Saturdays were always the best time for Jake and me, ’cause it did­n’t make any dif­fer­ence whether it was win­ter or sum­mer, a Saturday meant sleep­ing in late and doin’ what­ev­er we want­ed for a whole day.

‘Course, in the sum­mer, it was anoth­er day tacked onto a whole week out of school.

Jake and me were just wan­der­ing around the neigh­bor­hood lookin’ for some­thin’ to get into, and we decid­ed to go over to Mr. Green’s store, a lit­tle neigh­bor­hood gro­cery store right around the corner.

Mr. Green was always good to us kids.  In those days, none of us had much mon­ey to car­ry around or to spend, but an RC cola or Nehi Orange only cost a nick­el, same as most can­dy bars or a box of Cracker Jacks.

A box of Cracker Jacks always last­ed a good deal longer than a can­dy bar, and there was a prize in the box as well.

Sometimes the box would con­tain a “tat­too” that we could soak in water and apply to an arm and sport it around until the next bath came along.

But today was a Nehi grape day for me, used to wash down a cat­tail while Jake got him­self a Dreamsicle.  He had a hard time decidin’ whether to go with the Dreamsicle with its ice cream cen­ter or with one of those lit­tle car­tons of vanil­la ice cream and orange sher­bet.  They came in a lit­tle wax-cov­ered paper­board car­ton with a short wood­en spoon.  They nev­er seemed to last quite as long as a Dreamsicle, though — so Dreamsicle it was.

As we sat on the bench in front of the store fin­ish­ing up our del­i­ca­cies, I spot­ted an emp­ty fruit crate around the cor­ner in the alley that ran by the store.

“Hey, Jake, look!  Mr. Green’s thrown out a crate we can use to make some swords.”

We rushed back into the store to ask Mr. Green if we could have the crate. “Sure, boys,” he respond­ed, “bet­ter for you to take it than for me to just throw it away.”

Our plans for the day were now made!

We rushed to the side of the build­ing and scooped up the emp­ty crate, car­ry­ing it between us like some trea­sured possession.

Scurrying back to my house (I lived clos­est to Mr. Green’s store), we went to my step­dad’s shop, fer­ret­ed out a ham­mer and saw along with some small nails, and began the process of remak­ing the wood­en crate into two instru­ments of mayhem.

The crates were made of slats of pret­ty soft wood held togeth­er with sta­ples, so the first chore was to remove the sta­ples, try­ing not to dam­age the longer – and most valu­able – slats.

We cut the sides as long as the pieces would allow and then short pieces to make the hilt of the sword.  We also sawed one end of each long piece to make a point and then nailed the short pieces to the long pieces to cre­ate a han­dle.  With the nails going all the way through both pieces of wood, we had to bend the sharp ends down, and this helped hold the hilt in place.

We had learned long ago, from our vast expe­ri­ence in sword mak­ing, that one had to put two nails through the hilt.  With just one nail, the hilt would inevitably rotate, ren­der­ing the sword far less potent.

Off we went to engage in sword­play, until time to go in for sup­per or until one or both of us wound up with a barked knuck­le, a splin­ter, or a bruise from a mis­placed thrust.

Maybe tomor­row or the next day, we would meet again on the “bat­tle­field” — per­haps with a cape made from an old tow­el or a pirate hat fold­ed out of yes­ter­day’s newspaper.

And the good thing about it was that we had enough crate left over to make more swords when these broke or the hilts fell off!

Then again, who knew what new device we might come up with tomor­row or the next day that could be made from an old orange crate.  After all, there were still sev­er­al weeks of sum­mer left for our imag­i­na­tions to run wild, along with two kids with swords.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.