Simple Summer Mornings In The Years B.C. (‘Before Chili’)

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If the summers of Dortmund Circle were filled with sports of all sorts, flingable fruit filled the summers of Abbott Parkway. That wasn’t the only difference.

While nearly all the kids my age on Dortmund Circle were boys, girls dominated the peerage on Abbott Parkway. There were a lot more kids on Abbott Parkway, in part because the street was twice as long. That length also changed our venues of play.

On Dortmund Circle, all us guys lived within a few houses of each other. Our playing fields (mostly the street and our driveways) lay right outside our doors. Given its substantial length and the location of most of the kids, Abbott Parkway presented a different avenue to fun.

In the very early years, before Kenny and I went to school, we played with our neighbors. They were a year or two older than us and had older brothers. Before they went to school and learned the ways of the world, it was still cool to play with the younger neighbor boys like us. Even after this point, Kenny and I always had each other when we wanted to play.

In either case, the fields of play here were literally the fields next to our houses. Specifically, the field next to my grandparents’ house (the house my father grew up in and whose backyard abutted our backyard). This empty field represents the fourth quadrant of four adjacent lots. These included my house and the neighbor’s house on Abbott Parkway, and my grandparents’ house and the empty field on Highland Parkway.

This represented my preschool playground. While seemingly quite limited in area, it yields endless stories of life before kindergarten. Those stories are for another time. The story today is about what happened once the world opened up to me and my brother. (And by “world,” I mean Abbott Parkway.)

Once we started going to school, Kenny and I discovered something wonderful: there were a lot more kids on our street. A whole lot more.

There’s one thing about play: the more kids you add to the mix, the more possibilities for fun you have. This is where you find your best friend. Sharing the first day of school together and being in the same kindergarten class, it was no surprise that Angelo and I became best friends. Very quickly, our younger brothers—Kenny and Markie—paired off on their own. Together, we became a powerful foursome of friends.

You might think there would be a question of where we would play. Would Angelo and Markie come to our house, or would Kenny and I go to their house? They lived halfway up the street, no small distance for elementary school-sized legs.

On the other hand, we had bikes.

Now, the advantage Angelo had is he lived where most of the other kids lived. And you remember what I said about the connection between the number of kids and fun. So, it was a no-brainer Kenny and I would spend the bulk of our summer days riding our bikes up to Angelo’s house.

It seemed like every summer day started the same (except for Sundays, when Church interrupted our normal schedule). Kenny and I would eat a bowl of cereal. Sometimes Life. Sometimes Trix. Then there was this period when I was eating Quisp and Kenny was eating Quake.

There was one significant change to our breakfast eating habits. Just before we moved to Rochester, we began devouring Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. We didn’t have a sudden urge to eat healthier. We just wanted to discover whose picture was on the 3-D football card hidden within each specially marked box.

One time, our mother bought a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes that was not specially marked. We begrudgingly ate the cereal despite having no prize at the end. We hated Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Mom thought we liked it. She didn’t understand it was only worth eating if we got “paid” for eating it (by getting the football card). We did like Raisin Bran, so, in the future, that’s all we got. Our sister Mary Lee was only three, but she liked the cereal. That might have been only because she liked Dick Butkus, whose picture was on the outside of those specially marked boxes.

Unlike mornings during the school year, we often didn’t spend too much time watching Dave Thomas on Rocketship 7. It’s not like we purposely skipped it. It was on in the background. It was just that we didn’t linger. When the last ounce of milk left the cereal bowl, Kenny and I faithfully carried our bowls to the counter. With all the puppy-dog eyes we could muster, we pleaded with our mother, “Can we go to Angelo and Markie’s?”

Of course, she would say yes. She always said yes (except on Sunday mornings before Church, but after a while we learned to stop asking on that day). The consistency of her affirmative response did not remove doubt from my brother and me. Hence, the puppy-dog eyes. Kenny was much better at this look than I was. He had deep brown eyes. I had steely hazel eyes that shaded towards blue. Puppy dogs don’t have blue eyes.

Once Mom gave the thumbs up, off we raced down the stairs of our raised ranch and out the door. Making a quick left turn, we headed to the garage.

Garage door openers were less common in those days, and we had to muster all our strength to lift the door. Sometimes we couldn’t. That was because the lock was tricky. Occasionally, it would lock itself shut. Or maybe our father would lock it. We were too much in a hurry to care about the real reason. If the door didn’t budge, our little legs sped around the corner into the neighbor’s U-shaped driveway. (Yes, it was the same neighbor we used to play with.) We then bolted through a little space in the hedges my father planted along the back property line. (The space was there so we could go back-and-forth to the neighbor’s house.) From there, we’d enter the garage from the back door, unlock the front door, and raise it with the pull string. For some reason, raising it from the pull string on the inside was always easier than lifting it from the outside.

As the door opened to reveal the bright summer day, it was as if we were about to step out of a spaceship into this wonderful world opening up before us.

We mounted our bikes and rode those trusty steeds with an acceleration worthy of Mario Andretti. Down the street to Angelo’s house we flew. The next few hours promised a playtime limited only by our imagination. We played “Cops and Robbers,” “Cowboys and Indians,” and even “Star Trek” (I played Kirk, Angelo played Spock, Kenny played McCoy, and Markie played whatever other character we happened to need). Despite the different names, all these games had the same objective: running around from Point A to Point B, trying to avoid getting caught by the other guys.

But that wasn’t all we played. We soon discovered a tradition of fun that involved the other kids in the neighborhood and got our parents mad. What was it? Stay tuned for our next episode.

Same Bat Time.

Same Bat Channel.


  1. […] to relax, enjoy the sun, and… what was that other thing? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “Simple Summer Mornings In The Years B.C. (‘Before Chili’),” to see what it was really all […]

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