By Bill Ward
---- — As I age, I really miss those days in my youth when life was a lot more on the slow side; we didn’t have something to entertain us 24/7, but we did have our mind. Many days I would gather with others of my age and between us we would decide what we would do and where and it was, just us that made that decision. If I needed a scooter I made one out of 2 X 4’s and nails with possibly an old skate for wheels. We wanted to play guns, fine, as long as we were careful. Our guns usually consisted of cut up rubber inner tubes from Howell Brothers and yet another 2 X 4 and a nail and small piece of wood for a trigger. We came up with a machine gun rubber gun by putting the 2 X 4 and putting notches in it and taking a string, hammering it in the front of the 2 X 4, and took the string all the way to the back. We then took cut up inner tubes and stretched them from the front to the back of our gun with the string under the rubber band. That way when we pulled the string we would shoot those rubber bands one after another much like a machine gun.
We rode our bicycles all around town and, at times, out in the country. We had no definite plans as to what we wanted to do, but we knew we would do something. Hodges Branch was also a very good place to play and possibly make money. The creek ran all the time then and was inhabited by numerous crawdads and very small fish. We would catch the crawdads and use them for bait and chase the small fish just for fun. We even once decided to catch and keep crawdads and sell them along with worms for some income. All was well until mom came into the garage one morning and there were crawdads all over the garage floor. That little situation ended our crawdad selling and my desire to keep them in our garage.
We, along with my father, would take metal stakes and an electric cord, wet down an area of our yard and let it stand for a day or two being kept wet. Then we would take the stakes and shove them into the ground around the edges of the wet area. Dad would then plug in the stakes to an outdoor plug and the worms came to the top of the ground pretty fast. I suspect the possibility of electrocution was high, but none of us (dad or me) even considered that. We sold worms for a penny each and crawdads, when we had them, for a dime. Seldom did we make any money, but we did fish a lot.
Evenings, instead of watching TV, we would play slips. As we grew older our area of play in so far as slips was concerned increased and was done on bicycles. We would chose sides, one side would go hide the other go find them. The entire neighborhood ended up being our play ground at these times. I remember one time I was attempting to get away from some hunters and managed to hit a light pole guy wire. I was peddling my bike as fast as I could and did not see the wire in front of me. I hit that darn thing full tilt and actually swung head over heels over the wire. My bike crashed into the alley and I crashed into the yard of our neighbor. I ended up with a bruise from my neck to my waist at an angle to my body. I sure had fun explaining that little thing to mom.
We would spend a lot of time in Memorial Park. There was a wading pool which was no more than a cement circle about two feet tall and had a pipe in the middle on a pedestal with water running all the time. There was a drain in the pond and it dumped the water into the branch as an overflow. There was also a large cast fountain that was mainly meant for drinking at the tennis courts and also around the end of the park toward 10th Street. Those fountains made for a lot of fun to wet down those who innocently passed by, if they were smaller than you were. The sunken garden around the same area was also a place to enjoy. In my youth, it was well landscaped and had flowers blooming all the time and was very relaxing to just sit and enjoy.
We would have pick-up baseball games in any vacant field and there were many around this time. The only ball park in town was the one which is now by the high school and it was usually being used by the bigger boys and we were not welcome. One of us would have a ball. Most, but not all, the players would have gloves and if you had a bat you were assured of a spot on one of the teams being chosen. I had one glove for my entire younger years and never felt like I needed to replace it. Basically, I think my frugal dad had gotten me a glove larger than I needed at the time so I would use it longer, and I did. I had a Schwinn bike purchased at Bill Caldwell’s for all of $25. I never had any other bike either and that one ended up with us in San Diego until I was old enough to drive.
Sure didn’t have a lot to keep us busy, we had to make those things our selves. We didn’t have TV, computers, iPads, tablets or much of anything else, but we made do. We used our minds and bodies to find something to do and enjoy. Frankly, I feel that we did fairly well doing that, even in later life. Yeah, I certainly do miss those wonderful and relaxing days.