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Marquette in the good old summertime

July 26, 2012
By JO HURST SCHILS , Special to the Journal

MARQUETTE - As a child I grew up in the 1930s in Marquette and what a wonderful childhood it was. We had no TV, computers, or iPads back then so we used our imaginations to plan many exciting activities.

Summers are relatively short in the Upper Peninsula so as children we took full advantage of every waking moment from the day school got out in June until it started again in September.

I grew up on College Avenue where there were lots of kids and we had great fun together in the safeness of our neighborhood. My brother Don and I resented even taking time out for meals and we stayed outside playing until our Dad turned our porch light on at 8 p.m., the signal for us to head for home.

Article Photos

Growing up in Marquette in the 1930s has provided Jo Hurst Schils with a treasure trove of memories. The pre-World War II era, demonstrate the kinds of activities in which she partook. (Jo Hurst Schils photo)

Since we lived on the shore of beautiful Lake Superior, one of our major summer activities was going to the beach as a family or with friends. My Mom and Dad both had lifesaving certificates and made sure that Don and I learned swimming and water safety at an early age. Often the water was very cold but we didn't know it - we thought that was the way water was supposed to be. As we got a little older we swam out to Picnic Rocks where we dove off of the rocks into crystal clear water. We also swam at "the pool" out at the Island. The water was warmer and there were slides, diving boards, and rafts of various heights and sizes. The huge slide at the west end was scary at first but once we got up the nerve to go down it there was no stopping us.

For several years there were two empty lots across the street from our house on College Avenue. They were filled with sand and shaded by a couple of huge maple trees. We practically lived in those trees, climbing like monkeys from bottom to top and back again. We had an "elevator" where we would stand on one special branch, grab a second one above us, and jump off swinging down to a third. Another spot was the "piano." We sat on one branch and "played" on a second one that was at just the right height. The sand below kept us busy for hours as we made towns and roads for our small cars and trucks. Eventually the lots were sold, houses were built, and we were broken-hearted to lose our favorite play area.

All during our childhood new houses were being built in our neighborhood and we kids loved to play in them as they were being erected. We weren't supposed to, of course - we could get hurt or we could do damage - but we did it just the same. Doing the forbidden only made it more exciting. We made friends with many of the workers and probably drove them crazy asking what they were doing and why, but they were very patient and seemed to enjoy kidding with us. The minute they quit work at the end of the day we crawled into the houses. We could usually find a basement window that they had forgotten to lock and we would sneak in and spend hours playing inside. I seem to remember that we broke a couple of windows and we probably left fingerprints on newly plastered walls but I don't think we did any major damage.

My girlfriends and I loved playing with dolls. During the winter we had to play with them indoors but in the summer we used wood and blocks to outline the shape of rooms of a house in the backyard and played all day long taking care of our dolls as good little mothers should.

Even though I loved dolls, I was quite a tomboy and often played cowboys and Indians with the neighborhood boys. We also scavenged for bugs, snakes, and creepy crawlers. The woods just west of us was a wonderful place to roam and we knew where lady slippers and Indian peace pipes grew and we would never tell anyone about them because they were our secret places. We loved the 'pollywog pond' we found in the woods. We often fell in trying to catch frogs and we hauled home uncountable jars of frog eggs in dirty pond water.

We had many other activities we enjoyed with friends. We roller-bladed and played hopscotch. We walked on stilts, played marbles, threw horseshoes, flew kites, and played baseball - arguing over almost every play. We rode bikes and hauled everything imaginable in our wagons. And sometimes we quietly sat, watching the cloud formations, and thinking about "things."

Our next door neighbors, the Ferns, had an old fishing camp in Big Bay. Our family used to spend a few days with them on occasion and Don and I joined Bob and Bill playing in the water on the many downed logs that littered the bay. We scrambled over the tangled logs knowing that if we slipped off we would sink 60 zillion feet into the muck. We fell off anyway and loved getting totally sunk in the water. Turtles sunned themselves on some of the logs and as we tried to creep up on them they would drop in sequence into the water when we got too near. One day I noticed a strange creature on my foot. It wasn't until Mom told me that it was a blood sucker that I started to scream.

At the end of the summer our family always took a trip to lower Michigan and Tennessee to visit relatives. By the time we got back to Marquette it was time for school to start. We moaned and groaned about it, but if the truth were known, we really didn't mind. We looked forward to seeing all of our classmates again and talking over the wonderful summer we had had in Marquette.



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