Remembering holidays, family gatherings and childhood summer activities
Thinking about Memorial Day weekend, as I worked outside trying to make the yard look presentable in preparation for summer, I started thinking about past warm weather holidays we had as kids in Nashua and all the fun we had doing what we now might consider, goofy things.
At the top of the list for Memorial Day was, of course, the parade. We anticipated the marching bands, the popcorn man, and the three or four hawkers wheeling their carts up and down Main Street selling everything from overpriced balloons, plastic dolls, and hats, to flags, pennants and bouncing balls, causing parents declare, “You don’t need that junk, it’s too expensive.”
We excitedly watched the local armory’s display of olive-drab military gear while listening to the clicking unison of marching soldiers’ boots behind armored vehicles and cannons in tow. The event concluded with ceremonies for deserving war dead who served their country so honorably.
Following the parade, families would have the traditional cookout of burgers and hot dogs, chicken wings, potato salad and Cole slaw, with ice cream or chilled sliced watermelon for dessert. Of course, we kids would wash it all down with a Coke, Pepsi, root beer or Kool-Aid while the adults might opt for cold beer or wine coolers. Such gatherings might take place at home, Hampton Beach, Silver Lake, or Greeley Park. Wherever it happened, you can bet you would be dealing with a crowd.
As fireworks back then were illegal in New Hampshire, we would opt to make noise by laying a roll of caps on the ground and banging each black dot with a hammer or a rock. Caps were those red strings of paper laced with spots of minor explosive powder, which could also be used in a cap gun, a popular toy in the day. During the banging process, every so often a spark from those caps would provide a little zap to the fingers. Ouch! If you were a daredevil, you’d fold the entire roll and smack it all at once with the biggest rock you could find.
Remember punks? A punk was a long stick with what resembled a cork substance at one end and an extra- long toothpick at the other. We also called referred to them slow matches. They were originally sold as an insect repellent, but we’d pretend to be smoking a cigarette so long as we could get an adult to light one. Why were kids so anxious to start smoking back then? Remember candy cigarettes? They came in a box that resembled the real thing but were fully edible. Or the “play” cigarettes with foil tips resembling a flame at one end and a filter you’d blow into at the other to create “smoke?” They contained some type of powder to create the smoke effect. Social media would have a field day with those now. Smoking then wasn’t as frowned upon as it is today. Little did we know.
After the big feast, we might opt for a game of catch, baseball, softball, touch football or simply toss a frisbee around. There were no electronic games. We had to physically move to be engaged.
Some of us would hop on our bikes to cruise the neighborhood, but not before clipping a few baseball cards or wrapping a couple of balloons to the forks so that the cards or balloons would provide the closest thing we could get to the roar of a motorcycle. Those who were lucky enough might even be riding a very cool Schwinn Stingray, worth now about fifty times its original retail price.
Speaking of lost opportunity, here’s a scary afterthought: The sale of a couple of those baseball cards today could probably launch any one of us into the category of independently wealthy.
Whichever way you choose to spend this holiday weekend, remember to think about loved ones who are no longer here to share it with us, those who admirably served our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice and take a few minutes to smile and think about some of the goofy things you might have done on this holiday as a kid!
Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.