It Was The 50s and I Was A Kid, What Did I Know…

Front Porch (1)

It was the 50s, life was good. But I was a kid, what did I know…

I remember my mother waiting until supper was finished before contentedly sitting down herself, to enjoy a cup of tea and bite to eat. I grew up naively thinking that all mothers had the same routine; set, serve, clear, then eat. It was the 50s, and I was a kid, what did I know…

We never took a family vacation. However,  we were active as a family, bonding with simple, valuable, family activities: evening rides in our spacious Chevy station wagon for ice cream and hot dogs or to check out the wonderful countryside, fishing at local ponds, watching family television shows, playing games around the kitchen table, even venturing 40 miles to Boston for a baseball game.

We were part of a ‘blue collar’ community and’ living the dream’, it seemed. It was the 50s and I was a kid, what did I know…

june-n-stephen-1957

I watched ‘Three Stooges’ reruns and my father would scoff, “you’ll grow up stupid, watching that stuff”.  We watched Friday Night Fights together on a black ‘n white picture screen and listened on the radio when a Swede knocked out Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight crown.  I didn’t grow up ‘stupid’, nor did I become a tough guy.  The Stooges taught me how great laughter is and I learned nothing from boxing, except the cigar commercials caught my attention.  I would be tempted.  It was the 50’s and tobacco was still king. What did I know…

Annette Funicello, the prettiest Mouseketeer, surely saw me in the crowd at her K-Mart autograph appearance.  I had a crush on her, every boy did, I’m sure she winked at me.  But she never answered my fan letter.  Maybe it got lost.  It was the 50s, I felt heartbreak for the first time.

Big malls didn’t exist in the 50s. Neither did video games, but we had imaginations, enthusiasm and bicycles to take us places; museums, play fields, or downtown for stuff. Several of us went together for moral support when it came time to buy our first jockstraps for school sports.  It was the 50s, we were all kids, navigating our way…

The 50s was an exciting time for new fads, new music and new dangers.  Hula hoops became an instant craze and Elvis became an instant hit.  Parents worried about rock ‘n roll and morals while the government worried about a dictator named Castro. I worried about pimples.

mother-1951            dad-1957

Sitting on our front porch in the 50s, I would calculate my age by the year 2000.  Wow, that seemed old, I thought.  But that was a long road to travel and would take forever to get there.  With certainty, it came and went. I was so young when it did. At least, looking back now, it seemed I was.

The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful. The 60s were just around the corner. What possibly could change…

…but then, what do I know?

Today, I Built a Snow Fort

Winter Street

Living in western New York requires a hearty soul when it comes to weathering the weather. Every winter, Mother Nature throws her best punch at us. After lying mostly dormant this winter, she reminded us of her mood swings with a pummeling of snow that stopped drivers, closed roads and shut down businesses.  And some of us thought Spring was on the way.  Ha!

How do people along the Niagara Frontier handle Mother Nature with her long, dark winter nights, and mornings crisp enough to snap the nose off your face if you wiggled it?  Only one way, we take what She’s blown at us and make it our playground.

We tug on long johns, wrap ourselves in downy coats, then race out-of-door to play, just as we did when some of us still could race.

Against cheek numbing winds, we schuss down snow-packed mountains on narrow flat boards. We clamp on snowshoes and break new trails in deep silent stands of nearby woods.

Snowshoes

Dull skates and old sleds are rescued from dusty web covered garage lofts or backyard sheds. Blades and runners are honed and waxed to make perfect for gliding over new ice or flying down slick hills on our bellies.

The brilliant sunshine on a wintry day makes a frigid five degrees feel like a tepid ten. We are survivors!

Me, I call on a time when kids were always outside, playing games that strengthened our bodies and stretched our imaginations. Today, I built a fort in my backyard blanket of cold, cotton-like snow, a dugout snow fort.

My fort today was not unlike one I built back then, simple but strong. A mini fortress, big enough for a cadre of ruffians and a cache of snowballs, just in case real ruffians showed up, as they often did. And amid the screams and yells, and maybe a curse, was the splatting thud of snowballs finding arms and legs and an occasional noggin’.

Those snow castles gave us a place to escape, a place so cold that only the energy of our youthful exhuberance kept us warm, as a pint size ‘band of brothers’ huddled together, making plans for our next adventure.

And what better place to have that adventure than on a corner snow ‘mountain’, the high, hard packed hill of shoveled or plowed snow, perfect for a game of ‘King of the Hill’.

Winter is a great time to test our endurance, to demonstrate our vim, vigor and vitality. Come Spring, we will scratch a notch in our snowpant suspenders as a symbol of success against the elements. We shall prevail!

Today, I built a snow fort. And tonight, under the cold, star lit sky, I’ll climb a corner snow ‘mountain’ and declare myself, King of the Hill!

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Dedicated to the kid in every adult, builders of snow forts, and those who challenge themselves in the great outdoors.

“My Front Porch”

Front Porch (1)

Forty miles west of Boston, in central Massachusetts, between the Berkshire Mountains and Cape Cod, is Worcester. It was good place to be a kid.  We owned a three family house there, a ‘3 decker’, a style exclusive to New England blue collar neighborhoods.

The big house had some fascinating features: a slate roof, windowed side porches, utility sheds on the back with access to outside turning clothes lines.           Front Porch (Clothesline)On wash day, everything from underwear to pillow cases hung from the backside of the house, drying to a fresh air finish in the feint summer breezes.

To me, the deep, wrap-around front porch with spindled railings, round columns and a narrow board floor was the best part of the house, a place in the hot summer months, where I could escape to relax, reflect and reenergize.

Front porches were common in New England, as gathering places for family and friends.  In summer, my porch collected morning dew that gave way to evening sunsets.  Daytime found the porch abuzz with children playing and adults relaxing with idle chatter over cups of hot tea, unknowingly making memories.

Overgrown forsythia and fragrant lilac bushes served as a wall of privacy, like a moat to a castle.  A pull-down shade kept us cool and dry from summer sun and rain.

Imaginations came alive as friends gathered on the porch to play or plan games. My body found a way to adjust to the stiff aluminum chaise lounge where I often settled in, to read on lazy summer days.  There, I muddled through ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ got lost in ‘Lord of The Flies’, with my own sea conch by my side, and hid ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Comic books were a favorite staple and napping was allowed.

The front porch of our home was a launching pad to juvenile adventures, where a kid could feel brave and safe.  But all good things end, as this did when my dad announced that he was ripping off the porch because it was in disrepair. I was devastated.

I knew, then, an idyllic chapter in my life had ended, as I pulled nails from the splintered boards that once made my porch.  I felt like an executioner.

But the memory of that porch and those times remains vivid.  And, I wonder, did you have a ‘front porch ‘ in your life?

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