By Randy Snyder
We all have heard the lyrics “the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!” Growing up as a “pre-teen” kid in the late forties and early fifties, the wonderful school vacation days of summer could be hazy, very crazy but never lazy! As I grew up in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, our summers, depending on “snow days” we had to make up, never officially started until mid-June or a little later. Summer break was way too short as schools simultaneously started again the day after Labor Day in early September, much to our dismay.
Our “commonly at-home moms” would be happy to grant us permission to “go out to play” right after breakfast and was pleased to have peace and quiet restored in her household and become “queen of her kitchen” for a good part of the day. We had many choices to entertain us from the very perilous “kick the can off the rock” to tackle football (with no protective gear) in a nearby field with patches of grass, and foot races in the streets. We played nonstop until lunch and had to wash up as we were pretty lathered up by the time we had to go home for lunch. I always hoped to get on the team identified as “skins” whereby we did not wear our shirts that got pretty wet and smelly. Our town of about 5000 did have a little league baseball program that started up as school left out and most games were played around 6 when the heat and humidity were reaching a more comfortable level. The only practice was generally an hour before the game for those that showed up. Our sponsors were some local businesses or social clubs who provided a T-shirt screen printed with the name of their businesses. The year we took all the honors, I played for the Elks Club and we had neat shirts and hats! The fan base consisted of those parents that got home from work in time (fathers) and moms that could get dinner served and the dishes done!
By the time I was nine years old, my summer activities got even more suppressed timewise as I got a newspaper delivery route delivering the only paper in the area, the “Evening Leader”. My route covered about three miles on foot and about 75 houses. The paper never came off the presses until 4 to 4:30 and it was tough getting the papers delivered in time to get to the evening little league game on time. I usually spent some of my hard earned money (about $4 to $5 depending on tips) on food I would buy and eat while delivering the papers. (I had a grocery store on my route that had some good snacks.) The paper was 25 cents and we got 4 cents a customer, so my only hope was good tips. The “good tippers” got their paper in between their screen and entry door and the “non tippers” got their folded paper heaved on their porch and picked it up wherever it landed.
On many nights after the game, depending on a parent allowing us to use their lawn, a buddy or two of mine would get our sleeping bags and sleep under the stars. The hosting parent would check on us, sometimes make us evening snacks and breakfast the next morning.
Sunday mornings, however, were not “play time” as my siblings and I walked together to Sunday School at the evangelical church seven blocks from home without fail. My four younger siblings also had to attend Bible School in later years when it was offered. (I missed out on that).
We did take an annual summer family vacation at one of the picturesque Pocono mountain lakes, and my parents would rent a cabin – attendance was required. It was always a fixed week in July and it was the only slow time that allowed my father to take off as he managed the only men’s store in town. Dad loved to fish and the Pocono lakes had bass and trout. He expected me to go fishing with him which I was not too keen about as he wanted to be on the lake at sunrise!
By the time I hit thirteen, I had an even bigger paper route and could not get anyone to take it over, so my parents allowed me to stay with my grandparents while they vacationed at the lake. It occurred to me much later in life that that week at the lake was the only relaxation my mom and dad got due to the rigors of life in those days, and the result was not coincidental that three of the five of us had our birthdays between April 16th and April 29th! The two youngest were born after the July vacations were no longer part of the family schedule.
I loved growing up and enjoying summers as a kid in the fifties. As my children and grandchildren grow up, I regret that they won’t experience the same simple things and wonderful times I had growing up. Those summer days were certainly very crazy, a little hazy but never lazy!