When I was a child in the 1940s and 1950s, our neighborhood in San Francisco was noisy with the shouts and cries of the children who lived there. We rode our bikes, we roller-skated, we played dodgeball, and we played jump rope. We raced on foot, on bikes, on scooters, and on skates. We took our skates apart and used the wheels on various invented riding vehicles.
In quieter moments, we sat on stoops and played jacks and pickup sticks. We collected rocks and cracked them open on the sidewalk, always searching for that elusive geode.
We played every sort of game of “pretend” that we could dream up, most memorably something called Covered Wagon, where we used a sturdy wooden gate as a wagon seat for the lucky wagon-driver-of-the-day, while the rest of us hunched down behind him in the “wagon” bed as we traveled west. We took turns playing good guys and bad guys, riding pretend horses and shooting at each other with our cap guns.
|Playing in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, probably around 1947|
We ran, we skipped, we hopped, we jumped, and we turned cartwheels. We fell off our bikes, my sister’s foot got caught in the spokes of my bike when I gave her a highly illegal ride on the back fender, my friend Skippy broke his arm roller-skating, and Trudy’s little brother broke several things when he discovered that he couldn’t fly off a second story porch. It was an exuberant, vigorous, and yes, somewhat dangerous life, at least by today’s standards.
In those days it was just what kids did all day until called in for supper.
|My first bike. This was taken at our house in the Sunset District of San Francisco, at 1323 48th Avenue. We lived just a block from the beach, but we kids weren't allowed to cross the street.|