The Wings of Summer.

1950: The Wings of Summer Were Mainly Named Schwinn.

Back in 1950, summer spread out upon the imaginations of us kids in Houston as though it had been sent to us from God as a little time slice of Heaven and a virtually endless lawn of non-stop sandlot baseball, a game we all loved and played with poor equipment and virtually no adult interference for as long as the light came upon us with the dawn and lasted for us through the dusk.

Parental fears about the relationship between summer temperatures and the possible onset and development of infantile paralysis hit us hard. We ran into the “Heat of the Day” requirement in the Summer of 1950 – and that amounted to a three-hour parental suspension of outside play from 12 Noon to 3:00 PM daily in the belief that we were being protected from polio by this action. With five hundred cases of polio hitting Houston children in the summer of 1950, it was hard to argue against the time-out call, even though we actually knew very little back then about the virus that actually had spawned the epidemic.

Summer had time limits, but we also soared through the vast free space available to us in that time on the wings of summer, our mainly classic big-wheeled Schwinn bicycles. I owned one of these bright red beauties, one that looked very much like the model depicted in today’s article. As was true with all of us, that Schwinn bike and me were pretty much one unit together once we hit the road. I could lean myself around corners with hands on a comic book and almost never crash, except for the time that a lady over on Keller Street also turned onto Flowers from the other direction and scared me into a last second plunge into a drainage ditch.

She did stop to make sure I wasn’t dead and, of course, I never said anything about the near miss when I much later in the day finally found my way home. You just didn’t report things that might limit your future freedom back then, but I think that kid code is still in effect. Some things never change.

We wore no bike helmets back in the day – and, yes, we probably did destroy a few now-sacred Mickey Mantle cards as noisemakers that we clothes-pinned to play against the spokes of our wheels.

We  never surrendered our bikes voluntarily. Those wonderful machines really were our wings through summer and out to the larger universe beyond our East End homes and neighborhoods.

When Little League Baseball came to Houston in 1950, a large bunch of us rode our bikes over to Canada Dry Park on the Gulf Freeway for the city-wide tryout. Hundreds and hundreds of kids had shown up to tryout for the few team rosters that were going to be available to all Houston kids that first year. I think I got to catch one fly ball, but got no times at bat before I was told “thanks for coming.” I felt pretty bad about it until I learned that none of us from Pecan Park had been given the chance to hit. That privilege seemed to be going to those kids whose fathers had the freedom to come with their sons to the tryout during the work week. None of our Pecan Park dads had that kind of time luxury on the morning of a weekday – and we could figure that the dad-presence factor was a big fat difference-maker in a situation like this one. We didn’t blame our dads, but we did lose a lot of respect for those first year Little League people running the show. Over time, I grew to see what a no-win situation those early Houston Little League founders faced here that first 1950 season, but I was nowhere close to understanding or forgiving the way we were treated that particular day.

Collectively, those of us from Pecan Park knew we weren’t that undeserving, but we could see what we were up against with the numbers and the daddy-presence factor. So, we did as we were told. We went home.

We rode home as a squadron of dejected East Enders, but that also happened to be the day the Pecan Park Eagles were born. By the time we got home, we had gone to the sandlot and reorganized our identity as the Pecan Park Eagles. We also named our home as Eagle Field for the first time and we recruited one of our adult neighbors to serve as our coach. We then organized a simple schedule of games against other nearby sandlot clubs and played once a week at Mason Park for a short while.

Our efforts made us feel better about the jobbing we took at the Canada Dry tryout. That much is sure, but the experience also taught us that you have to rally from disappointment and do whatever you can do to learn from setbacks and go forward in a different way.

The End of Schwinn, 1954.

We still travelled by bike for quite a while beyond the summer of 1950. The end of Schwinn as the Wings of Summer Era didn’t arrive until we aged enough to start dating girls. Once that little shift in priorities settled in, we traded in our summer wings for the four wheels of summer that we found on those spontaneous combustion engine-powered muscle cars that now consumed our imaginations.

I lost my heart, and my freedom from debt, to a 1951 Oldsmobile 88. “Ain’t that a shame” that those kinds of changes also signal the death of childhood’s freedom wings, at least, for a while.

Over time, I recaptured my freedom wings of summer and, this time, they came without a bicycle. The formula may vary for each of us who want those wings back may vary a little, but basically, I think it goes like this:

(1) Put yourself in a position as much as possible in which you control your time. Make sure your time does not control you; (2) Give yourself to causes that go beyond making money and acquiring things, replacing these with activities which aim for the betterment of something bigger than the fulfillment of your own selfish goals; (3) Do things you can really give your heart to doing; (4) Stay away from selfish people who want to use you for their personal gain at the sacrifice of your health and well-being; (5) Enjoy each day that comes your way and make the most of honoring each day for whatever it is; (6) Never make promises you don’t plan to keep; (7) Let go of all resentment and regret about the past, but learn from your mistakes; (8) Hang out with happy people who share some of your particular joys in life; (9) Keep your priorities in order and live life from there; and (10) Love baseball.

I just threw that last one in to see if you were paying attention, but you should be able to get the drift of what I’m suggesting overall. The better I get at these things, the more my happiness grows – and my personal list really does include all ten listed items.

Tags: , ,

4 Responses to “The Wings of Summer.”

  1. Ken Dupuy Says:

    I copied your list and hope to make some of the items fit me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. David Munger Says:

    Bill, congratulations to your Saint Thomas Eagles, TAPPS Baseball State Champs.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thanks, David! Looks like we may need to hold on to that young fellow who coached the STHS Eagles to the TAPPS Baseball State Championship. From all I hear, Craig Biggio was as great as a mentor to the St. Thomas kids as he was as a major leaguer.

  3. shaun bijani Says:


    another great write up, brought back a lot of memories for me when i played ball as a kid. crazy how times change and what was important then isnt so much now, but maybe should still be. i dont think you could have put it any better than you did with the “top ten list”…something we should all strive to do….but heck no. 10 is sure easy isnt it? comes natural to guys like us i think!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: