Walk and Roll, 1978 | Mark’s Remarks

Last week was “Walk and Roll To School Day.” I don’t know the origin, but I think it’s been around since the late 1990s.

Someone asked me if it was something Michelle Obama started, but I replied that I think she’s only responsible for making school lunches less palatable.  

On this day each year, kids are encouraged to walk or ride their bikes to school. Of course, in our day and age, we can’t trust that kids can really make it to school like we did in the old days, so most kids are dropped off near the school and ride a short distance.

Same for walking, although most parents park their cars somewhere close to the school and walk with their kids.

It’s a good idea, but what a shame we can’t rely on just being a kid anymore.  I mean, we were never at a loss for being active when we were kids.  There wasn’t as much emphasis on our nutrition, nor did there have to be days set aside to encourage kids to actually exercise.

I mean, back then, even the obese kids were relatively active.

In 1978, I rode my bike to school. It was probably over a mile from my house.  Sometimes I walked home from school, too. In cold weather, my parents picked me up or we relied on other parents. Everyone pitched in to help haul kids around.

I can remember wanting to ride my bike to school just so I could get there early. I don’t know why kids want to get to school early, but many do. 

I’d hop on my bike with a light jacket on, and by the time I got to Sibley Street, I was wishing I’d brought a heavier coat and a pair of gloves. I’d juggle my bookbag as best I could, and trade off sticking my frostbitten hand into my jacket pocket until it thawed out; then I’d switch hands.  

Back in those days, we didn’t start school until after Labor Day and therefore mornings could be frosty after a few weeks of school. Still, regardless of the threat of arriving at school half-frozen, riding your bike and being there early was worth it. 

It was also great to jet off in the afternoon and make it to the corner grocery store before the kids who were walking.

When we walked home, there were plenty of short cuts. Across Delaware Street, through the auto parts store parking lot, straight across Main, cut through the Assembly of God parking lot, walk through some kind lady’s backyard, then up 4th Street, stop at D&J Grocery, buy a glass of bottled soda, candy, or if you were rich an ice cream sandwich, then head east on Elm and then straight north on Epworth.  

Along the way, we crafted stories about mysterious houses we passed and said “Hello” to older folks sitting on porches. We marveled at the Bestows’ thick, golden zoysia grass on the corner of Parkhurst and Epworth that seemed like carpet, spun tales of how we’d ramped our bikes up certain hills and dales along the way, and so on.  

Much discussion revolved around school gossip, mean teachers, and unfair happenings. We’d solve the world’s problems – even at the age of 11.

The walk always seemed very long.

At the time, I can remember longing for the day I’d be able to drive like the older brothers and sisters of our friends, siblings who would sometimes stop and let us all jam into the back seat for a glorious ride home.  

But shoot, I didn’t know how good we had it. I’m sure there are plenty of kids who would love to have the freedom to ride their bikes to the corner store or walk a couple of miles to their friend’s home. What a shame that things have gone south so much.  

Kids today have no idea how much the thought of “Walk and Roll to School Day” seems a little strange to us oldsters.

Too bad there has to be such a day in the first place.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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