When I look back across my memories all the interesting times flash back. Interesting as in the old Oriental curse; “May you live in interesting times”, special times with trips, visitors, storms and all sorts of changes good or bad. But these times were not the everyday times of our lives. Most days were non-eventful but when I put the exciting times aside, I see true beauty in them.
Summer days growing up were special in their quiet simplicity; days of relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of school. For me, summer days always involved a paper route. I loved “throwing” a paper route, not so much “collecting” it. My first paper route was for the afternoon paper, “The Jacksonville Journal,” then later when my folks were ok with me getting up at 4:30 AM, I had several routes over the years for the morning paper, “The Florida Times-Union”.
I guess it was because I was so young that I actually enjoyed getting my work done in the cool hours before dawn. My brother also had a route so we would ride together in the dark to the “drop spot” where our manager would drop the papers off bounds in blocks like bales of hay. We would cut the strings with our ever present pocket knives, fold the papers, put the rubber bands around them and stuff them into the cloth bags strung across our bicycle handle bars. By the time the rest of the family was waking up we would be arriving back home with empty bags and even emptier bellies. Mom would have breakfast on the table and we had some family time before Dad headed off to work and my brother and I back to bed to make up for the early start.
Just in case you were wondering why we used rubber bands instead of the tuck fold used by many paper boys; it was a matter of economics. Rubber bands were dirt cheap and much more reliable when throwing papers than the tuck fold, which would often open up in mid flight. When that happened, I would have to stop and gather up the paper which was strewn all over my customers front yard and put a new paper on their front steps. A paper that opened in mid air was usually too damaged to refold. A lost paper cost me a thousand fold more than a rubber band.
By time the sun was overhead and lunch was served, we would be back up and have completed our daily house chores. That left the afternoon for fun. For me, that meant completing one of my myriad of electronic projects and experiments, most of which were completed without blown fuses or charged fingers. Other times I would be out in the garage with my trumpet trying to keep my “lip” in shape for the upcoming school year. One summer, a friend lent me his electric guitar and I worked up a pretty good set of calluses on the fingertips of my left hand on those steel strings.
Growing up in Florida, our afternoons were almost always interrupted by the 3 pm thunderstorm. Yes, you could almost run a railroad using the thunderstorm as a time check, they were that regular. Florida thunderstorms are intense enough to drive us all indoors for the duration. We would spend time at the back door watching the rain and the lightning through the screen door. Residential air conditioning was unknown back then and the attic fan would draw in the rain cooled air and that door was the coolest place in the entire house.
Of course, what is summertime without baseball? Several days a week, the neighborhood boys would gather at the baseball diamond in the schoolyard of Lake Shore Junior High for pick-up games. We made short work of picking teams and then the games were on. I admit that playing center field was my favorite position on the team. I had a great view of the game from there and didn’t have the pressure of playing in the infield. But sometimes I wound up as a pitcher when a left hander was needed, I would switch with the pitcher then switch back to outfield. Hey, what can I say, this was sandlot, pickup baseball and we made our rules up as we went. In my opinion this is the purest form of baseball; no parents, no coaches, no officials and the rare contested play resolved with the flip of a coin.
Those ordinary, everyday summer days are long behind me now. But they still live in my memory as if they were just yesterday. Oh MY!