This is hardly a column on local sports, but I felt compeled to weigh in on the changing seasons. Yes, there may also be an inch of snow on the ground, but Spring fever is starting to set in around Western New York. My wife was excited to see robins in our backyard and with the clocks set ahead we now see daylight until 7:30pm. However, for me one of the definitive first signs of Spring are the new squirt guns for sale in the neighborhood stores. Recently I was in a local drug store and the bin by the register were squirt guns neatly bagged. I felt a rush of nostalgia, bringing me back to the 60’s and the thrill of visiting what my mother used to call the neighborhood “junk” stores.

As a kid growing up and the jury is still out on whether I ever did, that rack of colorful plastic squirt guns hanging in one of the small local grocery stores always signified warmer temperatures and longer days. Back in 1964 there were three small neighborhood stores within walking distance of my home growing up in Niagara Falls. The names of the little “deli’s” were Pinky’s, Fratello’s and Rocco’s.

Pinky’s was a multi-use store for my Mom, a place to buy milk, bread and some canned goods. Pinky’s was also useful to the under twelve crowd for selling candy and various plastic toys like yo-yo’s and kites or baseball cards. Fratello’s had some of those items as well, but specialized in Italian meat products like sausage and many types of cold cuts. Rocco’s was the smallest of the three and probably did more business selling candy to kids than actual groceries to adults.

As a kid you could keep track of the seasonal changes in these small neighborhood markets by the wax lips and vampire teeth for sale in the fall for Halloween, candy canes for Christmas and the squirt guns and kites for Spring and Summer. So every March when the red, orange, blue and green squirt guns made it to the rotating metal display rack we knew short pants and sneakers were not far behind.

With guns now freaking everybody out it might not be politically correct to write about squirt guns, but that was a different time. The “guns” were small, plastic and easily held in a child’s hand. In fact, the quarter squirt guns we usually bought barely carried enough water to maintain a decent water gun fight for more than a few minutes.

The squirt gun of choice for my “crew” usually looked like a space ray gun. Sometimes one would buy the one that looked like a Lugar, but my recollection is that ray gun was the weapon of choice.

Picking out these “toys” was always a delight, but it usually just came down to what color we wanted because we almost always only had enough money to buy the twenty-five cent guns. We would study the dollar squirt guns which could hold almost four times as much water as the quarter variety, but no one had a parent who would toss them a buck to go to the corner store.

Now we have the monster soakers and squirt guns have been taken to a whole new level. Plus a kid would probably be arrested if he walked into grade school with a squirt gun in his pocket, such are the times we live in. Still, I miss that shiny piece of plastic in my hand and even the chore of trying to fill my gun at the faucet with that tiny little hole in the back.

Spring is here and I have seen the signs to prove it!


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