The very best summers


Boomer Blog - Shirley Scott



There has been no need to check the calendar to know that summer is now firmly in charge. With oppressive levels of heat and humidity waving around, I have truly appreciated the central air conditioning and massive ceiling fan cooling my house these days, in contrast to earlier abodes: veritable ovens devoid of any circulation and equipped only with a box fan pointed directly at me.

Not intending to sound ungrateful, occasionally these days I do feel I am missing part of the real summer experience, comfortably insulated as I have been. Perhaps I should more clearly define which summer experience I mean.

From the age of fifteen, summer meant working at the county library in the little brick building on Market Street and later at the Diana Shop on North Main. My purpose: amassing funds to pay the bursar at Otterbein. Those summers were all about checking out books, ringing up sales – and depositing my earnings in a savings account.

My GHS summers were predictably unpredictable. For more than half of them, I packed away my classroom before jetting across the Atlantic for all manner of adventures with my students. A few weeks later I reversed the flight plan, winging back across the ocean, just in time to unpack my classroom for another school year. Exhausting? Sometimes. Frenetic? Always! But I would not trade those busy summers, especially when I think of Ingrid and Hubert and Miri and Xandi, such historically-important visits to the Dachau concentration camp and the Berlin Wall, watching my students realize that life in America and life in Germany were not so very different after all.

What I am really seeking, I guess, is the carefree aspect of summer. Of late, recollections of my girlhood summers on River Road have been floating through my mind, summers almost totally free of anxiety: without concern my working hours might not cover the college bill; without fear our plane might be hijacked, without jitters that we might be stranded in East Berlin. On River Road my only worry was that by Tuesday I was already finished with all five library books I had just checked out on Saturday!

I would love to describe chronologically and in complete detail those sweet River Road memories: an impossible task. Every one of the five senses twirls and tumbles randomly through my brain whenever I recall long-ago summer days as June slipped into July.

Annually there was the boom of fireworks at Grimes Field. We joined other spectators with appropriate oohs-and-aahs from our vantage point in front of my Uncle Harlan’s farm near the intersection of Millerstown Road and Route 29. Just as clearly, I recollect the early call of mourning doves and ended many a night listening to June bugs dive bomb the kitchen screen door, after a day of my mother’s slapping the fly swatter against that same screen in her ongoing war with “those pesky flies.” But somehow, it is my father’s voice I remember best – with its particular tone and timbre – nightly intoning “sicalf, sicalf,” to bring “the ladies” loping barnward for the evening milking.

I will not smell up this article to describe manure-removal day on River Road, leaving that stinky job to my readers’ imaginations. But our yard did have its own collection of sweet aromas: long after the lilacs had faded, we enjoyed the scents of irises and rambler roses. And the garlands we fashioned from catalpa blossoms allowed us to smell good, too. Of course, there was nothing like the smell of freshly-cut lawn – which my dad often accomplished with his push mower.

I suppose it was often scorching hot during my kidhood. Maybe high temperatures were not so noticeable back then – although my parents baling in the hay field would probably have begged to differ. Without reliance on air conditioning, we managed many a summer day with our little green table fan, transoms over the doorways in our drafty old farmhouse – and generous swigs of deliciously-cold water from the hose under the cedar tree.

Summer sights are too numerous to properly inventory, but commonplace on River Road: the clothesline loaded with diapers and bed sheets flapping and fluttering in the breeze. Bookending our days were glorious sunrises and magnificent sunsets, the latter viewable from the wooden swing on the back porch. And how I miss all those lightning bugs illuminating the darkness of so many summer nights!

How can I not mention the tastes of summer? Now past mushrooms fried in butter and a bit early for sweetcorn dripping in butter, we must discuss strawberry shortcake. Having consumed strawberry desserts on two continents, without hesitation I highly recommend my mother’s strawberry shortcake. She baked a larger, sweeter version of baking powder biscuits, which she split. She spooned fresh strawberries over the bottom half, adding the top half and another round of berries, finishing with a dab of Dream Whip. Now, that was summer!

I guess whenever I miss those distant summer days, I should turn off the AC – as well as all the news channels – and conjure up memories of our wiener roasts, when we cooked hot dogs and marshmallows until black on pointy sticks. And there was the Maurice Reunion every year at Harmon Park in St. Paris when the cousins played, the uncles pitched horseshoes, and the aunts chatted/gossiped until it was time to eat ham salad sandwiches. Aah…

Boomer Blog

Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.