Recollections of a Pittsfield Kid: The fantastic fog

Over time, I will be posting a nostalgic series of vignettes exploring my youthful days in the Osceola Park neighborhood of Pittsfield, Massachusetts during the 1950s and early 1960s. Such tales will describe my adventures when I was seven to twelve years old. We did many other things besides playing baseball at Osceola Park on those glorious summer days.

Most of us had bicycles and Schwinn was the most popular brand we rode to get around the Park and the neighborhood. If we weren’t walking somewhere, we biked about on these three-speeders. No Uber taxis for us.

We often fashioned special bikes made from spare parts taken from the bike graveyards in our backyards. Some refurbished bikes were designed for speed, some for their unique clash of colors, and some were just plain strange looking. For extra pizzazz, we inserted baseball trading cards into the spokes so they would make a certain repeating “tat-a-tat” noise as we pedaled.

The Schwinn Junior Stingray, circa 1965.

Image courtesy bikehistory.org

At dusk in the summer, Osceola Park received a “routine” application of the now-banned poisonous chemical DDT. This occurred about once per month in all of the Pittsfield neighborhoods. The spray was supposed to kill mosquitos and other nasty insects.

We didn’t really let these flying summer nuisances bother us much, but the adults looked forward to this Dow Chemical-type dousing so they would be “bug free.” So, when the city truck began spraying Osceola Street, we kids gathered en masse on our bicycles and followed about 10 feet behind this spray truck, while it spewed out its aerosol gases. Our biking skills were evident and included not banging into each other or the truck itself because it was so hard to see once we were ensconced in this burgeoning dense cloud.

We would become fully enveloped by this white ephemeral fog, which expanded to cover the entire street. We become almost invisible to the outside world. We even let the little kids ride along with us and they were thrilled the big kids would even allow such an association.

We rode our bikes for the entire length of Osceola Street and then doubled back before the air cleared up. We never wanted this great ride to end. It was a unique and eerie adventure.

Wouldn’t any kid want to experience the sheer joy of this shrouded anonymity? Simple pleasures for small minds, I guess. In those days, no one told us to stop riding this way.

The Environmental Protection Agency didn’t exist and Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” had yet to be written.

We now know DDT had negative impacts on our environment, let alone what breathing it in probably did to our small bodies … sigh.

In addition to this monthly visitation, there were other biking adventures occurring at Osceola Park in those days…