The livin’ is easy

Japanese honeysuckle flowers over white, closeup

By Kathi Hill

When I think of the two words summertime and childhood together, a thousand pictures come to mind of my own summers during childhood.

I will say that I was blessed in the summertime. I was a town kid, so there were children all over to engage with. Walking all over town was never a problem when I was a kid. There were no lurking dangers as every store had mama and daddy eyes watching out for us. Whether to protect, discipline, or just say a friendly hello, one couldn’t go 10 steps without them. We also walked all over all the neighborhoods, often gathering more kids as we went.

If I was fortunate, I got to go to the city pool every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. The latest pop music was blaring from the speakers, and for a quarter you could play all afternoon.

On Saturdays (winter and summer) for 25 cents there were the movies. The theatre in Ellijay was located where Canterbury Restaurant is now. I saw old Elvis movies, some cowboy movies, the Beatles movie, Disney movies and to top them off two movies that scared and scarred me. Remember, there were no ratings attached to individual movies back then, and usually movies were harmless, so parents weren’t paying much attention. Especially daddies, and mine “kept” me on Saturdays because he didn’t have to work and Mother did. Because of this, it was usually Pool Room for lunch and my quarter for movies so he could read in peace!

Anyway, the two movies that terrified me were “Lady in a Cage” about this crippled woman who had a cage-like elevator to take her up and down her stairs. Some thugs broke into her house, locked her in the “cage” and began to threaten and rob her and ransack her house. I can’t remember the ending; I just remember being so frightened!

The second movie (and it won’t surprise you) was “The Birds,” an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Holy cow! My cousin and I were terrified all the way home every time we saw a bird.

In the late evenings there was bike riding in the parking lot in front of the house, where we could pretend we were racing. And of course, lightning bug catching after supper. We put them in glass jars with holes punched in the top so they could breathe. I’d always turn mine loose after everyone went home.

My cousin came to stay every summer from June till mid-August, so many days were spent with her. We were both bookworms, and I was always hauling a load of books to return on the way to the pool (the library was right in front of the pool) and then, making sure we were dry enough, haunting the aisles for more books to check out to read the next week.

Wagon train was a huge event. We’d get word they were coming into town, and I’d run down to the corner and watch as every horse and wagon plodded by. The only night my daddy ever locked our doors was the night folks were camped out on the square. He latched the front screen door and since the back door didn’t lock, he’d chain our German Shepherd by it.

One year was the Wagon Train Centennial, and there were all sorts of activities. If a man didn’t have a beard, he was put in “jail” on the square and had to beg money for bail. The money raised was given to some organization, the Lions Club, I think. There was also a contest for the best old timey dressed, or something like that. I won first prize! Mother had someone make a bonnet with a long skirt to match. I won a certificate which I promptly spent on a Cinderella watch, then ran to the store where my mother worked and learned to tell time on the big store clock. I was 7 years old.

The Goat Man wasn’t quite as exciting when he came through, with all the goats bleating and bells jingling, but it sure was fun to see him!

There were also things like blackberry picking, helping out in the grandparents’ garden, stringing and breaking green beans on the porch where being quiet became an art so we could hear all the adult gossip. I learned if you were quiet enough, the adults forgot you were there! Learned a lot of stuff that way.

Other chores were keeping the hedges trimmed and babysitting my twin brothers. Daddy wouldn’t let me mow grass because he worked with a fella who had a stick go into his leg from a mower. I was not too disappointed!
I climbed a lot of trees, too. One of the trees in my yard had a limb low enough that you could climb up in it and balance yourself. I’d get comfortably propped and read up there. I could also survey a bit of land and see what the neighbors were up to.

Our next-door neighbor played the piano. I’d go over there sometimes and she’d play and I’d sing. Thinking back, I wonder how many people could hear all that carrying on in the neighborhood. There was certainly no air conditioning, and everyone’s windows and doors were wide open, with the occasional fan blowing hot air around.

If we were lucky, somebody would buy a new refrigerator or stove from the hardware store. They would give us the boxes to slide down the hills on. This worked great, especially if you wet the grass first. Sometimes we built forts or castles out of them until they got shaky before we’d use them as a slide.

And the smells of summer! Wild honeysuckle (or really, wild azaleas) made the night air almost heady with their fragrance. Fresh mown grass (which I didn’t have to mow), suntan lotion, the combination of everyone’s supper cooking all over town all bring back sweet memories.

As a child my favorite flowers were Hyacinths, because of their fragrance, and the wild orange day lilies, because they bloomed in almost everyone’s yard.

I mustn’t forget Vacation Bible School. The one week of summer I had to get up early and dress up in a sundress and new sandals so I could walk to First Baptist and get in line to march into the sanctuary together. There we would do arts and crafts about Bible characters, have good snacks, color a page of Bible characters, work on the project that would be completed on Friday for parents’ night. After lunch we would hear a short sermon by the pastor, which was called a Bible Story. Then we’d have recess, where one of the boys broke his arm on a summer long ago playing “Red Rover.”

Oh, and spend the night parties! At the farm or at friends’ houses – so much giggling and storytelling and eating till you were almost sick. I’ll admit I always conked out, never staying awake all night.

Summer seemed to last forever, yet it never lasted long enough.