On Jan. 7, I asked readers to tell me about their childhood pastimes. A number of respondents shared colorful reminiscences, starting with Taylorsville resident Rosanne Pagels.
There was no shortage of kids to play with when Rosanne was growing up in Manitowoc, Wis., in the 1950s. She had two sisters and seven brothers.
“One of my favorite things to do,” said Rosanne, “was to take a thick blade of grass, hold it tight between my thumbs, and blow on it to make the loud sound of a duck quacking. Not everyone could make the sound, so it was pretty cool for me to be able to make the loudest duck quack sound in the neighborhood.”
My favorite recollection from Rosanne is this one: “My brothers . . . would tie one end of a string around a wallet and place the wallet on the sidewalk, hold the other end of the string and hide in the bushes along the sidewalk. When a passerby would bend down to pick up the wallet, my brothers would pull the string so that the wallet would disappear into the bushes.
“When they got tired of [the wallet trick],” continued Rosanne, “they would take the clothes poles from our mother’s wash line (remember those?) and challenge the neighbor boys to a clothes pole fight.” And when the boys heard someone say it’s hot enough outside to fry eggs on the sidewalk, they’d give it a try.
Rosanne described herself and her sisters as “more genteel.” She wrote, “We would save old curtains and use them to dress up as brides or models.”
Rosanne ended her email with a comical recollection about her daughter: “[She] attempted to put a squashed pea in her eye after she saw my husband insert his contact lens.”
That story reminded me of childhood friends who liked to poke things like dried beans into their nostrils and ears.
Anne Brock is another reader who shared what she called “wonderful memories and simpler times.” For Anne, being a child in the 1950s and ‘60s included “rolling out a ball of Silly Putty to pancake size, then pressing it on the Sunday comics which were in color. Lifting it up to see the image which we would pull into silly exaggerations,” explained Anne, who also did something I’d forgotten about until she mentioned it: “Using clothespins to clip playing cards onto bicycle spokes, then riding away with the awesome and impressive clicking noise it would make.”
Though Thelma B. Kesler of Taylorsville responded to a different column, the one I wrote about inventions people would like to see created or create themselves, Thelma’s suggestion that a useful invention would be a transporter like the one in the 1960s TV show “Star Trek” and subsequent “Star Trek” movies reminded me of another favorite kid’s pastime: imagining being able to do what characters on television shows could do. TV inspired a lot of day-dreaming for those of us brought up on science fiction, benevolent witchcraft (think nose twitcher Samantha Stephens), and genies who granted wishes.
I agree with Thelma that having access to a teleportation machine so I could be “beamed” in an instant to any location would be amazing. “Just think,” said Thelma, “no more airline waits, traffic jams, no more lost luggage. Emergencies could be taken care of immediately.”
Thelma concluded by suggesting that I live long and prosper.
Jane Thompson, a Northlakes resident who grew up in Claremont, took me back to the days of TVs with three channels and unreliable reception – all the more reason to head out the door for fun and inspiration. Said Jane, “The exception was the Saturday morning cartoons, which most kids stayed inside to watch, but then we were back outside afterwards — playing wiffle ball, badminton, hide-and-seek, or riding bikes, skating, playing in the dirt or catching lightning bugs.”
Be it mud or hardened clay, digging in the earth was and continues to be a favorite amusement of most every child. “We would play in the dirt bank on the side of our street,” said Anne. “We would dig little ‘houses’ and make streets for our little plastic cars.”
I thought the childhood memories responses had ended when a beautifully handwritten two-page letter arrived from 93-year-old Rachel A. Sigman of Lincolnton. She said she wanted to share how different a rural life was and how good it was.
“Growing up as an only child on a farm, I had plenty of freedom to explore but not many others to play with,” Rachel began. “Here are some of the things I remember.”
First on Rachel’s list is swinging on a swing suspended from a walnut tree. Second is feeding and watching the chickens. Thinking about the chickens reminded her about the time she made mud pies in tin pans, “decorating them with grains of corn,” she wrote. “When I came back from dinner (noontime), the chickens had eaten the corn. I was pleased.”
Locating and capturing small creatures is big on Rachel’s record of remembrances: blue skinks and brown lizards at the barn, crawfish in the branch, tadpoles in puddles, lightning bugs, and June bugs
“[I] tied a string to a June bug leg and let it fly,” said Rachel, “but turned it loose because I thought that was cruel. I don’t feel as kind to June bugs today.”
There was a barn to explore, neighbor girls who told ghost stories, cows to lead from the pasture, a thresher to watch as it blew straw into big stacks, a scooter and a tricycle to ride, and a cousin to play with when she visited.
The one thing I can say about Rachel’s childhood as well as the younger years of every respondent: they all were happy – and they didn’t even have such things as handheld devices, video games, or on-demand TV shows. Imagine that!
Share story ideas with Mary at email@example.com.