“In the Days of my Youth”

The last days of summer are always the best. I suppose it’s the realization that summer is about to end that moves us to try and get the most from those final days. We get up earlier, play harder, and stay up later, in a futile effort to hang on to summer for just a little while longer, before school starts up again.
As a young boy, I found it very difficult to give up my summers and get back into the routine of school. Summer would usually follow me into the classroom where I’d spend much of my time daydreaming about the fun things I could be doing  instead of school work.  It usually took  me several weeks before school got my full attention. By then I was usually behind in my work and it would take me all triad to catch up. Sometimes I never did. By the fourth week of school, while most students were busy worrying  about homework or tests,  I’d be more concerned with how many school days were left until summer.  My friends  could always count on me to know exactly how many days remained until we were free again. Sometimes I even calculated the number of hours, minutes, and yes even the seconds.  I don’t remember ever being concerned about how tough teachers were, or how much homework they gave, I simply didn’t care.  Not that I was a bad student,  I really wasn’t.  I managed to pull mostly C’s. I did what I had to do to get me through until June came rolling in. I lived for summer vacation. School was just something I did between summers.  Something I had to do.

Sometimes I would put down my pencil and stare out the window imagining the mountains that lie beyond the wall of the apartment building next door, lost in memories of summer. I loved those mountains, I still do. In those days the air quality was much worse than it is today, so they were usually hidden behind a thick layer of smog and haze. But when the Santa Ana winds blew, the mountains looked  incredible, so lush and green, like they’d been painted against a rich blue backdrop. I remember how close they appeared, especially from the schoolyard. On those special Santa Ana days  I always felt lucky to live in Azusa “the Canyon City”, happy to be alive.

I spent many a summer day up in those mountains. My friends and I would ride our bikes up to the end of  Hilltop Drive and hide them in the bushes. Then we’d hike up the fire break to the top of the foothills, to a  place known as Seven Pines. From there we’d look down on Azusa and across the valley, admiring the view. Sometimes we’d hike over to the big ‘A’ on a nearby hillside.  You could see the ‘A’ from all over Azusa. Supposedly, years ago, a group of Azusa high school football players hiked up the hillside and cleared the brush to form the ‘A’, then they chalked it so it could be seen easily. Each year  new players would go up and chalk the ‘A’. It was tradition.  The ‘A’ certainly wasn’t much to look at up close,  but when you told your friends’s that you’d been up there, they thought it was cool. Sometimes we’d  take our BB guns with us and hunt for rabbit or snakes. I don’t think we ever really got one, but we had fun trying.

If we weren’t in the canyon, you could find us at  Memorial Park Recreation Center, the “rec” as we use to call it,  playing ping pong, volleyball  or basketball, or we were hanging out on Angelino Street(between Second and Third) where several of our friends lived. We spent many nights sitting on Angeleno  talking about girls, cars, and yes, even our futures. When we were old enough to drive we’d sometimes drive deep into the mountains and find a place where we could just sit around and talk. Many nights we’d go up to the East Fork bridge to watch shooting stars. I remember the mountain skies being so clear, and filled with stars….  I remember so many things….

J S

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