132 Comments
Jun 8Liked by John Canzano

Our childhoods had more simplicity 40-50 years ago. We had to have more creativity in finding things to do. And we weren’t influenced by a 24-hour news cycle. There was something endearing about those days. Maybe it’s best to unplug, at times.

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I do not remember being nearly as busy. Also remember having nothing “on demand” except my Nerf football.

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This right here 👆🏻

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Had totally forgotten about "dirt clod fights"! Two thoughts, 1)amazing nobody got hurt, 2) why were so many dirt clods just laying around that you had unlimited ammo at your feet?

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Very good questions

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It was pre OSHA

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Lots of clay soil that turned to brick when dried in the summer sun...I think it was taboo and foul play to aim for the head.

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Code.

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Also, metal trash can lids to protect, from those dirt clods and joy of watching a big one disintegrate upon impact.

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"It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye!!"

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I thought that was from running with scissors

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In my family at least, it was a universal threat for anything we kids were having fun doing.

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founding

one of the best questions I have seen this year.

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author

No doubt

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As I recall, people sometimes did get hurt in clod (and rock) fights.

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I did

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founding

I believe dirt clods came from vacant lots and moved earth from new home construction, at least around the south hill in Spokane circa 1982-1988

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I was in my dirt clod throwing prime in 1965. A lot of new construction in the foothills southeast of Seattle so your theory still holds.

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Jun 8Liked by John Canzano

"They simply unlocked the sliding door that went to our backyard and pointed toward the world." Sounds like great parents to me! Growing up in Bozeman MT, (a great place to be from in the late 60s and now a great place to be) I'd leave for swimming lessons at 9 am in the summer and maybe make it back home for dinner. Wiffle ball in the front yard with a fir tree as second base and the first step on the porch for 3rd, the size of the field was secondary to playing the game. Snowball fights in the winter, a ski hill just 20 minutes away and MSU just up the street. Small town America beats the pants off a failed metro like Portland.

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Jun 8·edited Jun 8

Was totally with you (having spent a number of summers in Belgrade, MT at my grandparents) until you end on the "failed metro like Portland" cliche. I see lots of kids playing and joy happening in Portland. And lots more diversity in the kids who are out playing. IMHO Portland is doing fine -- short of being a political punching bag these days.

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"Portland is doing fine." OK.

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Belgrade is now a “cool little town” having Grown up from just a cowboy bar to a more affordable neighborhood than Bozeman. I loved Portland for 4 decades after leaving the UO but one has to be willfully blind to not see how its leadership has failed to keep it the jewel it used to be.

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Jun 8·edited Jun 9

Don't disagree that Portland has its problems, but really not that much different than many urban areas. But I too am troubled by the politics surrounding it all and making it difficult to deal with those issues sensibly. And yes, loved Belgrade! My grandfather ran a small bank there. One Saturday morning he let me carry $5000 in a classic white bank bag printed with $$$ in black letters into his finned Cadillac for a short drive down to the Gallatin Valley horse racing track -- cash for their betting operation. No guards, no armored truck, just grandpa and his 6 year old grandson with a big bag of money. That was Belgrade back in the day -- yes much much simpler times.

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Hilarious and true! Could a white bag with black dollar signs printed on it have been any more obvious? But a 6 year old had no problems carrying it. Those times will probably never reoccur. But I for one would love to see at least a part of it come back.

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You both are ringing some bells for me, talking about Belgrade. That's the last town I lived in before the family moved to Eugene in 1963. My dad was the school principal.

I remember lots of time on the town "ice rinks" (vacant lots flooded by the town), skating there for hours under the corner street light. This was all way before the freeway linking the town to Bozeman - I remember some white knuckle rides to Bozeman on the two-lane ice/snow for church, groceries, medical care, etc. Attending an occasional MSU basketball game in the new dome was a big deal. But mostly, Belgrade high school sports - go Panthers!

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The Fieldhouse at MSU was magical to a kid. Indoor track meets, basketball games, rodeos, football practice--it had it all.

Then there were the ice rinks. We'd skate till they kicked us out at night. If we were lucky (and sneaky) we could grab a bumper of a parent who had just picked up his kid and catch a free slide home or as far as we could go--all without the driver knowing of course. Only in Montana.

Jerry Stubblefield (who founded Avia shoes and later moved to the island at Lake Oswego) was the head track coach of the MSU Bobcats at the time. When I was a high school senior, he let me pole vault with his vaulters all winter in the Fieldhouse. By spring, with snow still on the ground in many places, I was ready to go. Great memories.

I wonder how many other Canzano readers have a connection of some kind to Bozeman, Missoula, Belgrade, Big Sky or any number of other Montana places?

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Jun 8·edited Jun 9

Whoa Lee, I was in Belgrade in the early 60's over Christmas holidays and I skated in a couple of those vacant lot ice rinks. What a thrill. Remember the dome at MSU as well as my dad was a starting guard for the Grizzles in the early 50's, and he took me to a game once in Bozeman. Imagine your principal dad knew my grandpa -- his name was Mack T. Anderson and he was President of the Belgrade State Bank. Small world! Thanks again John C. -- your column has made an unexpected couple of connections here! :) (and my family lived in Gresham and to avoid the icy roads we used to take the Northern Pacific 'slow train' to Belgrade -- arriving around midnight if memory serves).

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Dig a little deeper than kids playing sports outside.

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I had a similar life in Missoula until age 16 (in 1973) when we moved to Oregon.

Our summer days started with swim camp at the University of Montana and ended up pretty much where our bikes could take us.

I was also a Hellgate Knight for a few years.

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Nature! I learned to swim in a beaver dam pond. My mother was from Wibaux as her father was a black smith. That country attitude came with them to Oregon, for which I am eternally grateful.

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Life is better with a Bald Faced Truth subscription.

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author

Thanks to all who are here for it.

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founding

AMEN!!

Well said Logdawg!!!

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author

Thanks Kent

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So true!

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Jun 8Liked by John Canzano

I am of the belief that it is the requirement for constant AC that changed society. I saw this in a microcosm when I was deployed in Ar Ramadi, Iraq in 04-05.

Initially the Marines took over a base the Army Airborne held temporarily, Saddams old palace grounds in Ramadi. But the chaos was too much and a larger unit of Marines took it over. Our electricity initially was at the mercy of the electrodam on the Euphrates that ran all of Ramadi,and run by the civilians. However the corrupt police would claim the Mujahideen took it over, shut off our power, and claim only paying wads of US dollars would get them out. So the US would bargain with them, taking a week or more to do so and in the end paying tens of thousands of dollars to turn it back on. We did have a generator with two train diesel engines which could light a small city, but the wires and transformer were blown out when a year prior a JDAM missile hit one's of the buildings in search of Uday Hussain. So we were at the mercy of this police force.

They would shut down the electrodam always on really hot weeks. It would be 124 degrees during the day, and a balmy 108 at night... Meaning everything you touched was 108, bed, pillow, etc. It was pure misery. However, everyone knew where they were,a combat zone and everyone acted accordingly.

Then me and three electricians for three nonstop days with no sleep, eating while working, put in the transformer and splicing countless high voltage wires by hand, to get us off the power grid. (the base was MC Headquarters and to do this the entire base went dark, effectively cutting off command from all Marines in Iraq, which could be a serious problem if a large offensive occurred).

We had electricity again, all the electricity we wanted once those train engines started.

However another oddity occurred. Almost overnight, it's like everyone on the base forgot we were in a combat zone. People were out taking pictures all around the base like it was sightseeing in Disneyland, even though we were mortared and rocketed 9-10 times a day. People clogged the roads, where QRF (Quick Reaction Force) or ambulances needed to fly down if there was a need for Marines in combat outside the 14 foot concrete walls. We'd yell at people to get out of the way or stop dangerously congregating in areas, but they would look at us like we were crazy. As time went on, and we pacified the dangers out in Ramadi, people only became even more complacent. It was mind boggling.

I think constant AC has given us a complete detach from nature and reality. If there is any reminder of God, it is when the weather is miserable and the only thing to do is bear with it,because we lack control. AC gave us the falsehood that we can play God, and do what is best for our individual climate.

Central Air Conditioning is where we went all wrong.

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founding

Another deeply insightful comment JHC! Your depth of thinking and intelligence is much appreciated in this forum. Especially by those who tend to stay to close to the surface on a day-to-day basis!!! I am personally very glad to have tribe members like yourself as a part of this forum!

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Jun 8Liked by John Canzano

The perspective of age shapes what the past and present appear as

I, for one, find the “good old days” mostly were and that the present has jewels of it’s own

Baby goats are a trip!

Be blessed one and all

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Jun 8Liked by John Canzano

Love reading your articles, John, especially when it hits the nostalgia heart. Growing up in Tillamook back in the 70s and 80s, for me, was awesome. Lots of country to roam, neighborhood pickup games of wiffle ball and football games, bike rides to nowhere and everywhere with buddies and many hours driving up in the hills to find a creek to fish in. Yes I miss those days. Thank you again John for bringing back some great memories.

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Appreciate you Chris

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GRRREAT read John👏👏👏👏👏

At 68 I had the childhood you & your subscriber had. Homemade slip & slides😂, building forts, riding bikes forever, pick up kick ball games is somebody’s yard, 4 square on the driveway with chalk for the lines and home by 6 for dinner; asking the neighbors what time is it? Annnd ALWAYS referring to our friends’ parents as Mr. & Mrs.

Thanks for the wonderful memories John!

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Thank you for this

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Jun 8Liked by John Canzano

I enjoyed my rural childhood which came before technological “marvels” when a 7-shaped tree stick was a cowboy gun, and the brain’s imagination was the only game software. On crappy weather days, reading a book…Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Old Yeller…not only relieved boredom, but fueled the life skill of reading and comprehension. On good weather days, physical exercise with a small group of available friends who somehow learned another life skill – how to compromise.

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Beautiful stuff, John.

Because we are in the bread basket of the world in Yolo County, Sacramento Valley, we'd have tomato fights after the fields on the edge of town had been harvested. I don't know if it was more fun to splatter an older sister or to get splattered by your older brother.

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Tomato fights!!!

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founding

Too funny Bob!!!

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Haha! Man, that's funny Bob!

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LOVE this John! First, happy birthday to Zia!! I hope you post a pic of her with the goats, I mean who doesn’t smile at cute little jumping 🐐 goats.

Yes, to me life was simpler without all the electronic gadgets, social media and 24 hour news cycle, as David G mentioned. I grew up in Pacifica, south of SF, in the late 60/70’s. We had a pine tree in the yard that we climbed to reach the roof of the garage, complete with pitchy hands. My friends and I rode bikes to the pier (built in 73) and would walk it to see what the fishermen were catching. In the summer, if we were lucky enough to see the sun, we’d walk behind the local grocery store and find cardboard boxes that we’d break down and slide/ride down the hill that was covered in dried up weeds. And also find patches of what we called ‘sour grass’, chew on the stems for the sour taste…rumor was it was sour because dogs peed on it! In my mind, we were free to do those things without our parents because they weren’t worried about a kid getting snatched. Heck, my parents put me on the greyhound bus in SF, by myself, that I’d ride to Santa Rosa to visit my grandparents. That is not something I would have done when my daughter was 10 in 1993.

In closing, enjoy the simplicity of a group of little girls having fun with four goats!

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The goats… smh 😂

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Childhood is different no matter where you grow up. I grew up on a 160 acre farm in Southern Idaho. Miles to any farms with kids my age. I had a one speed bike and made the trek sometimes. Mostly I spent my time beginning at age 7 on a tractor or other farm work. Some years we were poor and others we did alright. Depended on the crop and beef prices and of course the weather. We did have a swimming pool about 5 miles away and if you could get our neighbor Josie to give up the party line, my friend or my cousins would rendezvous there for some fun before it closed at 10. I had a BB hoop (it was only 9’ 6” but it worked). Yes, playing Baseball and football alone is universal. Thanks for reviving my memories. I am 72 and they had been fading.

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Party line!!!!

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Party line is Something your kids cannot even imagine with the proliferation of cell phones. Our ring was 2 short rings to alert us when the call was meant for us. Josie was one long and my Aunt and Uncle was one long and one short. Josie would answer for you if you did not get there quick enough!! By the way you can include my Idaho Vandals as part of the PNW coverage. Also grudgingly even the BSU Broncos who in 2026 play Notre Dame in South Bend.

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Was a real innovation when the dial telephone came into practice. Little towns we lived in your number was only 3 digits as opposed to my aunt living in Vancouver OX 3-8376 or Grandparents in Tigard ME 9-1904. Anyone remember what the prefixes stood for?

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AL = Alpine, OL = Olive, CA = Capital, PR = Prospect..to name a few….I was a long distance operator for Ma Bell, in the early 70’s.. both my mom & father in law were long time Ma Bell employees !

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Dad wouldn't swing for the Slip-and-Slide, so we scrouged up a collection of old shower curtains and landscape black plastic combined with the oscillating lawn sprinkler and laid it out in the backyard where it sloped down towards the neighbor's fence. Still in the top 5 of the most joyous things I've ever experienced. Dad even joined in with a big smile on his face -- even though his 190 lbs of momentum carried him into the neighbor's fence and busted out a couple of the boards. He just laughed and fixed it up before the neighbor knew. Simpler, joyous times. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

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You and I were right there!

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Yes, seems we were. We fashioned ours together with youthful eastside ingenuity in Gresham. Dad was a depression-era kid, so if you could make it yourself, then no need to buy it. Didn't fully then, but now appreciate and embrace that simple lesson in economy.

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We used giant nails as stakes in the ground. Proved to be dangerous. Scrapped that and held the ends down with bricks.

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nice touch, and get the danger part. but then we did lots of dangerous things as kids back in the day -- remember lawn jarts? loved those -- never speared anyone thank god.

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We purchased 2 acres in SW Portland as the oldest was entering kindergarten. The land was worth more than the very modest house on the lot so did not conform for getting lending. Sunk all our available cash into assuming the VA loan. When the youngest was 3rd or 4th grade, I was outside seeing to an acre of lawn surrounding our modest little kelly green house with a by now upgraded kitchen and bath. He was aware of how other homes on smaller lots looked. He said to me "Are we rich or are we poor?" I don't remember if this was before or after his good friend, Robby, and he had constructed their own par three course around the house. Or buried Ninja turtles over by the monkey bars and horizontal bars. Or also used visqueen to make the summer slip and slide.

I explained that people pick and choose what is important to them (one friend had a pool that dominated their backyard)and spend their money accordingly. For me, I would say we were pretty rich. But cannot remember if this is before or after Robby hooked a shot into the 8 foot slider door. No damage done. Children are our riches.

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author

Thanks for this

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Life was simple, or appeared so in my youth. Friends, neighbors, teachers kept an eye but provided freedom to explore the world and grow. Great time and place (hometown) to live ❤️. Excellent article!

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Thanks Judy

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1. Over-the-line at park.

2. Tree house.

3. Hoses on a hot day.

4. Shooting at birds with Wham-o slingshot.

5. Riding bikes...anywhere.

6. Reading comic books at Thrifty Drug.

7. Walt Disney at 6 on Sunday.

8. Every adult was my parent.

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Over the line... felt to me like it was more of a Southern California game. Am I right? Friends who grew up in San Diego played it and introduced me to it as a Nor Cal kid. Had never heard of it until college.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

We played a game called ‘curb ball’ using red ball you normally see in kickball. Need a street with high curbs, which our neighborhood had. Throw ball opposite you to hit curb so ball back as high as possible. Catch it with no bounces and it’s an out. 1 bounce single, 2 double, 3 triple, 4 home run. 3 outs, next player comes to challenge. Hours of fun. Then when sun went down, we’d play ‘spotlight’ which is hide & seek tag in the dark using flashlight. Yes, childhood was simple and so much fun.

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