We played a lot of baseball in a big vacant area down the alley from our house. Of course, we were barefoot, shirtless, and no parents. Someone would bring a bat, a ball that sometimes had electric tape wrapped around it and, gloves for each position. When we changed positions and had our chance to bat, we just threw down the glove we were using so the other team would have gloves to play with.
To choose teams, one captain would pitch the bat up and catch it. The other captain would grab above the first’s hand and so on until they were at the top of the bat. The captain who was the winner would have first pick of the players, then the other side would pick, and so on, until everyone had been picked. So you can see that you never knew which team you were on for the next day. The idea was to let everyone play and have a great time.
We played almost every afternoon when we were not riding our horses or busy with other projects. No uniforms, no schedules, no parents, no commissioners, no select teams; we just all played and had a good time. Playing the game together and having fun was the important thing. Winning the game was fun too but winning was secondary to playing the game.
Another project we had in the summer was digging our cave. Of course, the land around Lubbock was as flat as a tabletop, but we would dig a ditch about two feet deep in the vacant lot behind our house. We would dig a room at the end of the ditch, about four by six feet, and then we would put old metal soda water signs over boards to make a top over our cave. Then we would pile dirt all over the top. We would crawl down the ditch and put a candle in a hollowed out place in the wall of the main room and, voilà, we had our secret hideout!
Later, we would add additional rooms connected by tunnels; we would work off and on all summer on our cave. One thing I can remember about my childhood in West Texas is that when I woke up every morning I was always in a rush to get out of the house and get busy. We might be digging our cave, riding our horses with friends, hunting or playing baseball. We were always really busy and never without a lot to do.
One afternoon, George Harold and I decided to set up my electric train in our garage that had a concrete floor. We washed the floor down good with the water hose and set the train track up. We were ready to hook up the electric transformer but the only outlet was where the overhead light was in the ceiling. George Harold climbed up on Mom’s car and got on my shoulders and, steadying himself with one hand against the ceiling, he edged over to the outlet the light bulb was plugged into. Of course it was summer and we were both barefoot on the wet floor. A section of the cord from the transformer had little or no insulation on it and George Harold was holding on to that section. When he plugged the cord in, a super shock ran down through George Harold and into me and right on down to the wet floor. I was shaking like it was 40 degrees below zero.
Well, I was facing the garage door and I just took off running as hard as I could down the driveway and left poor old George Harold in mid-air. I guess that was a good thing, though George Harold didn’t think so at the time. He was stuck to the hot cord, and when I took off it broke him loose from the current source as he fell to the concrete floor. We made a strategic decision to not try to hook it up again and waited for my Dad to come home, whereupon I told him there was something wrong with my electric train but he figured it out as soon as he went out to the garage and took a look.
Photo of sandlot boys found here.
Photo of 1930 soda sign found here.
Photo of toy electric train found here.