Being a Kid… in the “Old Days”

Today’s kids have cell phones, iPads, iPods, laptops, and HDTV to occupy their free time. But, how did Western Springs children entertain themselves in the early years?

While you won’t find any donkeys in Western Springs these days, a hundred years ago they were considered just another animal … almost like a pet would be today. The first photo shows Herbert (left) and Olive Cattell as they enjoyed a donkey cart ride in the early 1900’s.

A more common activity was baseball, America’s favorite pastime. This is how many boys whiled away a summer afternoon. The second photo shows a game in progress on a vacant lot located between 1222 Chestnut and 4224 Central Avenue. That’s Donald Lane at bat.

When boys weren’t playing baseball, they often reverted to racing their scooters. These were made from wooden boxes attached to roller skates, the latter often “stolen” from their unsuspecting sisters. See third photo, taken in 1919. 

Other boys found more excitement by rafting on the ponds that were located just west of where the swimming pool is now located.  See fourth photo taken in 1920.  

Girls, on the other hand, were more into lady-like pastimes, such as walking their dolls in a buggy.  See fifth photo.

Of course, some girls preferred to play with the boys on the backyard slide. In those days, slides were made from wood, not steel. Look out for splinters!  See sixth photo.

For the older set, Salt Creek in the Bemis Woods seemed to have a special allure.  Here’s a group of Western Springs children on a 1913 school picnic.  Can you imagine today’s school district approving a canoe trip!  See seventh photo.

When all else failed, there was always the excitement of having a group of your friends climb onto the limb of a tree on the banks of the Salt Creek.  See eighth photo.

One of the most exciting pastimes for any youngster was being a sidewalk superintendent. This photo was taken in 1959 at the corner of 47th and Central.  Note the holster and cap gun on the boy in the middle. See ninth photo.

Do you have a favorite memory of growing up in Western Springs?  If so, please post a comment!


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