Memories from long ago


Reading a column in one of our sister newspapers not so long ago, my thoughts were drawn back to my childhood years, particularly those years from the time I was about 4 through my first week in fifth grade, when my family resided on Josie Avenue in Hillsboro.

I’m not sure why it is, especially when I sometimes cannot remember what I did last week, but those memories from my childhood and decades beyond remain etched upon my mind in vivid detail.

One of my siblings seems to think it is rather odd that I can recall such things. But maybe because I was not blessed to be one of this world’s most intelligent individuals, I was instead blessed with a good memory.

Oh, the tales I could tell, if only they would not embarrass or offend others.

I do not remember much about the day we arrived at Josie Avenue, but I remember most of my adventures from those innocent days when my largest problem was remembering not to do things my parents told me not to do.

There was a woods directly behind our home on Josie where we spent much of our time. Not nearly as far back in the woods as I remembered, there was a hill where we played games like king of the hill. Long after we moved away, I was in the Josie area one day and decided to venture back to the hill and other haunts. The hill I remembered being quite tall was no more than a four or five foot rise in the ground, and the paths that once seemed to wind around with no end were actually not very long at all.

A few yards from the hill was a spot worn bear because it was a gathering place for the neighborhood kids. We spent a lot time there, swinging from a rope, jumping out of trees, having battles using sticks as swords and metal trash can lids as shields, and the like. My sister was quite young at the time, but she spent most of her outdoor time near the bare spot. She was clean each morning when she left the house, but when she returned later in the day she was so dirty that she looked like she was from a different race.

There was a buzzard nailed to a large, fallen tree at the edge of the woods directly behind our house. My dad hit it in his company car one day, loaded it up and brought it home. I never asked why he did such a thing, but we admired it daily as it slowly decomposed.

We climbed around a lot on the tree the buzzard was nailed to. The neighbor kids said there was poison ivy on and around it, and sometimes would point it out. Being a child, I had to see if the neighbors were correct, so sometimes I’d rub the stuff all over my hands. For years I thought I was pretty much immune to poison ivy, until some time in my 30s when we unknowingly bought some campfire wood that apparently had what doctors later said was poison oak or poison sumac on it. When your face starts itching one night and the next morning your eyes are swollen shut, you quickly learn that if you were immune to poison ivy, you certainly were not immune to poison oak or poison sumac.

The neighbors on one side of us had a hill directly behind their home that sloped toward the woods. I remember sledding there one day by myself. There was a crust of ice atop a deep covering of snow, and being a little guy, I could zip down the hill and on through our paths in the woods without ever breaking through the layer of ice. That adventure probably only lasted a few minutes — like until my mother saw how fast I was zipping down the hill toward a bunch of large trees — but I remember it well.

During another snow storm I was building what was probably my first snowman ever in our front yard one evening. It was getting dark and my mother kept telling me I needed to come in. I argued, to no avail, with mother telling me I could finish the snowman the next day. When I woke up the next morning the snowman was mostly melted away. I was heartbroken, and not at all happy with my mother.

There were lots of kids in the neighborhood, and from time to time we’d have dirt clod fights. Yes, with real dirt. One time, trying to pry a dirt clod out of the ground with a stick, the dirt flipped directly into my eyes and I could not see for a while, especially since the dirt mixed with my tears. That probably cured of playing with dirt clods — for a day or two.

We had a large tub in our utility room next to the washer and dryer. We often took baths in the tub. I usually stood atop the washer and dryer to dry off. But the top of washers and dryers do not mix well with wet feet. One day I fell, gashed my arm on the something on the way down, and filled up several wash towels with blood before arriving at the hospital where I got nine stitches. I still have the scar. It was a deep cut and I soaked several more towels at the hospital. That was the end of the standing on the washer days, maybe even the end of baths in the tub.

The week we moved from Josie Avenue I broke my arm playing backyard football. The doctors said the bone looked like a piece of celery that had been snapped. It did not feel very good. But there’s a silver lining to most mishaps, and the broken arm got me out of helping with the move to our next home.

There are many more memories, like learning to ride a bike down the same hill I sledded down, falling down the side of an old quarry while trying to push over a tree (I pushed the tree over but went with it), and even once packing a small bag when I decided I wanted to run away, probably because I did not like getting punished for something I was told not to do. I didn’t even make it to the end of the block before I realized it would be best to turn around.

Ah, youthful innocence. I don’t know if those were the days, but they sure were good and memorable.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist

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