The Toys of Summer
Living in Georgia all my life, I guess that makes me an expert on a few things around here. For example, the best chili cheese dogs and onion rings are found downtown at the Varsity. Best soda to wash it down with? A Coke. After all, the fizzy drink was invented right here. I also know a lot about Georgia’s summers.
There are three temperatures to every Georgia summer. Hot, really hot, and let’s move somewhere it’s not so humid and hot. Now, if you’re not from around here, you may be bewildered as to just what part of our Georgia summer we currently enjoy. It’s the hot part. Just stick around: you ain’t seen nothing yet. The real heat and humidity is coming.
Ever heard the old saying, “It’s so hot you can fry an egg on the street?” Yep, that got its start right here. At least that’s what Bubba Hanks told me.
Just so happens, he was the expert on street egg frying on Flamingo Street when we were all kids. Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, when we got bored during the summer months, things got real interesting — and dangerous.
Back then; each summer was magical and seemed to last forever. They were filled with water balloon fights, performing flips off rope swings into lakes, and riding trees back down to the ground. The magic lasted for the first two weeks. After that we got bored. We’d fight and chase each other all over the house.
That’s when Mom would say, “You kids go outside and play. Don’t come back until dinnertime.” We then took our boredom outside.
Four bothers and a sister can get into a lot of mischief to alleviate boredom. Summers on Flamingo Street are probably the source for the phrase, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” Summers on Flamingo Street could also be why some of the toys we played with as children are now banned – Lawn Darts, Clackers, and my favorite, the Slip and Slide.
Just what can I say about Lawn Darts? One of the best games ever invented for kids. Some adult actually thought it was a good idea to give kids giant weighted darts to throw up into the air and see where they land. Yep, great idea – no supervision needed.
Who would possibly misuse such a wonderful toy? A bunch of bored kids from Flamingo Street, that’s who.
There were actually two different ways to play with Lawn Darts. You could throw them at a plastic ring target on the ground, or throw them at feet attached to the brother who had been pestering you all day.
Yep, that’s why Older Brother Richard went to the hospital. After that, Dad banned us from playing with Lawn Darts. Soon after they were also banned from stores.
Do you remember Clackers? They were giant marbles tied together by a two-foot-long string. The object was to hold the string in the middle, then swing the giant marbles so they would smash together above and below your hand. The faster you went, the louder they got. This was how most kids played with them, but not bored kids from Flamingo Street. We used Clackers a totally different way.
Thrown at a fleeing brother, those glass balls on the end of a string quickly wrapped around legs. It brought the fleeing brother crashing to the ground. Such misuse probably had something to do with the Clacker being banned.
That, and if hit together too hard, the marbles shattered into very sharp pieces that could also be thrown at your fleeing brothers. Not that we ever did that, mind you.
The Slip N Slide — other than flipping off a rope swing and plunging into a lake, it was the best way to cool off during those super hot summer days.
Lay a 3-foot-wide plastic strip on the ground, add water, hot bored kids, and you got hours of fun. The object – run as fast as you could, dive head first, and slide 20 feet on a thin layer of water. Now, what could possibly go wrong?
First, each person is supposed to take turns. We never did. We always ended up in a pile of arms and legs at the far end of the plastic.
No one was supposed to try sliding standing up either. Yep, did that one also.
Out-run your brothers to be the first to slide and you could go so fast you’d slide right off the end. Did that multiple times too. Alas, the Slip N Slide has also been banned.
So what do kids nowadays do during the summer when they are bored? I really don’t know. But if sent outside, trust me, they will find something to play with.
Hopefully, the only lasting things they’ll come back in with are fun memories and not scars from the toys of summer.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is email@example.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]