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As a teacher, one phenomenon that tried my patience over the last few years, was students announcing, ³I¶m bored.´ This was in our new art classroom, where students had every opportunity in the world to pursue unlimited, creative endeavors. Self-motivated students were throwing pots on the potter¶s wheels, painting on canvases, and making stained glass panels and boxes. Others were pursuing their own creativity, with all kinds of incredible projects. Still, there were students who consistently thought it was in vogue to be bored. It seems like many young people today think they have some kind of entitlement, which guarantees them to be entertained by us. Thankfully, I don¶t recall ever saying to any of my teachers or my parents, ³I¶m bored.´ We Baby
Boomers were good at keeping ourselves busy. No one expect someone else to entertain us. One fun thing we did, to occupy our time, was make colorful chains, from folded ³links´ of chewing gum wrappers. Sometimes we set up lemonade stands in our front yards. For me and my friends, being bored wasn¶t even a consideration. Our childhood imagination was truly our salvation. When I was in grade school, I played ³school´ with the younger kids on our street. I, of course, was always the teacher, as I liked to boss people around even back then. I lined up chairs in a row, on our back porch, for my classroom. My ³students´ sat properly with paper, pencils and a book. I led them through rigorous assignments and activities. Sometimes this entertained us for the entire afternoon. My friends and I spent many afternoons after school playing ³Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.´ We pretended to run around our hilly neighborhood, leading our team of sled dogs. We yelled, ³On King, on you huskies. Mush, mush, you huskies,´ mimicking our hero. To us, this was pretty important, serious stuff. It became more exciting and more real, whenever we were fortunate enough to play in the snow. We hiked up very steep streets, for about a mile¶s distance, to play on a golf course, which was mostly idle in the wintertime. Once we were there, we magically became a herd of wild horses. We galloped all over the huge span of the
course, kicking up our ³hooves´ and neighing loudly. Sometimes we pretended to ride horses all over the hill. We had a special place, along our neighbors¶ fence, which was our hitching post. Each of us had a designated place to tie up our horse. Frequently, we played ³Cowboys and Indians,´ mimicking what we saw on television. We often shot our metal cap guns, with the red paper rolls and little round caps. When we pulled the trigger, they made a loud, popping noise, and smoked after being shot. Roller skating was another popular sport in our neighborhood. We frequently got out the shoebox on the floor our coat closet, which held our collection of metal skates. They were heavy, with crusty leather straps, which were usually the first things to go. Since the skates were adjustable, we could change the length with our skate key, to fit our friends and visitors. I can still hear the clang, clang, clomp, clomp sound of the metal wheels, hitting the pavement. If the skates weren¶t put on real tightly, they almost always came off. As if we didn¶t know better, every kid on the West Side hill had a bicycle. We rode them on the streets which ran across the hill, and walked them up the steeper streets, running up and down the hill. I still have a scar on my arm, as a reminder of a bad crash I had. I was foolishly trying to ride down the extremely steep street next to ours, when I lost control and slammed into a tree. Once your bike gets going too fast on any downslope, it¶s very easy to lose control.
One of our favorite activities, to counter boredom, was to work on our ³forts.´ We had a small one behind our neighbors¶ garage, but the real significant one, was at the top of our street. It was on a hilly, vacant lot, covered with brush and briars. We worked on clearing brush and making improvements to our fort for hours upon hours, practically every day. Sometimes we had lunch or snacks in the fort, to give us a break from our hard labor. Every time I drive by the house, which sits up on that tall hillside where our fort once was, I remember those adventurous times. When weather didn¶t permit us to play outside, we usually went upstairs to my bedroom, and played with my collection of hard plastic or ceramic horses. The craftsmanship and detail on these statues was amazing. Some had removable saddles with cowboys or Indians. My favorites were the white family group, by the Breyer company. Over several occasions, I received the colt, mare, and stallion. I still have a few of these from my childhood collection, which are more than fifty years old now. I love to look at the familiar models in antique shops. I don¶t remember playing a lot with dolls, but I do recall spending quite a bit of time, playing with our paper dolls. Their clothes had little tabs, which folded over to the backside, to keep them in place. We had to cut them out with scissors, since they were just printed on flat sheets. My favorite thing to do, was to design new outfits for the dolls. Blank templates were sometime provided with the dolls.
We came up with several attractive, original outfits. Makeshift tents were always fun, especially at friends¶ houses, where two twin beds were parallel to each other. We draped a sheet or blanket from one bed to another, as our ceiling. Then we used another sheet, going the opposite direction, to make doors for the tent. Anything was always more fun, when we did it in a tent. At our house, we got out our dad¶s white silk parachute, he brought home from the war. When we draped it all over the furniture, it made an enormous tent. For many hours, we hovered over the Ouija board, asking such poignant questions, such as ³Does Buddy love Nancy?´ I always questioned the validity of the answers, knowing that someone was more than likely trying to skew them. It was fairly easy to manipulate the pointer, to produce the outcome we wanted. This was especially true, on the ³No´ and ³Yes³ answers. We also used our black Eight Balls to get ³genuine´ answers for important questions. While we were eating at The Cracker Barrel restaurant recently, part of their décor jogged my memory. Along with other memorabilia, hanging on the wall above our table, was an old Parcheesi board. It was identical to the one we used to spend hours around. We also played a lot of Candy Land, in our younger days, and Monopoly and Scrabble, when we were a little older. The Goff and Hill kids often came to our house, and played many strategic games of Pick Up Sticks with us, on the carpet in our living room. All of us
became quite consummate competitors at the game of Jacks. We took our little cloth pouches of Jacks, practically everywhere we went. The most skilled players knew to throw the ball extremely high, allowing themselves more time to pick up the Jacks. Many kids these days have not needed to be, nor have been required to be creative, in play, or in any other way, for that matter. They have been passively entertained by television, computers, and video games their entire lives. Some don¶t even understand the concepts of originality and creativity. I used to lecture my students about creating original designs. Nearly every time, after the lecture, students wanted to get on my computer, ³To get ideas.´ As a teacher, it was always so refreshing to have those exceptional students, who thrived on being creative. They came up with such fresh, original and exciting ideas. Like us, those kids were never bored. As a parent, I don¶t ever remember my sons telling me they were bored. Most of the time, they were up on the hill in their ³fort,´ on a little plateau, above our house. Other times they were finger painting in the kitchen, riding bikes or their little Jeep around the farm. Frequently, they fished and caught crawdads in the creek. Maybe these guys were throwbacks to their mother¶s generation.
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