MARCH 23, 2023
MORE CHILDHOOD TALES FROM STEEL PENCIL
As I was thinking about this article and where to resume my young life story, I realized our lives are sort of a series of phases we go through. As a youngster, the phases are pretty much dominated by your school years, elementary school, middle school, and high school. Each of these phases brings new challenges, friendships, and higher learning. So far, the experiences I have written about in the first two installments, have been elementary school. During the summer before starting seventh grade, the closer it came to September, the more intense the apprehension became.
Of course, all of the stories the older kids told us made it worse. As lowly seventh graders, we were the targets of the older boys. It was true, we did get harassed by the older boys, but it wasn’t as bad as we had been told. After the first three months everything pretty much got back to normal.
While going through all of the apprehension of the first few months, I had to deal with another problem. My hands started getting large blisters on the palms and bottoms of my fingers. They would break and become open sores. During the first few months of beginning middle school, I looked like a burn victim. My hands were wrapped in bandages. My mom took me to several doctors, none of them had a clue as to what was wrong. In the end, when it all passed, my fingers were scarred so badly, I lost almost all traces of my fingerprints. Ten years ago, I had to be fingerprinted for a job with the school district, and after two attempts, they gave up.
When I was in my early 40’s, I was going through some pretty stressful times. The skin on my hands started to peel as if there had been tiny blistering. The light came on over my head like a 300 watt flood light. What happened to my hands when I was beginning middle school was the result of super stressful times. I realized at that moment that I had a problem with neurosis, and just knowing that made a huge difference in how I dealt with problems in the future. Expressing your feelings, and talking about them, not trying to hide them, is a pressure relief valve. After that revelation, I never experienced the problem again.
As a seventh grader, you’re sort of invisible, just another body going through the motions of the school life. But as you get closer to moving into the eighth grade, you kind of start getting in the groove. You start realizing who the “in crowd” is, and I wanted to be in the “in crowd”. Why shouldn’t I be, I grew up with most of these kids. So, I started to analyze how you become popular. Well, the first thing that became apparent was you had to dress right. My parents just bought my school clothes like they always did, at J.C. Penney’s. The “in crowd” didn’t wear clothes from J.C.P. If you wanted to be noticed, you wore 501 Levi’s and really cool shirts. I had a leg up on this situation, my older sister loved me, and loved clothes, and she had a job. My parents bought me some Levi’s and my sister bought me some really cool shirts, and an honest to goodness gold ring with a beautiful blue sapphire. Got me some black penny loafers to top it all off and restyled my hair. I was rolling with the big dogs.
By the ninth grade, I was totally in the groove. Working odd jobs during the summer months, I was able to add to my wardrobe. I’m sure it’s the same way now, but we went from fad to fad. Some lasted a little longer than others. One of the fads in the ninth grade for the boys in the “in crowd” was to wear nylon jackets like James Dean, with the collars turned up. I wore a white one. I had all of the girls put their lip prints on it in red lipstick. I was standing next to my mom when she was putting it in the washer, and she nearly knocked me over with her comment. She said; “just don’t come home with lipstick on your shorts”. I couldn’t believe my saint of a mother actually said that.
I wasn’t old enough to drive yet, so it was cool to be buddies with an older guy that had a car. I was lucky, some of my buddies had older brothers with cars, so I was able to move around in coolness. Coolness is important if you wanna stay among the inner circles of society. Don’t wanna be showin’ up on a Schwinn. That ain’t gonna work.
It’s a rare occurrence when something happens in one place, during a certain time span, and nowhere else. But I have never spoken to anyone that ever saw a “slam book”. Allow me to explain. When I was in the ninth grade, these spiral bound notebooks started showing up with slam book written on the cover. When you opened them about every third or fourth page had a person’s name at the top of the page. These books were passed around and you wrote anonymous comments about that person listed on the page. Your name only appeared in one of these books if you were popular. It was a big deal if your name was in one of these books. This could have been the beginning of Facebook way back in 1955. I’m proud to report that my name was in several of them, and no negative comments. If you ever saw anything like this, let me know.
The kids I grew up with, myself included, loved to hang out after dark. In Oklahoma when you turned 14 years old, you could get a drivers license for a motor scooter or motorbike five horsepower or less. Put those two things together and you have a recipe for trouble. One of my buddies named Ronnie had some very trusting parents. Let me just say right here, trusting a 14 year old boy is not smart. So, there was a small mom and pop grocery store in the neighborhood where Ronnies parents bought beer and cigarettes. They gave Ronnie a note to hand to the owner of the store and they sent Ronnie out for beer and cigarettes. The store owner complied. I’m not making this up, it really happened. How long do you think it took for us to work that system and get beer and cigarettes for our little gang. Not long. I had a Cushman motor scooter with a small trunk just big enough for a six pack. When you pull up at a girls house on your scooter with beer and cigarettes, you’re the big dog. Fortunately, Ronnies parents found out before anything bad happened, and our jig was up. Fun while it lasted.
Ronnie was a great kid, we had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, he was killed in Viet Nam shortly after we graduated from high school.
Had another friend named Don that had a small Harley Davidson 160cc motorcycle. We used to cruise around the streets at night. Don and I came up with this scheme. I told my parents I was spending the night with Don, he told his parents he was spending the night with me. We stayed out all night without sleeping, went to our respective homes the next morning. Got away with it several times. We didn’t ride our bikes we walked. Hung out at all night restaurants and service stations. Have no idea why, it was just a big adventure. We never got in any trouble, we just wanted to hang out all night unsupervised.
ROLLER RINK RATS
We had a local roller rink that was owned operated by one of my neighbors from my original neighborhood. His name was Frank. Average size guy with a beer belly and a great sense of humor. We were there at least one night of the weekend, most of the time Friday and Saturday night. I loved roller skating and became a pretty darn good skater. My favorite style was dance skating with my favorite girl partner who happened to be the girl I was neighbors with from the age of four years old. We never dated but remained dear friends for years. She was one of the nicest people in my life. I hope life treated you well Jeannie K.
Next article will be the high school years. Wild times a Webster High, and a major transition in my lifestyle. Until then, God Bless you all.
VERITAS VINCIT ~ LIVE FREE OR DIE.
One thought on “THE VIEW FROM ST. CHARLES”
I already knew my Grandpa was cool from day one, it was fun to read about it though!