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Darrell Huckaby - Modern distractions a far cry from my youth's entertainments

"What did y'all do for fun when you were growing up?"

The question came from my 15-year-old daughter Jenna when I chastised her for sitting in front of her computer all day.

I began to answer with my usual litany, extolling the glory of growing up in the '50s.

"We played games," I told her - "like freeze tag and Mother, may I? and tag-out-of-jail. And we had the run of the village and ..."

But I was talking to her hand.

"Stop!" she insisted, adding an eye-roll for effect. "I know all about red-rover and tag-out-of-jail. Let me rephrase my question. What did you do for entertainment? You know - after you got too old for silly kids' games?"

"Oh," I uttered. "That's different. Let me think. What did we do for entertainment?"

But now I was no longer talking to her hand, but to the back of her head as she was, once again, engrossed in who had left what message on Facebook.

But even though Jenna wasn't interested in my answer, I was, and spent the rest of the evening trying to remember what it was that we actually did for entertainment back in the day.

Honesty compels me to admit that I didn't come up with much - at least not much that would impress the modern generation. Our activities mostly centered around school functions and church socials, especially in those years between playing with army men and driving a car.

School activities meant sports events for the most part, with an occasional Eddie Najjar theater production or Basil Rigney band concert thrown in. And sometimes there were sock hops after the games.

I bet my daughter would really roll her eyes if I suggested she and her friends might enjoy a wiener roast at the Porterdale golf course, which was always a highlight of our annual MYF calendar, or a sock hop at the Teen Can. Well, she can roll her eyes if she wants to, but you haven't lived, as a teenager, until you have slow danced with Karen Meadors while the band played "To Love Somebody."

But what else passed as entertainment in the Newton County of the 1960s? - and I mean before I was old enough to cruise between the Dairy Queen and the Cow Palace.

There was always the Strand Theater, of course, which we have discussed many times in this forum. But once in a great while there would be special attractions at the Strand, in conjunction with the movie - as if "Toby Tyler Joins the Circus" and a dime bag of popcorn wasn't attraction enough.

I remember seeing Andy Devine there once. In case you don't recall, Andy Devine was the raspy-voiced character actor who played Deputy Sheriff Jingles Jones in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok and also starred in dozens of western movies and other television shows. He appeared big as life on the stage of the Strand when I was about 6 or 7 years old and gave away signed 8x10 photos. I kept mine for a long, long time - in fact; I think my mother probably tossed it along with my baseball cards when I finally went away to college.

I bet my daughter never saw anyone in person who impressed her as much as Andy Devine impressed me.

Know who else I saw at the Strand Theater? The Duncan yo-yo man!

I don't know his name, or even if he had a name - or it might have been a different person each time - but every so often the Duncan yo-yo man would show up at the Strand and do tricks on stage before the Saturday afternoon matinee. He could walk the dog and put the baby in the cradle and take the yo-yo around the world - you name it, that guy could do it.

Of course he always sold yo-yos afterward. I can't remember if I ever bought one from him, but I do remember owning a Duncan Butterfly yo-yo, as well as the coveted clear plastic Duncan Imperial. I also remember trying to improve my ability to walk the dog by loosening the string one day, causing the yo-yo to fly off the string and break a living room window. I didn't even have to be told to go outside and cut a switch after that faux pas. I just did it automatically.

Come to think of it, I suppose opportunities for entertainment were few and far between back when I was growing up, which, I suppose, is one reason I remember those few occasions we did have so vividly.

And I'll tell you something else, if you promise not to mention it to my daughter Jenna. If we had had computers back in those days, with Facebook and instant messaging and all of that, Andy Devine would have probably been all alone at the Strand Theater, because I would have been right in front of my monitor, just like today's kids are.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.