Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chalk It Up to Nostalgia

I was walking the pooch the other day when I saw something on the sidewalk that elicited a big grin and took me back about 40 years, instantly.

Kids had been playing with outdoor chalk and while I couldn't make out what they had written, it didn't matter, for just the sight of chalk on the sidewalk brought back a ton of memories.

When I was a lad of 6-10 years old, my friends and I would create whole worlds, just with some chalk.

Usually the theme centered around the automobile: roads, retail stores, gas stations, etc.

It would go like this.

Everyone would bring a toy car or truck or any other motor vehicle and those would be our "traffic." Then the roads and highways would be drawn, up and down the driveway and the adjacent sidewalk, complete with exit ramps to simulate freeways.

We had a long driveway at our home in Livonia, so when you combined that square footage with that of the sidewalk that ran in front of the house, you had yourself enough space to create a good sized portion of Wayne County, as seen through the eyes of a child.

Store fronts would be drawn. So would the corner gas station, replete with bays for auto repairs and spaces for the gas pumps and a sign.

We also liked to draw parking lots---vertical or diagonal spaces, and a car or two would always be parked in one of the spots.

If I recall correctly, the fun wasn't so much in the actual "playing" of cars and trucks, but rather in the creation of all the stretches of freeway, the roads and the side streets that made up our driveway/sidewalk commercial suburbia. That, plus the stores and houses that lined those thoroughfares.

I used to love how all the roads would intertwine and spill into each other, and always in a very logical way. We were meticulous in making sure there were broken lines in the middle, delineating lanes.


An example of a "chalk town" that we may have created back in the early-1970s

There were also the requisite signs, like those that called for stops and yields and speed limits.

Everything was one-dimensional, of course, so you had to use your imagination in order to give everything life.

Imagination---I wonder how many of today's kids even know what that is.

Yeah, you'd scuff up a knee or two and your leg might fall asleep in creating the village, but it was all worth it. If nature intervened and washed everything away with a good rain, then it was a good excuse to create a whole different town.

Those kids who wrote on the sidewalk the other day have no idea how much joy they gave me.

I wonder if anyone walked past our sidewalk towns back in the day and curled their lips into a grin.


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