“Outside!” That was my favorite place when I was a kid. My generation wanted “out” – rain or shine, hot or cold. My favorite sound was that of the screen door slamming shut behind me as I ran out the back door.
I usually headed to a swing, made from clothesline and scrap lumber that hung from a tree at the edge of our yard. Beyond it was a woodlot next to an abandoned, overgrown farm field. The rusted hulk of an old farm truck was in a thicket, a few feet beyond the swing. It had a bench seat and a steering wheel, a perfect venue for a young kid to play in. I put a lot of mileage on that baby, “driving” all around town (in my mind).
A small pond sat a few yards into the field. It was where kids in the neighborhood scooped out clumps of frog eggs and watch them turn into tadpoles in jars on their dressers. When the legs began to appear, they returned the tadpoles to the “watering hole,” as we called it, when playing Cowboys & Indians in the field.
My friend Woody lived one block from me. We started trekking back and forth through neighborhood yards to each other’s houses when we were four years old. Our mothers were not concerned for our safety; we traveled around the neighborhood with my dog Topper and Meg, a beautiful Irish Setter that lived up the street from Woody.
The urge to be outside grew stronger as we grew older. It was an endless play land out there, providing a place for ball games, hut building, hot rod riding, biking, cowboy wars with cap guns and BB guns, sword fights to defend the castle, tree climbing, roller skating, and exploring the mountain that rose above our neighborhood. We hiked up the mountain with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches packed in army surplus knapsacks, with metallic tinged milk carried in war surplus, metal canteens.
As soon as supper was over all the kids in the neighborhood started campaigning to get back outside. We all had the same curfew, “Come home when the street lights come on.”
Sometimes we gathered on “Junk Street” for a game of bat-ball. It was called Junk Street because it was full of junk – piles of left-over materials from houses going up in our neighborhood during those postwar days when housing was in short supply. We played in those houses as they went up, and “borrowed” some of the material lying around to build our tree huts with; but only from the scrap piles, for the most part.
Playing ball or playing Tarzan, swinging from the rafters in newly framed houses, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we were outside.
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