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January 23, 2014

A Childhood in Athens

Although my father was a mathematician at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville
and perhaps entitled to social pretensions, he didn't have any. Consequently I lived as a half-wild disciple of Tom Sawyer. So did most of the town's boys. Come summer, we at first tentatively abandoned shoes. No one thought this odd, because it wasn'€™t. Soon our soles toughened to leather and we walked everywhere, even on gravel, without ill effect. And nobody cared. Oh sweet age of nobody cared. Foot-nekkid and fancy free, we went to the Limestone Drug Store on the town square, piled our ball gloves and BB guns inside the door, and read comic books for hours. - - Fred Reed

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 23, 2014 2:23 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Boy does that line about the soles of your feet turning to leather hit home. When Summer vacation started if you left the house with your shoes on you better be going to church. Or at the very least to the show with your parents. If not your buddies were going to ride you like Roy Rogers rode Trigger. No mercy.

Posted by: glenn at January 23, 2014 3:15 PM

I distinctly remember my cousins (boys of course---oh how I adored them) pulling goat-heads out of their feet.

Posted by: DHH at January 24, 2014 4:13 AM

Roger McBride, the grandson of Laura Ingalls Wilder, was the consultant to the TV series Little House on the Prairie. He tried to convince Michael Landon to let the children characters go barefoot in the Summer, which would have been authentic, but Landon, indignant, finally exploded, "MY KIDS ARE GONNA WEAR SHOES!"

McBride quit shortly thereafter.

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at January 24, 2014 7:49 AM


Fred's daughters are also "disciples of Tom Sawyer," and living proof that if you want strong, independent women, it helps to have a strong, independent father.

One daughter is a singer, has been on both American Idol and America's Got Talent, and the other is an artist.

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at January 24, 2014 7:54 AM

Growing up was a lot like that everywhere in rural America. But I'll have you know that a lot of us Midwesterners read CLASSIC comic books at the local drug store. And occasionally had a cherry coke phosphate at the "bar".

Posted by: indyjonesouthere at January 24, 2014 12:28 PM

I got a couple of years on Fred. Grew up about 90 miles from Huntsville Alabama.

Can relate to his memories of the time.
There was plenty he didn't mention, like swiping a watermelon from a farmer's field and swimming naked in the creek while it cooled. Then busting it open with big rock.

Most boys carried a 3", single-blade pocket knife suitable for whittling, making a corn-cob pipe or cleaning a Bluegill to roast on a stick for lunch.
Of course, it was unthinkable to go into the jungle without your Red Ryder BB gun.
A rumor said, some boys had tried and was never seen again..

I'm sure Fred was from upper middle class and never scoured the rural roadsides for discarded soft-drink bottles to return for the deposit.
Heck, a dime would buy a movie ticket where one could get cool on a hot summer's day.

We learned about Southern pride when we passed that Confederate soldier's statue in the town's square, heard Dixie played when an AM station signed off at night. And would have pissed on Sherman's grave if we could get there, where ever there was.

We showed respect for adults, stood up and surrendered your chair when they entered a room, used Sir and Ma'am a lot.
Would never, ever wear your cap indoors lest you wanted to be rubbing a knot. And you bet, ladies first.

Don't remember any helicopter parents back then, tho I'm sure there were some around.

Fred's writing seldom disappoints.

Posted by: Rocky at January 24, 2014 12:48 PM

The sons of "helicopter parents" back then were known by the rest of us as "mama's boys", and even we urban Midwesterners knew it when we saw it. I guess that's become the norm these days.

Posted by: waltj at January 25, 2014 6:57 AM

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