Dog days of summer, circa 1980 | Mark’s Remarks

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All of us adults want to fuss at kids for their bad habits and how they use their free time. But I will tell you I have very vivid memories of some summer days when I was a teenager.  

It’s hard for us to point the finger at kids of today when we think back to the carefree days of our youth.

When I was 13, I mowed lawns all summer. It wasn’t easy work and at that time, I had to get a lift from my parents or pull the mower behind me as I pedaled my bicycle. Still, I had it pretty easy because my parents paid for the mower and gas.  

So yes, I worked from an early age and knew hard work paid off.

But during the summer when things begin to get really hot, the grass does not grow. Long summer days when it was too hot to do anything were often spent lolling around the house.

Those days were filled with plenty of “screen time.” My brother and I had a little black and white television set in our room, and it did not have a remote control. I tried to think of a way to wake up and switch on that TV.

Being a teenaged boy getting ready to enter high school, I was interested in my appearance. I had purchased a set of dumbbells from the local hardware store and the long pole for the bench press set had come in a long, cardboard tube. I reasoned that I could actually prop myself up in bed a bit, lean forward only slightly, and switch on that TV with that handy-dandy piece of cardboard.

Ingenious, huh?

Waking up around 10 a.m. on those days, game shows were the viewing choice. I remember watching shows like “Gambit,” “Match Game” and “The Gong Show.” You had to turn the TV to the desired channel the night before, and then, if you wanted to change networks, you had to muster up the gumption to get out of bed and go to the bathroom, get something to eat or whatever.  

I mean, it was important to manage your time efficiently.

I remember “outing” most of my guy friends at a teenage gathering that summer. You see, we were all trying to look cool around a group of girls. Just recently, some of the guys had been talking about being cooped up in the air conditioned house and watching soap operas – an admission I felt the need to announce to the bevy of beauties we were talking to in the Dairy Queen parking lot.

Oh well. They still liked us anyway. Maybe it made us more attractive.

So yes, it was actually possible to watch TV from early morning and on through the afternoon, with various breaks to obtain nourishment or go to the bathroom.

I could use one of those days right now, actually.

Summer was filled with a lot of good food. We grilled out a lot, had fresh garden stuff from my grandma’s garden, and generally had some great things to eat around the house. Sweet corn, green peppers, fresh tomatoes. All the summer fare you can think of.

However, my brother and I, like all kids our age, would sometimes get the hankering for some good, solid junk food. If he could be coerced, I sometimes could get my brother to ride his bike to the laundromat two blocks away, or the corner grocery at the other end of our street.   We would enjoy bottles of orange soda, a variety of candy, chips or Hostess snack cakes.  

Our favorite thing to do was take a couple of bucks to the corner grocery and buy their “almost out of date” Hostess cakes. I am pretty sure they sold all of their Hostess products for a cheap price the day before the Hostess guy came to bring fresh items. If memory serves, you could get four (yes four) Hostess cupcake packages for $1.  

So yes, that was two cupcakes for a quarter. No foolin’. For a buck, you could have eight cupcakes to cram in your mouth.

Ah, youth. Remember when you could eat horrible things and not gain any weight? 

If I am honest, I really have no cause to point fingers at the youth of today.  Sure, they have more options and more things to occupy their time, but things aren’t really that different than they were on lazy summer days in the 1980s.

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