My kids often extend pity in my direction because I had such a deprived childhood. After all, I grew up before the advent of the internet, smart phones, video games (well, we DID have Pong), Pokemon, and all the other awesome stuff they have nowadays. But with all their “awesome” technology, it seems they still can’t find enough to fill their days. With summer fast approaching (only 2 1/2 days of school left), my kids are already complaining about how bored they’ll be. Funny, I can’t remember ever being bored when I was a child.
Here’s a day in the life of one of my childhood summers:
Mom didn’t wake us kids up in the mornings during the summer. We could sleep in or wake up early. The only deal was that if we were awake before the others in the house, we would keep the noise down till everyone was up. I had a small radio in my room next to my bed, so if I was awake early, I’d tune in to one of the local AM stations. WHP was my favorite, with DJ Ron “Ducky” Drake, whose theme song was “Rubber Ducky.” It was fun to count how many times in a morning he’d make his ubiquitous rubber ducky squeak.
My brother and I would eat breakfast–usually cereal or a Pop Tart–and do some morning chores. We’d have to make sure our rooms were clean and feed the dog. Sometimes we’d water plants or sweep the driveway–nothing that violated child labor laws.
When we were done with our work, we were pretty much free the rest of the day. We usually weren’t allowed to “go knocking” (see if our friends could play) till after lunch, so we had to entertain ourselves most of the morning, or if our friends happened to be outside, we could go play with them. I enjoyed my playtime. I had action figures, stuffed animals, blankets, play food, etc. that I could spend hours making up stories for, and I was often disappointed when lunchtime came.
Lunch was always simple too, a sandwich or a can of Ravioli. We’d eat and put our plates in the sink, and then be off again.
A lot of days I’d play outside with friends. We did the usual things like riding bikes, jumping rope, blowing bubbles, playing jacks or other outdoor games like tag or hide and seek. If it was raining, we’d play Barbies inside, or play board games, or even put on some records (you know, those things that played music, kind of like CDs or mp3 players) and have a dance party. One friend had a small pool, so some days we’d go swimming, after we cleaned the Japanese beetles and other bugs out of the water, lol.
Even when there was no one around to play with, I found lots to do. I always had paper and crayons, and I was forever drawing. I’d make little storybooks, copy pictures out of other books, try to draw favorite cartoon characters, or if I was feeling ambitious, I’d try to draw something realistic like a landscape or a person.
My favorite days, as an older child, were the days I’d walk in town or go to the library. We lived probably a mile or two from town, so it was a hike, but I enjoyed it. At that time, there were a few little shops in town, nothing fancy. I’d often check out the five-and-ten shops, and if I really felt ambitious, I’d hike just out of town to the Ben Franklin store. They sold craft supplies, small toys, and various household items, and I’d always find something there.
Library days were the best! I’d walk in to the school, which also housed the public library. I always had trouble settling on one or two books, so I’d often come home with a stack of six or seven. I loved stories about animals, and of course anything spooky, and I’d also read nonfiction books about nature, weather, interesting people, or whatever else I might be interested in at the time. I still recall the one time I came home with eight books in my arms. My dad said, “There is no way you’ll read all those books in three weeks.” Challenge accepted, and challenge completed.
Other highlights of my summers included Vacation Bible School–we had a lot of small churches in our town, so we’d always combine with at least one other church–firemen’s carnivals (oh, how I miss those!), various fruit festivals, visits to fruit farms to buy fresh fruit, visits to Miller’s Dairy for ice cream (only 50 cents a cone!), riding the ferry boat, picnics by the river, and playing at the MYO (a small playground close to the river).
In the evenings and at night, we’d catch lightning bugs and either hold them for a minute and let them go or put them in a glass jar until we had a blinking lantern. Of course, we’d let them go before we went inside. I also loved stargazing. My dad would always come outside with us and point out constellations or bring out the telescope so we could look at the moon or find planets.
Of course, we watched TV sometimes too. They had good cartoons on in those days–Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, Popeye, and some that aren’t around anymore like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Battle of the Planets, Valley of the Dinosaurs, and Kimba the White Lion. Primetime had good shows too, things we kids were allowed to watch, like Dukes of Hazzard, Mork and Mindy, Family Ties, Sha Na Na, The Muppets, and Hee Haw.
So kids, don’t feel too sorry for Mom and Dad. We may not have had all the technology and “cool” games you guys have nowadays, but I honestly think we got the better deal.