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Growing Up – The Good Ol’ Days

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Honesty, I wish I knew when it hit me – that moment when I truly realized that I had a pretty decent childhood and a great upbringing.  I think it was probably when I was 19 years old and left home for the first time.  I ended up smack dab in the middle of Navy Boot Camp in Orlando, Florida.  I was surrounded by people from all walks of life, from various backgrounds, ages and areas of the country.   That’s when it really sunk in – that I had a great upbringing, in a great “small town Jersey” back in the 60’s and 70’s.

Oh yeah, our family was indeed NOT the “Brady Bunch” but then again, whose family is?  But, we had it good.  I grew up in a fun-loving, caring-but -strict Catholic Italian-American home.  We had a close-knit family, good friends and a great neighborhood.  The grownups had “cocktail hour”, and us kids – we ran through the neighborhood until dark playing baseball, kick-the-can and tag. Everything was focused around good mouth-watering spaghetti & meatballs, Nana’s amazing manicotti, wonderful holiday gatherings and neighborhood parties.

And we were outdoor kids – back then, we had no cell phones, no text messaging and, no video games.  Those were the days!  We played all day throughout the neighborhood, woods, brooks and stream.  Our moms were not worried where we were, because they knew we were safe.  In fact, I don’t even think our moms gave it a second thought. We ran through the brooks trying to catch tadpoles, and we built tree houses in our backyard.  When we fell out of a tree (which happened quite frequently), we just ran home long enough to get a band-aid before running back out to find the rest of the gang.  We stayed out until our Mom rang the dinner bell – she would holler all our names in order of age, “Carol, Joseph, John and … BIG HESITATION AS IF SHE FORGOT MY NAME…. Claaaarreeeeeee”!!!!  (You can guess by now I am the youngest.)

 

outside

1950s 1960s Young Girl Playing With Hula Hoop Outside On Suburban Sidewalk In Sailor Style Dress

 

Wintertime, we would go ice skating at the neighbor’s pond, and one year our buddy, Sharon, fell in – but thankfully we scooped her out. We would go sleigh riding down “The Path” – a very steep path that went straight down the hill through the woods.  We would throw snowballs at cars, and then run and hop on our sleds and go flying down “The Path” to escape.   I remember “defrosting” my toes in front of the fire when I got home.

I mean, I don’t MISS snow anymore and am glad I live in sunny Florida, but I sure miss those “snow days”.  When it snowed piles and piles – we would swing open our front door at 7:00 a.m., and wait for the glorious sound of our Fire Department’s siren.  When it sounded, that meant a snow day!!! Yeah, a day free from school!

 

snow

 

snow.2

 

Summertime was my favorite time!  Swimming in the Allocco’s and Hanlon’s pools (our neighbors) and my sister, Carol, would win the treading water contest – she treaded water for 60 minutes!!  And the joke was, my mom and Mrs. Allocco would be our lifeguards, but neither one of them knew how to swim!

At our own home, we had a circular above ground pool.  We would often load so many kids in the pool and run around the sides and make such a strong whirlpool that once or twice I would get carried under – thankfully someone would scoop me back up.

 

pool

 

Our house hosted the annual summer “Lobster Party” in our backyard.  It was supposed to be just for “grownups”, but if we behaved ourselves we could sneak out back and get a taste of lobster drenched in butter!

And let’s certainly not forget the Good Humor truck where we got our favorite ice cream for 25 cents!  We would hunt that truck down like a dog.  Once or twice, I would cry like a baby because I didn’t have money, and my big sister, Carol, would give me a quarter just to shut me up!

And may I never forget the finer memories of surviving Catholic school (they liked to call it P-A-R-O-C-H-I-A-L school back then).  Often times, when we made the nuns mad – which seemed to be quite often – they slung us from one side of the room to the other by that tender spot under our chins (ouch – that hurts), or even by our ears.  Sometimes they would get the boys by their hair.  Nuns can be some of the scariest people on the planet for being such holy people.  Us kids would say in later years, you don’t need someone trained to torture terrorists … bring in a couple of nuns from the old days, that will do the trick!

 

nun

 

When our parents occasionally went out some evenings, our Aunt Irene would babysit all four of us at the same time.  Aunt Irene spoiled us, and most of the time gave us our own way.  As soon as we watched our parents drive out of the driveway, all four of us would start jumping up and down on the couch, and Aunt Irene would holler, “Fight nicely, kids, fight nicely.”!!  Sometimes our dad would sneak back in the house, like he was a psychic or something, and catch us carrying on…. and it wasn’t pretty!

Well, obviously our neighborhood was much like many others during this era, and I wasn’t alone. A few interesting notes that Brain Candy at www.corsinet.com  shared:

  •  We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
  •  We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
  •  No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
  •  We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
  • We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or range the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
  •  We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And… I especially love this one:

  •  This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.

Those who missed this era – you don’t know what you missed!  Oh, while the kids of this generation will be on their I-Pads, texting each other, watching TV and playing video games, I will have refreshing memories of a childhood playing outdoors all day, with fresh air and sunshine.

I had a dream the other night….it was 7:00 a.m. and the town fire department’s siren went off!  Snow day – no school!  

The end result?  Childhood really was simpler then… and it really was “the good ol’ days!

 

playing

Author
Clare is a 57-year-old fun loving Italian-American self-proclaimed “Jersey Girl” who believes, “Life ain’t easy street. Life is one of those crazy little city streets, complete with potholes that could swallow your car.” With one foot planted in fun and the other planted firmly in her Christian faith, Clare enjoys making people laugh while helping them navigate life’s “crazy little city streets”. Clare has raised two girls (now grown young adults) with her husband, Michial, Clare is ready to take on the challenges of making new friends through her blog, Life Ain’t Easy Street. With an aim to entertain while addressing topics important to women, Clare’s focus on the positive power of good stories, good friends, inspiring women, and strong faith will have you looking forward to reading the next post. Clare is a freelance writer who lives a real life in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

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12 Comments

  • Sharon Merkel Prudhomme says:

    7am, no fire sirens…robo calls on phone, emails & FB this am ..ice storm some schools closed. Yes, those days we we living the Norman Rockwell life. No parents had to shuffle kids 3 states away for sports, etc. Kids were more confident, not afraid of getting dirty and enjoyed time with friends. Neighbors knew each other, would socialize, watch your garden and take in your mail when away. Parents would make their kids apologize when they screwed up! I remember biting Johnny Cattail because he stomped on my hamster shack made from twigs under the neighbors pine tree. My mom made me write an apology note, personally deliver and say I was sorry. Boy was in trouble! And John was my best pal! We made a Bluejay  trap out of a milk box (the old insulated boxes our milk was delivered in). The rope was tied to a stick & ran into Johns parents bedroom window. Once a Jay went in for seed, we’d pull the rope and drop the lid! We were like the Little Rascals!

    • clare@lifeainteasystreet.com says:

      Sharon – You have such a sharp and specific memory – and of course you would remember the “pet” stories…. but we had lots of them! Thanks for all the reminders – I wish I could remember ALL the stories… you have to help me more for future stories! Keep reading and thanks for sharing such fond and funny memories!

  • John P Girvan says:

    Hi Clare that was a great article ! It brought back so many good memories of our old neighborhood and yours and all our families living peace and enjoying the American dream with just a few cuts, bruises , sprains and broken bones. I truly miss those days.

    • clare@lifeainteasystreet.com says:

      Very good point “Hanny” (John) – lots of childhood adventures and fun! There will be a Part II and maybe a Part III in the future of the “good ol’ days” – keep reading….

  • Carol says:

    Clare, this was so much fun reading and remembering!  We had the best childhood ever!!!!! We all turned out ok, too!!!! You are a great writer!

  • Cynthia Cowan Kurylak says:

    What a wonderful story of growing up in NP…brought me right back to our neighborhood. We played kick the can, tag, football and basically hung out, outside, all day long, until it got dark. Sometimes we even played games from the brightness of the street light. Carefree, stress free and good old fashion fun.  We had a lot of kids in our neighborhood….the Ferrara boys, the Bittman’s, the Bays’, the Braunschweiger’s, the Caporaso’s, the Turdiu girls and a couple other families. I had a truly wonderful childhood!

    • clare@lifeainteasystreet.com says:

      Wow thanks for painting such a vivid picture and description of your fun times as a child! I wish I had a clearer memory – thanks for bringing to light some more of the fun! Thanks for the support!

  • Pam says:

    Hi Clare, Our memories of growing up are very much the same. Staying outside all day and getting so much exercise without even thinking about it. That’s how life should be! Climbing trees, running around, playing kick ball, tag, hide & seek, riding bikes, catching lightning bugs! We really did have a good time and life was more carefree back then. Parents didn’t worry so much, they just knew we were outside playing and having fun with our neighborhood friends. We were okay and we loved it! Swimming in the summer, sledding and skating in the winter! Good times! Love you girl!

    • Clare says:

      Yes Pam – our memories are quite similar – the Good Old Days!!!!! Thanks your your specific description of your carefree lifestyle too!

  • Grace Houle says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories with us! I loved the pictures. Classic.

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