I often say that we only know about our parents’ life after we come along. Their childhood, education (elementary and high school), college, and courtship is generally unknown to us. It is just part of life — we don’t think to ask and they don’t tell us about those things — but what were they like, and what did they do?
The topic for this week’s blog is to explore your childhood. This blog post will discuss topics to help you write about your childhood. The following are just a few ideas.
1. Neighborhood and playmates
Did you grow up in the country, on a farm or in the city? Describe you home environment. If you grew up in the city where did you play? Vacant lots, parks or alleys. Did you have a local corner store you could walk to and buy candy or other treats.
I remember there was a small store about a half mile from where we lived. It was called Ann n’ Hy’s. It had a small soda fountain where we could buy ice cream. They sold comic books and baseball cards as well as all kinds of candy from a big cabinet with a glass front. We would point to the candy we wanted and they would get it for us. I always thought if we could move that big cabinet we would find a whole lot of money under it, because it seemed like every time we dropped coins they would role under it. I sure spent a lot of my money buying baseball cards from that little store. I wish I still had them!
Talk about your neighborhood, your friends and how you played. What games did you play? Did you play games with your friends after dinner during the summer? Our neighborhood had a ton of kids. I remember staying out until it got dark, and it was really fun.
If you grew up on a farm or in the country, how far away did your friends live. Many people living in the country played with only their siblings. Was this your situation?
Have you stayed in touch with your friends? What are they doing now?
The following excerpt is from a woman who grew up in Connecticut in 1921:
We used to play hopscotch, jump rope, and kickball. The boys played baseball in the street or in the vacant lot next door. The boys never let us play with them. Our hopscotch court was made with chalk on the sidewalk, but occasionally we drew the court on the street. We also loved making mud pies.When we got a little older, we would play Hide and Seek or Kick-the-Can. We couldn’t stay out very late when it got dark. My father would never let us stay out when it was dark. He was very, very strict.
2. The house you grew up in
Describe your childhood home. Close your eyes and describe it as you walk through it. Talk about the house layout. One level or two — did it have a basement? Did you have your own bedroom, or did you share it with brothers or sisters. How many bathrooms — probably not as many as we have today. Our children and grandchildren cannot believe we lived in a house with only one bathroom! This is from a man that also grew up in Connecticut.
Our house was located at 346 Benham Avenue. We didn’t have air conditioning so we’d get a pan of water and put our feet in it to cool down when it got real hot.
As you went in the front door of our house, there were two doors; one to go downstairs and one to go upstairs. We rented out the upstairs. When you went through our door, there was the living room with the piano, and then there was a partition between the dining room and the kitchen. A bathroom (only one) and two bedrooms were also there.
My two sisters slept in one bed, and there was a cot in the room, and I slept there.
How were you disciplined as a child? Who was the primary parent that did the disciplining? Can you remember what you got in trouble for and how you were punished?
4. Childhood Memories of Doctors and Dentists
What do you remember about the local doctor? Did he make house calls? When did Doctors stop making house calls? Did you have any significant accidents, broken bones or scars that occurred while you were a child?
Do you remember if there were any women doctors when you were young? How about hospitals — did you need to go to the hospital?
And the dentist, how often did you go if ever? Did your experiences as a child at the dentist effect your attitude about dentist today? Did the tooth fairy visit you? How much did you get for a lost tooth?
Talk about how you celebrated holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween are the big three as a child. As we start our own family’s traditions, they are, in many ways, a function of how we celebrated the holidays growing up. In many ways, these traditions can be traced back many generations and will be carried forward for more to come.
A man I interviewed in Missouri that grew up in a very poor family remembers:
We always acknowledged Christmas, but there weren’t presents and stuff. We were never disappointed at Christmas. We knew it was Christmas and we were going to celebrate it, but we didn’t expect anything. We didn’t decorate a tree because we didn’t have any decorations. It is hard for somebody who didn’t grow up in that time to realize we just had the necessities. Mom would always fix the best meal at Christmas. I think my wife still has her recipe for “gumdrop cake,” — the best thing you ever tasted.
6. Family Vacations
Did your family take summer vacations. maybe to the beach or a family cabin in the mountains. Describe some of your more memorable vacations. There are many things that you will remember.
I remember loading into the family station wagon and driving all day to visit the grandparents in Indiana. My mom would buy the individual cereal boxes and, with milk, we would eat at roadside rest stops and argue about which of us would get certain kinds of cereals. We had our favorites!
Did you visit historic sites? I grew up in the east and we always visited Civil War and Revolutionary sites. I have such great memories of visiting these places and have tried to take my own children to visit them.
A man in Idaho remembers his family trips.
Another trip we took with the family was to Glacier park. We also went down to Bryce and Zion National Park, and down to through that part of Utah. Once we went to California. Dad had relatives there. I remember we visited my Uncle Lynn, who was on a mission at that time to the Indians out on the Nevada/California border. On our trip to California we stopped and saw him. When we got to California we took a boat out to Catalina Island and back. We also took a trip to Carlsbad Caverns.
I’m sure once you get started remembering and writing, more ideas will come to you.