Ernie you were a kid?
Fuck YEA! – for better or worse.
I grew up in Woburn Massachusetts – I was ten when I lived there. How any of us survived baffles me to this day.
There was nothing resembling today’s world – We had no bicycle helmets, and made jumps for our Big Wheels with bricks and boards – we did everything we could to shorten our life span.
My daughter thought it funny we didn’t have a computer – Well, we also didn’t have cable, cell phones, microwave ovens, remote controls, car starters – the list goes on and on – not that we were poor, that stuff just didn’t exist yet.
Our first microwave was the size of a Subaru, and my parents found great joy in how it heated water as the lights dimmed in the house, and christian broadcasting could be heard on our fillings. It was the perfect device for turning a nice pork chop, into a gray one.
Fact is, technology consisted off ‘turn that to Channel 5’ because we had EIGHT channels – yea EIGHT. They went off the air at midnight, with a giant Indian Head test pattern, only to re-introduce the channel each morning at six to start their broadcast day
A typical day in the life of ten year old Mike, Tommy Skeffington, and Johnny Lundine was a pile of bikes in the front yard – Johnny’s Mom had the best frosted pop tarts so I always targeted her kitchen. We didn’t have video games, hell, the TV was black and white in the homes making enough cash to own one, and weighing several hundred pounds (console television)
During the week, we walked to School with bread bags over our feet to keep them dry in the Winter, and handmade mittens – you know, the ones that made snow stick to them so your friends could nail you with snowballs stuck to the yarn?
Our parents used to make a lot of our things – was it an issue of money or old values? Who knew, not this Kid – and it didn’t matter.
We would catch Crawfish in the creek, only to find the Woburn Water was part of the Tannery cover portrayed in “A Civil Action”.
My Parents would move us to Billerica in the coming years, only to find out the Rail Yard we played in (Iron Horse Park), and the town dump were highly toxic – both would later to be declared an EPA Superfund Sites in my late teens.
During weekends, we caught frogs and snakes, made go-karts out of scraps of old wood with nails as axles, and threw things off of Blueberry Hill Mountain. That was a Quarry with walls about 400’ high, and barely a fence to keep you off the edge. I collected Blueberries there, and Mom would make Blueberry Buckle (an amazing sugary coffee cake loaded with blueberries)
The cliff was awesome at ten years old – not as much fun as the busy railroad tracks in Winchester, but what can you do. We would make little planes and throw them from the ledge. They always crashed, but at the bottom was a Breyers Plant (or something along those lines) and they, on schedule, used to dump the ice cream bars that didn’t pass muster into the Dumpster. You can imagine who was waiting patiently with his friends 😀 (and how I ended up looking this way)
Things for us were NOT safe. No seat-belts in the cars, smoking in public places (meaning on planes, and everywhere else), fighting for the back seat of the beach wagon – my Dad used to collect Cattails (or “Cat OR Nine Tails” as we called them) from the swamp nearby, soak them in paint thinner, light them and hand them out. We would run around the neighborhood unsupervised with burning Tiki torches until the top burned off, and then grab another.
When Woburn sprayed for mosquitoes, it was a pickup truck with a huge buzzing sprayer off the back – THICK clouds of insecticide would make the streets impassable for 5-10 minutes at a time. I mean it literally looked like thick fog (it was DDT that was later banned). Every kid in the neighborhood would go play in the ‘fog’ until it looped back and ran over Johnny Boggs.
Johnny was a dick from Spring Court who stole my sisters jump rope, and set it on fire at the Green Street Pool – but that’s history now – I kicked his ass for that one, weeks earlier. NOBODY screwed with my Sisters.
With no electronics, games, or the like, we played cops and robbers, baseball, climbed trees, and ate dirt. Nana Penny lived down the hill, she would give us snacks and we would sit with her a while. Sometimes we ventured to Horn Pond – Dad’s friend Joe Nicosia would take us for long walks with a tennis ball to throw. We played ‘King of the Mountain’ at the Green Street Pool, made a mess with Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, and turned every cardboard box we could find into a Spaceship.
My Dad introduce me (and sometimes my friends) to model trains, rocketry, the wonders of carbon paper, bee keeping, wine making, and the Post Office (he would take me to work sometimes).
My Mother was a Nurse with three young kids and a limited budget – she would make us Porcupine Meatballs, American Chop Suey, and a once a month treat – that’s right, Chinese Food because we were convinced the Chinese ate that way. I’m pretty sure my blue collar parents didn’t have a lot of money, but damn, we ate well,and had a good place to live.
Street lights coming on meant Dinner time, and you better be running – shoes off at the mud porch, and the entire family talking about their day together without TV, phones, games or other distractions. Sometimes that was a good thing – other times *shrug* meh not so good. We had a habit of wandering MILES from home, and sometimes, we were spotted. It happens.
Still, with all that, times have changed – yes, we survived, and we all moved out of the neighborhood eventually. My parents would buy their dream home in Billerica, and I would never see my friends again.
Decades later, seeing the neighborhood, I’m just as happy they did leave Woburn – nothing is ever as good as you remember, and this was no different. I still sometimes wonder what ever happened to Ellen Foley, and JoAnn Piezo. I was in love with them, but I was ten, I didn’t know why.
Que Sera Sera … every day is a chance at new memories. Good times – fingers and toes intact, no helmet, pass the bowl of carcinogens please …