Last updated: August 24. 2013 7:03PM - 73 Views

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Every time I see Julie Duffy, the question always seems to come up: “When are you going to put me in one of your columns?” I get that question a lot from quite a few folks ever since I first decided that, as long as a “shout out” was germane to my topic and not forced, I would look to slip someone's name in.You see, ours is a small town where people get to know their neighbors, and my experience tells me that people generally appreciate a mention in the paper, as long as that mention isn't in the obits or the court log.So, here goes, Julie; your moment has come. Now, where Julie fits into my offering this week is also where legions of others fit in, including myself, as a former seasonal worker for Lima Parks and Recreation. My time spanned 24 summers.And, while the summer of 2000 was the last time I was part of Lima's eight-week playground program, every time the third week of June rolls around, so many great memories return about my time helping to supervise the program with the likes of Julie. Like me, Julie — back when she was a Bourk, not a Duffy — started as an on-site playground leader and, eventually, worked her way into the office as a supervisor helping to plan events for different playground locations.Sadly, times have certainly changed when it comes to Lima's playground program, and it no longer occupies a preeminent place in the summer plans of the 5- to 14-year-olds of Lima. There are more opportunities to go to summer athletic camps and, sadly, more opportunities for some to sit inside on sunny summer days when opportunities for outdoor fun are rife, to tether themselves to video games and computer screens.Toss in some harsh economic realities, and that means more stringent city budgets, budgets that no longer allow for the funding to operate sites throughout the city.In its current form, registration is $30 for the summer, and there are just four playgrounds.But, once upon a time, the program was free and there were anywhere from 18 to 24 playgrounds and citywide kickball, softball, four square and track-and-field competitions and weekly playground field trips to Schoonover Pool and, to culminate the eight weeks of summer fun, the good, old Lantern Parade at Bear Pit Pond in Faurot Park.On those playgrounds, there were spirited competitions in tetherball and bean-bag tosses, with the red boards and stenciled point values below the holes and anyone who spent as little as a day or two on a Lima playground will remember the red-painted two-by-fours that formed box hockey.It was such a wonderful way to work, while playing. I began my time after my junior year at Miami University and then continued way beyond my undergrad years after taking a few summers off for graduate school and knee surgery and baby-sitting my own lovely daughters.It was the greatest job I ever had, not only because I got to play all day and get paid and practice my kid-skills in the summer when I wasn't teaching high school English, but also because my seven years as a playground leader and then 17 more as a program supervisor gave me the opportunity to develop relationships with so many people.And, I will admit, we played not only when the parks were open but many times after, when the happiest of hours arrived. Some of the most enjoyable beers I ever quaffed I did so with the likes of Julie, Jackie Daley, Frank Pepppers, Daryl Gossard, Sheila Clark, Brad Clark and Duane Blankenship.There was a time when working for Lima Parks and Recreation was considered pretty special. And, those who staffed the program are special. Some came before I began and are sadly gone, men like John Barton. One, in particular, who came after I began and was a wonderful role model for his kids at Washington McKinley Playground is also sadly gone, Anthony Thompson, fondly remembered by so many as A.T.There are so many others with whom I worked who, like me, cultivated their people skills in the playground program, folks like Paul Whitney, Jerome O'Neill, Kathy Walker, Esther Williams, Maureen O'Connor, Kim Howard, Ann Faulk and many more.So, when this time of year arrives, the memories always flood back, recollections of summer days spent playing kickball and having a late-afternoon game of wiffle and, later, some after-hours camaraderie at The Rusty Nail to brag about whose playground kids would win that summer's track and field day and, at summer's end, a Lantern Parade to send us all back to school.

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