“Summer Daze

Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

Despite the challenges these past two summers have brought, this is still my favorite season of the year. This has been my time to chill and enjoy the outdoors, the open road, and the beauty of nature.

As a child of the 1950s and early 1960s, this was a time for such treats as Popsicles, root beer floats, the park swimming/wading pool, drive-in restaurants, drive-in theatres, roller skating, and running through the lawn sprinklers if we couldn’t get to the park.

In my community, we were poor but we didn’t know we were since our parents made sure all our needs were met—not all our wants, but our needs. Gradually, our middle-class socioeconomic status caught up with our middle-class upbringing. In the meantime, my brother and I counted the days until school was out and we could finally wear shorts and casual wear, and hang out with our band of cousins.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved cars. At one point I had a collection of model cars, and I would pitch a fit if my younger cousins touched them. I liked helping Dad wash and paste wax his 1955 Pontiac, and later his 1959 Buick. One of my favorite pastimes was sitting behind the wheel of Dad’s car and pretend I was driving, dreaming of having my own car when I turned 16. Of course, pesky little details like auto insurance, car notes, repairs, and maintenance never occurred to my pre-adolescent mind.

Besides reading, another summer pastime was sitting on the front steps on a Saturday, watching brothas cruise up and down 4th Avenue (one of the main drags in Minneapolis’ south side Black community) in their rides—fins, chrome, and white walls galore. Having helped Dad, I already knew the work they put in to have their cars looking that good. It was quite the show. I remember when sistahs had “style shows” in the churches back the day; consider this the male equivalent.

Such is the thrill I receive whenever I attend an auto show and chat with the owners of those classic cars, sharing our stories. Attending auto shows today is a new summer pastime for me, and I never get tired of doing so. The muscle cars and pony cars of my teen and college years, coupled with the fin cars of my childhood, make for a pleasant way to spend a few hours. My dream car these days? A champagne pink 1958 Cadillac.

Movies were also something to look forward to during summer growing up. Our mothers wanted us out of their hair for Saturday or Sunday afternoons, so a pack of us cousins would walk to the local theater and catch the double feature (yes, these were the days before multiplex). Two dollars could buy a lot in those days if you worked it right—we paid $ .35 for admission, and then loaded up at the concession stand. My husband and I recently went to a movie; between the tickets and concessions, we spent a total of $50.00 for the evening! At the end of the day, it was all about the time we spent together, enjoying each other’s company.

Speaking of movies, as a Summer Daze treat this year, my husband and I attended the showing of one I’d been waiting for—Respect, the biopic of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Yes, we had to sit through endless movie trailers before the feature presentation, but it was worth it!

My memories of Aretha go back to 1966 when, at the age of 14, my brother and I spent part of the summer in Detroit with my uncle and aunt. As it happened, my aunt and my cousin were members of New Bethel Baptist Church, pastored at the time by Rev. C.L. Franklin. On one of those Sundays, Aretha sang during service, and it was an experience I will always remember, in part because I had never seen people shouting and “getting happy” before.

I knew I had to see this movie because Aretha herself picked Jennifer Hudson to portray her before she passed away, and Jennifer did not disappoint—she exceeded my expectations and had me playing Aretha’s songs well after the movie ended. When Respect is released on DVD, I am adding it to my personal collection, so if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.

Indeed, these past two summers have been challenging because of COVID, but at the end of the day, summer is still my favorite season, currently as well as in memory. In closing, I pose this question to you: what are your memories of Summer Daze growing up?

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W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.” 

W.D.’s tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 12 public library system collections in Minnesota and the Des Moines Public Library system in Iowa. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: two M/M romance novels, “The Right to Be” (coming of age) and “To Thine Own Self” (a 30-plus couple), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.com; on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1; and Facebook. And email W. D. at wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.