As I was talking to longtime local radio personality Herb Day this week about the new online radio station he has created, something he said especially caught my attention. “I’m just trying to create a feel of that endless summer and times you’d like to go back to,” were the words that tweaked my ears.
Hmmm, I immediately thought, more often than not, I suppose that is pretty much how I usually use this column.
A little later Herb said that some of his programming will include chats with local personalities sharing memories of things like their favorite cars, childhood memories or favorite summer.
So, as I was listening to Herb talk, in the back of my mind I began to wonder what my favorite summer was. It is not an easy thing determine, mostly because our perception of the world changes as we age.
The summers when I was really young and my mother took us on weekly trips to places like Rocky Fork Lake and Fort Hill — even though we got really lost at the latter one once — were real treats. So were the following years when our backyard led into a woods. Spending the summers in the recesses of that shaded, secretive place opened my eyes to a whole new world of adventure.
As we grew a bit older and spent most of our summer hours playing about any kind of ball you can imagine — including some games we invented — in neighborhood backyards, that seemed at the time the perfect way to spend the rest of my life. And the summers when girls first became a part of my life, wow, that set off a whole new set of senses.
As the years passed and my wife and I had children, summers at the ballpark and on other adventures with them hold an irreplaceable spot among those endless summers. But I don’t believe that’s quite what Herb was talking about.
So, if I had to pick a favorite summer, I think it would be the summer of 1982.
Shortly before the end of my junior year at Morehead State University that spring, my parents decided it was time for a brother and I to find a place of our own. They had two younger children to raise, and my brother and I we were not exactly following their rules. So while I finishing my last couple weeks of school, my mother and brother found us a little pad in a trailer court. I was 21 and he was 19.
I had a summer job for the fourth consecutive year at the Highland County Engineer’s Office, and I believe my brother’s job at the time was at Fairley Hardware. So paying rent and such was not a problem.
The problem was that nobody our age had a place of their own at the time. So let’s just say that pretty much every night, we had lots of company, male and female.
I did not last long at the trailer. Shortly before the end of that year in college and had met up with the woman who is now my wife. Not long after I moved into the trailer, we started dating. And for some reason, she did not like me spending nights at the trailer.
Still, though, I was there for a bit most evenings, while also making new friends with my future wife. We were carefree — myself more than she — and most of our evenings were spent playing euchre, hanging out with friends, and having a hoot. My future wife had to work weekend days sometimes then, and in return got some weekdays off. So, since those sweet summer days with her were too hard to pass up and I was going back to school soon anyway, I called in sick to work way too many times, leaving a blemish on what I believe were otherwise three spotless years with the county highway department. But, like I said, I was 21, carefree, and having the time of my life.
The weekends were even better. We had a large group of good friends, and most of the time most of us ended up at the same places. It was like a dream.
Maybe my favorite times were Sunday afternoons. More often than not we’d pile into two or three vehicles, head to a beach, and laugh the afternoon away playing games in the water, soaking in the sun, admiring the sights, and mostly doing nothing much at all.
Not long thereafter, I suppose we grew up. Full-time jobs and other responsibilities came along, and the days at the beach with loads of friends and few cares quietly faded away.
But the memories are still there, and even as I type these lines, I can see us at Rocky Fork, Pike Lake or Long’s Retreat, basking in the sun, tan, young and full of fun.
Yes, I’m certain, if I had to pick a favorite one, it would be the summer of ‘82.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.