The Boys of Summer
by Mike Wright, Cadiz Record Columnist
Jun 02, 2010 | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I cannot believe it. At the very moment that I am writing this column, it is June 1st. For me, it is the first day of summer. Alas, since I am a school teacher, it is also my first day of summer vacation. Yeah right! Please note the sarcasm interjected there. I just happen to have a list of things to do today longer than Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Whatever ever happened to the seemingly endless days of summer? Roger Kahn wrote a book entitled The Boys of Summer, which was about the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball teams of the 1950’s. With apologies to Mr. Kahn, please allow me to reminisce about the “Boys of Summer” I grew up with.

Growing up in Cadiz in the 1960s was nothing short of magical for the boys living in the houses along Third Street, Glendale Drive, Sunset Circle and so forth. It seemed as if nearly every house contained kids and sometimes bunches of them. Oh to recall the names. There was Steve “Goose” Guess, Bill Fort, Todd Cain, Maxfield and Rosemary Hendricks, the Sears Clan consisting of David, Steve, Carol, Allison and Laura Ann, and Jeff “Pugh” Carr. There was Deano Oliver, Kerry and Randy Back and the Coulter boys, Timmy and Weasel. Lester Hawkins was always available for a baseball game, as well. There was never a shortage of people to play with.

It was a different era back then. Summer days usually started around 8 a.m. or so for most of us in the neighborhood. We would get together and start playing ball by 8:30 or 9. First, we would all go to whichever vacant lot we had a ball field on at the time. We would get there by riding our banana-seat bikes complete with Topps Baseball cards fastened to our spokes. This gave the illusion that we were riding motorcycles with the noise coming form our wheels. Then, a couple of the better players would be named captains and they would choose teams. They would toss the bat one to another and put fist over fist to see who ended up at the top of the bat. This person got first choice. Sometimes, the person who ended up with his hand on top of the bat had to throw it 10 feet back over his head to secure the first choice.

We then proceeded to play real baseball. There were no batting helmets or umpires. Also, this was before there was a hole in our ozone. Therefore, we would go days without donning a shirt on our backs. Sunscreen, I don’t think so. Oh, what simple times. There were official summer baseball leagues, but they were just an extension of our daily games. You didn’t have to teach us how to “tag up” or handle a “hot box” situation. We were practicing it every day.

The best field we ever had was on Sunset Circle behind where Ralph Thomas lived at the time. I distinctly remember how Lester Hawkins had the most homeruns one summer as he hit 31 upon the bank behind Ralph’s house.

It seemed like forever, but noon would finally come. It was then that we would all go home or end up at the Mom’s house that had the best lunch fixed. You see, neighborhoods were close-knit back then. It was pretty much an open-door policy for all of us younguns.

After lunch, it was back to the games. Besides baseball, we played whiffle ball, football (touch and tackle), basketball, 21, pig, horse, 2 on 2 and 3 on 3. We even developed a love for fishing by going to one of James Stallons ponds behind Maxey Bridges house. There must have been an endless supply of crappie, bass and bluegill in that pond. White jigs were our bait of choice as we wore the fish out.

I must mention that we also played some serious games of Army. Of course, our country was smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam War at this time. David Sears was the best at Army. David would have been a professional army player if there were such a thing.

By 6 p.m., it was usually suppertime. Mike Winkler’s dad could let out a whistle that could be heard for at least a mile. Don’t ask me how he could whistle so loud, but he could. Wink would take off immediately when he heard his Dad’s version of the dinner bell. We would all usually scatter for a quick supper break upon hearing the whistle.

After supper, it was time for a different variety of games. When darkness fell, the old school games came out. I am talking about Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, Red Light Green Light, Annie Over, freeze tag and others.

Finally, it would be time to call it a night. As we all departed, we would already be verifying with each other the activities for the next day. Nights were short and days were long.

As I think back, we didn’t watch much television at all back then. Video games were unheard of and nobody had cell phones. We played outside and stayed outside. The sun was our friend. We ate what we wanted, but none of us were fat. We argued and settled disputes, but no one got hurt. We made our own rules and learned to follow them. We didn’t need adults to organize our days for us. We were accomplished at creating our own fun. As summer begins, I want to thank the Boys of Summer for being such a big part of my life.

OT: The number of people who tell me that they enjoy the column is overwhelming. It is even to the point of being a little intimidating. I hope to have more time this summer and therefore do some interesting features for you good folks. Thanks to Mrs. Katie and Mrs. Debra for the wonderful comments.

Enthusiasm Makes the Difference Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to jmcgill@cadizrecord.com.
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