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S h e

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F u n n y

The Way We Were When living well was more than enough

By ann ipocK

Tomorrow is my

birthday, so, naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about my early years. I remember the clouds of chalk dust at Northwoods Elementary School, how the cafeteria served those delicious, heavenly yeast rolls, and the lingering odor of the busy mimeograph machine. I loved how the ink looked purple.

The good old days are so much more than a cliché for me. They’re part of my DNA. In the 50s and 60s, my siblings and I spent most of our time outdoors. We only came inside for three reasons: to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom. We played ball in the street until Dad whistled for us to come home, dusk always coinciding. We ran behind the mosquito truck. We chased the ice cream truck. We built forts. We draped bedspreads over clotheslines and — vôilá! — had a theater for our own backyard shows. We caught lightning bugs and placed them inside jars with holes punched through the lids. We played ball-and-jacks and hopscotch, and we played with our Barbie dolls beneath a weeping willow. We rode our bikes to the drugstore and ordered vanilla Cokes. I started a diary. And I attached anything and everything to my enormous bulletin board: gum wrapper chains, pom-poms, county fair tickets, ballgame programs, drawings, pen pal envelopes. Of course, we didn’t have cell phones. We had one black rotary dial phone and a party line. Our phone number consisted of only four digits. A prefix would come later, then an area code. Our phone had a distinctive ring, different from the way our neighbors’ phones sounded. And if you were naughty, you could listen in on their conversations in hopes of hearing juicy gossip. Most likely, though, it was boring stuff. “Why, Blanche, just add a tablespoon of water for fluffier scrambled eggs.” I recorded that in my diary for some reason. For the record, the speaker was right. I hope Blanche took her advice. We had a Magnavox black and white television with three channels: ABC, NBC and CBS. In 1962, we got air-conditioning, which was paramount to moving into a new home — ahhhhhh, cool relief from the 90-something-degree days. But we still weren’t allowed to stay inside if the sun was shining. Like many kids, we had cheerleading practice, ball practice

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

and school club meetings; and I learned how to dance the bop (we call it shag now) from my older sisters. My diary became my best friend, as I rambled on about various people and events, and tapped into teenage angst. Our family didn’t have a lot of money. Nevertheless, my parents enjoyed an active social life. They played bridge, went dancing, and were active members of various clubs, including the Jaycees and the Jaycettes. Mama was in the Sewing Club, although they didn’t do much sewing. Instead, they hosted the much-anticipated, annual Sewing Club formal dance. Mama listened to “Bali Hai” on our stereo, and she was always reading — Reader’s Digest condensed books, mostly. She sewed all the clothes my sisters and I owned; with one pattern she could create ten outfits. On Easter Sunday, we wore frilly dresses, Easter bonnets and, since my parents owned The Bootery shoe store, white patent leather Stride Rite shoes. Mama also sewed Barbie doll clothes, crocheted afghans, and canned food in the summer. Dad worked six days a week. On Sunday, we either visited my grandparents in New Bern or we went out on the boat while Dad went scuba diving. Oh, how I loved rolling down those huge sand dunes, our teal 1963 Pontiac parked nearby, almost as long as our boat. Dad filled tanks for divers with his backyard compressor and made weight belts. The high school boys who came to our house thought Dad was cool. I thought they were cool. My diary knew all about them. Dad constantly inspired outdoor fun. He made tire swings, wooden surfboards and go-karts, and, when the place next to Putt-Putt went out of business, he brought a trampoline home. In 1964, my parents bought a waterfront lot in Bear Creek (near Swansboro) and a rudimentary Jim Walter home that they moved there. My uncle built a concrete shell below which served as our basement. At our weekend cabin we learned to fish, clam, sail and water-ski — the latter, I recorded in my diary. On my first attempt, I circled successfully four times before letting go of the rope, feeling ecstatic and smiling wildly — until I tried to walk up the hill with excruciating leg pain, my calf muscles twitching and spasming. I used to say we didn’t grow up with a lot. As I pause and think about it, we had way more than enough. b Ann Ipock is an award-winning Southern author, humorist and speaker whose books include the Life is Short series. She may be reached at November 2013 •



November 2013 Salt  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

November 2013 Salt  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington