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Posted Monday, April 14, 2008, at 12:11 AM

There is something to be said for youth…

…and if I could recall what it was, I'd expound upon the subject.

With each day, however, it seems that I am less able to recall just what was so great about those days of yore. It's not that they weren't something to write home about. It's just that I can't remember what it is I should have written!

How might I be expected to recall the events of four or five decades ago when I can't remember where I parked my vehicle at the mall this morning or what I had for breakfast?

There are a few things, however, that I do recall about my youth that bear mentioning.

I recall going out to play at mid-morning and not returning home until nearly dark and no one worried about where I might be. In that interim, I might have been climbing a cherry tree or gathering nickels to walk to the "little store" for a "pop," (which later would become a "soda") or riding a bike with friends for hours on end. I recall gathering old unused boards or more often recycled ones, pulling the nails and using them for steps to a tree fort and then hammering together the tree fort itself. Seemed like it was 90 feet in the air. In reality, it was probably within jumping distance. Of course the jump might have resulted in a broken bone or two that required one doctor's visit and a plaster cast…why is it that today the same injury requires surgery and pins and rods and months of physical and occupational therapy? Could we be wiser or just more gullible? Hmmmmm.

I vividly recall watching from the kitchen window when I was about 10 as I helped my mother wash dishes. My younger brother was jumping from the wooden picnic table and on one of his jumps, he ground seemed to have appeared before he anticipated its arrival. He wailed a bit and managed to rebound to the tabletop, but sat upon it hollering for my mother's attention. I recall my mother leaning over and saying, ever so non-challantly, "Just ignore him…he'll be ok in a minute." The theory was, I surmised, that he cried too much and assuming he only wanted attention, we continued to ignore his cries for sometime. When after what seemed an eternity, however, someone finally gave in and sympathized with him…seems he had fractured his arm near the elbow. It never quite bent all the way to the shoulder again, even after removal of the cast months later. I believe after that, we paid more attention to the wails of the younger children. A lesson learned.

I recall plucking grapes off vines that grew wild along a fencerow on our property and no one seemed to notice, except those of use who make the trek to the "little store" on a daily basis during those summer days. No need to wash the grapes before devouring them. It never occurred to us. We'd pick up apples from the ground on the same short trip and polish them off on our shorts before swallowing them in a few bites. Bittersweet, they were. And I recall being dismayed when one of us bit into a juicy apple and drew it back to find half a worm! My thinking at the time was that it was better to find half than whole, but I later realized the greater impact that half had.

I recall, advancing a few years, that there were five teenage daughters at home at one time and all of us drove. The driveway must have resembled a used car lot and there were boys at home still. When we were all old enough to date, I recall cars lined up in the long driveway…our dates delivering us home. The brave ones "parked" for as long as they could get away with it in the circle drive. So, besides our various old Fords, Chevrolets and Volkswagens (and a red 67 Nova later on) there were the dates' "cool" cars of the 1960's, which made for about nine vehicles filling the circle drive. An anxious mother, donned in her babushka (look that one up), would go from vehicle to vehicle, tapping on the windows and telling us that it was past curfew. I think that she first surveyed the damage and chose the cars in order of how badly the windows were fogged.

I recall meals of everyone sitting at the table and each night there would be meat, potatoes and a vegetable. And each night there would be dessert…a homemade cake (a cake mix was out of the question!) or pie or cookies. And I recall one time when there wasn't dessert for some unknown reason and I wailed, "Do you mean that I ate all that for nothing?" It seemed a logical question at the time.

I recall staying out in three feet of snow in the winter months after digging in the mitten box for something warm to cover our hands. Fashion certainly wasn't a concern, nor was size. If we could squeeze it on and it was warm, that's what mattered. As I recall, "matching" wasn't even a priority. Navy and black was a close enough match. Blocks of snow were carved out of the drifted snow banks for igloo walls. I can even recall being amazed at how much warmer it was in those igloo walls than outside in the wind.

I recall egg salad sandwiches and chocolate milk..the real kind. And peanut-butter sandwiches dipped into the chocolate milk before devouring…you had to do it really quickly or you'd lose the best part in your glass. Some of us exhibited more expertise than others at this art.

I recall spending hours at a time at the creek down the road, where we'd catch tadpoles and watch them over time evolve into toads…the lucky ones, that is. Seems life in a Mason jar wasn't really conducive to the life cycle of a tadpole. Same with caterpillars.

Ah, but lightening bugs…if they lasted an evening in the Mason jar with holes poked in the metallic lid with the rubber guard, we deemed it a successful evening. I recall actually dissecting the defenseless little flittering things with the glowing yellow pouches just to see how they worked! Can't say that we ever quite figured it out.

And I recall sleeping out under the stars…sometimes on the ground, other times on the rooftops of buildings on the small farm that housed anything from chickens to sheep to horses. If there was a level side or a not-so-steep pitch, it was ours. No one worried about our safety. I suppose the theory was there was strength in numbers, although I recall worrying a bit after the broken arm incident and being told to ignore the wailing!

I recall a houseful of relatives each Sunday and again, a full meal and no buffet style…always a sit-down meal and everyone was served. How did she do it?

I recall bathing caps….hideously tight rubber caps with chin straps. They, too, were placed in a box and were doled out on summer days on a first-come, first-served basis. The lucky ones got first "dibs" and were granted the colored caps with the big, floppy rubber flowers draping from one side. Like plastic canisters or Howdy Doody lunch pails, they're probably worth big bucks today!

Speaking of lunch pails, I can vividly recall the scent (or was it the "smell") of the metal lunch pails. Mine had a hunch-backed shape and had little red barns painted on it. Every item was wrapped in waxed paper and the box itself bore a distinct smell…yep, it was a smell, not a scent.

I recall nuns too, and while some were kind, most were not. Still, my vocation in life was to become the "cook nun" at the local Catholic elementary school. My mother was so proud at the mere prospect, since none of my siblings seemed to have realized the long-term benefits in the chosen field. Somehow, it went by the wayside, along with the knowledge of how many sheep were raised in Australia and all the words to the second verse of "The Erie Canal." But the story of nuns and The Erie Canal for another time.

And I thought I couldn't recall my youth! Who knew!!

And, what do you recall?

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Minnie dear, you have outdone yourself! This blog is SO worth the wait!!

I remember the clink of my mother's wedding ring, as she washed dishes and I stood beside her, drying them.

I remember how we took our "bathing caps" to the pool, where all the girls looked the same from the neck up (above the water), and I always met some new person that I liked - then I couldn't recognize them when I saw them outside the pool. I always wanted one of the fancy caps with the big rubber flowers, but I never got one!

I remember playing outside in the neighborhood all day, until it began to get cool in the evening, but no one wanted to go home. The moms yelled for us to come to supper, and we always promised to come back, but it was never the same after supper, and most of us didn't.

When we were very young, I remember Mom dragging the old galvanized tubs out to the back yard, and filling them up with cold water from the hose. No fancy store-bought wading pools in those early days!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Apr 14, 2008, at 7:19 AM

In the late '60s in Clovic New Mexico, my second home-town, I remmber waking up on a Sundya morning to the smell of bacon and eggs and the sound of the Stamp's Quartet on a local am radio station.

Yeah, I remember my mom telling us kids to pick up all those pears that had fallen from the tree out back. It was well worth all those pear preserves she made!

Uh huh, I remember hearing those F-111 fighter jets from Cannon Air Force Base flying overhead and it made me proud to be an American!

Yeah, our public school back then didn't care about the '63 Supreme Court decision to take prayer and Bible reading out of school. The principle prayed a prayer of thanks over the intercom as we lined up in the cafeteria for Thanksgiving dinner.

When we were growing up we all went to church whether we felt good or not. And we were expected to be quiet in church. We went every time the door was open it seems.

Yep, back in that western town, all the neighbors helped one another. We played outside without having to worry much. We didn't have much, but it does seem like the toys lasted a lot longer than they do now.

-- Posted by swift on Mon, Apr 14, 2008, at 4:07 PM

Sorry about the typographical errors there, Minnie! I tied backing up the browser and it wouldn't work! lol

-- Posted by swift on Mon, Apr 14, 2008, at 4:38 PM
Minne O'Pausal's response:
Not to worry, Swifty....happens to the very best of us! Your memories are much appreciated...food for thought.

I remember many of the same things from childhood. Swift, you're probably right about the toys lasting longer: they were much fewer and more treasured. Many, many hours were spent playing "cowboys & Indians" in the neighborhood where I grew up. The cowboys from Saturday matinees were our heroes. It cost a nickel to go to the movies then. My own children spent much more time outdoors than the grand-children do. We lived in a small Stoddard County town where they rode bikes all day and knew to come in when the street lights came on. They were taught to respect other people's property and to come home when they were hungry, thirsty, or needed to use the bathroom. They had a lot of freedom, but we didn't want them to impose on other families.

-- Posted by gardengirl on Tue, Apr 15, 2008, at 2:38 PM

Well, I'll tell y'all something. Things really are still better here than many parts of the country. I spent my teenage years in Pomona, California (71-77). Thank God for my grandmother who started a private school after she retired from 40 yrs in public school. That's where I attended high school. Gang violence was already real bad and so was drug use in the public schools there. I used to think I was too "sheltered". Now, I'm glad I was! Out here (and we've lived in Missouri now 17 yrs and going on 12 in Stoddard County), kids seem to be more respectful than in many parts of our country. I'm glad we raised our kids here and now we have a grandchild growing up here.

-- Posted by swift on Wed, Apr 16, 2008, at 3:20 PM

Most of the students in this part of the country are still respectful of their elders and behave well - whether they go to public or private schools. Let's hope it stays that way, despite governmental interference.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Apr 19, 2008, at 8:43 AM

Amen to that, goat lady.

Minnie, you never fail to amaze me.

Do you remember the smell and taste of a screen door? I must have been really little, but it's a vivid memory.

Summers used to last so long. For that matter, summer days used to last so long. We played outside until after dark and regretted having to go in when called. "Ah come on, Mom. Just a few more minutes."

Youth is definitely wasted on the young.

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Apr 22, 2008, at 1:08 PM

Do you remember making little dolls out of hollyhocks? You used an open flower for the skirt and a bud for the head. They were lovely ballerinas when you twirled them!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Apr 22, 2008, at 5:17 PM

I recall well, Ducky, the taste and smell of a screen door...interlaced with dust from the gravel or dirt paths around it. I have found that no scent quite duplicates its scent. Perhaps it had something to do with the wooden scrolled trim around its edges. And all we needed to protect us from the elements was a slim hook that raised and fit into an accompanying screwed in loop. Most of the time, we saw no real need to hook it. Who would ever have thought we'd have to fear anything more threatening than the neighborhood collie?

-- Posted by bringwine on Tue, Apr 22, 2008, at 11:40 PM

Wooden screen doors! I had forgotten about them! When was the last time I saw one?

Yesterday a friend of mine was recalling how he and his friends used to make kites out of newspaper. They used rags for the tail.

Good to have you blogging again, Ducky Dear! We thought you had deserted us for more exotic climes!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Apr 23, 2008, at 8:08 AM

Don't I wish. Alas, it's been a tough year for me, topped off by a recent fight with AT&T for discontinuing my internet service. When I called to complain, the business office said, "we don't know why it was turned off." Duh. I had to threaten bodily harm to the poor little service rep guy in India - that and threaten to drop my land line, my internet service and my cell phone - just to get any help at all. It's a good thing they're not the only providers available or we'd NEVER get any service.

Yes, I remember dolls out of hollyhocks. I remember making necklaces out of violets - you'd split the stem a little and slip the next flower through to make a chain. We made necklaces, bracelets, anklets and crowns out of them. Ahhh, the sweet days of summer.

-- Posted by Ducky on Thu, Apr 24, 2008, at 12:55 PM

Dandelion chains! We made them the same way - split the stem and insert a dandelion. Only good use I know of for dandelions, except for dandelion wine, and I've never tasted that. I have no idea if it's any good. I do love my son's sweet potato wine, though.

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Apr 25, 2008, at 6:41 AM

By the way, my sympathies on the fight with AT&T, ducky. When I finally got exhasperated enough to take my internet away from Big River, I tried to sign up with Southwestern Bell (since bought by AT&T), and all I could talk with on the phone were foreigners, whom I could not understand.

Normally, I'm very tolerant with accents; in fact, I like them - but this went "beyond the pale," so I chose a more local company who spoke Southeast Missouri English!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Apr 26, 2008, at 7:28 AM

I do believe our dear, beloved Minnie has been kidnapped by that Scottish rogue Shaun again!! We may have to call out the forces to rescue her once more!!

Is she high in the castle tower or on a flower-strewn barge on the misty river??

We shall put on our armor, mount our chargers, and ride to her (however unwilling) rescue!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 5:47 PM

Goat lady, I shall rally for the call to arms!! My fellow ducks and I are up to the challenge! We shall stockpile the punkins for chunking with the trebuchets!

Shaun's Scottish head shall be ours!!

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 6:07 PM

Yes, yes!! Trebuchets and catapults for the castle tower! Do you think we can hit a moving target, in case she's being held prisoner on the barge?

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 3:09 PM

Yes, yes. We can most assuredly hit a moving target. Anything for our beloved Minnie.

-- Posted by Ducky on Sat, May 10, 2008, at 8:26 PM

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