The Spectator at “91”


John Maloney
The Spectator, John Maloney

It’s hard to believe but today, the 19th of February, the Spectator has hit 91. I tell myself it’s just a number. I feel the same today as I did at 90!

I did a service at St. Anthony’s Cemetery a few weeks ago and the man from Higgins asked how old I was and when I told him, he said, “It’s hardly worth while going home, is it?”

I may not remember what I had for breakfast but I can recall things that happened in the distant past. I can recall the name of every boy and girl in my graduation class of 1938.

We read so much in the media and listen to the TV that there is a growing concern about obesity among our children today. In a word our youngsters are becoming fat and flabby. Just look around and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Not only are the kids becoming fat and flabby, take a look at some of the parents. I’ll admit I’m something of an Ancient Mariner (I bet the kids today never read the Rise of the Ancient Mariner).

When I was a kid growing up in the Depression days, there weren’t too many fat kids. It had nothing to do with the lack of food. The kids I grew up with were active. We had no couch potatoes. There was no TV to hold our attention after school. No electronic games to play with hour after hour. No texting or gabbing on a cell phone. There were no fat kids because we played and were active from the moment we came home from school. We ran, we climbed, we jumped, we dodged, we leaped, we moved every part of our bodies. When it came time to go home for supper, we were exhausted.

In grammar school we walked to school. No bus. There was no such thing as snow days, or two hour delays because of the weather. There was no such thing as winter recess. We celebrated Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 and Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22.

It was hard to find a girl or boy that you would call Fatso!

Of course it helped that we had no fast food stores. No Pizza Hut, no McDonald’s, no French Fries, no Burger King, no Dunkin’ Donuts, no chicken nuggets. Even if those places did exist, we wouldn’t have the money to go there.

Unless you were sick or it rained, every kid spent the afternoon outdoors from 3:30 until about 6 PM.

I never heard one of my friends say, “I’m bored – there’s nothing to do today.” If a game didn’t exist, we would invent one!

Almost every game we played involved running and that alone kept us in shape. There were so many variations of “tag”. We made our own wagons and skate boards.

We played with tops that you spun with a piece of string. I showed one to my grandson and he wondered where did you put the battery. Girls were great at jumping rope with so many varieties!

Most of the games of my generation are mostly forgotten. We played “cops and robbers,” cowboys and indians, soldiers. All these games involved lots of running.

Ring-a-levio was another team game that required running and dodging.

We skated and skated and when the season came we played roller hockey in the street. The first thing on the Christmas list was roller skates (Union Hardware) and of course a hockey stick.

If we didn’t own a football we made one with rolled up newspaper tied with a rubber band. It was good enough. No one ever said, “I’m bored!”

There were so many variations of marbles. It would be hard to buy a bag of marbles today. Who remembers what an “immy” was or an Agate or a “puree.” There was always one kid who had lots of marbles and he’d make a small fortune selling ten for a penny.

A pack of Camels or Lucky Strikes sold for 15 to 20 cents a pack. You could buy a “loosie” which was one cigarette for a penny. How much is a pack of cigarettes today?

Yes, in those days, there was so much to do and so little time to do it.

Of course, there was stick-ball and punch ball and handball and box ball and a hundred other varieties with a ball. We had nicknames for almost everyone. There was Chuckle and Harpo and Kid Dapo, we had Lefty and Butch and a guy called Cowboy and Diddles and The Swede and Buddy and Skippy and Buster and Lenny, Mickey and Whitey and Jim-Jim and the Goon and Uncle Benny and Sonny and Chuck and Moe and Beetle and Battles.

Those were the days my friend. I never had it so good.

We flipped baseball cards. I wish I had some of them now. I had an original mint condition Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx. I also had in my possession the first comic magazine of Superman, now worth millions and millions. It cost a dime and after we read it we gave it to a friend to read. Who knew?

We hitched rides on the back of trolley cars and slow moving autos.

Life was a ball and we were never bored. We listened to the radio and the only cell phone was the one on the wrist of Dick Tracy in the comics. I thank God for all the great memories and the 91 years He has given me!

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