How’d I Ever Get to This Point?

old playground

I was talking with a lawyer-friend recently.

The topic was child day care.

He asked me how my parents cared for my three sisters and I “back in the day”.

I told him until I was in high school, my Mom was always home.

It wasn’t until then that my Mom got a part-time job at Shaw & Ott Pharmacy on Cline Avenue.

She didn’t work every day and many times she worked while we were in school or in the evening when Dad was there.

I usually got home first and I’d be there when my sisters got home from elementary  or junior high school.

I’m not sure there was any official documentation putting me “in charge” but that’s the way we did things, back in the “Dark Ages”.

When Mom and Dad went out, we had “sitters” which involved some older neighborhood gals and even a guy or two.

There was also Mamie Preston who watched us on occasion.She was a feisty, old gal that we loved but we also knew not to cross her.

She couldn’t have weighed more than a whisper.

We suspected she could fight dirty.

Real dirty.

But lots of times, Mom and Dad trusted us to care for ourselves when they went out.

Somehow we survived.

By today’s standards, we lived dangerously.

We rode bicycles without helmets.

I remember the day I did a header over my handlebars on Fleming Falls Road and had to walk back home carrying my bike with a big scrape on both knees and my left shoulder.

We drank water out of the garden hose.

My sister ate dog yummies.

No lasting after-effects except she’s the only Foster kid that can scratch behind her ear with her foot.

We played on a swing set that did not have a  foot of mulch or sand beneath it.

Sometimes, we’d get swinging wildly and we could get that metal contraption to literally walk across the backyard.

Remember swinging like crazy and seeing how far you could jump into the stratosphere?

The school playground was crawling with deadly equipment that we somehow survived.

Remember the terrifying monkey bars?

How about the horrific jungle gym?

There was that spinning merry-go-round thing that we’d latch onto while another kid ran like a whirling dervish, pushing mightily until he jumped on and we fought  to not lose our grip and fly off.

That’s exactly what happened most times.

The landing was normally on clay soil, pounded into the consistency of cement by dozens of running and pushing kids.

In the areas where kids played, grass was only a faint memory.

Sometimes we played baseball on actual organized teams with batting helmets and catcher’s masks.

More often than not, though, it was the sandlot variety with pieces of wood serving as bases.

Batting helmets?

Heck, most of us didn’t even wear ball caps.

The infield always had bumps, divots and foreign material that could cause a hot grounder to quickly alter its’ trajectory and pop the slow-to-react infielder in the schnoz or chops.

Did I mention we didn’t have mouth guards either?

Sandlot football was pretty much the same.

Some had shoulder pads and there was the rare helmet or two.

Flag football or two-hand touch was something sissies played.

My first kicking tee was a 4 inch piece of a 2 by 4 with two spikes driven into it.

Nobody ran onto the field after kick-offs to pick it up either.

If someone didn’t go home afterwards with a bloodied nose, we weren’t playing hard enough.

In the “woods”behind our Crestwood Drive home, the guys used to have dirt clod fights.

It was a grand time until one of those grass and soil “sod rockets” connected with your noggin.

Game over.

We rode in cars without seat belts, harnesses and car seats.

One time Dad was testing the velocity of his  red Chevy on the county road that went past the Lone Elm Inn, north of Fitchville on what we called “the back way” to Lake Erie.

The road had 3 WPA culverts over small ditches and when he drove over them, I became airborne in the seat to his right.

Never fear!

He extended his arm across my chest to keep me from completely leaving the seat.

Again, I survived.

Now, we did wear life-preservers when we boated.

Those mildewy, bright orange, cork-filled devices probably would keep us afloat.

But we were probably exposed to more mold on them than current EPA rules would allow.

I think my parents bought them because they stacked nicely in the compartment on the rear deck.

I mowed lawns with mowers that would run, regardless of whether or not you had a grip of the handle.

I used one of those “reel” push mowers to cut grass until I was at least 10.

I guess my folks felt by that age, if I was still upright, I could master the power mower.

Today it’s funny because with all the consumer safety stuff, kids are more likely to be in a bedroom, playing a computer game.

Maybe we need to put a little risk back into playing.

Pardon me.

My Neanderthal side is showing.














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