Wouldn’t it be great if we could have approximately three months off every year? Yeah, we didn’t realize how good we had it as kids when school was out and we were footloose and fancy free until September. My parents couldn’t afford vacations or camps of any kind, but we still managed to get the most out of the summer.
Back in the day, school ended the Friday before Memorial Day and started the day after Labor Day. No worries about make up snow days. I grew up in Cleveland, so the bus tires were equipped with chains, we had no choice about wearing our winter outerwear (such as heavy coats, boots and gloves), so we went to school no matter what the conditions. The only time I remember unscheduled time off was the year that John F. Kennedy was assassinated and we were all glued to the television. Somber pictures of the riderless black horse with the backward boots in the stirrups and the son saluting his father’s casket remain vibrant today.
Anyway, summer was longer back then. While summer chores included weeding the garden, grass cutting and tending my mother’s flower beds, we still had plenty of time to goof off. We entertained ourselves by batting croquet balls around, savoring Kool-Aid popsicles, and shooting tin cans off a tree stump with our grandparents. Our favorite pastime was exploring. We lived alongside a big section of woods and there was always something to find in those woods. Like a nest of snakes coiled up on the cool ledges of the caves, which we walked quietly by, observing them observing us. Sometimes one of our stupid friends would poke at them with a stick. As I remember this caused most of us to run like we were being chased by the mass of now pissed-off pythons. Some of us peed our pants out of fright!
The area was a favorite for parking teenagers and there was always an abundance of cool beer cans and an occasional bra or panties. Those were “golden” finds, which my Mother promptly burned in the trash barrel. Overnight one year, a rusted car hood appeared in one of the ravines. I’m sure someone put it there for our pleasure and we took full advantage. Instead of careening down the hill on our bikes, we rode that old hood for all it was worth. Nothing controlled the path it took down the steep slope, so every time we climbed on, it was a new adventure.
My dad, who was not an outdoor person, tried his best to make summer fun for us. He took us fishing once (and only once), which turned out to be a disaster when my brother consistently hung his bobber and bait up in the trees and persisted on reeling his bait in every three minutes to see if a hungry fish had found his particular worm. My dad made two mistakes—putting my brother near a tree and trying to fish himself. He purchased us a “Slip’n’Slide” which my brother forever called a “slicky slide.” “Slip’n’Slide” at the time was essentially a large, flat piece of rubberized plastic that you attached to your water hose. It was marvelous entertainment
but Dad only let us use it for a limited time as it used up our well water and flattened the grass like a steam roller. He made a valiant attempt at cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, and I was pretty old before I realized these two foods did not need to resemble the charcoal they were cooked with. Being raised by parents who liked everything well done (including vegetables), was no picnic.
Towards the end of summer, my Aunt Lillian would come in from the city with my cousins and we would go to a park to enjoy the wading pool and lunch. She introduced me to iced tea and tomato-mayonnaise sandwiches. I thought she was the most creative cook this side of the city. By August, we were bored with everything and Mother “entertained” us by having us “paint” the cinder block foundation of our house with brushes and buckets of water. We had the cleanest blocks on the street (does it still count even though we were the only house on the street?)
Evenings and nights were spent catching fireflies (we called them lightning bugs) in jars and our monthly trip to the drive-in theater. We went in our PJ’s as we were sure to fall asleep before the second feature started. Mom would pack a cooler with Kool-Aid, sandwiches and chips. If we were lucky, Dad would make a trip to the concession stand and buy some stale popcorn as a special treat. Those were the days, my friends.
What summertime fun do you remember? Share it right in the comments below.