SUMMERTIME…AND THE LIVIN’ IS EASY… Ah, the good ole Missouri summers. Especially if you grew up on the Mississippi River like I did. That was back when the river was clean enough to swim in, water-ski, raft, float and spend the night on one of the sandbars. No fear of being mugged, attacked or robbed.
ROLL OUT THOSE LAZY, HAZY, CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER… When do we start to lose that childhood innocence, and wonder at the things all around us? A friend sent me a picture of about 15 of us kids at my 8th birthday party. We had ice cream and cake and played outside all day, every day, as long as it was summer. Hide and seek, swimming, Marco Polo, bicycle races, free to roam all over our little “corner of the world.” Every town, village and even big city neighborhoods had them. We made our own fun, we included everyone and we loved our simple, innocent, sheltered little lives.
HOT TOWN, SUMMER IN THE CITY, BACK OF MY NECK GETTING’ DIRTY AND GRITTY…Why would anyone want to stay indoors in the summer? Don’t say, “Too hot,” because we didn’t even have air-conditioners back then. We just stayed wet with the river and near lakes, running through the water hoses or fire hydrants, and even good old sweat while riding your bike real fast sent “air conditioning” through stringy wet lockets of hair. And if you got to swim in a chlorinated pool, that counted as a bath!
SUMMERTIME, SUMMERTIME, SUM-SUM-SUMMERTIME…But everything was done outdoors, in the daytime. Kool-Aid stands, suntans, new freckles, Vacation Bible School, summer little league sports – and The Cardinals! Going to see Stan the Man didn’t mean the statue, though he was bigger than life. And we had our own alley or street games. Cars would stop for us, our parents would yell to get out of the streets and we’d move to a vacant lot. Girls and boys played together and some of us girls were even better than the boys! If we didn’t have our own little gloves, the opposition would loan us theirs.
SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER…Three months of making our own fun! No computers, video games, or cell phones; and who wanted to go inside to watch an old black and white TV that only got 3 channels? I do remember “Texas Bruce” here in St. Louis, sponsored by a milk company. “Man that’s good milk.” That’s how they ended every show. All of the kids lucky enough to be in his rodeo gallery would rub their tummies and lick their lips while they said it in unison. I wanted to be on his show. But especially I wanted to be in the live studio audience of my hero, Charlotte Peters. She may have been the reason I became a television host. In 4th grade I would line up my friends and stuffed animals and perform for them and make them participate.
LITTLE DEUCE COUPE, SURFER GIRL… The television began to get more sophisticated and so did we. I was sure that the Beachboys wrote Little Surfer Girl for me. I was only 12 or 13 when I started hearing about hippies and “dropping out of society.” But I had never seen the beach – only the Mississippi River and you couldn’t be a surfer girl there. I wanted long straight golden blonde hair and to wear a bikini! But I had short dark curly hair and was very overweight. So of course when I started to see Mama Cass, who was more my size, singing with the Mamas and the Papas, I began to dream.
CALIFORNIA DREAMING. My friend Carol and I dropped out of high school and ran away to go to California and be beach bums, and live in a tent on the beach and visit Haight-Ashbury and see what all this new stuff about marijuana was. Would it really make us go crazy? We had watched the movie Reefer Madness and we were scared, but not scared enough to run away. So we got all the way to Mexico, and our parents had us tracked down by the police. To teach us a lesson they put us in jail for the night – in Mexico – Mexico, Missouri that is. We had only been gone long enough to spend all our money. But when all the kids at school heard that we made it all the way to Mexico and our parents had us thrown in jail, we really sounded tough!
SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER… I thought it over for me. But my parents told me to at least get a high school diploma and then I could quit. The following summer when most of my friends were getting ready to go away to college, I decided to do the same. My motivation however, was to get away, have fun and party, of course. But I met my husband to be, Bud Peppers, and I did just enough to get by so I could spend the next four years with him. Then, it was 1972, my senior year in college. Alice Cooper sang those infamous words, “School’s out forever”, and I thought surely this time it was! But when I couldn’t find a job, Lindbergh High School was looking for an English teacher. Although I intended not to stay very long, I retired from there 30 years later, and loved every minute of it.
“Owed to Summertime”
Summertime is easy in those lazy, crazy days;
But soon the dirt and grit appears – time to change our ways.
Though school is out in summertime, our real life still moves on;
No little deuce coupe for surfer girls: summer dreams are gone.
Yes, California Dreaming gives way to jobs and kids;
And now it’s time to grow up – though some of us never did.
When finally our retirement comes, and school is out for good,
Then we’ll begin to cherish time, the way we always should.
“When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than we’d first begun.”
Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which followed her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is www.pepperseed.org.