Monday, August 08, 2011

Under A Rock

There were lots of entertaining things to do during the summers when I was a kid, and I don’t mean the obvious ones such as watching television or going to the movies. Nor do I mean the many baseball games that would take up entire days when I was a bit older. No, I’m talking about when I was five or six, before sports became a passion, and I’m also talking about the sorts of things that I can’t imagine city kids doing these days, either because it would bore them to death or because the people involved just plain don’t exist now.

For instance, in the category of things that don’t exist, the milkman would make deliveries and we’d beg him for a piece of the ice he utilized to keep the milk, butter, cream, and eggs cold on a hot summer day. If he had given every kid along his route a piece of ice, the truck would have had to have been twice as large to carry it all, but he occasionally took pity on us (and, when he didn’t, we’d sneak a piece from the truck, anyway, while he was at one of our houses making a delivery.) We could have gone in the house and had an ice cube any time we wanted, of course, but where was the fun in that?

Likewise, the baker (who wasn’t really a baker, but just the deliveryman) also came in a truck, bringing breads and rolls (and cakes, which our mothers almost never bought but which we hoped they would.) Or the ice cream man might show up with his little white truck, sending us scrambling for nickels and dimes so that he’d open the hatch in the side of the truck, revealing a frozen wonderland of treats that, no matter which one we bought, we wished we had bought a different one. The mailman came at the same time every day, and we knew him and he knew us and we’d save him a few steps by asking him if he had anything for our house, which he almost always did and we felt like big shots when he trusted us to make the delivery.

(Mothers were almost always home, by the way. Dads were the only ones who worked. Moms watched TV while they did laundry, made beds, ironed, vacuumed – or, if not rich enough to own a vacuum cleaner, swept - and cooked. About the only time they left the house was to do some shopping. One income was generally enough in those days, and those mothers who did work usually did so at night or on a part-time basis. In any case, each family had only one car, if they had a car at all, so unless a mom took the bus or trolley, where was she going to go?)

[Avon Lady from North High '73 - lots of swell photos there!]

The most interesting of the semi-regular visitors were the Fuller Brush Man and the Avon Lady, who would actually come into the house and sit down, opening display cases to show off interesting and odd assortments of goods, and the ragman, who would round the corner in a horse-driven cart, yelling out “Any old rags?” and that was the signal for us kids to dash inside and see if our mothers had any to give him.

(I don’t know what was in it for the mothers, nor did I have any idea what the ragman did with our old hole-filled stuff, but I usually managed to get something for him. If enough kids had stuff to put in his cart, he’d stop long enough to give us opportunity to pet his old gray horse. That was what we got out of it, and great payment it was, too.)

(Interesting side note: We kids knew by sound which person was coming, and we knew it a couple of blocks before they got there. The milkman’s truck had a sound distinct from the baker’s truck, and the ice cream man’s bell was different from the bell that the ragman sometimes clanged. We also could tell when our fathers were two blocks away and headed home, just by the sound of his motor. Nowadays, it wouldn’t really be possible. There was so little street traffic, even on our streets in the city, that we could distinguish those noises.)

When the delivery people and salesmen weren’t there, we found other things to do. Games took up many hours, of course, with tag or hide-and-seek being the predominant forms of entertainment. Tag came in many varieties, some of which included freeze tag and monster tag. Freeze tag involved touching the victim, who became “it”, but who was also obliged to stay stock still, frozen in the position he had been in when tagged, for a count of ten, before he could seek out the next victim. In monster tag, the person who was “it” had to move stiffly, like Frankenstein’s monster, which made it incredibly hard to catch anyone else, so it usually wasn’t too long before he got tired of it and the game ended. Hide-and-seek was a more cerebral pursuit. If you were the seeker, you had to consider the psychology of your friends. You had to know that the kid who was scared of heights probably wouldn’t be up a tree, and the kid who didn’t like enclosed spaces wouldn’t be hiding under someone’s porch. If you were a hider, and you found a good enough hiding place – for instance, the most excellent lilac bush in a yard on Monson Street, which a kid could climb inside of - you might not even be aware that everybody else had tired of looking for you twenty minutes ago and had started playing ring-a-leevio (which, to show you how old I am, I can’t even remember how it was played, although the name of the game came readily to mind.)

[You have no idea how long I searched for a photo of a Boston sewer. There are lots of photos of sewers on the internet, but this was the only photo I could find that looks exactly like the sort of sewer we had in my neighborhood of Dorchester. I thank This Site for doing my dirty work, so to speak.]

Other significant pursuits included peering down a sewer to see if anything valuable was there; laying on your back and describing what a cloud looked like to you; and going to an old overgrown field and digging for buried treasure.

(There was never anything valuable down the sewer, but the smells were instructive. As it turned out, the clouds usually looked like clouds. And none of us really thought pirates might have chosen a field behind a real estate office to store their loot, but every so often we found an old pop bottle full of dirt that we’d clean out and bring to the store to get the two cents deposit, so it was worth it.)

When all else failed, the surest form of entertainment was to look under a rock.

I’m serious. There was always something interesting happening under a rock. If you don’t believe me, go look under a rock right now. You’ll see.

OK, I guess you didn’t actually go look under a rock just now, so I’ll tell you what was under there. What was happening under the rocks was bugs. Of course, when I say “bugs,” I mean it in a general sort of way. To us kids, everything under a rock was a bug. And there certainly were lots of bugs under rocks, in many interesting sizes, shapes, colors, and states of grossness. Some rocks had worms under them, others had beetles, still others had ants or God only knows what. It was always a surprise. You never knew what was under there until you looked, and look we did. If the first rock we looked under didn’t have something gruesome – maybe there was just a slug – then we went to the next rock. The idea was to keep looking under rocks until you found something so loathsome and disgusting you knew you couldn’t possibly lift another rock and find anything better.

There were other places to look for bugs, but you pretty much knew what you were going to find in those places. For example, each of our backyards had a garbage pail built into the ground, and the city would come and collect those pails full of refuse once a week (which I’m fairly certain doesn’t happen now, health laws being what they are.) If you looked in there, you knew you’d find maggots. They were somewhat interesting, in a pale and squirmy sort of way, but there was no surprise. Any time you felt the overwhelming urge to see maggots – which wasn’t often, I grant you - you knew where to find them. Looking under a rock, on the other hand, was an adventure. You might discover something you’d never seen before (and might never want to see again, for that matter, but I think that’s mostly in retrospect. At that time, if somebody saw a truly hideous sight under a rock, he wasted no time in telling everybody else to come over and take a gander at it. There was a certain cachet attached to discovering something so repulsive that it might cause nightmares. I recall, with stunning clarity, the lifting of one particular rock in my backyard. We had these flagstones, flat slate rocks, and they were the absolute best for finding things under.

Maybe bugs liked them because they were thin enough to hold heat or something. Anyway, Stephen Murphy and I were lifting up these flagstones and looking under them, mostly finding only worms, but I lifted this one and saw literally hundreds of little steely-gray round bugs slimily skittering back and forth. It was such a startling sight that I quickly dropped the rock back into its place, which wasn’t good news for whatever they were as it promptly diminished the living among them by about a tenth. It was such a great find, however, that I shouted for Stephen to come over and take a look. He lifted the rock and also promptly destroyed a bunch of them by dropping it as quickly as I had. It was a truly repulsive sight and later we both had nightmares. Best rock ever!)

Insects were a source of fascination for us, but our mothers weren’t quite so enamored. They tried their damnedest to wipe the neighborhood clean of any vestige of them. The afore-mentioned garbage pails would periodically be attacked with bleach, and whenever an anthill was discovered, there seemed to be a positive feminine joy attached to boiling a pot of water and then pouring it over the same. When we kids found a silverfish in the bathtub, it was interesting to watch it fail in an attempt to scale the side and get out, but when a mom found you watching the creature, it was immediately and unceremoniously washed back down the drain from whence it had come.

Some moms (but not mine, I hasten to add) also saw it as their duty to give us a sense of full-on paranoid dread concerning some insects. A persistent tale told in our neighborhood was that a thing called a darning needle - a very large and pointy flying bug (which was really a dragonfly, I think) - would sew your lips shut if it got the chance. I don’t think any of us really believed such nonsense, but we didn’t let the things get too close to us, either, just in case.

The mom battalion squished spiders, stomped on beetles, swatted flies, and (excuse the expression) balled moths. The only insects immune to a mother’s deadly hand were ladybugs. They were spared because, apparently, mothers enjoyed reciting the ladybug poem…

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are burning

… which doesn’t rhyme, but after the recitation, the mom would blow the ladybug off of her hand, sending it on its way to check out the conflagration in question.

[If you're looking for great FREE bug photos - and who isn't? - go HERE!]

That was all well and good, but we kids knew better ways to get our jollies from insects.

One day, we discovered a huge spider web in one of the cellar windows. We all decided to stage a battle and see who would win – the spider or whatever nasty bug we threw onto its web.

We had a discussion beforehand about what sort of bug might be able to give the spider a good fight. Obvious choices were a scorpion or a wasp. However, scorpions didn’t inhabit our neighborhood of Boston, and we had no clue how to catch a wasp. After lengthy deliberation, we decided that a pincher was the best bet.

(I don’t know if that’s the scientific name for that bug. Probably not. It’s that thing with a rear end made up of two sharp pincers.

[Found out, while getting the photo HERE, that it's an earwig.]

Ugh. I haven’t seen one of those in a while, and I was just as happy as I would have been had I seen one more recently, I think.)

Anyway, we now had to find a pincher. Where did we look? Under a rock, of course!

After a short search, we found one and carried it to the web. We tossed it onto the web and waited for the spider to engage it in battle. We then found out that spiders are extremely patient and that webs are a distinct disadvantage for all bugs except spiders. The pincher, in trying to extricate itself from the predicament, just became more firmly entangled. Meanwhile, the spider sat there. Eventually, the pincher stopped moving. We learned a valuable lesson from this exercise: Even if you have a pair of scissors for an ass, it won’t do you any good if some kids from Dorchester decide to feed you to a spider.

(Well, OK, maybe it’s not that valuable a lesson. It would be if you were a pincher, though.)

So, that’s that (whatever it was.) I knew going into this that it wouldn’t have any point, but you had no clue and I apologize for that. Just goes to show you that every time I don’t write about softball it isn’t necessarily going to be more fun than when I do.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Anonymous said...

That's an earwig. And as much as I love bugs (I must have been a 7 year old boy in another life), I loathe earwigs with a vengeance. Perhaps because one summer long ago my apartment was infested with the things. I still shudder to think of it.

Daryl said...

LOVED this post.. aw the memories ... did you play Johnny on a Pony? Or stickball? I am a bit old than you and grew up in the Bronx, we didnt have ragmen or milk or bread or ice deliveries .. we had stores just 'round the corner and we'd get sent to pick up this or that by our moms but we did have ice cream trucks and when they came we'd stand in the street and yell MA!!!!! Throw me down a quarter.. and she's put a quarter in a tissue and toss it down ... once a friend yelled up MA throw me down my spaudeen (yes, I know its really a spauldING but we grew up in the Bronx) .. that ball bounced and bounced but Cookie caught it .. ah the memories .. thanks!!!

Bill Yates said...

Jim, on hot summer days in Arkansas when I was a little kid, we'd spend hours catching a disturbing looking little vermin that we called "chicken chokers." They are actually the larval stage of tiger beetles, and they live in a hole about the diameter of a soda straw. They are ferocious little things with pinchers on their heads that they use to catch other bugs, and a horrific, hairy hump on their back that, we always assumed, would prevent them from being swallowed by a chicken, thus the name. Anyway, to catch a chicken choker, you take a broom straw and poke it down the chicken choker's hole (gee, that sounds kind of bad) and wait patiently to see the straw move, which means that the little devil has grabbed on to it with his pinchers. Then, in one deft move, you quickly pull the straw out of the hole and, if done correctly, the chicken choker still hanging on valliently to the straw. Then, we'd usually put the little guy back down in his hole so we could catch him again tomorrow.

This, by the way, was yet another wonderful post; enjoyed it very much!

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

When I was a kid, we sometimes found small snakes under the rocks. They liked to eat bugs. I gotta see if I can find a picture of the milk truck from my neighborhood... and we had a guy who sold fruits and vegetables. You could buy an orange for a nickel.

Michelle H. said...

Darning needle. Do you know how many years I've been trying to remember that name. Long story which I wrote out here and the comments ate.

Well, here it goes again. My sister and brother once told me that this bug would spit a purplish-black liquid out that could burn a hole into clothes. One landed on me one day and I yelled. My sister and brother, quite seriously and concerned for my safety, came over and swatted the bug from my clothes.

I recognized my father's car engine every time it entered the driveway. I also remember the Avon lady who came with her bag of perfume, make-up and jewelry.

As a kid, I used to squish this type of purplish berry between rocks and use the juice to make drawings on paper. My mother forbade me from doing this, since the juice was EXTREMELY hard to wash from clothes. But her warning fell on deaf ears as I would merrily make my drawings wearing white shirts.

DId you ever play flashlight tag? A bunch of kids running around at night with flashlights? We would play this during the August month when the orange Indian summer moon hung big in the sky.

Just some of the things we rustic, country kids did.

Craig said...

Your childhood-retrospective posts are the best, Sully. And this one, like all the rest, is abso-freakin'-lutely wonderful.

I remember the milkman, of course. In fact, I was just recently reminded of him, when I was visiting friends at their house, which was 1940s/50s vintage, and right alongside the front door was a milkbox - the little double-door pass-thru where the milkman would leave his wares for Mom to retrieve at her convenience. It was really pretty stunning; virtually every other milkbox in town has long since been bricked over (in the fullness of time, those milkboxes helped me to get my mind around how an airlock worked).

I remember the 'bread-man' and the Fuller-Brush man. Avon ladies were apparently a little later arriving in our 'hood.

The sewers in our neighborhood wrapped up into the curb, and had a slot that ran along the height of the curb, just big enough for a baseball to fit thru. So we had lots of experience lifting those heavy cast-iron grates to fish our baseballs out of the sewer. . .

I didn't catalog the under-rock findings in quite the detail you did, but it was always an amazing little biology-lab every time you turned over a rock. . . We called dragonflies 'sewing bugs', and it was our eyelids, not our lips, that were at risk. . .

Thanks again, Sully; you made me smile with this. . .

Anonymous said...

"an overwhelming urge to see maggots?"

Really? Overwhelming? Ugh.

No, make that a double Ugh. *grin*

This was a great post down memory lane. I'm glad you found it underneath your brain rock!

Hilary said...

What a wonderful, nostalgic post. I do remember recognizing various vehicles by their sounds.. but had totally forgotten about that.

As for sewers, my older sister and her friends had me convinced that an evil witch lived down one of them.

Frank has a story which semi-recently sold to a sporting magazine about sewers too. His mailman had him convinced that there were fish down there and he spent hours on his belly with a string tied to his finger trying to catch one.

A fine post about days gone by. Thanks for this, Jim. :)

silly rabbit said...

My ultimate favorite game was Kick the Can! Hours and hours were spent in glee. "Ollie, ollie oxen free!" we'd shout, thought I think it was "all in free" not "oxen" but that's how we shouted it.
Back then we all wore rubber toed sneakers and last year's jeans cut off with warbled necked striped tee shirts. I enjoyed freaking my mother out with grime under my finger nails
from digging under the fir tree with a stolen kitchen spoon. She had "old" spoons for us to use, but one kiped from the silverware drawer was much better.
And moms gathered for a bit over coffee... while we played at their feet and enjoyed the goodies they baked in an attempt to out do each other's cooking.
Ah... those were the days!

CiCi said...

You lived in the city and I was in the country. We had the bakery truck which had bread and donuts and cupcakes. An ice cream truck came around. I remember the Fuller Brush man and the Avon lady being inside.
We had to meet at one house since the houses were far apart, but we did play tag into the night. No flashlights though.

i beati said...

Theere were several years there 7-11 I never left a rock unturned. My dad overturned one in the mountains and there were many baby rattlers under..

You mere child,no bakery delivery in my day or Avon or Fuller Brush or TV.

Jeni said...

Ah, summertime -when the livin' is easy. Just felt like sort of breaking into song there. Summertime here involved a myriad of things from walking up the road to the post office to pick up our mail and those trips, usually done in bare feet, frequently involved finding the best little tar bubbles to pop open along our walk. (Don't think my Mom was especially happy with those trips cause inevitably, we were left with little bits of tar on the soles of our feet.) For true entertainment though, there were a lot of outdoor games -from hopscotch, to hide'n'seek or another variation of that -kick the can -but the latter was generally played in the evening and could last until shortly after dark. There were occasional forays into the woods around town but the big thrill came when the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries were ripe and many of us along our street would wait, patiently, for the older neighbor ("Chippy" Werner) to determine the time was right to go berry picking and we would each find some kind of pail or tin can and tag along with him, picking whatever luscious little fruits were ripe then. It was taboo for the kids to go berry picking just with other kids -had to be in the company of an adult -because of the problem with the not so lovely rattlesnakes and copperheads that were known to inhabit the surrounding hills, rocks and the stripping cuts that often held big black pools of water of a very undetermined depth that a kid could easily slip and fall into and never be seen again! Some of the boys in town knew where these big water-filled holes were in the stripping cuts and used to go swimming in them. Something that pretty much ended when a little local boy was swimming with a group of friends one day and drowned. Days too hot to move about much usually found a group of us gathered on a big blanket in a neighbor's yard playing cards or Monopoly or some other board game. Oh and cowboys and indians -also a fun thing too. ( took part often in that because I was the neighborhood tomboy and drifted from playing with the girls around as well as with the boys in my age range too. Lots of great memories but in this little village, none involved people with vehicles, such as you detailed. Coal trucks, running up and down our road, made parents nervous as all get out about those of us lucky enough to have our own bicycle but that didn't stop us from the bike riding which probably was my true favorite activity! (I had a snazzy blue Schwinn Hornet -with a horn, odometer and basket that my dog would sit in and accompany me on my bike rides around town. (The bike was also a boy's bike cause I liked the crossbar and, if my son hadn't torn it apart, I'd have me one true collector's item today. Something he realizes now was really one of the dumbest things he's ever done!)

Jeni said...

Sheesh! Just thought of this -if I'd been smart here, I could have said "Gee Jim, but this brings back loads of memories!" and then gone to my own blog and used my above comments for a nifty post, huh? Oh well, no one has ever said I was really smart though.

Suldog said...

Haphazard - Yeah, they were nasty, which is why we held such high hopes for it in the fight!

Daryl- Our street wasn't long enough for a good stickball game, but we did play it a few times. Mostly, we used our street for touch football (telephone pole to telephone pole were the goal lines) and street hockey. We played baseball in parking lots and such, on asphalt, mostly. I think your "Johnny On A Pony" might be our "Billy Buck Buck" which involved jumping on people's backs to collapse them? We called the Spaldeen a pimple ball or a pinkie, I forget which was which. It was mostly used for "Three Flies Out" for us, which I think is the Boston version of "Stoopball"?

Suldog said...

Bill - Well, "chicken choker" had a whole 'nother meaning in my neighborhood. Maybe in yours, too, when you were older, judging from your parenthetical :-)

(It meant a masturbator.)

Anyway, I thought you were going to tell me you sucked the bugs through the straw, but I'm sure glad you didn't!

Suldog said...

IT - That's the one guy who never came around our neighborhood, the fruit and produce guy. We had an awful lot of small mom-and-pop stores, as well as supermarkets a few blocks away, so I guess it wouldn't have been profitable. The milkman made money because it was a lot easier getting gallons of the stuff delivered than having to haul them home with the rest of your groceries, I guess. The baker had some specific breads and such that the stores didn't carry (I remember potato bread, especially, which was yummy and rich.)

Snakes were very rare in Boston, which was a good thing because My Dad was deathly afraid of them. Every so often, maybe once a summer, we'd see a small green grass snake or something.

Suldog said...

Michelle - Glad I could help with the bug name! We city kids used to use some sort of yellow flower to write with. I forget what it was; probably a weed of some kind. Anyway, when you took off the flower, it was filled with yellow liquid that stained things pretty permanently, so we played around with those a lot. We did play flashlight tag once or twice, as I remember! I never would have thought of it without your comment, so thanks!

Suldog said...

Craig - Yes! We didn't have the sort of milkbox you describe, but we did have little metal boxes outside the door where the milkman would leave new bottles (if the mom wasn't home) so to keep them from going bad in the sun. Moms also put return bottles in there for him to pick up. Milk BOTTLES. There's something you don't see much now.

The photo of the sewer doesn't show that detail too well, but the way you describe your sewer is exactly how ours were. That's why we looked down into them, in case some other kids had lost something good. I don't ever recall lifting that grid - I think it was too firmly attached to the pavement - but we did "fish" down in there a few times, with a stick with a wad of gum on it, or some other such idiotic contraption.

Suldog said...

Quirky - Hmmmmm. I guess sometimes it IS sort of like lifting my brain to see what's underneath it. Apt description!

Hilary - Frank had a vicious mailman! That's funny!

As for evil witches, if you've ever read "IT" by Stephen King (or seen the movie) you know that sewers with an evil clown are pretty damn scary, too. Best photo of a sewer that I found was the one from that movie, but I didn't want the clown to detract from the image of the sewer itself, so used the other one.

Suldog said...

Silly Rabbit - Sneakers could be a whole 'nother three pages. Keds, P. F. Flyers, and the high-rise ankle-height Converse All-Stars were the cool ones to have - especially if they were black canvas - but we kids were mostly not rich enough to get stuff besides generic store-branded sneakers.

Suldog said...

TechnoBabe - Well, I didn't feel like going into a long explanation in the post, but we weren't living in downtown or anything. Dorchester is a neighborhood of Boston, and it's definitely "city", but not like you might picture, say, the lower east side of New York. We were city kids in a three-quarters city and one-quarter suburban setting, maybe that's the best way to describe it?

Suldog said...

Sandy - Now, see, that would have been truly scary if we uncovered a load of snakes. There were very few in our neighborhood.

Yes, I know I'm showing my young age to some! :-) Even though I loved the less-hectic pace of my youth, I do somewhat envy you the even lesser pace you had much of the time. I've always been a big fan of imagination, so I'm sure I would have been in love with radio during it's heyday, for instance.

Suldog said...

Jeni - Jeni - So many things in your comment brought back more memories. Thank you!

We used to go barefoot for much of the summer even when most of our walking and playing was done on asphalt or cement. Toughened up our feet, that's for sure!

You brought to mind one of the great small thrills of my childhood, which was finding wild raspberries and blackberries growing in a vacant lot behind a neighborhood liquor store. There was nothing like that in our neighborhood, even in the areas we called "woods" (which weren't much more than a few scattered trees in a vacant lot.) It was like finding gold! We ate as many as we could stand, then brought a few home to our mothers.

I think when you speak of "stripping cuts" you're talking about qhat we called The Quarries, which was where kids went swimming because the places where they took out all the rock left a huge basin. Many kids were rumored to have died in there, mostly from trying to execute a dive into that water from very high cliffs. I never knew of anyone personally who died, but I did read a newspaper account or two. Anyway, they were filled in long ago because of the hazard they posed in that regard.

Craig said...

Of course, you're referring to the GLASS milk bottles (and not the newfangled ones with the little plastic handles around the neck). Ours had a little cardboard disc pressed into the opening, and then a paper lid folded over the end. . .

The iron sewer-grates were heavy as hell; I'd guess 50-60 lbs, maybe even more. It took two or three of us to lift them, so we could lean over the sewer to fish around for floating baseballs & such. . .

@Silly Rabbit - We used to say 'Ollie-ollie outs in free!', meaning that everybody that was still 'out' was 'home free', so we could start another game. I think the 'ollie' bit was supposed to have been 'all ye' back in prehistoric times. . .

Suldog said...

Craig - Yup, the paper lids with the hard cardboard disk in the center.

I actually have two Hood's (our delivery dairy) milk bottles at home, quarts. I wonder how many of them survived?

connie/mom said...

You forgot to mention that you could also tell when the garbage man was on the way - but definitely not by the sound - the SMELL!!!! UGH
In Weymouth the garbage was taken and fed to the pigs in the piggery and the pigs in turn were used to feed the folks in the "poor House". A visit to the piggery (which we often did) stayed in your nose and clothes for days.
I don't remember if you ever played Red Rover, Bore-s-hole, or Ghost Down the Celler, but I did as a kid. Thanks for the memories.

Michelle H. said...

Oh my, now I'm reminded through Connie/Suldog mom's comment about our trips to the slaughterhouse. The sight of those silver tables, meat hooks and saws large enough to cut a man in half. All you could hear was buzzing saws through frozen meat.

Karen said...

My dad was a milkman for Gulf Hill Dairy when we lived in MA. One year he made slingshots for all the kids in the neighborhood and we'd shoot rocks at the Black Widows in the lilac bushes. We'd go out into the woods and dig up "Indian artifacts" and bring them home. Lots of good memories :)

Suldog said...

MOM - Oh, yes, the garbage truck was tremendously odiferous. And chock full of maggots, too, I'm sure. I can't imagine how they got anyone to work on the damn thing. Must have either been great pay and benefits, or else they were convicts or something.

I forgot all about "Red Rover". That was one of my favorites, actually. I'll have to ask you about the piggery, though. I don't believe I've ever heard that story. What in the world were you doing there? Guess I'll find out!

Suldog said...

Karen - Oh, cool! My grandfather was a milkman for H. P. Hood, back in the horse-drawn days, but he also worked into the era of milk trucks and My Dad used to accompany him and actually do all the running up the steps and such making deliveries!

Buck said...

You didn't have a bike? My gang would clip playing cards to the frame so we'd sound like mo'sickles (or we THOUGHT we sounded like mo'sickles) and we'd ride around and terrorize the neighborhood. For a while.

Other than that... we had a LOT in common.

Suldog said...

Buck - Oh, sure we had bikes - later on in life. At the time I'm talking about, we were mostly either walking or maybe had a tricycle. I'll have to talk about the slightly older years sometime soon, though. I remembered lots of cool stuff while writing this, but it was so damn long already!

Linda said...

Our ladybug poem rhymed, though it made no more sense:
Ladybug, ladybug fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children alone.

We didn't live in a city but played lots of the same games- freeze tag; Mother, may I?; red light, green light.
Our garbage went to the dump at the back of my grandfather's 100 acres, and sometimes we found good junk there to drag home again. Much to my mother's dismay.

Suldog said...

Linda - Wow. You reminded me of a lot of other good stuff. I'm going to have to write a lot more someday.

I think your poem may be one that was said around here, also, but I remembered the one about her kids burning up. Maybe I'm just a sadist at heart :-)

We played red light and may I, too. Forgot about those.

And I used to love to take a trip to the dump with my grandparents. They lived in a slightly more rural section of Massachusetts.

Anonymous said...

Oh the good-old-days when 2 cents would actually buy a piece or two of candy. Thanks for the memories -- except for the earwig picture -- I hate those nasty looking things.

Pam said...

Great post! I was a country girl in Ohio on our 200 acre farm and it was a big deal when the Omar man drove his truck up filled with goodies. No milkman needed and never saw Avon till many years later in Louisville. Loved reading about the games, etc. we all played outside. Kids today don't have a clue how to play today. Our street in the Chicago burbs is quiet and I not only recognize the sound of our cars but some of the neighbors also. Our cats definitely know ours! That bug is a disgusting earwig. I never saw them until we moved here in Illinois. They love it when it rains and I get near hysterical if I should see one in the house. I've heard horror stories about people trying to remove them from their houses. Can't say I played with rocks, etc. but I should did watch the all the farm animals and like hay baling time, etc. There was never a lack of things to investigate on a farm! Thanks for the memories!

She Who Carries Camera said...

You didn't mention one of my brothers little past-times...pulling the legs off a daddy longlegs. Ugh.

For girls...hop-scotch and jacks were two of my favorites!

She Who Carries Camera said...

BTW...thanks for stopping by my place and saying hi!

Barbara said...

I regret that we didn't have milkmen or bakers or ragmen, but we did have the ice cream man, the Fuller brush man, and the mosquito man (who was almost as popular as the ice cream man because we would ride our bikes behind him in the fog.) We loved to explore our sewers, too, dropping down one side of the road and squeezing out the other side. UGH! Not many rocks in our neighborhood, but I do remember turning over bricks or pavers or pieces of lumber to see what surprises hid there. And we played several varieties of tag, plus hide-n-seek - the best time was right at dusk. Ah, thanks for taking me back, Jim!

messymimi said...

What memories!

The milkman. Always i would hope my mother would take enough cream for more than just the coffee, but she seldom did. It was fun to sneak a spoonful anyway.

We also had, not a bakery delivery, but the Charles Chips man. He brought those tins of chips, pretzels, and other goodies. Haven't thought of them in years.

The ice cream man. We still have those, but at an average of $3 per treat, it just isn't worth it any more. For what one treat per child costs i can get enough at the store to last a month.

Games, all summer. Tag and kick the can and, as it would get dark, ghost in the graveyard (a nighttime hide and seek with flashlights. Swimming, sometimes all day. Also, we built clubhouses.

Bugs -- my favorites were the roly-polys.

Ah, i'm going to have to go into more detail about the big clubhouse on my blog. Too much memory, not enough space here.

messymimi said...

What memories!

The milkman. Always i would hope my mother would take enough cream for more than just the coffee, but she seldom did. It was fun to sneak a spoonful anyway.

We also had, not a bakery delivery, but the Charles Chips man. He brought those tins of chips, pretzels, and other goodies. Haven't thought of them in years.

The ice cream man. We still have those, but at an average of $3 per treat, it just isn't worth it any more. For what one treat per child costs i can get enough at the store to last a month.

Games, all summer. Tag and kick the can and, as it would get dark, ghost in the graveyard (a nighttime hide and seek with flashlights. Swimming, sometimes all day. Also, we built clubhouses.

Bugs -- my favorites were the roly-polys.

Ah, i'm going to have to go into more detail about the big clubhouse on my blog. Too much memory, not enough space here.

Unknown said...

WOW! I smiled clear through your post, Jim!!! SO many memories. Life was so simple back then. My mom was always standing in the kitchen donning her apron. sigh. I don't even own one!

Suldog said...

Hamster - Yeah, I thought a bit about running that earwig photo. They ARE nasty things. But, in the end, I felt the illustration was important for folks who didn't know what it was and what it looked like.

Pam - Well, you had a big advantage by living on a farm insofar as seeing interesting things! Like I said, one of our big thrills was getting to pat the ragman's horse!

Suldog said...

Jillsy - Oh, my. I didn't want to get into the really cruel things that some kids did (although feeding the earwig to a spider wasn't exactly a nice humanitarian act on our part.) I always tried to steer clear of any kids who pulled legs off of things. I figured if they did that sort of stuff, they didn't give a shit what pain they caused anyone and that might have included me!

(I assume your brother doesn't STILL pull the legs off of things. If he does, well, I wouldn't get too close to him, even if he is your brother!)

Suldog said...

Barbara - I forgot all about the trucks that came through every so often to spray death to mosquitoes! I'm thinking that riding along in the fog probably wasn't the healthiest thing to do (but maybe it was extremely healthy and you built up all sorts of immunities, just like we kids who occasionally ate dirt were more healthy than the kids who are protected from every bit of germs today.)

We couldn't fit in our sewers openings, otherwise we might have tried to traverse them, too. Later on in life, we went exploring a sewer pipe that emptied into the Neponset River, and... No, that's a tale for when I talk about my slightly older pre-pubescent years!

Suldog said...

MessyMimi - We built a clubhouse in my backyard, also. We called it "The Fort", and it was a truly well built piece of construction for teenagers working with scrap wood and such. I'll tell tales of that place some day after everyone connected with those tales is dead and I won't incriminate them :-) !

Suldog said...

Carol - Thank you! I'm glad it made you smile. I've gotten more than enough smiles in payback via all of the excellent comments made on this piece.

Craig said...

I've never understood the thing about earwigs. Especially as I get older, I've got more of my own ear-hair than I'd prefer; why on earth I'd want a wig for that is beyond me. . .


lime said...

i grew up with the ice creamman. we didn't have milkmen but i remember the box on the step of my grandparents' house left from the days of such. in trinidad we had the baker's truck come around and that was a wonderful thing.

since i was a girl, rock peering wasn't one of the activities of my childhood but when i had a son i discovered the joy in it. that boy has been a bug catcher since he was two and i'd watch him catch crickets with just two fingers. always amazed me such a young kid could sneak up on a cricket and grab it. anyway, he soon discovered rock peering and all the ickiness that lives under rocks. he'd always show me the wonderful discoveries and since i wanted to be a supportive mother i learned to ooh and ahh over the critters he found. when he got older we'd go to the local nature center and he'd tell them about his discoveries and actually impressed the professionals there with some of his finds. anyway, he'd find, show me, i;d grab the camera, we'd take a picture and look up the species, admire it a bit and release it. that fingertip sized frog i posted a picture of last week was his latest find. when i ran for the camera he protested he was no longer 6 but i told him i needed to use my toy anyway.

ok, so m comment rambled like you post but your post made me smile and i hope my comment makes you smile too.

Chris said...

Great walk through childhood, Jim. And hilariously, I first read the "peering down the sewer" sentence as "PEEING down the sewer." Which I'm sure has also been done on occasion.

notactuallygod said...

We're a generation apart, but some things are common to kids across time. The milkman was just about extinct when I was coming up.

I remember the bug thing. I was big on snails too. Took a few in the house and one laid eggs. They hatched and the tiny ones left tiny shiny trails behind them on their slow motion break for the window.

And you're right about ladybugs. It was open season on everything else, but a sin to kill those.

Thanks for this post, it was the most enjoyable read I've had here.

Suldog said...

Lime - Yes, you made me smile. And thank you!

Knucklehead - Well, I didn't want to go all scatological, but yeah...

(Not) God - Have you ever heard the Ramones song "Teenage Lobotomy"? There's a line in there that goes "Slugs and snails are after me, I'm a teenage lobotomy!" I always thought it was a funny line, but I truly found out the meaning of it one day when, following a rainstorm, I was out in my yard and I happened to glance up and I saw that six or seven slugs were making their way UP the side of my aluminum siding towards my bedroom window. True story, and one of the damnedest things I ever saw.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I remember watching, as a little kid (I wasn't yet five years old), the garbage truck make it's way down the street. It was like an oversize dump truck with an open cab with a bunch of steps on the side for the crew... there were probably four men besides the driver... to climb so they could empty their bins into the back. The truck never stopped moving unless the driver got off, too, and those crew just kept running and dumping.
The rag man's horse was cool, so was the milkman's.

Joan said...

LOL I always called them pincher bugs too. We have alot of them here!
Never had a bakery delivery. Wouldn't that be nice now!
There is milk delivery still around here.
Loved freeze tag and kick the can.
Awwww yes, great memories. :)

Clare Dunn said...

I guess we live near enough to each other and are about the same age, because this post could have been written by me. Great memories!

We lived in the Italian Section of Providence, so we had a "Fish Man", too. You could hear him from blocks away, yelling "Feesh-a, Baccala, Feesh! My brother can't walk by the seafood section of the market without yelling "Bac-Ca-La!"

Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Shrinky said...

Awwwww, we may have grown up at the opposite ends of the pond to each other, but there's SO much in this post I can identify with! What a trip down memory lane.. btw, I still have our milk delivered to the door, even today, and the ice-cream van is also very much alive and chiming, too! I well recall the bread van, even the fishmonger van (phew, did it stink)! My big 'sis became an Avon lady, it was a second income to suppliment her day job. And my big bruv' taught me fractions by cutting up worms on our doorstep (shudder).. happy days!

Ruth and Glen said...

Fantastic post Jim. It brought back many memories for us. We always enjoy it when you reminice about your childhood. :o)

flutterby said...

Loved the dissertation on the psychology of Hide and Seek. So true! My favorite strategy was to hide in plain sight. I had surprisingly good success with that one. :)