This morning was great and it reminded me of the summers of my youth. The sun was out, a little breeze and the whole day before you. What should I do? I grew up in the late 1920s and 1930s and if I recall correctly our parents did not plan our day nor even pay much attention to our activities. We were on our own. In contrast to today when it seems parents are very involved with their children’s whereabouts and activities. In our days we had the whole area and town to explore and play. We were also aware that everyone knew who we were and also would tattle on us if we misbehaved.
Each Tuesday morning I attend Kiwanis Club held in the Milford City Hall. We are through a bit after 8 a.m., and while school is in session observe the vehicles taking their children to the elementary school. In our youth we always walked or rode our bicycles. Even while in high school we walked. I observed the large parking lot at the Okoboji High School and doubted any walk to school. In my youth few students owned a car and the few cars there were from farms and there was no bus service. My sister and I had to walk about four blocks to school.
But back to the summers of my youth. The opportunities for a kid in those days were endless. It being such a nice day, I decided that I would go over to the east side of Milford and explore Mill Creek. It was just east of “Pinhook” (the east part of Milford was called Pinhook) and down the hills. Mill Creek was not very wide, but it had lots of frogs, minnows and tadpoles just waiting to be captured. In preparing for that venture, we constructed a net on a clothes hanger and, although crude, we had fun wading in the creek and chasing the rascals. We put them in an old coffee can to be taken home for our fish bowl. I remember the first time I waded in Mill Creek several blood suckers attached themselves to my legs and it took a bit of pulling to dislodge the black slimy critters. If one followed Mill Creek's flow to the west and south, there was the Milford Dump. The dump was always a great place to visit as we always found a “treasure” or two to add to our valuables.
During the summer months, I must report that my parents did take an interest in my activities as mother would fill up the car with her neighbor Margie and kids and drive up to Terrace Park to go swimming. Mother even went swimming but only used the side stroke. She of course had a bathing cap on and the bathing suit was made of wool. Mother took along a blanket which she spread out and spent most of the day sitting and watching us swim. For many years there was a raft out on the water that we played on, and there was a water wheel in front of the casino. The casino did rent out bathing suits, and there is still one of the buildings there that has been remodeled. Many days in the summer months, when dad got home after work, he would take us and drive up to Terrace Park. It was a bonus day as we got to go swimming two times that day.
I can think of ventures that kept us busy in the summer like making a slingshot. We would scan trees seeking just the right branch that forked to make a slingshot. After finding the right fork, we would cut it down and skin off the bark and carve or notch around each end of the fork to attach the two long strips of rubber cut about three-fourths of an inch wide. The rubber was cut from an old inner tube that we usually found out in back of the gas station. In those days a youngster had to be alert for those gems. The rubber bands were wound around the notched end of the slingshot and tied with heavy fish line. We looked for old shoes and cut out the tongue so we had a patch to hold the rocks we fired.
Many of us had old tobacco sacks (Prince Albert) that carried selected stones to shoot at birds, squirrels and targets. They probably didn’t need to worry as we seldom hit our target. We discarded the slingshots when we were 10 as that is when we obtained a beebee gun. Here again the birds and squirrels needed not worry, but it was good practice. Later we were moved up and had .22 calibur rifles. In high school we advanced to a shotgun and, if all that shooting had any benefits, many of us did very well shooting rifles in the military in World War II.
You can’t live in the Iowa Great Lakes and not go fishing and our favorite was Lower Gar. We could bicycle there and at that time there were only two farms — one on the west side and one on the east side. The roads were gravel and the last leg was only a dirt path, but we had the lake to ourselves — no boats.
Prior to going fishing, we made our own heavy sinkers. We had no rod and reel but on a throw line. Plumbers used hot lead to seal the water pipes and in the process spattered lead on the floors. We would scrape and collect the scattered lead, melt it in a ladle in the furnace, drill a hole in a pine board, bend a wire with a loop on the end, pour the hot lead into the hole around the wire and presto, you had a nice sinker after it cooled off.
Prior to going fishing, we spent time searching for night crawlers. Put the heavy sinker on the end of the fish line and further back put your fish hook on, bait with a night crawler, twirled the line and throw it out into the lake, sit down and wait for the fish to bite. It was quiet on Lower Gar Lake in those days and at that time I never imagined anyone living around that lake.
We had other projects: marbles, Mumbly Peg with a jack knife, hop scotch, kick the can, sandlot baseball and football, tag and, in winter, sliding on Kessie Hill and climbing in the old opera building. We kept busy so what else didn’t we do on a ‘lazy summer day?’