Nostalgia in a Box

Nostalgia in a Box
by Keith M. Heim

 Make no mistake about it, having the “picnic” indoors under air conditioning with flies and other pests under reasonable restriction represents a step forward, but some of us oldsters cannot help remembering fondly, from a perspective of many years, the old days when the annual frolic was held in various front yards and groves—Uncle Jake Heim’s yard, Wesley Heim’s and Art Heim’s groves, and other sites around the Dawson area.
Long tables laden with brought-in food—Aunt Lizzie’s cheese salad, Mary Elizabeth’s deviled eggs, my mom’s famous white coconut cake—were placed under the shade of the trees (no problem fishing the flying fluff of the cottonwoods out of your ice cream), and we sat on long, splintery wooden planks borne up by large chunks of wood to eat our dinner. Lots of time for visiting, games of horseshoes and softball, and of cops and robbers by the younger kids, and there were plenty of them!
Now, with catered meals, booming PA sets, and a somewhat sterile, closed-in environment, the “picnic” seems to us to have lost something. But maybe not irretrievably. It strikes me that we could offer box lunches at the picnic, a sort of carry-out containing, say, potato salad (no problem with ptomaine if eaten by mid afternoon), ham salad sandwiches, a home-made pickle, a deviled egg, Jello fruit salad, potato chips, and a square of Duncan Hines white cake? No doubt a shady grove could still be found somewhere in the Dawson area, and those wanting to experience the delights of an earlier, bucolic era could take their lunches there and relive the old days.
Of course, we could only hope, as we used to do, that the temperature would not top the 100-degree mark by 10 a.m. and that a sudden, violent, thundering, electrical cloud-burst would not send us scurrying to our cars to wait it out. Nevertheless, we all would want the experience to be as authentic as possible.
No doubt the multiplying descendants of the flights of flies, armies of ants, troves (?) of ticks, and migrations of mosquitoes of the by-gone era would greet us fondly. A price per box lunch of $25 would not seem to be unreasonable, allowing a small profit for the Penn Colony Society. Diners could be offered additional options: Sunburn lotion available for an additional $5; a spray can of “Off” for those who tire of insects easily at $3 (at cost), Ace bandages in case you sprain an ankle avoiding an inquisitive garter snake, only $4 each. Assuming that the old catalpa tree is there, still furnishing long, flexible, green pods suitable for sword fights, mothers are encouraged to bring their own ice packs to soothe the red welts their offspring will bring to them. Of course, they should also bone up on enough first aid to distinguish between the welts and reddening poison ivy (lotion at only $5 a bottle). Liability and accident insurance, of course, are entirely up to the picnic-goers.
I am sure that this option will appeal to many of us. Please reserve your box lunch no later than two weeks before the picnic to allow us time to prepare the food and medications. Of course, The Colony Penn would be happy to publish any first hand accounts and reminiscences of those who take this journey into the past. Colored photos of victims would be welcome. Please remember to write identifications on the backs.