Thursday, July 21, 2011

As Kids, We Knew How to Beat the Heat

I don't recall any of my friends having air conditioning back in the 60's and early 70's while growing up in Wyoming, Michigan.  But we sure had some hot summers!

This week's 100+ degree (heat index) days have given me pause to remember many of the things we did back then as kids to beat the heat:

  • Made popsicles out of kool aid or on rare occasions, bought one from the push-cart vendors that roamed our streets.
  • Ran through sprinklers and played on the occasional slip-n-slide which first came out in 1961.
  • Swam in small backyard pools that often fell apart flooding the entire backyard because there were too many of us creating a ruckus.
  • Spent the day down by the creek at the base of Daredevil Hill (the creek is now underground because the muck farm adjacent to it at the time became a crowded housing development).
  • Rode our bikes to Palmer Park to play on the shaded trails and wade in Buck Creek (signs posted there now warn against contact with the water).
  • Walked to Rogers Plaza (the first indoor mall in this area and only one at that time) and wandered through it for awhile (we never had any money to spend).
  • Slept in the basement at night (as opposed to second floor bedrooms that turned into ovens during summers).
  • Combed the streets looking for enough empty pop bottles to trade in for an ice cold Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew in real bottles (we got 3 cents per bottle and needed 5 of them).
  • Ate cold or grilled (no gas grills back then) food and watermelon (lots of watermelon) because it was too hot for mom to cook.
  • Spent many days swimming and sunning at Battjes and Lamar Park, neither of which allow swimming anymore.
  • Found big shade trees to sit under and talk about the things junior high kids talked about, sometimes for hours on end.
  • Rode our bikes to John Ball Zoo to walk in the shade and look at the animals (they always looked more miserable in the heat than we did).
  • Built our own go-carts and skate boards out of spare parts (only rich people bought these things back then).
  • Went to a one-screen movie house and watched an old Elvis Presley or some other movie two or three times for the same 25 cent ticket.
  • Played baseball barefoot wearing just cutoff shorts until the stone dust, sticking to our sweaty skin, gave us a gray appearance (we'd find a sprinkler on the way home and shower off).
  • Sometimes we'd explore the old Wyoming storm sewer systems that used to empty into the swamp at Alexander Park (now called Jackson Park).
  • At night when it would cool down a little, we often walked up to one of the traveling carnivals at Rogers Plaza if we had a spare dollar (ride tickets were ten for buck back then). On other nights, we'd be at Kimble Stadium taking in a baseball game under the lights.
  • We'd wake up the next morning, gulp down whatever was on the table for breakfast, and run out the door as fast as we could ready to do it all again.

What didn't we do? 

  • We didn't sit inside a house watching TV (except for a half hour in the afternoon when Dark Shadows came on).
  • We never said we were bored in front of our parents, because they'd find us something to do and it usually involved a rake, lawnmower, broom, paint scraper, or dirty dishes.
  • We didn't ask for money from our parents (ok, we probably did but to no avail). We figured out how to make money on the fly (and it was always legal).
  • We didn't wait for someone to drive us somewhere, because we'd still be waiting to this day if we did. We got their on our own two feet, pedaling a bike, or scraping together a dime for the city bus.
  • We didn't walk around with a cellphone glued to our ear and our parents knew it was useless to give us a dime for the pay phone, because all we needed was a couple of empty bottles for that next ice cold pop.

I loved long, hot summers!