Could My Childhood Survive in Today’s World?

When I was pretty young, I was rummaging around in our barn and found a pair of old wooden skiis.  I goaded my parents into buying me a pair of ski boots and ski polls and headed for the nearest hill.  It was a hill upon which I also used to go sledding.  In the summer it was a pasture for grazing cows.  Sadly, they are gone today.  Anyway, I pretty much taught myself to ski on that small slope and graduated to a larger hill in a different part of town that had a rope lift on it.  My skiing career was launched.

Behind our house there were several large pine trees which I used to climb and eventually built a tree house and towards the top of the tree another ledge.  I used to climb it all the time and look off into the distance at a nearby city and marveled at how far I could see.  The summer also found me riding my bicycle, going to the swimming pond and fishing at the local lake.  Also, every summer my father had a portion of our field plowed and made it into a vegetable garden.  I loved helping him with it.

One day, right after a winter storm, a boy who lived next door told me we could earn a quarter if we went and shoveled a neighbor lady’s  driveway.  I was astonish because such tasks were always done without compensation at my house.  Such non-compensated duties extended to lawn mowing and leaf raking, both of which I did, and actually enjoyed.  To this day I enjoy such activity.  But as with the snow shoveling, I learned that I could grow a bit of a business around the neighborhood by mowing lawns and raking leaves.

Some years later, I expanded my money making to delivering the local newspaper, a six day a week operation that cost each customer the enormous sum of 42 cents a week.  Most people would give me 50 cents and tell me to keep the change.  It was great!  I never ran out of candy bars or Dairy Queen milk shakes.  There was a Dairy Queen along my route.

Once I entered high school, things changed, though not greatly.  Most Friday and Saturdays nights there was a dance held either at a local community center or the high school.  Of course, this was before CDs so the music came via records.  Everyone went to the high school football games in the fall, basketball games in the winter, and a smaller subset to the baseball games in the spring.

Television was not a big part  of our lives because daytime tv was mostly soap operas and games shows.  We did watch evening tv.  The exception to afternoon tv were the Mickey Mouse Club and American Bandstand.

We boys seemed to know everything about cars including how to fix them.  Many of us got jobs working in service stations when all gas was pumped by the service station attendant.

When I was a kid the big  threat by my parents was being sent to my room. I think today’s threat is being sent outside.


Rails to Trails Conservancy

On October 2, 1968, the US Congress passed the “National Trails Act.”  Then on January 1, 1976, the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act under which the “Rails to Trails” program was inaugurated.  From there the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a not for profit organization, was founded and has actively worked to transform over 9000 miles of abandoned railroad right-of-way to trails which the public can use for both commuter transportation and recreation.  Today, there are more than 1,600 preserved pathways that form the backbone of a growing trail system that spans communities, regions, states and, indeed, the entire country. (

In my own state, Massachusetts, I regularly use the Minuteman Bikeway, an 11 mile route which extends from Cambridge to Bedford via Arlington and Lexington.  There is also a 2nd spur, not part of the Minuteman, which extends from Cambridge to Somerville, approximately 2 miles.  Both these paths are heavily used.  During the winter months Cambridge, Arlington, Lexington and Bedford plow the path following snowstorms.  The Cambridge to Arlington portion is particularly heavily used by commuters who take the subway to its end in Cambridge and then walk the route to their homes in Arlington.  This trail is over 20 years old and its heavy use to testament to the vision the Rails to Trails Conservancy has.

The building of such a trail requires a local and state commitment to construct such a path on an abandoned railroad right-of-way.  Although there is a funding requirement from the state, the federal government provides the majority of the funding under the Rail Revitalization Act.  To be certain, this is a very simplified version of what must be done however I point to it as being eminently doable with a reasonable level of backing from state and local authorities.

To my dismay, Massachusetts has not done very much with its hundreds of miles of available rail lines while other states, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, to name a few, are very actively extending their system of paths.  The value of these paths is obvious to even the casual observer.  I write the recommending that any who read this actively support the building of new trails in their own states.  The following link will take you to the Rail to Trails Conservancy.