When the Street Lights Come On
I was sitting having coffee with an old friend of mine the other day when he started reminiscing about “the good old days” because that’s what old guys do! Were they really that good? Memory does tend to play tricks! But it was a time before technology took over the world, and summer days consisted of running through sprinklers, waiting for the ice cream truck to come down the street, swinging so high that the poles came right out of the ground, and having to get home when the street lights came on. At least that’s how I remember those lazy summer days to be?
It seems universal, for anyone my age, that we were always instructed by our parents to “come home when the street lights come on.” To this day I have no idea what time that was, but I’m presuming the street lights went on at sundown or just before? And because not many of us owned a watch, it was the only way we had of telling time! I guess in other words we were being told to get home before it gets dark. I’m assuming kids today just get a text from Mom or Dad to tell them to get home. I don’t know about you, and it may just be where I live, but I don’t see many kids playing on the street these days. Especially after dinnertime.
Most of our after-school hours were spent outside when the weather was warm and the sun was late to set. There were no electronic devices to keep us glued to a screen inside the house! It was games of scrub at the local park or school baseball fields that kept us busy till at least dinner time. After dinner, especially on those fringe seasons of spring and fall, it was pick-up games of kick the can or kick the stick. Yes, it was a simpler time.
Did you play kick the can? It was just another version of hide and seek, with elements of tag, and capture the flag. Hours were spent playing that game. Pretty economical too, all you needed was an empty tin can!
To play kick the stick you had to have grown up in a neighbourhood with trees on the boulevard between the sidewalk and the road. Hard to explain, but it entailed kicking a stick and then running from tree to tree, much like you would do in baseball running from base to base and trying to make it home. I’ll leave it at that. I googled the game but didn’t find an explanation. It might have been a Dunbar neighbourhood game we invented? But that too was pretty economical, all you needed was a stick! The city had already provided the trees on the boulevard, and perhaps childhood imagination provided the rest.
If you are of the same era as I, you might remember another game that involved all the neighbourhood kids, no matter how big or small, and that was Red Rover! The official explanation of this game goes like this, two teams, some distance apart, face each other and take turns designating an opposing player to run toward their line. Any player who fails to break through their clasped hands becomes a member of that team. Amazingly nobody was sent to hospital from this game, I don’t recall anyone getting a broken arm, or broken neck either. I’m reading that the Red Rover game has been banned in some playgrounds. I guess part of the ongoing controversy over “safe playgrounds.” I won’t even start reminiscing about Monkey Bars!
And as we stirred our coffee, our minds drifted back to those so-called good old days when the greengrocer came down the street in his truck, the milkman made deliveries, kids on their bikes delivered the morning and the evening paper and that wonderful smell of burning leaves every fall. I know, I know, bad for the environment, but it was an aroma that certainly signalled the change of seasons.
Coffee time was over, it was time for two old friends to head home because you see, the street lights just went on.
Till next week...
1 / Red Rover 2 / Kick the Can 3 / Drinking from the hose 4 / Playing a game of Conkers
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1328 Johnston Road
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2