It was a warm and humid morning as I headed out for a day of play and adventure. The year was sometime in the early to mid 1960s. I didn’t have any neighbors to play with until I was in my early teenage years, so mostly I had to depend on myself and my imaginary friends to keep entertained. Unlike living in a subdivision where there were always an assortment of children willing to get up a game of baseball or hide and seek, when you lived in the country you didn’t have so many playmates. Maybe that is why I have such a good imagination as an adult. Just exactly how many tunnels I constructed in my sandbox I have no idea, but it was an awful lot. Actually, my sandbox was a tractor tire instead of your typical square or rectangle wooden form. Nowadays, kids expect to play in some sort of plastic molded contraption that more resembles a turtle or some other creature. Thankfully we didn’t have any cats prowling around when I was a small boy, because my sandbox didn’t have a lid.I can’t remember if I played with Matchbox cars while growing up, but I have many fond memories of my wide array of Tonka toys. I had racecars, tractors, automobiles and dump trucks in my arsenal of heavy metal toys. Yep, I was into heavy metal as a boy, but not the kind kids would think of today. There wasn’t any such music while I was growing up, thank you Lord! Toys back then were constructed of strong metal instead of cheap plastic. I can remember the Tonka company advertising that you could even stand on their toys and they wouldn’t collapse under your weight. I honestly can’t remember if I ever tested that theory. I also had a collection of airplanes that I spent hours pretending to fly. I either used a dirt path outside for my runway or the living room rug in front of our fireplace. I also spent many hours during the winter playing with marbles on that very same rug. It was oval with lines that resembled a racetrack, so many times I would line up my marbles and roll them around the track, taking turns rolling either the red, blue or green ones. Next to airplanes and trains, cement trucks were probably of my most favorite toys. I’m not sure, but it might have had something to do with me loving the smell of fresh cement as it was being poured to create the foundation for the new home that my parents were having built. I also had two large, white fire trucks that I had been given one Christmas while we still lived in Lebanon. I can’t believe that I can remember that far back, while at the same time, forgetting something that my wife had just told me a few minutes ago.
Playing army took up a large amount of my time, especially during the long summer months. If I didn’t have any guns that resembled what I thought army guns should look like, I used a wooden stick or just pointed my finger in the shape of a pistol. Boy, we wouldn’t want to do that nowadays. I heard that sometime last year a boy was kicked out of school for doing that very same thing. I have fond memories of using the school playground as a battlefield when my friends and I were at recess. We always used finger guns and none of us sustained any real injuries. No one ever called the police, or even the SWAT team (especially since there was no such team in existence). Anyway, little boys were expected to play like that when we were growing up. I never once remember the police coming to our school for problems. Any problems that arose back then were dealt with swiftly and sternly by our teachers and principal. None of us ever wanted to cross the principal’s path or end up in his office, but on occasion some of us would find our way there. Of course, we were all innocent of any charges brought against us.
Many pieces of playground equipment doubled as submarines, flying saucers, tanks and even airplanes. Many vicious battles were fought and won as we rat-a-tat-tatted our imaginary machine guns. By the end of our half-hour recess time, any injuries were voided out until afternoon recess. Besides the usual war, basketball and kickball games, I had the pleasure to, every now and again, chase the pig-tailed little girls around the playground as I mouthed the words, “I am a kissing robot, I am a kissing robot.” I also doubled as a minister, performing many make-believe weddings. I guess I came up with that idea from being a ring bearer in several weddings while growing up.
Many decades have passed since I last dirtied my knees as I knelt in the sandbox, or bruised myself by falling too hard on the ground after being hit with imaginary bullets. The most serious injury I ever got as a child (and it was a real injury), was when I leaned too far back in my chair while playing tea party with my sisters, and banged my head on my dad’s truck bumper. Did I ever learn my lesson and not play with girls again? No way. Once I became a teenager, however, I did sustain many a broken heart from some of those same pig-tailed girls that I use to chase.
Contact Raymond Snoke at firstname.lastname@example.org.