There were times when it was too cold to play outside. I'm talking about the cold that made your nose run constantly and made your fingers feel like brittle branches.
Come that time of year, it was time to hibernate in your room. This was the sanctuary, the holiest of holies of kid-dom. My bedroom was a special place-even during the days when I had to share the space with my brothers. When I think about it, I'm pretty amazed at the level of fun that was to be had in my old bedroom. The games we made up, the adventures we planned, and the best conversations ever took place in our sacred sanctums. For those of us who actually had a lot of things to play with, build, or take apart, our rooms were the places to be.
By yourself it wasn't much fun, but when three or four other guys were crammed in there you had instant entertainment. Somebody always had an idea, plan, or outlandish scheme to either make a fortune, conquer the free world, or scare the living daylights out of somebody's sister. The latter-though preferable-was highly dangerous should an angry parent get involved. Winter was a time where most of our hours were spent indoors in the hideout of somebody's room.
One ingenious plan that my best friend Jim came up with was to make a fortune by selling The Grit Newspaper This was a simple case of kids being -yet again- sucked into the event horizon of comic book ads. As Jim's faithful servant, I traveled a wasteland of miles with him on foot all over southeast Portland selling the Grit Newspaper door-to-door. It was a frigid day in November, and we set out on foot seeing a vast empire of great toys and camping gear springing up like dandelions before our very eyes. Most of an entire day was spent with this misadventure. By day's end we sold one newspaper subscription. So much for get rich quick schemes. The dream of the tent, the camera, the BB gun became an empty vessel.
Brothers always posed a problem if you had to share a bedroom with them. If they were younger, they were a real pain; if they were older, they caused real pain. Arm punching, headlocks, and flying tackles were commonplace in my household. Us boys were a rowdy bunch. The thing with brothers was, you knew right off the bat what could be touched and what couldn't. My brothers were older, so they built model cars. Those were "untouchable". Death awaited anyone who touched their models. Other things, as we got older, were likewise off limits, like records, certain clothes, camp gear, or tools. Life suddenly got better when I finally graduated to having my own room.
After school hours were a great time
After school was a pretty decent time in my household mostly because my mom was busy thinking about dinner, or watching the last of her shows. Nagging us boys about doing our homework was not necessary in our house. If you got bad grades, you had to answer to "the man" who sat in the easy chair slurping coffee, and who, with one mighty shake of his newspaper, could turn your blood to stone.
Often, great conversations arose, usually recalling the previous night's television, or deeper topics like how The Robinsons on "Lost in Space" managed to survive with an idiot like Dr. Smith. Once TV show topics expired, we always found something else to do. Road race sets were always fun, but not everyone had one. I never did, but wanted one. Board games were cool, but eventually turned into "bored games". Other options included wrestling or karate matches practicing what we'd learned from watching TV, or high-kicking like Kato on "The Green Hornet". Winter play time was limited to a couple of hours after school, so it was obvious that us kids needed to be constantly engaged.
Building models, or comparing our models with one another was almost ritual. Discussing techniques and color schemes was some pretty serious conversation, especially when it came to military models. A guy had carte blanche to add in an extra insignia or number, yet few of us had the wherewithal to try and take on the art of camouflage. (I tried it once, it was a wretched disaster).
On being a Beatle: the dawn of air guitar
One of the things that was popular with everybody was to constantly play Beatle 45's-or albums (for anyone lucky enough to have one) while imitating them. Laugh, if you will, but this was important stuff. Every single one of us wanted to be a part of that excitement. We tried all sorts of innovative ways to present ourselves as our vinyl heroes. Brooms made great guitars; they were wide at the base with a narrow neck. Pencils, or paint brushes were perfect drum sticks of course. We used to really like those big, thick pencils that were about a half inch in diameter, and cost a quarter in the stores.
To be good at this, you had to know how each Beatle stood, moved their mouth, and smiled at the audience. It was always great fun imitating them, and other famous bands that eventually moved onto our radar. Little did we know that we were moving toward the great realm of "air guitar". In my neighborhood, girls would often form literal singing groups, imitating The Shangri-La's, Shirelles, Supremes, & The Chiffons. Girls took their roles pretty darned seriously, especially when it came to Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las. (Many of the girls had procured that look already).
In our rooms, great plans were drawn
These cloistered enclosures where us kids hibernated for the winter were the places where our greatest plans were drawn, and our most divine schemes were hatched. The bedroom was a place of dreams; for us kids, it was almost like another living in another county. Some parents were respectful of the space and knocked on the door. My parents never did, they were "barger-inners", but it didn't matter because nothing could disrupt our musings, concoctions, play time, plans, or serious discussions.
Indoor Ouija board seances, army men set-ups, TV discussions, wrestling matches, and other indoor activities never seemed more important than they did in the sanctity of our rooms. Sometimes I'd have friends over, and we'd build models together, or work on some project that was sure to improve our lives and make an impression on the adult world.