Like so many families, my family traversed to locales far and wide for Dad’s World War II training. I personally attended several schools in Southern California that were so crowded multiple grades were taught in one room. Raise a hand, get an answer. Raise a hand too often, get a slow class and few friends. There was not one place I could call home until we returned to Seattle.
Short of 72 years ago I rejoined the living in Madison Park. Everything was new to the eyes and promises of adventure laid in wait. There were many in the neighborhood experiencing the aftermath of the war so kinships were easily formed.
Trekking early in the a.m. down the alley between 42nd and 43rd running and sliding on ice covered puddles to complete the fourth grade at J. J. McGilvra was a mission of ours. Aside from the daily routine of school work we took part in the paper and metal drives during World War II in hopes of getting our names in the “Weekly Reader,” a school newspaper. Most of the articles and stories within painted a rosy world in spite of the war.
Every now and then we were privileged to watch via Bell and Howell 16mm projector segments from “Classroom Films”. We were introduced to how things were made and the countless people that worked on conveyor lines packaging items for the consumer. They were a happy lot called “blue collar workers” who made enough to feed a family and even put aside funds for college.
A big pursuit of ours was to have fun in life despite everything going on around us. We all had bikes and rollers skates. When the skates wore out we nailed them on a board, placed a wooden box upright onto it, jury rigged handle bars and called it a downhill racer. They were really cumbersome and had no steering ability.
Had one of us visualized the same apparatus sans the handlebars and wooden box, it could have been called a “skateboard.” We could have ridden it like a surf board and done tricks and even had tournaments, then built thousands of them and made a bazillion dollars! We could have been those kids!
That year a guy demonstrated a new yo-yo after school. We all watched as he performed the “Sleeper” longer than anyone ever had and it compelled us to add the toy to our repertoire.
Marbles and marble tournaments were big for the boys. The boys proud to wear a pack of marbles on their sides gathered around the big tree in the rear of the school and waged Steelies. The girls met elsewhere to take their Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls out of their original packaging, make up stories and comb their hair. Every recess we played.
Around the end of the sixth grade we would all meet at Madison Beach for a final get-together. It was a tradition to meet there at the end of every school year. That last school year was special because half would go on to private school and the other half to Edmond Meany on 24th off Madison.
The boys would secure an area in front of the beach house so as to be able to run and dive into the two-foot water for bragging rights. We reminisced about the years past and wondered where the girls were. Soon we could hear them laughing in the bathhouse. Our mouths gaped open watching the laughing females approach us. There was something different. Same one-piece bathing suits…. what was it, were they taller? Our voices were changing; we felt differently toward them. I guess we were outgrowing marbles and dolls.
There were quite a few ways for us kids to make some spending money like paper routes, washing windows, painting fences and mowing lawns.
The conveyor jobs we learned about in Classroom Films were soon replaced by robotics and computers. With a minimum of human input, corporations began making bigger profits with faster turnaround and little dissemination. Nowadays adults are lucky to get the jobs we had as kids and they even have to combine them just to cover rent.
Survival of the fittest maintains we make lemonade out of lemons. That is not terribly hard to do in our Village by the Lake.
My wife Karen and I hardly know the changes happening in our booming city as we literally never leave Madison Park. It is too fun, too fine, too accessible, too friendly and just plain heaven on earth which happens to be serving lemonade.