by Paul Big Bear
When I was a young boy, in my single digit years, the month of June came with great anticipation, school let out for the summer and vacation started. What did this mean? No homework, play clothes every day, freedom. When the sun rose in the sky I rose for the day, no alarm clock we just got up. Breakfast was served after chores were completed, depending on age, kindling for the stove, coal for the stove, water pumped for cooking and drinking. Breakfast was; oatmeal, eggs, potatoes, meat (bacon or sausage or scrapple), with toast except on the mornings when we had sausage gravy with homemade buttered biscuits.
After we ate it was play time; hike in the woods, get out our cap pistols and air rifles and play cowboy or army, eating fruits and berries that grew wild in the woods. We would swim in the lake, take a row boat to the swamp, go fishing, play ball, make our own slingshots, bows and arrows, ride our bikes out to the paved highway to the village for penny candy at Smilin’ Dave’s. We were never bored, despite the fact we had no radio, no T.V., music was in the evenings, Grams would play the piano, someone would play the victrola, or we would kick back the rugs and make jubilee (Saturday nights only). When it rained we played board games, pulled out our little men (cowboys and Indians or Army), or we read books.
The end of the school year the school sent home a flyer to buy books, twenty-five cents to a dollar per book, I remember buying five books for the summer, plus there were magazines, comic books, and newspapers. Bedtime came with sundown. We needed no clocks we knew when to come home for lunch and dinner (just in case Grams had a cowbell that she would ring). Bedtime was for sleep. We slept well even on the hottest nights, no air conditioning, no window or ceiling fans, just an open window and transom for air circulation. Sleep was a time for dreams. One night each summer we would gather our friends and my parents would load us (all of us) into the station wagon and we would go to the Drive Inn for a movie, a dollar a car load, all us children would take a blanket up to the front of the parking area and watch from there, we all had at least a quarter for food at the concession stand.
We had fun! What was different for us from today’s kids? We had imagination and we used it to have fun, what we did not have was the burden of over whelming fear. Once school closed for the summer we didn’t hear any more about “Duck and Cover”, we didn’t have the evening news reporting death and destruction, more illness, death from war. We weren’t naïve, we knew that we had to be careful in the woods, in the water, or riding our bikes, these were just common sense things. We knew right from wrong and so did our parents and grandparents who ensured proper behavior not only with punishment but more importantly by example. Of course we knew there were bad people in the world but we had adults who watched out for us. Teachers, neighbors, policemen, firemen they were our friends and we listened to them. What is different now? Overload? We went to school and learned, we used our minds, today everything is beamed into our lives via some form of electronic device and of course it’s all true. Except for the parts we are told need to be erased because it is offensive. History and the Bible, two of my favorite subjects.