Back in the Day
Until the Lights Go On
Ka-thy, John-nee, Joey….that’s how we called our friends out to play. We went over to their house, stood outside and sang out. The first syllable was loud and maybe a little high. But then the last syllable dropped, slightly, ever so slightly lower. Somehow even a one syllable name approximated the call, An-nn. Once we were all gathered, we took off to play. We didn’t require adult supervision. Who’d want an adult to hang out with us? That was suspicious. Why would a grown person hang out with kids? What’s wrong with him? So we usually skipped off to the playground. If there were enough of us, we’d play softball. Otherwise we’d swing on the swings. To tell you the truth, I’d get car sick on the swings, but I never let on. Because of that, I was always the first to think of another activity. My favorite was bike riding. We rode bikes all over town. We’d follow the fire trucks to fires if we heard the horn blow. Back in the day, fire stations communicated by a “fire horn.” Everyone in town could hear it. The horn would alert the volunteer firemen where the fire was. I guess every fire hydrant had a number and the horn would honk that number of times. Of course my favorite honk was the honk for “no school.” When it was 7:00 AM on a snowy day, I’d stick my ear on the cold window pane closest to the fire station and listen to the two horn blasts to signal that they’d be no school, that day. That’s how we knew there’d be no school, in the era before computers, TV and radio stations gave the no school reports. A day of “no school” meant sledding all day. Luckily for me, there was a hill near my house and that’s where we went. But, other kids actually had streets to use for sledding. The town put orange cones on some of the streets to close them-- just for us kids to use. Imagine that! I guess there were fewer cars then. We’d build snowmen, forts, and throw snowballs at each other. Some braver kids, let me correct that, some foolish kids did something we called a “Nantucket sleigh ride.” As a car drove slowly by us, they would grab the back fender and slide for a while, as they were dragged dangerously along. Then they’d let go and slide off hoping not to crash into anything. I think the name is from Nantucket whalers harpooning a whale and being dragged along behind the whale. It was like that back then, when kids played unsupervised all day, until the street lights went on. Once the street lights were on, we knew it was supper time and the time to go home.