The lockers are cleaned out, books collected and report cards distributed. Alice Cooper has left the building. School is out and summer is officially in! Instead of loose leaf, Smart boards and tablets, July and August days will become the blank pages upon which summer stories and songs are written.
As an educator, when I say farewell to students at the end of June and wish them a great summer, I cannot help but reminisce about those carefree summer days of my youth. I commence with a flood of summer referencing tunes that were anthems of freedom and carefree days. Remember Jan and Dean’s Summer Means Fun, Chicago’s Saturday in the Park, and Summer Nights from Grease? If you do, you are likely my vintage. I think of the things summer meant to me as a teen and find myself wondering if summer is any different now.
Let’s do the time warp to 1983. A classic summer that saw such blockbuster movies such as Scarface, The Right Stuff, and of course, the highly anticipated Star Wars episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. If anything, we were certainly more patient with trilogies back then, having to wait three years between movies, unlike today’s annual instalment of The Hobbit or other Jackson classics. Where have those 30 years gone?
I was going to be starting high school in the fall so I vowed that I would do my best to make the summer of ’83 last as long as possible. It seemed that my brothers and I, and our friends, were outdoors every day, rain or shine. We played board games on the back deck, camped in the backyard and read classic books. I rode my bike everywhere, went swimming, played baseball with friends, had a few spectacular skateboard wipeouts and graced the neighbourhood with my shoulder-mounted ghetto blaster that sent the tunes of 1983 street to street, much to the consternation of most adults at the time.
I played my cassette version of The Police’s number one album Synchronicity so many times that I wore it out and had to get my dad to drive to Sam the Record Man in the big city to get a new copy. I switched to Def Leppard’s Pyromania when I was around the older kids who were more into Van Halen and ZZ Top. I loved listening to Big Country’s The Crossing and U2’s War. In fact, if you take a cursory look at Billboard’s top albums for 1983 you will discover that it was a spectacular year for music, one that would be hard to rival. You don’t see kids walking around the neighbourhood these days sharing their beats with the populace. With their ear buds they keep the music to themselves.
In fact, in seems to me that kids do not play like we used to play. I have to chase my boys outside on nice days and assure them that the gaming console, iPad and computer will be OK by themselves for a little while. I don’t see the number of casual bike riders, skateboarders and impromptu sports games like when we were kids. My parents expected that we “go out and play,” especially during summer break. What happened over the past 30 years to change this so drastically?
So what do we have in common between contemporary and current summers? Kids still love going for ice cream and getting brain freeze from Slurpees. They like summer camps and sleeping in. They still love to have fun. Most of all … they still complain about being bored by week three of vacation! In this regard it appears there still “ain’t no cure for the summer-time blues!”
On this very first weekend of summer break, I challenge everyone, whether on vacation or not, to find some ways to reconnect with the summer fun you remember from back in the day and share it with the younger generation. Learn something from them in kind. I’ll be looking for a good moon glow Frisbee and in exchange will attempt a front flip on the trampoline. See you at the Medicentre!
Have a safe, relaxing and rewarding summer.
Tim Cusack is an educator, writer and serving member of the naval reserve.