Saturday, July 12, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Summer fun for children

Video games, Facebook, chatting, sleeping and eating is how most kids seemingly spend their summer vacations nowadays. It’s alarmingly obvious that they aren’t outside.

Now, I wasn’t born during the kick-the-can and stickball era, but my generation still spent all summer outside, rain or shine, playing — something the current generation doesn’t seem to be doing.

One of the big activities from my youth was slip and slide. Find a piece of smooth ground, preferably with a downward slope, some heavy duty plastic, some rocks or something to hold the corners of the plastic down and a garden hose. Wet the plastic and slip and slide away.

But our family was too poor to have any spare Visqueen around, so we just hosed down the sidewalk, took a running start, dived and slid on down the sidewalk. It was a lot of fun as long as you remembered to keep your chin up. Everyone in the neighborhood had at least one incident where the chin dropped, the teeth rattled, the tongue got bit and blood spilled. (Remember, we were young and foolish, so don’t try it at home.)

Even today, I can recognize men and women of the sidewalk slide era as we all have unique chin clefts.

Besides sidewalk sliding, we also played touch football, with a rugby flair, in the street. If blood wasn’t drawn, it just wasn’t a good round of football.

For a quieter, safer activity, we built a mockup of the Mercury space capsule — and later the Gemini. It was a combination of cardboard, plywood, spare parts from my dad’s appliance repair business (at least we thought they were spare parts) and two old chairs tipped over. When we sat in them, we were looking up at all the gauges, controls and pictures of Alan Shephard and John Glenn that we wrote to NASA to get.

So, when mom told us to go “fly to the moon,” we really did. We’d go into that box for hours in 100-degree heat. Even when mom called us in for supper, it sometimes took 30 minutes or so to safely land our craft back on Mother Earth. I mean, when you are on the dark side of the moon, you can’t just jump out of the capsule for dinner.

Then there was swimming in the local irrigation ditches after a good rain. We’d dog paddle through the ditches with our friends, the crawdads. Occasionally, one of them would forget we came in peace and claw down on a finger or toe. A blood-curdling scream would echo through the ditch, the crawdad would be flung to the nether regions, and we’d continue on. Sure, we’d have a sore finger or toe, red and puffy, but no one suffered permanent injury.

We played Red Rover and British Bulldog and got dirty and dusty but were never hurt much.

Summers were all about having fun, staying active and freely using our imaginations. Maybe kids today ought to get out more and try having fun, staying active and using their imaginations — it would brighten the summer to see kids out playing something.

– Rick Kron