Archive for the ‘Childhood Memories’ Category

Lord knows I experienced more than my share of injuries as a kid, some my fault, others not so much. And although I have scars, thankfully there were no permanent damages.

I think.

Anyway, I’ve written several stories over the years regarding my misspent youth and here they are, all combined into one glorious blog. Seriously, it’s a miracle I survived. Enjoy . . .

RUN OVER BY A TRUCK

Yep. This happened.

When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.

Make sense?

Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin, or anything we could find in our parent’s garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.

If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.

So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.

One day we’re having our races, and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.

All was well until I saw the truck.

It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left towards me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly towards me, and it was too late for me to ditch.

I was going to be hit.

At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young Dave.

Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30-mph from a height of about 2-feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines.
The guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43-miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.

But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!”

Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud. Still, he had a point.

Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.

After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.

And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late 60s.

THE HOLEY TONGUE

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.”

Too specific? never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anyhoo, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”
Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.
Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.

THE FRIED HAND

When I was really young, around three-years old, I was at my grandparent’s farmhouse. They had a woodstove in the kitchen and I was doing what toddlers do, which was toddling. I walked over to the stove and I remember that it looked almost fuzzy, which I know realize indicated that it was red-hot. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I placed my flat palm on the stove. I don’t remember a lot after that, other than it hurt like a mofo and skin was hanging off my hand like melting plastic.

I have no idea how my burn was treated, but knowing my family at the time grandpa probably killed a chicken and rubbed it’s spleen on me or something (I can’t believe I just typed “Do chickens have spleens?” into The Goggle).

Anyway, it was a serious burn, man. How do I know? Because the scar’s still there, as you can plainly see. On a related note, I used to tell girls I got the scar from pulling an old lady out of a burning car. Hey, whatever works.

Legend has it that my parents had been pretty sure I was left-handed (like dad) up to that point, but I had to go so long using my right hand I became right-handed.

Anyway, it’s weird that I can remember an accident from so long ago, but I think it was so traumatic it’s burned into the banks of my memory. See what I did there? Burned? Never mind.

Note: I just talked to Mom about this. I asked if I was taken to the hospital or the doctor that day and here is her exact quote:

“No, the lady across the road was a nurse or something and she put some kind of salve on it.”

God, that’s just too perfect.

FIRECRACKERS & CLOTHESLINES

That title sounds like a Strawberry Alarm Clock album from the 60’s. Anyway . . .

When I was 16 or 17 I hung around a lot at my sister’s house. She was young and hadn’t been married long, so for a teenager that was the place to go, ya know?

Anywho, one summer night a buddy and I were hanging out there, probably looking for trouble and up to no good. Somehow we got hold of some fireworks and decided to have some fun. First, we went out back and shot bottle rockets at each other, always a guaranteed good time. After a bit, disappointed that nobody was maimed or anyone’s eye was put out, we headed down to the creek to throw M-80s into the water. Lemme tell ya, watching underwater explosions was pure entertainment for a southern Ohio kid in 1973. Probably still is. The fish probably didn’t think so, but hey.

That amused us for awhile, until we began throwing the M-80s at each other, because of course we did. If you don’t know, M-80s are deadly and banned in many parts of the good old USA, basically because they are deadly in the hands of moronic people such as I. How my brother-in-law had possession of these I do not know, but let’s just say he knew a guy. Anyway, in the beginning we at least had the good sense to throw them at each other’s feet, because anyone can spare a toe or two, right?

But of course that didn’t last.

Because at one point I see a lit M-80 coming straight for my face. I instinctively threw my hands up, and as luck would have it the M-80 blew right as it hit my hand.

Good God it hurt. I was certain I’d lost some fingers or worse, but I couldn’t tell because A) It was dark, and B) I couldn’t feel my hand.
The only thing I could do was run to my sister’s house in a panic. I bolted through the darkness of the backyard with my eyes on the light over her backdoor. I was running as fast as I could, holding my hand as I went, certain I was minus some digits. All I wanted was to get to the house and examine the extent of my horrific injuries.

To reiterate – pitch dark, running full-speed through the backyard, focused on porch light. What more could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot – like being clotheslined by a clothesline.

Yep, the one that I forgot was there.

It caught me exactly at throat level, so my feet kept going but my head stayed where it was. I was upended feet first, flew through the air, and eventually landed on my back.

After lying there stunned for a few minutes I got up and staggered into the house and into the bathroom to check out the damages. Turns out my throat had a rope burn across it and looked as if I’d attempted suicide by slitting my throat with a butter knife. Oh, and my back felt as if a railroad spike had been hammered into it.

But on a positive note, I still had all my fingers, and after a couple hours I could actually feel them.

You know, in retrospect I really should have been more cautious as a kid.

Nah, that wouldn’t have been any fun.

HAMMER TIME!

I was in my late teens when this little gem occurred. It was summer and my dad had ordered me to do some work on the gutters of our house. The gutters were loose in places, so I was basically moving a ladder around the house and hammering in those long nails that hold them up where they needed it.

After working about halfway around the house, I decided I needed to take a break and grab a glass of water. I hung the hammer on one of the rungs of the ladder and climbed down.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

It was when I returned to my job that I made what could have been a fatal error in judgment. For some reason (quite possibly because I was an ignoramus) I decided that, as long as I was on the ground, I may as well move the ladder down a few feet. So, I grabbed the ladder and started to move it, and an instant later the world went black.

I think I may have had a brief instant where I thought I’d been attacked from behind with a sledgehammer, but that thought disappeared along with my consciousness.

When I awoke in the grass a few minutes (seconds?) later, all I knew for sure was that I had a massive headache and a knot on my head the size of Verne Troyer’s skull.*

*Search it up on The Goggle.

I looked around, half expecting to see a gang of hoodlums that had inexplicably wandered into Bourneville, Ohio to steal my brand new Stanley Curved Claw Wood Handle Nailing Hammer, except the hammer was right there in the grass beside me.

Wait.

Oh, crap.

I’d forgotten the hammer was lurking at the top, hanging on a ladder rung, waiting to come hurtling down from above the minute I moved the ladder and kill me on impact.

I have no idea how my skull wasn’t crushed. I mean, a hammer falling from 12-feet onto your head? Seriously?

I swear I didn’t even put ice on it. I didn’t even know what being concussed meant back then. I just rubbed it, checked for blood (there was none), and went back to working on the gutters. Hell, if I’d told dad I’d have been rebuked for being stupid, which incidentally would have been 100% correct.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. I have no idea how I’m still alive.

OLD SCHOOL REMEDIES, GRANDPA STYLE

My Grandpa Shoemaker was about the toughest old bird you could ever meet. He was once a blacksmith, and a piece of molten iron had broken off and lodged under the skin of his arm decades before I was born. It was never removed, and when I was a little kid he used to let me move it around under his skin. It was weird, you could actually move it up and down his forearm.

Anyway, tough cat my grandpa. He also had hands like vice grips, and when he grabbed you there was no getting away. That said, he was one of the kindest, most gentle men I’ve ever known. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my fondest memories are of when I used to accompany him when he ran his trotlines in Paint Creek. I used to love to listen to him, because he was so wise and his stories were so fascinating to me.
But on to the point of this story. When I was 15 or 16 I went down to his house for one reason or the other. We were sitting on his front porch side-by-side, just talking. At one point he noticed me rubbing the back of my left hand and asked if something was wrong. I told him that a cyst had developed and it was bothering me. It didn’t really hurt but it was about the size of a big marble and was annoying as hell.

I told Grandpa I was going to have it removed soon because it was bothering me, and he just looked at me like I was an idiot. After all, this was a guy who’d had a piece of iron in his arm since 1913.
He then asked how I was going to do that, and I began explaining that it was a minor operation, that they’d just numb my hand and . . .

T-H-H-W-W-A-A-C-K!

Next thing I knew my hand felt like it had been hammered by the heel of a work boot, which is fitting because that’s exactly what had happened. When I wasn’t looking, Grandpa had taken it upon himself to save me some money. He’d slipped his work boot off and popped me a good one. Turns out that in the old days folks got rid of cysts by shattering the living hell out of them, country style.

And you know what? Although it hurt like a sumbitch, it worked. I’d had that cyst for years but after that moment it never came back. I don’t know if he broke it into bits or slammed it so far into my hand you couldn’t see it, but it was gone forever.

Sure, I couldn’t feel my hand for 3-4 hours, but you gotta take the bad with the good I suppose.

Hell, I’m just thankful there wasn’t a hammer nearby at the time.

HOOKED IN THE JAW

When I was a kid my grandfather, my father and I used to go to ponds all over the area to fish. Grandpa Shoemaker used to have trotlines up and down Paint Creek and we’d fish for bait to put on them. If you don’t know, trotlines were fishing lines that were stretched across the creek, attached at both ends to trees or something on the bank. You had bait attached every few feet to the line and it had to be checked once or twice a day to see what you’d caught. Some of my greatest memories are of my grandfather and I checking his trotlines in his row boat.

Sometimes he’d even let me row! Wonderful memories.

Anyway, back to the ponds. Dad was fishing and I was beside him. At some point I had to get a worm to re-bait my hook and was walking behind dad. That’s when he decided to cast his line, either because he didn’t see me or because he was trying to teach me a lesson. I’d say it’s about 50-50 either way.

Next thing I knew I felt the fishing line sort of wrap around my neck and hook just under my jawline. That in itself was painful enough, but before I could scream dad whipped the line back out toward the water while the hook was still lodged in my jaw.

Trust me, then I screamed.

The hook stayed imbedded even after the jerk, it just became more deeply enlodged in my jaw.

Yeah, that’s never good.

After briefly showing annoyance for my rude interrupting of his cast, dad came back and began his attempt at hook removal. As you know, those things are made to go in easy. Coming out is another story, hence the little thing called a barb on the end.

After much pulling and twisting, Dad and Grandpa finally dislodged the offending hook. I’m telling you, that may have been the worst 5-minutes of my life. Not only that, after the hook was out dad splashed some pond water on it to clean it up. Not the preferred method of wound-cleaning I’m sure. Still, I nevertheless avoided a life-threatening blue gill infection when all was said and done.

Was I rushed to the ER? Nah. Did I get chastised for being stupid and walking behind a man who was casting a fishing line? Of course I did.

And did I ever do it again? No way.

BLINDED BY HENDRIX

Almost.

One day back in the idiocy of my youth, my friend Billy and I made the moronic awesome decision to have a 45-record war. For those of you who don’t know what a 45-record was, it was a little record that had music on it. You played it on a turntable, which was a . . . ah, screw it. Search it up on The Goggle.

The point is we built these little forts out of couch cushions and started whipping these little records at each other, which was like throwing Frisbees except they were thinner with much sharper edges. After a bit I peeked over a cushion and caught a 45 right over my left eye. I seem to remember it was “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. It cut a nasty slice about a quarter inch long right through my left eyebrow, and I proceeded to bleed like a stuck pig.*

*I have no idea if a stuck pig bleeds more than a stuck rabbit or stuck marmoset, but folks seem to stick pigs for some reason.

I was afraid to tell mom because I knew I’d get in trouble for being a jackass (there was some precedent for this), so I stuck a rag on it until it stopped, then found my oldest sister and asked for her help. After being initially aghast at the injury, she poured some mercurochrome** on it, followed by a big band-aid.

**For you youngsters out there, mercurochrome was once used as a cure-all by mothers far and wide for injuries ranging from small cuts to severe head trauma. A few drops of mercurochrome could supposedly cure a shotgun blast to the chest. Unfortunately, in 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that mercurochrome was “not generally recognized as safe and effective” as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. Sad, really.

Anyway, had the Hendrix record been an inch lower I’d have undoubtedly lost an eyeball, which is hardly ever a good thing.

Long story short, to this day if I smooth down my eyebrow, there’s a little scar line where hair refuses to grow.

Thanks Billy!

Note: If any of my exes asks about the scar, I got it in a bar fight. Let’s keep this on the downlow.

JUST LIKE THE WESTERNS, BUT NOT REALLY

One time my buddy Ted (yeah, him again) and I found some old beer bottles in a ditch or somewhere. After checking to see if there was any booze left, we got the bright idea to pretend to be cowboys in a saloon fight. Hey, we’d seen the TV westerns where guys were just getting clobbered left and right with bottles that would shatter upon impact. We flipped a coin, and Ted got to go first.

We pretended to fight, then I saw Ted rear back to let me have it. I saw the bottle coming . . . and then everything went black.

Turns out those bottles on TV aren’t real, and it takes a lot of force to actually break a beer bottle over a human’s head, at least in 1967. Hence, the bottle remained intact and I went down like a sack of lug nuts.

At least Ted tried to help. What did he do, you ask? The same thing he saw cowboys do on TV – he ran to the garage, got a bucket, filled it with water and threw it in my face.

Turns out that actually works.

Anywho, I sat up, shook it off, and got on with my life. And we were smart enough not to try it again on Ted, so perhaps we did have a few brain cells in our craniums.

Nah. Probably not.

CROQUET BALL KO

This one also took place at Uncle Myrl’s and Aunt Dorothy’s. One summer day I was up there and we went outside to play some baseball. The problem was, we couldn’t find a baseball. I believe it was cousin Kevin who grabbed a croquet ball from somewhere. We’d been playing awhile, I was pitching, when cousin Mick sent a screaming line drive right back at me. I didn’t get my glove up in time and the croquet ball caught me right between the eyes, knocking me out cold.

And what was the reaction of my loving cousins? They all ran back into the house.

I have no idea how long I was out, but I do remember getting up and staggering back into the house with a goose egg on my head the size of an orange. Incredibly (in retrospect), everyone was casually sitting around watching TV.

Me: “What the hell? Thanks for nothing.”

Mick: “Hey, look. He’s alive!”

Kevin: “Better get some ice on that.”

True story.

THE SLICED FOOT

Once, when I was about 5 or 6 my parents and I were sitting on the front porch and Dad told me to run around the house to see how fast I could go. In retrospect it’s pretty obvious he was just trying to get rid of me for a little bit, but that’s neither here nor there. Any, I was barefoot as usual and when I made it back around and stood there panting, he sort of looked down, pointed, and calmly stated this:

“Hey, looks like you cut your foot there.”

I looked down, and sure enough there was a 3-inch slice of meat hanging off my instep like you would not dream. Blood everywhere too, I might add. But hey, no biggie. Mom just slapped some Mecuricome* on it, added a band-aid or six and I was ready to rock and roll.

*Again, for you younger folk out there, Mecuricome was a wonder antiseptic that was used to prevent and cure all sorts of maladies. And yes, it had mercury in it. I recall it was red and it stung like a mofo. Sadly it was discontinued years ago. Something about causing cancer or some such nonsense. On a related note, I bet mom still has a bottle stashed somewhere.

PS- I’m also 90% sure I broke a kneecap that went untreated when I wrecked my bike as a kid. How do I know this? Because when I get down on that knee today if feels as if I’m kneeling on a live power line. Somehow, I soldier on.

THE BICYCLE WAGON TRAIN WAS A BAD IDEA

I have no idea who first came up with the idea, but if I had to bet I’d say it was Max. All the ideas that got us into trouble seemed to originate with him.

All I know is that it was a bad idea, we were idiots to think we could pull it off, and it could have killed somebody. But let’s start at the beginning . . .

It was the summer of my, oh, let’s say 11th year. I’m guessing because I don’t remember exactly when the incident took place, and that may have something to do with what happened that day.

Because you know, concussions and traumatic events can do that to a kid’s brain.

Anyway, myself and six of my friends were sitting in my dad’s garage, probably discussing Raquel Welch’s breasts or the decline of Willie Mays or something. We were all either sitting on or near our bikes, which were obviously our main forms of transportation back then. As I recall, the bikes ranged from my spiffy little Schwinn with the butterfly handlebars and funky sissy bar to my buddy Scratch’s 1954 era Columbia which his dad had passed down to him. Aside from Scratch and I, the other conspirators involved that fateful day were Mel, Max, Rocky, Ted and Fred. Max, you may remember, was the kid behind the infamous episode in which we almost lost our buddy Harold.

Best to keep that in mind as we continue.

Note: Scratch’s name has an interesting origin. You see, his name was Richard so we originally called him Rich, which we eventually shortened to Itch. However, Itch’s mom hated the name and asked us to stop calling him Itch. Hence the name Scratch. Kids can be cruel.

At some point the TV show Wagon Train came up. For some reason, when I was a kid there were a lot of Westerns on television. I think I’ve seen every episode of The Rifleman (stellar), Gunsmoke (legendary), Bat Masterson (I can still sing the theme song in its entirety), The Big Valley (Audra? Smokin’ hot), Bonanza (loved Hoss), and my personal favorite, Sky King. Sky King was about a cowboy who flew an airplane. Really.
But back to Wagon Train. Talking about the TV show somehow brought us around to actual wagon trains, and this led to somebody suggesting we form our own wagon train.

With our bicycles.

Trust me, at the time, in our strange little still-unfully formed brains, this seemed like a good idea. And then, for some unknown reason, somebody suggested we attach our bikes with ropes. Now that I think about it, in real wagon trains the wagons weren’t attached by anything so I don’t know what the hell we were thinking.

But like I said, unformed brains.

At that point we were amped for the idea though, and there was no stopping us. Wagon Train! Let’s do this! So we rummaged around my garage and came up with a collection of rope, wire, clothesline, an old bike inner tube, and a three-foot length of chain. Somehow, we attached our bikes together. I distinctly recall tying one end of a clothesline around my bike seat post and the other end around the handlebars of Fred’s old beat-up Huffy Cruiser.

Note II: Fred, by the way, was a man ahead of his time. He would later become known as the first guy who dyed his hair at our school. Yep, he changed his hair color at the age of 16. And he changed that color to green. Gutsy move in any era.

Soon we were finished and ready to roll. For some reason yours truly was in the lead, followed by Fred, Scratch, Max, Mel, Rocky, and finally Ted. After some initial struggles we actually made it out of the driveway and up the street a bit, albeit with some herky-jerky movements along the way.

By the way, nobody, and I mean nobody, wore a helmet back then. If somebody would’ve shown up wearing one he would’ve been harassed, shamed, laughed at, teased, spat upon and possibly beaten to a pulp for being a pansy. Hell, I once put one of those tall safety flags on the back of my bike and my friend Ted ended up taking it off and whipping me with it. Bourneville was a tough neighborhood back in the day.

We finally made it to the top of the hill in front of the old Twin School, and then we stopped to regroup before heading down the hill towards Route 50. It seemed the prudent thing to do. Regroup, that is.

Did I mention we were about to head down a hill?

At this point I remember raising my hand and giving the signal to move forward, then actually yelling, “Wagons, HO!”

Seriously. I yelled, “Wagons, HO!”

After a couple of false starts we began our descent, and all was well as we started down the hill. Believe it or not we started to gain a sort of chemistry, becoming a finely-tuned working unit if you will. We were pedaling in unison and gaining speed. In fact, we were rolling so fast I started to contemplate other things, the first and foremost being how in the hell are we going to stop?

As it turned out, however, stopping at the bottom of the hill wasn’t going to figure into the equation. This is because right about then, to my horror, I heard Max yell this:

“I wonder what would happen if I hit my brakes?”

All I got out was “Don’t do it M . . .” before, well, Max did it.

So picture 7-bikes, all tied together, going down a hill really fast, and the guy on the bike right in the middle slams on his breaks.

Carnage.

The three guys in front of Max (me, Fred and Scratch) all went right over our handlebars, headfirst. I actually held on to mine for a second, which caused me to flip completely over and land on the road, on my back. Miraculously though, other than the blacktop burn on my ass I was unscathed.

You know, until .3 seconds later when Fred landed on me, and .1 seconds after that when Scratch landed on Fred.

Yep, that’ll knock the breath right out of you, trust me.

As for the rest of the guys, Mel, Rocky and Ted all crashed into Max of course, flipping his bike head-over-heels and into the three now-unmanned bikes in front of them. Oh, and Mel had teeth marks in his back, and from whence they came was never established.

Like I said, carnage.

When all was said and done we were a pile of skinned knees, flat tires, bent rims, banana seats, handlebars, bike fenders and crushed souls.
But as was our way back then we got up, checked for damages, wiped off our scraped knees, dusted ourselves off and pushed or carried our damaged bikes back home. Nobody cried or yelled for mommy, just a lot of wiping off blood and checking for protruding bones. And we were laughing all the way.

After all, we had a memory we could talk about for years to come, even all the way up to January of 2018, almost 51-years later.

Just another beautiful day in downtown Bourneville, Ohio, circa 1967.

Good times for sure, if you could live through it.

GRUNGY’S REVENGE

Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him. I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.
I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.

 

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Flashbulb Memory

Noun

  1. the clear recollections that a person may have of the circumstances associated with a dramatic event.

Flashbulb Memories. We all have them. Oh, you may not have known they had a name until right now, but I guarantee you’re thinking of a couple right now. Like the definition says, they’re those moments in your life that were so shocking, so mind-numbing that the moment they happened is burned into your brain forever. Obviously the older you are the more of these memories you’ll have, and what follows are my flashbulb memories. Yep, all 19 of them. And by the way, I excluded the deaths of close friends and relatives. That’s way too close to home, man. What I’ll do is this – I’ll tell you where I was, how I heard the news, and any other information that I feel may be pertinent.

Note: As much as I tried to come up with an even 20 I couldn’t do it. Sorry folks.

The John. F. Kennedy Assassination (November 22nd, 1963)

I can vividly recall that Friday in November, 1963 when a knock came on the door of my classroom in Twin Elementary in Bourneville, Ohio. I was in row 2, seat 2. My teacher, Mrs. Hughes, walked to the door and listened for a few seconds. For some reason, the classroom became completely quiet. Somehow we sensed something in the air. I distinctly remember Mrs. Hughes sort of toppling a bit and leaning against the door jamb upon receiving the news. Then she turned, deathly white, and walked to the front of the room . . .

“Kids, I have terrible news. Our president has been assassinated.”

I recall my friend Jeff, who was sitting in front of me, turning around and asking me what that meant. I have no idea how I knew for sure, but I told him that somebody had killed John F. Kennedy, our president. Our president was dead. I don’t remember the rest of the school day, but I do remember going home after school and being surprised that my dad was home, sitting on the couch watching the television. I also remember that for the first time in my life, I saw tears in my father’s eyes.

The Truth About Santa (December 22nd, 1963)

How do I know the exact date, you ask? Because I remember it was the Sunday before Christmas and a few weeks after the Kennedy assassination. My family had gone to my grandparent’s house east of Chillicothe, at a farm just off Route 35. All was well until the ride home. It was on that fateful trip back to Bourneville when we were all discussing Christmas and my older cousin Mike, who was riding with us, leaned over and delivered the earth-shattering news:

“Santa Claus isn’t real. Our parents buy the presents.”

Mind. Blown.

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (February 9th, 1964)

My sister Karen had played “Introducing the Beatles” for me a few weeks prior (it was released on January 10th) so I was already all-in on this new band from Liverpool. Still, when Ed Sullivan yelled, “Here they are! THE BEATLES!” and I actually saw and heard the boys playing, I knew my world would never be the same again.

Note: I know the video below seems simple and not at all earth-shattering for younger people, but trust me when I say it was like watching four aliens sing a strange new sound at the time.

The Moon Landing (July 21st, 1969)

1968 had been a terrible year for the Unites States, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Robert F. Kennedy, rocking our nation. Coming from a politically involved family I was dialed into the political and civil rights scenes more than most 12-year olds, so those two murders rocked me almost as much as the John F. Kennedy assassination. So, when the U.S.A. fulfilled a promise made by JFK and beat Russia to the moon in the summer of 1969 the entire world was watching, including my family. I recall watching the event on television, listening to Ohio native Neil Armstrong say the famous words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, and then Dad and I going outside and staring up at the moon in disbelief. It was simply unimaginable at the time that a man was standing on it.

The Death of Jim Croce (September 20th, 1973)

This one probably isn’t on most people’s lists, but I remember vividly when I heard about it. I was in my Dad’s Catalina Brougham, sitting at our mailbox reaching in to get our mail. It was in the morning and it was a Friday. I had the radio on, listening to the news, when I heard the report that one of my favorite singers had died in a plane crash the night before after performing at a concert in Louisiana. I couldn’t believe the guy who sang “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, and “Time in a Bottle” was dead.

President Richard Nixon Resigns (August 8th, 1974)

Again, because of my family’s involvement in politics I was tuned into the whole Watergate scandal from Day 1. I even made a bet with my History teacher that Nixon wouldn’t make it through the summer, that he’d be forced to resign. Needless to say, I won that one. I watched the resignation my sister Karen’s house, along with her husband Jigger.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Plane Crash (October 20th, 1977)

I was living just off The Ohio State University campus at the time, 178 West 8th Avenue, Apartment C to be precise, at the time. I’d purchased tickets for the Skynyrd show on Friday, October 28th, but when I awoke the morning of Friday, October 21st, I had the following conversation with my roommate Jed just as he was walking out the door:

Jed: “Hey, don’t you have tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd next week?”

Me: “Yep.”

Jed: “Uh, pretty sure it’ll be cancelled. Their plane crashed last night. Six people were killed including Ronnie Van Zant.”

I just stood there speechless as he walked out the door.

The Who Tragedy (December 3rd, 1979)

Yep, my buddies Tom, Andy and I had tickets to Riverfront Coliseum the night of the tragedy where 11-people were crushed to death, and we were actually on the way to the concert. Fortunately, since it was my birthday we thought a party in Chillicothe would be more fun, and it might have saved our lives. And yes, I know about a million people claim to have had tickets to that show. We actually did. We went to the party, and we found out what happened when we returned to Andy’s house around 2:30 in the morning and found his wife sitting on the floor in front of the TV, crying. She thought we’d gone to the concert, and when she saw us walk in she leaped up, hugged us all, and told us the news. Chilling stuff.

USA Hockey Upsets The Russians (February 22nd, 1980)

Unless you were actually there you didn’t see this game live because it was played at 5:00pm and shown on tape delay at 8:00pm. This being 1980 and before the internet, nobody I knew had heard that the biggest upset in sports history had happened. Nobody, and I mean nobody, aside from American Coach Herb Brooks thought a bunch of collegiate hockey players could beat mighty Russia, who was essentially a professional team and undoubtedly the best hockey team in the world. Hell, the USA had been beaten by the Russians 10-0 just days before. So, when the US was winning 4-3, clock winding down to 0:00, and announcer Al Michaels screamed “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?” I leaped up and accidentally knocked my coffee table over in the process. Unbelievable night.

John Lennon Assassination (December 8th, 1980)

Lennon signing his assassin’s album the night he was shot.

I was home by myself that night. It was around 11:30 pm and I was relaxing on my couch, headphones on, listening to “Double Fantasy”, the new album by John Lennon that had been released a couple of weeks prior. Lennon hadn’t recorded in 5-years so the album was a big deal. A Monday Night Football game was on but I wasn’t really watching, I was just lounging with my eyes closed, listening to the music. The TV was actually across the room, sort of behind me, and I was facing the fireplace.

At some point I opened my eyes and glanced into the glass doors of the fireplace. There I saw the reflection of the TV, and for some reason John Lennon’s face was on it. I took the headphones off and turned to the television, and they were talking about Lennon being a former Beatle who had just released an album, just giving a brief bio of his life.

Uh-oh. This wasn’t good.

I soon learned that John Lennon had been murdered outside his New York City apartment. I was stunned. A few minutes later my phone started ringing as people were calling to share the news and talk about this unspeakable thing that had happened. Soon my friend Tom showed up and we spent the night just talking about it in disbelief.

John Lennon had been such an influential part of my life. For me, music would never be the same.

The Space Shuttle Explosion (January 28th, 1986)

I was in my second year teaching at Greenfield McClain and I was in the teacher’s lounge. It must have been the 4th period or thereabouts because it happened at 11:38am – the Space Shuttle exploded. This was close to my heart because for the first time a civilian was aboard and I had applied for the spot. Don’t get me wrong, over 11,000 teachers sent in applications so it wasn’t like I had a chance to go. Still, we all knew teacher Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire, was aboard. My principal at the time, John Miller, walked into the lounge and said simply to the 3-4 of us there, “The space shuttle just exploded. They’re all gone.” At the time? Inconceivable.

The Day My Son Was Born (June 3rd, 1988)

My wife and I had applied for an international adoption in 1985. We desperately wanted a child, had gone through an intensive interview process, and had been approved. In early June I was at Coach Billy Hahn’s Ohio University Basketball Camp, at a pay phone outside Grover Center where I’d just called home, when I was given the news – our baby had been born in Korea. Soon thereafter we were sent a photo, and in the fall we finally got to meet the baby that would come me be known as Kip Min-Soo Shoemaker. To this day, deciding to adopt was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Buster Douglas Upsets Mike Tyson (February 11th, 1990)

I was coaching at Paint Valley. It was my first year coaching varsity basketball. We were at a post-game victory party at an assistant coach’s house when we heard the news from ESPN – Columbus, Ohio’s own Buster Douglas had done the unthinkable. He’d knocked out the unbeatable “Iron” Mike Tyson. We were ecstatic and shocked. Unforgettable moment.

Magic Johnson’s Announcement That He Is HIV Positive (November 7th, 1991)

It was the Fall of 1991 and I was getting ready to coach a team that didn’t have a senior on the roster. That team ended up winning 14 games that year and 18 the next along with a league title, but on this evening none of that had happened yet. We were getting ready for an early season practice when junior Josh Anderson walked into the gym . . .

“Have you guys heard? Magic Johnson has AIDS.”

What? It turns out he didn’t have AIDS, but was instead HIV positive. Still, at the time that meant a death sentence. Since Magic was an NBA legend, the idea of watching him waste away like actor Rock Hudson was shocking. Like I said, at the time being HIV positive meant you were going to die a slow and agonizing death, and it was absolutely distressing to contemplate.

The OJ Car Chase (June 17th, 1994)

I was living in Bourneville (where I’m back living now) and my in-laws were in from Niles, Ohio for a visit. Of course everyone had heard about the murders, and there was a news bulletin and we found out that OJ had been scheduled to turn himself in at 11:00am but never showed up. Then, at 1:50pm LAPD Commander. David Gascon announced that Simpson has not surrendered for arraignment as scheduled and was a fugitive from the law. It was stunning. For you youngsters out there OJ Simpson was one of the most famous athletes in the world back in the 70s. He also starred in those Naked Gun movies. This led to a televised slow-speed car chase with most of the country glued to their screens. That evening I kept switching from the OJ coverage to the NBA Finals game between Houston and New York. Wild stuff.

The OJ Acquittal (October 3rd, 1995)

Fast forward to a little over year later, and I was sitting in my classroom at Paint Valley watching TV with my class. The jury had made a decision and the world was awaiting the verdict. When OJ was found innocent verdict we were stunned.

The Death of Lady Diana (August 31st, 1997)

I was sitting at the bar of a restaurant in German Village in Columbus, Ohio, waiting to be called for dinner. It was around 7:00pm. I was with my wife Marianne, my sister Karen and her husband Army. There was a TV above the bar with the sound off, and my sister suddenly said, “Oh my God.” We all looked up and the news was right there on the screen- Princess Di was dead. We soon learned she’d been killed in a car wreck in Paris, which due to the time difference was 6-hours ahead of us. The accident had happened at approximately 12:23am Paris time. I recall the bar got eerily quiet as everyone whispered to each other about the news.

The WTC/Pentagon Attacks (September 11th, 2001)

I was at good friend of mine’s house that morning. He’d been in an accident the evening before and had passed away earlier that day. I was with his wife, son and a couple other members of their family. Around 9:00am I left to get everyone breakfast and turned on the radio, where I learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At that time I assumed that it was a small plane that had gotten lost in the clouds or something. I then went and got breakfast and returned to the house. At about 10:45am I went into the living room, where the TV was on with the sound muted. I immediately saw all the smoke and dust where the WTC buildings had been and was absolutely dumbfounded as to what happened. I soon learned though. Tough, tough day that I’ll never forget.

The Block (June 19th, 2016)

I was in my house in Bourneville. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors. Series tied 3-3, game tied with 1:20 left. Cleveland had never won an NBA title. I was on my knees, perhaps 5-feet from my TV screen. The Warriors were on a fast break for a seemingly easy score when LeBron James made The Block. It was at this exact moment when I realized: “He’s not going to let them lose.”

Like I said, there are closer, more personal stories I could tell but they’re way to fresh in my mind, too raw, to recent and too fresh. Maybe one day.

But enough about me. What are you’re Flashbulb Memories?

 

I was subbing in the old Huntington gym the other day and was reminded of this story . . .

Many moons ago, back when I played high school basketball, I played with perhaps the best player our league has ever seen. He happened to be my cousin and his name was Mick Shoemaker. Mick averaged 31.6 points per game his senior year, scored over 1,500 career points and received a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. There once existed a photo of Mick, just a few feet in front of his home bench and barely past the end of the scorer’s table, shooting a jump shot from about 25-feet out. In the photo his feet are at the eye level of those sitting on the bench. You realize the current high school 3-point line is 19-feet, 9-inches from the hoop, right?

So yeah, good. Really good.

Me? Not that good. I mean, I started and had some good games but Mick was on another level. Anyway, all this leads me to certain game in that old Huntington gym against our rivals, the Hunstmen.

The referee threw up the ball and we were soon on offense. Now, it wasn’t unusual for opposing teams to try a variety of defenses in a vain attempt to stop Mick. Anyway, the strategy Huntington was employing in this game was the old Box & 1. For those unaware, a Box & 1 is a defense where one guy sticks with a really good player and the other four guys play a zone, always ready to help out on him. What made this particular Box & 1 unique was that the one was on me.

Well, now. At this point I was thinking pretty highly of myself. Huntington had figured it out! I was the guy they had to stop! Let Mick Shoemaker have his points, the secret to beating Paint Valley was stopping Dave Shoemaker!

Yep, that’s what I actually thought for about 7-seconds. But then there was a lull in the action, the gym grew quiet, and I heard this from the opposing team’s coach:

Not him dummy! “The OTHER Shoemaker!”

I swear the Huntington coach screamed it so loud that everyone heard it, including some folks over in Happy Hollow. At that point the guy guarding me scurried away to guard Mick, leaving me standing there alone, undefended and humbled.

On the other hand, our own bench thought it was quite hilarious. Trust me, it took me awhile to live that one down.

Yeah. Not me.

 

My Mom is 91-years old, will be 92 in January, and is the coolest person I’ve ever known. She’s also a badass who grew up on a farm with two brothers. I’ve told many a story about my mother, from the time she gave me a Right Cross With Love to the time she was my teacher and paddled me the third week of school. One of my favorites occurred a few years ago when Mom was doing some mowing on her property. At one point she hopped off the mower to raise the mower blades. Keep in mind she was like 88 at the time. As she did, she heard a pop and thought the mower had backfired. Turns out she’d broken her back. The doctors said she be down for months, and of course she was back a few weeks later.

That’s Mom.

Another time Mom got a call from some ladies (aged 70ish) that wanted her to join their Garden Club. Mom has always had a green thumb, so it seemed like a reasonable idea. However, Mom declined and told me the reason she did was that “she didn’t want to sit around with a bunch of old people.

Mom was 83 at the time.

Even though Mom recently lost her oldest daughter, followed by her husband of 70-years, she’s hanging in there because that’s how she rolls.

Anyway, I’ve read that it’s good to ask questions about the past when dealing with older folks, because it helps to keep their mind sharp. I do this a lot, and every once in awhile she’ll drop a tidbit that is absolutely fascinating. For instance, last night we were talking and she mentioned that during her first year of substitute teaching she made $9 per day. She also once mentioned that her and Dad bought a new car for $1,400.00 around 1950 and that a loaf of bread cost 9¢. Of course money went a lot farther back then but you get the idea.

So this got me to thinking, what else has my Mom lived through? After a little research, here’s what I found. Believe me, it really puts things into perspective.

  • Mom was born on Sunday, January 23rd, 1927. In 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic nonstop and solo, direct from New York City to Paris, in the first solo transatlantic flight. Mom was 5-months old when Lindbergh did this.
  • When Mom was 8-months old, work began on Mt. Rushmore.
  • The year Mom was born saw the first transatlantic telephone call – New York City to London.
  • In 1927, the Ford Motor Company began selling the Model A. The price? $460.00.
  • In the year Mom was born, color television and the pop-up toaster were invented.
  • The #1 song in the year Mom was born was “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael. Click here for a listen. Good stuff. The top movie? The Jazz Singer.
  • When Mom was 1-year old, a famous character made his first appearance – Mickey Mouse. Yes, my mother is older than Mickey Mouse.
  • When Mom was 2-years old, the Stock Market crashed, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.
  • In 1929, the first public phone booths appeared in London. Mom was 2.
  • When Mom was 3-years old Pluto was discovered. Not the cartoon dog, the planet.
  • When Mom was 4-years old, “The Star Spangled Banner” became our National Anthem.
  • When my mother was 6-years old, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
  • In 1937 Amelia Earhart was lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in her attempt to fly round the world. Mom was 10-years old. Yep, she remembers hearing about it on the radio.
  • When Mom was 12-years old, Gone With the Wind, King Kong, and The Wizard of Oz were all released into theaters.
  • When Mom was 13, Hitler invaded Norway.
  • When Mom was 14-years old the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the USA into WWII.
  • In 1942 Bing Crosby released “White Christmas” which has gone on the sell over 25-million copies. Mom was 15-years old.
  • In 1944 my Mom was 17-years old. That was the year she was introduced to 18-year old Ralph Shoemaker by her brothers Walt and Joe Immell. Thus began a relationship that would last 74-years, up until my father passed away on August 13th, 2018.
  • Mom was 18-years old in 1945 when WWII ended and Hitler committed suicide.
  • In 1946, when Mom was 19, televisions began being mass produced.
  • On October 4th, 1948, my 21-year old mother gave birth to my sister. They named her Karen Elizabeth.
  • In 1951, when Mom was 24, color television was introduced to the USA. I believe we finally got one in the mid-60s.
  • In 1952, on September 27th, Mom and Dad brought my sister, Sara Dailey, into the world. Mom was 25.
  • In 1953 Mom was 26. That year Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal were the first men to reach top of Mt. Everest.
  • On December 1st, 1955, Mom was 28. On that day Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • 2-days after Rosa Parks took a stand by not getting up in Montgomery, I was born. Mom and Dad named me Ralph David.
  • On September 9th, 1956 Elvis Presley made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Mom was 29.
  • In 1961, when Mom was 34-years old, John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States.
  • On November 22nd, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Mom was 36. I remember that weekend pretty clearly and wrote about it in a blog called November 22nd, 1963.
  • On February 9th, 1964, I sat with my 37-year old mother and sisters and watch a new band perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. That band was The Beatles. I was mesmerized, Dad not so much. I think he watched about 2-minutes, snorted, and went off to make a sandwich.
  • In 1968 Mom was 41. That was the year Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.
  • On July 20th, 1969 Mom, Dad and I sat in our basement and watched Ohioan Neil Armstrong become the first human to set foot on the moon. Mom was 42, Dad was 43 and I was 14. Afterwards Dad and I went out to the front yard and looked up at the moon, amazed that a two men were standing on it as we watched.
  • From August 15th-17th, 1969 the Woodstock Festival was held in upstate New York. Mom, 42, and Dad were not fans of Hendrix, The Who, Joplin and CCR and the rest. They were still into Dean Martin I believe.
  • On December 11th, 1969 Mom’s father Walter Immell passed away at 66-years of age. I recall being called out of my 8th grade class at Twin Elementary and given the news. Mom was 42.
  • On May 4th, 1970 Mom was 43. It was the day four students were killed by National Guardsmen on Kent State campus. Although the students had been protesting the war in Vietnam and had even burned down the ROTC building, I distinctly remember my father watching the news a couple days prior and wondering aloud “why in the hell” Ohio Governor James Rhoads had sent the National Guard there.
  • On December 27th, 1971 Mom and Dad saw their first grandchild enter the world. Her name was Aimee Elizabeth. Mom was 44.
  • In 1976 the United States celebrated 200-years of existence with its Bicentennial on July 4th. Mom was 49.
  • On November 22nd, 1977 Mom’s mother Ethel passed away. She was 76. Mom was 50-years old.
  • On December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was murdered in New York City. I was living alone at the time and wrote about that night on this site in a story called December 8th, 1980. It was nearly midnight when the news broke, but of course Mom called me early the next morning to talk to me about it. She was 53.
  • On January 28th, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Mom was 59.
  • On August 11th, 1991 the internet was first made available to the public. Mom was 64-years old.
  • Mom was 67 when OJ Simpson murdered his wife Nicole and her friend in L.A. on June 18th, 1994.
  • On April 19th, 1995 Mom was 68. On that day the Oklahoma City Bombing happened at 9:02 am, killing 168 people.
  • On August 31st, 1997 Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris. Mom was 70-years old.
  • In the year 2001 the iPod was introduced. Mom was 72.
  • On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Mom was 73.
  • In 2008 my mother was 80-years of age and witnessed the first African American, Barrack Obama, to be sworn in as President of the United States.
  • In 2015 Mom was 87 and saw the US Supreme Court allow same-sex marriages.
  • On June 21st, 2018 my Mom lost her oldest daughter Karen. Sis was 69. Mom was 91.
  • On August 13th, 2018 my father passed away. Mom and Dad had first met in 1944, 74-years earlier.

Front: Mom and Dad Top: Sara, Karen, Me

So yeah, Mom has seen a lot. She has lived to see 16-pesidents and 5 major wars. She has heard Big Band music, the birth of Rock & Roll, and Hip-Hop. She’s witnessed changes in the world that nobody could have dreamed of in 1927. During her teaching career Mom was a positive, impactful influence on thousands of kids, and through it all she’s been a strong, independent role model and mother.

And the best part? During the course of her entire life, including these past few months, Mom hasn’t changed. She’s stayed the tough, honest, loving, supportive mother she’s always been, and those of us lucky enough to know her would expect nothing less.

I’ve posted ads from the past in the past, and they are sometimes usually always well received. If you like this blog and want to check the others out, click here:

These Old Timey Ads Are Well Intentioned, Hilariously Inappropriate

Old Timey Ads Part 2: When Sexism Was Rampant

Good stuff, and you shall laugh uproariously upon reading them. Anywho, that brings us to my latest installment, which brings us ads just as inappropriate and cringe-worthy as the others. Let us begin . . .

[click on the first photo and scroll for the captions]

 

Check it out, man. That toy gun would put your eye out in a millisecond. Think anybody complained? Hells to the nah. If I would’ve gotten blasted in the eyehole by that thing Dad would’ve yelled at me for not ducking sooner, then punched me in the shoulder so hard my ankles would’ve gone numb. Back in my day men were men and toys could literally kill you.

PS- How did I miss this thing as a kid? I would have struck terror in the hearts of my sisters, man.

Lightning Bugs fo sho.

Well, some of you. If you’re under 30 perhaps not. Anyway, many of us older folk can remember the way old supermarkets looked, as well as the old country, small town stores. What follows is a look back at a simpler time, 20 photographs along with my comments. Point, click and scroll. Do it man.

It was a different time. In many ways better, in some ways not.

[click to enlarge]

For all you youngsters out there, what you are about to see may cause you wonderment, confusion and possibly even consternation. For you older folk, it will bring forth a feeling of nostalgia and a possible longing for a simpler time. What I’m talking about is automobiles and what isn’t in them anymore. Hey, it’s been a slow day. Let’s take a gander . . .

BENCH SEATS

What you see below, kids, are what we called bench seats. None of this bucket seat bullshit. Since we never wore seatbelts Dad could take a hard left turn and we’d all go flying into the opposite door. Good times. On a related note, these seats came in handy when taking your girlfriend to the drive-in. I’ll stop right there.

 

TAILFINS

Next we have something you never see anymore, something we called tailfins, and they were spectacular. A side bonus was the fact that you could back into an unsuspecting pedestrian and impale the hell out of his spleen. Seriously though, cars are boring these days compared to these beauties.

 

ASH TRAYS

What you see below, kids, is something that was located on your car’s dashboard, and it was called an ashtray. That little knob on the left was a lighter. See, almost everybody smoked like a fiend back then so of course you needed a handy way to get your cancer stick fired up. We’ll get to all those little buttons and knobs above it shortly.

 

TRUNK SPACE

Seems like everyone drives an SUV these days, but back in the 60s and 70s everyone either drove a regular car or a truck. I had a luxurious Catalina Brougham, and that thing rode like a damn hovercraft. Anywho, most of the cars had enough trunk space to hold a Shetland pony, and I’m pretty sure my friend Cluck snuck 7-people into the Fiesta Drive-In in the trunk of his ’68 Chevy Impala once. Seriously, look at all that space. Now that I think of it, most cars don’t even come with a regular spare tire anymore. Sad really.

 

FLOOR MOUNTED DIMMER SWITCH

This next one is really gonna blow the minds of youngsters far and wide. That little doohickey you see below was on the floor of your car, to the left of the brake and gas pedal. What was it for, you ask? It was your headlight dimmer switch. Not even kidding. And it made a satisfying little click whenever you stepped on it to dim or brighten your headlights.

 

VENT WINDOWS

These were called vent windows and every car had them. You’d open them for a little fresh air, but mainly to flick your ashes out of so they wouldn’t fly back and burn your kid’s eyeballs out like they might if you tried flicking them out your regular window.

 

HORN RINGS

That thing you see on that steering wheel? It was called a horn ring. You simply pressed on it whenever you wanted to frighten a passing child on the sidewalk. On a related note, every car horn sounded like a damn tugboat horn. None of that beep-beep crap back in the day, man.

 

CRANK UP WINDOWS

See that weird looking thing? Young folk, back in the barbaric days of yore people actually had to reach down and roll up their own damn windows. Gasp!

Thought: Why doesn’t every car still come with these as a backup? You know, when you’re automatic windows inevitably stop working?

 

METAL DASHBOARDS

Here’s something else you never see anymore – metal dashboards. None of that wussy padding for the Greatest Generation, man. Hey, if you’d gone to war against the Nazis a few sharp objects on your dashboard didn’t bother you a whole lot. Just sayin’.

 

TAPE PLAYERS

Check it out! Kids, that’s what we called an 8-track tape player! See, you jammed the tape in there and it played the music of your favorite musical artist!

Note: Remember when the music would start dragging and you’d have to stick a matchbook or something under it to get it to play right? Sometimes I long for the old days.

 

CASSETTE PLAYERS

Soon, my children, tapes and the tape player became obsolete and was replaced by cassettes and this little contraption, the cassette player. Sometimes the tape in the cassette would get all tangled up and you’d have to rewind it back up with a pencil. I’m serious. I included a photo below the cassette player pic. That’s what separates me from your average blogger right there, people. I go the extra mile.

 

 

ANTENNAS

What the hell is that, you ask? That, my friends, is an antenna. You could pull that thing down real far and let it whip back and lacerate your friend’s face, just for fun. Gas stations use to give out little antenna toppers that you could stick on the top of it, too. I once had a Union 76 ball that flew off and nearly killed an old lady behind me on the freeway. Fun!

PS – Photo of identical antenna topper included below!

PPS – It has been pointed out to me that some cars still have antennas. Really?

PPPS – Antennas gradually grew shorter and shorter until they disappeared into the windshield. Sad really.

 

REAR FACING SEATS

Check it out, man. Rear facing seats! Andy Anderson and I rode all the way to Boulder, Colorado and back riding in the rear of a 1967 Buick Sport Wagon. It was sort of a weird vibe watching the world go by backwards like that, lemme tell ya. You never knew where you were until you were past it.

 

DIAL RADIOS

Finally, we have the dial radio. Yes, you could either set a station by pushing a button or just roll through the stations manually. Barbaric but effective.

Aaaaaand, that’s all I can think of. Knowing my loyal readers like I do, however, I’m sure somebody will quickly point out something obvious I missed and make me feel stupid. Thanks in advance!

Here’s a short but pretty cool story about my father. Dad is 91 now and not in the best of health, but he’s a pretty amazing guy who’s lived a pretty amazing life all things considered. I plan to write a story about all that one day, but for now I thought I’d share a short story about something that happened when I was perhaps 5-years old.

Dad was a smoker back then, but most men were in those days. Just look at an old photo from back then and you’ll see a cigarette in almost everyone’s hand. Hell, doctors smoked in their office as they examined you. I’m dead serious.

There’s probably a bottle of booze in his drawer too.

The cigarette folks even advertised using doctors. Crazy but true, man.

You cannot make this stuff up. What can I say? People didn’t know. And it was a different time, in many ways better, in some ways most certainly not.

Bottom line, the link about cigarettes and lung cancer had been known for a decade or so, but was for the most part ignored. Hence, Dad the smoker.

Let me take you back to the winter of ’60 or ’61, maybe even ’59. I don’t really remember. I just recall it was winter because there was a fire in our fireplace. It was in the evening, and I climbed up on Dad’s lap as he sat by the fire burnin’ a Lucky Strike.

At one point I reached up and tried to grab his cigarette, because hey, I was a kid. I got my hand slapped, and it was then the following conversation took place:

Dad: “Hey, what are you doing? Stop it.”

Me: “I want to try it!”

Dad: “You can’t. You’re too young and besides, cigarettes are bad for you.”

Me: “Then why are you smoking one?” 

Really, that was all it took. Because at that point Dad paused, looked at the cigarette in his hand, and flipped it into the fireplace.

And he never smoked another cigarette in his life.

I asked him about this recently, and he too remembered that evening. He told me he just didn’t feel he could justify smoking while at the same time telling me how bad it was for you. So he quit to prove a point, on the spot, for himself but mainly for me.

And I’m glad he did.

 

Back on the late 60s and early 70s there was a baseball camp near the town I grew up in. It was Ted Kluszewski’s Baseball Camp, run by the former Cincinnati Reds’ slugger from back in the day. During the days of the Big Red Machine, “Big Klu” was the team’s hitting instructor. Anyway, it was a cool camp with kids attending from all over the world. Players ranging in age from 6- 17 attended the camp, and local baseball teams would go there to play against the campers. Bottom line, I spent a ton of time there, either playing in or watching games.

As I’ve mentioned before I used to spend a copious amount of time at my Uncle Myrl’s house and I basically went wherever they went, which leads to my story.

My Aunt Dorothy had taken my cousin Mick and I to the camp to watch some games, and it being the late 60s and all she just dropped us off and left, telling us she’d be back in a couple hours. Alas, it was a simpler time. Anyway, she returned later to pick us up, and we hopped in the backseat for the ride home.

However, as we were pulling out of the lot a guy waved us to a stop, and as I recall he didn’t look happy. Aunt Dorothy rolled her window down to see what was up, and the following conversation (as I remember it) then took place.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to stop you but your boys have something that belongs to us.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your kids stole some of our baseballs. I have people who saw them getting foul balls and sticking them down their pants.”

[Those of you who want to insert a “balls in your pants” joke may do so now.]

What I witnessed next was the most epic ass-ripping my young ears had ever heard, and believe me, I’d heard a lot. But alas, my aunt’s gush of fury and vitriol wasn’t directed at us. Instead, Aunt Dorothy tore into this poor dude in every way imaginable, letting him know in no uncertain terms that she had not raised thieves and there was no way on God’s green earth we would ever stoop to the level of a common criminal.

During all of this Mick and I sat quietly in the backseat, not saying a word.

Turns out there was a reason for this.

I recall the guy backing away with his hands up as he said he was sorry for the mistake and left, presumably to look for the real ball burglars or perhaps a corner in which to weep.

You know, we might have gotten away with it had Aunt Dorothy not had to make a sudden stop on the way home in the little town of Bainbridge when some jackass pulled in front of her. But he did, and that was when all the baseballs we’d pilfered rolled out from under the backseat from where we’d hidden them, onto the front floorboard, and around the feet of the woman who’d just defended us to the ends of the earth to a man who’d had the audacity to call us crooks.

Which, incidentally, we now very clearly were.

Well, I thought the tongue-lashing given to our accuser was bad, but it paled in comparison to what was laid on Mick and I now.  We were yelled at, belittled, shamed, mocked and at one point may or may not have been called assholes.

Which, again, would not have been a false statement.

Note: Understand that the fact I was a nephew wasn’t figured into the equation. When I was with my cousins I was considered one of the immediate family in every sense of the word. This was often a good thing but sometimes not. This time? Decidedly not.

We then had to suffer the indignity of returning to the baseball camp, giving back our stash, and apologizing to the man who had accurately accused us of our larceny in the first place. I believe we had to perform this indignity in front of an entire Pop Warner Little League team who happened to be nearby. The fact that a couple of them were laughing at us only added weight to our collective embarrassment.

And I still remember our accuser’s smirk as he accepted the returned baseballs. Dude was absolutely smug I tell ya.

And Aunt Dorothy must have figured we’d learned our lesson because as far as we ever knew she never told my Uncle Myrl or my father Ralph, and for that we were thankful. If she had a more physical punishment would have undoubtedly been administered, and that would’ve hurt a lot more than an ass-ripping by an aunt, the smug-smirk of a baseball camp employee, or the laughs of a couple 5-year old little league punks.

Alas, we survived, although we may have been blackballed from Ted Kluszewski’s Baseball Camp for a week or two, I cannot recall for certain.

Just another day in the life of a Bourneville kid.

Thoughts?

A girls softball team from Virginia paid a steep price for a lesson about social media: After a victory, think twice about gloating over your opponent on their home turf — especially if the chosen method of gloating is posting a photo on social media of six teammates flipping the bird under the caption, “watch out host.”

The 12-to-14-year-olds who make up the Atlee junior league softball team from Mechanicsville, Va., were disqualified Saturday from the nationally televised championship game at the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash., after one team member posted that photo on her Snapchat account before their game Friday. The team apologized Saturday, even asking for an investigation into the game, but it was too late to repair the damage the image had caused.

Little League spokesman Kevin Fountain called the post “inappropriate” in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, explaining that it violated the league’s “policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct.”

The disqualification didn’t sit well with the Atlee team manager, Scott Currie, who found out about the photo Friday evening after the team’s 1-0 win. Currie immediately reprimanded the players who were involved, before demanding they delete the post and apologize in person to their rivals.
“It’s a travesty for these girls,” Currie told the Times-Dispatch on Saturday. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”

Yes, I have an opinion on this “controversy”, and it’s pretty straightforward – I agree with the decision to disqualify this team 100%. I’ve spoken at length about my feelings on running up the score and showing bad sportsmanship, and nothing has changed although it seems I’m becoming more and more in the minority.

If you research this story online, you’ll find that a lot of people upset about it, especially because the entire team was disqualified when only six girls were in the photo. Newsflash: In sports, you are a TEAM. Many times, when even one players makes a mistake, everybody pays for it.

And in its own way, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a life lesson, something to use forever and hopefully pass on to your own children one day. Don’t simply think about yourself, think about your friends, your family, your team.

Hell, do you now what one of the worst punishments I can hand out as a coach is? It’s when one player makes a mistake, and I make him stand there and watch everybody else run. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but neither is life.

Oh, and again, it just might help you remember that your actions can affect everyone around you.

As anyone who’s ever played for me will tell you, I believe what these girls did was a bush league move. It was classless and wrong. And I don’t care what the other team was doing during the game to possibly provoke them either, that’s irrelevant. So is how many hours they put in or how hard they worked to get there. They threw all that away with one ignorant decision.

And hey, Coach Currie, you shouldn’t be upset. This was largely your fault. Coaching is much more than teaching how to hit, field, tackle or shoot free throws. It’s teaching what’s right and what’s wrong.

Had you done your job your team would’ve known better, and by defending them you’ve made the problem worse.

Coach, listen up. Back when I was in high school I was playing in a basketball game. I’d committed a dumb foul and followed it up by receiving a technical foul. That night after the game I went to my Uncle Myrl’s house, a man I had great respect for, to visit my cousins. As I walked by him in the kitchen where he was sitting reading  the newspaper, we had the following conversation:

“Dave, you know what’s worse than making an ass of yourself?”

“Uh, no.”

“Making an ass out of yourself twice.”

Still true today, coach.

 

duke

Not Duke but awfully close.

Looking back, growing up in the small southern Ohio town of Bourneville wasn’t a bad way to go. Everybody knew everybody else, everyone looked after each other, and we were sort of unaffected by what was going on in the turbulent 1960’s. Oh, I knew about the Vietnam War and all the protests, but that was mainly because of my oldest sister Karen. Sis, always the rebel, made sure her little bro knew about the injustices of the world. As far as the Civil Rights movement down south, my father had made all that clear to me years earlier during our vacations to Florida. I distinctly remember him pointing to the “Whites Only” signs over bathroom doors in Georgia and explaining how it was wrong. All-in-all though, my daily life was pretty idyllic, to be honest.

I say all that because it’s pertinent to the story that follows.

For a few years in the mid-60’s I had a dog named Duke. Unlike all the dogs I’ve owned as an adult, Duke was an outside dog. We didn’t really know what kind of a dog he was, he sort of looked like a Greyhound with longer, collie-like hair. He was light brown with some white on his face and tail, and he could run like the wind.

How do I know this, you ask? Because he chased every car that drove by our house. Pull in our driveway? Fine. Drive on past? Get chased.

Anyway, Duke was a great dog.  He went with me everywhere, followed me whether I was on my bike or walking. He’d wait patiently outside the local store or gas station while I was inside, hang with my friends and I, or just generally be a great companion for a kid growing up in Southern Ohio.

And everyone in town knew my dog Duke.

Then one day, for some reason I was all by myself at home. This wasn’t unusual, parents left their kids home all the time back then. Hey, we could fend for ourselves. Compared to now it was a totally different world.

Anyway, the phone rang and it was the guy who owned the gas station in the middle of Bourneville. He basically said to get down there, that Duke had been in an accident. Obviously, I was distraught. I raced down there on my bike, and as I rounded the corner I saw a group gathered, maybe 8-10 people. When I got near they sort of separated so I could see, and there, on the ground, was Duke.

He looked normal, no visible injuries at all, and no blood. He was breathing normally and just looked very at ease and peaceful. Still, something was clearly wrong.

What happened next could only happen in a small midwestern town. Somebody backed up a pickup truck, and some of the men helped me place Duke gently in the bed. Somebody put my bike in as well, and we were driven back to my house where we carefully lay Duke on a blanket on my garage floor.

At that point everybody sort of backed away and left, leaving me there with my buddy.

And so here I was, a 10 or 11-year old kid, sitting on my family’s garage floor, with my dying dog’s head on my lap.

After maybe 10 or 15-minutes Duke sort of gave a sigh, and I knew he was gone.

I then held Duke, waited for my father to get home, told him what had happened, and he and I proceeded to bury Duke in our backyard.

Was it a tough moment for a kid my age? Hell, yes. But it was a different time, a different era. What happened wasn’t unusual for a small midwestern town in the 1960s. While people looked out for each other, ultimately you had to be independent and deal with life on your own.

And I did.

And in the end, I was better off for it.

 

Back when I played high school basketball I had a coach that I dearly loved. No, he wasn’t my high school coach, but an assistant. He was always there for me, counseling and giving advice when I needed it.

And God, did I need it.

Anyway, he was the guy who I knew always believed in me, saw the best in me, and I’ll never forget it. He never let me down. However, there was one time I let him down, although I didn’t know it at the time. Here’s the dizzle . . .

It was just before a game, and we’d finished our pregame warmups. We all went to the huddle to listen to our head coach’s final instructions, and it was then I smelled trouble.

And when I say smelled, I literally mean smelled.

Because in that huddle, I distinctly caught the smell of alcohol. Listen, I was no angel when I played high school basketball. Not even close. But at the time, I was pissed that one of my teammates had been doing some pregame drinking. It was a big game and I was upset that somebody hadn’t been taking the moment with the seriousness it deserved. How dare they? I proceeded to let everyone on the team know how disappointed I was in their behavior, their attitude, and their general disregard for commitment to our team.

Anyway, we went on to lose the game and I never did find out who had let me down that day, the guy who had downed a couple pregame totties, the player who had spat in the face of sportsmanship and all that was sacred to high school athletics.

That is, until later.

Because a few years on I ran into my old assistant coach, the man I admired and had moved on to another school somewhere in northern Ohio. Here’s the conversation that transpired:

“Shoe, do you remember when you tore into the team that night after you smelled alcohol on somebody?”

“Uh, yes. I was pissed. I couldn’t believe somebody could be so damn dumb.”

“Well, that somebody was me. I’d had a couple drinks before the game that day. You just about sold me out, man.”

Uh-oh. Well, hell. Little did I know the guy I looked up to more than anyone on the court was the guy who’d tipped a couple back pegame.

Hey, was he right to do that? No, he was not. But it was a different time. Hell, we also had a high school administrator that kept a bottle of whiskey in a desk drawer.

In retrospect I shouldn’t have been so self-righteous, handled it another way, and kept my mouth shut.

Alas, I did not, and in the process I almost outed my favorite coach.

Oops.

cub_scout_1968

Not me but damn close.

The following story took place a long time ago, during my 2nd grade year. Yep, way back in 1963. Here’s how it all went down . . .

We were sitting in class at Twin Elementary when our teacher told us that somebody wanted to talk to all the boys. In walked a guy, I can’t remember who, who proceeded to tell us all about the Cub Scouts. It sounded great. There would be hiking, camping, building model cars, all kinds of cool stuff to do. My buddies and I were all amped up. Couldn’t wait! All we had to do was go home and get the forms signed by our parents, which we couldn’t wait to do.

Of course, with my father there would be stipulations.

After I excitedly told him of the opportunity, he sat me down and we had a talk. Number 1, he thought the Cub Scouts would be a great idea. Number 2, he said there would be no quitting once I started. One full year would be completed, no excuses, end of discussion. Hell, that wasn’t a problem with me. I was stoked!

I couldn’t wait to get back to school to tell my buddies I was in, and it turns out they were too. It was gonna be fantastic.

We had our first meeting at the local church, the Cub Scout guy explained everything, and it all sounded great. Then he brought out the uniform. Hey, it was a little different with the little hat, scarf and knee socks, but what the hell, we’d all be wearing it so it’d be cool. I was ready to roll.

Not so fast Scout Boy.

Here’s what I heard from my friends when I got to school the next morning:

“No way I’m wearing that uniform, man.”

“That uniform looks stupid. I’m not wearing that thing.”

“Sounded good but I’m out. I quit.”

Wait. What? You’re quitting because of the uniform? After one meeting?

Turns out they were. My closest friends were out. The only other kid in my class who stayed in was a nerdy little kid named Quincy (name changed to project the nerdy).

Did I ask my Dad for a reprieve so I could stick with my buddies? I did not. I was dumb but not that dumb. A deal was a deal, man.

So, as it turned out every Tuesday Quincy and yours truly wore the uniform to school as required by the Scouts, and every Tuesday I was ridiculed, mocked, jeered, belittled and spat upon.*

*OK, nobody spit on me but it seemed like it at the time. It was 2nd grade hell I tell ya. 

On a related note I’m pretty sure that was the year I learned to fight.

Anyway, at the next meeting we learned who our pack leaders would be, and it turned out mine was a new guy who had recently volunteered.

That man was my father.

Did he join because he knew I was going through a tough time? Did he know it would help me get through it if he was around?

Probably, but if it was true he never said a word.

Bottom line, pretty soon we were doing cool stuff like building and painting little cars to race down a ramp, constructing airplanes to fly, even going on all-night camping trips. It wasn’t long before my non-Scout friends wished their parents hadn’t let them quit, and in fact they joined up the next year. Hey, maybe it was how cool I looked in that uniform. Chicks dig uniforms, ya know.

All-in-all it was fun, and we did it all while learning about being leaders, being responsible and providing service to others.

But what I learned the most was to never, ever quit.

Thanks Dad.

Hey, I taught all through the 90’s, plus I had a kid who was born in 1988. Hence, I remember all this stuff. Do you?

 

So I’ve been getting up early every morning, grabbing my sturdy walking stick, bournevilleoh1and embarking on 3.5 mile brisk walk through and around the neighborhood.

I begin when it’s still dark, and I’ve mapped out a route that takes me down every street and alley that is the old town of Bourneville, Ohio.

Fun fact: Lewis Igo has the honor of being our first settler, having emigrated to the “Paint Creek Valley” in the autumn of 1797. The first baby born was the son of Lewis, named Tom. Oh, and Bourneville was platted in 1832 by Colonel Bourne, who the town was named after.

I’ve lived in Bourneville most of my life, although I did have a 14-year stint in Chillicothe and spent short periods of time in Columbus and North Carolina. Anyway, as I walk around the village a thought occurred to me, and it was this – I’ve been in nearly every house in Bourneville. Legally even. Seems weird I know, but as a kid my friends and I seemed to get around. Because of this nearly every house, street or building seems to hold a memory for me, many of which have been written about on this site.

But back to the walk. It begins down Taylor Street, past the houses of a few friends I grew up with including Billy and Richard. Richard was my buddy we all called Itch, short for Rich. As I recall his mom didn’t like that name, so being the kind-hearted kids we were, we quit calling him Itch. He henceforth went by the name of Scratch.

Kids, man.

As I round the corner past the house where Scratch use to live and head down the hill on Cropp Street, I’m reminded of the time I attended a Junior High party at the Ward house there on the left. Full disclosure: I had my first kiss in the driveway of that house, and it was spectacular (at least in my mind). I won’t mention names and I have no idea if she reads this site, but she knows who she is.

Past the Ward house and onto Keran Street, I wistfully leave my adolescent memories behind and roll onward. As I come to the base of a small hill where we used to race go carts, I recall the time I was run over by a truck. You read that right, kids. It’s all documented in a blog I cleverly entitled Run Over by a Truck. Fascinating reading I tell ya.

But hey, I lived so it’s all good.

As I come to the end (or beginning, depending on your perspective) of Keran Street I take a right on Upper Twin Road and pass the houses of two more of my childhood friends, Ted and Rocky. Ted, in particular, had my back on more than one occasion. He passed away at a too young age but I still think of him a lot.

The next turn is a right onto North Alley, which takes me through the backstreets of Bourneville. Oh, the memories of racing down that alley on my bike as a kid. I passed the back of my cousin Mel’s house, where many a shenanigan occurred. I once witnessed Mel shoot a kid square in the back with a pellet gun, then thoughtfully remove said pellet with a knife after heating it with a blowtorch. What can I say? It was a tough neighborhood.

Proceeding on westward through the alley, I walk past the former Maughmer family garage where the famous incident with Drano, Max and Grundy took place, all the way to the end and take a hard left to what is now the Valero Station. When I was a kid it did some time as a Sinclair Station, which had those cool dinosaur logos. Seriously, take a look at that logo over there. sinclair_oil_logo-svgAwesome, amirite? It was also known as Brook’s at one point and was also a Texaco. Anyhoo, as I head back down Route 50 I remember what a busy little town Bourneville used to be. Seriously, besides the Sinclair Station the following businesses operated on the main drag:

  • Springer’s: Located at the corner of Cropp Street and Route 50, this was an old country store that had those big jars of candy. Great place that sadly burned to the ground one night in the 70’s.
  • Lance’s: Lance’s was on the left heading east, smack dab in the middle of town. Lance’s was a store run by Jimmy Jack and his son Butch worked there a lot too.
  • Ted Wisecup also ran a very busy gas station right by the firehouse, and I believe it was a Sunoco. I do remember him beating my ass for repeatedly running over the tube that rang when somebody pulled in. He’d warned me a few times to stop, but being the punk that I was I continued. Next thing I knew I was pulled off my bike and whipped with a fan belt. Back then, any adult could beat your ass. ‘Twas a better time in many ways, I tell ya.
  • Where the Dairy Hut now stands, there once stood a beautiful church. I’ll never forget sitting on my porch talking with somebody one beautiful day back in the late 70’s (early 80’s?) when I heard the church bell ring. It was odd because the church hadn’t been in use for a few years. It was only later when I drove by that I realized I’d heard the last ring of that bell, because the church had been demolished and the bell had rung as it fell. Sad. Oh, and this is the corner where the legendary story entitled Harold, Max and Me took place.
  • Catty-cornered from that church stood Homer Ward’s Sohio station, a place where I played many a pinball game.

Like I said, it’s surprising that a town the size Bourneville used to support so many businesses, but support them they did. And as I walk memories of all these places come back to me.

After the Bourneville tour I head back up Twin Road and the hill where the Bicycle Wagon Train made its infamous ride. There may still be scars in the blacktop, man. Then, at the top of the hill, I once again pass The Post for the zillionth time, where it still stands proudly today.

Next I pass a cornfield where Twin School once stood. I not only attended the school in grades 1 through 8 but I taught 6th grade for 3-years there as well.

Heading on up Twin Road, I pass the cemetery and my Uncle Myrl’s old house where I sent many a summer day, take a left, and circle around the new housing development. As I cruise the back stretch I can’t help but remember the time my beloved Sparky tangled with the coyote there. On a related note, I’ve seen some eyes glowing in the dark a few times at that spot and I always have my walking stick at the ready. Hey, I know coyotes don’t attack people but better safe than sorry I always say.

And then, my 3.5 mile walk comes to an end. You know, it’s funny how much different walking the neighborhood is as compared to driving through it. You have time to see things and not just drive by without taking everything in.

As a result, it’s a great way to get back in touch with your town, and also a great way to awaken some old memories. And that’s a good thing, right?

As kids we all had our favorite foods, right? No matter the age, we all have memories of eating certain things we loved when we were little ‘uns. Seems like Ramen Noodles are sort of a staple these days, but when I was a kid other foodstuffs were more common.

Heck man, I could tear through a box of Cheez-Its in 20-minutes if I could have done it without Mom catching me. On a related note, nothing worse than your parents buying groceries and then not letting you eat certain things. I remember having a 6-pack of Pepsi in the fridge with the instructions that it had to last the whole week between my two sisters and I. Brutal, man.

Anyhoo, here are a few of my staples as a youngster:

Cheez Whiz

Are you serious? I still love Cheez Whiz. That stuff is the best, man. I used to put it on crackers, bread, pretzels, and I even used it as chip dip. And yes, sometimes I just ate it right out of the jar, quite often with my fingers. And you know it helps to fend off cancer, right? Cheez Whiz is golden, man.

cheez

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Oh yeah. Straight up peanut butter on white Wonder Bread. And I loved both the crunchy and smooth. Jif and Skippy were my favorites, hands-down.

peanut

Suzy Q’s 

Sweet Mother of God I ate these babies like they were going out of style when I was a kid. I’d ride my bike down to Lance’s Store, buy a 2-pack, and have them finished off long before I got back home. Tastilicious.

hostess-suzy-q

American Cheese

Sure, it was processed cheese that tasted a little like styrofoam, but it was way too convenient to pull out a slice, rip that plastic off, and scarf that baby down.

americancheese

Atomic Fireballs

Hey, any product that has a nuclear bomb on the box has gotta be good, amirite? I’d pop as many of these tasty little kerosene balls in my mouth as I could and let the good times roll. Woot!

fireballs

Mallo Cups

Hell, I eat Mallo Cups today. As a matter of fact, my 5th grade students used to bring them to me a couple times a week. It seems as if the scrumptious cups are becoming harder and harder to find and that’s a national tragedy. Mallo Cups > Reese’s Cups, all day, every day, every way.

mallo-cup-wrapper-small

Wax Bottles

Remember the little wax bottles filled with God knows what? You’d bite off the top and drink them? I don’t know what was in there but I loved it. And I was hardcore man, I’d chew on and eat the bottle like a boss.

waxbottles

Vienna Sausages

Vienna Sausages in barbecue sauce, to be precise. That was my staple mid-afternoon snack right there, man. I lived with a dude in college that made Mac & Cheese with Vienna Sausages and it was spectacular. Still love me some Vienna Sausages.

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Sardines

Oh, hells to the yah! Nothing says heaven more than a couple sardines on a cracker, man. Oh, and they have to be in mustard sauce, that’s a no-brainer. I lived on sardines as a kid.

sardines1

Oh, of course I had bologna and cheese sandwiches, frozen pizza, pizza rolls and stuff like that, but these were my favorites. Don’t judge, man.

Note: I have to give a shoutout to the greatest bubble gum of all-time, Bazooka. I followed the enclosed comic Bazooka Joe, too. No better gum, ever.

bazooka

grease

Yeah. Like this.

Growing up in a small southern Ohio town in the 60s was pretty idyllic, really. Sure, a lot of the country was being torn apart by civil unrest, whether it was caused by race, the war in Vietnam or the Battle of the Sexes, but here in Bourneville we were relatively untouched by all that upheaval. Sure, my older sister Karen, rabble-rouser that she was, eventually turned me onto what was going on on our country (man, did Dad hate that peace sign she taught me to exchange with her), but that was towards the end of the decade. For a large part of the 60s I was just an innocent kid enjoying life.

I have a ton of stories from those days, the most famous being Harold, Max & Me, a story that folks seem to enjoy because of its sheer insanity. I also told a story of a kid named Grungy who, although we teased him mercilessly, turned out to have a good heart. That story was called Grungy’s Revenge. Max was the central figure in another childhood escapade as well, in the story entitled The Bicycle Wagon Train Was A Bad Idea. And believe me, it was.

The story I’m about to tell involves both Max and Grungy, and I’ll steal fro my own writing to describe each. Let’s start with Grungy:

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him.  I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual. Oh, and when Grungy got mad you best run for your life. Dude was a badass.

Next, my description of Max:

Max? Max was my age, small for his age and a Bourneville badass. I can never remember him not smoking, he always had a cig in his mouth from the day I met him, which was when we were probably around 6-years old. Max could whip any kid’s ass and was a con-artist deluxe. He’d have his friend’s mothers eating out of his hand, then turn around and cuss like a sailor around the rest of the kids in Bourneville.

So there’s your visuals for two of the principal subjects of my story. There were others, including yours truly, which you’re about to hear about . . .

One hot summer day a few of us Bourneville rapscallions and ne’re-do-wells were hanging around Max’s family garage, just shooting the breeze and probably planning our next hijinks.

The cast of characters included myself, Max, Grungy, Scratch, Fred, Ted, and a new kid in town we’d inexplicably christened with the name Drano.

Like I said, we were all sitting around the perimeter inside the garage, talking about God-knows-what. Max was sitting beside one of those big fish fryers that his family owned, and it had about 6-inches of nasty grease at the bottom. Max’s older brother said they never cleaned it because it made the fish taste better.

Anyway, sitting between Max and Fred was the new kid Drano, and I was sitting across the garage with Grungy, Ted, and Scratch. At some point Max, the ultimate instigator, decided it would be a good idea to reach in the fryer, grab a big glop of grease on his finger, and casually flipped it across the room toward us.

I think I was the only one who actually saw him do it, and as I recall the dollop of goo seemed to fly in slow motion through the air, directly toward its intended target . . . the prodigious cranium of Grungy.

As I watched in horror, the grease-ball made a soft plop, directly on the bridge of Grungy’s humongous schnozz. Everyone looked up, and for a few seconds there was silence as we contemplated the terror to ensue.

Grungy just sat there, and it would have been hilarious had we not been aware of the big man’s penchant for anger when tormented.

Slowly, he reached up and wiped the offending lard from his nose, flicked it away, and glared across the room, trying to figure out who committed the deed. Of course, the first guy he looked at was young Max, who silently pointed at the new kid sitting beside him.

Drano.

Poor Drano. He’d been in town for maybe a week and made the fateful mistake of sitting next to Max.

As Drano stood shaking his head no, waving his arms and basically looking like a kid staring down a charging rhinoceros, Grungy advanced across the room methodically and with a single purpose on his mind.

Revenge.

As we looked on in terror, Grungy picked up Drano like a rag doll, flipped him upside down, and unceremoniously dunked his head into the grease.

Stunned, we watched as Grungy held his head there for what seemed like forever, then slowly twisted his head in even deeper.

When he finally pulled him out and sat him back down, Drano’s hair looked like, well, like he had the first-ever mohawk, except greasier. The funny thing was, Drano just sat there, afraid to move.

Then Grungy just walked out of the garage and went home.

Of course, Max had to have the last word:

“See Drano, I told you not to make Grungy mad.”

 

PS: I distinctly recall handing Drano a dirty old rag from the corner of the garage, nice guy that I am. He proceeded to try and rub the gook out, only succeeding in making matters worse. Then his hair stood up all over, making him look like he was perpetually frightened, which incidentally he was from then on.

scared-little-boy-cartoon-7248295

 

 

 

spindle

Weird, but a lot of my readers won’t know what this is.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how much not only music has changed over the past 40-50 years, but how much we buy and listen to it has changed as well. After we talked I began thinking about music and how I became so involved in it, and my mind went back to the early 60’s, when I was just a young whippersnapper . . .

Mom and Dad always had records around, but they were by guys like Dean Martin and Al Martino. Then my sisters started bringing records home by Elvis and artists like Gene Pitney, Bobby Vinton and The Four Seasons. Of course, The Beatles arrived and changed everything, but I began to get really immersed when one of my sister’s boyfriends, Dave, started bringing 45s to the house and playing them for me. Not only would he play the 45s, he would describe the group to me and give me background he’d learned from music magazines and other sources.

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If this isn’t it exactly it’s pretty damn close.

In those early years I listened to everything on Mom and Dad’s massive stereo. It was one of those giant wooden ones with the lid that popped up, revealing the fascinating array of knobs and buttons with which to adjust the sound and volume.

Anyway, I was endlessly fascinated by Dave talking about the people behind the music, so as time went on I got into it more and more. I’d lie in bed listening to WLS radio out of Chicago every single night, just soaking up the sounds and imagining what the bands and singers looked like. I recall DJs like Larry Lujack and Wolfman Jack, and lying there the music just seemed so magical. It also, in my mind, came from exotic, faraway places.

That’s why I disliked music videos so much. They told us what to see, not what our imaginations could create. After MTV the song brought to mind the video, and that was sad to me. But back to my childhood . . .

As the late 60’s came along, so did my teenage years. Sometime around then I began buying my own records, and in the beginning it was always 45s. I remember going to Central Center with my father every other Friday to get  haircuts. I’d go first, and then I’d walk down to Woolworths where they sold records. They had a display where they’d have the Top 20 singles and I’d always go there first, followed by the “New Releases” section.

woolworths

Yep. Like this.

The 45s cost 79¢, and I usually had $5.00 that I had saved (I used to get an old guy’s mail that lived in Bourneville and he’d pay me a whopping $5.00 a week!) so I had to choose wisely. That’s six 45’s every 2-weeks for you non-Math folks out there. Sometimes I’d only buy 3 or 4 records so I could buy a Coke Float and Grilled Cheese sandwich over at the Woolworths soda fountain and bar. They has those cool stools and everything and I loved it.

Then I’d walk back up to the Barber Shop, meet Dad and head home. I could not wait to get there, take that record from the wrapper, drop it on the little turntable in my bedroom, close my eyes and let the music take me away. Man, you couldn’t beat the late 60’s groups like The Rascals, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Four Tops, and of course The Beatles and others.

Later, around the time I got my driver’s license I believe, I started buying albums, or LPs. See, in the early 60’s albums were basically one hit song and a bunch of filler tunes. The songs were all independent of each other. The Beatles changed all that by making concept, or theme albums. On these albums the songs were all connected, like on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Because of this you wanted the entire album, or at least I did.

I bought most of my albums back then at Hart’s department store and places like that. If I really wanted to buy stuff out of the mainstream I went to Columbus and visited places like the gloriously named Magnolia Thunderpussy to find hard-to-get music. Up through the early to mid-80’s you couldn’t find alternative bands like R.E.M. and The Replacements in regular department stores.

alice

Great LP cover. On a related note, I sat at a desk like this at the old Twin Elementary.

And kids today will have no concept of this, but there was nothing better than taking the cellophane off of an album and reading all the information on the back. It was even better if it was an album (usually a double album but not always) that opened up like a book. Often the lyrics were contained somewhere, either on the back of the album itself or maybe on the actual sleeve in which the record was contained. Posters could be in there, and some albums were really unique, like Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” LP which opened up like an old school desk. Cool. I’d spend hours going over everything on an album jacket, over and over and over.

eightSoon, LPs were pushed aside in favor of 8-track tapes. You couldn’t put much information on an 8-track, which sucked. 8-tracks had four sections and when the tape went from one to the other it made this clunky sound as it switched over. Sometimes, if the tape was dragging, you had to press a matchbook or something between the tape and player to tighten it up. I bet everyone who owned a tape player has done that a few times.

Next came the cassette. The cassette was even smaller than the 8-track, which led to even less information on it. Of course the CD followed, and by then you could go straight to a song without listening to other songs on the album. I remember hearing kids say, “Hey, play #4!” Hell, they didn’t even know the name of the song, let alone the background of it or, God forbid, the lyrics.

Alas, nowadays everything is downloaded from the internet and a lot of people don’t purchase the entire album. That’s sad because a lot of the time you have to listen to a song a few times before it grows on you. With an album you put it on and listened to everything, then you flipped it over and listened to Side 2. There was no fast-forwarding unless you wanted to get up and move the needle, man.

On a related note, LPs have made a pretty significant comeback. The sound is just different, and somehow better.

Bottom line, technology and the subsequent downloading of music has led to young people missing out on the depth and breadth of the music and the musicians that created it, you know? Nobody gets into the “Deep Cuts” anymore. And now that I think about it, isn’t that sort of describing the state of music today? That it’s lacking depth and breadth? It’s all tied together. Yep, it’s all becoming clear to me now.

Sigh.

Aw, maybe I just sound like an old guy lamenting the way things used to be. Then again, maybe not. I really believe that most of the changes have been for the worse. Advances like autotune, digital recording, even multi-tracking have cheapened the whole process.

Bottom line though? Even though I mostly prefer the older methods of recording and listening, I still love a lot of today’s recordings.

Why? Because it’s music, man. I couldn’t live without it.

It’s just an old cement post, and it stands probably 150-feet from my front door.

I FullSizeRender (6)currently live in the house I grew up in, so I’ve driven or walked by the post at least 100,000 times according to my estimations. I have no idea how long it’s stood there, but I’m guessing it could be at least 100-years old.

The Post was built during a time when people went the extra mile to make things the right way, so rather than just put a standard wooden post in the ground they took the time to pour a big, ornate concrete post as a cornerstone to their property.

People don’t do that type of thing anymore, you know? Everything is done quickly and as cheaply as possible nowadays. That’s one of the things that makes The Post cool to me. Somebody cared about its appearance.

The Post has stood there while the world rolled on through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Kennedy Assassination, the Vietnam War, 9/11, and many other world and local events.

The Post was right beside Twin Elementary School, a building in which I spent at least 7-hours a day from the ages of 6 to 15. I remember kids sitting on The Post before and after school, either waiting to go in for the day or waiting on a ride home. I recall kids sitting on it after basketball practice at the school, waiting on mom or dad to pick them up.

On many a summer day I sat either on top of it or on the ground leaning against it, watching the occasional car go by as I talked with my friends.

And man, if I had a dollar for every bicycle that leaned against The Post I’d be a rich man today.

Hell, The Post was right there that warm summer day back in the late 60’s and served as a starting line for Max when he made his famous ride down the hill and into infamy. It’s also where the Bicycle Wagon Train began its descent into history.

Through it all, The Post has been a constant, standing tall day after day as the years went by.

I really don’t know why The Post fascinates me so much. As I said, it’s just an old cement post after all. But I love old stuff like this, and the fact that the man who poured the concrete and frame for The Post clearly took pride in what he was doing makes it special to me.

As I mentioned before, Twin Elementary School stood right next to The Post, and it was sadly and unceremoniously knocked down back in 2008. Right down the hill there once stood a beautiful old church, and it suffered the same fate.

I suppose one day I’ll come home and see that The Post is gone as well, and if that happens it will make me sad. Again, it’s just a concrete post, but somehow it’s more than that to me. It represents pride in workmanship, childhood memories, longevity, and much more.

Strange how you can become attached to an inanimate, soulless object, isn’t it?

Note: Sparky loves The Post too, but for other reasons.