When we were kids, how were we entertained during the summer months? Mothers were probably asking this question even during pre-historic times when danger was everywhere. In the mid-20th century, though, the area where we lived was a peaceful place.

Of course, there were no organized sports for young guys, no television, no video games, and no malls, to name a few “necessary” things that could have made our lives complete.

However, our mothers had no problem with “What do you do with 11- to 12-year-old boys?” The answer, simply, was: Turn ’em loose.

With that kind of free-wheeling mandate, there was little chance of complaint about kids being bored and unable to come up with anything on their own.

My buddies and I were constantly on the move, not only with regular chores, but with the entertainment we created for ourselves.

If the group I hung around with was not playing sandlot baseball, doing our daily chores, or mowing lawns in our neighborhoods for spending money, we walked around Oak Park and River Forest at least once a week.

We walked around the campuses of both Rosary and Concordia just to see what a college campus looked like. It was a look into my future, I thought — and as it turned out, I thought correctly.

We walked east and west on Chicago Avenue and Lake Street and north and south on Oak Park Avenue, and each time we walked, we saw different things, truly an educational experience.

There was an area in River Forest we walked to because it was a place of historical significance, according to our social studies teacher.

The area was on Thatcher Road and Lake, and it was the site of a Potawatomi village that extended, she said, on the west to the Des Plaines River and on the south to what is now the area around Washington Boulevard/Madison Street.

The Potawatomi were allied with the British during the War of 1812 and, thus, an enemy of the United States. In August 1812, war drums sounded along the Des Plaines, and 500 Potawatomi warriors moved east on the trail [Lake Street]. Their destination was Fort Dearborn, a U.S. fort near the mouth of the Chicago River.

A garrison of soldiers at the fort protected the few Americans on the frontier from hostile Native Americans. The troops and settlers were ordered to move to Fort Wayne for greater safety.

Soldiers feared an attack by the Potawatomi and urged their commanding officer to stay within the fort, but the commanding officer was determined to obey orders, so he destroyed all the ammunition that could not be carried, and left the post on that fateful August morning with about 100 soldiers and settlers.

The Potawatomi and allied Native Americans attacked the Americans on the shore of Lake Michigan a few miles south of the fort.

The attackers killed more than half of the Americans, captured the rest, and returned to the fort and burned it.

Given the clarity of our vision of the hikes we took, it would appear that we traversed Oak Park and River Forest continuously, but in reality we took the hikes eight or nine times a summer, and we stopped altogether the summer after eighth grade.

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