Recalling Those Long Summer Vacations

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By Dorothy Dean Holman

(1895 - 1984)

[Edited by John M. Holman, Contributing Writer]

Ca. 1970's

Nowadays summers seem so short. You hardly get the garden planted before it is time for harvest. You wake up some morning to the realization that it's really fall.

But way back in the early years of our child hood summer vacations stretched ahead seemingly endless. When the last day of school came, what a happy feeling it was to know there'd be no more until September, a whole long summer with nothing to do but play.

In those days we had no organized play in a designated area of the town. We did our own organizing, and the only supervision was by our mother, and she never interfered unless we were doing something which was damaging to our well-being, like climbing on the chicken house roof or sliding down the bulk-head, which would ruin our clothes.

Our play area was the back yard, and adjoining fields and woods, sections of the latter we gave names to, as The Pines, The Cedars, Mossy Dell and Leafy Lane, all self-explanatory.

We didn't have as many toys as children of today. But we had something else and plenty of it and that was imagination. We could pretend anything was something else and almost believe that it was so. For instance, we'd seen the ocean only once, but we'd pretend a field of grass was the bounding main, the wind blowing across it made imaginary waves, and we'd lie down in it to "swim".

At other times, we'd go boating. A rather shallow wooden box, large enough to accommodate two or three of us would be our boat. Planks across it constituted the seats, and a stone placed under it caused it to rock like a boat being tossed about on a choppy sea.

When we tired of playing that, we'd decide to spend a day at the Fair. All we knew of Fairs was what we'd heard about or read but they sounded like fun. We'd up-end a couple of wooden boxes on the back porch next to the rail, one behind the other for seats. That could be either a train or a trolley car. Or, we might decide to drive old Dobbin, in which case, we'd use the same set-up, except with the addition of string tied to the dining room window blinds which would constitute the reins.

After a short interval of enjoying our "ride", and commenting on the scenes we passed, we'd arrive at the "Fair". To participate in the various activities we'd need some money, and for this, small pebbles would do very nicely, and for a purse, there'd be a discarded pocket-book of Mama's or Papa's flat tobacco box.

One year we were in luck. Not far from our house, a water tank wa being torn down, and when the workmen had left, we found a quantity of metal washers which resembled money much more than pebbles did.

The first amusement to take part in, was a ride on the Merry-Go-Round, and for this our imagination had to be stretched a bit. An old Duchess apple tree in the orchard took on the role of the flying horses. Its limbs were so formed that perfect seats were the result. We'd hand a pebble or washer to an imaginary attendant (drop it on the ground) and climb aboard. The wind played an important part in this, especially if it blew hard enough to sway the tree.

This over, we'd go on to the balloon ascension. A tall, old cedar tree served our purpose for this. We'd climb to the very top and again if the wind would oblige, the tree top would be tossed about, swinging this way and that. What fun it was, and looking down, there would be sister standing below, waiting her turn.

The animal exhibits had to be limited to the family cat and dog "Rags", a Scotch terrier. Although they protested, we'd shut them up in chicken crates and stand before them in awed wonder, pretending they were blue ribbon winners.

We'd return home via the back porch, train or car or driving behind old Dobbin, whichever took our fancy at the moment.

As all young children do, we played house a good share of the time. Sometimes we used our dolls but more often our paper dolls, and the real fun was in building houses for them. The lucky sister got the discarded ice-box on the back porch for her house, and all she had to do was move in. The rest of us had to start from the ground up, and rummaging around in the barn would come up with boxes, baskets and even the wooden wheel-barrow turned on its side. One year we discovered an old wooden toilet seat, discarded to the kindling pile, which made an excellent window, until Mama found out. All put together the result was nothing but a makeshift shack, but it served its purpose.

~ And so at last the summer vacation came to an end. But we didn't mind too much, because on Labor Day the Grangers and their families held their annual picnic at a pond on the outskirts of town. Mama'd pack a lunch and off we'd go to catch the two—horse drawn school barge at the corner for transportation to the picnic grounds.

There were all manner of things to do, wading in the pond, participating in games such as sack races, potato races, or just playing in the woods with other Grangers' children.

At noon families gathered with their picnic baskets in groups in the shade. Some bought steamed corn, hot coffee or soda pop to supplement the sandwiches brought from home. After lunch the mothers sat around and visited while the fathers had a baseball game in an adjoining field.

And then it was time to go home, so we climbed aboard the barges and goodbyes were called out, as picnickers, tired, hot and dusty but happy, were dropped off at their several corners along the way. School started the next day, but what a host of memories the summer had left with us! Besides, there was Christmas to look forward to, and after that, before too long, would come another long summer vacation.

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