Summers of childhood wonder in Wilson

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While visiting area elementary schools in recent weeks and hearing students discuss their plans for the summer, I know exactly what they are going through.

After all, I was there myself just a few short years ago at Winstead Elementary School in Wilson — well, maybe a little more than a few — yet some ideals and goals between the generations have remained similar despite the age difference.

The biggest difference between summer vacations between then and now is that other than when watching an occasional TV show, we had almost no dependence on electronic devices.

The last few weeks of school have always been, and still are, a time for youngsters to begin mentally planning a tentative summer schedule and deciding which activities should take priority over others during the next few weeks.

For both generations, numerous options have been available with lots of choices to be made.

In my case, by the last day of classes a number of activities were already basically locked in for the summer, including the reliable standbys like playing baseball, tree-climbing, bicycle-riding and catching crawfish in the ditch at Five Points Park.

With school out, the schoolyard games like dodgeball, kickball, red rover, hopscotch and playing on monkey bars were also temporarily put on hold.

Although playing marbles on the baseball field at Five Points Park was a possibility, that game just seemed to work better on the hard level surface of the school playground, so the marbles were also put away.

Neighborhood and backyard games like badminton, croquette, horseshoes, tag and hide and seek may have been viable options but were not really at the top of the list.

Extremely popular among several of us were walking along railroad tracks and placing pennies on the rails so trains could come along later and flatten them, like Sheriff Andy Taylor’s son, Opie, did in the “Man in a Hurry” episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Going fishing at the creek was always a good possibility and involved nothing complicated, only a cane pole, some worms, a bicycle and a couple friends.

Also, playing a version of ice hockey with a concrete slab near Jaycee Field serving as an ice rink and roller skates serving as blades worked well along with hockey sticks from old broom handles or tobacco sticks and a flattened soft drink can that served as the puck.

While this game often resulted in injuries, it was fun enough to make it worth the effort.

King on the Mountain also got plenty of play even though it was also rough and came with minor scrapes and injuries.

Other games included cowboys and Indians and army, both basically the same format, just with different characters

During the evenings, popular activities included attending Wilson Tobs baseball games at Fleming Stadium only one block away.

On nights when no games were scheduled, we did things like follow the mosquito sprayer through the neighborhood on our bikes just after sunset.

A friend of mine who recalls doing the same thing still jokingly contends the reason for our generation not being taller was due to damage resulting from ingesting the mosquito insecticide.

Maybe so, but man, was it fun!

Another great evening option was chasing down Ike Wells, aka the ice cream man.

The familiar music emanating from his little truck weaving through neighborhoods had the same effect on all the kids within earshot including myself, as did the pied piper of Hamelin.

The best things to be said about most of the activities mentioned above is that they required very little if any expense and were mostly unsupervised.

Keith Barnes, a Wilson storyteller and author, is news editor of the Kenly News, where this column originally appeared.