My childhood years were all spent in Neosho because my dad’s business was Neosho Ice Company and he needed to be in the office.
For me, summer vacation only meant being out of school, not out of town.
Television did not have much to offer a lively kid and all this other technology did not exist. No part of my day would be spent on Facebook or twitter or on computer games. Nothing kept me indoors.
My recollection of summers are of wonderful mornings waking up to full bright sunshine, breakfast on the porch and then out the screen door to meet with kids of the neighborhood.
The backyard was pretty much all mud as constructing the house had done away with the grass. Mother told us that she would take us to the movies one Saturday if we would stay off the grass-planted ground until the grass came up.
I recall one fun afternoon when Mom must have been at bridge club and we kids had a mud ball/rock fight. I led my team from the top of the doghouse, which had a large coffee can suggesting chimney, and the “enemy” was behind the south hedge of the driveway. How none of us got hurt I have no idea.
As a group we had several metal pedal toys, all of which were rusty and squeaky. We drove them round and round the carport which was deafening to mother inside the house. I do not recall any toy being plastic.
Finally grass came up and summer came on with backyard baseball. Young boys who lived mid-town rode their bicycles to fill out our constant game of work-up. The grass gave way to broad leaf. Shoes gave way to barefooted runners.
This was feet-toughening and I could run across gravel. My feet still remember the cool smoothness of the weed called broadleaf.
Neosho had the advantage of the Fort Crowder Olympic-size swimming pool. School buses would ferry us out to swimming lessons in the morning’s cold water. But we did learn to swim.
After lunch Mom insisted on clearing the yard and carport from 1-3 p.m. so she could get a little peace. We would then move into the darkened living room and play spoons on the living room floor. (Though Daddy’s business was refrigeration, Mom thought air conditioning brought on arthritis so we did not have an air-conditioned home.)
Other afternoon activities could be playing board games on one of the neighborhood front porches overlooking Big Spring Park. At 3 p.m. somebody yelled “first batter” and baseball “resumed.”
Evenings were also full of us kids running through the neighborhood from the Spring Street stairs to McCord Street on the curve. We played hide and seek, Kick the Can and my favorite, Sardines!
One person would hide to the count of ten and the rest of us searched for the “sardine” and finding him, we would crowd in beside until all but one was in and the one still out became the next Sardine.
Without benefit of bug spray or anyplace clean we would squeeze under porches, behind snowball bushes and into the occasional cave-like basement.
Too soon the night would end and Mom would ring the big bell for our family group to come in for baths and bed.
I cry for children today who don’t know how to play outside or what it is to run across broadleaf.
(Judy Haas Smith lives in Neosho.)