Things were simpler because we were just kids and our parents took care of everything as we ran around freely just being kids. We played on the streets till the street lights came on. We drank from the hose when we played outside. We could walk to the library, movies, or school alone with no worries. Rode our bicycles everywhere. No name brand anything to keep up with. Played outside barefoot running wildly catching lightening bugs. Simply eating cherries in the backyard on lawn chairs as a family chatting away. We were taught no matter what our job may be, president of a large company or janitor mopping floors, we were to do the very best job possible. It was harder because we were instilled with “Duck and Cover” courtesy of Bert the Turtle. There was an imminent fear of destruction during the Cuban Missile Crisis. School reminded us with “Duck and Cover” drills. Television reminded us with Bert the Turtle Civil Defense announcements. The memories are evocative while looking at these photos of a time not so long ago. It all brings back the smells, sounds, tastes and feelings of a life that once was. Oh how the world has changed but I’ll leave that up to the next generation of kids to tell you all about it.
I’ll start out with the scary part. Duck and Cover with Bert the Turtle. Check this video out. It will show you in a nutshell what we were being taught as far back as the early 1950’s. After WWII, the Soviet Union began testing nuclear weapons and the Korean War was in full swing (1950 to 1953). For my particular age group(10 years old at the time), during October 16-28, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred which scared the daylights out of me. I remember being let off by the school bus and tearing cross lots to get home. I actually thought I could outrun the danger of bombs. Home was a magic place for me with all the safety you ever needed. Well, we know how that all works now and it isn’t pretty.
With all that nastiness out of the way, let’s reflect upon all the fun times and interesting gadgets of that time. A great pastime was going to the nearest pone or stream to collect pollywogs. Grabbing any kind of old jar we could fine, including a Dixie cup, we gathered our pollywogs and go home to sit and admire our catch. We would keep going back to gather more and notice the various stages they were in, i.e. just sprouting their back legs. My mother was never happy with my finds. She told me they stunk and get them out of here. Okay, I hid them on the side of the house where nobody had to see or smell them. Hey, this was science and I needed to know about these amazing things.
Catching lightening bugs in a jar. These were the most amazing bugs ever! They could light up…WOW! We would get a jar then go out into the backyard and wait for dark. Then we ran all over the place playing tag with every flicker of light. Got pretty good at catching these little guys. My jar shown brightly with many many randomly flickering lights. One had to let them go before going inside so they would not die in captivity. We wanted to catch them again the next night!
I no longer see hopscotch painted out on the school yards. I know they banned dodge ball which explains no dodge ball rings. Whatever happened to hopscotch. Every recess we would race to grab a hopscotch game. Really a bummer when we didn’t make it in time to procure out spot. We even drew out hopscotch in our driveway at home. I no longer see marbles being played. In fact, do not remember my kids playing much of it. At recess, we raced for a patch of dirt to get a hole. If we didn’t get a hole, we traced a circle on the tar to be our pot. Jax was another game we played along with kickball and jumprope. Simple games but so much fun. Now, any activity requires special gear, shoes, balls, helmets whatever. Far too expensive to have a little fun.
Remember the mimeograph machines? Love the smell of the freshly printed worksheets. Was even better when I worked my first job at Amherst College Chemistry Lab and typed out the mimeograph stencils. So easy to correct an error. Loved working with this process. Then, I got to print out 50-100 copies of them. Amazed me how it all worked. Of course typing was my thing regardless of what I was doing. I learned on a manual typewriter progressed to IBM selectrics then the electonic programable typewriter. One day, was working at a hospital doing medical transcription, when they plopped a computer in front of me and so okay continue working. No instructions at all. A lot of trial and error but I adore computers now! Errors are so easy to correct…no fuss no muss.
Oh and think back about movie theater seats. You would cringe if they wanted you to sit in one of these today. Hard without cushioning or very little, straight back, very narrow arm rest, no place for a drink and sit there for a couple hours. Anyone know a good chiropractor! Back then is was quite the seat. Oh, by the way, there was no surround sound.
Cats Cradle was another game everyone played well except boys but they had cooties so who cared. A piece of string or yarn and you were entertained for hours at a time. Trying to memorize how to make all sorts of configurations with the material.
When I was really young, the game of Candy Land was my favorite. How many times has Hasbro changed the board since the original version in 1949? Was different with my children and again with my grandchildren. I suppose they better hop on it to change it for my great grandchildren. Rules haven’t changed though. Still a game of luck of the draw but a lot of fun with younger ones learning colors and counting. Personally, I want my old board back.
On to paper dolls. What a huge pastime that was. Rainy Saturdays usually consisted of cutting out dresses and accessory for a paper doll. Some hung on the dolls with just paper tabs but later they began to put small magnets in the dolls to hold clothing on. The tabs would rip off and was aggravating. You could by a whole paperback book with several dolls and an array of dresses, gowns, gloves, purses, shoes, etc. Some dolls were kids themselves or grown ups. Guess these were a prelude to Barbie and Midge.
I just have to mention this one. Easter was the time of year for new church shoes. We always got patent leather, as they were good for summer or winter wear. They were always buckle shoes, too. My mother was for sure we would break our necks in a “Queen Ann” heel or if there were no straps they would magically go flying off our feet. Strange what mothers thought back then.
This is just a a small view of life back then. The games were simpler and far less expensive. We had a tremendous amount of freedom frolicking up and down the street to our friends houses. Girls wore dresses unless we were outside playing. Had two sets of clothes. School and church then play clothes. Don’t confuse them. Simple things for a simple time. How I miss those days.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Strolling through the past is a marvelous adventure but never forget to create in the present which leads us to the next steps of our life journey. Enjoy!!!