Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Dinner Bells and Lost Sounds of Summer ; Free-Range Kids Roamed until Called Home for Dinner

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Dinner Bells and Lost Sounds of Summer ; Free-Range Kids Roamed until Called Home for Dinner

Article excerpt

I long for the sounds of summer I knew as a kid.

In the 60s and 70s, you see, most of our neighbors kept their windows open day and night, allowing the outside sounds to come in and the inside sounds to go out. I woke every morning to the birds chirping outside my window screen, a dewy chill in the air. Id smell my fathers pipe, which he smoked while he read the paper downstairs. Id go down to greet him. Sometimes hed make scrambled eggs and toast covered with butter, and wed eat while the birds kept on singing.

The evening sounds were equally powerful: a dog barking; a motorcycle downshifting on some faraway hill; people out on their porches listening to the Pirates play on the radio; a baby crying; a couple talking; children laughing; a window fan humming.

Sounds carry far in the summer air. One family on the hill they had three adult kids still living at home entertained the whole neighborhood with their cussing and bickering:

Youre an idiot! one would shout.

No, youre an idiot! said another.

Shut up the both of youse! the old man would yell. He told our next-door neighbor once he couldnt understand why his kids were so rude to each other, the lousy idiots.

The sounds I miss the most, though, were the shouts and chants and bells that families relied on to call their kids home for supper.

In those days, kids didnt participate in one adult-run activity after another. We didnt sit inside air-conditioned homes playing video games. No, we were out in the hills roaming and exploring and creating all day long.

We collected scrap wood and built shacks. We dammed up the creek and caught minnows and crayfish. One summer, we built a motorized go- cart with some scrap items from a junked riding mower and a couple of two-by-fours. It was one of the greatest engineering feats in my neighborhoods history. …

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