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Monday, 30 July 2007

More Childhood Memories

By kenju of Imagine What I'm Leaving Out

The house we lived in when I was ages 9 to 12 had a chicken coop on the property, a holdover from the days when it was okay to keep chickens in that area, before it was taken into the city limits. My dad used it as a tool and garden shed, and my mom convinced him that he could share some of the space with me to use as a playhouse.

We scrounged up some carpet remnants and mom made curtains for the windows and added a small table and chairs. I spent hour upon hour in there either alone or with friends having tea parties and playing house.

In truth, it was a ramshackle building and sadly in need of repairs, but to me it was a castle. The only downside was that the remaining faint aroma of chickens drew black snakes all too often. The snakes were disappointed to find only dolls and tea party dishes!

I spent most of my time on a bike, when I wasn't in the playhouse or in the woods. I became a daredevil, riding down the hill in front of our house, standing up and not holding the handle-bars. I got away with it most of the time, but I fell once, skidding my knees on concrete and coming to rest with the kickstand penetrating my calf.

My knees took almost 5 months to heal because every time they got a good scab on them, I knocked it off again. I still remember one time when I approached the teacher's desk at school, hit the corner of it with one knee and screeched with pain and the knowledge that I had broken it open once again. If you look closely, you can still make out the scars.

In the summer, my friends and I were addicted to telling ghost stories. Most of us had been to some form of summer camp where such stories are legendary, and we brought them home to share with each other.

I remember sitting in Julie's big walk-in closet, lights out, and being scared to death by the story. Inevitably, at the point where the fear was the greatest, someone would reach out and grab me. I screamed bloody murder on more than one occasion and her mother would come running to see if we had been spirited away.

When we weren't telling stories, we played paper dolls. I had boxes and boxes of them, and so did my friends. Little girls nowadays don't know what they are missing! I bought some nostalgic ones for my granddaughters, but they were not too impressed. I guess they pale by comparison to video games.

Our picnics were not too frequent, but when we had one, we did it in style. Sometimes mom would pack a lunch as we would just get in the car and drive, stopping whenever we got hungry. It might be a roadside park or a cemetery or a church yard but the location didn't matter as much as being in the open air and having a great picnic.

Sometimes we went to Coal River; I don't know why it was called that. Perhaps a West Virginian will see this and be able to tell me why that is the name. There was a section that had been dammed up and it made a wide swimming area. They had formed a beach with sand brought in for that purpose.

There was no place to buy foods or drinks at that time; you had to bring your own. So mom would pack a picnic the likes of which few have seen (except maybe Jen and Angie): fried chicken, ham, potato salad, devilled eggs, biscuits or cornbread, and desserts to make everyone else jealous, plus the inevitable watermelon. Cokes (the old-fashioned kind in 6 ounce glass bottles) were flowing like water.

When I was about 16, a group of girls and I went to the river with a huge inner tube from an airplane tire. It held all 6-7 of us, and we floated lazily downstream. We got so engrossed in our conversation, that we were about two miles down river before we realized it. We had to walk back, carrying the inner tube.

My first "date" took place while I was living in this house. I was all of 10 or 11 when a neighbor boy invited me to go to the movies on Saturday. My mom said I could go, but that I shouldn't let him pay for my ticket or my snacks.

She sent me off with money for it, his mom drove us there and my mom was picking us up afterward. When his mom let us out of the car, I made a mad dash to the ticket counter and bought my own. I don't think he was happy about it, but then he realized he would have more money for snacks - so he happily let it go. I hope he learned to be first in line after that!

[EDITORIAL NOTE: I will be away for ten days or so in mid-August and it would be good to have some extra stories in the bin for while I'm gone. You know what to do; just click the "story submission" link in the upper left corner here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Kenju your story brought back memories of my own childhood in Ireland. Playing outdoors for hours on end and making up the rules as we went along.

We may have come home dirty, but we were happy, healthy, hungry, and slept like a log. The words 'Depression' and 'Bored' were not in our Lexicon.

I don't suppose you have pictures of the garden shed! you could share with our sheddies?

While my own childhood pastime was more like crawling under those chicken coops to gather rotten eggs, or making wooden "spears" to stalk toads in the vicinity, your story reminds me much of growing up here in "old" northern Kentucky. Thanks for the memories...

Thanks so much for your stories--that ride on a big inner tube sounds like great fun!

My friend John Ryan's older sister Helen had a "half playhouse" in their back yard. The other half was used to store tools and stacks of old newspapers. We used to riffle through the papers so we could read Sunday funnies.

Poor Helen was born around 1943, during the World War II "baby gap", which must have been lonely. John and I were the front end of the postwar boom, so we had lots of kids our own age to play with, and even more younger ones who looked up to us. John and Helen's dad was the fire chief in Northampton, Mass, so he was probably too valuable at home for the government to send him to war. In his spare time, he made great homemade root beer.

Good stuff, Judy! As a suburban city we did things a bit differently but, like you, I have scars from one too many skinned knees!

Thanks, Ronni! It is so nice to come here and see all the comments. No, I don't have pictures of the old coop, though I wish I did.

What memories you brought back to me of my own childhood and doing most of the things you did. I wouldn't have been involved in the ghost stories,though. I was,and am, a fraidy cat. I loved paper dolls the most ,especially the Dionne Quintuplets. They all had dresses alike but in different colors.And Shirley Temple! What outfits she had.

About the picnic basket.That's a whole other story. No fried chicken,potato salad,coke. Oh no,if we went on a picnic at all, we stopped at the store and bought Kool Aid to go with the baloney sandwiches we had made.

Recently I bought paper dolls for my young nieces and thought they would love them but they were not too interested. Back to the video games!

Ah, the memories your story invokes. I loved paper dolls and continued playing with them for so long it became embarrassing. When I turned thirteen I started designing clothes for them so I would have an excuse to continue . Skinned knees -- I fell so often that my knees now look like a road map with all the scarring. The halcyon days of childhood were gone too soon. Our picnics were in the mountains by clear babbling brooks and among wild flowers. That is an adventure I would love to repeat.

Awww! Thank you for sharing. There are aspects of this story that remind me of my own childhood in rural Virginia on my dad's farm.

That was so much fun, Judy.

I was a wild one as a girl, too.

Great memories Judy....so many that I remember too. The big inner tube...loved those. Paper dolls, playing house. Hmmm...this is evoking some possibilities for a post of my own. Thanks for the nostalgia....

Thanks to everyone who commented. You make it all worthwhile!

Very enjoyable read!

This brings my wonderful childhood as a tomboy in Southeastern Louisiana. We had the swamps and bayous to roam, and I loved the old cemetary. What a great time to read this and see that there are lots of skinned knees on amazing 60 year oldies...thanks

Great memories, Kenju. I remember several different types of bike accidents and scars as a consequence. I never liked dolls, but always liked paper dolls, only if they were adults, for which I drew and painted additional clothes.

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