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by Ron Cruger
The Summer of '52
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       Compared to today it was a time of sappy, simple, gentle and naïve behavior. It was the era of “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” and “My Little Margie.” Millions of parents used these shows as a basis to raise us.
       Our dreams were moderate. Our fathers went to work, our mothers stayed home and worried about us growing up properly. The family ate dinner together, usually at the same time every night. We did what our parents told us to do. There were no street gangs. Only cops had guns. We ate Velveeta cheese, hot dogs, candy bars, macaroni and cheese and Wonder Bread. We survived.
       We wore tight Levi’s and tight T-shirts. We greased our hair and shaped “ducktails” until every hair was in place and would stay there even in a windstorm.
       We had just graduated from Inglewood High School.
       Dwight Eisenhower was running for president against Adlai Stevenson. “High Noon” with Gary Cooper was the big movie of the year. The “Today” show appeared on television for the first time. A nuclear bomb was detonated in the Arizona desert. Polio would claim 3,300 fatalities and 57,000 children would be paralyzed.
       Cheez Whiz was introduced to Americans.
       The Korean War raged on and for many young men their worrisome thoughts were of being drafted and sent to that far away conflict.
       We were 18 years old and we were celebrating our high school graduation.
       We never spoke about it, but we all knew that our years of innocence were over. This was the summer of our graduation from high school - our summer of transition. Come the fall we would go our separate ways. We just didn’t want to be transformed into adults so soon.
       The first day after our graduation a few of my friends and I agreed to meet at the “Haven from Slavin,” a box of a building, located amidst the trees and foliage of Centinela Park in Inglewood. “The Haven,” as most called it, was operated by the Parks and Recreation Department of Inglewood. It was designed to provide a place where kids, especially teens, could spend their idle hours during the hot southern California summer months. That first day there we played table tennis and pool. Boys sat on one side of the small room, girls on the other.
       As the first few days of summer passed “The Haven” grew busy with the arrival of more teens. Phil Daher, a local football hero was the recreation leader at “The Haven.” He encouraged our participation in all the activities, even held dances. We played touch football, formed impromptu teams and played softball and volleyball. We listened to popular music. After the first few days of summer the girls were included in the games. Flirting became a skill. After the first week passed you could see couples sitting on the grass, in the shade of the Eucalyptus trees, staring into the future, talking of dreams and goals. Some lifelong relationships were forming.
       Thoughts of the fall and college or jobs or other future responsibilities faded as the prime consideration was going to “The Haven” and enjoying the activities - enjoying each other. It seemed as if we were all trying desperately to avoid becoming “real” adults. We weren’t done with our innocence yet. We were neither adults nor children. We knew what we had today, but didn’t know what life held for us tomorrow.
       So, we all lived for today – during one magical, improbable summer.
       High school graduates from schools all around us were getting part time jobs, planning their college schedules, getting engaged, getting married, thinking, making goals. They were becoming adults.
We showed up every day at “The Haven.”. There was Don, Dick, Gene, “Fuzzy,” Virginia, Carol, Bonnie, Shirley, Warren – even classmate Sonny Bono.
       Towards the end of our last magical summer serious relationships between couples were formed. A few would be married before too many more summers would pass. Of the many friendships made at “The Haven” many would last lifetimes. Some of the guys were drafted and served in the Army.
       Many of the friendships made during that summer of ’52 exist today, some 55 years later.
Some of the friends made during that summer are no longer with us. Some of us still get together and reminisce about those special, innocent days and nights at “The Haven.”
       After that summer many of us went to college, or found jobs, or served in the Army. Couples married, had children and grandchildren. A couple of the guys became professional athletes. Some died young.
       One thing we all shared was something we didn’t plan on graduation day. It just happened to us – that special, magical summer of ’52.