Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

August 20, 2013

John Cannon: Born too soon to party: 8/21/13

ASHLAND — When I was a kid, I never had a birthday party. It was not because my mother was opposed to throwing birthday parties for her children. All three of my sisters had birthday parties, although they were all limited to only one party per lifetime.

As Mom explained it to me, my problem was I was a “summer baby,” and it was really not practical for  children born in June, July or August to have a birthday party, because if we did, few if any of my school friends would come to it, and other than a couple of kids at church who attended a different elementary school, just about the only friends I had were the ones I played with at school.

As someone with an August birthday, by the time my birthday arrived I had not seen my school friends since school let out for the summer in May except for at the county fair and at camp. Just about all the kids at Bloomingburg School in Fayette County, Ohio, spent the first few days of school each September renewing old friendships.

This was particularly true for the farm kids, of which I was one. Our “neighbors” on the farm lived one or two miles from us. The only school friend I saw during the summer was my best friend Larry Mongold, who grew up to become police chief of Washington Court House, Ohio. Larry lived about two miles away, and every now and then Mom would let me walk to Larry’s to play. Either that or Larry would come to my house. If we saw each other once a week, we were lucky.

The “town kids” in Bloomingburg, (pop. 700), may have had birthday parties in the summer because they could invite the other town kids to them, but for the farm kids Mom insisted no one would drive a kid all the way out to our farm just to attend a silly birthday party.

I now realize I never had a birthday party not because I was a “summer baby,” not because I was born too soon. Kids today with the same birthday I have can have birthday parties without fear because my birthday now falls after the start of the school year. That certainly was not the case when I was a kid. Back then, we always knew the school year began on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and always ended on the day before Memorial Day. Of course in those ancient times. Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day” and was, as I remember it, on May 30.

That was always my favorite holiday because it marked the first day of summer vacation and the old soldiers marched in a parade through downtown Bloomingburg  to the cemetery accompanied by the Bloomingburg High School band. Of course, I spent most of my summer helping my dad on the farm, which meant summer was not really much of a vacation. By the time Labor Day arrived, I was tired of all the farm work and looking forward to the start of school.

I wasn’t too disappointed by not having a birthday party because parties were not that big of a deal then.

We somehow managed to squeeze in the same number of school days between the first of September and the end of May as kids do over a much longer period today. Of course, I never heard of “spring break” before I went to college, and with the exception of two days at Thanksgiving, a couple of weeks at Christmas, Washington’s birthday and Good Friday, the only “holidays” we had from school were a few “snow days” and we always managed to make them up. Because the county had good snow-moving equipment and all the roads were paved even back in the 1950s, we rarely missed days for snow.

Of course even farm kids see each other more often than they did in my day. They just get on Skype or Facebook or tweet each other. I would say I envy today’s kids, but since I rarely check my Facebook page and only Skype my friend, George, in Montana about once a year, I don’t really use these new methods of communication.

But kids do. The other day my 17-year-old granddaughter texted me I did not need to pick her up a school. That was an important message, but since I had no idea how to find her text message, it was useless for me. She sometimes forgets  Peepaw is still living in the 20th century.

Even though the computer had yet to be invented, we had a seven-party telephone line and we received only three television stations and they were all in black and white, I don’t believe I was the least bit deprived as a kid. Because my sisters and I lived so far in the country and there often was not anything good to watch on TV, we played a lot of games. I learned to count by playing cards, but I had to be corrected when I said “9, 10, jack, queen, king and ace.” 

Some Baptists may be shocked to learn Mom and Dad taught us how to play cards. What can I say? We were Presbyterians.

I only regret medical science had yet to invent “tubes in the ear” when I was a toddler. As someone who suffered from chronic ear problems, I think my childhood would have been much better if I had had tubes in my ear.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at (606) 326-2649.

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