Remember what fun it was to play dress up, build a fort, or host a tea party?
Growing up in the South back in the day, some of our best childhood memories started with three little words from Mama: “Hit the yard.” That meant, “You’re underfoot, you're getting on my last nerve, and you're watching way too much television—go outside and play with your cousins.”
There was no end to what Southern children could dream up in the days before cell phones, the Internet, video games, or even cable TV. (At our house, we got four channels, two of which were Alabama Public Television.)
Sometimes, we’d saddle up our bicycles and ride out, pretending to be cowboys on Rawhide. We always argued over who got to be Rowdy Yates. Or we’d do some trick riding astride a big Alagasco tank in the back yard. (“Look! I can ride standing up! Look! I’m riding side-saddle!”) On particularly ambitious summer days, we would scrounge up some construction materials—scrap lumber and maybe a few blocks—and build a fort. Clearly, we were under the influence of TV Westerns, from The Big Valley and Bonanza to Maverick and The Rifleman.
As Southern children, we recognized the bicycle for the rite of passage it truly was. As we graduated from the tricycle to the child’s bike with training wheels, then dropped those shameful trainers and moved up to a “big bike,” we thought ourselves moving ever closer to “grown,” whatever that was.
In Vacation Bible School, we drew Hopscotch boards and played games like Simon Says, Red Rover, Rock School, Red Light, Drop-the-Handkerchief, and the ever-popular Duck, Duck, Goose. At family reunions, we’d hide and seek till the fireflies came out, at which point we’d pester Mama’n’em for Mason jars to catch them in. (“Any of you kids need some nail polish to put on your chigger bites?”) A quality mud puddle could provide hours of entertainment (not to mention laundry). So could a big pile of leaves. Or a tree suitable for climbing.
Our arsenal of low-tech toys was impressive: Slinky, Hula-Hoop, Big Wheel, Duncan yo-yo’s, paper dolls, marbles, jump ropes, a little plastic chicken that could lay an egg (an Easter basket staple) . . . And we were pretty good at fashioning our own toys, making tin-foil boats to sail in suburban street gutters when it rained really hard, or taking the box Mama's new refrigerator arrived in and transforming it into a space ship.
We knew how to “drink” honeysuckle, and we were known to have an occasional hankering for Atomic Fireballs, Red Hots, penny bubble gum, 3-foot-long licorice from the local ice cream parlor, and peanuts in our Coke.
Probably most Southerners' favorite memory of childhood? That we shared it with family.
Here are a few more childhood memories from our Southern Facebook Brain Trust. Tell us what we missed:
Do you remember . . .
Dressing up in your Mama’s clothes, clomping around in her high heels, and playing with those blue bottles of Evening in Paris perfume she got for Christmas?
Visits from the Avon Lady at home?
Visits from the Bible story lady at school? (It was fascinating to watch her recreate Bethlehem on that big felt board.)
The golden egg that came with Red Goose shoes?
Waiting for the rolling store, the book-mobile, or the ice cream truck?
Rock tumblers, Easy Bake ovens, and 45s for your record player?
Wading a creek?
Sugar and Spice Clubs?
G.A.’s and R.A.’s?
WATCH: Things Southern Moms Say To Their Boys
Bless Mama, she can be a touch on the bossy side sometimes, but she does it all out of love, and it's for Junior's own good. Where would he be without her?