What to do on summer vacation …

The Fourth of July is nipping at our heels and begs the question … What to do on summer vacation?

Growing up a street kid made what to do on our summer vacation easy.  Raising kids through the Eighties, however, was not always as simple.

Playing on the streets …

In the dark ages of the Fifties, our summer vacations consisted of two things … Coney Island … or playing in the park and on the streets. I was the only girl in my family and the only Tom Boy on 39th Street.

I remember a day in summer when I was six. I saved it all day, my precious nickel. Saved it dreaming of a cherry popsickle … until I dropped it. Tripping on my own feet … I watched it disappear out of sight down the sewer grating.

street games

Street games photo credit

Another day, alone and walking along the edge of the curb. Up and down … curb to sidewalk … up and down … sidewalk to curb … up and down … stop … spot a shinny quarter.

The boy three doors up the block came out to play stickball, but the big kids wouldn’t let him hit. So he brought his broom handle to me and we chewed his smashed half piece of Double-Bubble.

Breathless, put gum on the end of the broom handle.

It felt good. The heat of the concrete against my belly. The sound of his breathing in my ear. We both became very still …  aim the sticky end of the broom handle … slam it … aim again… missed.

Never did get the darn thing. Still, it was fun for a while sharing my time with the boy three doors up the block. Fun thinking how great it would be to have a whole bright silver quarter all to myself.

Working on the streets …

What was I thinking when I decided to become a street vendor?

street vendor

Street Vendor Photo Credit

Yes, I was a street vendor … or as love to tell people … I worked the streets. For three brutal summers while my kids were in sleep away camp, I stood on the corner of 182nd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights and sold food stuff from a cart that was not quite as pretty as the one in the photograph.

And it was the job as street vendor that inspired me to get the kiddies out of the humid heat of a New York summer to the cool breezes of summer camp.

Summer camp … The savior of thousands of American mothers.

I have been reminded on numerous occasions of my heartless decision to pack them off, lock, stock and foot locker for eight weeks to a sleep-away camp resting in the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania.

Beautiful landscape, horseback riding and cute counselors in short, shorts. And I do mean short. Gals that were both rugged and sexy, who could wrangle a horse and a rowdy camper, fling their latest flame into the underbrush and make it back, undetected, by dawn’s early light.

My daughter spent all  her summers dodging horses and chores, doing crafts and avoiding swimming … and every summer for eight years … spent several over-nights with the nurse … broken bones, ear aches, colds … or just plain being a pain.

horse ranch

Ranch camp photo credit

My son was “the boy from New York City.” They taught him barrel racing at high noon. He taught them dark secrets at midnight.

Yes, that wonderful American tradition of living in the great outdoors, horse flies and mucking stables, rodeo, camp fire round-up and free sex education for my son.

Hot times  …

Then there were those … Hot times. Summer in the city for Mama.

Summers in the city whilst the kiddies frolic in the country. Mama left to her own devices, and eight long weeks to deal with them … one device at a time.

These days all my seasons are warm to the touch and each of them mine to squandor.  And each Fourth of July, I sit back and reflect on summer vacations … mine and theirs.

Tell me if you will …
what did you do on your summer vacation?

fOIS In The City

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34 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

34 responses to “What to do on summer vacation …

  1. Florence – I love reading of your adventures in NYC or should I say Brooklyn. It’s so ailen to how I grew up on a working ranch in Kansas. My summers were spent horseback riding, causing my older brothers grief and hiding out in the hayloft to read. The boys all helped Dad most of the time and a playmate for me was more than 30 miles away.

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    • Sheri, What I’ve found is that when I share my memories and ask my readers to share theirs … I am never disappointed by the wonderful variety of stories you all give me. I can picture you, even today, striking out on your own to find adventure and sneak away to read 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing.

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  2. Beautiful post, Florence!

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  3. My childhood was spent in small town Maryland. I recall climbing trees, especially one mimosa where I sat and read! I had a friend who lived on a dairy farm, and we’d spend the day exploring the hundreds of acres with a small red wagon pulled behind us, filled with sandwiches, cookies, a thermos of lemonade. I remember walking down to Rudnick’s store with my quarter for candy, and trying to spend the same pennies twice! Back then, cartoons only came on Saturday morning, and since we didn’t have a pool, we played in water sprayed from the hose. I rode my bike to the library and filled my basket with books; rinse and repeat each week! Lots of good memories. I wonder if the bad ones fell away or there weren’t many?

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    • Gees, Betty … your childhood experiences could mirror my older brother. Although we grew up in the same household, he was over 12 older and spent all his summers in the country with my mother’s family. In the little time I spent there I can remember walking along the country roads to the ONE story to buy penny candies.

      I longed to have the freedom they had and to have a bike of my own … which came much later. It sounds like you had a marvelous childhood and for sure the bad ones fall away.

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  4. Oh, the memories you share, Florence. Priceless! Thank-you for a peek at a city kid’s summer vacation.

    My summers were filled with two weeks (in 2 or 3 girl shifts) at one or the other of our Grandmother’s houses back in the farm country where I was born. [Neither one of our Grandmothers wanted to take on all five of us at one time.] My paternal Grandparents still lived on a working dairy farm, and I remember riding around in an ancient land yacht with Grandma helping her on her egg route, and making forts out of hay bales in the barn.

    Family vacations? Enter the first Volkswagen Van to the neighborhood — and, therefore, a huge embarrassment to me. We camped. Two tents. Sometimes to a mountain setting not far from home. Sometimes across country. Once to Canada. When we stopped for the night on those driving vacations, everyone had a set-up-camp-job: Two of us drafted to help Mom and Dad get the tents assembled. One to gather wood for the campfire and two to unload sleeping bags, the cooler, and the groceries.

    During the driving day, I can still hear Dad’s voice: “Will you girls be quiet back there and enjoy the scenery?! Seems he had a problem with uncontrolled giggling and “stop touching me” banter.

    Go figure.

    At home? After chores, I rode my bike around the neighborhood until the street lights came on. We had a bare patch in our back yard where no grass grew because we had a tent set up there each summer for sleep-overs. We had many of those. Five in-house girls plus sleepover friends, and only two bedrooms for The Girls. You do the math.

    Sweet times. You bring out the memories like no one else I know, Florence.

    This curious mind wants to know what in the heck you sold in your food vendor days.

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    • Darn, Gloria … every time you talk about your sisters I feel a twinge. I so wanted to have sisters or at least one sister to call my own. I had to grow up and adopt them. I love that you all had chores and organized chaos sounds like great fun.

      The rule was to be home before the street lights went on and one of my brothers could be seen in the pale light of dusk (he was a chubby kid) pounding the pavement and huffing like a railroad train to make it to the front gate of the house.

      Five in-house girls? Your parents were saints !!

      I sold shaved ice with syrups I made myself the first summer. The second and third I sold shiska-bob on a grill … also made by me. A charcoal grill of 500 degress in the sweltering heat of a NY summer. The best tan I ever had … the hardest work I ever did 🙂

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  5. Ah summer in the city. Nothing like it, not even summer across the river from the city, not even summer camp across the road from the Okefenokee swamp

    I loved barrel racing at high noon and dark secrets at midnight

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    • Shelley, my city-soul-mate … yes … what can compare to summer in the city? I guess for us it was heaven. For my country cousins … it was hell. Heck, I never got to summer camp. I lived that one through the kids 🙂

      Thanks … my son was born old and inspires me !!

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  6. Florence, hooting here. So glad you were the first to say, ‘working the streets’ because that’s what came to mind. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

    In this moment, I recall popping the bubbles of tar in our back lane with twigs, holding on to caterpillars, and listening to the clack-clack-clack of straws in my bicycle spokes.

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    • Ah yes, Sherry … I was a working girl 🙂 We used to take the tar bubbles and pick off enough to chew like gum (YUck) … Oh how I wanted a bike during those early years … if for nothing else but to get away from the rotten boys on my block 🙂 Thanks for the memories 🙂

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  7. Ah, Sherry reminded me that I used to stick playing cards in my bicycle’s spokes and listen to the clackity-clack as I rode down our short street in San Leandro, where I grew up. I wouldn’t have recalled that on my own. Another great post, Florence, filled with memories to engender our own memories after reading it. I recall too, playing outside with everyone else on our block until the porch lights started turning on around the neighborhood. Then it was “home we go” so as not to get into trouble by being late. I distinctly recall taking slim sticks and poking into the cracks in the telephone poles to extricate pincher bugs! What????

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    • Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun reading everyone’s comments of what they did during the summer. I guess porch lights or street lights … it was the signal to get home or else. What the heck is a pincher bug?

      Thanks for another memory, Patti 🙂

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  8. christicorbett

    My summer vacation days began with me wolfing a bowl of cereal as fast as possible, and then disappearing over the neighbor’s fence until lunch. Repeat the wolfing, except this time with a PB and J sandwich, and then back over the fence. Had to be home when the streetlight turned on, ate dinner, then went to bed.

    Repeat for three months until school started again.

    Good times!

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    • Christi, I bet you had a best girl friend behind that fence? Yeah, my heart’s desire to have a girlfriend or a sister. Nope … all I got were rowdy boys. Wasn’t it grand when life could be measured by the on/off of city/town lights?

      Glad you shared your summers with us 🙂

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      • christicorbett

        No girls lived on my side of the block…over the fence were two boys, one a year older than me and one a year younger than me. And my brother was always right behind me going over the fence too, so we were a four-pack of trouble 🙂

        “Rowdy” doesn’t do our shenanigans justice. I once jumped off the roof of our woodshed on a dare and we had the coolest tree fort on the block. Well, tree “fort” was probably a stretch…it was about nine boards nailed haphazardly into the crook of a tree way too high up to be safe.

        You and I would have been best friends had we grown up together 🙂

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      • Great to know you were a kindred tom boy, Christi. I have no doubt we would have been great pals. BTW … I climbed to the top of a trestle bridge on a dare and made it to the second to the last rung of a telephone pole. Oh the things we gals do for fun 🙂

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  9. Vicki Batman

    Hi, Florence: as a kid, we always went on a vacation. Didn’t matter where, we had a great time, especially if the Holiday Inn had a pool. Played a lot of nighttime hide and go seek on our little street with the neighbor kids. Walked or rode bikes to the local drug store for candy. (Still have the sweet tooth too!) Now, we go on trips, mostly just Handsome and I as the boys can’t go. We tie them into the company conference trips. Good stuff. I like your posts.

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    • Sounds like you have fun, Vicki. I still remember penny candy and cherry popsickles … and our local drug store was like an ice cream parlor. I love that you call your special guy “Handsome” … that is really great . Thanks so much for visiting 🙂

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  10. annerallen

    Hot times indeed. I can almost feel the sizzle as I read your post. I was one state away, in a suburb of New Haven during those years. More trees and wading pools, but the heat was there. Like you, we were allowed to play unsupervised. (And we survived!)

    I think your experiences as a street vendor could spark some great fiction. What about a sleuth for a cozy series who’s a street vendor?

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    • So true, Anne … we were in close proximity to each other … like kissing cousins … like my country cousins … are experiences complimented each other. I have a volume of stories from my days as a vendor. Who knows what I’ll do with them 🙂

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  11. annerallen

    BTW, I see you’ve revived your old url. Congrats! I hope you’ll get your old blog search engine status too!

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  12. Loved this post, Florence. Of course, I love all of your stories. 🙂 Every summer, my dad would pack us all into the car and drive to Penticton, BC where we got to lounge around the beach for 3 weeks. At least one family of relatives would join us so there were always cousins to hang around with and of course, the water to play in. 🙂

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  13. this is purely a test

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  14. I can’t tell you enough how your stories bring a big ole’ smile to my face 🙂

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  15. Loved your stories of summer vacations as a girl and as a woman. Oh, you interesting woman you.

    Let’s see, no summer vacation since,oh, maybe 2006? Then we took our grandson who was with us for several weeks to a lovely lake in northern Wisconsin. The scenery was grand. The sunsets spectacular, the fishing decent, the weather perfect and the chance to spend quality time with our grandson…priceless.

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  16. What a fun post. I remember playing outside all day in the 50s. Loved it. I would have been broken hearted to lose my nickel too. As for street vending, I would have tried my luck at it if I had the choice.
    And I love rodeos.

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