Just discovered in the cellar of a Philadelphia home, circa-1770, was a discarded draft of the Declaration of Independence.
In carefully written script, headed by the word “Draft,” thought to be John Hancock’s penmanship shows a broken thought, but includes the words, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit…”
He must have taken a break for tea or grog, and then returned to the labor at hand. Inked out are some lines. Penned in their place is another phrase: “And the right to recreational facilities, regardless where that person may reside amongst these Thirteen United Colonies.”
Right there, in vintage wording, proves the very intent of our proud ancestors to impart, not only life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also the Almighty-granted right to recreation centers.
All these years we were wrong. Many of us thought that recreation was a personal thing, not in the domain of any government to provide. How wrong we were.
Instead of what we, the “Boomer Generation,” did as youngsters in our own pursuit of happiness, we should have had recreation centers provided by our local governments. What fools we were. We just went out and played, no bonded debt covered our pleasure.
Little did we know that the wigged gentlemen who formed our nation really did intend that government provide for us appropriate places to play.
Ignorant of that right they intended, we actually did things like went fishing and hunting, rode bicycles around town to “pick-up” games of baseball and football, went to the beach, and yes, even frequented places like a certain bowling alley that was Stone Harbor’s key recreation center, during the days before condominiums and McMansions.
The very thought of a government providing recreation via public-funded recreation centers was as foreign as, please pardon this affront, leaf collections in thickly-forested Dennis Township.
Cape May County was, after all, where people flocked to re-create, thus recreation centers here seemed as necessary as refrigerators in an Eskimo village and as wasteful as hauling sand to Nevada.
Yesterday, voters in Stone Harbor went to the polls in a special referendum to send borough council their sentiments regarding a bond to build a recreation center.
Win or lose, the notion of building recreation centers will not dissolve from the landscape, there or anywhere else.
Surely, the young of today, once pulled away from computers, cannot be expected to re-create in the wild, as in on the beach, at The Point, or in a fine, seaworthy craft to enjoy the back bays. No, that would just be expecting too much, be considered too dangerous, and too expensive.
The answer, not just in Stone Harbor, but in many other places: A recreation center.
Should we really expect any less from a society that, I chuckle even thinking about this, worships slenderness and reveres time at “the gym,” yet thinks nothing of jumping in a car to get there.
Do any of those “get in shapers” ride a bicycle or jog to the gym? An older lady I once met wondered why her friends went to the gym while she opted to “just do house cleaning, because that keeps me trim enough.” She was in her 80s at the time, so something was obviously working well for her.
Imagine a nice recreation center off to one side of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the honorables from the Thirteen Colonies could have worked off their anxieties after a tough day penning the document of America’s freedom.
That would have helped America really get in shape and set the correct example for generations to follow, that recreation centers “… by right ought to be freely available to each and every person who wants to avail themselves of the healthful benefits therein.”
There it is in pen and ink from the City of Brotherly Love, what the great guiding lights intended 231 years ago: free recreation for all.