Remembering the fun times in the old neighborhood

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, March 16, 2013

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

It’s funny how the weather can play tricks on a person at this time of the year. Take for instance, the sun. Temperatures may only be in the low ’20s, but if the sun is shining, it can generate a lot of heat, giving one the idea that it is a lot warmer than it actually is. Just a thought; but one that certainly seems to hold true.

Every so often, as I drive past the neighborhood where I spent my youth, I’ll start thinking about the old gang and the fun we had as kids growing up north of town. When I call it a gang, it is not in the same sense that we refer to gang in today’s world. In some instances, when I reflect back on those days, it’s almost as if I can still hear the constant chatter that we kids made, while playing some game in the backyards of the neighborhood.

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One of the nearby neighbors had posted his yard verbally, stating that no kids were allowed to cross it. Now, telling a bunch of kids who had energy to burn not to step on your yard was usually taken as a challenge. After many years of coaching youth hockey, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that kids will always test the waters to see how much they can get away with. Luckily, even as an old guy, I can still remember my button-pushing days and how much fun it was to walk on the edge.

I have to think that at times we were pretty mischievous in a harmless sort of way. There were the times, like Halloween, when we’d take pleasure in soaping the windows of someone who sat in the dark with the lights out, so they didn’t have to pass out candy. We never damaged anyone’s property, because that would be disrespectful, but there was the occasional burning brown paper bag of goodies on the front steps.

Neighborhood ballgames were always something that we looked forward to. Summer was time for baseball, and although I never owned a baseball glove I still played. The kids from the other team with gloves would let the ones without use theirs when it was time to be in the field. We played quite a bit of baseball, and it never seemed to be a problem.

Football was my favorite sport, and I had a good football, shoulder pads and a helmet. As kids, we would pick our favorite player of the time and be that guy for at least that day. If two kids wanted to be the same player, one would eventually agree to wait until the next game to be that guy. I had a Tobin Rote football. He was a quarterback for the Lions, and my favorite player at the time, probably because his name was on my “official” NFL football.

Before the Vikings came along, I was a big Bears fan. Harlan Hill, a tight end, was my favorite receiver, and Bill George, middle linebacker, my favorite defensive player. You didn’t really need a helmet and pads for our backyard football games, but I had them, because it made me feel like a real player. In reality, we were all real players as long as we were playing the game. The games were always tackle, because touch was for sissies and tackle was about just getting someone to the ground — not destroying them. Those were the fun times that I really enjoyed as a kid, and any time that I could talk three or more kids into joining, we’d be doing it year ’round. Playing in the snow and mud was always the most fun, because it made a kid feel like a real player not just a kid in the back yard. Washing those muddy clothes was also a job opportunity for Mom, who never seemed to look at it in quite the same light that I did.

We played our big games on Saturdays, and it was usually the kids south of Hammer road against the kids to the north. When we played on the north turf, it was usually in the Boyer’s backyard, and the south games were played in mine. Some Saturdays, we’d organize a really big game with kids from outside the neighborhood. Whether it was baseball or football, those games were usually played at Hammer School, which had plenty of room for a big-time game. Those non-neighborhood games usually involved older kids, so there were times when we were overmatched, because most of us were all at about the same age. It was usually always a good time, even when the visitors brought their own rules. One thing about kids playing games outside in those days, there was no rulebook to follow, and the rules were sometimes different depending on whose interpretation was used. It was great to be a kid back then, and we didn’t even have any electronics to help us have fun.

While talking about football — how about those Vikes! They’ve really been hitting the free agent market to shore up the team. They got rid of Percy Harvin to build for the future; but rest easy fans because they re-signed old what’s his name the wide receiver and Erin Henderson the linebacker. Super Bowl here we come!

Until next time get outside and enjoy a winter walk or just take a drive in the country and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.


Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.