Friday, February 23, 2007

Top 5 70s kid activities

If you do the math, you quickly realize that I am a child of the 70s. That is, of course, if you’re interested in my childhood, math, or both. Which you are not. Well, maybe the math.


Since this blog is the Petey Show, it doesn’t really matter if you’re interested. As long as I am.

I digress.

So, child of the 70s. We got that far. I was reminiscing not so long ago (in fact, I believe it was in the “Deploying Windows Vista to the Desktop” session at Microsoft’s big Vista/Office 2007 Launch event at the Dallas Convention Center this past Wed) on the things I did as a little kid, and how different they are from my own kids’ activities. So, perhaps for my kids’ benefit, maybe for my own, here are the Top 5 (or so – I had to cheat again) Little Kid Activities from the 1970s:

5. Playing “Emergency” on our bicycles

The two cool kids would get to be the paramedics from Squad 51 (a little help on the names of the characters - I got nothing) the spares would be the guys from Engine 51. We’d just hang out on the front steps of someone’s house, trying to reproduce fireman-talk, until someone would honk out that annoying EEEEE-OOOOP-GAAAAAAA signal and off we’d go, pedaling our three-speed and five-speed Schwinns like lunatics, towards the scene of some made up disaster or colossal car wreck or somesuch

4. Baseball in the park

There was a drained wading pool in the park across the street, which, come to think of it, I never remember having water in it, even in the middle of the summer. That pool was a perfect infield, and, since ground-level was maybe two feet above the bottom of the pool, it was an easy jump up to the outfield. A wood bat, a baseball that had been white in the waning years of the Eisenhower Administration but was now only a slightly lighter shade of brown than the dirt, and my uncle’s glove which had been top-of-the-line when he got it in 1952 – I had all the gear. Amazingly, we needed only about three kids per team.

3. (tie) Doing anything in the basement

Our tiny little house had one huge redeeming feature – a basement. One half was unfinished and held the washer and dryer, the furnace, and dad’s tool bench. The other side was finished and was kid-land. We had a 19-inch (or so) Zenith black and white TV which got about two channels, an enormous German (WEST German, if you can remember back that far – very confusing for a kid) console hi-fi that dad had brought back from the Army days, a couple of chairs, and a table or two down there. I vaguely remember Lincoln Logs, Hot Wheels track, and a wooden train set, but it was imagination that made the place run.

3. (tie) Buying ice cream from the Good Humor man

Back in the day, the ice cream man drove a clean, white truck and was generally a clean, white guy. I’m sure half of them were child predators, but remember, this was in the days when a kid’s place was outside, away from the house, as much as possible, because there was NOTHING to be afraid of, except maybe the psycho Irish kids on the next block. Whatever. The nice, clean, white Good Humor truck (or one of the competitors, I can’t remember any of their names) would come up the street by the park, with that annoying little jingle-bell music going – it sure wasn’t annoying to a six-year-old, it was the World’s Greatest Sound – and would pull up right there by where we were doing our kid bit. As soon as you heard the music, you dropped whatever you were doing and ran your ass off to the spot where he always stopped. He’d come back to the big window on the side of the truck, wearing his nice white Good Humor uni, the white hat with the shiny black brim, the silver change dispenser clipped to his black belt, and one at a time, we’d ask (hell, scream) for our favorites. I remember Fudgsicles, Dreamsicles (orange ice with some sort of cream inside), and multi-colored rocket-pops. I’m sure there was much more to choose from, but that’s all that pops into my tired old brain now. Great stuff. No ice cream on Earth tastes like that now.

3. (tie) Listening to my AM radio late at night

I got a little, white AM clock radio when I was a little kid, and the world completely changed for me. I stopped sleeping and turned into a radio junkie. I’d lie awake, turning the tuning dial and pulling in clear-channel stations from all over, catching ABA games from exotic places like Dallas and Richmond, hockey games from Madison Square Garden and the Nassau Coliseum. I discovered country music (really strange for a first grader in New Jersey), sports broadcasting, news (clearest memories: Vietnam and Northern Ireland), the wacky radio contest (I was sure I was going to win a Thanksgiving turkey on year), and all sorts of other stuff. A formative experience.

2. Playing “French Resistance” around the neighborhood

The boundaries were basically the four or five contiguous houses on our side of the street, and the rule was if you got “shot”, you had to count to 30 before you could rejoin the game. This was good for HOURS of entertainment. We’d play from morning til late late in the day, when the light got long, the green of the trees and grass got deeper, the ground got cool. By the time we quit, it would be so dark you couldn’t tell if the kid who just came around the corner of the house was on your team or not until you got 5 feet from him. The funny thing was how we’d all drop the toy guns the instant an older kid stopped by. I didn’t understand why we did that (I still don’t), but we all did without anyone having to say anything.

1. Swimming ANYWHERE

We had a pool in the yard when we moved to Texas. Before that, it could be a pool, a lake, the ocean, a deep puddle, it didn’t matter – going swimming anywhere was the coolest thing you could possibly do. It didn’t matter if you could swim or not, just being in the water was awesome (an aside: I can’t remember what adjectives we used them; “cool” was still a hippie word and we’d have needed a dictionary to tell you what “awesome” meant – I totally cannot remember what we’d call something really good). Even the backyard kiddie pool was a treat, as long as there were lots of plastic boats handy. And it was always a fight when it was time to get out.

Some other activities that pour out in a stream of consciousness:

- Flipping baseball cards
- Throwing the football with dad in the park
- Saturday morning cartoons, of course
- Trying spinach because Popeye ate it, then wondering what the hell was wrong with that insane sailor
- Bug hunts, especially for fireflies (remember those, from the days before Dursban?)
- Board games – Monopoly, Clue, and The Game of Life were biggies
- Riding my bicycle up and down the street for hours
- Bowling
- War movies
- John Wayne
- Staying up really late to watch Saturday Night Live and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert
- Passing notes back and forth in school – IM in the pre-computer days (and the first school-related memory – what does that mean?)
- Sleeping over at friends’ houses, trying to get their family vibe down, then sneaking out at 3:00 in the morning to do some petty vandalism. The first time I stayed up all night was probably 5th grade and it almost killed me

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