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Slow Summer Days Bring Back Summer Memories

by on July 25, 2013 6:30 AM

As the days of summer slowdown after Arts Festival, I find myself in the evening outside thinking about summer days gone by. Once Arts Fest was done we’d take a family vacation to Avalon, NJ before returning to sweat out the rest of the summer that effectively concluded in early August at the Peanut Carnival.

If you have to ask about The Peanut Carnival (and/or cannot remember the band Stevie and The Six Pack playing at the Carnival) you are a lot younger than I am. Summer days were spent at the park playing paddle ball, horseshoes, lawn darts and at Sunset Park the older guys actually set up a golf course around the playground using Croquet mallets and balls. One summer we built a log raft and attempted to float Huck Finn style down Spring Creek. Surprisingly it worked.

But at the Centre Region Parks and Rec program, Box Hockey was the game.

Two summers ago I researched and built to exact specifications a box hockey box to introduce the “sport” to my kids. I also invited (and defeated) State College native friends over to re-assert my box hockey dominance. You all know who you are.

Summer park program included a Fishing Derby and a Junior Olympics. There were weekly visits from Arts and Crafts legend Mrs. June Brown. You’ve never seen anyone better at using pipe cleaners, paper towel rolls and household items to create items actually resembling art.

In college I worked as a park leader, and found out that the very same June Brown was effective because she had a singular focus on the kids. On my way to work at Park Forest Middle School my old Panasonic 10-speed bike slipped out from under me (see how I blame the bike). I arrived cut up but unbowed. As I walked into the school the younger kids were a little scared by the blood.

Mrs. Brown made sure I understood that I was to get out of sight, wash up and get ready to work. I did as I was told and focused on the job at hand.

Being a park leader was the very best college summer job. For one thing the girl to guy ratio for a single guy was in my favor. One year there were three male park leaders and the rest of the twenty or so leaders were female. But more than that, it was a lot of fun. I followed a long line of park leaders we idolized as kids, a line that included Bruce Parkhill long before he became Penn State’s Head Basketball coach.

In addition to the daytime presence, one night a week we had park leaders at the park. Evening games were big events—like a giant kick the can battle utilizing the park and adjacent woods in Sunset Park. Other nights, dozens of kids divided into two big teams to play a capture the flag game covering the entire park. Those games were wild but so much fun.

But when the park program ended in early August it was a long slow trudge until Labor Day weekend and the start of the school years the day AFTER Labor Day (those were the days).

That long slow trudge is a thing of the past these days. The State College Spikes help fill that void. This August they will once again bring Cowboy Monkey Rodeo to town. It is something to behold, and my kids love it. Who wouldn’t love Monkeys dressed as cowboys riding border collies and rounding up goats? Okay I know the answer to that one.

Over the past few summers I have found a whole lot of great things to do nearby. Black Moshannon, Greenwood Furnace, Whipple Dam are all great state parks nearby and all free.

Each year we go to the Wednesday market and auction at Belleville. Last summer I bid $1.50 for lots of 4 whoopie pies and came home with three lots — for those scoring at home that was 12 pieces of heaven, known as whoopie pies, for just $4.50. Top that!

At Belleville you can buy everything from produce, to baked goods, to power tools, to antiques, to livestock ranging from ducks, rabbits, chickens to cows. It is one-stop shopping and I love it. It ties in nicely with a stop for swimming at Greenwood Furnace State Park which you pass on your way south from McAlevy’s Fort to Belleville on Route 305.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the last few summers I have taken kids to Penn’s Cave, DelGrosso’s Park, to see the Elk near Bennezette among other stops.

The last weeks of summer may be quiet in Happy Valley, but they need not be as slow as they once were. Summer is special. Now as a parent I hope my own children will one day reflect on summer family and hometown memories to warm their hearts long after I am gone.

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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