Summer has officially arrived for readers who probably did not notice. The summer solstice officially began at 5:34 p.m. Monday.
For grade school, high school and college graduates, summer began for them the minute they walked out of the classrooms and later picked up their diplomas. The same can be said for the students who have not graduated but are free to spend most of their days in the sunshine for the next couple of months. Chicago Public School students will see another year come to an end this week.
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas had it right when they sang “Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the streets.” “Dancing in the Streets, the 1964 Motown hit was an anthem of sorts that summer coming at the emergence of the civil rights movement. The song has been interpreted in many ways but the majority of the cities mentioned in the song were from the North and South, where many racial conflicts would occur.
Instead of fighting, it was a call to dance and have fun. As a kid growing up in the 1960s, I had a lot of fun but witnessed a lot of conflict. It was all part of growing up.
I do recall those long, hot summer days. This past Monday was the longest day of the year but when you are working, most of us are not even aware of it. The summer solstice began but if you ask most weather forecasters, they will tell you that meteorological summer started on June 1.
Since I was already out of school for a couple of weeks at this time, I don’t recall celebrating the summer solstice or realizing that even occurred. This year, it was not until I came home from work Monday evening and began watching the news did I realize something historical took place. This year coincided with the “strawberry moon,” the folkloric name given to June’s full moon.
The term strawberry moon had nothing to do with color. It was given that name by the Algonquin tribes because it occurs right at the height of the season when strawberries are harvested, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
I did see the full moon that evening but did not realize the significance. This was the first time this has occurred in about 50 years. The last strawberry moon and the summer solstice occurred at the beginning the so-called “Summer of Love” in 1967. This won’t happen again until 2062.
All I know is that we are experiencing more warmer days. When I was a kid, if I was not practicing baseball or playing a game that evening, those hot, lazy day were spent a number of ways. I had a friend who lived across the street from me by the name of Jim Prendergast. He was from a large family and had several brothers. Some of those days were spent playing Wiffle ball off the front steps of their bungalow home. Usually it was just us playing. Essentially, the steps served as the catcher because the ball would come back to you. The pitcher was also the fielder. Balls hit on the ground that were caught meant the batter was out. That also went for popups.
Several games would be played a day on our block at 97th and Throop in Chicago. Sometimes we would drift from our block to catch up with other friends. But a few innings of Wiffle ball passed the time of day. I already mentioned that if the pitcher either strikes out, catches grounders or fly balls, then an out was recorded. But if the batter hit the ball past the pitcher it was a single. A double was when the ball went over the pitcher’s head and hit the street. If the batter’s hit reached the grass just over the curb on a fly, that was a triple. Hit the ball over the sidewalk on the other side of the street and that was a home run.
We had fun and there were occasional arguments over strikes and balls called. I don’t see too many kids doing this anymore, but the suburbs don’t have as many bungalows or Georgians where you could use the stairs as a catcher.
Nearby schools also served as a place to play ball. Wiffle balls were replaced by rubber balls and a strike zone was made with chalk against the building wall. We would listen to music and probably heard Dancing in the Streets more than a few times.
Those summer days seemed to last forever. I had fun even if I don’t remember summer solstices or strawberry moons.
Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.