Sunday, July 3, 2016

Three Score and Seven

I don't remember the day, but surely I was in the same hospital room with mom, for a while at least. I never heard the cabbage patch kid story until the dolls were introduced to the toy market in the early 80s, was it? The few and far between photos I've seen of my youth indicate a much different time. Of course, they would be .. wouldn't they? What kind of world is black and white, anyway

The three of us - my brothers and I in an old washtub in the backyard being photographed. It must have been a large tub or we were quite small. Then there was the time mom was taking us downtown shopping before there were any suburban shopping centers. We stood at the bus stop and the cold wind was blowing. My towering mother huddled us close and eventually wrapped her long, woolen coat around us like chicks under hen feathers.

Mom and dad always saw to it that we attended Boys Club Camp each summer. We stayed in nice cabins, ate great food and had lots of activities - planned, scheduled competitions and free time to read comic books, play tether-ball, hike in the woods or go fishing or crawdad hunting in Hinkle Creek with buddies. I learned to start a fire and keep it burning long enough to cook a hot dog using only one match (those were the rules) in order to qualify for "The Order of the Match". Lots of campers made it into the Order. At the final campfire, we were awarded a burnt wooden matchstick tied with lanyard material - something to show mom and dad when you got home along with competition patches if your cabin won in archery, rifles, softball or flag-football. I loved summers there.

School was fun and I never regretted a day except for part of 6th grade. Teachers can make or break children and their minds. Let's just say I eventually got another teacher and the next year in 7th grade, I earned a place at the top of the school's Honor Roll in a tie with Danny Doan. Danny and I got a 5" plastic trophy and our names in the local paper. That was cool. I saved it for along time, but it eventually got broken and tossed out. After that, I had to live it down. Nobody could be a "brain" in my neighborhood without retrobution, but I made it through and graduated 8th grade in a timely manner.

I got lucky on a summer little league baseball team one season because Jimmy McFarland was pitching and hitting. We had a good team. I was so good that I played the "left out" position most of the time, but the league rules said everybody gets to play at least three innings. I didn't deserve it but after winning a game, coach would buy us all ice cream. I tried basketball too. There was an inter-mural organization called, Gray-Y, but I never knew what that meant. We played after school in our gym.

We did everything in that gym - phys. ed. classes, PTA meetings, dances, concerts and the time Dr. Palmer announced he was being called-up by his Army unit to go to Germany o protect American interests and witness the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviet Union. That could have been ugly, but a year later, he returned safe and sound. None of us liked the substitute principal while he was gone. When we had "sock hops" in the gym, we had real DJs from WIBC (AM not FM) radio. They played all the hits and reminded us to "keep it clean out there". What does that mean? Hey, I took a bath" but my socks were dusty! I didn't know what 'dirty dancing' was.

When I was in Cub Scouts, we had Pack Meetings there - where I took my Cub Scout Oath on the stage. Mom was a Den Mother and a damned good one. She organized field trips to the Borden Dairy, the Hostess Bakery and the Indianapolis Star and we learned a lot. When we had arts & crafts at our house, the guys always cut-up but we had fun. Afterwards, we would have snacks and a Pepsi. One guy decided to shake up his drink bottle and spewed Pepsi all over the ceiling. That meeting was adjourned particularly early, as I recall.

On Saturdays, mom would give us each a $1.00 and take us to the movies. Our tickets were 50-cents and the rest was for snacks like Necco Wafers. Are they still available? Later, I had a huge crush on Hayley Mills from the movie, "The Parent Trap". I had a huge poster Scotch taped to the back of my bedroom door and her 1:28 minute single record from the movie. Later, in high school, she got replaced by Playboy Centerfolds.

The Lovely Hayley Mills
After elementary school graduation, I got a phone call that summer from our high school saying that due to over-crowding, I would have to share a locker for my high school years. We never had lockers in our elementary school, just wire baskets for our clothes and shower towel while we were exercising in gym class. That reminds me of the jock strap story, but .. not today. Anyway, the lady from the high school said that Steve Kirk had volunteered to locker with me as long as I approved. Of course, that was fine. Steve and I were friends at Public School #73, on the junior high basketball team and hung out together. We've been friends a long time. We still are .. always will be.

High School was a blur, but not for the reasons you might conjure. Lots of classes, extra-curricular activities after school, sports, special interest clubs, dances, parties, mixers and all that goes with the well-rounded educational experience. Some I could attend, others I couldn't. I didn't get my drivers license until April of my Senior year and fortunately, I'd saved some money from my part time jobs to buy a '55 Chevy Bel-Aire, 2-door hardtop, six-cylinder and three on the tree with overdrive. It had a rust hole in the driver's side that my History textbook could fit into, but I didn't care. I was mobile. I graduated in June, 1967. It was a bad year ahead for the Vietnam War, but I was going to college in the fall. We were old enough to kill, but not for voting. Congress fixed that.

Interesting .. (well, to me anyway) .. that I graduated in 1967 - 49 years ago. Today, I'm age 67 and I was born in 1949. I don't think that means anything, but it's just the way the numbers work out. Bound to happen sometime, I guess.

It seems so long ago and far away - childhood. I've seen the photographs and I don't remember being there, but I've heard stories. Stories that today, I would love for mom to tell again surrounded by my loved ones just to embarrass the Hell out of me. Today, however, they would be more entertaining than embarrassing as they were in my teen years. I mean, wouldn't watching a kid just barely walking in diapers draining the last drops of beer from bottles left unattended around the cookout lawn chairs be funny? Just once more, I would like to visit the scrapbooks and shoe boxes full of family photos. Alas, all those opportunities now reside in dusty memories of my own mind. All my folks are gone now and so are those photos - as far as I know.

Yeah, well, today is my birthday. I don't feel as old as I am, but then, I'm not exactly sure how that is supposed to ordinarily feel. Friends say I'm lucky. I'd like to think my parents gave me the best DNA combination they had. Even so, my genes aren't flawless - nobody's is.

So, it's a cool and rainy day here today. I don't know what the weather was like the day I was born, but in July, it's usually hot and humid. We almost always celebrated my birthday on July 4th anyway since everyone got the day off from work. Mom always told me I was almost a firecracker. I miss her smile and her laugh. Dad was the strong, silent type. It was THE day for cookouts and family gatherings everywhere. Sometimes we went to a large park, but mostly due to logistics of all the food, dishes and clean-up afterwards. Grandpa built a charcoal fire in the grill and we had a picnic on the big table he built in the backyard. There were seven of us, so the table had to be bigger than most. Those days are gone now, but I'll always remember they were good times.

Now, what's next?


1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday, Jim. I will be following. Hayley Mills and I have the same Birthday. I did identify with her. We both had pug noses, curly hair and big front teeth. Hope you have a fun day.