Picking "Stuff" Up Off The Ground!
More Childhood Memories of Bridgeport, Connecticut
Provided by John Babina
(Edison 1955, Hall 1956, Notre Dame 1961; and Success Park)
Today, kids are inundated with electronic toys and
gadgets that leave little to the young imagination. The sheer volume of stuff
that todays kids get, boggles the mind. These technological wonders are made
possible by cheap microchips, injection molded plastic technology and low cost
off-shore labor. We had to be a lot more creative. This list of things we just
picked up of the ground will bring back great memories . . .
For some reason we used to pull the shiny foil from discarded cigarette packs. We would roll the thin metallic sheets into a big ball of foil. In our day the foil was not stuck to the paper backing. [During the depression my mother did this as a child and took it to the Bridgeport scrap dealers and got a nickel!] Some kids would find a lone cigarette inside and take it into the woods off of Success Ave. and smoke it with friends.
License plate year tag inserts
If you remember, the year tags were stamped metal with the numbers as holes in stenciled format. The metal year tags had bent tabs that inserted into slots in the upper right of the plate. When the year changed the streets would be littered with the dated tags and we would pick them up and clip them onto the spokes of our bikes in fancy patterns.
Picking up a coin on the sidewalk was always exciting. The penny was the big hit for two reasons. If the reverse side was face up with the Grain of Wheat pictorial showing; it was considered good luck. Better yet, if you found a 1943 steel penny you were really lucky. I wished I had saved those now! Steel pennies were minted to save copper for the war effort.
Flat Popsicle sticks
Making Popsicle stick rafts by weaving them together was really cool. Sometimes we would race them if a summer storm had the water running down the gutter in the street.
During kite season (especially on the big field in Success Park) we found a lot of abandoned kite string. We would try and find as much as possible and wind it into a huge ball.
Auto Inner Tubes
Old inner tubes were cut on the radial axis to make giant rubber bands. We stretched them on boards to hold a wooden handle on the end. We then inserted another giant rubber band under the handle and stretched it over the front end and we would shoot each other with them. Good tubes were saved for water sports.
Any wrapper with some free offering or coupon was always a prized discovery. I remember getting collectable postage stamps with candy wrapper coupons.
Shell casings from Memorial Day salutes to the fallen veterans
Whenever they would fire a volley to salute the fallen veterans at the end of the Memorial Day Parade, the large caliber shell casings would fall on the ground. We would scramble to pick them up as trophies and bring them to school the next day. This was usually done near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Seaside Park. Today, if they brought them in, they would shut the school down and haul the kid away!
Picking up seashells on the beaches were always a hit with any generation and the prized shells were whole scallop shells (The Shell Gas logo), snail shells and the larger conches where you could hear the sea when you held it to your ear. We were always intrigued by the washed-up horseshoe crab shells since they represented and ancient species unchanged for millions of years.
Old Golf balls
Finding old cut up golf balls was real neat because we would pull out the rubber band windings and make a larger ball out of it. We also played with the liquid filled inner core since it was something of a precursor to the super ball.
Finding the right can for the game Kick the Can was very important. Remember the chant Olly Olly enfree which actually meant all who are in, are free; probably from the archaic all ye, all ye, in (are) free.
There was a factory in the East End (or was it on Bishop Ave in Stratford?) that made cheap promotional ballpoint pens. We would ride our bikes over there and look through the scrap dumpsters for rejects that were still working pens. A special prize was if you got a pen with green or red ink. Sometimes the lady workers would hand some production units out the window to us.
Some kids claimed they could get scrap records that way at Columbia Records on Barnum Ave., but I never saw that. (Now the Columbia Towers medical building.)
Political Campaign Favors
Remember when the sound trucks came through, pitching for a candidate and they threw Tootsie lollipops, Mary Janes and bubblegum on the ground for the kids?
Picking up cast-off nails from construction sites helped fill the nail jars back home.
Left over roof shingles would be broken up into proper sized pieces we could throw and we called them scalers since they glided on the air. Other scalers for us were old 78 records, flat stones and of course, metal pie tins. Frisbee anyone?
Cast-off carriages provided wheels for our go-carts.
These became our scooters when we split the metal roller sake in two and nailed them to the bottom of a board. This was the precursor to the modern skate board. This homemade orange-crate scooter was popularized by Michael J. Fox in the movie Back to the Future.
Finding a piece of chalk let us put down a Hop Scotch grid on the sidewalk or a stickball strike zone box on the wall of a building. In my era, we used the powerhouse wall at Success Park for stick ball.
An old Broom Handle
A stick ball bat . . . of course!
Golf practice ball
The small plastic practice golf ball found in the field was also used for stick ball. Later I read it was the true precursor of the world famous Wiffle Ball, still manufactured by a family on Bridgeport Ave. in Shelton. They claimed that was how they got the idea when they first offered the golf practice ball and their kids used them for stick ball.
Any scrap lightweight cloth
We used this to make parachutes from the cloth and old washers or nuts were the weights tied to the strings. We would throw them down from tall trees or if we could sneak up on the flat roof of a tall building.
In the future, I will write a paper on what we did with various plants and other vegetation.
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