The growing up years

View from Hickory Heights

Growing up in the 1940s and ’50s was a lot different than growing up is today. Life was so much simpler. Each morning during the summer I got up and had chores to do. We lived with my grandparents. Grandma was in charge of overseeing my chores.

After chores were done, I was free to play with the neighbor kids. We rode bikes. We played games. We embroidered.

Hop scotch was one of the games we played on the sidewalk. Who could get to the top of the design first? We played kick-th -can in the street. There was not as much traffic back then.

Sometimes we put on our roller skates. The old slate sidewalk across the street was a favorite place to skate. It was better than the cement sidewalks with the grooves between the pieces of concrete. We even took our skates to school. We skated to school, then removed our skates and carried them inside. After school we put on our skates and skated home. Yes, we walked to school every day. I walked a total of seven blocks.

On Saturdays I had piano lessons. I rode my bike to my lessons. I had a large basket to carry my piano books. That was about eight blocks from home. Often, I visited a lady from church after my lesson. Miss Genske made great cookies that she shared with me. She lived across the street from the lady who gave me lessons.

We loved to go down to the lake to go swimming. A parent would drop us off and pick us up later. There was a life guard so that was okay. We splashed in the water more than we actually swam.

I had a croquet set that I got with Weatherbird stamps. I got those when my mother bought me new shoes. I saved up until I had enough for the croquet set. We set up the wickets in the back yard. It was not a large space but it was big enough. We spent hours out there going around the course and sending balls after we hit them. That was the process of using your ball to make your opponent’s ball go way out of the course.

We also shot horseshoes. My neighbors had stakes behind their garage. It was fun. We all got pretty good at it. We challenged each other. The next one played the winner.

We were not bored. We had no electronic devices to occupy us. We played old-fashioned board games. Often there was a game of Monopoly set up in one of the houses. We also played Chinese Checkers, Scrabble, and Sorry.

Sometimes we went to the playground. Crafts were done in the morning so I usually went then. After supper we went back to play on the equipment. Of course, we walked there or rode our bikes.

Sometimes we ran through the sprinkler in the yard. If it was a nice summer rain we put on our swimsuits and ran through puddles.

If we got thirsty, we drank from the spigot or from a hose in the yard. We only had pop for special occasions – the same for potato chips. I did not have Kool-Aid either except on special occasions.

Birthday parties were held in our homes. We invited a few school friends. There is a picture of me with four friends. We all wore dresses so I guess we played quiet games.

Evenings we played hide-and-seek. We played well after dark because it was fun to be able to hide in plain sight. I remember my favorite spot to hide as a spot behind someone’s porch. I could stand there then race for home so as not to be caught.

Boys and girls played together whatever we played. The twins up the street had a brother that I adored. He was a year older than I was. I liked it when he shot horseshoes with us.

When I went to kindergarten, I walked home with him. His sisters were not in school yet. They were a couple years younger. People had trouble identifying the twins, but I knew them apart. I could not understand why others mixed them up. They each had their own personality.

During the winter we rode our sleds in the road. That was much better than on the sidewalk. Our old brick street was ideal. It never got too slippery.

Of course, once again I had chores – but they were done after school. I was responsible for cleaning the driveway so that my grandfather could get the car in when he got home from work. It was a long driveway by city standards. If I had the main part shoveled grandpa would help me with the rest when he got home. In town the sidewalks were plowed by a tractor and plow. The snow piled up by the sidewalk to the house.

Our milk was delivered by a milkman. He put our milk into a little box that was built right into the side of the house. Even if he was especially early the milk would not freeze in there. We never ran out of milk and had to run to the store!

I could go on and on with all of the differences. Was life better back then? I think it was. There was little crime in our small town. We could all walk wherever we wanted to without fear. Our community was safe. Today even the small towns and cities are not immune to crime. People steal things. They damage others property. They hurt others.

Old-fashioned values are out the window. Sadly, the old-fashioned idea of do unto your neighbors as you would have them do to you is no longer the norm.

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


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