A Journey Through My Childhood: A Personal Narrative

Our family of origin – the family we grow up in – shaped our values, set our moral compass, nurtured us mentally and emotionally and provided for our basic needs. Recently, I have been asked by several to talk about my childhood. I dedicate this blog to all baby boomers.

One asked, “Pastor, what good things do you remember about your growing up years.” I was intrigued by the question, because often it’s all too easy to remember the bad and minimize the good.

Actually, I appreciated the question because it forced me to take a trip down memory lane beginning in 1961 and pull out those memories that still feed into the “collective me.” I would like to share several highlights:

My first day of kindergarten was traumatic for me and I remember crying. I also wet my pants! Mrs. Baber knelt down beside me and told me what a good, strong boy I was and protected my dignity. Her kind, supportive words literally paved the way for a successful educational career at Jefferson Area Local Schools. I fell in love with school that very day!

I’m the middle of seven children and though my dad was a harsh disciplinarian and at times unreasonable in his punitive approach, I still remember that a sense of security pervaded our home. I never heard the word “divorce” used by either parent. Whatever difficulties existed would not be grounds for a broken home. How I thank God for this!

Raising seven children during the 1960’s was no easy task, financially speaking. However, all seven of us were provided for beautifully. We were well-dressed, well-fed and lived in a comfortable home. Although when I drive past my boyhood home, I wonder how nine of us lived in that “not so big” house!

Time and finances were a commodity, but my parents still did their best to give us “extras.” Little League baseball, school plays and clubs, Falcon football and basketball, 4-H, church activities, camp etc. served to develop us socially and highlighted our individual strengths.

Extended family was important to my parents. They felt it important that we grow up alongside a large brood of cousins, aunts and uncles! Thanksgiving and Christmas found us enjoying meals and fun with extended family members. My parents went overboard at Christmas, making sure that each of us kids had a boatload of gifts. I know their sacrifice was great. Summers provided fun opportunities for us to gather on the Loomis side for annual reunions and get-togethers, where my dad and his brothers played Country Music while we cousins played in the yard.

I was blessed with grandparents, who cherished all of us kids. Summers meant several week-long visits to the Chandler farm in Pierpont. Grandma and Grandpa Chandler were special, loving people, who gave all of us individualized attention. I remember both of them sitting in straight-back chairs on the front porch, telling us stories from their early years in Tennessee. Their stories held us captive. Warm summer breezes and crickets serenaded us! Grandma and Grandpa Loomis frequently visited our home, bringing a different kind of influence. I recall their love for pinochle and card playing in general. As young children, Grandma Loomis would let us sit on her lap. She was love personified!

Perhaps like most baby boomers we had a black and white television, an antenna, rabbit ears and on particularly windy nights aluminum foil on the end of those rabbit ears to enhance reception. We picked up three Cleveland stations – CBS, NBC and ABC. Summer viewing was not as crowded as those long winter nights that kept us indoors, wrapped in blankets and arguing about who was going to get up and change the channel or re-adjust the rabbit ears!

Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, The Roadrunner, The Flintstones, Deputy Dawg, Top Cat, Johnny Quest (do you remember his dog, Bandit?) and other cartoons made Saturday mornings a special part of the week. My favorite memory is my dad laughing so hard at Wile E. Coyote’s antics that he almost fell out of his recliner. After school viewing included “Dark Shadows” followed by “The Big Valley.” Vampires and cowboys topped off our late afternoon enjoyment. Then Chet Huntley and David Brinkley brought the national news, followed by Clevelander Dorothy Fuldheim, truly a news legend. I remember being almost afraid of her!

Most of us boys wore short hair and buzz haircuts were the norm. Dad, our barber, would say, “You boys are looking pretty shaggy. Who wants to be the first to go?” I hated being the first because that meant I warmed up the cold clippers for my brothers. They sent terrible chills down my spine! And besides, I hated having to miss “Daniel Boone” on TV!

My parents always raised huge gardens for fall canning. Mom often let me help her during late nights, and I fondly remember drifting off to sleep hearing the “pop, pop, pop” of lids. Yields from our gardens also allowed my parents to sell vegetables at the Youngstown Farmer’s Market. The first days of school found us all with new clothes! Dad, on the other hand, raised Holsteins and hogs for late fall slaughtering. That was one trip to the barn that always intrigued me. Basement shelves lined with canned goods and two freezers full of meat, always insured plenty to eat during the long winters.

Birthdays were always celebrated in our home. Mom always baked a cake and let us blow out the candles. Ice cream, a gift, and family members singing, “Happy Birthday…” always followed. My most memorable birthday celebration was captured on camera with me sitting behind my birthday cake with a black eye. This was my brother Jeff’s contribution!

As you know, many memories of childhood fade into oblivion after our adult decades push them aside for still further downloads. But I enjoyed pulling up a few recollections from ages 5-16. What are some of your favorite memories from yesteryear?

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