I was a child of the 50s, so I was pretty much a free range kid. My clearest memories are of being outside — rain, shine, winter, summer. I loved exploring the valley between our two railroad lines, eating wild apples, drinking from a cold water spring, and sledding on cardboard boxes in summer and sleds in winter.
I also liked to crawl up under the railroad bridge and wait until the train came thundering overhead. It made me feel exhilarated and closer to my dad who was a railroad engineer. Mom would have been mortified, so she never knew about that; it made her nervous enough when I climbed high up in the butternut tree out back, but I loved the view.
I can still remember summers when Mom and Dad would pile us all in the car, including neighborhood kids and our dog Sparky, and go to the shore. Dad would take a bar of Ivory soap, lather up and dive underwater to wash away the grime of a hot work day. The dog would always find a dead fish to roll over, so the windows had to be rolled down on the ride home. Our summer vacations in Fair Haven were also wonderful times.
Fondest memories include an early morning when the circus unloaded the train right next to our house and the simple pleasure of Mom whipping up a bowl of chocolate milk shake and the four of us on our stomachs on the living room floor with straws, competing for the ice cream lumps.
When I wasn’t playing with my friend Julie, and my brother (20 months older) was in a benevolent mood, he would include me in the boys’ kick ball games. Since I was quite a tom boy, this was always fun. His friends never seemed to object and were surrogate brothers throughout my youth. But if Mom made him take me to the movies, I had to sit away from him and his friends.
When indoors I amused myself with paper dolls, my doll house, and reading.
I also remember that my brother was Mom’s favorite. But I was my grandfather’s favorite — he called me his Sunshine. I was only 6 when he died and I still miss him.
Apart from some abuse at the hands of a babysitter, my childhood was a wonderful one, up until my father died when I was 12. After that most of the happiness of the house was gone. I was more than ready to leave when I got married at 18.