It is time once again for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver. This week’s challenge takes us back to our own childhood:
1) Have you written your memoirs yet? If so, please share with us one story from your childhood. If not, then start your memoirs! The story could be a memory of your family life, your schoolwork, your neighborhood, etc. It doesn’t have to be a certain length – just something you recall.
I’ve written a number of posts about childhood memories, but today, I’ll focus on games and activities that kept me – and the other neighborhood kids – outside and out of our parents’ hair!
Nowadays, it always makes me sad to see parents who have shoved a handheld game device in their children’s hands to keep them amused outside. Outside, where there were so many fun activities available! Not only are those children missing out on the sights and sounds and life around them, but they are missing out on learning how to amuse themselves.
Growing up in Passaic, my parents had very similar beliefs to those of my friends’ parents when it came to children. After school and on the weekends, when the weather was good and we weren’t sick, kids were meant to be outside playing and that’s where we were. About the only rule for returning home was if we were late for dinner, we’d be hungry that night.
I only ever remember going to bed without dinner one summer night when I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I was having so much fun playing with friends across the street, that it was getting dark before I remembered that I forgot to go home for dinner! My mother, in particular, wasn’t happy and off to bed I was sent.
What could we possibly be doing that was so much fun we’d forget a meal? Well, lots of things and none of them were activities that would get us in trouble. We were actually pretty well-behaved children.
There weren’t any organized team sports back then – at least not around my neighborhood.
However, children were a plentiful commodity so there was always someone to play with. I remember Bobby, Rosemary, Mary Anne, Johnny, Nancy, Howard, Lenore, Adrienne, Scott, Judy, Margie, Carol, Sandy, Skipper, Patty, Audrey, Gigi, and the list goes on. Some friends didn’t stay long on Summer Street as they lived in the apartments for a while and then moved elsewhere.
My front yard (and little brother)
The apartment building across the street was in a U-shape. There is a second building to the right of this one with a wide space between the two. That was a perfect place to play kickball and Red Rover. I don’t ever remember anyone in the apartments that overlooked that central area ever complaining about the noise we made. I think it was just accepted that we were having fun and not harming anything, except maybe the grass, which I don’t ever remember being in good shape anyway.
To the right of the second set of apartments, there was a very shady walkway, appropriately named Shady Lane, with clotheslines, which had metal frames – perfect for jumping up to get a good hold and practice backward somersaults while hanging from the bars.
All the kids had bikes, which we rode regularly. The big kids had an advantage over the younger ones when we crossed the street from one block to the next, as the older ones knew just how to hit the bike against the approaching curb so that the tire bounced up over the curb without having to stop and get off our bikes. That probably wasn’t the best trick to do in terms of the bike’s life span, but it sure made bike riding a lot easier.
Some of us also had stilts. I think I was about 10 when stilt walking became the neighborhood craze. The bikes stayed parked and we walked around the block on stilts instead. Most of us could make it around an entire block, even crossing streets, without losing our balance more than once or twice the whole time.
Hopscotch was a favorite activity for the girls, although we played that down in front of Carol’s house. My Nana wasn’t having chalk marks all over the sidewalk in front of our house! Yes, we told her rain would wash it off, but the answer was still NO so down the street we went.
Boys and girls played jacks, outside on the sidewalk, too. We all got pretty good at the game.
When all that physical activity wore us out, or it was too hot, we sat around in the grass that you can see across the street and looked for 4 leaf clovers in the grass. I think we must have been quite bored to be spending fun time outside doing that!
During winter, there was no place nearby to ice skate and we didn’t do much sledding either. The apartment grass had a good downward slope, but I think sleds would have really chopped up the ground. However, building snowmen was definitely a top winter time activity.
Lastly, in the summer months, a certain man drove down our street with his bell ringing. That was the signal to go running for a nickel or dime because the Good Humor Man had arrived. If I remember correctly, ice creams usually cost a nickel or 7 cents with a few fancier choices going for the whopping price of a dime.
The Good Humor Man had the route to himself for many years. However, one summer a second ice cream truck showed up – Mr. Softy! We then had to make a choice between the two, as we didn’t have money to buy both every day. My choice was always the Good Humor Man. My favorite, which I still see in supermarket freezers, was the strawberry shortcake bar. I also remember really liking the 4th of July special.
Growing up in Passaic was terrific!
Thank you, Randy, for an opportunity to walk down our own Memory Lane.