In the summer of 1975, my life was perfect. I was 12. While starting 7th grade in the fall loomed large, how to make the most of those long summer days was really all I had to worry about. Because of where Grand Rapids, Michigan sits in the eastern time zone, the seemingly never setting sun meant we could play sandlot baseball well past 9PM. Many a game was decided, oft times under protest, by an inside-the-park-home run hit as the 10PM hour closed in and we could not find the ball.
When the streetlights came on, that meant we had to head home. We bonded over not seeing them
My pal Fred Race and I would get there as early as we could. On the blistering hot days, Fred and I would wear cut-off blue jeans so we could splash in the 18” deep, perfectly square cement wading pool. After our pool was drained each day at 5PM, it became a kickball stadium. Our biggest issue then was how to deal with the temporary exodus of kids going home for dinner.
Together, we invented the notion of ghost-runners, to keep play going
Some nights, when there were enough kids, we played Capture the Flag. It was complete pandemonium as we made our way back to the grilling pit with our opponents’ flag. The team that won was typically the team that best used the hundred-year-old oak trees that filled the park. Nobody really cared who won. It really was just about playing the game. Together.
Everyone was on a team. Everyone played the game. Together
We were a rag-tag group of kids from the neighborhood around Mulick Park and we had not a care in the world. Check that. Our only care was to get to the park and spend time together. I guess, come to think of it, we were a gang – girls, boys, short, tall, skinny, husky (me), black and white kids – having an informal and usually close social relations (Merriam-Webster).
Our gang was beautiful, and we loved each other
[Photo: me and the gang at the grill pit in Mulick Park, summer 1975]