In our community, July 1 was reserved for the annual school picnic held in a nearby grove of trees on private land. The owners graciously offered this sheltered spot yearly to the school, and also to many youth groups, with no fee, and only one rule: no alcohol.
The grass was mowed, there was an outhouse, and an old cook stove, with plenty of kindling and firewood for wiener roasts. They had also erected a backstop, rustic benches, and a stand for pillow fights.
Neighbours and classmates gathered to enjoy a low-key picnic with races and contests for all ages, .10 cents for first, .10 cents for second and .05 cents for third, all donated (unknown to me at the time) by our teachers from their meager salaries.
For the very young, each participant received five cents, even those who finished last. These races included shoe races, three-legged races, egg-on-spoon, wheelbarrow, and once, a live cockerel was released to be caught by women only, much to the amusement of everyone.
The makeshift booth, erected in the shade, sold everything for five cents or less. There might be a choice of two chocolate bars, Cracker Jack popcorn with a prize in every box, Juicy Fruit or Spearmint gum, penny candy, some bottled drinks, and usually two insulated tubs of ice cream, donated by a local dairy.
Two ball teams were chosen from anyone who wanted to play. You might be on the same team as your grandfather. There was an unwritten rule that the youngest players always reached first base, at least.
Picnic lunches were great for sharing on a blanket. There were no insulated coolers, folding chairs, barbeques or high-tech toys, but many hours of active fun, not just watching others. Nostalgia reigns at the remembrance of those simple pleasures.
Some snowflakes even fell one July 1, so most people didn’t linger long that day.
Times change. Our hamlet grew to a village, then a town. Newcomers preferred to hold a sports day, not a picnic, with organized ball teams, fund-raising food booths, and no active participation for most. There was no charm or comfort in spreading your picnic lunch on the treeless bald prairie.
People stayed away in droves, ending our simple picnics.
~ Reprinted courtesy of
The Senior Paper, www.srpr.ca