Saturday, June 2, 2012

Discuss: Hot Fun in the Summertime

Doug:  June's dawning is as good a time as any to bring back those wonderful memories of summers gone by.  Tell us what your summer days were like when you were a kid in the Bronze Age!


Steve Does Comics said...

Droughts! Endless droughts! For some reason, we always only had to go two weeks without rain for a national emergency to be declared. I like to think it brought the nation together. Either that or it just annoyed everyone.

We also got plagues of insects. Usually greenflies or ladybirds, depending on what had been failing to eat what that year.

On the plus side, summer meant going to the glamorous west coast resort of Blackpool. As well as being the holiday capital of England, you could barely move for American comics there. It seemed like every shop you went into was knee-deep in them.

Blackpool also had better TV than where I came from. They used to show the Gerry Anderson shows and 1960s Marvel cartoons far more than my local TV did.

The summer holiday was six weeks long and the BBC and ITV used to run special shows for kids in the mornings, mostly made up of repeats of Flash Gordon, Tarzan and "movies" made by cobbling together old episodes of "Dr Who".

They also used to show imported kids' shows from the rest of Europe. You didn't know terror till you'd seen a thing called, "The Singing, Ringing Tree."

I remember the military used to do displays at a park near where I lived and you could go along and gawp at the tanks and the jump-jets. Sadly, the local council later banned such displays, on the grounds that that sort of thing could lead to world wars. Oddly enough, it never did.

Looking back on it, given the neighbourhood the displays were held in, it was a miracle none of the tanks ever got stolen.

Anyway, those are my happy childhood memories. :)

Steve Does Comics said...

PS. Summer was the only time you ever got to ride on a donkey.

Steve Does Comics said...

Hmn, my first comment seems to have vanished into thin air, which means my "PS" now makes no sense. You have to love Blogger.

Inkstained Wretch said...

In my case summers were a few weeks of lazy days at the beach, followed by sports camp of some sort.

My grandparents bought a summer house on Martha's Vineyard Island in Massachusetts back in the 60s. So we'd spend part of the summer up there with them. This was the late 70s to mid-80s, before the island got its reputation as a place for rich people.

Back then, it was *the* destination for working-class people who couldn't afford to fly south to Florida or Bermuda or someplace like that. Just put the family and a cooler in the station wagon and drive. In a few hours you're on the beach.

Those were fun times. I learned to be a really good swimmer on the beaches and an expert at spotting seaglass. (Hunks of glass bottles worn down by saltwater and sand into gem-like treasures.)

My comic book habit was fueled by the local drugstore, which had a spinner rack. The owner never seemed to throw stuff out so I could get 4 consecutive issues of a single comic sometimes. That was great in the days when comic book specialty shops were not too common.

I remember one summer I got hooked on the 80s Archie Comics featuring the Shield, the Fly and the rest when that drugstore put them on display.

We'd return home by August and the camps I went to were not sleepover ones, but some kind of day camp: Soccer when I younger, football later on. These were intense, immersion-type things. The football camps took most of the day and I'd be exhausted at the end. I'd have just enough energy though to check out the spinner racks at the 7-11 on my way home ...

Doug said...

Steve --

All has been made right with the world, and your comments, in all their glory, now shine. The Blogger gods had accused you of... SPAMMING!

My summer memories usually consist of just enjoying the time off of school (and as my school year ended this past Tuesday, I find that not much has changed!), playing with friends, finding comics on spinner racks and drug store magazine shelves -- still recall when I laid eyes on Captain America's Bicentennial Battles and brought that baby home. Admittedly, it was the lure of the treasury format, as I wasn't too keen on Kirby's art in his closing years at Marvel. But it was wild fun.

I didn't have any friends with swimming pools, so we made great use of lawn sprinklers, or even running a hose over a strong branch to create a "waterfall" -- glorified shower, really. We'd run and run through that water until mud came up through the grass (by that time, most of the grass was stuck to our legs, so the water certainly had no cleansing effect).

I put up the image of the ice cream truck. It is still a thrill to hear those familiar tunes emanating from some neighborhood not too far off. I immediately wonder if my mom would give me a quarter -- which would only make today's drivers give a stupid look, I'm sure. The town we live in has an ordinance banning these wonderful vehicles, because they fear they are dangerous in regard to children potentially running out into traffic. But they haven't banned bouncing balls...

I didn't play sports when I was little, but I can tell you that going through Little League with our sons makes me wish that I had. Coaching their teams, it was always very exciting when looking ahead at the week's schedule and seeing another strong team coming up, or even a team that had a few of their close friends on the roster. I wish I could have felt that first-hand.

More to come, I'm sure!


J.A. Morris said...

I can't believe that I'm the first to mention a magic word of summer for comic fans:


This is the first Annual I remember reading:

Karen said...

My main impression is just a sense of sheer freedom. But more specifically, in my younger days, it was all about the beach. My two older cousins from San Diego would come up and spend a month or so with us and they could drive! They'd take me to the beach and I'd spend hours in the water. They had to drag me out.

Later on, it was all about riding my bike all over town with a friend or two, sometimes my big brother and his friends too. A lot of time was spent outside. I recall getting a glow in the dark frisbee so we could play frisbee at night.

Fourth of July was big with us. We'd have a big BBQ courtesy of my Dad, then fireworks galore. My brother and I were little pyromaniacs and we'd try 'experiments' with the fireworks. Luckily no one ever got hurt.

Somehow I also managed to fit in a lot of reading too. Summer was a good time to read book series. I distinctly recall reading Roger Zelazny's Amber series one summer, and Ursula K LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy. Boy do I miss all that free time!

Edo Bosnar said...

Darn, J.A. beat me to it - I also recall that the best part of summer from the aspect of comic-book reading was the annuals and specials, etc., as well as those digests which also seemed to come out in higher volume during the summer months. (And Doug, I had Bicentennial Battles as well, and like you, I wasn't a fan of Kirby's art at the time - however, as I recall, the stories in that book were inked by other artists like Barry Windsor Smith and John Romita, so they looked a bit better than the stuff in the regular series).
Otherwise, I grew up in a pretty rural area, so when I wasn't reading comics, I was running around our family's property (we had about 12 acres), climbing trees, etc., or 'exploring' in the small forest across the road, either alone or with friends. I'd also occasionally ride my bike to nearest town about 3 miles away (which my parents generally frowned upon) to buy comics and maybe some candy and visit a friend who lived there and who was also into comics. All in all, pretty good memories...

vancouver mark said...

On the BC coast sunny summer weather typically lasts from the end of July right theough the first week in August, so we make the most of it.
OK, I do exaggerate somewhat...

My key memories of summer as a kid include annual trips to visit family on Vancouver Island and endless days on the beach at Parksville, two-week stays at Camp Latona on Gambier Island (that was a long time away from home for an eight-year-old!), afternoon swims at the local pool followed by bike rides to the corner store for a comic and a Freezie (I used to roll the comics up and stick them into my back pocket as I rode, and still have a few battered old issues with the tell-tale creases and blue Freezie-drop stains), entering the yearly reading club contests at the library and quickly being thoroughly demoralized by unbeatable Chinese kids who read a couple of hundred books a month, and one glorious day at the end of every summer at the PNE (Vancouver's annual fair/amusement park). I also remember a mounting excitement at the end of every summer as the ads for the new Saturday morning cartoon schedule appeared.

Now I'm thirsty for a blue Freezie... Do they even make them anymore?

Dougie said...

Summers in West Central Scotland were similar to those that Steve describes,although far less inclined to drought; lashing with rain, more like.

'75 was very hot, however. We spent a week in the Victorian resort of Rothesay, off the Clyde coast. My clearest memories are of seeing a photo of Angie Bowie as the Black Widow in the newspaper and reading the first issues of Stalker and Justice Inc.

The day Elvis died in 77, we were on holiday in a caravan (trailer) in a remote bay in Galloway facing into the Irish Sea. I associate that holiday with the second Conan Treasury, which felt like a fusion of occultism and soft-core porn, at 14!

'78 featured a sunny, if windy, week in the English resort of Morecambe with its 1950s-style pier-end wrestling. Surprisingly, I was able to pick up some remaindered '76 Marvels, including the debut of Phoenix and the Bicentennial issue of Cap.

The last summer holiday of the Seventies was spent on the island of Arran, where it rained in torrents ( exactly as it has every time I've been back). No comics but I was eagerly awaiting the Lord of the Rings animated movie and was reading ERB's Lost On Venus.

One of the biggest thrills in those years was the Saturday night monster movie double bills from about 1976-1981. These generally started in late July through August.The format was usually a b/w Universal picture-then 30 minutes or so of cricket- followed by a Hammer or American International movie. Of course, in those days, the BBC shut down around midnight. My generation was introduced to Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price and George Romero this way.

Anonymous said...

Going to Mexico for several weeks... had a bunch of cheap plastic masked wrestler figures, sort of the superheroes of Mexico, they had their own comic books...deserts and jungles...step pyramids and Mexican Indian artisans...strange (to me) Mexican comic books with a different appeal. Thieves' Market in Mexico City, floating gardens, terrible air quality in the big cities, long bus rides across the wilderness...adventures!


pete doree said...

Everything that Steve mentioned, especially every day's morning TV consisting of an episode of a Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon, followed by a Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movie, and somewhere in there Casey Jones and The Flashing Blade. But the one thing you missed out, Steve, was Alan Class comics! ( American Bronze Age babies know about them, right? ) Those things were only ever on sale in comic shops where you were on summer hols, never where you actually lived. They'll always be 'holiday comics' to me...

david_b said...

Great stories everyone.. I think we've approached this subject in earlier columns, but to me, summer around '73-'76 was hanging in my room or with some close buds, reading comics, waiting on, yes, those HUGE Treasury Editions.. I only saw a few Marvel annuals around that time, since they were branching off with 'Giant-Size Superstars' or 'King Size' (in '73 with Spiderman or FF reprints) and other 'special-issue' titles, but they seemed like annuals to me..

My snacks were Coke and Fritos, playing with the few Megos I had, listening to Beatle records, watching Trek and hunting down the spinner racks especially at the local Shopko, which had the older comics packaged in 3 for 49 cents (how I found my Spidey 122...).

That, funded by my pittance of income from my paper routes (yes one in morning and one in afternoons in summers, was my joy.. My 10-speed Schwinn Varsity bike, which I still ride arrived the day Elvis died.., oddly enough. My wife asked me whether I wanted to get rid of it a few years back; I said 'not on your life'.. Still a gorgeous bike.

Some summers I had to face going on week long vacation trips with my parents, so a handfull of favorite comics were never far from my side.

vancouver mark said...

I remember the 1973 FF Annual (reprinting the wedding of Reed and Sue) with great fondness, my first summer reading Marvel Comics. It was a rousing and riveting look back at Kirby's FF and Marvel's Silver Age, which felt absolutely archaic at the time.

The summer of '73 also brought the prolonged Avengers/Defenders scrap, another great summer memory, in my case likely involving many blue Freezies indeed.
Unfortunately, as the oncoming epic fight presented itself, my friend Jim across the lane (Hulk and Sub-Mariner fan) arrogantly and foolishly insisted that the Defenders would win. I (Thor and Iron Man fan) expressed complete and condescending confidence that the Avengers would oh so obviously win, while presenting sincere and genuine concerns for Jim's level of mental capacity and for the obviously deficient quality of his parents' genetic stock.

Those familiar with Englehart's wondrous epic will understand immediately how THAT all worked out for me.........

Steve Does Comics said...

Pete, you're right about the Alan Class comics. I always associated them with coach journeys, as they were always for sale in bus and coach stations. I have many happy memories of reading them as our coach to Blackpool drove majestically over the Pennines.

Rip Jagger said...

To be honest, the summers of my boyhood were times for work. I grew up on a small Kentucky farm and after school was out (and before really) it was time to get the tobacco crops into the ground and tend them. June was planting, July was hoeing and weeding, and by August the nearly mature plants needed yet more care.

We also picked both blackberries and raspberries for our own use and for sale.

Add to that the need to put up hay for the cattle and horses we ran and other chores, the summer was sure a time to play by swimming in the creek (we really did) but it mostly a time to work.

My comics were a welcome oasis away from the heady farm life. It was idyllic in many ways, my folks while never wealthy, never allowed us to feel the pinch in any really serious way, but we sure learned to work.

If I have a summer memory for comics, it's those dandy annual reprints from Marvel which opened up the early Marvel history (pre-1967) to me.

Rip Off

Dougie said...

Similar to the annual tradition in US comics were the late,lamented summer specials for UK publications. One of my favourites was the 1973 Dr. Who Holiday Special, a 48 page spectacular.

Other boys' comics like Lion and Valiant also published holiday specials. The more "kiddie-oriented" comics often had pleasure beach/funfair/seaside imagery since "foreign holidays" were quite exotic in the bankrupt 70s.

Nowadays, since all weekly comics are glossies with free gifts, summer specials wouldn't stand out on the shelf but they were a real bonus in my childhood.

david_b said...

Vancouver Mark:

Oh, excellent comments. That Summer of '73 had it all..! To this day, I will always remember the day I walked into the town pharmacy and found both that FF and the Spidey King Size Special (the Goblin reprint) side-by-side, and being at the peak of my new-found Marvel excitement, not knowing which to pick (only had change for one). I ended up picking up Spidey, just to have it painfully lost a few months later at my grandmothers. Suffice to say I finally picked both up again on eBay just a few years ago.

Both that incident and buying the Avengers/Defenders clash mags were my favorite memories ever.

humanbelly said...

We lived in a small, rural town in the southwest corner of Michigan, dominated by a popular lake which our neighborhood abutted. . . so we, too, had summers filled largely with swimming and general water horsing-around. By the time we got into middle school, the rule of thumb was that if the air temperature reached 68 degrees, sure, it was plenty warm enough to go swimming-! Probably late May was the earliest any of us hit the water.
I'm wondering if others had in common the experience, or tendency, of immersing themselves with wild abandon in an activity for a week or two (or three)? Where it became the absolute focus of enjoyment. . . only to be abandoned down the road for the next great phase? We had enormous jags of bike-riding expeditions, swimming (as mentioned), comic-book marathons, board game fixations, badminton (a huge one), croquet (an extraordinarily ruthless, aggressive style of play), pinball at the local marina convenience shop, frisbee, whiffle ball, driveway basketball--- boy, there wasn't a lot of structure, as I think about it. Although there still were paper-routes to be contended with, and (ugh!) many, many yards to mowed for a pittance of recompense (my Dad acted as my "agent", and clearly wanted to impress his pals and neighbors by farming out his son for a laughably low fee. . . grrrgh!)

I imagine there me be some level of idyllic retro-shading to these fond memories, o'course-- but there's no doubt that good times were indeed had, eh?


vancouver mark said...

Immersing ourselves with wild abandon in an activity for a week or so? Absolutely.
I remember being about nine or ten and playing every afternoon with four or five boys from the block. One summer night "The Great Escape" was on TV and the next day when we got together several of us had seen it and were blown away, so immediately we had to play it. For about a week we played it several times each day, always after building up our nerves...

The block we used was on the side of a steep hill, so the yards were terraced down the hillside. We'd start on the road at the top of the hill and creep into the unkempt bushes of a big old house's back yard. This was us coming out of the tunnel into freedom, but we wouldn't get to safety until we went down through all the backyards to the road at the bottom of the hill.

There were four of us who played every time, and other boys came and went. Each took and developed a character. David, the eldest, got to be Steve McQueen, and by the second day he brought his glove and baseball that he had to wear and keep playing with as we ran or snuck through peoples' yards. His little brother was the Man From UNCLE guy, or sometimes the little Scottish crazy guy. Another boy was Scrounger, who had to take something from one of the yards on each run, and then replace it on the next trip down.
I was thrilled to be my favorite character, Danny (Charles Bronson). Once on every run I had to have a breakdown where I'd collapse in one of the yards and say "I can't go on, just leave me, I can't go on," in a bad accent until my friends persuaded me to continue.
Meanwhile, the people in these same houses got increasingly sick of this troop of boys bursting through their landscaping. The game kept evolving, mostly because our leader Steve McQueen kept coming up with new complications, such as on the fourth house with the nice back lawn we all had to drop and roll ourselves across the grass.
After a day or two, one lady began keeping her little dog in the back yard, which meant we had to break into two teams, one making a loud diversion from out front to distract the dog's attention, then the remaining escapees could quickly creep past. The greatest threat was always the old Italian man near the bottom of the hill who was so anal about his garden and who had no sense of humor. When he saw us he'd yell and threaten, and the way we'd say "Gestapo? Gestapo? Heil Hitler" etc seemed to just anger him more.
After just a few days complaints began to reach some of our parents, which obviously increased the inherent danger... now we really WOULD be killed if we were caught.
After about a week, Steve McQueen and the Man From UNCLE were both grounded for playing it ("cooler, twenty days?") I went off to summer camp for two weeks,and when I returned nobody would play it any more.

Best game ever.

Anonymous said...

Just catching up to another great topic filled with great memories and feelings.

Spring into Summer of '73 was when I got hooked on Marvel. The Gwen/Goblin death issues, Avengers/Defenders, etc. I had forgotten those FF and Spidey King Sizers but had both of those as well and, of course, loved them.

And as to humanbelly's "immersing themselves with wild abandon in an activity for a week or two (or three)?" - Oh yeah! I have several of those - like an all summer long boys vs. girls street softball game that we kept score of with chalk on the curb for well over 100 innings. But I don't think I can make any of those activities sound as cool as vancouver mark's Great Escape.


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