Monday, June 4, 2007

Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon, I try to include some actually useful information in this column. This is one of those times… depending, of course, on what your definition of “useful” is.

Last month, you may know, we observed a Blue Moon. “Blue Moon” is the term given to a second full moon which occurs in any calendar month. It doesn’t happen very often. On average, there is a Blue Moon every 2.7 years… a little more frequently than we hold presidential elections. During any 100 years, there will be approximately 40 Blue Moons. Hence, the phrase “once in a blue moon”.

I hope you found this information useful. The rest of this column will NOT attempt to include any particularly useful information.

As it turns out, when I was looking at the calendar trying to figure out the Blue Moon thing, it occurred to me that summertime is really here… and my mind started to wander. (You will note that I said “summertime is here”, not “summer is here”. In my mind, there’s a difference: “Summertime”, to me, is the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and “summer” is the period between the summer solstice – typically June 21 – and the autumnal equinox – about September 21.)

Anyway, realizing that summertime is here, my mind wandered back to the time when summertime was really important: back when I was a kid!

It was a simpler time, and those glorious months of June, July and August were what made life worth living!

I’m sure you’ve got your own summertime memories from your youth… and I’ll bet if I tell you some of mine, it will jumpstart yours….

Barefoot. All summer long. At the end of the day, my feet were dirty, because they had been in the dirt all day long. (But be careful walking on asphalt. Hot!)

Riding my bike. Everywhere. I used clothes-pins to attach pieces of cardboard to the bike, so the spokes would make a sound like an engine. There was a backseat to give someone a lift, and a basket to tote stuff in… occasionally even a small person or a pet.

Going swimming. Virtually every summer day would find me at the lake. I lived five miles away from Lake Murray, so my buddies and I would hop on our bikes and pedal up and down hills in the middle of the day to reach our swimming spot. Some days, Dad would take us again after work.

Walking to the store to get a Pepsi. It was hot, and a bottle of Pepsi was cold and wet. Buying a soft drink was an extravagance back then. It was before the days of canned drinks in the refrigerator at home, and before there were coin-operated drink boxes on every corner. But you could hike to the nearest store, and for a dime, get a Pepsi, Coke, RC, Nehi, or Dr. Pepper. They were in reusable glass bottles, and the Cokes came in a small size, too. And the best part was this: When you returned your bottle, you got a two-cent deposit back. That means, if I didn’t have a dime – which I frequently didn’t – you could simply collect five bottles and turn them in for a dime, then use the dime to pay for your Pepsi!

Staying a month at a time at Grandma’s house. She lived out in the country… it was great. We’d play Rummy and Setback in the morning, and various aunts, uncles, or cousins usually came by in the afternoon.

Baseball every day. All the guys in the neighborhood would bring their bats and
gloves to the nearest field. It wasn’t exactly sand-lot baseball, because there wasn’t any sand…. It was a field full of weeds that we would beat down, or cut with a sling-blade. We’d choose up sides, and make the rules as we went along. We’d usually keep playing until the sun went down, or the bat broke, or the ball went into a drainage ditch, or one of us got stung by something and needed first aid. We never counted innings. Probably 40 or 50. We also didn’t count balls and strikes… just strikes. A batter could watch 10 or 12 pitches before swinging if he wanted to.

Attic fans and shade trees. Air conditioning was not something readily available in my youth. I remember my family getting our first window unit when I was older… maybe in junior high school (which is what we used to call middle school.) But before that first AC, it was all about fans and shade. At night, I would open the windows and feel the breeze from that attic fan.

Grilling out. There really was not a lot of “eating out” in those days… fast food restaurants really hadn’t been developed yet. So suppertime was always at home. But, for a treat, we’d grill hot dogs, and maybe even hamburgers. For special occasions, we’d have actual store-bought buns with the burgers or dogs – but that was a luxury, because plain ole bread worked just fine.

Camping out. In the back yard! The neighbors would come over, and we’d camp out all night. Sometimes even up in the tree house.

The drive-in movies. During the summertime, Wednesday nights were FREE at Ray’s U.S. 1 Drive-In Theatre in Lexington. Well, not totally free… but all you had to do was get a coupon from a local merchant. I lived right down the street… so I walked in to the drive-in every Wednesday.

Myrtle Beach.
Wow. Nowadays, the word “vacation” means taking a week off for an exotic destination, a cruise, or maybe even Disney. Back then, the word meant “Myrtle Beach”… maybe only for a couple of days…maybe even just a day. Didn’t matter. It was Myrtle Beach, and you couldn’t ask for any place better.

I could go on and on… I could fill up an entire newspaper… because when I was a kid, my world revolved around summertime. Life was wonderful.

In this age of cell-phones and laptops, fast food and year-round schools, I hope the kids of today are still getting a little bit of what we had back then. And I hope my memories of summertime have helped you dust off a few of your own.

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