, Newburyport, MA


April 10, 2013

Boys will be boys

Back in my early youth of the 1930s, we kids had a ball being kids. We were outside playing all the time. Because most families were large, we had lots of kids to play with. In my own family, I was the youngest of eight children. I had six older sisters and an older brother. Within the neighborhood, the houses were close to one another and sat close to the sidewalk with a small yard on the side. Since there were few families who owned automobiles, we were able to play on the sidewalks and streets. There were so many games that we played, I couldn’t begin to list them all.

One thing that stands out in my mind is that all boys carried in their pocket a jackknife. I can’t remember any boy who didn’t have one. The knife was never considered a weapon but just a toy. In those days, if a fight broke out between boys, they settled their differences with their fists. It would be thought cowardly to do otherwise.

One way they could use the knife was to whittle pieces of wood, another to carve their initials into things. All the trees in the neighborhood had kids’ initials carved in them. The school desk had wooden lids that opened to put books within, an inkwell on the top right corner and was mounted on metal legs all fastened to the wooden floor. The wooden lid all had engravings in them from the boys’ pocket knives.

Purchasing a knife was never a problem. All the 5 & 10 cent stores and hardware storessold them. In each store the knives were displayed in a glass case. They were nicely lined up in trays, reminding me of gems displayed in a jewelry store.

The knife case held two blades on one end, one longer and the other shorter. The case being only 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, it fit nicely into the palm of our hands.

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