Friday, August 21, 2009


"There's a time each year
That we always hold dear,
Good old summer time;
With the birds and the trees'es
And sweet scented breezes,
Good old summer time,
When you day's work is over
Then you are in clover,
And life is one beautiful rhyme,
No trouble annoying,
Each one is enjoying,
The good old summer time."

by Ron Shields, In the Good Old Summertime

When i was young, my parents would take me to my Aunt Bennie's house. She was a good, good southern woman, buxom and soft that loved her family, especially her nieces and nephews. A quick smile, a scratchy yet tender voice, and no matter what, no matter when, at a point i least expected she would steal behind me and gently take the lobe of my ear and lightly dandle it between her forefinger and thumb all the while talking to my mom or dad about things going on in the early seventies summertime in Bartlesville or whatever family business was about. I think it was more for her than me, i didn't mind much. She would tousle my straw colored hair and ask me if i wanted anything to eat or if i had seen the neighbors huge dog Hoss out back yet. He'd always jump up on the fence, peer his immense head over the top and let me scratch him between his ears as he licked my reaching hands.

After mom and dad left, i'd wander around the house try to stay away from her dog, Trinket. It was a little long-haired yapper and we had mutual feelings for one another...we both hated each other. I'd just as soon kick that dog as she would just as soon bite me.

Aunt Bennie's house always smelled of stale cigarette smoke coupled with some wonderful southern comfort food in the oven or on the steaming stove top. I remember sitting in those vinyl covered swivel chairs at the table playing with the ever present deck of cards watching her work her magic at the business end of the kitchen. A smoldering cigarette dangling from her mouth and her cotton apron which i assumed was just part of her daily attire. She'd always glance at me and flash that quick smile as the crackle of the round the clock police scanner vectored and interrogated a new transmission of something going on and she would quietly utter some imprecation at the state of affairs in the city of her birth.

Sometimes, if i was lucky, and had cleaned my plate after dinner, she'd give me a couple dollars and send me down the dirt road and under the bridge of the nearby Caney river to the Johnstone Park KiddieLand. Summer evenings at KiddieLand was like no other to an 8 year old with a couple precious dollars in his many rides, so little money to ride them all. There was the Tilt-A-Whirl, the whistling train that ran around the entire amusement area, a micro roller coaster that at top speed jostled about 4 mph, a carousel, and lights, lights and more lights flickering on and off in as many different colors. There was cotton candy, ice cream, funnel cake, and luscious caramel apples, and all the smells that accompany such delicacies, but i didn't have the time or money for those... i wanted to RIDE SOMETHING...and the choices were...difficult. I was on my own, with precious little money to spend...i had to choose wisely...carefully, experience had taught me the money didn't last long here at a quarter per ride and i had to get in all i could cuz i only got to come here once a summer. So off i went, learning the realities of consumerism and budgeting as an eight year old on warm, humid, Oklahoma summer evenings at Aunt Bennie's KiddieLand wonderland.

There's a similar KiddieLand here in our town, probably just as old. Same set up, probably the same Kiwanis sponsored venue. Early last week i had told The Royals who had been begging me all summer to take them there that i would...and i forgot. Until i drove by and saw the flashing lights of the carousel and Tilt-A-Whirl...oh $#!+! I got home and told them that if they would remind me we can go next Friday night...they have successfully done their duty...exceedingly. Not necessarily to the point of exhaustion...they've actually done pretty well. But each night after reading them another part of the story of Dick Whittington, we have made sure of the countdown to KiddieLand...and tonight is the big night. They are ssSSSTOKED! It can't get here soon enough...for them and in some respects, for me. Because i haven't been to a KiddieLand since those long bygone days and the sultry fish smells of the Caney River. So tonight we'll go...and i will go back over thirty years...and remember a magical time and place...

and my Aunt Bennie.


Buck said...

Ah... the memory can be a warm and comforting place for those of us so blessed. Thanks for this piece, Jay.

And have fun tonite!

diamond dave said...

Every boy needs a precious aunt or grandmother to cherish while they are growing up. With them comes warm memories that last a lifetime.

Thanks for sharing.

Skybag said...

KiddieLand, I thought it was called Cat Land when I was a kid - I think it had to do with me hearing Kitty Land. I don't think I ever got to go, though. I was deprived as a child! Have fun tonight!

Bag Blog said...

I got to go to "Kittyland" and I think Grandma took Jes and Bo. She is not so deprived - don't let her fool you. This is a girl who got to go snow skiing any time she wanted.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I haven't thought of that place in a few years. I think I may have told Tamala about it once while we were driving through Bartlesville or something. That place was full of it's own "magic" and fun. I hope the Royals have even more fun tonight than we used to have. There will never be another Aunt "B" that is for sure.

Anonymous said...

Good one, bro. Aunt Blanche for me. Think Alan Hale in capri pants. That was Aunt Blanche.

Thanks for the blog roll spot. I totally apreesh, but don't sweat it.

And if you get a couple minutes, I'd love some pipe and drum corps music recommendations from you. I'm all about the "strict rudimental/make really old men cry" school of piping and drumming, too.

I was actually a short lived member of NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) in high school, believe it or not. Liked to have never made it through the tryout. I still have my practice chanter but I haven't pulled it out in years.