At the end of the movie “Stand By Me,” the narrator states, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12.
Does anyone?” That statement is probably truer than anything I’ve ever heard. Well, this story is for all my buddies out there from Rice Elementary School.
A buddy of mine from back in the first grade and I were talkin’ the other day, and he asked the question, “What do kids do now-a-days for fun?” Well, I started to answer him, but I found that I couldn’t.
The reason I couldn’t answer him, is that I didn’t know what kids do now-a-days for fun. Used to, you could drive around on a Saturday and see kids out in their yards, runnin’ around playin’ army, or Cowboys and Indians, or throwin’ around a football, or somethin’.
If you drive around now on a Saturday, you wouldn’t even think there was such a thing as a kid. Now, I know a lot of them are participatin’ in sports at school and such, but I’m talkin’ about just good ol’ playin’. I don’t think kids play anymore.
Back when I was a kid, that’s all we did was play, that is, if we weren’t in church, or school, or doin’ our chores. Chores were jobs that parents made their kids do back then, like mowin’, takin’ out the trash, feedin’ the animals, and stuff like that.
They said it built character and such. Now-a-days, if they tell their kids to do somethin’, the kid whines and cries until the parent ends up doin’ it themselves. And they wonder why their kids are like they are.
Anywho, back to playin’.
They probably don’t have this anymore, but when I was in grade school they had a time set aside every day they called play period. Play period was what they probably call P.E. now. Back then, we just played. There was no organization to it at all.
Oh, there’d be a teacher or two out on the play ground to make sure you didn’t kill yourself, or someone else, or to drag off an injured kid, but most of the time they didn’t get in our way.
Some of you out there probably think that exercise would have been better for us, but let me tell you somethin’. I’ll bet we got more exercise back then runnin’ around on that playground, than most high school students get in a P.E. class today.
When that play period bell rang, we hit the door runnin’ and we didn’t stop until the bell rang to come back in. We had swings, seesaws, a merry-go-round, climbin’ bars, not to mention girls to chase.
Yes, we chased girls. We never caught any, ‘cause if we did, we might catch cooties. We didn’t know what cooties were, but we knew we didn’t want ‘em. Of course, after a few years, I think the cooties must die off or somethin’, ‘cause after you get older you aren’t scared of them anymore.
This is about the time the girls that you wouldn’t have nothin’ to do with back then, start lookin’ pretty good to you. But by then, they don’t want to have anything to do with you.
Anywho, I’ll tell you about girls some other time, right now I’m talkin’ about playin’.
Those swings I was tellin’ you about weren’t those little bitty swing sets you see now-a-days. These were big steel A-frames that’d have four or five swings hangin’ on them. Their legs would be concreted in the ground, so they couldn’t come up.
Now you may think swingin’ is sissified, but not the way we swang, or swung, or whatever the past tense of swing is. We’d swing until we’d get to swingin’ really high. Our ultimate goal was to go all the way up and over the top, which we never accomplished. We did, however, get to where we’d get nearly parallel with the ground, which in its self was a pretty amazin’ feat.
Then we’d position our arms so that they’d be in front of the chains, so they wouldn’t catch on anything. Then just before we reached the apex of our forward motion, we’d push ourselves out of the swing and for a brief few seconds, we would be flyin’. Then the ground would come up to meet us at a rather high rate of speed. After that, for the next few days we’d be tryin’ to get our leg bones to migrate back down from our arm pits.
The seesaws looked innocent enough, though. That is until you get a bunch of boys on one.
I don’t know what kind of lumber they used back then, but it must have been some good stuff, ‘cause we’d have 10 or 15 boys on each end of one of those things, and it wouldn’t even put a bow in the middle.
The goal to seesawin’ was to get more boys on your end, so that you would have the other end, up in the air. That’s when it got scary, especially if you were with the bunch up in the air. ‘Cause then, on the count of three, everybody on the end that was still on the ground would jump off, sendin’ the ones in the air crashin’ down to the ground.
Of course, if you were on the team that was jumpin’ off and you didn’t make it off on the count of three, you were subjected to becomin’ a one man rocket, minus the rocket. I was the rocket man, only once. Fortunately, I landed on the pile of boys at the other end and they broke my fall.
The merry-go-round was my favorite though. It was a big round steel and wooden wheel with a tall steel pole stickin’ up through as an axle. There were steel rods that ran from the outside of the wheel up to the top of the pole for support.
The rim of the wheel was made up of wooden boards to sit on, as were the spokes. The goal here was for every boy to grab one of the steel rods and start runnin’ around the merry-go-round, pullin’, causin’ the merry-go-round to pick up speed. Then when you got it goin’ as fast as you could, everybody would jump on and ride.
Several of the kids who couldn’t run very fast would fall of course, but they made good traction for the others to get it up to speed. Oh yeah, it was a good thing not to fall between the spokes, too. That usually caused you to have to be drug off of the playground up to the nurse, where, she’d douse any cuts with Monkey Blood and send you back out.
You were a hero then. Any kind of cut was a badge of honor, especially if it left a scar. Of course, all of this was before the invention of the liability lawyer. Now-a-days a parent would probably sue the school, the teacher who was supposed to be watchin’ their kid, the manufacturer of the playground equipment, and the school nurse.
Back then, nobody ever sued anybody. Heck, I think parents expected their kids to get hurt back then. It built character.
Now if you think I’m goin’ someplace with all of this, you’d be mistaken. It was just somethin’ I was thinkin’ about how kids have changed. Or maybe it isn’t the kids. Maybe it’s us. Maybe we don’t give them a chance to play.
And nan, that’s a shame.