The Long Way Home July 15 2022 A Simpler Time?

Now that the dust of rage has settled, stirred by the mass shootings on the Fourth of July, I thought I’d reflect on a simpler time. Maybe give you something to smile about.

It’s the 60s, and I’m a grade school student in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis. We were taught to start and manage a “passbook savings account” at Richfield State Bank. One morning a week we marched a couple of blocks for some churching, during school time. And we had regular fire drills, parading single file out the nearest exit. A nice break from learning.

Periodic civil defense drills found us lined up on the walls of the inside hallways, seated in neat rows on the floor with our knees raised and our heads bent between our legs. We weren’t afraid of active shooters of course, but the Russians who had the “Bomb” were an evident threat to our existence. Only later did we find out that if “The Bomb” struck our fair city our corridor pose would not have saved us, but it would have left our charred remains neatly folded in one place to make cleaning up with the front-end loader a bit easier for any survivors.

On a happier note, my family spent a week during one of those summers at a small (rustic by today’s standards) resort on a lake near Aitkin, MN. The family that owned the property had a teenage son for us city kids to look up to, let’s call him Gust. He is one of two fond memories I have from that week.

Full of energy and blessed with the gift of gab, Gust told us of a favorite prank he had perfected. The cabins did not have indoor plumbing, so the two-hole outhouse was all we city folks could use. Gust would see one of the guests, most often a suburban lady like my mom, heading to the privy and he would hide behind the two-holer.

Waiting long enough for the lady to be in position, he’d put on his best Swedish accent and shout, “Ma’am, would ya mind moving to the other hole? I’m painting down here.” Then he’d run like hell.

On checkout day of that trip, a beautiful summer morning, the families who had become friends over the past week stood in a group on the shore exchanging addresses and promising to stay in touch. Parents, kids, and teenage girls.

To our left, we heard the putter of a small outboard motor and saw an aluminum boat cruising the shoreline. In the bow, facing rearward, sat a man who looked like he was the dad. The middle seat was weighed down by a heavyset man who may have been grandpa, also facing rearward. At the stern, proudly captaining the ship was a teenage boy.

When you’re a teenage boy, it’s a thrill to run the outboard. And when you were this kid, you watched the teenage girls on the shore with their families to make sure they were watching you. With his two passengers looking rearward, and the skipper watching the shore, no one saw the floating dive platform dead ahead. They hit it, square on.

The collision sent grandpa backward off his seat onto the bottom of the boat. All we could see were two chubby legs waving to little effect. All we could hear was both men shouting swear words I thought only we kids knew. Humiliated by the rowdy laughter coming from the group on shore, they turned tail and returned from whence they came.

The sixties were fright-filled years, not so much different from today. The memories I cherish from those times are the ones that made us laugh--out loud.