Roving Reporter: Childhood Memories

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on August 22, 2011

If you ask me, today's youth don't have a clue about having fun. Previous generations made the most out of simple pleasures. We enjoyed family get-togethers, playing dress-up, homemade games, running through fields, etc. Our members share their own memories today.

Back when we began writing these Roving Reporter articles, Sharon and I thought it would be a good idea to ask for suggestions as to what questions our readers wanted us to ask.  We received some good ideas - thank you - and we will get to them all eventually.  Today's question is one that I think got great responses.  What do you think?


"What are some of your favorite childhood memories?"



One of my favorite memories is going to stay with my Aunt Angie and Uncle Waborn, my sister and I would stay with them at cotton picking time and we were petted rotten while staying there with them. We had fresh churned butter with homemade jelly that she put up in baby food jars every morning. When we finished picking the last bale of cotton, Uncle Waborn would take it to the gin and bring back hot dogs and buns. Everyone who had helped pick the cotton had an invitation to the wiener roast. We had a huge fire and had so much fun celebrating cotton picking being over. I was very small; in fact, in some places Uncle Waborn would have to carry me through the cotton as it was over my head. I picked in a flour sack until the last year we picked. I got a real "pick sack" the last year.  Aunt Angie and Uncle Waborn had no children, so you can imagine how well we were treated when we stayed with them. My childhood was short, as I married the first time at 15.

Another wonderful memory is Mamma taking a walk with us in the woods on a Sunday afternoon. She would find a huckleberry bush and let us eat huckleberries. My Father left my Mamma when she was 3 months pregnant with me. We lived with Gunny and Granddaddy, so the walks with Mamma were special as she worked at the shirt factory through the week and Gunny was at home for us. My sister married when I was 10 and I moved out of the bed with Mamma into the half bed that Pat used. In the summer when it was hot, Mamma and I would talk about what I had done through the day while she was at work. I would be talking to her, usually about something I had seen on TV, and I would hear her snoring. I worked at the shirt factory when I was 16 and I knew then why she was so tired.

We went to church every Sunday and walked there, but usually caught a ride home. We walked there in the snow one day, lit the heaters and waited a good while. We finally decided no one else was coming, so we had to walk back home in the snow. It was probably about 2 miles from our house to the church. My Mamma never drove, she tried to learn in a 1948 pick up when my sister was a baby. She jumped a ditch and never tried again.





I had a charmed childhood, so the favorites are many. I'll keep to the summertime variety. Growing up on a farm meant many days of playing in the hayfields, climbing trees, and chasing water snakes down in the swamp. We used to spend every Sunday evening while Dad and Grandpa were doing chores catching blue gills at the pond below the barn for a Sunday night fish fry at Grandma's house. The trees we climbed were evergreens that the state had planted as a permanent snow fence at the top of the hill. We (my brothers and [male] cousins) would race up and then slide down the outside of the branches, grasping at the tips.

Every evening, Mom or Grandma would drive us down the side road and let us out at the farthest field to chase the cows up from the day pasture, along the edges of the woods and swamp. This is were the snake chasing came to play, but to be honest, the green water snakes cheated by swimming off to the deepest parts of the swamp.

There were walks with my grandfather through the corn fields to check the maturity of the crop, walks down through the woods to check on a cow or heifer close to calving and all the while Grandpa would recite poetry from Sir Walter Scott and Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg.





One of my favorite childhood memories (at about age10) is hanging out with the family of 7 up the street. The eldest daughter had a boyfriend who had a parachute. One dark and very windy Michigan Spring night, 4 or 5 of us went to the elementary school playground and tied the parachute to the bottom of a big metal pole that a tether ball usually hung from. One child would stand in the "crow's nest" - where all of the strings from the parachute come together - with all the strings under their arms. The others would hold up edges of the parachute and when the wind would gust, it would pull you sailing up into the air. It was like flying and I'll remember that night forever. To this day, I love windy nights. By the way, I noticed later that the pole was bent. Pretty strong winds!





Boy, there are so many things from my childhood …. I grew up in Santa Ana, CA which is not far from the ocean. On nights when the wind was right, you could smell it. I miss that quite a bit. It's a dream of mine to return to the ocean and live like I know I should. Walking the sand, collecting shells or washed up treasure, watching the waves and dreaming. I'm the only girl in a family of 5 kids. My brothers and I would go down the beaches and swim, climb the jetties or walk the boardwalks and eat frozen chocolate covered bananas. One of my favorite early memories is listening to the bands that played at night by the sea. We saw the Beach Boys a few times. That was in the early Sixties and I didn't know until later who they were. LOL! We would comb the tide pools for anemone shells, starfish...whatever we could find, or just watch the little fish and try to catch them. My husband and I take trips to northern OR to visit my brother who lives there. His wife and her 3 brothers own a beach house together and they take turns spending time in it, a week at a time. We go when it's their week and never want to come home. Just those few days there can wash away the stress.




Let's see....Swinging in the old squeaky glider on sunny June afternoons with my grandma, in her back yard. The glider was backed up to a big lilac bush, and when it was in bloom the fragrance was just heavenly! Picnicking in the fall aspens in the Rockies outside of Denver. The fresh autumn air held a promise of coming snow, but the sun was still warm. It shone through the gold and red leaves like they were stained-glass. Feeding hungry chipmunks in winter at a pullout on Trail Ridge Road high in the Rockies. Wet black pavement, bright yellow lines on the road, huge white plowed snowdrifts and the clearest, bluest skies imaginable! Band concerts on summer weekend nights at Denver's City Park. Before the sun went down we'd picnic on the grass and feed the ducks. At twilight the music would start in the bandstand on the other side of the lake and the sound would carry over the water. When it got dark there would be colored fountains in the middle of the lake, shooting up in time to the music.




I am the second oldest of 5 kids. We spent most of our vacations at my Grandma's house in southern Wisconsin. Grandma lived in an old farmhouse. When my mom was little it was a working farm, but after my grandfather died (when my mom was 13), Grandma leased most of the land to a neighbor. Her remaining "yard" still covered several acres. She had a large vegetable garden, several flower beds scattered here and there (mostly clumps of peonies, which she loved), and some HUGE lilac bushes that we called "the woods."

No one EVER used the front door to actually enter the house. There was a swing and a decrepit recliner on the porch, that we played in a lot. The porch was the base for tag, and hide-and-seek, and spooky "Midnight" (a kind of hide-and-seek played as late at night as we could, but not actually until midnight, much to our dismay.) The lilac "woods" are right behind the photographer. I wish I had a photo of them. Everyone used the back entrance to the house. I can still hear the screen door creak and slam - and Grandma yelling "Don't slam the door, whoever you are!"

Most of my mom's family (she was the second youngest of 6 kids) still lived in the area, so when we were there for a visit, there were often aunts, uncles, and cousins around, too. If they came during the day (and it wasn't raining or snowy), we would usually go to Grandma's side yard and play softball. Grandma had a huge old cabinet on her enclosed back porch that was full of (among other things) old softball gloves, bats, and balls. We would drag out as many as we needed. We'd use the oldest of the old gloves as bases. Otherwise, everyone shared. Everyone played softball except Grandma. She loved watching - and yelling encouragements or just plain laughing at us - from her kitchen window, or from the picnic bench next to the house. The littlest kids got to swing as many times as they needed to, with lots of help. The bigger kids needed to hit the ball hard and RUN! 'cause the adults on the field were really good!

At night (or when it was too cold or wet outside), the family would gather in the living room and dining room to play cards. The top two drawers of Grandma's big room-width china cabinet was filled with decks of cards, pencils and score pads, games of Scrabble (Grandma's favorite!) and checkers. We knew when we were really adults when we got to play cards in the dining room with the adults. Otherwise we either played at the "kids' table" in the kitchen, or on the coffee table in the living room. We played 500, Rummy, Gin, Oh Heck (sometimes known by a slightly different name... ) Spades, Double (or triple, or....) Solitaire, Euchre, Hearts... When we were little Grandma would play Go Fish, Crazy Eight, and No Peek with us - and she always knew when we peeked! We also played poker with the pennies that my Grandma kept in a big jar.

Grandma was a phenomenal cook, and loved feeding her family - the more family, the better. She loved going to all of her grandchildren's games and plays. She usually showed up with a box of Edie's Sweeties (the most delicious brownies ever!), for which she was justly famous all over southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois! We generally lived too far away for her to come to our events, but when our marching band went to national competitions about an hour away from her, there she was! Box of Sweeties in hand, with a huge smile on her face. We always knew she loved us. Grandma died in 1996, when I was 28, and I still miss her and the home that she made for all of us.




It’s hard to pick out favorite memories, Nancy. The small ones are just as special as the large ones. I remember sitting in my back yard with my best friend, coloring our nails with crayons, and swimming in the neighbor lady’s fountain (until she caught us and asked us not to do that).

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, during the 60’s. You know what that means ~ Motown on the radio and The Tigers winning the World Series. What a thrill to be in that place at that time. I remember the thrill of watching each baseball game, and when they won the pennant, the air was full of excitement and the sounds of car horns beeping and people yelling, it was great fun! One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to the radio while playing on the kitchen floor. We had this big white radio, and my 2 older brothers would tell me to sit by the radio and listen for “the monkey song” (The Clapping Song by Shirley Ellis). When the song came on, I would call them in from outside. They would come in, listen to the song, then tell me to listen for it again before running back outside to play. They thought they were sly, didn’t they? What they didn’t realize was that while they knew “the monkey song” by heart, I knew all the Motown songs by heart!

I didn’t spend all my time listening to the radio, I spent a great deal of time outside too. We lived across the street from our elementary school, so the playground was always handy. I would swing around the concrete turtle’s neck, and climb on the ‘swiss cheese’. That same playground had a field, where my brother taught me to ride a bike, where we flew countless kites ~ homemade from newspaper or the fancy Chinese & box kites that Dad brought home, and played many a baseball game. These are just a few of my favorite childhood memories. Let’s not talk about my brothers hiding my favorite doll, or teasing me to no end.. although these memories have a special place in my heart also.




I don't really have one single favorite childhood memory. My father was in the army for most of my childhood, so I grew up as an 'Army brat'. Between that lifestyle, and growing up with five siblings, I have many happy memories. We moved seven times between when I was born and when my dad retired. I lived in Washington, North Carolina, New Jersey, and three cities in Germany by the time I turned 10.

For me, the best memories of my childhood are from when we lived in Germany. My parents took us to see gardens and castles, zoos, and many other wonderful sights. When we lived in Wurzburg, we could even see a castle from our dining room window! I remember lunches of local meats, cheeses, and breads (brochen). I remember honey wagons (open horse drawn cart full of manure!), the autobahn, the limonada stand, the schwimmbad (local swimming pool), and the gummi man (pronounced 'goomi', NOT 'gummy'!!). The gummi man was an old guy in a white station wagon. The back of his car was filled with so many different kinds of gummis, you could not imagine - snakes, dinosaurs, cars, pacifiers, all sorts of animals, and all in many different flavors!

Christmas time in Germany was so magical and mystical. We used to walk around the neighborhood and admire all the different decorations. We had ornaments from Germany on our family Christmas tree for many years. For the holidays, my parents would usually invite a young, single GI or two, who was far away from home and missing his family. The Thanksgiving table was always crowded! It was a warm, wonderful feeling. Oh, and my earliest memory of all is from when we lived in Bad Kreuznach (where my younger sister was born). I was riding my tricycle, trying to figure out why my feet were going around in a circle, but my knees were going up and down! (Do you see a future engineer there? LOL!)





I have many fond childhood memories of my grandfather, he was a carpenter so one of the first things I learned from him was how to hold a hammer and a nail, of course he wasn't too happy when I hammered nails into something that I wasn't supposed to!! He taught me to how to play checkers, to knit and even how to darn socks. Playing in and around a small creek that ran through my grandparents property in the summertime with my siblings, we'd make small dams to corral the tiny brook trout, maybe catch some frogs. Other times we would find sticks, tie a piece of string to it and attach a bent safety pin, dig some worms and go fishing. I don't remember if we caught anything but we sure had fun!!! Sister and I sitting on the front steps eating animal crackers and drinking coke, or happily walking to the store with the nickle or dime we were each give to buy some bubble gum or a fudgesicle, nice creamy ones, not like what they sell today.




Memories are what make us who we are, I think. I've already shared most of mine with just about everybody around here, but there are a few that had more of an impact than others. One of my earliest right up front and in living color memories is going to the very first movie I ever saw. It was Cinderella and I was seven years old. I somehow realized that somebody had drawn the beauty that I saw on that screen in front of me. Somebody had drawn and painted the bluebirds that adorned that glorious blue dress with ribbons and bows, and somebody had drawn that wonderful carriage that Cinderella rode to the ball. It made such an impact I vowed that someday I would be an artist and I would draw and paint Cinderella. I don't think a day has gone by since then that I haven't drawn or painted something, but I haven't drawn Cinderella in a long long time.

Another important memory: When I was a freshman in high school there was talk of outer space and space flights and men on the moon. In the fall of '57, the Russians launched Sputnik 1 and though the little craft was not visible from earth, it's rocket booster which trailed behind it was visible. It was like the brightest star moving quickly across the small bit of sky I could see from my bedroom window. It crossed that small space about every hour and a half, and there were clear nights that I stayed up all night watching. I knew all about airplanes but this was a space flight, farther and faster than anything man had ever done. I felt like I was on the edge of a whole new world, and the truth is, I was. I remember those nights of watching Sputnik, and wondering if Russia was going to rule the world since it was the first to launch a space flight. I thought about that recently when NASA launched its last flight, and considered all that had happened in our world since that beginning in 1957.

When I was a junior in high school one of my best friends was a year older than I was and she could drive a year before I could. I wasn't yet 16, but she was and for her birthday she got a brand new Corvair, one of the first ever made. That was the coolest car and if we each chipped in 50 cents, we could buy enough gas to take us all over the mountains every weekend. So on Saturday I always chipped in the first 50 cents and we left early afternoon and traveled to the custard stand that was in Jenkins, a small town that bordered the state of Virginia. We weren't allowed to drive into Virginia but we could go as far as the custard stand. Our plan was to check out the guys that we'd heard came to Jenkins for the frozen custard. We knew better, we knew they were coming to Jenkins to check out the Kentucky girls. So we cruised Jenkins in Kay's bright shiny white Corvair. Our hair was in pony tails with scarves tied around them, ends hanging down and blowing in the breeze of the open windows of that spiffy car. I always had a dollar on Saturdays. Half of it went for gas, and the other half kept me in frozen custard while we cruised Jenkins looking for Virginia boys. We rejected them, every one, thinking our Kentucky boys were so much better.


What fun!  This enjoyable journey down memory lane has brought back so many memories of my own!  If you find yourself feeling nostalgic after reading this, please tell us about it.  I want to know what you all remember fondly about growing up.  Start a new thread, or add to an existing one.  I'm anxious to hear!

And did you notice the photo avatar on the article?  It's from my own scrapbook.  Can you guess which one is me??







Related articles:
childhood, interview, memories, roving reporter, spotlight

About Nancy Polanski
I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.

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Comments and discussion:
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I'll be back! Boopaints Sep 1, 2011 12:14 PM 3
Guessing.. Sharon Aug 29, 2011 8:51 PM 98
Childhood Memories From England. NEILMUIR1 Aug 25, 2011 10:47 AM 2

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