shoe had to be within the length of the shoe to count.

My backyard was the spot for croquet. I had a croquet set that I got with Weatherbird stamps. They were stamps you got when you purchased Weatherbird shoes. I remember how excited I was when I looked at the catalog and found out I had enough stamps to get the croquet set. We had a lot of fun with that set for four players. I brought it over here when I moved to this area. Later my mother picked a set for six players as a gift when she won a contest. That is the one I have now. Even the grandchildren enjoyed playing croquet.

Grandpa’s yard was small. He had beautiful azaleas planted everywhere. There was a mock orange bush where we always had pictures taken. That made a great backdrop.

He also had one rose bush that grew quite large. I hated that thing because it broke all of my beach balls. The yard did not seem so small when it came time to mow. We used one of those old push mowers. I remember one time I pulled the mower up the little hill and the mower slid back down. All I had was the handle. I had to wait for Grandpa to get home to fix it.

We also rode bikes up and down the street. Park Avenue was not busy. There was a railroad up at the end.

You could go through there to get to another street but traffic was not bad – hence we played in the street.

Sometimes we played hopscotch. There were always boards drawn on the sidewalk. Of course, they washed away when it rained, but then we drew another one. When I taught school, I made hop scotch boards out of masking tape in the gym for indoor recesses. I taught the children how to play. It was something different for them to do.

We did not play four square. I think that game came later on.

Of course, we played jump rope. We made up rhymes to jump. One person jumped while the others counted. We would see who could get the highest number. I passed these games on to some of my classes and to the grandchildren. They did not take much equipment.

When hula hoops came along, we played with them. Again, we made up rhymes to see how long we could keep it up.

Life was so different when I grew up. Neighborhoods were safe. No one worried about you. You left the house and were told to be back by dark. Our young people are missing so much. Oh, they have all of their electronics, but they are missing the interaction with kids in the neighborhood. We did not leave home to play. We played with the neighbors. Maybe that is why my childhood friends are still my friends via Facebook.

I got a list of things asking how many of them I had done. My answer was all of them. I drank from a hose. I played in the street. I ate popsicles that you broke in half to share. I pushed the swing until the legs of the apparatus came out of the ground. I played outside after dark. I played with guns – toy guns and never thought about really shooting anyone. I cannot remember any more of them, but I did them all. How did I ever live to be a ripe old age? Today there would be laws against these things.

I had a stable household although my dad did not live with us. In fact, I only knew my dad as a little girl.

There are pictures to prove that he was in my life at that time. My grandfather was my male role model and he was a good one.

Even though I had a stepfather at the time I married I asked my grandfather to walk me down the aisle. He had been in that role for a long time. My stepdad was not offended. He knew where I was coming from.

Do you ever wish you could go back to the days when life was simpler?

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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