The Good Old Days
By Author Donna Jean McDunn
I grew up in Iowa during the 1950’s and 60’s. Things were simpler. We didn’t own a TV until I was seven and no one had ever heard of a personal computer or a cell phone. Those were things of fiction back then.
We spent a lot of time outside playing. My older brother, Jerry always wanted to play cowboys or army and of course I was always on the losing side. I didn’t mind. I admit I was a tomboy growing up. I played with worms, snakes, frogs, and toads, climbed trees and jumped off of buildings.
We used his toy trucks to build roads in the dirt around our mom’s flowers and when we tired of that, we’d go find some crawdads for fishing in the crawdad hole. (The crawdad hole is gone now. There’s a McDonalds sitting where it used to be.)
Our older sister, Joyce was always taking pictures of us. I hardly ever posed for a picture without some kind of animal or my baby brother, Mike or one of my nephews, Danny and Tommy with me.
We’d stay outside until dark and then catch lightening bugs (some people call them fireflies). We would put them in jars so we could turn the lights off and watch them blink off and on.
Whatever my big brother, Jerry and the neighbor boys did, I followed, but because he was three years older than me, he got to do things I couldn’t; like ride his bike to the park three blocks away. Oh, I had my tricycle, but I wasn’t allowed to go that far on it.
I wanted a real two-wheeled bike.
When he wasn’t riding his bike, sometimes I would lean it against something so I could get on it and sit on the seat, but my legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals and push them all the way down to make it move.
Sometimes Jerry would push the bike while I sat on it. But he grew tired of that pretty fast, so then I’d push the bike myself and stand on the pedal and coast like it was a giant scooter.
But the best times were when he’d give me a ride around the block. I’d sit sidesaddle on the bar, being careful to keep my feet from touching the spokes in the front tire and we’d sail down the road with the wind in our hair.
The first summer I discovered I could push the bike and coast along on it, I couldn’t reach the pedals while sitting on the seat. By the following year, I had grown enough that I could push the pedal down, but my toes didn’t quite reach the lowest point and the ground was still a long way from the bottom of my foot.
If you’ve ever seen one of those old boy’s bikes, then you know size matters when it comes to touching the ground with the bar in the middle, especially when you want to get off.
One day Jerry found me with his bike, coasting along as I stood on the pedal. He watched me for a minute and I was waiting for him to tell me to get off it, but instead he said, “I bet you could ride that thing if someone helped you. I’ll hold it, you get on.”
As soon as I was seated, he started pushing. He ran along the side and then he gave it a huge shove and yelled, ”Pedal.” So I did, but actually pedaling and sitting on the bike were way different and since my legs weren’t quite long enough yet to reach the pedal with my entire foot as it dropped toward the ground, I had to catch it as it came back up and then push the pedal down again.
But I rode that bike all the way to the end of the block. I wasn’t allowed to go past the corner by myself and that’s when I realized I didn’t know how to turn around and I couldn’t push the pedal back far enough for the brake to stop the bike, so I stopped pedaling.
Jerry yelled, “Turn the handlebars into the grass.”
I could hear him running toward me and did what he said, but the bike had slowed so much, it wasn’t going to make it to the grass and I didn’t think he’d get there in time to keep the bike and me from ending up in the gravel.
I was right. I think every exposed piece of skin was torn off, but did that keep me from riding whenever I could get someone to give me a shove?
A year later and I was finally able to ride the bike with no help and the year after that, I got my own two wheeled (girl’s) bike.
How about you? What’s some of your fondest memories of growing up?
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