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 July, 2006


 A nostalgic look at my childhood summers

Fields of Dreams Everywhere

By Al Owens
So what, Im nostalgic!
I cant help it. You may get a little nostalgic too, if youll just walk with me for a few sentences.

Everyday after school, when I was old enough, I would disappear. Id find the nearest field or playground and Id go to work. (Work, when you were a child in the 1950s meant productive play) There were no video games, or text messages back then. There were only friends, football, basketball and dirt.

I can clearly remember how in early April anybody over 15 used to rush from their houses to get a burst of early spring sunlight. For those of us 14 and under, those bursts became afternoon and evening long explosions!

Some of my earliest and most pleasurable experiences were of trying to be the first person whod change his clothes and stand waiting on that empty field down on Searight Avenue. Id want to be the first kid ready for a furious game of something or other. I hardly ever was.

It was there that I learned how not to cry when somebody punished you with the brutality of a little defeat. We were just friends. We never seemed to raise our victories beyond that. On Searight Avenue or on East End Playground wed battle for some temporary bragging rights until the street lights came on!

None of this had anything to do with you? Yes it did. Because in those days there were makeshift football fields and basketball courts all over Uniontown. Places just for us. Places where wed learn the virtues of sportsmanship, hard word and hard play. We taught each other games, and then wed play them. Wed play them free of adult supervision unless some parent would just want to relive some of their own youth and join us.

I fondly remember Sam Leos. His two sons, Monty and Keith lived right across the street from that field on Searight Avenue. Monty, Keith and the rest of the neighborhood all-stars would be kicking up dust all evening long until
Mr. Leos got home from work at the phone company.
In the summer hed play rubber, whiffle, baseball or softball with us. When none of those were available, hed fashion a ball out of old socks. After about a half hour it would feel like we were connecting with miniature pillows. But we all still felt like Major Leaguers, anyway.
Mr. Leos would always join us during football season. Hed been a Marine and a Dunbar high school football star. He loved running the ball and he seemed to take pleasure dragging as many neighborhood kids into the end zone as he could! And all of it was the most fun Ive ever had.

All over the East End there were people just like Mr. Leos whod take the time to help make our play clothes dirty enough to gain the notice of our mothers. Yet none of that was dangerous, or wrong. We were just being kids. Doing what kids did. Just playing hard until dark - everyday!

As I seem to recall, there werent many fruit trees in those days that were left unclimbed. No train tracks left un-followed. No wooded areas left unexplored or the subject to our wild imaginations. That was my Uniontown in the 1950s. I could always hear the distant chains at the top of tether ball poles on East End Playground, and it signaled freedom, but with rules.

Mrs. Nancy Jenkins was everybodys cherished mom. She ran the playground, handed out our balls, taught us games, how to sing, negotiated controversies, and had Band-Aids at the ready at all times.

She probably needed a badge of courage everyday. But I never saw her perplexed about anything. Perhaps she could just see the good in all of us so that kept her calm in the face of overwhelming child play!

There is a chance, Ive been told that Grant Street Park could have its named changed. Ive made a few calls. Ive asked a few questions. Ive let Uniontown City Council know that Nancy Jenkins Park has a nice ring. I sure hope the members do too!