Back In My Day: Introduction
For many of us, when we read “back in my day…” we envision an elderly person sharing their past and emphasizing how simple and, occasionally, how much better things were for them. Sometimes, a grumpy older person will express how good we have it compared to their childhood experiences.
Like, “I had to walk a mile to get to school… I had twice the amount of chores… I didn’t have nearly-half the amount of stuff kids have today…
Although I still consider myself a youngin’, this cliche is quite fitting for the four part series that I am going to share next, on this blog.
As we enter Spring, I am compelled to share my warm, weather stories of what my childhood was like, in the early 80s on the south side streets of Chicago.
I hope you can join me on my ride down memory lane…
Back In My Day: Part 1 – Old Fashioned Fun
My street was 53rd and Wood.
Unlike most Chicago neighborhood streets, it was an unusually wide, two- way street with tall oak trees. Fires, foreclosures, or unlivable conditions led to the boarding up of several houses and apartments down the street. One side of the block there was a big school building with a playground, and on the other side of the block there was a corner store.
The front lawns were filled with tall weeds, dandelions, and white clovers. Big bald spots of dirt were scattered among the skimpy grass, candy wrappers, empty chips bags, newspapers, and beer bottles.
My neighborhood looked run-downed and just plain ugly.
But, we had the essential ingredients for making memories that would last a lifetime – love, loyalty, and laughter.
It was truly a simpler time back then.
Back in my day, children participated in old- fashioned fun, and they weren’t wimps.
We would play for hours at the neighborhood park, on the run down swings, monkey bars, sea-saws, rainbow carousels, and shiny, stainless steel slides.
Swinging as high as we could, and then jumping off at the same time. Hoping to land feet first onto the dirt filled with little pebbles, and not on our knees. But if we did, we would dust our scraped knees off and keep on playing. The blood blended with the dirt, and eventually it will stop bleeding and heal until the next time, which was inequitable.
We were resilient.
No “boo boo” was going to send us home. We weren’t going to miss out on the fun.
Hanging upside down from the monkey bars, we dared each other to do new tricks.
We were risk- takers.
No fear was going to stop us from stretching outside of our comfort zone.
Piling up on one side of the sea-saw, so that our friend’s legs could dangle in the air on the other side.
We were rascals.
We enjoyed messing with each other, and no one took it personal or ran away crying. We all knew it was all fun in games.
Spinning as fast as we could on the rainbow carousel, as one of our friends ran around in a circle, holding on to the railing, and waiting to jump on with us.
We were reckless.
We pushed the envelope, but we also were responsible.
We knew to avoid the shiny stainless steel slide on those excruciating hot days. All it took was one incident of burning our thighs to make us rethink going down again. Sometimes, kids would pour water and dirt on the slide to cool it off, but that relief wouldn’t last long.
But, when the sun went down, we were all about that slide.
Sliding down with a friend, or climbing up the incline plane of the slide. When the day arrived for us to finally climb to the top of the monstrous slide. It felt like we conquered the world.
We were relentless.
We didn’t give up too easy. We knew how to compete and challenge one another, and yet, cheer each other on to overcome obstacles.
Once we exhausted our time at the park, we would head back to our block and play some type of organized game – Freeze Tag, Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, or Cops and Robbers.
Back in my day, children played on the sidewalks until the street lights came on.
Thinking back, we always had something to do. The word “bored” wasn’t a part of our vocabulary.
Sometimes we jumped double dutch with a clothesline rope. Two ropes swinging at the same time in opposite directions, as we jumped to a catchy rhyme, like …
Cinderalla Dressed in yella
Cinderella dressed in yella,
Went downstairs to kiss a fella,
Made a mistake and kissed a snake.
How many doctors did it take
1, 2, 3, . . . .
After much jumping, we would fall back on hand clapping games, cheers, or call and responses, like the one below.
“Looking out the window and who do you see? I see Rosabel trying to get that beat, get that beat. Get that beat…”
Sometimes we would bring out the bikes, roller-skates, and hola hoops. It didn’t matter what belonged to who, we shared everything.
As Individuals, we had little, but as a community we had enough! It was shared community living at its best.
And then, there were those special times when it was okay to really get dirty. We would make mud pies out of bricks, dirt, water, grass, sticks, and weeds.
Or, those excruciating hot days, when a daring soul would get their wrench and open the fire hydrant.
They were our hero for the day!
We would run home as fast as could, ask for permission, and once we got it, we would immediately run towards the fire hydrant- the water ride.
An adult, or teenager, sat on the hydrant and manipulated the water with their hands as kids ran around under the water fall.
We knew it was only time before the fire department was going to shut down our only relief from the sun.
Back in my day, we were children, and it came natural. There were no helicopter parents flying over us.
It would be absurd of me to not acknowledge that the streets of Chicago, especially the one I lived on, has changed. Yes, most neighborhoods were safer, but that shouldn’t stop us.
As parents, we can encourage our children to put down the electronic devices, shut of the televisions, and have some old- fashioned fun!
Take them to the park. Teach them how to ride a bike, roller skate, hola hoop, jump rope….
Let’s make our “back in my day” a reality for our children.