The Old Neighborhood–II

When I was in elementary school I would come home and begin the real enjoyable part of my day.   School was fun sometimes but like most kids I was more eager to do what I wanted rather than having to do as instructed by the teacher.  I would almost always have my homework done before I left school.   There was allocated time to study.  Lots of kids goofed off during the period but I used it to do my school work so I would be free in the afternoon.   It was only about a six block walk from school to home but me and my best friend would always make it take as long as we could, exploring and just looking to see what was happening in the neighborhood.  Mom of course knew exactly when we got out and she knew how long it should take us to make that short walk home. 

Mom would allow for a little bit of leeway on our walk but not much.  If I was more than about 10 minutes late she would be on the porch waiting.  That was not a good thing.  That meant she would be on my case for being late and she might restrict me to the house.   If the weather was warm enough I always wanted to be outside until dinner time.   I didn’t like having to stay in the house after school except to watch a few special things on TV.   I would carry my books to my room I shared with my brother.  We didn’t have backpacks or even satchels of any kind that I remember.  We just carried our books.  Today all the kids have backpacks.  I can’t really remember when that became the standard.  I guess they started doing that 20 or 30 years ago.  When I was in school only the nerds had satchels or briefcases for their books.   I guess they were ahead of their time.

If I had to stay inside because of the weather or mom was making me do it, I would watch a little TV.  There were the special shows like Howdy Dowdy and Mickey Mouse and local shows just for kids in the afternoon.  They were live shows with a small audience of local kids.  There wasn’t anything like the kids channels today on cable.  There were no electronic games of any kind but we had toys but mostly we liked to go outside.

I was lucky to have a few guy pals on my block so on most days I could always find someone to play with.  My best friend lived only a few houses down the block and we would hook up together to do something.  There was always the bike we could ride.  Mom had a pretty restrictive route we could take.  We weren’t allowed to get more than a few blocks from home on the bikes.  From the time I was 5 or 6 until I started driving a car I always had a bike and rode it almost every day at least a little while.  We particularly liked riding in the alleys because you never knew what you might come across and in the spring and early summer there was always fruit trees you could stop and plunder–peaches, apples, crab apples, pears and even figs.  I didn’t like the figs but it was fun to “steal” them from the limbs hanging over the back fences.

When we weren’t on our bikes we would be playing football or even throwing the baseball around some.  Mostly we played football.  We would play a game of punt.  You would kick the ball and try to back up your opponent as far as you could with the kick. He would catch and do the same trying to make you back up.  The one that could make the other move all the way back to the corner of the street was the winner.   We also played lots of tin can hockey in the street.  Just used and old tin can and whatever sticks we could find and smash away with them to propel the can.  The curbs were the out-of-bounds and we would sit up goals with whatever came to hand.   Sure got a lot of bruised shins doing that game.

Climbing trees was another favorite pastime.  It was fun to get up there and “hide” from everyone.  Of course the moms knew where we were.  My mom actually was pretty good about it although she didn’t like us to go too high.   Naturally we were always pushing the limits of what “too high” was.  It was fun to be up there and pretend you were a soldier or cowboy waiting in ambush on the bad guys.  This was only a few years after the War so we were constantly battling the Japs and Nazis.  To get to sneak up there with your BB gun was the best.  Then you could shoot sparrows or other critters that came along.  Grasshoppers and frogs made as good a target as anything else.  As a last resort there was always each other.   I can report though that those were always just threats and never put into action.  Sometime we would a toy soldier figures on the ground below the tree in what we considered battle formation and then go up into the tree to shoot back down at them pretending our BB hits were an artillery barrage.  We would do this until we knocked down all of them and the jeeps and artillery with them–or until Mom called us in for dinner.

We always ate dinner together.  I liked Dad coming home every day.  There was something very comforting I suppose about him being there and being so dependable.  I loved listening to his tales of his workday. That was probably strange in that age but I did.  Mom never had to worry about me ruining my eyes with an electronic game or video only from reading too much in her estimation.   It was not a complicated life but it seemed good at the time and in hindsight seems even better.

“Say not, Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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