Dear Tom Kuyper;
I enjoyed reading your column that talked of imagination and desire being more important than money for kids’ success. You nailed it. I am retired, college professor, grandpa to two kids, and a former poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks. My home was where the paved roaded ended, and the other road was dirt. We pitched rocks to each other under the street light, hit rocks with bats, stole baseballs at the town games, played basketball against the garage doors of the plumber’s house with a coffee can and a tennis ball, crashed into the side of the chicken coop at the garbageman’s house when we made a layup, played football everywhere, including indoors, and made a baseball field out of the vacant lot (red ants and all). Yes, we became creative. We had to. Today’s youth with all of the money fed deals, basketball courts at the nearby city park, the courts in the driveway, the leagues and leagues for sports, and the worry about something bad going to happen does not build kids into adults. In my neighborhood we had a guy get a track scholarship to college, one played football for a junior college, another started at that junior college, another played division I baseball as a starting second baseman. One kid majored in bronco busting, also had a one marine, one soldier, and one airman. This is from a neighborhood of 5 homes, just 5. Girls played the games too, very tom boy.
Eventually, we have tamed these wild spirits. Thus I am moving to Seattle to be near my only grandson (step daughter and son-in-law) 2 years old, to teach him the basics of sports and life. His father will do the camping and canoeing, hiking, etc., and my job is basic basketball, tennis, baseball, football, racquetball, and fishing (worms from the lawn after watering it, etc., or making a night crawler –worm chest where we will raise them using coffee grounds and newspapers, and sawdust, and dirt).
Life is good, but I think my childhood was a winner!!!
Thank you Russ for that great story. I love it! There is a lot to be said about not having all the fancy shoes and latest equipment.
We didn’t throw old while socks away when they got holes in the heels and my mom couldn’t mend them anymore; we would cut off the top 2 or 3 inches and use them as sweat bands. Oh, did we feel big time with those old sock tops around our wrists. Wow!
When we wanted to play baseball or football, we would just gather up the neighborhood kids and find the spot on the street that had the least amount of cars parked next to the curb. And if there were cars parked on the street, no big deal, we just went around them. Sometimes even used that Chevy Nova as third base.
When it was football season, we played flag football on the street, dodged the parked cars and used our socks as the flags that we tucked into our pant pockets.
Socks were our most important piece of equipment!
We never had fancy uniforms. We never had our names on our backs. When we wanted to upgrade, we would take masking tape and tape on a number on the backs of our shirts. That was “big time”! We wanted to use a marker, but the “washable” markers were yet a dream and my mom would never let me ruin a shirt, with a big, permanent 44 on the back.
Teaching our kids to be content, creative and to be thrifty can be somewhat of a challenge, but we can still do it.
Hey, look at the bright side and; we still have socks!
If you have any fun stories to share about sports growing up “back in the days”, or if you comments or questions , please email: firstname.lastname@example.org .