Most of my childhood was spent in WaKeeney. I’m so thankful I grew up in such a simpler time (1960s/early 70s). Summers were so special, almost magical. I remember the joy of walking out of school for the first day of summer vacation. My friends and I shared in the joy as we were free for the next three months.
Our parents were not in charge of finding ways to entertain us; we were on our own. The summer was spent playing with friends at the pool, playing baseball, fishing, riding bikes, and enjoying the fair (except that it meant the summer was winding down).
I remember spending many Saturday mornings picking up pop and beer bottles for cash. We met early with a couple of gunny sacks and walked the ditches all over town picking up these discarded treasures. We got 3 cents for a pop bottle and 1 cent for a beer bottle at Weber’s gas station, spending a lot of our money before we even left on candy bars and pop. We would put our money together to buy a cheap rubber baseball from the Duckwall’s store so we could go and play baseball on some empty lot. We would pick up discarded cracked bats after games for free, taping them up so they could be used.
Many mornings, we would meet together to ride our bikes. If we wrecked a bike on our homemade obstacle course, my brother would fix it. Maybe this was a clue to his future occupation, as he became a very good mechanic.
I remember all of us getting together and walking the 3 miles south to Big Creek to go fishing. Beforehand, we would dig worms at one of our secret spots; this was almost as much fun as going fishing. Occasionally, we would visit Boeve’s Hotel to play pinball or Wilson’s Pool Hall to play pool.
Some mornings we would walk uptown and visit our local donut shop (Nueberger’s Bakery) first. Usually we’d just walk in to look at the donuts and savor the great smell. Sometimes we had enough money to buy a few donut holes. Next, we visited the three barber shops. We’d try to sneak a look at the girly magazines but would be stopped, so we would read the 10 cent comic books — Superman, Spiderman, the Archies, or the comic books of war stories.
I remember getting my own haircuts and being told by the barber about the ears he’d cut off of other young boys who refused to sit still. It worked; I didn’t move! I remember the adults in my town; we respected them and always treated them with respect.
Next, we would walk down to Rhoades’ gas station and buy a bottle of pop for 10 cents, and for a nickel you could put a bag of peanuts in it!
I remember being told by my parents that supper will be at 6 p.m. — and if you’re not here, you’ll miss it! All parents with yards had a very hard time keeping nice grass, as we played games almost daily; stomping it down to the dirt. I remember all of the neighborhood kids getting together and playing games way into the night.
When people went for an evening drive they had to be careful and drive slowly, as kids were either playing in the streets or chasing each other or a ball that got away. I drive around now and rarely see kids playing outside.
I cherish my childhood and am so thankful I grew up in those times. A good friend told me recently, “You can’t blame the kids growing up now for not spending their summer like this, because you can’t miss something you’ve never experienced.”
Rick Cunningham is an
avid outdoorsman from Ellis