Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

It's August.

How did that happen? I swear I was assigning high school graduation photos just last week.

I realize that part of the problem involves me being really old. Time has a tendency to do funny things — go fast when I want it to go slow (while eating an ice cream bar, for example), then go slow when I want it to go fast (like waiting to get on Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland).

I see I used childhood memories for examples there. I'm sure that means something.

But I digress. I was talking about high school graduations, wasn't I?

Our modern merchandising machine is at least partially to blame for time flying by. I've talked here before about Christmas advertising in October and the like. This time, it's back-to-school sales.

I started receiving sales notices two weeks ago. I was pretty much able to ignore them — it wasn't in a newspaper, after all.

Then last Sunday I had to go to the store to pick something up for one of Maria's many projects. I decided to try the discount store, which I won't name, but I will say it was right on target for what I wanted.

There were notebooks, crayons and backpacks right inside the door. As I started up the aisle towards the back (things I need seem to always be in the back), there was a giant pencil sign with "Back To School" on it, pointing to the left. And I did indeed have to fight my way through piles of children's clothes, predominantly uniform style, then shelf after shelf of what looked like office supplies shrunken down for smaller hands.

Did you know they still sell spiral-bound notebooks? And writing instruments are all around. I thought they were doing everything on tablets or iPads these days.

I was glad to see it. I wonder if Long Beach still teaches cursive writing. Remember when handwriting received a grade?

Sorry. That age thing sidetracked me again.

The point is, all this stuff is out there for sale when kids shouldn't be thinking about anything other than baseball, swimming lessons and the like. Why must we hurry it so much?

I know that the school year itself has encroached upon summer. Those graduations I mentioned in the beginning happened in the middle of June. And every school I know of starts classes again in August.

Long Beach gives its students, at least its k-12 students, a bit of a break. Classes don't begin here until Aug. 28. That means Johnny and Susie still have a few weeks of freedom.

I freely admit this next bit is all about the good old days, and I have to question the veracity of some of these memories, but here's what I recall.

When I was a boy, we started school the week after Labor Day. That's in September. We got out of school the week before Memorial Day. That's in May.

We went to school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. That was all the way through high school.

So we had afternoons to do kid things, and we had a full summer to enjoy the good things in life  — riding bikes, playing ball, swimming, etc. And yes, we knew we had to go home when the streetlights came on.

I feel sorry for the kids today. To be sure, they seem plenty happy now when they swarm the Rite-Aid ice cream counter or Starbucks in the afternoons. And I hear they're still really doing kid things,  even if the security is tighter.

But it will be over all too soon.

And by the end of the month, the stores will have Halloween stuff on the shelves. Can't wait.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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