Summer has magic all its own. Just the sound of the word sets off remembrances of summers past: ordinary, insignificant, everyday, snippets of people, places and times of one’s life. Days of endless recess from school, countless idyllic hours at the park, crowded beaches, sandlots and daily domestic chores that interrupted youthful adventures flip across the mind like entries in a scrapbook whose dog-eared pages have faded with age. Blue skies from countless Junes, warm July rains that foreshortened displays of baseball skills and newly waxed automobiles. Hot August nights that pulsed with the soundtrack of youthful voices while September announced summer’s last call for sunscreen and sunglasses. Throughout summer, rods and roadsters jockeyed for position at Art’s Drive In, the Fat Boy, Kelly’s and Pow-Wow promenading street sleds with highly buffed lacquer, polished chrome and purring Laker pipes. Cool cats sporting shades after sundown worked push button dashboard radios for disc jockey banter hyping the latest one-hit-wonder to invade the Top 40. Romantic couples parked under starry skies at Bobby Beach where adolescent Casanovas checked out Submarine Races or, the Hammond 41 Drive-In where movies took second billing to more desirable activity.
Memories ricochet from season to season, age to age. In one scene, a four year-old boy plays aimlessly on the driveway of his Lincoln Avenue garage-flat home poking at ants with a twig then, examines multi-colored pebbles studying variations of color, shape and texture. In another, Whiting public schoolrooms dominate summers with remedial reading and math instruction in the Primary and McGregor buildings. Temporarily sheltered from summer’s sunshine, blue skies and fresh air, Miss Stewart and Mr. Snap teach struggling scholars fundamentals of language and calculation.
Many of life’s summers are categorized: the summer of Little League, the summer of Inland Steel, and the summer of ’57 prelude to senior year at Whiting High. Activities and obligations, duties and responsibilities, objectives and goals fill days and nights under sunshine and stars, all part of life’s recipe. How many days were spent when the plan consisted of clothes poles for newly laundered sheets and bamboo poles for unwary bluegills residing in Wolf Lake ? How many grounders, fly balls, and line drives were captured by a Rawlings baseball glove on the sandlots and diamonds of Whiting-Robertsdale? Who can count the hours at Whiting Park ’s beach or the swings near the pavilion? Mid-summer 4th of July celebrations parade across the memory recalling our personal parade of seasons. As a high school teen, warm summer evenings were like magnets drawing us to street corners of 119th or the Community Center where classmates gathered to share friendship, pop tunes, soft drinks and adolescent concerns.
A number of summers are defined by a single event: the end of World War II, a first major league baseball game at Cominsky Park, the Standard Oil fire, graduation from high school, the 4th of July when ownership of a new convertible ushered in days of top-down good times, the summer drafted for the military; man landing on the moon, a June marriage, graduation from college: important turning points in one’s lifetime which made indelible marks on mind and memory. And all days that fill the mosaic of one’s summer are no less significant. How does one organize and catalog 68 years of summer: sixty-one hundred and twenty days of solstice celebration tucked within the months of June, July, August and September? From the 21st of June to the 21st of September, the playboy of the seasons teases and tantalizes challenges and cons, energizes and exhausts, possesses and bestows the delectable banquet of living. Each of us confronts this season with our own unique mind set and readily accommodates and adopts modifications to meet change as years accumulate.
With the arrival of another summer there is time for reflection and remembrance. Summer vacation from school, summer work in the mill, sharing summer family and friends—bits and pieces—hours and days that have sped by at the speed of life. Today the pace is a little slower. Each day is viewed as a gift. The 1440 minutes of each 24 hours are precious and valued. Time is to be used and moments savored in such a way they leave a pleasant afterglow in the mind.
As before, duties warrant attention: flowers needs moisture, the lawn waits mowing and a sundry of tasks that constantly pop up like pesky weeds need completion. But with all summer’s demands one gains the exhilarating sense of belonging, of partaking in Heaven’s plan to give a good account of our days so to enjoy the bounty of the harvest: such are the summers of a lifetime.