School is out.
That needs to be bigger. SCHOOL IS OUT!!!
I remember when that used to really mean something and summer used to last forever. Holy cow, did summer used to last forever!
I loved summertime in Porterdale. There has never been a better place to be a boy. Or girl, I suppose, although I couldn’t speak to that.
The day started early and not much of it was spent in the house, I can assure you of that. There wasn’t much in a house in Porterdale in the 1950s. We finally did get a television at some point, and I did watch Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans before going out to play, but that was about it. But outdoors — there was great big wonderful world outdoors and lots and lots of people to share it with.
Clothing was minimal. A pair of step-ins and a pair of shorts. That was it. No shirt. No shoes. No problem. Well, there was one problem. Sandspurs. Porterdale, Georgia, was the sandspur capitol of the world, and you really couldn’t avoid stepping on them, but that was just a part of life — just like sitting down and picking them out of your feet was a part of life. I bet my grandson, Sir Henley the Adorable, will never have to pick a single sandspur out of his tender little feet. But he will never know the joy of having the run of a whole village without having to worry about predators and the evil that lurks in the hearts of modern humanity, either.
OK. There might have been a second problem with that no shoe thing. Hot pavement. But we got used to it. Besides. I don’t remember it ever being 98 degrees in May, either.
Oops. I just thought of a third problem. There were lots of stray dogs in Porterdale. I don’t know if Henley will ever feel the unfortunate unexpected squishy feeling between his toes, or not, but I kind of hope he does. Gives you character.
And about that no shirt thing. My mama used to say that I was always “brown as a little ‘injun’ by the first of July.” I guess my mama would be called racist for saying that now, but she didn’t have a racist bone in her body — and I always was. So were all my friends. John Fountain probably loves that fact that my generation spent our summers sans shirts. His wife, Carol, probably loves it more than he does.
The mornings were magical in the summers of my youth. We would dam up the creek and look for snakes and salamanders and crawdads and pick wild blackberries and plums and build forts out of scrap lumber and make tractors out of Prince Albert cans. And if we could find some cast off lawnmower wheels, we might even make a coaster wagon and ride down the back alley, making a hard cut at the bottom of the hill to see who could have the most serious wreck.
Or we might climb up pine saplings and ride them down to the ground. Baseball games started around 11 o’clock and might last an hour-and-a-half. We had to run home and eat a mayonnaise sandwich for lunch and get to the pool by the time it opened at 1.
Porterdale had the best swimming pool around, and it only cost a dime. If you didn’t have a dime, B.C. Crowell would still let you in because he loved children and he wasn’t about to let 10 cents stand between one of his young people and summer fun.
What I wouldn’t give for one more afternoon at the Porterdale pool, playing sharks and minnows and Marco Polo and doing cannonballs and back flips off the diving board and just hanging out with all my friends. Betty Faith Jaynes ran the snack bar. She was my hero. She sold me a Zero candy bar and an orange drink every day for three years. She’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame now. She passed away several years ago. She’s still my hero.
In the evenings we would go home long enough to eat supper, but then we would all gather again in somebody’s yard to play freeze tag and red rover and tag-out-of-jail. When it got dark we’d catch lightning bugs. When the street lights came on we’d go home. Unless Blunt Patterson and the other men were playing softball on Snow Field. Then we’d go to the softball game until dark-thirty.
When we finally got home we were as dirty and as happy as children anywhere have a right to be, and our mamas would wash off our feet with warm water and we’d say our prayers and they’d tuck us in bed and the next day we’d do it all again. And summers would last forever.
When I was a freshman in college my sociology professor found out that I was from Porterdale and announced to the class that “Mr. Huckaby was raised in socialistic poverty in a North Georgia mill village.”
My professor was a fool. I was the richest kid on earth. I still am.