It all started with a simple challenge. Think about the ten best memories from your own childhood before high school. It sounds like an innocent enough exercise, but for Mike Lanza, founder of Playborhood, it became the basis for his Manifesto. When I first read it I laughed a little because I could relate. But then I started thinking… Well, one thing led to another and today, by visiting this web site you are witnessing the result. With the launch of the Oakville North Playbourhood, the noble idea of helping kids enjoy more unstructured play has turned into an international movement! So, Mike, to honour this global achievement, I’m accepting your challenge.
I grew up on the edge of a small town in the deep south of Ontario called Leamington. Probably most famous for the Heinz factory located there, the town is known as the Tomato Capital of Canada. For most of my early childhood years our family lived in two houses, both in the same neighbourhood. The first was Bowman Street and the second Maynard Street. In fact, when we moved, we were able to carry many of our belongings from one house to the other by hand. But that’s a whole different story. Here’s my best childhood memories from those years:
1. Playing street hockey. The rules would always change, depending on who was playing and what time of year it was. Once we placed the nets all the way on opposite ends of the street.
2. As a budding entrepreneur I found all kinds of ways to supplement my allowance: lemonade stands, collecting milk jugs and pop bottles to take back to the store for the refund, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, delivering Sears catalogues.
3. Having the amazing luck to get the Windsor Star newspaper delivery route serving the three low-rise apartment buildings on Lutsch Street. The weather was never a problem and the distance from door to door was pretty short!
4. Jumping the fence at the back of our yard to climb Cindy’s tree – a great big Willow – and spending endless hours playing, reading and just hanging out in the high branches.
5. Going over to Steve’s place on Marlborough Avenue, climbing from the second floor porch to the garage roof and then jumping from there into the pool. Or in the winter, jumping into the snow bank.
6. Riding our bikes anywhere, anytime for anything. Around the block, to the park, to school, downtown to the library, to Woolworths for back to school supplies, to the lake for ice cream, to the Kiwanis Pool for swimming lessons, and even to grandma’s house. Once, in grade seven, we had a school outing to the tip of Point Pelee and back.
The summer after grade seven, my family moved to Owen Sound. Another small town located on the south shore of Georgian Bay. Luckily, I was able to make friends quickly, and the rest of my favorite childhood memories took place there.
7. Spending every day one summer playing tennis with Brent and Lisa (my first girlfriend) on the courts behind St. Mary’s Church. Deciding it was more macho to play barefoot – until I ran across some broken glass.
8. Climbing the rock face of the Niagara Escarpment just east of 7th Avenue and building a fort to play in. Trying to sneak out of the backyard one night with my telescope in order to climb up the rocks for a better view of the night sky unobstructed by street lights.
9. Going downtown to hang out at the arcade on 2nd Avenue. I spent an awful lot of quarters playing Centipede but never seemed to get the hang of Donkey Kong.
10. Hiking all the way up to Inglis Falls from Harrison Park and then floating back down the river using inner-tubes all the way to the harbour by A&P. Forgetting we left our bikes at the park and then having to walk back again to retrieve them. >
Like most people I have many other fond memories of my childhood that relate to my parents, sisters and our whole extended family. But, as Mike Lanza points out in his Manifesto, so many of our childhood memories don’t involve the participation of adults. His list and the one above illustrate that point clearly.
Playbourhood is all about recapturing that wonder. Take your own Manifesto Challenge and see if you don’t agree. Then, like me, you’ll be saying “thanks Mike and welcome to Canada!”