Remember When: Cap guns, water pistols and other fun in the 1940s and 1950s

Tom Mooney - Remember When
Tom Mooney Remember When -

A grizzled warrior, I knew my prey would sneak around the corner of the house, thinking to catch me unaware.

I raised up over the railing just slightly, steadying my weapon.

There he was.

“Squirt,” and “squirt” again.

“Yow,” he’d yell.

Boy, you couldn’t beat a good water gun fight back in the 1940s and 1950s.

Do grade-school kids still get out the plastic water pistols as weather warms up? Do they still design elaborate games to see who’s the best tracker and ambusher?

Probably not.

Here are a few other things I’m pretty sure kids today won’t be spending their summers doing.

Cheering for the latest chapter of a serial: Saturday afternoon was movie time at the neighborhood theater. You’d get a cartoon or two plus maybe the Bowery Boys and finally a galloping, fist-fighting cowboy flick. But the serial – ahhhhh! In the last chapter, the hero had just gotten tossed over a cliff. Now you’d see how he got out of it.

Watching teenagers at the drugstore soda fountain: Casually glancing over from the latest issue of “Captain Marvel” at the comic book rack, you or your buddy would whistle or make some semi-salacious remark to the guys moving in on the girls slurping ice cream sodas. Of course, the teens would flare up and yell “shut up, you little creep,” making your day.

Wearing a gas mask: Thanks to the big guys who’d come home from World War II and Korea with surplus equipment, we had canteens, ammo belts, blankets, shirts – wow, just name it. The big prize seemed to be a shoulder bag containing a never-used gas mask. They were hot as blazes to wear, but did they ever make you feel like you were saving the world from the Nazis or the commies.

Running home when you realized you’d forgotten about the curfew: The wailing siren that many towns had in those days at 9 p.m. meant that all minors had to be off the streets. Visions of getting sent to reform school swirled in your head as you pounded down the pavement, searching for the “prowl car” that your parents assured you was out there.

Collecting Popsicle wrappers: Eat enough of those things (cherry was my favorite) and you could mail in the wrappers, often a bit sticky, for prizes. I have no recollection of what I got for my wrappers, but I remember scouring gutters, looking for more.

Riding a streetcar to the amusement park: We had great parks – Hanson’s at Harveys Lake, Sans Souci in Hanover Township and Rocky Glen up the line. Sans Souci was the nearest. But honestly, I liked the clanging, banging old trolley car almost as much as the Caterpillar and Bearcat.

Befouling the air with cap guns: I’ll tell you, there was nothing like a good game of cowboys or G-men when the cap guns started blazing away, filling the neighborhood with smoke and noise. I don’t remember how we decided on the story lines or who was who, but I do recall the damnable humiliation of a roll of caps jamming amid the cries of “over there” and “get him.”

Pestering mom and dad to get a TV: Yes, they were exotic and costly commodities. Believe me, it was no fun if you were the only kid on the block who had to subsist on second-hand accounts of “Space Patrol.”

As for kids today …

Wait a second, what did I get for those Popsicle wrappers anyway?

Tom Mooney Remember When Mooney Remember When

Tom Mooney

Remember When

Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]

Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]