Skip to comments.The Lost Sounds of Summer
Posted on 07/24/2014 7:52:50 PM PDT by Kaslin
I long for the sounds of summer I knew as a kid.
In the '60s and '70s, you see, most of our neighbors kept their windows open day and night, allowing the outside sounds to come in and the inside sounds to go out.
I woke every morning to the birds chirping outside my window screen, a dewy chill in the air. I'd smell my father's pipe, which he smoked while he read the paper downstairs. I'd go down to greet him. Sometimes he'd make scrambled eggs and toast covered with butter, and we'd eat while the birds kept on singing.
The evening sounds were equally powerful: a dog barking; a motorcycle downshifting on some faraway hill; people out on their porches listening to the Pirates play on the radio; a baby crying; a couple talking; children laughing; a window fan humming.
Sounds carry far in the summer air. One family on the hill - they had three adult kids still living at home - entertained the whole neighborhood with their cussing and bickering:
"You're an idiot!" one would shout.
"No, you're an idiot!" said another.
"Shut up the both of youse!" the old man would yell. He told our next-door neighbor once he couldn't understand why his kids were so rude to each other, the lousy idiots.
The sounds I miss the most, though, were the shouts and chants and bells that families relied on to call their kids home for supper.
In those days, kids didn't participate in one adult-run activity after another. We didn't sit inside air-conditioned homes playing video games. No, we were out in the hills roaming and exploring and creating all day long.
We collected scrap wood and built shacks. We damned up the creek and caught minnows and crayfish. One summer, we built a motorized go-cart with some scrap items from a junked riding mower and a couple of two-by-fours. It was one of the great engineering feats in my neighborhood's history.
Occasionally, we'd fib to our mothers and ride our bikes 20 miles farther than we said we would. Or we'd pluck some baby pears off a tree by Horning road and whip them at cars. Every now and then, a car would screech to a stop, and we'd sprint through a creek aqueduct that ran 200 feet beneath the neighborhood.
There was only one major rule a kid had to abide by: you'd better be home in time for supper.
Every kid had a unique sound to call him home. My father went with a deep, booming, "Tom, dinner! Tom, dinner!" I could hear him a mile away or more.
When moms did the calling, they always used full names. They always sang, too, as my Aunt Jane did: "Miiiiiikkkeeelllll, Keeeeevvvviiiiiinnnnn, suuuuuppppppeeerrrr!"
The Givens boys, up on the hill across the railroad tracks, were called in by a large bell. The clanging sounded off at 6 every night, giving us the sense that a river boat was making its way up the Mississippi or a chow wagon was calling in the cow hands for some grub.
One family used a riot horn. The piercing "hrmmpppphhhhhh!" could be heard for miles. There was no way that kid, attempting to explain why he was late for supper, could claim he didn't hear it.
These mystical summer sounds have been gone a long time now. How wonderful it would be to bring them back.
At least one month every summer, why don't we cease every structured activity for our children, cancel every tournament, and end every adult-run event.
Let's turn off the television and computer. Let's shut down the air conditioner and un-shutter the windows and doors.
Let's allow our kids to go out into the hills to roam and play and discover all day long. That will require us to call them home at dinner.
And our shouts and chants and bells will breathe some much needed music into the sweet summer air.
Sounds like my childhood. My mom had a cow bell to call us home. Very loud.
I used to run all over by myself.
No way I would allow my kids to do that...too many perverts, too few hangings on the courthouse lawn.
They'll be raped by some nutcake and dismembered, or shot in a driveby by illegal alien gang members, or be stuck by disgarded Aids infected needles while roaming around....Better keep um in.
sounds like my sons’ summer day—just today... Jimmy came to see Caleb... they went around the neighborhood to see if anyone needed any yard work done... they are raising money to build a half-pipe... then we went to the beach... they bought lemonade and ice cream cones... we came hone, they skateboarded, went to the 7-11, we walked over to Ming’s Chinese, ate, came home, and the boys went back outside... btw, we walked 7 miles total, to and from the beach... Caleb is sun-kissed, and his hair has blond streaks in it like it does every summer due to swimming and sun...
And even stranger: most homes had guns in them, always unlocked, and nobody took them to school and shot anyone.
It’s almost like Dads, stay at home Moms, and discipline made a difference. Who’d of thunk it.
no, we can’t. BO wouldn’t approve. Nor would the C of Commerce, nor the neighbors, nor the parents who say, where did all these kids come from? don’t they know there’s birth control for that?
The Pornography princes would make something out of it, and one of 100 would turn up missing.
America has changed, fundamentally and for the far worse. Wholesomeness, goodness, decency, the simple things, its all disappearing. When did America catch the sickness it has.
Nice thoughts of a forgotten time; however, they don’t put away the perverts or the criminals anymore, and the cops are too busy shooting the family dog to keep an eye on things.
In fairness to the cops, however, the ACLU doesn’t let ‘em chase Bad Guys anymore, so...
Plus, in my day, ALL the Dads were ex-GIs and knew how to “take care of business.”
Those days will never come again.
Guns used to be kept in glass cases in the living room in many homes, or hanging on racks in the hall, or in the individual kid’s rooms.
I post this every summer and look forward to it.
The Summers of our Youth
Will we ever again experience the same delight that we did in our childhood?
Each year, I look forward to the advent of summer. And each year, about the middle of August, I wonder where it went.(”Summer’s almost over.” that wistful refrain that echoes through the land.
There’s so much here, and so little time to savor it: a day at the beach with the kids, a walk in the woods, a neighborhood barbeque, an hour in the garden snatched from the merciless jaws of career and family obligations, those great annihilators of leisure time.
Will we ever again experience summer as we knew it in our childhood?
Remember the inexpressible joy when the school bell rang for the last time in June and the entire summer stretched before you like a limitless horizon? I used to race my bike down the hill from school, the wind in my hair symbolic of a new found freedom. Within the confines of childhood we were indeed liberated. Ten whole weeks-an eternity from a child’s perspective-without cramped little desks, homework or nagging teachers awaited us.
Summer was so sweet then, before the advent of Nintendo or MTV: backyard games (whatever could be essayed with bats, balls, sticks, hoops - any object to stimulate the imagination) from dawn to dusk, with brief hiatuses for hearty meals, then a warm bath to remove the accumulated grime, and in to bed in clean pajamas; catching fireflies on languorous evenings; running through the sprinkler, laughing as you slipped on wet grass; going to the amusement park by the lake; getting sick on cotton candy and caramel apples mixed by the motion of the ferris wheel and roller coaster; trapping tadpoles in the creek, bringing them home in empty peanut butter jars; pretending you hated girls while secretly longing for the companionship of the mysterious creatures on those rare occasions that the twain did meet.
The remembrance of summer tastes is enough to overwhelm the senses: cream splashed over freshly picked blackberries; homegrown corn on the cob, lightly salted, smothered with butter; marshmallows roasted on a stick, crisp, brown and bubbly on top; an ice cold fudgesicle on a scorching afternoon.
Will we ever again know these rich, redolent odors of summer times past: the soft sweetness of new mown grass; the pungency of a campfire; the bouquet freshness of the air after a summer shower; that seashore fragrance composed of equal parts sand, salt air and suntan lotion; the heady aroma of clover in June.
Will we ever again know the sounds of summer: crickets prophesying another day of soaring temperatures; the rolling reverberation of skates on blacktop; the crack of a Louisville Slugger making contact; the lazy drone of a lawn mower?
Now summer is a blur; long awaited, enjoyed only peripherally, over all too soon. Summer is no longer the hour of deliverance - an exuberant respite from the tedious march from infancy to maturity marked by the milestones of studies and grades. It is merely another time of year.
Do the old enjoy summer like the young? They have the time, but not the capacity to run, leap and rejoice in the riotous activity summer seems to demand.
If adults could play, could they recapture the bliss of childhood summers? Can only the fresh, innocent eyes of youth grasp the season’s natural charm? Can mind preoccupied with the business of grownups- earning a living, raising a family, household finances- immerse themselves in the season’s pleasures, as children do? Perhaps pleasant memories are all we have a right to expect. Religions have different conceptions of the hereafter - fluffy white clouds, pearly gates, choir music. I would prefer to think of heaven as an endless summer, with a body to enjoy and a mind to appreciate the golden season.
lol. That reminds me of the start of a Korean TV show where they chased the fog truck
Mine too. We lived on a lake and my dad rigged a ships bell for our mom to call us home.
So unless I went for a walk in the park I didn't get to enjoy the outdoors.
Last year I experimented with creating a garden in 5 gallon buckets that I placed on wooden carts that can be wheeled in and out of the warehouse that is in the same building as our apartment. (Our building is surrounded on all sides by concrete and asphalt...)
This year I expanded the project and now I spend much time out in front of our building sitting on the sidewalks in camping chairs while I keep watch on my Emergency Zombiepocalypse Mobile Garden. Now it has become sort of a focal point for friends and family to gather and enjoy the outdoors and discuss the day's events.
I enjoy all the sounds I missed birds and people a few blocks over mowing their lawns and a cool breeze in the shade on a hot day.
And, it has infected our whole family with the "let's-move-to=the-country" bug! Which suits me just fine. I am done with living in town.
Sounds of Kick the Can with the other neighborhood kids in the lingering twilight....
The DDT “smoke” trucks were one the things the kids eagerly awaited, we loved them.
I dunno. Sounds like you describe where I live now. Just love it here.
And a clip of Dan Rather with his Texas accent to boot.
“... goodness, decency, the simple things, its all disappearing. When did America catch the sickness it has. “
Late 60’s. It consolidated in the 70’s.
Drugs had a lot to do with it. LSD and marijuana. Methamphetamine and cocaine didn’t help either.
And without this freedom to roam and wander in kids, the spirit of independence and innovation, ingenuity and know-how is not inculcated.
And that spirit is what is needed for conservatism to flourish.
Same here. Except I do carry a grudge against that robin who starts up at 430 or 5. I need another half hour or so before I get up. If I ever draw a bead on him..... I guess I’d let him be after all. Love summer, but look forward to fall.
I am about to move back to the US after 4 years in India. Here I cannot allow my daughter to play outside not only because of the danger from other people (rapes of kids are alarmingly high here; I blame the inability of ordinary citizens to own guns), but also the presence of dangerously-poisonous animals and the sheer dirtiness of the outside (trash, animal and human feces and their accompanying parasites, pollution).
So I will be selling my soul so I can afford a property in a semi-rural area with at least 2 acres of land, so she has room to run around, explore, play, find bugs under rocks, climb trees etc. and yet still be “on my property” where I can (in theory, at least) still see her. That way she gets “outdoor time”, and I can thwart any nosy busybodies who might snoop around trying to accuse me of not supervising my child.
Bizarre, that was my youth and my neighborhood, Hurricane Carla, the Princess hamburger drive-in and Telephone road, the beer ice houses, the Watermelon ice houses, Hempstead movie Drive-in.
Although he is younger than me, Ted Cruz grew up in the same neighborhood.
I had never heard of the song, thanks.
Actually my memory is rusty, although I spent a lot of time on Telephone road and lived on it or close to it later, it is farther from my (and Ted Cruz’s) Spring Branch, than I recall, I think I was confusing it with Hempstead highway and the Princess closer to me.
Looking at modern maps isn’t helping me much though, I need to talk to one of my Houston friends to recall.
Good essay. I’d been thinking of that very thing recently.
I didn't realize that Telephone Road was a real place. I thought it was just a song title.
Other lost sounds - Kid’s sing-song games:
Ring around the rosie....
One-potato, two potato....
Eeny meeny miney mo....
Engine engine number nine....
Your mother and my mother were hanging out clothes.....
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack...
Teddy bear, teddy bear....
“Oh come on playmate
Come out and play with me.....”
The “one man, one vote” Supreme Court decisions of the 1960’s led to more urban influence, and it’s been downhill ever since.
“Nice thoughts of a forgotten time; however, they dont put away the perverts or the criminals anymore...”
They didn’t put them away then either. This guy is telling us the days of Charles Manson, John Gacy, Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, and the The Hillside Stranglers was a pristine time.
Jimmy Carter was president. Jerry Brown and Rose Bird were freeing criminals as fast as they were arrested, and I couldn’t let my wife and baby daughter go to the market at night without me. I love history revisionists.
Don’t forget the screen door slamming, the electric fans, the acoustic lawn mowers, and down the shore, the constant hammering as new houses were going up, the outboard motors, the gulls, the nearby baseball game . . .
I miss the sounds too. I live in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and even here the number of birds has declined drastically. I can walk for 3 blocks without seeing or hearing a bird. And frogs have disappeared completely. Some call that “progress.”
And I’m lucky if I see 10 butterflys in an entire summer. Bumblebees are virtually gone, too.
By age 10 I was living in a rural community. Same thing only better. At age 13 I was camping out alone in the summer on the lake with boat, motor, rifle and dog. Dad checked on me at least every other day brought ice food etc.. No phone. Nearest one was a 20 minute boat ride with an old 7.5 early 50's era 7.5 hp Evinrude.
In the mid 1970's changes started happening. Places I would go to at night in downtown Knoxville like to the theatres to see a movie when riding to town with my dad on his way to work were no longer safe for a kid and my dad who worked evening shift for Ma Bell started carrying. In 1976 I left for Basic and my dad drove my old 61 Chevy to work one night. Some one stole it LOL. It was parked right underneath I-40.
But yes I do remember a safer nation and a time when certain behavior wasn't tolerated by society nor our judicial system. We did have one major scare I can remember a killer on the loose. It was about 1960 or 61 and a man escaped from a county courthouse and was involved in a shootout there and later killed two more men on the lamb. That was his second escape his first was from a penal farm ran by a sadist. After the guy was killed in a shootout the area returned to normal.
Yes - I was writing about MY childhood, waaaay before Carter.
——the sounds of summer——
I hear them all the time....... summer, spring, fall, winter.
It’s one of the benefits or possibly curses of getting old. You hear the insect sounds all the time.
The greatest book ever on the subject of summer and childhood is Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”.
For John was running, and this was terrible. Because if you ran, time ran. You yelled and screamed and raced and rolled and tumbled and all of a sudden the sun was gone and the whistle was blowing and you were on your long way home to supper. When you weren’t looking, the sun got around behind you! The only way to keep things slow was to watch everything and do nothing! You could stretch a day to three days, sure, just by watching!
>>nosy busybodies who might snoop around trying to accuse me of not supervising my child.<<
That right there is a HUGE reason why this all has changed.
The 1960s and the 1970s were two different eras, although the late 60s could be said to have lasted into the early pre-Ford, 70s.
In big city Houston before forced integration took hold and mass immigration kicked in, and the mental institutes were emptied, we really did live leaving our keys in our cars, windows down, and I never owned a key to my mother’s home that I grew up in, coming home from school to an empty house with an unlocked front door.
The large house windows were left up except when it rained, we didn’t have bicycle locks and left our bikes out, kids lived and played all day, outside, on their own and unwatched, going where they wanted.
I was a kid during that time frame too. I lived in paradise - a dairy farm with creeks and woods, and I had the run of them. It was not unusual to tent camp overnight in the woods, walk 50 feet to the creek, and catch trout for breakfast. The trout would be supplemented with wild blackberries, apples, and the sweetest black cherries I have ever eaten, picked off a tree by the road.
My brother and I were usually within earshot, but if we didn’t come after first call, the conch trumpet always got our attention. I had read about the Polynesians using a conch shell for a horn. We pestered Mom to buy us one until she finally relented (I can remember they had large boxes full of them in the local grocery store). I knocked the end off of it with a lucky hammer blow, and danged if it didn’t work! Sounded like a diesel horn.
I feel sorry for my grandkids - they have no idea what they have missed.
Bingo on both your posts.
I would add to your list the advent of video games.
The noises I miss are:
The whirring buzz of cicadas during a hot Texas day. I used to track the little devils down by their sound and shoot them out of a tree with my BB gun.
Folks didn’t just call in their kids for dinner. We all went out after dinner to play hide and seek in the dark or to catch ‘lightning bugs”. You’d here the kids calling the winner to “come in” after everyone else had been tagged and caught or had made it safe to base. And each family had someone call into the dark for the kids to come in and go to bed.
Whatever happened to lightning bugs? They used to be all over our neighborhood in Dallas, but now I see nary a one in Plano at night.
My parents always encourage me to play in traffic......