With the heat and humidity of summer came boredom at the midpoint of our vacation from school. I am certain Mother’s nerves were frayed and our constant pleas to be entertained weakened her parental shield of patience. Accustomed to the daily schedule school offered, boredom and time on our hands caused sibling squabbles, mischievous adventures and lazy afternoons spent whining and complaining. Our favorite refuge from inactivity and unrest was the summer recreational program sponsored by the local school district. The morning or afternoon sessions allowed us and all the neighborhood kids to escape our mothers for several hours a day, for which I am certain they were grateful.
In preparation for the trip to school, we carefully tucked our allotted coins in a vinyl, oval shaped coin purse (slit down the middle for entry by the coin) and headed for the dusty, exciting adventures that awaited us on the playground of Hebron school. Either walking or riding our bikes, we only traveled a half-mile to reach the school and no one thought twice about our going alone on the half-mile journey. In the late fifties, everyone considered walking to school to be safe and routine. During the school year, the route was a straight shot down Congress Avenue with patrol boys and the school guard waiting to guide us safely across Lincoln Avenue each morning. All along the route, parents escorted their children out the door, mentally noting and checking on all the other children who passed by each morning. In the summer, there was no school guard but our favorite teacher, Miss Whitman, waited for us and the other kids to arrive for the daily arts and crafts, games and treats.
Tall and commanding, merely because of her height and not her demeanor, Miss Whitman, uncharacteristically wore shorts or pedal pushers (aka Capri pants), a whistle around her neck, and her ubiquitous glasses during these summer sessions. She skillfully managed all the kids who arrived and split her time between refereeing the ad hoc softball game, watching us travel up and down on the teeter-totter or teaching arts and crafts. Occasionally other teachers helped, but many days she managed the crowd of kids by herself.
When we arrived at the school, we selected our activities for the day based on how much money Mother had given us. Some days we just played games because we had very little to spend, and saved our small allotment for a bottled soft drink or an ice cold Popsicle to help stave off the heat and sweat of the day.
Outdoors, we played baseball, marbles and jacks. We jumped rope or swung on the swings, jumping off when we reached the apex of the rotation, seeing who could land the farthest away. Tag and kickball or just sliding down the slides, we exhausted the options available to us as well as exhausted our small, toned and fit bodies.
When the heat became unbearable, we retreated indoors to the classroom that was converted into the arts and craft room for the summer. Indoors, we made cloth potholders on a loom or plastic braided key chains, carefully weaving the materials under her guidance and instruction. We played with clay, sculpting shapes, tiny replicas of animals and small fortresses to prepare for battle. Imagination and creativity personified. Small hands remained busy under the guise of a caring teacher.
I don’t know how many potholders Sissy and I weaved during those summer tromps up to school, but Mother and Daddy used them religiously in the kitchen, never complaining about the fact that they weren’t very good at protecting their hands against the heat of an iron skillet. The woven loops of cloth caught on fire if placed too close to the oven’s heating elements, and being made of 100% cotton and not flame retardant fabric, this happened frequently. Neither parent complained. The plastic braided key chains probably ended up in a drawer somewhere, forgotten and eventually discarded. We didn’t carry keys and the braided chains were either too long or too short to be functional. Colorful, but not very functional
After several hours of play, Sissy and I depleted, sweaty and dusty headed home. Mother greeted us at the door, asked about our day and graciously accepted our gifts. We never knew how she entertained herself in those few hours without us, but my guess is, she enjoyed the brief respite away from her girls with her nose in a book; traveling to her own adventures from the boredom of summer. I wonder if children today still make potholders for their mothers. I think I will check Amazon and see what I can find.