Do you remember when church picnics were the highlight of our summers?
Boy. They were the cherries on top of the ice cream Sundaes of school summer vacations.
I know many churches in our area had them and some still continue the tradition. For me, it was St. Matthew's church picnics in Kunkletown.
Back when I was a kid, our church was a combination of a Reformed and a Lutheran Church. We had two picnics. Twice the fun!
They were held in our picnic grove filled with huge tall shady trees and lots of room to run. It was a kid's paradise.
Where else could you go fishing for a quarter and when you pulled back your line, instead of a fish, you got a really cool prize, like a box of crayons, or a whistle or a pretend make-up kit?
There were lots of games with prizes. Most of the games were various relay races and everybody walked away a winner.
Sometimes there was a home game of the Kunkletown AA baseball team. The baseball field was below the picnic grove. There was a path through the woods to get to it and we'd race back and forth to watch a little and when we got too hot or too bored we'd race back to the picnic.
The outhouses were down another path away from the main picnic grounds, which was OK during the day, but once it became nightfall, even with a string of lights marking the path, it was awfully spooky. You never went alone. We'd always go in groups of three or more. Safety in numbers, you know. And of course, there were always the group of boys who derived great pleasure of jumping out of bushes to scare the bejesus out of us. We'd scream and run for the safety of Adultland. Then we'd turn around and chase the boys.
I remember going to a church picnic and a group of us girls chased this one boy until we caught him and then one of the girls would kiss him. We must have played that game 10-15 times. That boy was so pooped out but he kept on playing. And he wore a loopy grin all day. Geeesh. The things you remember.
The only time we saw our parents was when we got hungry and went in search of someone who would buy us a hamburger or hot dog.
The highlight of the picnics were the cake walks. It seemed like there were hundreds of homemade cakes. People formed a circle around the cakes and the spinner. The Parryville Band or Lehighton Band played rousing march songs and like Musical Chairs, the band stopped playing and the people stopped walking. Someone spun the spinner and wherever it pointed, that person won the cake.
When the last cake was won and the band packed up to go home, those of us lucky enough to have parents who had to clean up, got to run around some more.
Finally, sometime after midnight, when I climbed in the family car to go home, the day caught up with me. It was probably the first time I sat down in hours. We lived only a hop, skip and a jump from the grove but I'd be so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open on the short ride home. And as dirty and sweaty as I was, Mom didn't make me take a bath. I'd just climb into bed and was probably asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Today is St. Matthew's 121st Annual Kunkletown Picnic.
Some things have changed over the years. For one thing, our church merged to become one, so we have only one picnic a year. Another change, the prices of the refreshments has gone up.
I remember my grandmother telling me her parents gave her a quarter for the whole day and that got her something to eat and some walks in the cake walk.
Back when I was a kid, a quarter would get me one turn at the Fishing Pond or 25 Tootsie Rolls.
Today, that same quarter might still get you some loose candy or two spins in the Adult Cake Walk.
But some things have stayed the same.
It's still in the same picnic grove shaded by those same old trees.
It's still a kid's paradise with lots of room to run, the Fishing Pond and games galore. They've since added a Frog Jumping Contest (so much fun to watch!) and a free Kiddie Cake Walk.
Of course, now that I'm an adult, I see how much work is involved in the picnic. The organizing, food preparation, baking, carting items to and from the stands, running the games, fishing pond, frog jumping contest, Best Pie baking contest and cleaning up.
One thing I've noticedmost of the adults who now help make the picnic a success, were the kids who use to run around at the picnic, playing, fishing and even kissing.
The motivating factor for the church to continue with the picnic is fundraising and socializing.
But, there is also an underlying motivation of the adults to want to continue a local old-fashioned tradition and to give their children and grandchildren the same opportunity to make some great childhood memories.
So, long live the Church Picnic!