Last edition I wrote about my grandparents, and it was one of my favorite columns over the last 20 years.
It evoked from the depths of my memory and heart, the good times of growing up in the 1960s, despite turmoil all over the world. The column also brought me a very unexpected and wonderful gift — a relative of my mémère and pépère Vautrin. Hi Bobby! I have a fair knowledge of the Jolivet side of the family, but not so much on the Vautrin side. I now have a start.
Back to the good memories. As a lad, my friends and I were not confined to our neighborhood when it came time for fun. The whole city of Fall River became a playground for us.
We would go down to the Taunton River, cross the railroad tracks at the bottom of Kennedy (South) Park and throw bricks and stones into the water; walk for miles up the tracks and then miles back; and dodge the river rats that were sometimes as big as small dogs.
There were times we headed down to a factory near Bay Street and play in the piled up boulders that provided us with caves that allowed our imaginations to run free.
There were times playing street hockey until 10 p.m. behind the Fernandes Supermarket in the same area.
We would ice skate, either at South Park, or on an area pond, cutting through the ice until we knew it was time to stop — when our toes were so cold they started to hurt; and we knew what was to come — the itching and burning as the digits thawed back to a normal body temperature. Just one of the hazards of having a good time.
We played cards and board games outside; we played football, basketball, baseball, dodge, Red Rover, you name it, until sunlight was history for that day.
We would get dirty from head to toe; eat snacks without washing our hands (and without mom’s knowledge), drink straight from garden hoses, and at the end of the day (when it wasn’t bath night), we would make a feeble effort at a bird bath to clean up for bed.
And the only phone I remember was the party line phone with the pigtail cord on the wall.
Today, there are at least two generations that have no idea what I would be talking about right now.
Playing outside is unheard of (and frankly, the world is a far more dangerous place to do what we did in strange neighborhoods, or even our own). Middle-age adults and younger ones now have their faces planted in a smart phone, which I feel is a misnomer, at least as far as the phone part goes (is it ever used as a phone?).
Everything is virtual. Conversations are not with voices but with fingers and tiny keyboards. (Although, virtual reality did get us through 2020.)
I feel bad that video games and phone apps have replaced getting dirty and sweaty and exhausted by day’s end.
I wish the generations after me could have the fun I had, and the memories I have.
One of my favorite Blues artists is Ana Popović. Ana is 45 years old, so she’s among the last of us who know what it’s like without electronic gadgets to rule our lives.
In 2018, she wrote and recorded “Virtual Ground.” I share some of that to close out this column.
“Is being in the moment a thing of the past? Is anything real, will anything last? Is anybody out there truly my friend? All they ever do is hit me back again. I just want to talk face-to-face. I’m longing for a life in the real place.
“I think I’m stranded in a no-man’s land. But I got Big Brother in my hand. Oh, it feels like a ball and chain. It’s a full-time job I’ve got to maintain.
“How do I know how people really feel? What is fake, and what is real? If you like me, I like you. If you follow me, I’ll follow you.
“Walk in the sunshine, walk in the moonlight.”
Here’s hoping that today’s generations will find out just what it’s like to walk in the sunshine and walk in the moonlight, without a phone in their hands.