Great outdoors filled childhood with adventure
Published on January 12, 2022 at 2:28pm EST | Author: Chad Koenen0
Stories In The Rear View Mirror
I was lucky enough to grow up in a safe, small town in a neighborhood with good friends.
The Graham family was on one side: Marietta, Karen, Eddie, and Lou who was just a baby. The Harmers (Roger and Linda) were across the street. Eva Rae Rasmussen was on the other side. The Rouses (who had a girl and a boy) moved in across the street later for a couple of years before moving to Height of Land. Brother David rounded out the group.
When you wanted to see your friends then, you would just leave the house and the only rule was that you had to be home at noon or supper, depending on what time of day was. You would walk to a neighbor and knock on the door and ask if the kids could come out and play. We would gather as many as we could and then decide what to do.
Kick the can, Annie-I-over, pump, pump pull away, touch tag, softball or baseball, football, cops and robbers, cowboy and indians, army, policeman or we would attach playing cards on our bicycles with a clothes pin. The cards stuck through the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle when the wheel turned.
There was a vacant lot across the street where many sandlot baseball and softball games were played until Izzy Rohr built a house there. Football was usually played in someone’s yard. There was an empty pasture where the water tower now stands. Dad had stockpiled old tires there and also an old livestock bed from a straight truck. This had an extra deck in the front. That and the tires made for a good fort where we fought off many attacks with our toy guns, or arms and fingers used as guns or bows and arrows.
There were no electronics then, just our imagination or the words, “lets pretend.” We sometimes wandered down to the remains of the mill sawdust burner where we usually ended up in a wild pickle fight.
If it was raining, or too cold, we would meet at someone’s house and play cards or board games. Sometimes other kids would join us in the fun.
Swimming lessons were given at Eagle Lake Park. The summer rec program would bus us there until the beach was built on Town Lake.
Winter was sliding down the street on the Methodist church hill which was good until they would sand it. You had a great run if you made it past Ketter’s house to the old fire hall, and a record run if you made it to Rudy Rethwisch station on the corner. The heavier you were, the further you could go. It was tricky for two, to get a good run with sled in hand, throw the sled down, then flop on the sled and your buddy, would flop on top of you but you could go far and fast with the weight of two.
We built our share of snow tunnels and snow forts to have snowball fights. We would explore the hills across the river north of Hwy 87. You could walk across the river if it was frozen, use Hwy 87 bridge or there was an old, very rickety bridge a little further upstream. In the winter, we would either take a toboggan or use skis by strapping them on over our boots. When I look now at the hills we used, I think we had to be crazy with the rocks, trees and bushes that are there. But, kids are not known for fear or common sense.
Snow melt in spring was good for floating pop cycle sticks down the gutters on Methodist hill. You tried to see whose stick could go the furthest, the fastest.
Older sister Patty would organize a neighborhood circus each summer and we would all do various tricks that we charged our parents to watch. Marietta and I would do a hand and foot trick that worked. The next year, Patty told us to practice, but I replied that we had did this a year ago, so we did not need any practice. During the performance, my foot kicked Marietta in the face. But, my foot was not very big and it was not moving very fast.
We would sell popcorn and Kool-Aid to our parents that had purchased them for us and then take the proceeds downtown and buy ice cream and soda for ourselves at Ebletoft’s soda fountain, the Skyview Café, or Ralph Trieglaff’s Ice Cream Parlor.
As we grew older, the imagination games ceased and were replaced by 4-H, Boy Scouts, baseball and other activities. There was no minor league but you started youth baseball at about 10-11 years. We still liked to play cards and board games though.
Many years ago, I was home at noon and there were four or five grandsons, ages 9-13 in our house watching TV or playing video games. When I suggested a game of work-up, they asked what that was. I took them outside to our backyard field and got up a game of workup, showing them how it worked. I played with them for 15-20 minutes on a beautiful summer day. I went back to work and called Karen after 30 minutes. She said they were back inside 10 minutes after I left.
The early beginnings of dumbing down thought with electronics. Cellphones, Smart phones, GPS, I-Pads, no one has to think anymore, just look it up. Truck drivers are being hired that have never driven a manual shift or know how to read a roadmap. Electronics can show you how to do many things, but cannot teach you how they should be done. That has to be learned.
Many more growing up memories to follow.