I overhead a couple of parents recently discussing the summer camps their teenagers are attending. Dance. Swimming. Sports. Tutoring.
If my children were still at home, I guess I would be doing the same. Thank goodness my teenage summers were mostly unstructured and loaded with adventure.
My teenage years were spent in the Beauregard Town area of Baton Rouge, a racially, socio-economically and ethnically diverse area.
Here’s snapshot of typical activities.
There was (and still is) a concrete-lined canal that runs through Beauregard Town and meanders underground below what was then the football field at the Louisiana School for the Deaf (now City Police Headquarters) and across Highland Road. To test our courage, we walked the nearly mile-long length of the underground route.
“Peter Boy” always captained that effort. His brother, “White Michael,” would tag along. Both Peter Boy and White Michael were white, but it seemed odd to us that Peter Boy also called his brother “White Michael.”
Sometimes on our underground marches we would notice the water swirling up ahead. Peter Boy would announce: “That’s a snake!” None of us was Crocodile Dundee, but we could figure that out. Some of us carried broom handles or wooden boards to ward off reptiles and whatever else was down there. How none of us was ever bitten by something is God’s grace.
Some days, we would head to Frostop restaurant to play on the pinball machines. We would slap the machines’ sweet spots and the machines would give us free games. We spent hours in there.
To escape the neighborhood and the heat, we would sell empty soda bottles to National Food Store to get money to pay for the triple-feature at the Lincoln Theater. Most times, though, we would nod off in the air-conditioned theater.
Let’s revisit National Food Store. The store initially kept its purchased empty bottles near the exit door. They moved them next to the manager’s office when they discovered we were taking the purchased bottles and reselling the purloined empties to them.
The big summer thing was the neighborhood vs. neighborhood softball games, played from morning to early afternoon, often between two interstate highways.
If a fly ball landed on the highway, the youngest of our crew was sent to retrieve it. We would get a little nervous if we heard squealing brakes. If that was not followed by a loud thud or screaming, we knew the ball was safe.
The really fun stuff though was tossing marbles from the observation deck at the state Capitol then hurrying to marvel at the shattered remains. It never dawned on us that the marbles could have killed someone.
The summer usually ended with a tally of broken bones, stitches or chipped teeth. Oh, and I would steal away now and then to the library to read a book to two. The fellas didn’t need to know everything.
We did do constructive stuff, like cut and clean yards, complete our chores or help someone paint or nail something. But, to be honest, we did everything we could to keep that to a minimum.
After all, it was the summer.
Edward Pratt is a former editor with The Advocate. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. He may be contacted at his email address: email@example.com.