Things have changed since I was a kid!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Sports Columnist

Looking back on those good ole days growing up in Troy a hot summer day was sometimes fun and exciting and sometimes dull with nothing to do.

We didn’t have air conditioning, we didn’t have color T.V. ‘s with 65 channels to pick from, we didn’t have swimming pools in our back yards, we didn’t have video games or computers and most of us didn’t have much money in our pockets.

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When we weren’t playing baseball or going swimming at Murphree Park pool we had to make up games to play to keep from being bored out of our minds. With only fans to keep us cool and T.V. sets that picked up only three channels, you were much better off doing something outdoors in the heat. Maybe it was because we were young, but it didn’t seem like it was as hot back then as it is today.

I’ve already told you many times about the "Cork Ball" game we used to play. A lot of the things we used to do took a lot of imagination. You had to remember who was on the bases and how many runs everybody had.

I used to make up games with marbles. In fact I had a baseball stadium underneath my dinning room table. I put cigar boxes that Mr. Davis would give me from his store and put them in the outfield for my fence. Most of the boxes were full of baseball cards that I collected. My first cousin Jerry Renfroe used to buy baseball cards with me and if he didn’t get Mickey Mantle or Yogi Berra he’d give them to me in exchange for my bubble gum. I built quite a collection that way.

Back to underneath the dinning room table, I used to play baseball games for hours at a time on the rug floor. I’d position all the marbles just like they were real baseball people. IN the out field I would separate the boxes a few inches apart so that if the ball went through them it would be a home run. I would use a smaller marble as my make believe baseball.

To hit the ball I would hold a bigger marble in my right hand and roll the smaller with my left hand and hit it. If the small marble hit a marble in the field the batter was out, if the ball went out of the infield it was a hit. If it hit the cigar boxes it was a double and of course if it went through the open spaces between the boxes it was a home run. If the little marble didn’t make it through the infield the batter was out.

At night I would take one of my mother’s wall lamps and imagine it was the lights at Yankee Stadium. To score runs I would move marbles around the bases according to the hit. It was a game made up by a nine-year-old to be played by a nine or 10-year-old boy who had a lot of imagination. Only I could play the game because most of it was played in my head.

This game I made up might sound silly to many of you, but to me it was a game of make believe that took care of what could have been some restless summer days.

I also made up a game that all you needed was a tennis ball to play. I spent hours throwing the tennis ball against my brick front porch steps. Every time I’d throw the ball it would bounce a different way off the steps. Sometimes it would bounce in the air straight back to me, other times it would come back on the ground and sometimes it would go over my head.

You had to react fast because the ball came off the steps fast. Using a lot of imagination I would play game after game in my front yard.

Today kids don’t need to use their imagination, video games and television takes care of that for them. I wonder how many kids will build tree houses in the woods like we used to do in the summer. I’ve spent the night in a tree many times, even without bug spray.

About the only thing kids do now that we used to do in the summers is play baseball and go swimming. The big exception to that is that most of them swim in pools in their own backyards and we had to go to that old pool at Murphree Park.

Maybe the coldest times of my life were when we went swimming at the city pool on a morning after they had refilled the pool with new water. It was cold as ice.

Kids today have never heard of a game called "rag tag." We played it every day at the pool. It was a very simple game and all you had to do was hit one of the players with the rag and swim away.

When we got hungry back then we’d usually run home and eat fresh peas, corn, tomatoes and fresh corn bread muffins right out of the oven. Also on the table would be a gallon jug of freshly brewed sweet tea.

When we wanted a snack, six cents and a nickel would buy you a large pepsi and a bag of Tom’s toasted peanuts. Of course the peanuts were poured in the drinks. Now days kids eat pizza brought hot to the house or hamburgers and french fries from the fast food restaurant. Mama’s don’t cook much anymore.

Most of the time a kid today doesn’t have to ask his mother what’s on his plate. Back when I was growing up egg plant looked like some creature from outer space and boiled okra looked like it had been spit out of somebody’s mouth. Today I love both of those foods, but back then it would be like punishment if I had to eat it.

Kids today have so much more to do than we did when I was a youngster. They travel all over the country to Disney World, to Six Flags over Georgia, to Braves games, to the beach, on boat cruises, or to the snow capped ski slopes. To go to the beach when I was growing up was very special.

A sad thing about all of this is the good ole bicycle. What our main mode of transportation was in the 50’s and early 60’s is now almost extinct especially in my neighborhood. Now all you see is kids on four wheelers and golf carts. The only person I see riding a bicycle in my neighborhood is Randall Smith and he’s 45 years old.

My, how times have changed. Kids today have it all! I wonder though, if they’re having as much fun as we did when we had to use our imagination and make up games to play. I wouldn’t trade my childhood days on 213 Orion Street, Troy, Alabama for anything they have today.

Well, maybe I would have liked to watch baseball games all night long on color cable T.V. or have one of those four wheelers to ride in the woods. Man don’t kids today have it made?!

By the way, you can reach me if you ever want to play "Cork Ball!"

You kids have a great summer!