Being Young Back Then


When I was growing up there was plenty to keep us busy even though we had no Camp Fire or Girl Scout groups, but there were Boy Scouts.

The neighborhood was full of young people and children. In the evenings we played Hide-and-Seek, and one of my favorite games was when the leader cried, "Stop!" and we froze in whatever position we were in. I think we called it "statue". And I can remember the hundreds of bugs flying around the arc lights at the street corners, dropping down on the ground and on us when they got too near the light. We had wagons and roller skates. The thrill of my young life was when one of the boys, Stephen Mills, kissed me when we were rolling down the sidewalk in my wagon on Vine Street.

One thing I loved to do - roller skate! Vine Street sloped down toward Greenough Bridge and you could just whiz down. Everyone skated. In the winter we ice skated. A big open field across the river on Higgins Avenue would be flooded and benches would be placed around the rink. There was always a bon fire where you could thaw out every so often.

And of course we all had sleds. Dad bought me a huge Flexible Flier, I think was the name. One could climb Mt. Jumbo behind the Prescott School and slide down hill, through the school yard at least two blocks long, and across the street down a sloping street to Van Buren Street, the end of our trolley car line. There were no cars then to worry about. We also slid down Vine Street.

The children in the city miss so much.

Dad built me a playhouse, which had an upstairs we could climb into. Everyone in the neighborhood loved to play house in it. Even though I didn't like my oak table and chairs Dad made me, they were used in the playhouse. When I was in school the playhouse was sold to the family who lived next to the Prescott school and became a chicken house.

We had clubs. -I suppose now they might be called gangs. Our favorite activity in the club was playing school, the most aggressive girl acting as teacher. This was usually Dolly Wise, daughter of the owner of a grocery store on the corner of Poplar Street and Van Buren. She always had a stick or a ruler to slap our hands when she wanted to. I was allowed to play with Dolly but never, never to have anything to do with her brother, who ended up being arrested later on.

All the neighborhood kids belonged to a Temperance Club, formed by a retired missionary who lived on our street. We sang songs, were told stories of what happened to people who drank, and signed statements saying we would never take a drink. None of us enjoyed the meetings but no one wanted to be left out so we kept going, and we had refreshments. Mrs. Scott, in whose home we met, had 8 or 10 children, and the smallest ones always had wet pants. At dinnertime she would stand at her front door and call each by name, always from the oldest to the youngest. I hate to say it, but we loved to mimic her.

Another activity was a declamation contest, which I hated but would have died, rather than not be included. We were trained by a Mrs. McAlister to recite poems before a community meeting in the Prescott School. I never won. We all idolized the son of the Episcopal minister, Paul Maclean*, who won the state contest by reciting "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes.**

During the First World War my home was the gathering place in the evening for my friends. I bought all the popular music I could afford, "Tipperrary", "How 'ya Gonna Keep'em Down on the Farm (after they've Seen Paree)", "I'll Be With You When The Clouds Roll By", "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and all the rest. I played and they sang. When we left Missoula Dad told me to get rid of all that kind of music but I slipped them into volumes of Beethoven and Mozart and still have them. It wasn't that he disapproved of the music but was trying to limit the pounds.

1988/89 Life Story Class
* His brother, Norman Maclean, has written a book "A River Runs Through It", about Missoula and a movie has been made of it. (Note from 1992,)


**The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes