I grew up in town, in Dunkirk more precisely. Going to the playground was my summer entertainment. As soon as my chores were done, I jumped on my bike and went to the playground. Yes, I enjoyed the gear, but I also enjoyed the crafting program. I did so many things at the playground. For years I used a tray I made there. I shelled mine after adding a pattern. I also made a set of coasters. We used them at home when we had glasses to put on one of the tables. I was so proud of my creations and proud that grandma used them.
It was in the playground where I went to school. I also visited another playground and made new friends there. I went to work with my mother at Briggs Dairy and went to the recreation yard near School No. 2. It was no longer in use as a school at that time, but it was still standing. While I was there I played tether ball. The ball was attached to a pole. The object of the game was to wrap the string around the pole to score a point. I got pretty good at it.
We also did crafts there. I remember weaving a basket. I had to buy the frame but the reeds were then provided. The friends I met there weren’t the people I went to school with. Years later, I met some of them when we all went to the same high school.
There was a third playing field in my experience. Once in high school, I frequented the playground at the athletic field. Sometimes I drove there, but often I walked. Even though it was far, I could do it safely. The reason I went there was that they had a volleyball team. I played on that team with some of the older high school students. I worked during the day so it was the perfect activity for me since all the matches were played in the evening. If we
had a game late, I drove so I wouldn’t have to walk home alone after dark.
The games were great fun. I also met new people through this activity. Serving was my real talent. I got a lot of points for the team that way. I wasn’t that good at smashing the ball. I was on the short side at that time. I think it was one of the chaperones at a house party our sorority was having that brought me to this activity. She was the coach.
It was the same athletic field that they flooded in the winter so we could ice skate. I was never afraid to go alone because all my friends from school would be there. Sometimes I would see my grandparents’ car go by while I was skating.
Life was so much easier then. We walked everywhere. Nobody had to drive us. It was safe for us to be out after dark. We did so many outdoor activities. The fresh air and the exercise did us good. Once my homework is done, it’s off to the athletic field.
I wouldn’t trade the freedom I experienced growing up for what kids have today. Although most of them cannot identify themselves, some of them can still play outside. Some of them still know the simplest pleasures.
None of my activities cost a lot of money if they cost anything. We didn’t have to pay to play back then. The equipment was at the playground for us to use. We just showed up and picked up a game most of the time. It was called practice. It was nothing official, but it was practice and exercise.
Now that I look back, I realize what wonderful activities I participated in. I didn’t give it much thought at the time. The friends I made in all my activities were a bonus. I was taken to a sorority in freshman year because of the older friends I made. Our sorority has done many good things for the community
even if it was not the only goal. These older friends I made were my mentors. I also participated in choirs with them. It was an activity at school that I cherished. It was so fun to sing.
What a way to grow! I didn’t realize it at the time but I think I had the best way to make it to adulthood.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pennsylvania. Contact [email protected]