By Bill Grosboll
July 22, 2007

Before television there was life, and it was good! I suspect that many of the youngsters would doubt that statement. Oh, if they only knew! Sure it’s nice to see the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day, the races on Sunday, or catch the news (over and over) every morning. So how did we survive without the old Telly? Very well, thank you!

As a child, when I got home from school, I had a few options for things to do. Some of them not of my choosing such as chores. But when the chores were out of the way, I played games with my sisters, did my homework, or just played with my toys. When the weather was warm and enjoyable, my sisters and I would get together with the neighbor girls and we would just have fun. When my older sister, Pat, and the neighbor girls, Joan and Janet Neumann, would play house or “dress up” it was time for me to find something on my own to keep me occupied. I don’t think Dad would have been particularly overjoyed with me playing “dress up” with the girls, although I do remember Pat and Joan conning me into playing on occasion. As a youngster, one’s imagination is a creator of many, many fun things to do. Remember the old paper dolls that required cutting out all the clothes and each article of clothing has tabs which could be folded over the cardboard doll. I don’t know if they even make paper dolls anymore.

Some of the old toys I enjoyed were Tinker Toys, Erector Set, and my toy tractors with different implements. Other games were “marbles”, “Jacks”, etc. Nowadays these would be forbidden because they would present a choking hazard. Know what? We kids were taught not to put them in our mouths and had many good hours of fun with these “dangerous” toys.

Saturday nights were always the big night out. During the warm months, the family would pile into the car and go to Petersburg. Dad would immediately go the one of the hardware stores, usually Glenn Thompson’s, some times down to Derry’s. It not that he preferred one over the other, just that he worked at Thompson’s early in life and was more comfortable there. Mom would do what shopping she wanted to do and then return to the car. The men congregated at the stores, the women congregated in the cars. We kids had the entire downtown to play but mostly in the Courthouse square. On the real hot evenings, we guys would go to the Menard Locker, which was where almost everyone rented space for storing their frozen meats. We would run in off the street and go directly to the walk-in freezer and cool off. After getting cooled off, we were back outside to play again. I know this had to drive the owner of the locker up the wall but I do not ever remembering him jumping on us kids for doing this.

As us kids got older we all had bicycles and this gave us the freedom and mobility to expand out range of activities. Parents at that time looked out for each others children so we traveled without worry or risk. In those days, there wasn’t that much road traffic and therefore we could ride our bicycles in relative safety. That did change, however, when I got my driver’s license. I won’t go into that any further.

One of the other activities of our folks on Saturday night was getting together with various neighbors and friends and playing cards. We kids would spend the evening roller skating in the basement with our old clamp-on skates with steel wheels. Made a lot of noise but at least the folks knew what we were up to. When it got quiet, they began to worry and rightfully so, as we were probably up to no good. When I got a little older, they started to have square dances down at the old Legion Hall. The Zillion brothers had a band and provided the “caller”. This was great fun since families from all over the county would come to these dances and always with their children. This gave us an opportunity to meet kids from the neighboring towns. It also gave us boys the chance to meet other girls our age (the hormones were starting to kick in) and vice-versa, although you would never hear a girl admit to that.

Square dancing can be a dangerous activity, especially when the caller requested that we “dip the oyster, dip the stew, dip the oyster all the way through”. This particular move would require two couples holding hands and as one couple raised their arms, still holding hands, the other couple would go underneath them and then they would raise their arms and the other couple would go through backwards. Many times I got “bonked” smartly on the head while passing through, much to pleasure of the other couple. Another move required two men to face each other, lock arms, and put them over the backs of the females partners and then spin as fast as you could, causing the women’s feet to leave the floor and them screaming the entire time. Oh yes, many good times were had square dancing!

With the advent of television, all the aforementioned came to an end. No more meeting in town on Saturday night, no more playing cards, no more just visiting one’s neighbors and conversing. When the families did get together, they just sat around watching the new invention. Dad put off getting a television for as long as he could but finally succumbed to our pleas. He knew that it was going to be the end of a long standing social structure, an end to an era that was truly enjoyed by everyone who ever experienced it.



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