Do you remember the song? Alice Cooper was eccentric beyond belief at times but I still remember how I, with all the other teenagers, loved the exhilarated idea of the song. Even though I loved learning through the school year, as a teenager, I also loved the summers.
Swimming was a sport I didn’t find so impossible like many of the others. I had my first lessons when I was a mere five years old and continued to take swimming lessons, although not every year. I never got to where I could dive off the high board, but had no problems jumping in from that height. I did learn how to dive off the low board, both standing forward and backward. I took the swimming classes in high school and even accomplished the art of synchronized swimming (also known as water ballet).
With all I had learned, you’d probably think I’d be involved in swimming classes during my summers when I was a teenager. You’d be dead wrong though. I was at Mamie G. Eisenhower Park splashing and dunking other teenagers that were in the outside pool or sitting under an old elm tree just outside the fence of that pool.
Summertime at this park was special. I honestly felt carefree and loved — maybe just liked — for who I really was. I don’t think there was anyone in the group who felt they had to appear to be someone other than himself or herself. Tell me, how often does this happen?
When I could, I’d bring either my flute or guitar with me. There were four other teenagers there who played instruments: guitar for three of them, and percussion for the fourth. We’d sit under that elm tree and jam most of the afternoon.
There were days when we wouldn’t even be in the pool because we’d be floating down the Skyline canal that went along the side of the park. I’d get into the water that only came up to mid-thigh, put my legs out in front of me to float on my back, and away I’d go down the waterway to the other end of the park. To stop just meant putting my feet down. I’d get out of the water and saunter back up to where I had started so that I could do it all over again.
I can’t say we were always good. After all, we were teenagers, at least most of us were. There were two who were a little too young to be considered teens yet and one was my brother. One of the guys was nineteen, which meant he was old enough to buy 3.2 beer. All of us would chip in money and he would go buy the stuff. I really wasn’t a beer fan, neither was my brother. Nevertheless, we took sips just to see if you liked it each time. I never did. My brother, on the other hand, became a connoisseur of beer in his twenties.
We were just bad enough to also smoke marijuana when it was available. What can I say? It was the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I was a “normal” teenager. The dries form of the plant was everywhere. To tell you the truth, I liked it much better than the beer. I was more apt to know what my limits were and I wasn’t constantly looking for a bathroom.
I wonder if so of the magic I felt then was because of the era: hippies, make love not war, flower power, etcetera. Many of the beliefs and ideas I had then I still keep today. Was that era a turning point in history? I think for some it was. For others, it was just a walkway to the corporate 1980s.
Of course, through the many years, I’ve lost touch with all of those I felt so close to during those few summers. I feel some sadness over it, but also realize that life is ever-changing and we can’t halt it either.
I know many people have such an awful time getting through their teenage years. Mine weren’t all fun and smiles either, but I know I was lucky to have so many good times back then. Others were having such a difficult time waiting for those years to pass. I was always content to be the age I was and still feel the same way today.