When I was seven years old, we moved to the rural community of Schnecksville, Pennsylvania.  Although the road that ran in the ‘front’ of our house was paved, the driveway was nothing but an old dirt road that leads up to a one-hundred-year-old farmhouse.

For a seven-year-old boy, this was the perfect home.  Behind the house was a one-car garage which would soon be home to Lucky and Blackie – two stray kittens we adopted when they came crying at our back door.  A paved sidewalk meandered to a covered picnic pavilion with two picnic tables and a big sandbox nestled up in the north corner.  My two brothers and I spent the entire summer that year eating our lunches outside, creating a city with scrap pieces of wood and dirt roads for our toy cars in the sandbox, and creating our version of baseball that allowed all three of us to compete against each other in the big open grass yard next to the pavilion.

I found an old Red Rider wagon wheel in the garage and proceeded to lay out my farm on a lawn next to the house.

The entire property was surrounded by cornfields.  Regularly we would see the farmer on his tractor spraying the young corn plants as his tractor created a dust cloud that hovered over the tender plants.  I was so in awe of his hard work and determination that I decided I wanted to be a farmer, too.  I found an old Red Rider wagon wheel in the garage and proceeded to lay out my farm on a lawn next to the house.  Pretending to be driving a tractor, I walk back and forth with the wagon wheel in front of me as I ‘plowed my field, planted my corn, and sprayed the imaginary crop.’

Sundays were especially fun.  After church and lunch, we would gather on the big front porch that stretched the entire length of the house and listen to music.  But not just any old music.  My mom and dad had purchased an old hand-cranked 78 RPM record player, with the old records, from a local auction.  We would pick out a record, put it on the turntable, crank the handle, and dance as the music filled the air from the big funnel-shaped ‘speaker’ that looked like a big flower sprouting from the wooded box of magic.  To this day, the music of the big bands and the crooners of the 1940s still touches my heart.

Today, the hustle and bustle of everyday life has been brought to an eerie standstill.  But I find this time to be wonderful as I escape to the days when playing outside, plowing imaginary fields, and dancing in a circle until you became dizzy and rolled down the little rise in front of the porch was the true definition of a perfect day.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. Dear Len Sir, your uncanny ability to carry the readers back in time is more than evident in the writing that brings us back to the heydays of yore. In this instance, you reminded me of the days when the word ‘toys’ did not exist in the common man’s dictionary. We, as children, put our imagination to test and unearthed enjoyment, the real pleasures, out of any and every possible piece of scrap lying around. Growing up in a large family with my dad the only earner, we never dared ask for as simple a thing as a rubber ball. So, we collected thin pieces of a bicycle tube that the newspaper vendor used on the rolled-up newspapers that my father MUST read every morning. I remember taking a piece of paper to make a small ball and then place these improvised rubber bands one on top of the other to get a nice, bouncing ball. For the bat, we’ll climb a tree and break off a thin 2.5/3 ft branch. This is how we used to play the game of Cricket. (BTW, India has won the Cricket Gold Cup on numerous occasions, beating the Britishers in their own game.)
    I had the opportunity to play Cricket for both my school team as well as for the University.

    Thanks, with Warm Regards, and A Prayer for All

    • Bharat – Thank you for your kind comment and for sharing a precious memory from your childhood.

  2. Great article, Len. Because you are such a good storyteller, I can see the house and feel the calm of those lazy summer days. The rhythm of life was much different then — boy, I miss it! Thanks for sharing this memory snapshot.

  3. Funny how we look back at those years — there are a lot of us Boomers here — and see the simple pleasures we enjoyed, Len! I remember early summer evenings in my neighborhood, which was more of a long street, playing hide-and-seek with the local kids. We were all about the same age — around 10 — and of course our parents let us go out with the others WITHOUT hovering.

    Simple pleasures, indeed.

    • Susan – Joy – that is the best word to describe our childhood. Chores taught responsibility and being a part of something bigger than self, school prepared us for the realities of the world, and playtime taught us compromise and cooperation. Joy!

  4. Bravo Larry.
    Faced with a quarantine there are many possibilities for time management. Among these certainly there is that of indulging in past memories, perhaps leafing through an old family album.
    I told my grandchildren everything that remained impressed on me, albeit small, of the war and the immediate post-war period.
    A period in which the sacrifices have been many, more for our parents than for us who, unaware, at that age of the actual risks, lived the first years of thoughtlessness. But then, in the second half, we got to understand what it meant to be content with simple things.
    I hope that within this sacrifice of isolation there is also a training for life for the youngest, for a life without the need for unnecessary excesses.

    • Aldo – I, too, hope that our young people come to realize the simple joys in life that exist when you lift your eyes up from the phone/tablet. We can only pray. Thanks for adding to the discussion with your sage wisdom. Always grateful to hear from you.

  5. Len, I am right there with you. Love your descriptions; they brought back memories of my childhood and early teens. The world truly was our oyster. And 1940s music? Could listen to it all day long. I need a virtual sandbox…. Thanks for a great photo album from your past.

    • Jeff – I know we have made wonderful advancements in medicine and technology, but I really miss the simple pleasures of life I experienced in my youth. Thanks for sharing your comment and joining the conversation.

    • Ken – Such wonderful memories that made us giggle and laugh as children – simple joys of a simple time.