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Published July 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Tofflemire: Summertime and the livin’ was easy

When school let out for the summer, The Forum ran stories on ways to keep youngsters occupied throughout the summer months. I’m a child of the 1950s – a different time, for sure – so I am amused and perhaps a bit perplexed by the necessity to entertain the small fry until the school bell rings again in the fall.

By: Kathy Tofflemire, INFORUM

When school let out for the summer, The Forum ran stories on ways to keep youngsters occupied throughout the summer months.

I’m a child of the 1950s – a different time, for sure – so I am amused and perhaps a bit perplexed by the necessity to entertain the small fry until the school bell rings again in the fall.

How times have changed.

With the exception of maybe a week of vacation Bible school, I can’t think of a single “scheduled” activity in my childhood summers – three months of doing everything and doing nothing. I perfected the latter, and I’m still really good at it.

It was a safer time, a slower time, with no “screen time,” except for occasionally watching an episode of “Wagon Train.”

The most common parental directive was “go outside and play,” and so we did.

If our parents or, in my case, my grandmother didn’t see us for most of the day, they weren’t concerned. We had the freedom to explore our world, as far as our legs or our bicycles could take us. Usually, only our empty stomachs brought us back home.

Practically every day, my best friend Mary Beth and I would walk around our neighborhood for as long as it took to decide what we were going to do to entertain ourselves.

Maybe paper dolls – the store-bought variety with additional accessories and household items cut from a stack of outdated JC Penney and Sears Roebuck catalogs.

Or if the weather was nice, playing with our baby dolls in the shade of our respective houses.

Or perhaps building a fort in the grove of trees below the golf course across the street.

Or playing “nuns” after we somehow came into possession of a rosary – fascinating and mysterious to a pair of Protestant girls. Mary Beth always got to be Mother Superior. I don’t know why. I guess even then, I didn’t aspire to management. Somehow that playtime often involved creating wooden grave markers planted in the back of my parents’ garden. I guess we thought nuns’ duties would include praying over the deceased.

We roamed our neighborhood until the streetlights came on, or my mother summoned me with her distinctive trill.

Even my daughter, a child of the ’70s, spent a lot of time out and about in her neighborhood.

My grandsons’ freedom appears more limited. Much more effort is made to know where they are, what they’re doing and with whom they are doing it. That is absolutely a good thing, but the boys are only as far away as my grandson’s cellphone, as long as he answers it.

The boys spend a fair amount of time outside, but they also occupy themselves with a variety of video games and related amusements.

I just want them to focus on whatever stimulates their imaginations.

Without any video “companions,” I as a very young child had an imaginary friend named Kenny. He accompanied my family on a trip to visit relatives in California. My aunt expressed to my mother that she would worry about a child with an imagination like mine. My mother replied that she would worry more if I didn’t. Go, Mom.

Kenny apparently really liked the West Coast lifestyle. My mother said that after we returned to North Dakota, I never mentioned him again.

Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum.

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