Those Last Summer Days
Knox County —
When all the festivals are over and the Union Fair has shut down for the year, the folks in the Knox County area generally call it a day as far as summer is concerned. Kids go to bed earlier in preparation for the new school year; mothers check out the sales for new school clothes and shoes; and kids stock up on supplies they’ll need to get through the next school year.
The kids here in Georgia are already back in school. Summer hangs on for another month or so in these parts. The AC will continue to blow a while longer.
As a kid in the South End, I hung onto summer as long as I could. I went through my “last time” rituals along with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. I climbed the old maple tree one more time to sit in my favorite tree crotch and check out things through my bamboo telescope. I pulled up one last long stick of grass to chew on. I rode my bike down to Sandy Beach and ran over the rocks one more time; and before bedtime, the gang gathered to play one more game of Red Rover, Tag, or Giant Step.
I dragged out my favorite comic books or as we called them “funny” books and read them over again for the hundredth time. I laughed at Nancy and Sluggo and the Archie gang before storing them away for the year. I might pull out my paper doll collection too and dress them up one more time. By this time they were looking pretty ragged.
For every summer since I turned nine or so, my twin cousin, Diane and I attended a couple weeks at the Methodist Church Camp, or Mechuwana, up in Winthrop. The camp sits on a lake called the Upper Narrows. I had my favorite spot to sit on the edge of the water just before supper each day. The root of an old tree that hung over the water was just right for my seat and I could sit and dangle my feet in the water as I watched for the loons to come and fish for their supper. It was always one of my favorite times at camp. I think it’s important for kids to have a spot all their own in which to commune with nature or just to relax and be a kid.
I carried this beautiful memory with me as the summer closed down and I got set for the challenges ahead in a new class with a new teacher. Though it was sad to see the summer come to a close, I looked forward to school activities, girl scouts, and later on, the clubs, band, and basketball team in high school.
I did like school and being with all my friends again. I tried to be a good student even though arithmetic was not my favorite subject and I always struggled with it. As it happened, I became a writer rather than an accountant, as you can see. Thank God for calculators! I remember making up a story while using each of my spelling words in a complete sentence. My summer memories often ended up on the page. It’s probably where my love of the written word and writing started. Too bad they don’t teach spelling much anymore.
Inevitably the first essay we were asked to write for the school year was titled “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” As I wrote about my experiences at camp and events with my family, I always felt a little sorry for the poorer kids in the class who never got to go anywhere. Of course the South End held its own special charm for kids. Not every kid in the country got to wade in the ocean at the bottom of their street like we did.
Later on, as a college student, I was given a summer job as playground director at the old South School. I remembered what it was like to be a kid in the South End during the summer and I tried to make it a fun time for those kids who had nowhere else to go. I am probably to blame for the sink stopping up in the lunch room kitchen when I made plaster for the kids to put into forms to paint, like animals. I am also responsible for introducing a game called four square which is played with four squares chalked out on the ground and a ball the size of a soccer ball. I learned this game in college during a physical education class designed to show us games to play with our kids. I’m told they played that game for years after I left town for a teaching job. I’m proud that I left that game behind as my legacy on the playground.
To see a special picture of cousin Diane and I in the summer of 1944 and to view a summer video from YouTube, please go to the regular blog space at