Occasionally, I get an email message or a link on Facebook or Twitter referring to the “good old days,” referring, mostly, to the era during which I grew up — mid-20th Century.
I readily admit to some nostalgia for the ’50s and early ’60s. Or maybe it’s nostalgia for life in the country during the decade in which I matriculated from first grade into junior high.
We (three brothers and a sister) took advantage of acres of fields, patches of woods and fishing spots and swimming holes in the creek behind our house.
We climbed trees, built pine needle forts, dammed up small streams and disappeared for hours at a time, but rarely out of earshot of our mother’s voice.
We rode bicycles up and down the two-lane road in front of the house, threw green plums at each other, and spent humid, sultry summer days under shade trees reading the latest books from the county library bookmobile.
We had chores, inside and outdoors, but we had ample freedom to explore, play ball and seek fish or small game. It was a good place to be a kid.
My dad always planted a big garden and always hoped to have the first watermelon ready by the Fourth of July. I don’t think we ever picked a ripe one until late in the month, but we tested a few green ones in our impatience.
Nothing was better on a hot summer afternoon than a cool dip in the swimming hole, conveniently located behind our house, followed by a big slice of watermelon. Summer time and the living was easy.
Well, not always. That big garden dad always planted required tending and since he had a full-time job in the cotton mill and my brothers and I mostly had baseball, fishing and swimming to occupy us, we spent quite a few hours squatting beside rows of butter beans or crowder peas or working our way through the itchy leaves of an okra patch to harvest dinner. We also had to hoe out the weeds and occasionally run the neighbor’s cows or another neighbor’s goats out of the sweet corn.
One summer I got the mumps the week after we got out of school for the summer. We had regular pains from sunburn, chigger bites, and poison ivy rashes. Mom always had an ample supply of calamine lotion.
The era was not without anxiety, though, even to a small boy. The Cold War was in its infancy and would persist for decades. I remember flyovers of squadrons of airplanes from a nearby U.S. Air Force base, reminding us that unease existed in the world.
I recall images of polio victims, some enclosed in iron lungs.
Global unrest continues. New diseases pose threats. Given my druthers, I’m glad I grew up when I did.