Whether skiing on Steele’s Hill or making homemade lemonade after the ice man cometh, my memories of growing up in Lisbon, a long time ago, make me think what kids today are missing.

It was the best of all worlds. We lived “downtown,” the distance of a block away from Main Street. Downtown, yet in the midst of such magical playgrounds as the sand pit, the trotting park, the big field behind our house where Mr. Goss tethered his cow, and the frog pond down the street that provided pollywogs in the spring and skating in the winter.

It is difficult for me to imagine growing up without White’s Hill to slide on, Steele’s Hill to ski on, and paved streets so devoid of traffic that jump-rope, hop scotch and kick-the-can were safely enjoyed.

It was a place for all seasons; all enjoyed and none dreaded.

Spring highlights ran the gamut from picking mayflowers, hanging May baskets, to damming up the “streams” of water on the sides of the road when the snow melted. What a thrill to be allowed out after supper to play when the time changed and darkness came later! Warm spring days prompted us to roll our long stockings to the ankle, only to be reprimanded: “You will catch your death of cold!”

Between the closing of school and those surprisingly cool and clear days in late August, there were so many long, hot days. Summers were somehow much longer back then.

Kids today cannot imagine life without television, computers and video games. I, on the other hand, wonder how they can grow up without the fun of creeping into the “camp” inside the thick clump of chokecherry bushes to sit on the cool, hard ground to talk, tell secrets and giggle. Imagine never having walked ankle-deep in a rushing, cold brook, then warming your feet hopping from rock to sun-warmed rock.

Opening a can of frozen lemonade lacks luster if compared to helping to squeeze lemons, measure the sugar and chip ice off the block in the icebox to make a big pitcher of lemonade. Having cookies and lemonade in the shade of the big maple tree on the lawn was almost as special as having a nickel to go to the store. What a decision! Would it be a popsicle? An ice cream cone? Five cents worth of candy? Not simple, as there were many things to consider.

Ice cream, for example, required further contemplation. Would it be a regular cone at Smike’s, where there were several flavors, or Breton’s store, where they put the contents of a Dixie cup on a cone? The Dixie cup had pictures of movie stars on the inside of the cover. Twelve of the lids would get you a glossy 8×10 photo of your favorite.

A popsicle on the other hand, may have “Popsicle Free” on one of the sticks in those days. Five cents worth of candy could be quite a bagful. After looking from the outside at the variety in the window showcase at Smike’s, my selection was almost always the same. One pink BB bat sucker, one licorice stick, two squirrel nut twins, three mint juleps, and the piece de resistance, a little wooden pot full of Boston Baked Beans.

Who knew we shouldn’t eat all that candy?

There was a card in our kitchen window to signal the ice man when Mom needed ice. The arrival of his truck in the neighborhood on a hot day called a halt to most games. While he used those huge tongs to flip a block of ice onto his canvas-covered shoulder for his trip to the ice box, we picked small chunks of ice out of the truck. After wiping the sawdust off with our fingers, we sucked the ice and quenched our thirst. There must have been a health hazard involved there. We didn’t know, so we grew up healthy anyway.

Late August was the signal for such exciting events as choosing a new pencil box for school. The fascination was ever new for the cardboard chest with a snap and two little drawers inside. St. Bernadette’s Catholic School welcomed about 75 students every September. All the girls were uniformed in black dresses with white collars and cuffs, long brown stockings and brown lace-up oxfords. New school shoes meant a trip to Lewiston on the trolley car. Oh, the scary thrill when the car went on “Crooked Bridge,” which took the tracks above and across the road!

Collecting colored leaves and pressing them between sheets of waxed paper seemed new every fall. Raking leaves into big piles in which to jump, roll and get buried was merely leading up to the time when Dad and the neighbors would rake and burn the leaves in the gutter by the road. The cool evenings, fragrant with the smell of burning leaves, brought the promise of another season we anticipated with great joy.

Winter! Anticipating the first snow ranked second only to the anticipation of Christmas. My childhood winters in Lisbon surely account for the fact that, to this day, I cannot make myself think of living where I would miss the excitement of winter. I am still thrilled with the first snowfall, the feel and crunching sound of walking on hard-packed snow on a cold, sunny winter day.

The beauty of snow-laden pines and fresh snow glistening in the sunlight always transports me back to Lisbon and the many walks we took with Dad, trudging through the snow in the woods. We were snug in our homemade snow suits, Grammy’s hand-knit mittens and our stylish, black, rubber, buckle-up boots.

How could one not like winter when you could make angels in the snow, build snow forts, dig caves in the piles of snow left by the street plow, slide on a Speedaway sled, ski with bands cut from old innertubes for bindings? I will never understand how Mom managed to dry our snow-caked clothing by morning.

Growing up in such a magical time and place seems responsible for the fact that I find the change of seasons in Maine a strong motivating force for living.

Fleurette Roux Bannon now lives in Springvale and is a retired elementary school teacher. She graduated from Lewiston High School in 1948, and from Gorham State Teachers College in 1952. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Maine in 1969. E-mail [email protected]

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