They were and still are known as the dog days of summer. The kind of days where you would stay outside past the street lights coming on (an unwritten rule for many suburban kids to get their asses home before they were given the 5th degree by their parents or guardians), knowing full well that you had to soak up every last minute, every second of precious time left before enduring another year of authority, exams, and the painful sound of that alarm clock blaring into your eardrums while you lie dazed, conscious just enough to understand that it was almost time for you to get up and tolerate your rigorous teachers and irritating classmates at some ungodly hour.


The school time blues usually starts around mid to late August for youths. Every kid knew that there was an inevitable situation that was placed right before their very hands. School was about to start and the days of staying up late playing exceptionally long, mightily intense games of Metal Gear Solid were about to come to an abrupt halt (although we all know there were those nights that you stayed up late playing even after your parents yelled up “lights out”). Running throughout the neighborhood like a deranged maniac in hopes of obtaining the opposite color flag in “enemy territory” seemed trivial when faced with the fact that you had to abide by a 9 am- 3 pm schedule in just a matter of days.
The key to keeping an optimistic outlook in these dire times for me was to jam pack everything that I yet to accomplish in the months of June, July, and to this point in August . I’m talking about the activities you passed up on and figured you would come around to fitting it in to your “busy” schedule before the educational system grabbed you by the balls. The amusement parks, baseball games, camping trips, drive-in movies, and fishing outings all needed to be experienced successfully in just a short amount of time.
Obviously, to do this you need a loyal companion and a willing chauffer to help you obtain these tasks before time ran out. For me, these allies were none other than my next door neighbor and best friend Ben and my good-humored, loveable father Jim. Both understood what needed to be done and how little time we had to accomplish these feats.
Something that will always be near and dear to my heart, the annual trip to Saint Vincent College (which, coincidentally, would be my home for four years while I studied Marketing and Communications) to watch our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers get revved up for another exhilarating season of professional football. Ben and I carried handfuls of merchandise, sporting some of our favorite player’s uniforms (Ben was a Jerome Bettis guy while I had the unfortunate task of donning the only Steelers shirt I owned, a Kordell Stewart jersey, while he wasn’t in the best of graces with most of yinzer nation). The practice itself was usually a snore fest to us youngsters, although my dad did seem very interested in seeing who the standouts were on both sides of the ball. For us, the real reason for attending was for the autographs players gave after practice. This is where you found out who the good guys were and which players just didn’t want to be bothered with, which, looking back, I can understand these players dismissing the signing process after getting whipped into shape day in and day out. We usually were both very pleased when we returned home with most of the superstar players John Hancock’s on our respective apparel. There were a few guys who were relegated to practice squad or worse, cut before ever playing a down that slipped their signatures onto our footballs. All that being said, this was probably my favorite late summer activity growing up and hope to take my own children to the Steelers training camp in the future.
Another memorable late summer activity was the trip to Kennywood, a local amusement park that is famous for its rollercoasters as well as the best damn French fries this side of the Mississippi. The goal was to ride every single ride the park had to offer before hearing the hallowing sounds of the announcer shout “Kennywood will be closing in 10 minutes.” One summer, I decided to wait in line for the extremely exciting, brand spanking new ride “the exterminator” right before the park was about to close. At the time, my perception of time was not the greatest. Being the pre-cell phone era, I had no way of reaching my parents to let them know that I was safe and that I just waiting in line to get my mind blown and stomach tossed around for a good 30-40 seconds. I knew I had to meet my folks by the bridge when the announcer spoke those dreaded words, but I could not get myself to leave a line I had been waiting in for at least an hour (plus, three of the cutest girls in the 6th grade were standing no further than 2 feet from me. Who could bring themselves to leave?). About five minutes after the announcement, I hear a man breathing heavily directly behind my back. As I slowly turned and awaited the backlash from what was inevitably my father’s presence, I shifted my eyes directly into his. A rage of fury was about to be unleashed upon a young, simpleminded boy who knew better than to keep his old man waiting past park hours. I was immediately escorted from the line, dragged halfway through the park and tossed like a beanbag into the back of our deep green Toyota Tercel. To this day, I am not sure if I have ever made direct eye contact with any of those three girls who ultimately experienced the ride for themselves that night. That embarrassment stayed with me until I was old enough to attend the park without supervision.
These are some of the late summer activities that shaped my childhood and helped me cope with an excruciatingly long school year that lied ahead. Sorry for being longwinded, but I really enjoyed those blistering, muggy, dog days of summer and felt that shedding light on some of my experiences would help many of you regain a sense of nostalgia. I would love to hear some feedback and insight into any of your own personal experiences. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing all of this!