What Did We Do For Fun?
June 1, 2023
There is a joke about an 85 year old widower who went around banging his head against the brick walls in town. When asked "Why are you doing that?" The widower replied, "Its the only pleasure in life I get." The inquirer responded in disbelief, so the elderly gentleman explained, "The doctors won't let me smoke or drink, and my wife died a few years ago. So I do this instead." The baffled stranger said, "I'm sorry, I really don't understand." The silver haired octogenarian said, "I do it because it feels so good when I stop." My kids have asked me similar questions, and I ain't that old!
As a general rule most of the kids I grew up with didn't drink or smoke cigarettes (much less pot), and unmarried sex was out. So what did we do for fun? I could say we went around banging our heads on a wall. Actually there were a lot of things we did for fun. Kids today have no idea of how much fun you can have without spending a lot of money, or not having a computer or video game in sight.
In summer there was boating, water skiing and swimming at the lakes near Fairbanks. We went on picnics and fishing parties. Year around there were high school groups and organizations that held dances and parties. There was the annual State Fair held near Fairbanks. You could take your girl to dinner and a movie and not spend more than $20 or $30. From spring through fall Bill's A&W Drive-In was open and most of us preferred a good cheeseburger and large swamp to a fancy dinner. A swamp was half root beer and half orange soda. It was called a swamp because it looked like swamp water, but it tasted pretty good.
During the school year there was always something going on. School activities included class plays, speech contests, music and debate competitions, among a variety of other activities, and of course basketball. Monroe High School was the leader in our class, and our trophy cases were filled to overflowing. There were junior and senior proms, Halloween, Christmas and other dances. At my school there was at least one or more dances a month. Classes took turns handling the decorations for the dances and some pretty serious competition developed to see which class could do the best job. Winter sports were a big thing. Some of my classmates were into snow skiing big time. Wolfgang Fischer was Olympic material until he got drafted and ended up in Vietnam. Every winter the school would hold a snow day or two and we would go to one of the local slopes and spend the day cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and s'mores in between sledding and snowball fights. On each snow trip to the mountains and hills around Fairbanks someone would bring a couple of large inner tubes. Ropes were tied on the tube to furnish handholds. The tube was dragged to the top of a slope where a bunch of us foolhardy teens would grab onto the ropes, take a running start, jump on the tube and hold on for dear life as we careened and bounced down the icy slope. Every little dip and bump sent the tube a couple of feet into the air. In summer the tubes were used at lakes. It took a bit of courage (or stupidity) to ride a tube as it is towed across the water by a boat doing 25+ mph. Every wave and ripple in the water would cause the tube and riders to go airborne. As the terrain sloped down to the water we used the tubes to roll down the slope into the water. The tube would be held upright and the rider would climb inside, bracing his hands and feet against the inside of the tube. A good shove and off he would go inside the rolling, bouncing tube. If he could maintain a good grip and not be knocked off, he would make it all the way and take a dunk in the water. We had organized sports and activities like basketball, baseball, YMCA and Boy Scouts. Rarely did we complain about not having anything to do. We could always find something to do, and we did not look to someone else to provide our entertainment. I can't say for sure what the girls did for fun, but when all else failed a bunch of us guys would get together for a bull session. If we had the money, we'd grab some burgers from Bill's Drive-In, go to one of our homes, listen to records and shoot the breeze about everything from cars, girls and music to the state of the world.
Many of us had weekend and after school jobs that took a large part of our time. If all else failed we could always bang our heads against the wall. We were never bored. Imagine that! And without the internet or social media! Our social media was face-to-face and that is a lot more fun. I never liked dancing with a phone or kissing a computer screen.