By Jim Raykie
The recent break in the cold snap we had been experiencing is reminiscent of the welcome respites we got from Mother Nature when I was a kid.
Not that we minded the cold and snow. They enabled the alley between Beechwood and Emerson avenues to be transformed into a slippery stretch of ice, providing a one-block, slick sled-riding path between French and Idaho streets.
But the respite meant that the outdoor basketball courts that we had shoveled would melt, and we could play one of Farrell’s pastimes long into the night. We simply traded our sleds for basketballs for a few days.
I run into Dr. Rob Multari quite a bit, and the other night at Chiccarino’s Italian Restaurant, we were talking about the major difference today -- no courts.
In Farrell, for example, the only playground court is at Emerson Avenue and Union Street, a far cry when courts were plentiful throughout the city when we were growing up.
In addition to courts at the other playgrounds and elementary schools that have closed, many folks had hoops in front of their houses, facing the street. Nearly all of them have disappeared from the scene as well.
One of the more popular outdoor courts was located behind Farrell High, today a small parking lot between the high school and elementary school.
Even in the cold of winter, one had to wait to play, and many times, we were turned away because we couldn’t compete with the players who were there.
If we couldn’t find a game in Farrell, which was almost an impossibility, we could cross the border into Sharon, where hoops were plentiful as well.
In addition to games outdoors, some of the talented players that didn’t get along with Coach Ed McCluskey (many were better than the players who suited up at FHS) could be found at the former Carver Centre on the former Broadway Avenue a block from the main gate of Sharon Steel Corp.
Multari believes that the dwindling number of basketball players, especially in Farrell, can be linked to the limited outdoor places to play -- a far cry from when we were growing up in the 1960s.
But on another note, we didn’t have the advances in technology that kids have today that tends to keep them indoors. We had little TV to watch, and listened to music on transistor radios. Our phones were bulky and attached to walls, and we often had to compete for talking time on the “party line.” (I can’t imagine kids today surviving such an ordeal).
Within a few days, we’ll get back on track with winter. Gusting winds and diving temperatures will chill the thoughts of days gone by, when the sounds of dribbling basketballs could be heard throughout the city, in stark contrast to today’s silence.
Some random thoughts:
• U.S. marshals were in the Shenango Valley on Thursday and arrested three persons on a variety of counts. Why is it when I hear U.S. marshals, I see people like Tommy Lee Jones and the group tracking Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Maybe had I been present at today’s version in action, I might get a new perspective.
• While it’s no laughing matter, I am amused at the intense efforts by all kinds of groups, including cafeterias in school districts, to limit the amount of food kids eat in order to combat obesity.
If today’s generation, besides the athletes, exercised in the slightest, most of the battle would be won. When at Farrell High, we looked forward to Spaghetti Day, where meatballs, pasta and fresh Italian bread and butter made our day -- and we never gained a pound.
Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and writes this column on Mondays. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org