I grew up across the street from the Washington Park Band shell, so the park was our neighborhood playground year round. When my Mother wanted us home, she would give this terribly embarrassing yodel call. I tried to pretend I was just going home, but either my brothers would yell "Mom's calling" or the neighbor kids would imitate her, usually both. I finally got her to pin a tea towel on the clothes line, and I promised I would watch for it. The world knew when I was not paying attention.

Each season had its special attraction. Winter was the ice skating pond which the city flooded, and it was frozen all winter. When a Chinook thawed it, it was flooded again. Winters were very severe, and skates and sleds were big Christmas gift items.

Skates were hard to find during the war, so I was thrilled when word got around that a store (can't remember name, but it was in 200 block of S. Center) was going to have skates. They had a pair in the window I would have died for. I told my Mother it had to be that pair of figure skates. She worked at Wigwam Bakery for three years while my Father was in the CB's stationed in the South Pacific. She went to work early to buy the skates, but to my dismay, the store had received a cheaper style also, so of course I had that kind. White figure skates were white figure skates according to my Mother.

Each year after Christmas all the trees were collected and brought to the skating shelter to burn in huge, beautiful bonfires. We had bonfires all the time, but the Christmas trees were best.

I broke my arm while ice skating, but I convinced my folks it was just a fluke that I fell and I wouldn't fall again, so they let me go skating wearing my cast. My Grandmother (who lived with us) was watching from her window and saw me fall and knew I re-hurt my arm from my actions. So out came the tea towel on the clothes line, and I didn't skate again that season.

Summer was swimming at the VFW Swimming Pool which was free courtesy of the VFW Post 991. The water was not heated and very few kids swam. Sunbathing was the main attraction. You might not be able to walk around the pool, but in the deep end there were few swimmers. In the shallow end there were more, but little children are tougher than teens. When the Airbase opened a lot of the servicemen came to swim, and Casper saw some very daring and exciting diving off the high boards, as well as the spring board. I know all the regular swimmers improved their swimming and diving technic just watching. The servicemen liked to help and instruct us too.

The ice skating pond was a lake in the summer. The attraction then was making rafts and catching pollywogs and mud puppies. When I was 13, Red Skelton came to town with his new wife, Georgia Davis, (who grew up across the street from the skating pond). McKinley Street was being resurfaced, and Red had to park his very large, shiny convertible, top down, on 10th Street and walk north a block to where his wife had lived. He had his movie camera with him, taking pictures of everything, which included me, my brother Bobby, and several other kids, each with a bucket of mud puppies. He stopped and talked to us, admired our catch and took a lot of footage of us. The year was 1945. So some place in Red's home movie library there I am, bare foot, rolled up jeans, and my Father's shirt hanging out trying to look like the "big girls". The other thing Red did was kiss his wife-- A LOT !!

There were many currant bushes in the park and my Mother made jelly, so of course I was a berry picker during their season. I was reminded often pick, don't eat. I think you were allotted extra sugar ration coupons for canning, and my Mother canned a lot and everything was so good. (My Dad made root beer and it was the best.)

A special event each week was the band concerts. It was the one night we were allowed to go to the park after dinner. We usually got money to buy something from the Hand's family concession stand they had set up in front of their house at 10th and McKinley. In those days there were rows of benches in a semi-circle in front of the band shell. The rest of the week those benches were wonderful props for games. The band shell was not closed off, and we had free access to let our imaginations run amok as we played. I can't imagine what has happened to the band shell - it is so much smaller now.

I remember the child-powered merry-go-round and those brave kids who crawled over the rail into the center and how every year several kids had their foot slip under the frame and were painfully caught, many hurt. The Fire Department came several times, but most of the time we knew to all get on one side and lift and one to dig the dirt away from the foot and ankle of the ex-brave rider. I don't remember a neighborhood child ever getting caught. I guess we saw it happen too often to the inexperienced. They finally put in a metal mesh covering the frame, and then more rode on the inside until the mesh was broken down and drug until the "Merry" couldn't "go round" anymore, and it was taken away.

On the north end of the park was the city softball field. This was no little league but grown men, and the games were good and exciting. When I became old enough, I was allowed to go down and watch the games. My parents knew when the game was over because cars parked around the outfield and there was a lot of honking and cheering. When it became quiet they started waiting for me to get home. There was no fooling around about it, ten minutes was cutting it pretty close if I wanted to go again. Seemed as if everyone came by the field to see who else was there. It was a good place to hang out.

Spring and Fall were roller skating time. Along the park on McKinley the sidewalk was a gradual slope from 11th to 8th so it was wonderful going down, harder coming back up. We also used the tennis courts north of the pool as a skating rink. We had elaborate games complete with referees, whose calls we never agreed with. Total anarchy. It was difficult keeping those old skates tight on our shoes. Your skate key on a shoe string around your neck was your most valued possession. Skates were very hard on shoes and shoes could only be purchased with ration stamps, so no matter how much damage you did, you had to wait until the next stamp was valid. My Mother hated skating.

I remember President Roosevelt coming down McKinley Street in an open car, wearing a white suit and hat. It was a very cloudy and cold November day and there were very few people out to see him. My parents were Republicans, but they made us wave because he was our President, right or wrong. This has nothing to do with the park, but one day during the election that Wendell Willkie ran against Roosevelt, I wore a Willkie button to school. My, what a commotion that caused - you would have thought my button had Hitler's picture on it. It was very embarrassing for an extremely shy girl, so of course I lied and said I had found it in a vain attempt to protect my parents' honor.

When I was 15 my parents bought Chamison's Grocery Store at 12th and Jackson. From then on I was a part-time clerk at Whitman's Grocery. I never had to worry about looking for a job - one was always waiting beyond our kitchen door.

Go to "Whitman History" by Robert Whitman