How excited we would be to have school out for the summer. The last few days of school all students were put to work. We had to scrub down the walls of the classroom and scrub all of the desks inside and out. I can’t remember having to wash windows, but we had to clean any shelves and closets and the chalkboards. In the afternoons on those scrubbing days, we would have games and races and other competitive things to do outside.

Then came the freedom of not having to go to school. At our house, Dad and Mother didn’t believe in letting us sleep in. Dad would come to our bedroom at an unreasonable hour, probably 8 a.m., and say, loudly, “Come on girls, jump.” So I would move the best I could in bed, trying to levitate upwards in an awkward jump while being flat on my back. Then I would try to go back to sleep, feeling satisfied that I had done what Dad told me to do. That never did work.

Once up and moving, and believe me, Dad did not let me get away with the small jump in bed, we were expected to help on the farm or in the house. But when the work was done, and some days it wasn’t done very early, we were free to play. I remember laying out on the lawn watching the clouds float by in the sky and trying to pick out animals and inanimate articles in the shapes of the clouds. When Dad flood-irrigated the lawn, we would put on our swimming suits and run through the water. Although the water would only be ankle deep, we would manage to fall down in it, and within minutes, we would be soaking wet. We’d ride our bicycles about a mile on dirt roads to Kelly’s Market in Ammon and buy a treat. You could buy a bottle of pop and a candy bar for 5 cents each. We never received an allowance, but could usually talk Mother out of a dime apiece.

Mother used free time to teach us girls handwork, such as embroidery and crocheting. The embroidery we did was on pillowcases and dish towels. I made some of both, plus crocheted doilies for my hope chest. This type of activity was done mostly in the evenings after supper and the evening chores were done. We didn’t have cell phones, Xboxes or television, only a radio, so we could do handwork and listen to the radio.

One summer in Primary, our church’s children’s program, we learned how to knit baby soakers. Back then, mothers put these soakers over a baby’s cloth diaper to absorb the moisture. We didn’t have plastic anything then, so there were no plastic pants to put over diapers. The soakers were made of wool yarn that absorbed a lot of moisture. And they were washed and reused.

Late afternoons as teenagers, we would get on our swimming suits and ride our bikes to Sand Creek, where there was a swimming hole. Many of our friends used that place to cool off so we would shout loud when we came to the curve in the road just before getting to the swimming hole. That warned any of the local boys that we were coming in case they were skinny dipping. If that was the case, they would holler back, and we would give them enough time to get out of the water and dressed.

On rainy days, we would get out our paper dolls and set things up on the carpet in the living room by the fireplace. We could spend hours playing with our paper dolls and creating a world of make-believe out of them. Or we would get one of our Nancy Drew books out and read and/or reread a book.

Mother always made homemade root beer in the summer. The bottles of root beer had to sit on the shelf in the cool, dark fruit room for a couple of weeks before it was ready to drink. Oh, that was so refreshing to drink after a day of raking hay or weeding potatoes.

We kept busy helping on the farm and in the house, learning how to do handwork and being with friends. I cannot remember ever saying I was bored like I hear young people say today. There was always something to do, whether we wanted to do it or not. And it made for a busy summer and a happy childhood.

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlin thefence@gmail.com.

Load comments