These long summer days had me thinking of my carefree childhood days on North Mill Street. Remembering that we, the neighborhood kids, would have spent hours outside on these hot days with a water hose sprinkling each other, filling a bottle and pouring water over heads, jumping around in the puddles. Also we would be out running around during summer rain showers.
I had to go to the grocery store today so I took a ride to check out the town, as I have been away for a week. As I was driving around I wondered if children of today played the same games that kept us happy for so many years.
I began thinking about all the many ways we provided our own entertainment. Picking wild strawberries along the abandoned train rails behind the grist mill, walking on the rails, one on each side, balancing to see who could stay on the longest distance. Jumping rope was a favorite pastime. As we got older we even played with double ropes. Jacks, marbles — many boys had a collection of marbles. We would often go on long walks, sometimes out Red Lane or once down Northumberland Road to walk over Bald Top to exit by the Klein Farm on Route 54 and back to Danville. The neighborhood kids, with the help of my father, cleared out the empty lot behind our row of company houses to make a baseball field. We didn’t realize that it contained a lot of poison ivy until too late. Many suffered with the rash. I think we had one bat and maybe two baseballs.
We also spent many evenings riding our bikes to the Cinder Tip, now the middle school, stopping at the ‘monkey’ drift for a drink of water, watching the YMCA Jr. League baseball teams. Another fun thing with the word ‘monkey’ in it was climbing the bank behind Scott’s Florist and the American Legion, where there were huge trees that had long what we called ‘monkey’ vines. We would swing out over the bank and drop below, running back up the bank to do it one more time.
A group of friends often slept in tents in the backyard. My cousin Katie and I played with our cutout books on the porch for hours. The neighborhood girls played house and we made our dresses out of old curtains, feedbags and leftover material.
Sometimes we had a gym show, doing somersaults, standing on our hands, or cartwheels. I mentioned a while ago that we had bicycle rodeos. There were also the Sunnybrook Park and Ferry Street playgrounds; we either rode our bicycles to Sunnybrook or walked the railroad tracks behind the company houses, along the road or the bicycle path out past what is now Hess Field and over the train bridge that crossed over the highway. It was mostly for swimming. There was a sliding board in the low end of the water and three different levels of diving boards in the deep end allowing the experts to show off their skills. The swings were always full of kids flying high.
The Ferry Street Playground had a wading pool, ping pong, volleyball, crafts, story hour and special evening events.
Other swimming spots were the dam and the Horse Hole. I only swam there when I was very young with mom and dad. I saw a snake in the water once so that kind of took away my interest in learning to swim in that water. My dad was a swimmer and we would go for a dip there once in awhile, also the river. The deepest place for swimming in Mahoning Creek was behind Arnold’s Garage.
My cousin Genie Doran and I spent a lot of time at Mahoning Creek turning over stones looking for hellgrammites or crayfish.
We played many games, kick the can, Red Rover, tag and foot races; once in a while checkers or Monopoly. Another game, two of the gang would sit on the bottom step of the Lizzie and Matt Hubicki home, a third would hold a stone in one of their closed hands and if you picked the right hand, you would move up a step. Of course the winner was the first to reach the top of the seven steps leading to the front porch.
When we needed a rest we would sit on the wall next to Lizzie Fisher’s store and watch the world go by as the road on Mill Street in 3rd Ward was a main highway.
Everyone wanted to be the person to say, “First to see the lights on” when the streetlights came on at night.
One popular game we played over and over was Hide and Seek. Home base, where the person who was,"it” leaned against the light pole with their eyes closed, was usually at the bottom of Hickory Avenue where it connected with the alley that ran from Center all the way to Little Ash; now through the center of Weis Market. The boundary for hiding locations was Little Ash, Spruce, Ferry and the East side of Mill Street. If you were able to evade “it” and touch base, you would holler “Ollie, Ollie income free.”
One night a week Ed Jenkins showed a movie at various places throughout the area. Each had their own night, Sunnybrook Park, Ferry Street Playground, Washies Playground and behind my house on North Mill Street. Always drew a crowd, even though the same movie played at each site. Many enjoyed it more than once.
I forgot to mention the times that you would travel to friends' homes with a pile of comic books to trade. We would look over each other’s selection to make our decision on the deal of the day.
I probably shouldn’t mention that a few times we enjoyed ringing doorbells and running to hide in some bushes.
The truth is I could go on and on with memories of rising every morning to eat a few pieces of toast and rushing out the door to join with all my friends spending the day laughing, joking and making friendships to last forever.
I realize that many readers will also have the same recollections.
Sis Hause is a Danville historian. Her column appears every week in The Danville News.