Times were different then — very different. I can’t speak for the girls, who back then lived on another planet, but the activities in which we boys entertained ourselves were a far cry from those in use in the 21st century.
Iowa weather permitting, we were outside for hours at a time — playing any type of game imaginable from hide-and-seek to steal the bacon.
That’s not counting the sports activity, which was primarily seasonal. I recall playing basketball in gloves and heavy coats while outside on a snow-packed driveway and football late in the fall with the white stuff on the ground. Snowball fights also were popular, as was tearing down the hills at the golf course on our sleds.
Pulling on boxing gloves enabled us to burn off our excess energy. I can’t recall anyone getting mad — or hurt.
And we made things. Miniature planes and boats came in boxed kits that required only sandpaper and lots of glue. We didn’t sniff the latter, knowing it would sting the nostrils.
Every house had a basement, and in ours were my dad’s hand tools, of which I claimed half-ownership. There, we used various handsaws, a jigsaw and various shaping tools to construct all sorts of neat objects. Our specialty was small wooden boats, which we floated in the gutter for blocks after heavy rains.
And we rode bikes everywhere. All over town, out to the river a mile away, and when a little older to neighboring towns as far away as 20 miles over gravel roads. We even painted our bikes different colors, repaired our own flats, and staged races around the block — sometimes racing as many as 15 laps.
Someone came up with the idea of taking a bicycle wheel, removing the tire and the spokes, and, with a T-shaped stick of wood, rolling the rim down the street in a competitive foot race. It wasn’t until years later that I saw a photo of that popular activity in about 1900. Heck, I thought we had invented the sport.
When it was really nasty outside, we entertained ourselves inside. Sometimes it was down in the basement with the lights off, sending Morse code with flashlights. Or something simple, such as working on jigsaw puzzles, either alone or with friends.
Today’s youngsters have grown up in different times. Their toys are many, and yet most dwell on electronic gadgets that require no physical activity or mental input. Sitting on a soft couch while staring for hours at a screen is about as far from you can get from our activities so many years ago.
And yet I think we had more fun.
Back to class
Readers regularly using this column to enhance their level of education have told me they want more information that will encourage philosophical meditation. I’ll do my best.
•Just two days from now, tomorrow will be yesterday.
•I am a nobody. Nobody is perfect.
•Don’t sweat the petty things. Don’t pet the sweaty things.
•When your gecko is broken, you have a reptile dysfunction.
From the mail bag
Mr. Swift: You recently wrote about Patterson’s population growth and the problems such growth creates. Are you opposed to further growth in our fair city? — Perplexed
Dear Perp: First, let me thank you for using the prefix. The informality of our small community has seldom required the use of the term “mister.” I’m used to answering to “Hey you!” and other salutations not printable in a community newspaper.
No, I’m not opposed to growth, as long as we don’t delude ourselves into thinking that bigger is necessarily better. I don’t happen to believe it is.
My contention is this: We need to make Patterson the best it can be NOW, without relying on growth to improve it. Because growth simply might not do the job.
And where do we need improvement? Everyone has his or her own list, and many who have shared their feelings with me have put improved public safety — make that a crackdown on crime — at the very top.
Growth certainly won’t make us more crime-free without some real commitment from both local citizens and City Hall.
Just what we need
Californians have every reason to be pleased as punch over action taken this past year by our state Legislature.
One of the notable bills passed in 2012 was the selection of a state marine reptile. The lucky reptile is the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, obtaining this notable distinction as of Jan.1.
Remember this fact. It might someday appear on a test.
Email of the week
They just keep coming. Bob Vizzolini sent this one.
A Sunday school teacher asked, “Johnny, do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark?”
“No,” replied Johnny. “How could he with just two worms!”
Now, I think that’s funny.
For the sports fan
Alex Smith is a very, very good pro quarterback. That is a given.
But somewhere along the line, 49er coach Jim Harbaugh figured that Colin Kaepernick was even better. After all, the coach has a better vantage point, better instincts for such matters, and probably his gut feeling operates at a higher level than that of the average fan.
Last weekend, Kaepernick proved his coach right. Kaep definitely is the better quarterback, and before he’s done, he may well redefine how the game of football is played.
I haven’t run across super Niner fan Steve Reza recently, but I’ll bet he’s more nervous — no, make that hyper — than usual this week.
On another subject, the saints came marching in. The other day, St. Anselm beat St. Rose 88-78, but of course you basketball fans already know that.
Patterson native Rita Simas writes from out of town that she is saddened with the demise of the Knights of the Square Table, as detailed in last week’s Fast Talk.
She termed the KOSTers “movers and shakers” and suggests the dice cups and payment record for coffee (more than $46,000 since 1984) be turned over to the historical society for perpetual memory.
Being the last secretary of KOST as well as curator of the local museum, I’ll get on that.
Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.