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Darrell Huckaby - 06/10/09

The thermometer on my back porch reached 90 degrees yesterday. The summer of 2009 is officially upon us. Don't blink. You might miss it. Camp meeting at Salem starts in 30 days and you know that summer is pretty near over once that bell rings for the first time on Friday night.

I found myself in a conversation with some old friends last weekend and talk turned to the summers of our youth. I couldn't help but be amazed at how different summers are now, especially for children. Let me give you and example or three. Feel free to come up with your own.

In the summer of 1959 - I was 7, by the way - the kids I grew up with couldn't wait to get outside each morning, because it would be way too hot in the house by 10 o'clock. 2009? Kids don't dare go outside, because it is way too hot. They would much rather stay inside and play video games or watch TV.

In the summer of 1959 we - we being the kids in the neighborhood - would all gather at a central location and play baseball or go down to the creek to catch salamanders. Here in 2009 kids gather on Facebook, or text one another, but seldom see one another face to face, unless someone's parent has had the foresight to arrange a play date. I don't think there were as many lonely kids back in the '50s because everyone would eventually wander up to the group and be allowed to take part in the activity of the day. If a kid was a bad ball player they would get stuck in right field and somebody would take his last strike when it was his turn to bat.

We didn't click "ignore" back in those days.

In 1957 the pool opened at 1 p.m. Every day. We would eat a Spam sandwich for lunch, grab a towel, walk to the pool barefoot, pay our dime, if we had one, and go swimming. If we didn't have a dime we'd wait for B.C. Crowell to show up at the pool and help us get in anyway. 2009? Mamas take the kids to the neighborhood pool. Lather them up with sunscreen and sit and gossip with their neighbors while the kids splash around. If a kid's mama works during the day that kid better have a friend whose mama doesn't.

Don't live in a neighborhood with a pool? So sad, too bad. That kid is out of luck. There are no public outdoor pools around here anymore.

In 1959 if we hit a heat wave our mamas might wet down the house with a hose to try and cool if off. Nowadays you just lower the thermostat a few degrees and cuss about the electric bill. If you tried to hose down the house to keep it cool you'd probably be cited for violating water use restrictions. If it got really hot the city might send a volunteer fireman to open the fire hydrants for a few hours for the kids to play in. I don't see that happening anytime in the near future.

1959? We'd have to quit playing baseball to walk to Little League practice. When practice was over we would walk back to where we had been and play some more. Once or twice a week we would pull on our scratchy wool uniforms and all climb into the back of a pickup truck to go and play a game - if we had made the team. If we won we'd stop at the Tastee Freeze on the way home for an ice cream cone.

2009? There is no making the team. You pay your money, you play your innings - dressed in the same type unies they wear in the Big Leagues. Everyone arrives at the game in their parents' minivan. The driver of a pickup truck would be arrested on the spot if he or she put a team of Little Leaguers in the back of a pickup. Win or lose, kids will be given snacks by the team mom - or her designated snack preparer.

In 1959 my friends and I could wander the streets of Porterdale from first light of day until the street lights came on - as long as we were home for supper. Our parents didn't have to worry that we would be molested or kidnapped or arrested. If we did something wrong, they would know it before we did because every person in town knew every child and who they belonged to. Nowadays, well, things are a lot different nowadays.

I'm glad I was a kid when and where I was a kid.

Some things never change though. In 1959 I looked forward all summer to spending three or four days at the beach, riding the waves and soaking up rays. In 2009 - I can't wait to spend three or four days at the beach, riding the waves and soaking up rays.

One other thing hasn't changed. Kids are still bored after three days of summer and start to complain that "there's nothing to do." All in all, it's really rather refreshing.

Darrell Huckaby