I was remembering my hometown tonight when I sat down at Steak and Shake with my friend Omar. We sat and talked about how things have changed within the past 30 years or so. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Bartlett, Illinois. Not much ever seemed to change. Of course over time we made new friends. Some stayed in our lives and some well I never knew what happened to them after I left.
I grew up in Bartlett until I was about 13 years old. I seemed to grow up on a very simple block, everyone knew everyone, and families always seemed to know where we were because they all communicated with one another almost on a daily basis. Our block was nice but most of the boys on my block were all older, and growing up some of them took us under their wings. They taught us how to skateboard, or they would throw the ball around with us normal boy stuff.
I had mainly friends who were girls in my neighborhood because those were all the kids around my age. I had my Friend Dina your typical girl who was kind of the smart ass athlete though. She was more a tomboy growing up with our group. She played baseball, running bases, soccer, sometimes even a football game with us. We would ride our bikes up and down the block, play on each-others swing sets. We really never worried about getting injured when we played.
We would go to the park right down the road. The parks back then were not these plastic parks you see now. We had the cage rocket ship slide made of metal, swing sets and monkey bars also made of metal. If we got hurt we went home got bandaged up and were right back at the park in 5 minutes. Like most kids we were a bit reckless and our parents knew where we were, and knew atleast one of us if not all of us were coming home with bumps, scrapes, and cuts. We understood doing stupid tricks might cause injury but we were kids. We did not want to sue the world because the playground was metal, or because we got injured just being kids.
The park was divided by a creek with woods on one side where many spring and summer days we spent playing war in the woods trying to build forts, and finding wood to build bridges to cross the creek. My first kiss was by that creek and it was with a girl named Melanie. Across that creek was a field with hills we also used to play tag and war and hide and seek. At the back of the field was an old rusted out propane tank apparently once meant for a house of some sort. but it was long abandoned and we used it to sit inside of and have juvenile conversations, Probably conversations to those similar to the conversations in the movie Stand By Me.
Another few girls I grew up with were Scooter, Sissy and Robin all sisters. We all kind of had our own cliche and knew almost what one another were thinking at times. I once climbed a tree in Scooters backyard and they had and old jeep body leaning against the back of their garage the branch snapped and i fell onto the jeep body. I am sure I probably cried but in 5 minutes we were back to playing.
Many summer nights were taken up by us playing baseball in the street, many times we played until we could no longer see where the ball was. Many times we would hit the ball into the “Old Geezers” yard. He was an mean old fool of a man who rented the house across the street with him and his wife. We would run quickly into his yard trying to avoid being seen so we did not experience his wrath and he would tell us how we should not hit the ball into his precious yard and yell and scream and throw a fit. Of course like the movie Wayne’s World, we had to move every time a car would come down the road. Most of the times those cars were neighbors returning home from shopping or work and would always wave to us kids. About half way through the baseball games in the evening the ice cream man would come down the road where each of us had a dollar for ice cream, My ice cream of choice was almost always the screwball with the gumball at the bottom.
After it got nearly dark our parents were usually by this point yelling for us to come in for dinner. We had no cell phones no pagers just good old fashioned loud parents who made their voices heard. We seemed to always rush through dinner on a summer night when we did not have school the next day. We tried to get back outside because it was time for the fireflies to come out. then afer that we would usually play a few rounds of ghost in the graveyard.
Some summer days we spent riding our bikes to Lizzie’s which was the local ice cream parlor and gag gift store, I bought my first can of fart spray there and I sprayed it on Dina’s bicycle seat, Her father Wayne did not find it so funny. Wayne could be a smart ass but we as children respected him because he had a very authoritative voice . He actually made me clean her bike… Funny thing years later I went to my Junior Prom with Dina.
Alot of days we also took our bikes to the Baseball Card shop on almost a daily basis. We collected baseball cards for a very long time and well trading cards with the other kids on the front stoop of the shop kinda became a staple of everyday life. The people who owned the shop always welcomed us in and never said a cross word to any of us. After the baseball card shop we would sometimes go to the drug store get candy and garbage pail kids. The hot dog joint Annie’s was right next door and we always went there for fries or a drink. Tcby was in the same complex for those who do not know what Tcby is it means the countries best yogurt it was a frozen yogurt shop and sometimes we would go there to, I stil know of one in chicago if your ever into finding frozen yogurt shops.
Sometimes we would go to the railroad station and we would of course be kids watch the trains pass count the cars, but the real motive was putting pennies on the tracks and having them flattened, Sometimes it would take us a few minutes to find the pennies in the rocks after. But we had fun social media, the internet did not exist. So we actually had to physically make contact with people, go outside and play and get exercise and fresh air. I loved growing up in that era because now we hide behind keyboards and we find love online. We do not date the old fashioned way anymore and everyone wants to move to the next level in a few weeks. Kids are now trying to grow up acting like thugs on the internet, and we as parents act like well they are just being kids. We should ban them all from the internet their phones for a month I guarantee they would be different at the end and see the importance of actual human interaction.
Anyways getting tired as I am sitting here typing this and I am sure I have plenty more memories to share but these were just a few thoughts that crossed my mind… hope you all read and enjoy.