A Colorado correspondent and I had a recent e-mail exchange on moms and Saturdays, 1950s style, and the conclusion was that we each pretty much were on our own, though with a different “push” from mothers. My friend reported, “I don't recall ever being chased from the house ... Saturday mornings were always trips to Nyack (New York) for laundry and shopping, and they were enjoyable. Much more to me, I'm sure, than to my mom. I was responsible for cleaning my room and doing the household dusting -- probably why I recall the lamps and knickknacks from my youth fairly well -- and then was free. Kept out from underfoot well because I didn't want additional jobs. ...”
I didn’t do any chores, at least on Saturday, and I was definitely chased out of the house by my working mom, who with my father, would tackle the week’s laundry and dust. They, particularly my mother, did not want my brother and I to be in the way, and so we were sent packing for six or so hours.
Not a bad deal as it turned out, since my parents had some peace, and though Craig and I generally went separate ways to individual friends or haunts, the key companion for both of us was imagination. No cell phones or pocket video games, no “booked” activities. We had long periods when imagination kept boredom away. We let our minds wander, in day-dreaming, sometimes in the imagination offered by books and their plots and characters, and in hands-on effort like building huts and tree houses.
I had a regular Saturday walking route as well. I’d sleep in Saturdays, get up about 9:30, quickly wolf down raisin bran cereal and, knowing my mom would soon be looking my way, leave the Hillcrest, N.Y., house, turn left on Karnell, then right on State and right on Hickory where there was a wooded path that ran through the back of one of the numerous summer hotels in the area. In off-season, it was abandoned, and we kids used to take it as a shortcut to North Main Street, but not before we stopped at the open barn and sat at an old grinding wheel and gave it a spin. On North Main, I would head through downtown Spring Valley, past the same shops that greeted my father and grandfather in their day. It was a brief walk in town, six-streets-long, but coming from the countrified area of Hillcrest, the hick in me had come city-courtin’, and I was less of a hermit for a moment. It was like getting warm sun on your face on a chilly day, a welcome necessity though you wouldn’t want to stay in the sun forever.
Soon I was across the 1840s Erie track, headed for the South Main Street School where I played in a yard enjoyed by my dad 20 years before. It had not changed a bit.
I might run into a friend, but more often I was alone, day-dreaming my way across town, looking at the stores, the street characters. I passed the time, enough so that I could come back home just when my mom finished her cleaning.
It was a routine, a 1950s moment in which kids like myself and my Colorado correspondent kept busy, out of trouble and with enough visiting in imagination, in day-dreaming, that I can say I was hardly ever lonely.