Y is for Youthful Pastimes: Parties, skating and biking in the dust bowl. Eighth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
At our high school reunions in Endwell, N.Y., my former classmates and I are always amazed by how small our childhood houses and bedrooms were.
“How did we live in such small spaces?” someone always asks. The answer: We had basement rec rooms in winter and the great outdoors year-round to engage in our many youthful pastimes during my elementary years.
Baby Boom birthday parties
With about 50 Baby Boom children on our block, there was never a shortage of parties going on — since it was always some kid’s birthday. Each party had its own guest list — and every family had their preferred venue.
At our house, we held parties in the basement — at first unfinished and later an official rec room after I helped my dad install drywall, wallpaper and wainscoting. But other families used their large kitchens to better tend to us partygoers.
If my brothers went to or hosted a party, then the kids their age usually attended. This prevented a complete mob scene of too many kids at any event.
The same was true for me — which often meant girls-only parties, since most of the children around my age were female.
Rollerskating was big on our street — especially in the summertime. We would clip metal-wheeled skates onto our sneakers and skate in the road or speed skate down the steeper driveways. My legs always felt wobbly after hours of skating on the cement and blacktop.
Sometimes, we also skated inside roller rinks — like the one in nearby Johnson City where I learned various stops, starts and manouevers to earn my Girl Scout skating badge.
This gave way to ice skating in winter. At the end of the block, there was a shallow, damp area near the creek that froze over with a couple of inches of ice — and we kids would slide around amid tufts of grass practicing turns and skating backwards.
Then there were the official ice skating parties at a frozen, flooded field near the Junior High — a great meet-and-greet spot of particular interest as I approached my teens.
Jan. 5, 1962 – Dear Diary, Today I went to the Junior High School skating party. I saw Danny there. I haven’t seen him since October. I hope he goes to the next party.
Biking around the neighborhood
Riding our bikes was the main neighborhood pastime during the warmer months.
Our parents let us kids ride throughout our Endwell enclave near the Susquehanna River — which fostered a sense of freedom and built our physical skills.
One favorite biking challenge was to ride uphill on adjoining Shady Drive, then pelt downhill as fast as possible to be the first one to make a sharp right onto Malverne Road at the bottom.
Another was to ride over to the dust bowl — a hollowed out patch left behind after the flooding Susquehanna receded.
The dust bowl was filled with dry, crumbly dirt all summer. We kids loved to go there and ride our bikes in endless circles — stirring up huge clouds of dust that coated our clothes, much to the chagrin of our mothers.
And around fourth or fifth grade, some of us from Miss George’s class liked to meet up and ride down River Road to the old Patterson-Hooper Cemetery to visit the graves of the characters we portrayed in her historic school plays. This was a great early introduction to my later cemetery research as a genealogist!
Visiting the library
Another youthful pastime was going overtown to the George F. Johnson Memorial Library in nearby Endicott — then housed in the former Johnson mansion shown below. What an awe-inspiring experience to go there as a youngster!
I recall passing through huge double doors to the lobby — which had a librarian desk, adjoining rooms full of books, a hallway with periodicals on wooden poles, and an imposing central staircase with a lustrous wood balustrade rising straight ahead.
My mom was a lifelong library user, so she often took me with her — and I loved wandering the rooms, poking through the shelves and checking out books to read at home.
The building exuded a rich smell of knowledge — the combination of printer’s ink, wood polish and the unique scent of the house itself creating a magical aura.
Whenever I discover similar libraries during my genealogy travels, I fondly remember the GFJ Library — which fostered my love of learning and broadened my sense of the world during my elementary years.
Up next, Z is for Zap: Adolescence begins! (and a victory lap, since I survived my third A to Z Challenge.) Please stop back!
© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.