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Summer now isn’t the same as in my day

POSTED: June 5, 2011 1:30 a.m.

I think the goal of each generation is for the generation that follows to have better opportunities.

It generally has been true. There are seemingly limitless opportunities to learn, be entertained and to see and do things that were out of reach for the preceding generation.

But will they ever have summers like we did? I don’t think so.

The fear-filled world we live in has locked today’s children in an environment that is largely sterile and unimaginative.

Just a few days after the final school bell rang (school bell ... that really dates me), we were engaged in some kind of project that might take the rest of the summer.

We would make plans to build a hut or some kind of wheeled device. There seemed to be a limitless supply of wood and stuff that could only be described as junk. One year, our discovery of a metal chair, minus its legs, gave us the idea to make a car.

Let me skip to the end of the story, we never succeeded in making that car, but we had a great time trying. We found a lawn mower in a junk pile and decided that its wheels would be perfect for our car. With wheels and a fine metal seat, what else did we need?

Boys of age 10 or 11 are generally not good with tools. I borrowed my dad’s hammer and would recruit one of my friends to hold a nail while I got it started. You can measure the level of friendship and trust based on a boy’s willingness to hold a nail for a less than skilled hammer operator.

Our nail of choice was a big nail. Mr. Lester Malcom had a hardware store that probably looked the same way it did in the 1920s. In the 1970s, a quarter would buy a decent supply of 16-penny nails with a head on them.

We lost a fair number of nails to less than accurate hammering. When we couldn’t make the head of the hammer make good contact with the nail, we would turn the hammer sideways. Sometimes the nail would ricochet and we would never see it again.

It was also not important that the nail got all the way into the wood. If two boards made contact, we would just bend the rest of the nail over with the hammer.

Our summers were also spent riding bikes that had been modified with playing cards held in place by a spring-loaded clothespin.

We ordered things from the back of comic books like spy periscopes and sea monkeys that were supposed to come to life in a container of water.

We took time out for events like Vacation Bible School, where we would vie for the honor of carrying the U.S. or Christian flag or the Bible. Each morning began with the students marching in and ended with a quantity of red Kool-Aid and butter cookies with a hole in the middle.

I am pretty sure I hold the record for the most bites out of a butter cookie without it falling off my finger.

We didn’t have a video player or 100 channels of cable to watch. If it wasn’t raining, we were shooed out of the house to go and play.

Show me a kid today who has a summer like that and I’ll show you a kid who’ll never be bored.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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