Hammertime: The fun we had fun as kids

Looking back at when we managed to survive on a 50 cents a week allowance, in this week’s Hammertime.

Mike Rainone


At the age of 75 I still love watching the kids at play, marvelling at the new games they play and their go-go-go energy, while bravely hoping that dear old grandpa will still be able to keep up with our grandchildren when they come calling.

Those of us who are now seniors and were growing up in the fifties and sixties were before the age of computers, cell phones, video games, and expensive running shoes…but we never got bored.

Whether the weather was rain, shine, sleet, or snow we always had a secret wish list of inside and outside things to do, beginning with chores and homework, but on sunny days we were usually encouraged to get outside, find our friends, or go fly a kite. On the miserable days when we weren’t in school we had a tattered old chest full of games, toys, books, knick-knacks, and keepsakes that we could scatter all over our bedroom kingdom, as long as it was cleaned up by dinner time. Along the way we somehow managed to survive life on a 50 cent a week allowance, and in this week’s column I would love to share some of our childhood shenanigans and experiences with you, with hopes that they might bring back lots of favourite memories, miseries, and chuckles.

• If it was our pet we took turns walking it or we were in the doghouse.

• We did play sandlot baseball, football, soccer, and whatever on a vacant lot. We had a chunk of plywood for home base, three old pillows for bases, garbage cans for goal posts and hoops, and usually one ball or bat to share with the whole neighbourhood.

• There weren’t too many bullies then because everyone had friends and watched after each other. Our most cherished possessions were our bikes, our shiny bag of marbles, the bugs and worms we caught and hid under the bed in a jar, and of course our family and friends, both boys and girls.

• We had to stay at the table until everything was eaten; especially veggies and porridge, and we were the built in automatic dishwashers at our house.

• Summer holidays were endless adventures of forts, tree huts, doll houses, play-wars, swimming, games, sleepovers, and campouts. Our floatables were patched up tire tubes, mom’s old washtub, or a Huck Finn raft made out of scrounged wood, wire, or binder twine.

• The greatest adventures included: snaring suckers at the CPR dam, chasing gophers, climbing the highest tree to be boss for a day, damming up the river, or staying out late to raid gardens or count the stars.

• Most households usually had only one family car so when we got a chance for a ride we sat still, stayed quiet, and were not allowed to play with the gadgets or munch on sticky stuff. Punishment was mandatory in those days and always depended on the crime.

• To make some extra money for a bike, a ball glove, or a new toy we set up a lemonade stand, did odd jobs for nice neighbours, delivered papers, or collected bottles and hauled them all the way into town in an old red wagon and got to buy one treat.

• We had to shine our shoes and wear a tie for school, church, and special occasions; and under no circumstances were we allowed to burp, speak out of turn, or make strange noises in public.

My special list of Remember When from way back then

I know that many of you will fondly recall: Dinky Toys, 5 cent packages of baseball cards with bubble gum, Topo Gigo, Howdy Doody, car hops, Jiffy popcorn, sock-hops, drive-in movies and restaurants with juke boxes, cork pop guns, gas for 25 cents a gallon, reel-to-reel tape recorders, comic books, Mechano sets, Chatty Cathy dolls, Brylcreem, watching and sniffling through Old Yeller or Lassie movies many times, five cent stamps, 15 cents McDonald burgers and five cent cokes, Studebakers, Chef-Boyardee, hoola hoops, 45 and 78 rpm records on a turntable, the TV test pattern, washtub ringers, hand-me-downs, pogo sticks, and so much more.

Whether your room now contains a computer, lots of electronic gizmos and all your neat new stuff; I still spy those classic plastic models hanging from the ceiling, your old team pictures, a messy cupboard full of books and magazines, walls full of hero posters, a school bag full of homework, and your favourite memories and toys in each and every corner. Always remember to seek lots of fun and friends, get lots of exercise, share your skills and ideas with others, enjoy being a kid to the fullest, and that your family will always be there for you, now and into the future. Whether spring has finally arrived or not, just go ahead and have a great week, all of you.

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