Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Me (the tall kid in the middle with legs crossed) with my friends Billy Smith, Pee Wee Mack, Chubby Shores and my brother Isasc (with the baseball mitt) at 120 Washington Avenue. Downingtown, PA 1951

This is my favorite time of year, summertime.  My second favorite time of year is fall but my all time favorite time is summertime.

The hot, long day of summer remind me of growing up on Washington Avenue in Downingtown, PA in the Fifties.  Like most families, mine was very poor although we didn't think all that much about it at that time.  We were too busy having fun with the other kids on our block.

Me (the big kid holding a grasshopper in my finger near my eye) and my brothers John and Isaac and some other kids from the block - we were ready for our big adventure of the day

Summer always seemed to go by so fast.  From the first daylight we would bust out of our apartment to meet with our playmates who lived in the other apartments and houses nearby.  We always had something to do.  We were never bored.

Too soon summer was over and we were headed back to school.  I remember the smell of our new school clothes that my Mother would order from Montgomery Ward.  No more long days, no more playing hide and seek, no more exploring around the railroad yard behind our house.  No more long bike trips to nowhere.  No more exploring abandoned farm house.

Every now and then I got real lucky and was asked to spend a couple of weeks at a farm or house "out in the country."  Those trips for me were better than a visit to Disneyland!

My Mom with me (she has her hand on my neck) and my brothers Isaac and John and my step aunt Mary (long black coat) and my Mother's half sister Ruthie (squatting) at their place in Compass, PA - 1948

My Mother's step-sister, Aunt Mary, and step-mother (Margaret - I was always afraid of her.) lived in a house in Compass, PA.  The house didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing but that wasn't a concern of this 10 year old who was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks of summer "in the country." I loved it!  I remember the smell of the county being so different from the smell of Washington Avenue.

Me and my baby brother John in front of Aunt Mary's bathroom (a working outhouse) -1949
 I remember at nighttime, when everyone was in bed, lying in my bed listening to the sound of the clocks ticking in the modest wood frame house in the field.  I remember using the outhouse and looking down that black hole to the glistening mass below.  Believe it or not, I wasn't freaked out by using an outhouse unlike now where I am so spoiled by the conveniences of modern living I would never consider using such bathroom facilities.

Me with my "Aunt" Mildred and her children Peggy and Duckie (I don't remember the baby's name) -  1951 - by the way Duckie and I were the same age - guess who was big for his age? I think this is why I was so serious - I was very conscious of my height and "big" nose and skinniness - 1952

A couple of times I was asked to go to the Vances farm.  George and Mildred Vance was the brother-in-law and sister of my Aunt Margaret who lived in the apartment above us on Washington Avenue.  They had two children, a son called "Duckie" and a daughter (Peggy).  Duckie was my age.  I was asked to visit them to keep Duckie company.  His family lived on a real farm.  They had a barn with a hay loft.  Lots of pigs.  It was so much fun to swill the pigs with garbage collected from nearby houses.  I can still remember the happy squeals of the pigs as we dumped bucket fuels of stinky garbage in the pig troughs.

Another fun thing Duckie and I did was to play in the corn fields.  We would crawl on our hands and knees through the dirt to create mazes.  I'm surprised at myself now that I was that destructive of those corn fields.  I have cornfields near me now and I would never do something like that.  But when you're a 11 year old kid, you don't think of such things.

Another fun thing Duckie and I used to do was to go into the hayloft and jump into the piles of hay below.  Oh what fun!  I can still remember the smell of that dried hay.  That to me is the smell of summer.  At night we would catch lightening bugs and put them in a Mason jar.

Oh the wonderful times I had in summertime when I was a kid.  We didn't have any money but that didn't seem to matter.  Once in a while we would get a treat to a Tastee Freeze, which today is known as soft ice cream.  My father would pile me and my brothers in the back of his pickup truck and we were off to the Tastee Freeze stand in Thorndale, PA.  Every now and then I would get a root beer float.  Delicious!  The taste of summer.

One of my favorite pictures - me and my brothers (and our dog Sam) at the Old Swimming Hole - again I'm the Big Kid on the right - 1952

Another really favorite treat was when my father would load us up in the car (or pickup truck) and take us to the Old Swimming Hole.  Yep, we had our very own swimming hole.  I don't know who liked that swimming hole more; me and my brothers or our Chesapeake Bay retriever dog Sam.

Me talking to Sam while my brother Isaac looks on - check out that swimming suit, it was yellow! It got a lot of use at that swimming hole - 1952

This was the only swimming me and my brothers ever did when we were growing up.  We never set foot in a swimming pool or the ocean.  The first time I got into a real swimming pool was when I was stationed at Ft. Meade, in Maryland in the early Sixties.  I didn't see the ocean until I was twenty-two years old and Bill took me to Rehoboth Beach which is where I am now.  Ironically since I moved down here in 2006, I have yet to put my foot in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean which is just a few feet away from the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, where I usually spend my time when I do go to the beach.  Ah yes, my absolute favorite swimming days were back in the Fifties.

A different swimming hole - we took a dip on a hot summer evening after picking a couple of buckets of raspberries for Mom - this was our treat - we all had ice cream cones after the swim - who needs a pool?  
These are just some of my memories of summer.  These days I'm creating new memories of summer.

Yes, summertime is the best time of the year.

Me at summertime these days here in Delaware


Anonymous said...

excellent trip down memory lane. A fire in the early 90's destroyed pictures and slides in my parents attic.

Mark said...

I'm surprised that I'm not sick of the heat yet. I think I like it warmer as I get older.

Ron said...

Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry to hear that your pictures and slides were destroyed in a fire. That has always been my fear that I would lose my precious photos. I've scanned most of them into the computer and have several backups of all those photos.

Ron said...

Not here Mark. This heat and humidity is really getting to me and Bill. We're staying inside all day!

Anonymous said...

Have to make a trip up to Westmont NJ this fall to my Aunts to search and scan pictures for my Mother. She talks about it everyday !

anne marie in philly said...

great post, ron! such an easy life back then.

I am staying inside too, only going out to get to/from work. YUCK!

Amanda said...

I think life was probably easier then and neighbors helped one another... Your "job" being a kid was to have fun as you were too young to worry about the mortgage... You lived life to the fullest and enjoyed every minutes of it.
Nowdays we have so much but yet missing on being happy. I always say that everyday, we have to find our ray of sunshine and be grateful for what we have, but somehow, it is not enough. Maybe it is because we lost our innocence? We are jaded? Grumpy for no reason? Jealeous of what other people have? Worried about the future? I think we just forgot to live in the moment and forgot to have fun.

Ron said...

You are right, life was easier in the Fifties. What I remember most was how uncomplicated life was and how fast summer went by. Every day was an adventure. We knew we were poor but it was no big deal because everyone was poor. It was a wonderful time of my life and I am glad I was able to experience it and now have the wonderful memories (and some photos).

Ron said...

Make sure you scan all those pictures! I would love to see some of them. You're doing a good thing. After you scan them copy them to a DVD and a flash drive. That way you're covered.

Ron said...

Anne Marie,
I can just imagine what it's like in Philly these days! I used to live in that steambath in the summertime. Keep cool!