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Chuck Brooks' column: Memorial weekend stirs memories

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Memorial Day weekend. Sweetness. A three-day weekend. Thirteen days left in the school year. Perhaps the weather will begin to feel like spring as we are now less than a month from the official start to summer.

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What does Memorial Day weekend bring for you in the way of memories from your youth?

Aside from what it means as an adult, I can tell you that Memorial Day weekend always meant a grand time when I was a young boy in my hometown. It was a time for the community to come together to celebrate the unofficial start to summer with a parade, rides, great carnival food and more.

By Memorial Day, school had already ended for us when I was growing up. What a stupid idea, eh? Thank God we don’t do that now. We’d lose those precious productive days that take us into the middle of June when the kids are best able to focus.

I remember the parade as one of the highlights of that weekend. I am sure we celebrated the veterans in my hometown, but I remember the portion of the parade where the kids could be IN the parade if we dressed up. My neighbor buddy and I, when we were probably 10 or so, dressed up in the goofiest of outfits using whatever makeshift items, which will remain unidentified, we could grab from around the house and participated in the parade. I can still see the picture of us in front of the brick fireplace grill that Dad built in the backyard. Arms around each other’s shoulders. A buddy picture. Haven’t seen it in many years, but I re-member the Pola-roid snapshot none-theless.

The parade finished at what we once called “The Athletic Field.” It was the one place in town where the school played all its football games. The entire area was transformed into a carnival. The rides always included a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round, the Scrambler and the Bullet, a ride my mother wouldn’t let me go on because I was too small and too young. It screamed of a happy time in our community.

I remember the atmosphere of the games. We had far more simplistic ones than the games on the midways today. The one game I used to love wasn’t even a “game” as you might define a game. You simply paid the fee they asked, you took a fishing pole they gave you and draped the line over a sheet they had set up. Then, someone on the other side of the sheet placed the “fish” on the person’s line and tugged at it, so the person knew to pull it up and over the sheet. Then the prize was revealed. I don’t know why I loved it so much, but I did. The only game I played. Maybe because I knew I’d always win something. Perhaps it was the only game my mom would allow me to play.

It was definitely a simpler time. We hear that a lot. “A simpler time.” Will the kids today use that line about their childhood when they become part of the middle-aged citizens of the country? “Yes, the early part of the century was a simpler time.” What, exactly, would have to happen in our world 50 years from now for this time in history to be classified as a “simpler” time?

Granted, when I was a kid in the 60s, there was nothing simple about Vietnam. There was nothing simple about The Kennedys or Martin Luther King Jr. being assassinated. There was nothing simple about the sexual revolution and “the pill.”

On the other hand, one of the most popular TV series was the campy Batman. Christmas specials were all about Claymation. The beach movie series (i.e. Beach Blanket Bingo) was alive and well. And the Super Ball was the toy of choice.

Maybe every kid’s world is a “simpler” time, yet I know that isn’t true either, based on some of the stories I’ve been privy to over the years in my career. However, it seems like today, life for a child is still set at about 75 mph. When I was growing up, however, I don’t remember anything fast and furious about my world. Technology didn’t rule the roost. Games with the neighbor kids at night were the order of the day. A simpler time, indeed.

So, I’ll ask it again. What does Memorial Day weekend drum up for memories when you think back to your childhood? Oh, and by the way … have a great weekend!

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Chuck Brooks
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"276277","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"480","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"320"}}]]Chuck Brooks is a teacher at Rosemount High School. His column appears every week.
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