Fragmented memories of growing up in Roswell
With the end of another school year upon us, I thought it would be fun this week to pull a few things from a past article and look back to the days of growing up in Roswell.
It was a simpler but busy time when our Walker Air Force Base was booming, this town was bustling, and what a fun time and place to grow up.
On Saturday mornings, we watched the "Howdy Doody" show on TV, followed by "The Roy Rogers" show.
We played games like hopscotch, jacks, dodgeball, jump rope, yo-yos, foursquare, red light-green light and red rover. We also played pogo sticks, hula hoops and croquet. It was board games, paper dolls and card games on rainy or snowy days.
In the summer, we would run through sprinklers and go barefoot almost daily. We would play outside until dark, and if you got thirsty, you took a drink out of the water hose.
Because the Walker Air Force Base was here and the Cold War, we had bomb drills in school and big bombers flying over our schools and houses. We even had bomb shelters in some backyards. During this time, missile silos were built around Roswell, causing school overcrowding because many moved here with military contracting. We often heard big booms echoing through the houses from the broken sound barrier of the jets flying over, so loud it shook the walls. Roswell was booming in every way.
We were a generation who walked to school and back every day. We took bagged lunches to school with sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, and — if you were lucky enough to have a dime or a quarter — you could walk to the corner grocery and get candy or soda. We had telephones with party lines; our televisions were black and white with only one or two channels, which signed off at midnight after playing the national anthem.
Family vacations always consisted of a picnic basket in the back of the car; there were no fast food joints and few drive-in restaurants in those days.
Our moms collected stamps for the stamp books from our grocery store that they could trade for household items when complete. You needed to return empty bottles to trade in to buy sodas if you didn't want to pay extra.
At the gas station, you got your windows washed, tires and oil checked, and your gas tank filled. The gas station owners and attendants would wash down the drives every night.
The school year always began after Labor Day and ended before Memorial Day. Grade school supplies consisted of a new Roi-Tan or Swisher Sweet cigar box filled with fat pencils, crayons, glue, erasers, and scissors with a blunt end. We had our Big Chief tablets, with marked lines to learn to write on. We would go to school anticipating the next story in our "Dick and Jane" books. Painting with watercolors and working with paper-mâché was always exciting.
Then came junior high and high school. We looked forward to bonfires and ball games, dances, impromptu gatherings at the Bottomless Lakes, drive-in movies, skating at the skating rink, miniature golf at Terrace Hills and bowling.
We studied and researched for term papers at the old Carnegie Library. We did our research through a card catalog and books.
There were no computers in those days. We had to type our papers on a typewriter; if we made a mistake, we had to erase it and type it over.
We had fundraising through bake sales and helped decorate for the prom and end-of-school banquets.
I remember hot rods with hood ornaments and drag racing. Often there were pick-up trucks in the school parking lot with gun racks with guns in them, which was customary for the ranch kids.
Downtown was the place to be in the days before malls and big box stores. We would drag Main Street from Greer's drive-in on North Main to Wylie's on South Main. Sometimes, we'd stop at A&W Root Beer for a root beer in a cold frosted mug.
Sewing and making our prom dresses were often the trend in those days, so we shopped for patterns and fabrics at Carribelles.
We listened to the music of The Beach Boys, the Beatles, Elvis and much more on our record players with stacks of favorite albums sitting close by.
We planned our lives around homecomings, ball games, holidays, term papers, final exams, first dates, end-of-school dances and graduations. Yes, we also had "Senior Skip Day" for the graduating class when we went to the Bottomless Lakes for fun in the sun.
Maybe computer games and cell phones have their place, but I wish all children growing up in Roswell could have these memories.
Maybe it wasn't that different from today, but "those were the days!”
Historian Janice Dunnahoo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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