Airport in the Driveway

Children have always been attracted to toys. They while away the hours playing in an imaginary world with their make-believe friends and foes. The bigger the foe the bigger the hero, which was always the kid himself in his imaginary world. Toys always furnished an outlet for the young person to dream and invent. They were a valuable part of intellectual and social development.

Recently, I was observing my grandchildren playing with their favorite toy; an iPad. I sat there in amazement as these children worked with these electronic wonders. They knew how to turn them on and work with the various programs. Their iPads were loaded with all kinds of games which provided them with hours of enjoyment. Just try taking their iPad away even for a few minutes in order to get their attention. The only thing that will trump the iPad is Ice Cream. That might do it but even that is iffy. The main thing that is wrong with these electronic gadgets is that the kids are sedentary while they spend their hours entertaining themselves. The only exercise they get is with their thumbs. My grandchildren have thumbs that can lift the front of a truck! No jack required. They are born knowing how to type. Quick as a flash they can react to the video game and answer text messages. Its amazing. Children get a video game player for their first birthday. But, what we have is a generation of kids who are fat, fat, fat. They don't play in the yard like we did and work off the calories from breakfast or lunch. They put their thumbs in motion and get lost in their video world. They are experts at ignoring what is going on around them especially their parents who gave them the thing to start with. So, what we have is a generation of spoiled brats who please their parents the most by getting lost in a video game so the parents won't have to deal with them. Anyway, that's a subject for a later day.

When I was ten or eleven years old, we lived on East 16th Street in Tifton, GA. Our house was on a dirt road with peanut fields across the street. A few houses were being built in the area but we were pretty much way out of town at the time. It was a good dirt road. Dusty, yes, but scraped regularly by the city to make it smooth. Right in front of my house the road was perfectly suited for playing marbles which we did a lot. We could draw a big circle there. When an occasional car came by we would point to our marbles and the driver would try to skirt around our game circle. It truly was a different day. Won many marbles in those circles. I was good at the game.

Our house shared a driveway with the one next to us. My friend, Larry Roberts lived there. We played a lot. We constructed forts for our pewter soldiers in the plowed up garden area. Many a vicious battle was fought and won on those little battlefields where peas or corn would later grow. Right up the street they were building a house and we watched them do it with great interest. Now, a house on sixteenth street was not a giant. Most of them had about 1400 square feet in them. But, that was the order of the day in our area. Carpenters produce a lot of wooden blocks of all shapes. It was easy, in our video gameless world, for a block of wood to take the shape of a car. Others were used to build small make believe buildings we envisioned as just about anything. The shared driveway was, like the road, dirt. It could be scraped smooth and lined with "streets" and such. A small city would emerge where we would "drive" our imaginary cars and trucks. We liked those even better than we liked the little cars and trucks bought in the five and dime store in downtown Tifton. In those days the store bought cars were made of metal. Collectors items today. But ours were better! They were anything we wanted them to be. A tractor, a sedan, a tow truck, or a wagon were all the products of the imagination.

Another favorite thing we used to create in the driveway was an airport. Those wooden blocks and strips quickly became the crop dusters and bombers as well as the airliners of the day. I made many a popsicle airplane. We scraped off a large, flat, smooth area and lined off the runways for our planes to land on. We used waste wood from the construction site up the street to build our hangers and buildings at our "airport." The planes looked pretty good. They actually resembled real planes and we "flew" them all over the area preparing to land them at our "East 16th Street Airport." We were all good pilots. No wrecks except when we wanted there to be one. No one was injured or killed. It was all in fun. We fixed us an imaginary world better than the one in which we lived, or so we thought. I could be a Captain of an airliner or a famous "Ace" fighting pilot. Shot down many enemies. The Red Baron couldn't hold a candle to me. Never lost a single dog fight. Once in a while a disagreement would erupt over whether a "hit" was scored or not. But, it was handled quickly with friendships and laughs resulting. No one got shot in those days. Life was valued.

Our Airport in the Driveway took shape many times. It was a favorite thing to do. It usually vanished when the sun started going down and we were called inside to eat supper or when our father would come home from work and drive right over our vast enterprise. Many times he would park on the grass so that he would not mess up our creation. It was pretty good. There were roads and cars, buildings and houses. Then just outside the little "town" was the airport. Runways and hangers, trucks and airplanes. No jets in those days. Hadn't seen one yet. But it was quite a creation we had made there in our dirt driveway.

Kids used their imagination in those days. And, I remember it all quite vividly. I wonder if our modern day kids will remember winning a video game? It's amazing how such an exercise in imagination can be sealed in the memory. But imagination is always bigger than life. Pictures in the mind are remembered for years and years. Our Airport in the Driveway will always be in operation as long as we live and have the capacity to reclaim it from history as I often do. I am still playing those games, flying those planes and driving those cars made of blocks of scrap wood. And, it only gets better as time goes on and I am able to more fully appreciate those great times we had designing, creating and playing with our Airport in the Driveway.

William F. Harrell

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