Thursday, July 22, 2010

Childhood Summer Memories

by Joyce

I've always loved summer. When I was a kid, I'd be outside all day, only going in the house to eat. I'm pretty sure my mother enjoyed the peace and quiet. I grew up in the city, and our only instruction was to come home "when the street lights came on," something suburban kids miss out on.

Most of the time, all the neighborhood kids ended up in our yard. We'd play games like Mother May I, Red Rover, and Red Light--Green Light--Stop. Sometimes we'd take our Barbie dolls outside. We also had paper dolls, which we called Cut Outs. I'll really show my age here: I had Lennon Sisters and Jane Fonda paper dolls. And does anyone remember Betsy McCall paper dolls that used to be in the back of McCall's magazine? I had those, too. If it rained, we either played inside or read books.

I never had a bike, because Mom thought they were too dangerous. I had a scooter instead. It was a good thing Mom never saw me flying down the alley without using the brake. I had roller skates, too--Chicago metal ones that clamped onto the bottom of my shoes. (I still have my skate key.) We used to play roller derby while racing down the same alley. I'm surprised I have any skin left on my knees or elbows.

On sweltering evenings the whole family gathered on the front porch, unless there was something good on TV. One year, when the show Medical Center was popular, there was a neighborhood power failure every Wednesday night at nine o'clock just when we were gearing up to watch it. I have no idea why--maybe everyone turned their sets on at the same time!

I was 16 before I went on my first vacation. We went all the way up to Northeast, PA, on Lake Erie. We rented a musty old cottage where the water in the shower was barely a trickle. I hated it. (My oldest sister and her family still go to the same cottages every year. I think they've been remodeled since then. At least I hope they've been.)

I realize now that we were poor (my mother was a widow on Social Security), but I never knew it growing up. We always had plenty to eat, clothes on our backs, and everything we needed. We just didn't get everything we wanted. But I think that's a good thing. It taught us to we had to work for the extras. If I wanted the latest 45 single, I had to save my ten-cent per week allowance to get it. Nowadays, it's too easy to just whip out one of several plastic cards. (The only card my mother had was a Gimbels "charge-o-plate" and she only shopped in Gimbels' bargain basement.)

Well, that's enough rambling from me for one day. What do you remember about your childhood summers? What kind of neighborhood did you live in? Did you take vacations? Tell us one of your favorite memories!


Annette said...

OMG. Betsy McCall dolls! Yes, I had those and collected all the paper outfits for her.

I was never inside when it was daylight in the summer either. And after dark, I'd be out catching lightning bugs.

I lived on a farm, so there weren't a lot of kids around. I had one neighbor girl who was my bff, although we didn't call it that back then. We converted one of my grandfather's old farm sheds into a clubhouse complete with curtains in the windows. My other favorite memory is climbing the hay bales stacked to the ceiling in the barn, the way kids climb those rock walls now. It's amazing we never fell and broke our necks!

Joyce Tremel said...

I remember my mother saying once, "If you fall and break your neck, I'm going to kill you!" (Okay, maybe it was more than once.)If I would have told her she couldn't kill me if I broke my neck because I'd already be dead, I would have gotten The Look.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

When I was 9 or 10, I got my first BB gun. Remember Christmas Story and Ralphie? I can't tell you the argument between my Mom and Dad and "He'll put his eye out!"

Well, that summer my Buddies and I spent all day in the woods playing combat. That's right. Shooting BBs at each other.

My best friend had a pump gun that used air pressure and he could pump it up to 5 times. We had a rule that he could only do one pump in combat. It wasn't until years later that he admitted that for certain people, he would slip in an extra pump or two. He never told which of us he would reserve the extra punishment for.

Nobody got hurt, at least seriously, but there were plenty of welts and bruises.

Annette said...

It's amazing any of us survived our childhoods! LOL!

Joyce Tremel said...

That's a great story, Will. You really ARE lucky you didn't put anyone's eye out!

My younger son had an MP-5 that shot plastic pellets. They smart when they hit! (This is the kid with the neuroscience degree who now does brain/Alzheimer's research. I thought for sure he'd end up on on a SWAT team.)

Joyce Tremel said...

Has anyone else made a conscious effort to NOT say the same things to their kids (or someone else's kids) that our parents said?

I tried, but every once in awhile I had one of those OMG I'm Turning Into My Mother moments.

Ramona said...

I grew up in the country, too, surrounded by walls of sugar cane. A lot of my summers were booooring. Seems I spent most of the time reading, watching TV, riding my bike through the fields and listening to my brothers fight. My mother worked so we were on our own a lot. The highlight of the day was the arrival of the mail.

Now, this is all story fodder. Sometimes I'm writing two characters bicker, and it goes on and on and on and I can't seem to make them stop, and I know it's my brothers' fault.

Patg said...

Charge-o-plates! Wow, hadn't heard that since childhood. My mother had a card for Fowler Dicken Walker: The Boston Store. They were bought out by Boskoffs (sp).
All Pennsylvania business, right?
I grew up in a suburb of Wilkes Barre.
Ye old airline/travel agent person here.
Does anyone know why the Scranton/Wilkes Barre airport is coded AVP?

Gina said...

I grew up in the city, too. The only charge card my parents had was Sears, for school clothes and car repairs only. I was lucky enough to live on a dead end street - it ended at a cemetery! Mine was the last house on the left, with only a dahlia field separating it from all the dead folks. And I was hardly ever allowed to do anything!