Morning Sun
  • TRUE STORIES: Southeast Kansas summer

  • Some mornings, on my pre-dawn walks, I like to escape to when times were simpler back in the Republic of Frontenac in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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  • Some mornings, on my pre-dawn walks, I like to escape to when times were simpler back in the Republic of Frontenac in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Certain days I wistfully travel my paper route. Others I journey the years from kindergarten to high school graduation. Some, as below, I focus on a certain season.
    We had a family charge account at Pallucca’s grocery store and, since we only lived a block away, mom sent one of us to the store on an almost daily basis to pick something up.
    Although I wasn’t supposed to, from time to time I’d sneak in a candy bar or bottle of pop on the order for myself. Other times I spent my own money earned from my paper route or cutting old Mrs. Laforte’s grass with a push reel mower for a dollar.
    Back then a loaf of Town Talk bread was about a quarter, Oldham’s milk a dollar a gallon, a big, fat SNICKERS bar a nickel, and a bottle of Pepsi (made with real sugar instead of fructose) a dime (plus two cents for the bottle).
    We didn't have air-conditioning, so the windows stayed up all the time. Consequently, I always had a pretty good idea what was going on outside even if I was inside watching one of two TV channels, or reading the Grit — which wasn’t very often in the summer. TV reception, which was “coast-to-coast” rather than “world-wide”, was in black-and-white … but outdoors was in Technicolor.
    I remember lying on my bottom bunk listening to the spring stretch on the screen door followed by the “clap” of wood on wood when slammed shut. The brass and iron squeak, squeak, squeak of the outdoor hydrant being turned on or off. The front porch swing’s rhythmic back and forth creak and strain of chain and wood. The cooing of pigeons high on a ledge at the high school across the street. The metal chain clanging on the old steel flagpole in schoolyard. The ebb and flow of cicadas singing from the old elm out front. The soothing drone of our big attic fan pulling cool, summer air over my bed as I drifted off to sleep.
    Some days we’d have big ball games in the backyard. A home run was when the ball carried the fence into Pirnot’s chicken yard. Other days I’d leave home with my friends in the morning and stay away until the six o’clock Sacred Heart Church bell rang. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
    The only hazardous materials I can remember — other than getting struck by a flying swing seat or bonked by a baseball — were the punctures and cuts from sticker bushes along fence lines, the pricks from cockleburrs in open fields, and burns from creosote railroad ties at the Santa Fe tracks. There were no childproof lids on medicine bottles and we all rode our bikes without helmets. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one bottle of pop — a NuGrape or Orange soda or Dr. Pepper with our friends.
    Page 2 of 2 - Riding in grandpa’s pick-up was always a treat, but riding in the back on a warm day was special. His ’52 Chevy pickup had a “three on the tree” shifter and a running board. To start it you had to depress the clutch with your left foot and press, with your right foot, both a starter and gas pedal — which grandpa called the "foot feed".
    I also remember grandpa calling “store-bought” anything not made at home and “tailor-made” cigarettes not rolled by hand. He called movies “picture shows.”
    After a couple of cups of coffee made in a “percolator,” mom washed our clothes in an automatic washer, then loaded them in a bushel basket and carried them to be hung on the clothesline out back to dry. To crawl into a bed of freshly washed sheets following a cool bath after a long summer day was to climb into the wind, sky and clouds.
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net

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