Episode-1869- Growing Up in the Florida Swamps and Pennsylvania Woods — 19 Comments

  1. Very excited to hear you tell your story Jack. Long overdue. In the last episode you talked about telling “stories” as part of community formation and building. I couldn’t agree more. Have always been fascinated on how people got to where they are today.

    By the way, the best sales approach I’ve ever found with a prospect is simply to ask, “tell me how you got to where you are today,” very, very few prospects tell you to pound sand. In fact, most open up and great relationships have been built.

  2. Hey Jack,
    Thanks for sharing your tale. I’m happy to tell you that the way you describe your childhood isn’t completely dead. I’m 18, and grew up fairly similarly. Growing up on a few acres in Lancaster County had a lot of similar experiences to yours.

    Back home, I lived in a neighborhood where there was a bunch of boys the same age, and we’d do all types of fun stuff, from playing Army using “guns” made from old 2x4s and random hardware bits, to shooting birds with bb-guns, and lighting each other up with airsoft guns, and having random campouts in our back yard, complete with both supervised and unsupervised campfires, I was able to have a good ole childhood.

    While the bus stop for us was the bottom of my driveway, some of the stuff I did, I can now see would be considered “dangerous” to let a kid do. From 1st or 2nd grade onwards, I would take the burn trash out to the burn barrel that was in our woods by myself and burn it without anyone caring. Well my parents cared, but they cared that it got done more than worrying about me lighting myself up.

    While I couldn’t wander the woods with a .22, because of an “overcautious” (though apparently not near as bad as I thought) mother, I was raised with guns and hunting, and have become a bigger lover of guns than my father ever was. We had a little creek that ran through my property and under a road, and we’d go fishing across the road from the house, and no one worried about us.

    During the summer, I’d just give my mom a shout that “I’m going over to the Martins or Greens (names changed to protect the guilty), and she wouldn’t worry too much. We had a bell on the front porch that she’d ring when we needed to come in for supper, and half the time we’d bring the neighbors with us.

    We also had a little mom and pop store behind us that we’d go and buy soda and candy, which they sold for 5 and 10 cents a piece, and our parents didn’t care. We built forts and treehouses out of plywood and one summer, we just work on digging as deep of a pit as we could, just for kicks.

    We didn’t get very far, but it was fun! Thanks for all the memories you shared, and I just wanna let you know that your childhood isn’t quite as lost today as you might think, and my kids will have an even better one if I can do anything about it. Thanks for all that you do Jack, and keep the faith,
    Ben from PA

    • Thanks for that Ben and there are two ways that a Pennsylvania boy recognizes another. They are

      1. The phrase “back home”

      2. Referring to your state that is back home as P A

      I know of no other state that does that.

      I guess the other is Philly is the only other city other than NYC in the nation were people call it “The City” and people from New York really look at you side ways when they say “the city” and you respond with which one.

  3. Loved this episode. Brought back a lot of memories for me, some long ago, some recent. I grew up in South Florida (Dade & Broward counties) about half a generation after Jack.

    I had a very Huck Finn childhood in a lot of ways. In South Florida, interconnected canals go almost everywhere, and we used to hop in a little john boat or canoe & literally ride all around the county from dawn till dark, with no supervision.

    Those canals eventually connect to the intracoastal waterway, so in addition to freshwater fish, we caught the occasional jack crevalle, snook & tarpon. And my father lived on a little lake that was full of bass (both largemouth & peacock — one of the perks of South FL.) Also spent a lot of time in the Everglades and down in the Keys doing all kinds of stuff. Somewhere along the way I spent time around cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, gators, sharks, and even a few saltwater crocodiles & oversized invasive pythons (yes, that was already starting back then.) I think every child should have the opportunity to have a Huck Finn childhood.

    By the way, I taught history at Jacksonville University for a little while about a decade ago before I got my current gig. I currently live about 45 minutes south of Jacksonville, and I drive across the slow-but-mighty St. Johns River twice a day on my commute to & from work. And while I don’t fish nearly as much as I used to & would like to, I still like to wade through the tidal marshes here in Northeast Florida fishing for trout & red fish whenever I can.

  4. Great episode. I had the pleasure of spending large segments of 1993-1995 in Pottsville, while administering servers for Schuylkill Medical Center. Loved the feel of the place, it reminded me of my childhood in the upstate New York area in the mid 1970s. Too bad that the economies of both places was devastated in the 1980s. I would move back to either place, if I thought I could make a living.

  5. I was laughing my ass off about the alligator story. Sitting in Atlanta traffic at 630 in the morning with tears rolling down my face, I’m sure my fellow commuters were looking over asking “WTF?”

  6. Hey Jack, I too loved this episode, thanks for doing it. I’m nearly the exact same age as you. Didn’t run around in the woods as much but did a lot of similar things on my bike with my friends in fields of wild grass near our homes. Also have a lot of memories of fishing for salmon in the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers (Oregon) with my dad.

    You know how you often talk about the true meaning of the law of attraction and how it is interesting when things coincide. Well, I’ve got one for you. Like Josh, I was in Atlanta traffic but on my way home. This was a couple days ago. I was listening to Brantley Gilbert’s song “Country Must Be Country Wide”. Great song by the way. One of the lyrics is, “Hank said it all, he said country boys can survive”. Well, when I heard this, I thought, “Man, I haven’t heard that song in a while. I’m going to listen to it when I get home.” I did exactly that and as I listened to the lyrics I thought, “This would be a great song for Jack to play. Such a good message. Maybe I should shoot him an email.” I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw what the song was today. 🙂

  7. Thanks Jack for telling your story. They were fun and reminded me of my childhood growing up.

    I too grew up in the ’70’s-80’s. I truly believe, like you, we were the last generation to enjoy our childhoods in this manner. Sure, I do think a few kids later and even now still have the special lives we had, but only a hand full of kids from what it was then.

    My friends and I ran around the neighborhood unsupervised as far back as I can remember. My dad took me out shooting nearly every weekend and sometimes nightly. I had a route for collecting cans from car washes to pay for models and other things that I wanted. I tore things apart to see how they worked. My friends and I would meet at 5:00 on a weekend morning to play “war games” along a river that flows through our town. We would fish that same river often. It was a great childhood that I wish all could enjoy.

    No one ever questioned what we were up to. No one ever called the cops. Neighbors would give us guidance if they though we were getting into mischief. I was more than once surprised to find that my parents knew what I was doing before I got home. Which enforced in my mind that I had better never do anything I knew I was not suppose to do. The network of parents and neighbors was a phone call away.

    Anyway thanks for the episode. I found this song a while back and it reminded me a lot of my friends in our childhood. My friends agreed when they watched it. It is about a decade behind us, but does show that some kids were still enjoying what we did at that time. Enjoy.

  8. I grew up the same way in Western PA. We hunted, fished, did odd jobs until we were old enough to get other jobs, then we still did odd jobs. Your childhood sounds a lot like mine.

    I am doing what I can to find those roots for myself again too. I got away from them for far too long.

    I agree with the question of how do we get that back? It will take some doing and huge shift in the paradigm of raising and preparing children for the world.

  9. Sounds like my childhood growing up in Missouri. I shot may rabbits, squirrels, quail, and pheasants from the window of my dads pick up back in the early 80’s. Not ethical by today’s standards but it was normal. Same for fishing, learned on the rivers, both rod and reel and illegal traps. We had 50+ acres of timber and pasture behind the house that we built forts in and hunted with our BB guns and sling shots. Now the neighbors (who don’t hunt or fish or even own firearms) call the cops when my kids are shooting their BB guns and shooting archery in fear their lives, ignorant people.

  10. Jack, neat story. Funny how I had a different childhood experience even though I grew up in Jacksonville during the same time as you did, even living out in the deep woods near Black Hammock Island. No hunting in the swamps and not much fishing. Never saw one wild alligator. Did pop a BB gun at mourning doves a few times though 🙂

    And oh yes, the area around Jacksonville University today is indeed not a very good place to be at night.

    I am surprised you never went deer bowhunting until you moved away. We do have that here, and I have a friend who goes all the time. Of course the deer are about as big as a dog, but… 🙂

    Come back to visit some day. I’ll buy you a beer at Seven Bridges.

    • Never saw deer out my way, not even sign, only small feral pigs, and gators, LOTS of gators.

    • I think you have to go out of Jacksonville proper to find deer. I’d not seen pigs nor deer nor gators in almost 40 years living here but then I’m a city boy so take my experience with a grain of Himalayan salt.

      But mother-in-law out in the country sees deer all the time, and one of her family members lost a dog to a gator years ago 😀

  11. Interesting. I agree that this was the late 70’s through early 90’s. Things changed I think as technology have changed. One of these days we’re going to have to meet face to face after this story I’m beginning to thing we’re “brothers from another mother”.

    The whole spending time with your dad mine was the exact same. He worked midnight’s with Hoover Sweepers for 30+ years and rarely did we do anything together except in the summer. He would as me before he went to work, “Do you want to go fishing in the morning” and I can say I never missed the chance. Can you imagine a teenage kid having to get up at 7:00am during summer break? I did it every time!

    I look around TN where I live now and unless you own property it’s mighty hard to do some of the things we did. The whole camping in the woods and drinking beer, the whole going out and shooting guns without adults, the whole raising hell and ever falling out of the tree on your back which I never did, but witnessed and that whole sucking breathing thing.

    This was a great episode and brought back lots of memories as you said, and to go back now it’s not the same, I know the same woods are there, but the place really hasn’t changed and I have being gone now 28 years next month (I joined the Army Oct 1988)

    I’ve thought long about my grandchildren and will they be able to experience these things. Luckily we’re now in the process of building out on our 30 acre homestead, where there will be a lot of similar activities for them to do.

    Thanks for all you do!

    PS, my dad had a 65 Ford Galaxie that he painted “Battleship Gray” with a rustoleum and a paint brush.

    And my first car was a 65 Ford F100 pickup that I paid $400 with my own money and was made fun of because it looked like “Sanford and Son”

  12. Amazing show. I was born October 1971 and even though we all want to hold on to youth, I’d pick the same starting date!

    I had a great childhood. I road my bike about 3 miles on a 2 lane county road to 4H when I was in grade school. We rode bikes down gravel roads fast as we could & came home scraped up often. We rode bouncy “3” wheelers & mini bikes. We thought we were as cool as “Chips”.We’d watch “The Waltons”& “Little house on the prairie” too. We loved our bb guns & making our own bow n arrows.

    In high school we learned to skip class. We loved movies like Top Gun. I learned to drink in the woods while coon hunting. We smoked a little weak weed. We got in fights then became friends. We grew up free knowing that we have no right to harm others. We did dumb things but none of it was to cause harm. I was the dude in a brown two tone Ford Pinto who caught a girl driving a canary yellow Mach II Mustang. We are married to this day!

    I wish the freedom I remember still existed today for kids.

  13. Finally got around to listening to this one and got a little emotional for some reason. I guess I’m just thinking back to how it used to be and how things have changed so much. Saw a lot of parallels to my own childhood; Dad working all the time, all the stupid shit we used to do, etc. I guess there’s some things I’d forgotten about too. Anyway, good show.

  14. I really enjoyed this episode. Growing up on the outside of Reading, Pa I know many of the places you talked about. Unfortunately, I don’t make it to Schuylkill County much anymore. I always enjoyed driving through all those small towns and seeing the sense of community. Of course, this was the 80s and very early 90’s.

    Weaknecht Archery is still in business and one of the largest in the area. I learned to shoot a compound bow w/ the same Jennings, only it was borrowed. I didn’t have quite the same amount of freedom, but only because of location w/ having Route 222 in my backyard.

    It’s funny about the “back home” and “PA” slang. I’ve been saying that my whole life. I work w/ a bunch of people from New Jersey. They refer to PA as Pennsy and it pisses me off because nobody from PA calls it that.

  15. Thanks for the show. I was born in 71 and grew up in La county, southern California. Funny that I did not have woods, fishing, hunting, or any of the rural experience but we had a sense of freedom and did many stupid things that you could relate too.