(Photo: Michael Manning)
My Summer Reading List
While not a particularly voracious reader, my favorite books tend to be memoirs and biographies. People have always fascinated me, and I've always enjoyed learning new things from a variety of other viewpoints and shared experiences. As a college student, I majored in Psychology, and to this day I'm fascinated with what motivates people to pursue their dreams. Most all of my high school teachers had summer reading lists. Pictured above are some of the books I've removed from my library shelf at home to read this summer, as well. Growing up, I was surrounded by great friends and neighbors. I was lucky.
-Among my fondest recollections of growing up in the Mid-West, I always enjoyed the elderly neighbors who lived on my street. They amazed me with their knowledge, gained through many years of experience. Asking them to share some of that knowledge was always accepted as the compliment it was, and fortunately for me, I soaked in so many of these stories like a sponge. These gems served me well by giving me new ideas for a variety of purposes: school assignments, athletics, and problem-solving to cite but a few. I was a gregarious kid, and still retain a sense of humor and a healthy curiosity today as an adult. I often describe the neighborhood I grew up in as very similar to the television comedy series "That 70's Show". I have many good memories of those days.
One elderly man on my street sadly became a widower, and he commuted to work by bus from the suburbs to his office downtown, where he worked as a jeweler. He was short in stature with a hunched back. But from his strong brisk walk, it wasn't difficult to tell that he was probably a determined athlete in his youth. My best friend and I would meet this neighbor at the top of our street, when the Trailways bus would drop off passengers at 6 p.m. like clockwork. Sitting on our bicycles, we would slowly push ourselves along coasting slowly behind him, talking with him as he walked. He was always happy to see us, and when he would disembark from the bus and see us waiting across the roadway, he'd wave and smile.
We felt badly about him losing his wife, and at dusk on summer nights, we would pull our bicycles into his driveway whenever we saw him seated on his small front porch listening to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game broadcast on his AM radio. He would often treat us to ice cream cones, and after a long visit, we'd pedal our bicycles back home.
The Trailways bus that traveled down a simple two lane highway near my parent's home was funded by a federal subsidy. When the Feds pulled the funding in the early 1970's, my best friend and I watched the last 1950's era bus pull away from the curb with a puff of diesel smoke. Just the same, that bus represented an adventure for we kids to travel downtown with one of our parents for a "getaway". We were on tight budgets, so a dollar had to be stretched like taffy--so to speak. This was a far easier task back then, with the smaller independent toy shops downtown that managed to have a thriving business with loyal customers. It's a far cry from the lackluster WalMarts and non-descript department stores of today--most of them amalgamations of smaller stores of my youth that could no longer compete as independents. The giant department stores of today pale in comparison to the personable service and marketing displays that appealed to our young imaginations inside the independent retail stores. It's ironic that I recall the old Trailways bus, as Continental Trailways was itself purchased by Greyhound Bus Lines in 1987. Virtually every business today is a by-product of massive consolidation, with the goal of controling market share.
-Of course, none of these considerations were apparent to we kids at the ages of 7 or 8. To coin a phrase that has often become cliche', "it was a simpler, more innocent time". It's impossible for me to imagine parents today paying a fifty-cent one-way bus ticket to travel into any downtown area in the United States to avoid using their car. Remembering those summers so long ago brings back the sense of simpler joys and excitement. While perhaps not on the same scale as watching a television episode of "The Brady Bunch" boarding a United Airlines flight for a family vacation to Hawaii, I'll gladly keep my Mid-West memories. For now, I'm catching up on some memoirs and biographies of some fascinating people who have influenced a part of American culture. Thankfully, some things never change.