It’s My Life, Sort of – Summers of our youth

CAPTION: Your two-wheeler, favourite fishing poles and cardboard noisemakers on a bike’s spokes provide some of the memories from summers of our youth.

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

“No more pencils, no more books,
No more teacher’s dirty looks.”

Remember that classic?
I sure do.
Everyone said it on or nearing the last day of school way back when.
I wonder if kids still say it today. Do they? Does anyone know?
Mr. Murray, a Grade 7 teacher at St. Mary’s School on Plymouth Road, probably heard it more than anyone else. He was a stickler to the extreme for good penmanship. An improperly rounded ‘j’ or ‘y’, for example, resulted in a dressing down. If you were a recidivist, it led eventually to a sharp crack across your open palm or maybe your knuckles with his ruler.
Point made.
After the two liner’s novelty wore off, the guys sat around or stood at the corner chewing the fat about what the summer holidays would hold.
Oh, there were lots of things to amuse us. Most were outdoors activities, hijinks from shortly after sunrise to past sundown if we could get away with it.
Just the other day, I thought about things we did during summer holidays back in the late 50s and even early 60s. Here’s my Top 10 List.
10: Getting up before the crack of dawn to pick cherries and peaches at a fruit farm in Fenwick. Half the fun was the ride to and from the farm in the back of the farmer’s old pick-up truck, the other half was seeing who could eat the most cherries while trying to fill those big baskets;
9: Sitting on the front porch reading comic books, especially Classics Illustrated, Superman and Batman with your best buds. Some time you even traded ‘em back and forth; most in demand were the latest releases, bought at Mr. Hanna’s Rexall Drug Store at 591 King Street;
8: Playing baseball in the Cordage field on King Street, across from Joe Miller’s sports and variety store. The games, at times, went on for hours;
7: Having a cold, cold bottle of Evangeline lime, orange or ginger ale, the pop that came in those fancy bottles with the image of the character from the poem by the same name, Evangeline. Whatever happened to Evangeline pop?;
6: Hunting for empty pop bottles then cashing in your haul for penny candy from Joe Miller’s candy counter. Black-licorice cigars were popular with just about everyone, and spearmint leaves, nickel bags of sunflower seeds, black balls and those red, waxy lips;
5: Using clothespins to attach empty cigarette boxes or sports cards to your two-wheeler’s spokes, then riding up and down the block with your bike making a rat-a-tat racket heard from one end of the street to the other;
4: Fishing from the abutment or pilings at the train bridge between Sixth and Seventh streets, catching a sunfish or maybe perch and pretending Moby Dick was on the end of your line;
3 (Tie): Going to the Welland Drive-In on Forkes Road East with your folks, staying out late in your pyjamas and munching on spongy hot dogs tucked inside even spongier hot dog buns, and popcorn, chips, licorice sticks and pop; going to the Community Theatre on King Street with your buddies to watch Saturday matinees, often “serial” flicks that continued one Saturday to the next;
2: Spending the afternoon at the Crowland Wading Pool behind the municipal building on King Street. Though hardly bigger than a typical living room nowadays, it seemed there were always 200 kids give or take in this pool. Leaving your towels on the deck was risky because bigger kids came around, scooped ‘em up and threw them on or over the chain link fence then spread out their own, brazenly taking your “spot”;
1. Riding your bike to Nickel Beach in Port Colborne with your buddies and spending the day in the surf and sand. The ride back to Welland took two or three times as long as the ride there but heck, it was summertime and you had nothing but time on your hands, anyway.
Good times or what.
Good gosh, those were the days!
(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. It’s My Life, Sort Of, appears on the blog weekly.)

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