Hobbies I have Known and Loved
When I started this attempt at history, Murph responded with a request to hear about my hobbies. Since I have had several over my life time and given more time to them than anyone should, they probably give you some insight into who I am and how I got here. I will try to review hobbies in rough chronological order but digress at times just to make some hobbies flow better.
Note that writing was never one of my hobbies that took me away from other more important things. Remember that we think of hobbies as “What we do with our spare time”. I’ll admit to times when I went to hobbies rather than family, work or community needs simply to get refreshed before going back to the grind (note that family was almost never a grind).
At early ages, the distinction between hobbies and toys is sort of fuzzy. But I will start here because I sense that those things we did with toys laid a foundation in our minds that guided our later choices for hobbies. My favorite toys in the 6-10 year range were Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets. These were similar to modern Legos in that they started with a set of construction materials and an illustrated booklet showing things that could be built but any young mind could imagine things that were not in the in the book. I think I got a small Erector Set as a Christmas present when I was about 7 or 8. It was supplemented a year or two later by inheriting the biggest set sold from Billy Murray who lived next door to my grandmother at 2116 Glenway Ave. in Covington. Billy was a couple of years older than me but we often played together when I visited Grandma. He retired from Erector Sets when he got a bicycle and a trumpet. His monster set had all the fancy accessories including electric motors, transmissions and probably 500 parts in a steel case that I carried with me when my parents visited their friends so that I would something to play with. It let you invent your own toys, remodel them as you saw fit and then dismantle them to recover all the parts and start over with something else. I’m not sure the set below is the one I had but it is close.
Billy Murray introduced me to two other hobbies during the 8-12 year old range. He had a nice new bicycle and Billy was always doing the pedaling. I remember riding on the handle bars with no helmet while we explored most of the streets in western Covington. It whet my appetite for cycling but since there were no paved surfaces on the farm, I never had a bike of my own as a child. This was corrected when my parents took me with them to Florida (Jan. – Mar. 1943). There they rented me a bike and I explored many streets from Largo to Dunedin at age 15. I rode almost daily from Clearwater Beach to Clearwater High School.
Also, Billy was an influence on my interest in music. I had been sentenced to piano lessons some between the ages of 8 and 10 but somehow they did not take with me. When Crittenden School started their marching band, my choice of instruments was a trumpet because I had heard Billy play his. The Crittenden Band had four members – trumpet, clarinet, flute and accordion. We played for school events and were farmed out to churches for revival services. I think we were the only band in Grant county because that was about as far from Cincy that an instructor and instrument rental service was willing to travel. My teacher, Mr. Hinkel, commuted from Cincy to Crittenden weekly on the Greyhound bus. I remember trying to play along with Harry James with a 78 RPM mechanical record player. I liked that part of the hobby more than the sheet music stuff. Harry James music below:
You cannot call reading a hobby but my grandmother supplied me with a subscription to Popular Mechanics, a magazine that is still published. Other than required school reading assignments, PM was my choice for recreational reading. Mechanics Illustrated was another magazine that was available and I had random issues of that. As I recall, it had simpler projects and was aimed at a younger crowd than PM. These magazines lead me to building a variety of “Ccoasters”. These were thrown together from a variety of old wheels, scrap lumber and leftover farm machinery parts that happened to be available. Onthe farm where we lived, there was a good hill from the big barn to the pond with enough bumps to give a roller coaster effect. The last model I remember had both a steering wheel and brakes for both rear wheels. Earlier models had only a loop of rope for steering and my feet for brakes.
Radios and electronics captured my interests fairly early. My first recollections were watching my brother build a “crystal set”. This was a form of passive radio receiver (you did not have to supply it electrical power for it to work). It consisted of a coil, a variable condenser, a crystal (it acted as a diode) and ear phones. The coil was simply a given number of turns of wire wrapped around an oat meal box and the other small parts were gotten from a kit. We could hear only one station, WLW, which I think was the world’s most powerful transmitter at the time with 500 kilo watts. We could put the earphones in a bowl and have the family sit close to it. Then we all could barely hear WLW. Somewhat later my Grandma gave me a radio kit which had one vacuum tube powered by batteries. It had a set of plug in coils that let you tune both commercial and shortwave bands. I had difficulty soldering all the parts together and we had to resort to a radio repairman to get it to work but got me hooked on electronics. In my high school years, by brother was trained in electronics in the Marines. He then went out into the WW2 Pacific theatre. All the service men out there wanted to listen U.S. music but none of the military receivers would tune to “Tokyo Rose” who broadcast good jazz music and Japanese propaganda. Perry would send me requests for the appropriate parts to build commercial band receivers and I would buy them for him from Steinbergs in Cincinnati. Mail and shipping times for these transactions could be many weeks. My first year at Dixie I built a radio from scratch including its wooden case. This was done in Mr. Carter’s Industrial Arts class. During my last year in high school my parents had sold the farm at Crittenden and moved to a rented house in Walton. There was an abandoned Atwater Kent radio that I managed to repair.
In my youth, practically all country boys were into guns and fishing. I got my first Dais yBB gun at about 8 or 9. There were frequent warning from parents about getting shot in the eye and never being able to see anything again but I do not remember any other training. It was used to shoot almost anything but a target or a bird. Mice around the corn crib were my target of choice. Later I got a double barrel Daisy for Christmas. Beyond about 12, I could use my father’s .22 rifle to hunt squirrels, possums and rabbits. Since my father was an ardent bird hunter, I probably inherited the hunting instinct. Yes, I dressed and ate the rabbits and squirrels and sold fur skins to a store in Crittenden. Fishing was not a big time hobby in my youth and fishing tackle was never on my Christmas list. I did fish with my parents in local creeks and ponds. We did a lot of fishing from the pier and bridges during the time in Clearwater Beach.
One more teenage sport/hobby was roller skating. There was a rink in Walton and during most opportunities, I skated. It also provided a circumstance to hang onto a female skater while trying to demonstrate the skating trick you had just learned. It was also fun to fall together. I recall riding a cow pony from Crittenden to Walton to go skating. I got to know one one my best friends, Anna Lee Coup Hopkins, at this rink and still see her fairly often. Just one more skating experience and I will conclude this chapter. I recall a serious argument with my parents about buying a set of shoe/skates. You must know that during WW2 shoes were rationed and we only got two pairs per year – the skates reduced my quota for real shoes to one pair. Also, the quality of shoes available was very low. Nevertheless, I got the skates and one pair of shoes survived the year with multiple trips to shoe repair.
I’ll be back with adult hobbies/sports.