Back in my day, we knew that returning to school wasn’t far away when the annual lantern parade was held in Fairview Park. School started the day after Labor Day. The parks usually closed in mid-August.
I never carried a lantern. I helped a lot of kids make them; the closest I came was in the early ’60s when I was the Director at Fairview. To say that it was a different time then is a gross understatement. In the ’40s and ’50s, we lived at the parks, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and back again from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every weekday.
There was another yearly event held about the same time…a city “play day,” usually held at “my” park, Hess. All kinds of games and athletics where the winners received awards (free quart of ice cream certificates). Girls and boys hopscotch and Indian Ball were the two “biggies.”
But the real attraction was the vegetable soup at noon. Huge kettles were used on a wood fire; home-grown veggies in large quantities were monitored by senior park personnel – including Russ Foval. It was set up early in the morning slowly cooked and served right on time after “shushing” away frequent questions.
My first year as director at Fairview (’63) was a bit painful. Jerry Menz showed up in a truck carrying long steel rods to be used to form the path of the Lantern Parade. He smilingly told me, it was part of my job to help pound them in. I noticed that he and his helpers had gloves, I didn’t.
I don’t know how many there were, but my hands quickly became blistered, soon broken and really painful. When I resumed my teaching in September, they were still sore! The next year, I kept a pair of leather gloves in my car.
I was also introduced to bondoogle (I think that’s how it’s spelled – it’s not in my Webster’s Dictionary!) It’s a flexible plastic-like string that was a staple for passing the long summer hours when it was just too hot for physical games. With some concentration, bracelets, lanyards, and even rings can be made by anyone, 5 to 50! And, it was cheap. Something like a penny a yard.
My “specialty” was finishing them. When a desirable length of width of reached, you needed to close out by raising the beginning cross-hatch. It sounds simple and it probably was, but it took some skill to do it right.
I was a director for three years – two at Fairview and one at Garfield. The pay, about $1 an hour, supplemented my teaching salary, which could have used a bump - $5,200.
When Mom died, I was going through some boxes. Mom was a bit of a “hoarder.” If something could possibly be used in the future, she kept it. One box was labeled “Joey’s things” Report cards, ball gloves, and a box of baseball trading cards - all Cardinals from the late ’40s to early ’50s.
In the very bottom, I spotted one of my yellow hats. It had faded, was really wrinkled, but inside was a piece of paper with Mom’s flourished writing, Joey’s park hat – 1964. Bless her heart. In another small box were those baseball cards, all Cardinals.