The joys of childhood summers
Imagination, friends and creativity filled Lily’s summer days as a child
BY LILY KONGSLIEN
Special to the Star Journal
School was out until September! Of course, there were still chores to do every day during summer vacation, but there were a lot of hours that we could enjoy ourselves, too. A whole three months…in May it seemed to be a long vacation looking ahead and it spelled freedom from school and lessons, and adventure beckoned.
Our days in the summer months were structured more loosely; we didn’t have to get up so early as when we had the long walk to school. And we knew from day to day what chores were expected from us before we could enjoy our own time. In the early spring the weeds were not yet a problem, but as time went on, there would be weeding and hoeing to do, so we took advantage of the extra time for hiking to our friends’ homes (or they could come to us), fishing, baseball or a friendly game of horseshoes. Swimming was usually in June and July as August had “dog days” to contend with, when we did not swim in the river, and, too, by mid-summer more time was needed to do our daily chores in the garden and fields. When there were prolonged dry spells, we were expected to haul water from the river to water the garden area…water is heavy and it was a hard task. It seemed that we always had days of no rain for weeks at a time, and in the early evening after the sun was so hot, we were busy with our pails and tubs of water.
Imagination played a big part in our playtime. We built little farm areas in the sand, complete with tiny fences strung with string; the cattle were imaginary as we put them out to pasture or brought them into the barn area. We didn’t have a toy barn, but we used sticks and leaves to make an enclosure for the imaginary cows and calves. There was a sand deposit in the slough where the ditches drained, and it was here that we had our “island,” divided equally in two parts, and we played here for hours at a time. When the water level was high, our “island” was washed out and we had to rebuild our sand castles again. We made little villages and had imaginary people and, of course, had to have a wall between the two sections, as we each had our own ideas of how to build and what to build. When we lacked rain and the water was low, we found that our area increased, and we could expand our villages (made of sand and rocks and branches). I don’t remember having any little cars, as kids have today. We had great imaginations and were satisfied with our own creations.
When I was left to myself (my brother, who was older, also had other interests), I created a little store area, where I made believe I was a storekeeper. This was along the side of a log cabin a short distance from our home, and among a group of trees. I kept myself busy restocking the shelves with different kinds of seeds (some cans contained “oatmeal” and some “cornmeal” or “corn flakes”). When I was lucky enough to find an old candy wrapper, I would look for a stone the shape needed for that candy bar…many hours were spent happily playing “store.” I filled old bottles with colored water to resemble “pop.” I made blue pop with a drop of ink and red pop using a drop of my mother’s food coloring. I had always wanted to be a clerk in a grocery store, but that part in my life did not work out. But imagination played a big part in my play time. I had make-believe customers and made change with play money that I had created myself.
We buried treasures and made notes with invisible messages (using milk) and also put messages and our names and addresses in bottles as we sent them down river, wondering who would find them, if they would be able to de-code our “milk” messages. We never did get any responses, as the bottles probably went to the bottom of the river or got snagged in branches as they flowed downstream.
Fishing, boating, hiking in the woods, finding discarded birds’ nests, bee hives and butterflies for our collections, various insects, beetles and spiders created our own nature study class. We had our own little gardens which we tended in addition to helping with the large vegetable garden. We did some experimenting, too, to make things a bit more interesting, as my brother decided to grow peanuts one year. This was an interesting adventure for us gardeners. Our parents were always willing to try new types of vegetables, fruit bushes, etc.
We played outside games – hopscotch, walking on stilts and marbles. I would also play jacks for hours by myself, seeing how far I could go without making a mistake. Remember “knocks,” “scrubbies,” “sweepies,” “around the moon” and many others? When we girls in the neighborhood got together, we would play for hours, and some of them really had done some practicing and were really very good at jacks. I liked to play, but I was not a whiz!
Climbing trees was not so easy for me (I could climb up, but looking down and getting back down were frightening). We walked out to Black Lake (now called Two Sisters Lake) for swimming, usually with a bunch of kids, and my brother and I, once a summer, walked out to friends who lived on Beaver Lake for a day’s excursion.
Life was full of fun and adventure, with chores thrown in here and there, and we enjoyed each day. I will admit that in August I would start to look forward to school’s opening again, with the summer being a pleasant time to remember and dream about the rest of the year. We were, like most kids in the summer, healthy and happy and full of life. Happy memories!