Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bikes, Pea Shooters and Gumball Machines

Once the school years started, summer became a special time in Liberty.  We could ride our bikes every day.  Around town, up and down Back Street- as far west as Freda and Ronnie Hill's house (Doc Hall's office) or east to Lloyd and Alvena Michael's farm, depending on how tight a rein Mom thought we needed.  The town grocery and the Pure oil station, both at the four way stop that defines the center of town, were favorite stops when I was 7-10 years old (and later).

I remember one summer we had a pea shooter fad that started at the grocery with purchase of straws or a soft drink that came with a straw and a bag of tapioca.  The tapioca was the best thing to shoot from a straw, but the traditional ammunition was the pea, hence the title of pea shooter.  Now I note at craft fairs the making of awesome marshmallow shooters from plastic pipes, but plastics weren't part of life in the "old days".  Mike and Bobby Whitaker and I would shoot each other with the pea shooters.  We also shot at tin cans, milk bottles, balloons, paper targets, etc. I think other kids were involved but can't remember exactly who.  My wife, Rebecca (Michael) used to shoot beans through a straw at her siblings on the farm on Liberty Ellerton Road.  They still sell plastic versions of the pea shooter with plastic pellets now if you need a cute gift for your grandchildren.  If you ever shot a pea shooter, feel free to comment with stories at the bottom of this post in the comment section.

Parents weren't prone to enjoy the fun of blowing tapioca across a room at each other or us, so they were excluded from the fun.  They did warn us to "be careful" to not shoot someone in the eye, because "so and so got shot in the eye with a BB gun and is blind in that eye".  Each community seemed to have a mandate for inclusion of someone who had been shot in the eye with something so parents had a real example for warning their children.  Doug Cannon had a BB gun, but we never got one due to the parental "shoot someone in the eye fear".

Another fad that interested me was collecting tiny light bulb shaped gumball prizes that glowed in the dark after being exposed to light.  The penny gumball machine had the small gumballs and these glowy items at the corner grocery.  After using my few available pennies, I resorted to jimmying pennies out of my piggy bank (literally a glass pig about 7 inches by 10 inches) with a knife to get more light bulb prizes.  I had to chew a lot of gumballs to get each prize.  This obsessive focus resulted in minor damage to the hole in my piggy bank, which probably gives it diminished worth if anyone ever sells it on E-Bay.  Gumball machines have the same effect on children now as then, but no prize could be as cool as those little light bulbs.  The history of gum and gumball machines is very interesting.
History of gumball machines
History of chewing gum and bubble gum

Pat Jonas


1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this post. Made me nostalgic for my own childhood of bike-riding, kickball-playing, and flashlight-tagging!