A magical place and space to play

Published 2:27 pm Sunday, November 26, 2017

Growing up during the 1950s-60s was the best of times and life was simple but fun. One person that helped make it fun was my best friend, Bubba Gerard. The Gerard family was my and Rose Ann’s home away from home. Their home was like so many of that time, warm and inviting. Walter and Virginia were like second parents to me and Rose Ann. Together we shared many great experiences. Walter’s green flatbed truck coming up Ninth Street at precisely six o’clock every day was our signal to run home and wash up for dinner. It was a signal that vibrated throughout our neighborhood and later would be used as a base for hide and seek or kick the can. Walter was always fun and worked hard during the day but seemed ready for a story and a chuckle after dinner. He used this time to relax after a hard day at work, and we loved to be with him.

Bubba and I were like the “Dennis the Menaces” of our times, and we took great pride in that. We were partners in crime! For most of our youth, we were the smallest in our neighborhood and were constantly picked on by the neighborhood bullies. We never ran from anyone but rather took refuge in our many forts. Yep, forts! We had many, and they were strategically placed throughout the neighborhood and always stocked with china balls to be used in our sling shots. Being the smallest, we had to plan. We would go to our forts and plan how to victimize the bullies and younger boys. The only others allowed in the forts were Rose Ann, Thad Hodges and Betty and Jane Alligood. Betty and Jane were twins and tougher than most other boys and many times chosen first in our neighborhood football games. They are still called this today, “Twin,” and you could not go wrong with that name.

Between Ninth and Tenth streets was a dry ditch, and any ditch was a perfect spot for a fort. Sometime these forts were built underground, until Walter found out and then it was immediately destroyed. One such fort at Bubba’s house was destroyed by Walter because of the danger of it caving in. We dug the hole plenty deep and covered it with boards and bushes and spent at least two days building this fort. It was one of our pride and joys, but Walter had our safety in mind. The other forts were built with scrap lumber, bushes and branches that covered the sides like camouflage. The best forts could always be used during the rain and even slept in at night during the summer. Each fort had a mason jar full of china balls and extra sling shots in case of an emergency attack.

Our very favorite was built along the side of the garage in my backyard. Bubba was always good with his hands at building (and still is), so he masterminded this fort. The fort was built completely of boards from the sides to the top with a dirt floor to build a fire during the winter for us to warm our hands. This was something we could not do in our forts along the ditch banks, so we used it as our base of operations until it was torn down.

During this time, our imaginations ran wild, and everyone played outside. Kick the can and hide and seek were fun games played after dinner until dark, always using Walter’s truck. The twins, Betty and Jane, Mike and Wayne Renn, Rose Ann, Bubba, Thad, Mike and Lewis Sloan were all involved and sometimes the Tankard girls. Being young was fun during this period and no one was afraid to play outdoors. It was considered what children did at that age. Every neighborhood did much of the same, and it was always considered safe to do so. Parents allowed us to use our imagination and would always know you were sick if you stayed inside.

Thanks to all that have given me your compliments concerning these articles and I hope they have brought back memories that you enjoyed also. — Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.