Dated 7th December, 2015, by Grant Rexford Everson
We came from nothing.
“We came from nothing, we return to nothing, what have we lost? Nothing”. (Monty Pythons “Life of Brian”). In my case I gained nothing ether. I would be happy to live life on life’s terms, if I knew what the hell life’s terms were. I seem to lead my life on Catch 22, Murphy’s Law, and “you can’t get there from here.”
I guess it started out right after I was born everything seemed to go to Hell right after that. First off I was shorted a sister. I was born last of two groups of brothers and sisters. Dick and Ellen, Bill and Audrey, then me. The last, the runt, I was raised in the Kennedy Bar grill that my god father and godmother owned. My mother ended up in an institution from a mental breakdown. I was maybe five. My dad was a full blown alcoholic spent most of his time in the bar with his mistress listening to Hank Williams over and over again. Actually if you grow up motherless you don’t realize it, and my sister Audrey became my substitute mom. Life goes on as they say, one of those lives on life’s terms things, I suppose. I never realize we were poor, and basically a parent-less family. A case of it takes a community to raise a child we were it. That is lost in today’s setting: ‘of dog eat dog’, or everyone for them self is it not. I was clueless about those things at the time I was still in dippers.
My first recollection of the reality of life I was standing at the exact center of the railroad tracks. In those days the train quit stopping at our town and blew the whistle as it passed at reduced speed at the crossing. I was about to learn how fast reduced speed was and what the red flashing lights were for. There I stood in the middle with one sister on one side and her friends other on the other side screaming at the top of their lungs while I stood frozen in place. The light on the front of the train was growing larger and larger and larger until the light filled my frozen brain. The noise became more and more intense as the engineer blasted on his air horn in probable terror the thought of splattering a five year old down the tracks in to oblivion. Even as I was whisked out of the way by an outside source I had no idea what was happening to me. But from the horrified look of Aud and her friends kind of told me that this wasn’t quite right. I don’t think I understood the magnitude of the situation, I felt nothing, maybe confused, and I’m sure that part is lost in the fleeting past. What the hell happened? I was young enough to shit my pants and maybe I did, that was all I remember.
That was all I could register as those bright lights and the defining sound diminished in a Doppler Effect that was imprinted on my mind. I learned that when those red lights come on at the tracks I better pick one side or the other a hell of a lot sooner. The other thing I didn’t learn until years later I can thank the guy that stopped at the Three Gables bar for a beer, which was about fifty yards from the track, he had reacted on instinct. I can thank the fact that he picked that time to leave for home and no one offered him another beer. One second, one way or the other, someone else may be typing this. Now is that life on life’s terms, or fate, or luck, or destiny? I think life is predetermined. I’m here because I have always been here, that each point in time is still here, and there, as long as I’m still here. I can no longer change the outcome of that time any more than I can change the outcome of tomorrow. Life on life’s terms defined in one brief moment of time. My life didn’t change very much from then on. One event after another, one twist of fate, one lost or one gained second and the outcome would be different.
Over your head
In the summer where we would go swimming was at the river just below the bridge at a bend in the river Conewango that left a huge swimming hole just above the rapids, all of which was tied to by some powerful force taunting me to enroll with the dead. The bridge was being torn out and a new steel deck was going to be laid down so all that was left were the twelve-inch steel beams that connected the two banks. No roadway, no sidewalk, just the beams and the air in between them and the rapids twenty below. My brother Bill and my sister Aud, had friends on the other side. Of course my brother convinced my sister that it would be just fine if I got down on my hands and knees an crawl the beam over, he would be watching me, (right). Being a superior mature fourteen-year-old ever minute, Bill told her that if anything happened she wouldn’t be involved that he would take all the blame (I bet). All that I remember was staring down at the rapids rushing by and wishing and hoping that I could just go back home.
No, the cunning one won out, we would cross Rubicon, I am sure Caesar would have been proud. I know it can be hard to believe, but your knees can resonate threw solid steel, if Tesla were her he would have shoved a wire up my ass to take readings and Bill more than likely would have helped him, I felt it vibrating. The first thing my brother had to do was pry my shaking finger that had fused to the beams loose, and he just kept nudging me forward one inch at a time. Thank God for a clear and dry day, that helped make the rapids even more visible and daunting for me. And then the boulders in the water that was rushing over them making white caps made them easy targets as they passed under my trembling knees. We made it but Bill was bitching about how I ate up so much time because I had to crawl and Aud hadn’t helped and wined too much about it. At first I was relieved when we reached the other side. I forgot we had to go back later. I think the reason it was so important because they was supposed to be a black panther spotted over in the works department salt piles. I can’t imagine why the panther wasn’t real and it didn’t eat me now that I think about it. Somehow we made it home without finding the panther, black, spotted or not. By the time we crossed back dad was standing on the other side waiting he wasn’t impressed.
The whole town gathered at the swimming hole from spring right in to winter. Because the flat land flooded and made great ice rinks. The boys would gather wood and the girls would clear the ice being a small town every one up to late teens would get together and pull their weight. A huge bond fire of tires would be burnt and we would spend all day up to curfew time skating, snowman building, snowball fights, or a game of ‘fox in the middle. Everyone from five and up played together and no one was left out no matter how smart, dumb, or emotionally challenged they may have been. We just weren’t allowed to look down on anyone for any reason mentally, physically, or just plain dumb. I don’t think we even gave it a though we were kids having the time of our life’s.
Everyone was there even the town bully, although it may have been the only time that he would mind, but he was there as an equal. There was safety in numbers anyway and we just had too much fun to go around for him to single anyone out. Now that I look at it, the whole town gathered there year round just to have fun enjoying themselves. A brake that was allowed by your parents after chorus was done. There were hardly ever any adults there unless you stepped out of line. The parents new exactly where you were, because if you weren’t there they would soon hear from someone, sometimes even before you got home. Even then you weren’t safe because who every saw you might let you stew all night before your mom or dad found out. At best you had until the old man got home from work that night hoping he would be drunk and forget.
My first encounter with the swimming hole was falling off the boat dock and the dog jumping on my face. I never knew you couldn’t breathe under water until the dog held me there as I looked up and being carried down deeper. The next time it was Pee Wee. He told my brother that he would carry me to the other side because the girls were over there picking berries. Boy, I didn’t know how far to the other side or how long it could be to get there. It seems this is the guy that could cross to the other side completely under water, with a cigar turned backward in his mouth, walking the bottom, holding his breath with that cigar lit, then blow smoke rings when he got to the other side it was about twenty yards or so and six to seven feet deep depending on the time of the year.
He was tall maybe six foot or so, but he was about a foot and a half short of the top of the water and even adding my height stretched out until my spin popped we were still inches short of air. That was the difference between that stuff you can breathe and that stuff you can’t. And a lot longer than a kid that had no idea what he was up too could hold his breath. Again I found out “one can’t breathe under water”. Somehow Bill realized what he was up to and got me out just in time. I was turning blue and my lungs were about to burst and we were only halfway across. I did how ever learn how to travel under water for a very long distant a skill that got dads attention. Go by knock out.
My dad was fishing on the other side of the bridge below the rapids when he looked up; the dog was hulling me out of the water out cold in front of him. He said he swam out and he and the dog pulled me to the bank. I remember spitting out water and muttering that I would remember not to do that again. “With, STAY AWAY FROM THE DAMN RAPIDS GRANT how many time do I have to tell you”. Well I tried I just wasn’t that good at Listening or applying what I was told. But somehow I survived the summer.
I grew up under the guidance of my brothers and sisters at first. Dick kicked the shit out of the old man one day and joined the Navy. He heard there was a war going on even at that time they didn’t call it war. So he left first. Ellen married an ex-farmer and ex-marine and move to Buffalo. So she left. Aud, Bill and I, oh yea and dad, forgot about him. He seemed to appear and disappear at will usually right after work and just before he went to work.
A snap shot of nature
Sometimes dad would drive us up to Buffalo to see his brother, I think it was just a chance to drink at other bars, because we hit every one on the way. We would go up there on the back roads of route 62. In the fall just as the leaves turned the landscapes in to a gradient blast of colors that was overwhelmingly captivating. Just before Ellington there was a patch of Elm trees on both sides of that ran for about a mile. As you passed through them it was like traveling through an old covered bridge, as the trees seemed to rap around you, although overwhelmingly hot in the sun it turned comfortingly cool as soon as you entered in to them.
As you entered the catacomb the sun faded and cooled and the farther in you got the shadier and cooler it got. The sun kind of twinkled as it danced through the leaves like a Thomas Edison Kinescope one frame at a time flashing and flickering imprints of what was on the other side of trees. It was on one of these trips that dad stopped and made me get out of the car, as he told me to be as quit as I could be because he wanted me to see a beautiful Gray Wolf. He said take a good look because you may never see one again.
The wolf was stalking something in the tall grass. He had rusty clay like color mixed in with his gray pelt and when he lowered his head and starred at us with those steel blue eyes he penetrated mine. A picture that I still play appeared and chiseled itself in my memory fore ever. I was so awe struck I couldn’t move, and then the Gray slowly turned and walked away. Dad was right I have never seen one again.
If he and the old man would meet he would run or disappear right in front of him. I remember we were playing 52-card pick up, his favorite game, and the old man came up the stairs. Dad said “I finally got you where you can’t get out the bedroom window”. He was right Bill didn’t go that way He hit the door to the upstairs porch and down the four inch pipes that held the porch floor in the air and disappeared. Dad just kept walking around the perimeter of the porch railing saying which way did he go? Damn it which way did he go. That was Bill in a nutshell. Aud and I were pretty much joined at the hips. She was about thirteen or fourteen at the time going to school with Bill at Falconer high school in Falconer about five miles from Kennedy. So they were bused from Kennedy to and from Falconer and I went to Kennedy Public School.
Toilet over troubled waters
The house we lived in was one block up from the main drag threw town. We lived one lot from the corner of second and Daily hill road just up from the center of Kennedy. The house sat on top of the main storm and sewer drain that was an old creek. Our toilet sat on top of that. I remember having to pee and poop through the whole when the toilet froze up in winter and dad had to take it out. After it happen a few times he just left it off and we did our business via the whole in the floor. I think my ass whistled when I squatted to go and I swore that I had a bass lick my ass a few times. There was a category five wind screaming down the storm drain in the winter. The wicked witch of the west in charge of toilets blew so hard that your shit didn’t stink it, didn’t have time. Either way you ran to the stove to heat it back up before other things started to freeze. The stove was one of those huge now antique wood and Coal stoves with two ovens and the whole top was full of lids that you lifted up to tend the heat and a pancake grill in the middle.
The old man or Bill tended to the stoves. Once a week Bill, Aud, and me would take the sled and fetch the Fifty-pound bags of hard coal. Aud would and take care of the mounting bill for coal and keep the person in the office busy while Bill and I would load the Coal. Well Bill loaded it making sure one bag more mistakenly got mixed in the count. My ride was over now and I had to push the sled while Bill and Aud pulled it back up the hill home. But when you got up in the morning and Bill fired it up you stamped your feet until it got hot you forgot how hard the trip was.
When it got hot it, got hot, so you would wait until you could no longer stand it then you had to turn the other cheek to heat the other one. I remember the odd sensation as you turned, your bottom rapidly cooled as the other started to worm. By breakfast the whole room was warm enough to get cleaned up with a kind of whore’s bath that was applied. So after face washing, and teeth cleaning, and hair combing, my six-year-old ass was making my way to school. I would stop and join Don at his house on the way then we would go to class
I was in Miss. Pickups kindergarten class and I was in love. Besides Audrey someone else was caring enough to know I was alive. I can remember the first time I entered the school as dad dropped me off we and left me with a bunch of strangers. I watched as he left then she came over and I settled in. It wasn’t until I got up after nap time which I liked the most when she handed me a set of sticks and told me to listen to the music, tap my feet, and then hit the sticks together. I was hooked a few days before dad was at the bar that had a three-piece band in witch Dorothy Brooks would sing and play piano. Him and Evelyn love to hear her sing when they got drunk. It had a dance floor and him and her would buy me Cokes and dance to the music. When Dorothy was finished with her number a three piece band with a drummer, guitar and a base viol would play a few songs until closing time. I always hung out next to the base player and tap my feet and sing along with Dorothy. When the band took a brake the base player ask me if I would like to give a hand at playing. My eyes must have popped and I don’t know if my feet touched to ground because as my ass hit the seat and the bow was gently swaying to my fingers. Suddenly he took the bow and told me to use my fingers and I did with exuberance. After a few minutes he stopped me because he had to play again and dad was ready to take a road trip to Falconer. Dorothy was headed to the Dash-Inn to sing and play the piano there so they were going to fallow the music. When dad came in to fetch me my heart fell, but the guy look at dad and told him “you should get him lesions he’s got a natural ability. I never saw the guy again and you can bet your living ass that dad wasn’t going to waste good beer money on lessons.
I was always sick when I was young. I had every childhood disease known to man in my first year or two of school. I had Chicken pox, the three-day measles, the nine-day measles, mumps, fevers, and swollen glands one right after another like clockwork. Well I had missed a few days of school and the teacher wanted me to bring home an excuse for my repeated absence so Audi wrote me one, but the school would not accept it because she wasn’t my parent. This went on until the teacher told me that I would have to quit coming to school until I had one. I had already begged dad to write one, to the point of giving him the pencil and paper to do it. He would tell my OK, and then something would happen, like a beer or the bitch and off they would go and the paper was empty so… I was inspired to do as I saw Bill and Aud do. Make my own.
So that day I took it in to my own hands. I took the paper dad left blank and wrote: Grant was not feelingwill William in his handwriting and diligently sat down and learned how to write dads name just like Aud and Bill did. Dad always wrote the excuses on a note pad he kept so I knew what I had to do. I sat down and wrote, “Grant was not well Willam”. Man, I thought it was a work of perfection; I least I thought it was better than Bills art work of forgeries.
Play around playground
Seems I’m near-sided, I couldn’t and still can’t spell shit even if I a hand full of it. Because I couldn’t see the spelling and math cheat cards hanging from the ceiling
I sucked at math and spelling too. I hated it as much as my brother did. I recall watching him get beat with a rubber hose for some reason or another. We were at recess and the whole class had to watch while the Principal applied the hose. That was before Bill got old enough to go to Falconer. I think that was when I got a little more passive and started to learn what Bill already new. Make like a chameleon, transition from one reality to invisible, but still be right there, without anyone aware that you hadn’t left. It’s like quantum physics, a particle that when observed hides from site until you look away then there it is. Hay, don’t ask me to explain it ask Meio Kotcho. He explained it then said I don’t get it either.
That’s the way we grew up protecting each other no matter how much we bitched and fought but we loved each other. The community raised us and they were always there for us. Like the night of the late fall storm. I only remember Bill carrying me because water was coming down Daily hill road was up to bills knees as we all fought our way over to some older peoples house because they had a cellar and more tornadoes were predicted. We all spent the night there. The next day there was pools of water ankle deep to play in.
I can’t recall ever being alone. When I went to play I was left to my own means knowing full well that if I screwed up, which I did daily the old man new before I got home, well before, I got back home. But like I said we were never alone the only place in town to go would be the playground with Aud or the Legion with Bill. Learned to play eight and nine ball by nine. I couldn’t shoot for shit but when Bill and his friends went out for a smoke he would let me knock the ball around. But I did know how to keep score and hold the money, when they had money they would bet on each game. You can bet your ass I didn’t drop any points or money. Higher education is never ending and there seem to be plenty of devious teachers in life for me to learn from. I was oblivious to it all I was just waiting to go home and watch the Long ranger on TV.
At the playground everyone was there from babies in carriers to fourteen to fifteen year old. At sixteen you were too big and most had jobs by then any way. If you were in the game like baseball and too little they would put you in the outfield, like Lousy in Peanuts, but you played. Every one made sure if a kid strayed out of the park that they told someone where they were going otherwise someone was there to lug them back. It is something you just did. Sometimes we would divide up by the bat rule. The oldest threw the bat, handled end up, and the other guy would catch it.
Then hand over hand until the first fist to cover the handle would choose first. Default, the odd one out, always picked me and would be the last one picked. I couldn’t see the ball and it usually hit me on the head and a runner for the other team would score. This would give one team an extra man. Most of the time they told my brother to just keep me. That pissed him off because then he had no reason not to watch me. If a fight did rear its ugly face every one would stop the game so it was always settled in a diplomatic way. Peace came with quick apologies or remedial threats then hands were shook and play resumed. All this with no adult referees or water boys trying to hydrate you. When there was one around them usually got it wrong or was bias. Worse for them no one paid them no mind and dealt with the problem, as we deemed right.
In the winter all the big kids would get together and have bob sled races. Bill would have me get on and he and Aud would pull the sled up Daily Hill Road. It was a long steep road that met Cobb road at the top about two thirds of a mile. At the last driveway all the older boys would line up and race all the way back down. We had to have two people, one at second street, and one where Daily crossed route 394. And at Second Street. They would wave a flashlight so that the ones at the main road could stop any traffic coming through Kennedy. They had as many races as possible so that the guys at the bottom got a chance to slide down too. When they got done racing Aud and I would get on the bobsled with Bill in front steering and we go down for the last time. I would hang on like a scared cat, claws out, penetrating my sisters coat, screaming “let me off, let me off now”, all the way down. I didn’t know then but we must have been going at least fifty miles an hour. If we didn’t kill our self’s, dad would have if he found out. By the time we got home my lips were blue, my fingers were numb, and my cheeks were wind burnt and cherry red. But we had one hell of a great time.
Most kids don’t like to call it quits and go to bed, But I enjoyed it because it was story time, my sister Aud would read to each night and they typical reading. Aud usually read whatever her English assignment would be. So I got a broad range of literary material. She would read poems, short stories, and essays accordance of her assignments for the next day. She would read whatever her assignment was for the next day if it was short story that would be read firs, then cap it off with a few pages of Prince Valiant which I love the most. Because the pages were in color and the prince was always fighting monsters. He begins his quest with the fall of Thule, the fictional kingdom that Prince Valiant is heir to. Valiant, his parents, and a group of survivors from the castle are exiled by the ruthless conqueror Cynan to a hostile march across the sea. The young prince, deeply saddened by this defeat and vengeful towards Cynan, attempts to make the best of his new life but craves some greater purpose. He finds this purpose when he has a series of dreams about a kingdom called Camelot, King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. Valiant becomes enraptured with Camelot’s New Order, which is founded on the ideas that might does not make right and that truth, justice, honor and friendship should be the guiding forces in people’s dealings with each other. Against the wishes of his father, Valiant leaves the exiles’ settlement in search of Camelot so that he may serve King Arthur as a Knight of the Round Table. Aud would read one chapter each night after reading her school work. She read the works of Eger Allen Poe, Eugene Fields, Mary Alcott, David Copper field and many other classic. I think I had a degree in English lit by nine years home. During his quest, the prince meets two peasants who fall under the spell of his dream and join him. The first that he meets is Arn, a wandering peasant with great skills as a woodsmen but who is ashamed of his class, illiteracy, and clumsiness. The second is Rowanne, the daughter of a blacksmith, who is feisty, unorthodox, and an expert with a bow and arrow. These three quickly become best friends and find Camelot together. But before they can become knight, they must undergo training, face off against various enemies, and do a bit more growing up.
I recall sitting on the porch with Aud and her friend star gazing, with each pointing out the constellations by name. One night we were watched in amazement staring at a bountiful harvest moon. And someone said that someday man would walk on the surface of. Little did we know that we would not only land there, but would play golf on it and bring back moon rocks from there? I loved collecting rocks they were my jewelry. One night the Milky Way was unusually bright and filled with gleaming array of colors and I pointed at Orion’s belt and told Aud that was where I came from. But she quickly corrected me and said I came from Mom’s belly. At five I was crushed hell any one can come from a belly I wanted to come from a star. If I die I hope I get to go home but with my luck I probably came from Bealteljuce, it’s about to go super nova and I would have to move to live out my death with Seven sisters, I hope they are good looking.
We lived there until we moved to Falconer closer to where dad worked so that he didn’t have to depend on someone else to get to work. The last time he drove was when the State pulled his license for drunken driving as it was called then. I guess he got drunk and was on his way back from a bar one town over and took of the porch off some ones house, that was some thirty feet from the road. He never got behind the wheel again. He wasn’t about to quit drinking but he had enough sense to quit driving. In fact he never did drive again.
He worked at Maluable Iron works as a mold maker on the furnace line and the Queen and her band of misfits lived in town to so the old man was pretty much out of the picture by then between working, drinking and screwing we didn’t see him much. We lived on the second floor of three-story apartment house built of brick. My brother and sister were in heaven. All there friends lived there and Bill didn’t have to hitchhike there to see all of his friends. As much as bill wasn’t the academic he was the town sports super star, in basketball and football, a Letterman with hash marks. He had his mug shot on the right place in the papers, the sports page. I think he was a center in basketball, or whatever he was he was the one that scored all the school records. Shattered them all if I recall. Football was the same he was a fullback with all the touchdowns. He was a double threat. Hi would kill them with the run and the pass. He had all the records
Audrey’s friend Annette mom owned the apartments that we lived in. Annette mom was a ballerina at Julliard School of arts in New York City. Donna lived across the street. So that is where I learned girly things like not all men in leotards are ferries, no wait there were fairs, but like the ferries in Wonderland, dancing ferries. I wanted to be dancing ferries too like, Billy Elliot before I knew who he was, but I did grow up to be a dancing fool.
I had to make new friends and boy did I. Steve lived upstairs he was my first contact. I go up there when I wanted a ketchup sandwich. I met Steve one day on my way home from school he was getting beat up by the same guy as I had many times before. At first I walked by them then something snapped, I turned and picked the guy up and through him into a mud whole. We ran laughing all the way home as I turned to go in the apartment building he turned with me and went upstairs with me but he kept going to the floor above. In a few months he moved out
The next friend turns out to be one of my best friends, after Steve moved out. Stu Nord. He lived down the street from Dona just before the Catholic school Our Lady of something. That’s where Stu went, reminiscent of the Blues Brothers but long before John Belushi. But not farfetched, as you would think like public school the yardstick, hair pulling, pointer whipping or worse they would tell your parents. Which they usually did that too so you got more when you got home. All though you generally deserved what you got they didn’t need a reason to attack you just for the hell of it. Stu’s house was a safe place for Bill and Aud to dump me. Bill was friends with Stu older brother. Nelson Nord and Aud were friends with Sally, Nelson’s sister.
The Nord family was Mom and Dad Nord, the older stepbrother Rodger, Nelson, Sally, and Steward. Rodger was an outdoor and he spent most of his life capturing small wild life. You never knew what he had caged up in their back yard. Possums, muskrats, fox, mink, Eagles, or an assortment of hawks. Anything fished, trapped, snared, was brought home and studied. Then released back into the wild right where they were caught. He was drafted and killed in action in Vietnam, he was there as adviser with the first units, A-Team types, before they were thought of as that. Nelson was a practicing drunk; he hung with Bill and no one knew what they were up to which was mostly chasing Jamestown girls and drinking. Sally was the town fox, a vixen so with her Aud, Annette, and Donna no Jamestown Male was safe.
I would go over there on Saturdays to play Monopoly or other board games and watch Top Cat. They had an antenna on their roof with a rotor and could get more than three channels we had rabbit ears and if you stood on your head crossed your legs licked the live light socket you might get three otherwise it was channel four and two, or four and seven. If the old man was home you got to go outside that is if the house was cleaned.
Stu’s mom taught us how to smoke, play poker, and drink High balls. We each had to learn how to do each properly; like high-society people did it, and we had to learn to do it right, one shot, two ice cubes and mixer stirred just right and the proper distance to the top of the rim of the high ball glass. I guess we could have given a seminar for the kindergarten class when we grew up. So with highball in hand, ashtray at bay, and two pair I raised to a full house with no chance of getting the third king. What the hell, I just lifted seventy-five cents from dad at the bar. He would by a beer and I would pocket the change. He always broke a new dollar each beer so that we would have change for the laundry mat on Saturdays. Somehow we still never had change for the wash and had to do it the tub. Aud would have to skim her share shaking the old man down for dollars because he had no change at the end of the day.
That year I failed the fourth grade gee I wonder why. Let’s see – oh I can’t see, I can’t spell I can’t divide, I can’t pay attention enough, and I just didn’t much care. I only had to survive each marking period with a quick ass kicking, a few tears, and it was a new day down then the next thing I knew it was Top Cat, highballs, and poker. Hot damn, I was a nine year old rolling in my own shit.
But I did learned that when the fire alarm sounded at the Falconer fire house that we had to “Duck and cover” because an A-Bomb might go off and vaporize us where we sat. I just never understood why I would have to hide under my desk and look at my ass for five minutes. I understood why I had to hide from bad people because I lived with that fear all the time, but this just didn’t seem right. I learned how to dial and answer the new rotary phone that the lady from the phone company instructed us on but other than that I had no idea what they wanted from me. Maybe the teacher just got a thrill out of watching us with our noses up our ass.
Dick was my oldest brother just out of the navy and married to a farm girl Muriel and Audrey was talking marriage of her own, Bill was invisible and the old man usually was at the bar. With no one to care for me it left me moving in with Dick. I was fucked I just didn’t know it yet. I just didn’t share the thought that it was going to be good for me. There went my fun. The old man didn’t need much convincing so after custody court I was off to Jamestown. Not what I had in mind. But off to court we went ha, ha, ho, ho, and off to Dick’s I’d go.
By then I must have been twelve or so, I was dress in a new shirt and pants and squeaky new shoes. I felt like I was inside a tin can. Everything seemed magnified; it echoed and bounced back and forth in my mind. I placed my hands on the book and sward to someone. I really don’t think it was god unless he dresses up as a cop. I said yes, and ended up in Dick’s house that night. It was like some kind of a dream I went from paradise to I had no Idea you could be this clean. I was scrubbed from head to toe, I got a pedicures, and hand and ass-a-cure, I never was so clean, I had never seen that much Ivory soap in my life, I had no Idea one could be so clean, even a pig dressed out and cut up couldn’t be so clean.
I shared a room with Bill and we shared twin beds I was on the bottom because I kept falling out. I can’t remember Bill being up there much he got home way after I was sentenced to go there to do school work or punishment. That’s the way it seemed although I wasn’t in there much. Dick was a man with a plan, to get rich. He had read that Arnold Palmer had won one million bucks playing golf; guess who would be the new caddie, HA, HA. He quit one day when he wrapped the putter around his knee. He was like Bill good at sports but he sucked at golf. I never wanted anything to do with golf after that.
Bill ended up joining the Army after him and Pee Wee got in a wreck it was a bad one Pee Wee shattered his pelvis and Bill broke his leg. Pee Wee was in critical condition with a broken pelvic along with other fractures and cuts and Bill had a broken leg. I think Dick told him he had to go, so he picked the army. Now I as alone.
I can remember how Joe and I got acquainted; he lived across the driveway of the ally that ran between our apartment buildings. We didn’t converse right away for some reason. He was quiet and shy and he never talked much to anyone, even after we got used to our new environment together. I guess we were just alike only, children, with strict father figures that were going to beat some sense into us.
We lived on Linden Avenue Jamestown in a rather large apartment building that had three floors, four of apartments each with two bedrooms each. I can’t even tell you lived downstairs below us I guess they thought my brother was an ass because the only time we heard from them was when I was getting my ass kicked and they would call but Dick would tell them to screw off, and they usually did. If I wasn’t hollering from a whipping Joe was and somehow we were condemned to our bedrooms at the same time. I would look out my window in a catatonic stare and see Joe doing the same.
As much as I was a bad boy Dick would come up with a way for us to have fun communicating with each other, Joe and I that is. We were caught venting to each other with the windows open and snow blowing in. Dick was out washing his 50 Mercury that he drove and it was about ten degrees out but it was a beautiful bright day. Dick was in his tee shirt washing the car. When he finished he was walking down the driveway and caught us. I guess he was over whatever I pissed him off and came to my room as I slammed the window down and I braced myself for another ass chewing. Joe’s dad was yelling at him for having his window open too.
Dick opened my door and told me that if we were going to talk to each other we would have to come up with another way. The phone was out of the question, they had tons of fees at that time so I only was allowed to answer it and, I damn well better do that properly. This is the Everson residence, Grant speaking, I would wait for the message and pass it along and hope it wasn’t too long so I didn’t get it wrong, or off I’d go to the bedroom. The bedroom was my easy sentence Dick had a huge satanic book full of punishments for me and I think he shared the book with Joe’s dad. Even though Dick didn’t at the time seem to like him, and other than saying high, and being polite to him, I never saw them talk to each other. But Joe and I figured they did, they were Identical in the way they punished us there had to be a connection or some kind of conspiracy.
The sky is falling
Winters back then were much harder. It could get down to twenty below but usually hung around ten below. Snowstorms started early too, sometimes in September, pausing for a brief Indian summer in October or early November and didn’t let go of the area until mid-march. One or two feet of snow drifting four or five feet in the outline areas called lake effect storms. It all would depend on which side of the mountain that separated us from Lake Eire. It would either land on us or the other side of the mountain in Cassadaga. I can remember Disk yelling one time at me from the farmhouse to quit trying to jump up and grab the electric wires on the telephone poles. “Get your dumb ass away from the power lines! How stupid can you be? Get your ass down. Now!”
Snowplows with huge snow blowers would blow six-foot drifts up over piles just to clear the roads. Icicles two feet round weighing a ton or more hung from every house and when they broke loose it was like an earthquake and A-bomb exploding at the same time. I found out one day when one landed just feet in front of me after I hit it with a big chunk of ice, I didn’t fuck with the hangers again. Kind of like the power lines I just had to give it a try though. Like hanging on the bumpers of cars trying to get up Myrtle Street on the way going to school.
One guy was going to teach me a lesson one day, and boy did he ever. As soon as I latched on to his bumper, he slammed the car from side to side, then he got up to speed before jamming on his brakes, then he blasted the accelerator hard which lurched the car forward just then I found myself twisting and sliding under the car. I went from the squatting poison to twisting around under the body of the car while burning my leg on his muffler. As I looked around in terror I realized what had happened to me. I was about to be run over by his studded back wheel when somehow I got out. I found myself spinning out in to the street like a top with another car trying to avoid me I scrambled for the sidewalk. I never tried that adventure again and was happy to ski the snow banks made by the plow.
On a bright sunny day Dick was down at the bottom of the driveway washing the car because he could run the hose out of the cellar rather than carry buckets out to the street. Joe and I were playing in the snow bank besides the car tunneling out a hole in the side of it. The snow bank was taller than us so there was plenty of snow to make room for both of us. We had just finished it and were making sets to sit on when the damn thing gave way, k-kbam my face was slammed to the ground and I not only couldn’t move but I couldn’t breathe. Thank God Dick was standing there because we were one breath away from dead. He heard the crash as the roof collapsed with a crushing. It seemed like forever before he got to us but he did. I had never seen Dick with such a terrifying look like that before or since. We never made anything out of snow with a roof on it again.
On Saturday Dick came into to my room and Joe and I were making arrangements to go to the Saturday Matinee at the Palace Theater. For a quarter you could spend the whole day watching cliffhangers, cartoons and the Three Stooges. God what more could a kid ask for. Dick would give me a buck, which was a lot of money for a twelve year old and I would get Popcorn, a coke, and a Big Babe Ruth Bar. The popcorn and pop went on the heads of the kids below because we made sure we got there early enough to be first so that we could get into the balcony and dump our load on the unsuspecting guys below. I don’t think there were any girls though I suppose they were. By then the show began and if weren’t caught you got to forget reality for a few hour. One day we got to the theater late and had to sit down below, after that we didn’t do it anymore, I it was the guess payback and we didn’t like it any more than the kids we done it to.
One day Dick came into my room and handed me two tin cans and a spool of thread. He had one can with a small whole just big enough for the string in one end of which was knotted and coming out of the bottom of the can. He told me to take string over to Joe’s house and throw it up to his window while he pulled it into his window when I got back Dick had the other can pulled tight and was tying the knot inside of the can. I just stood there looking at Joe surging his shoulders wondering what the Hell was going on. When Dick got done he handed me the can and told me to talk to as Joe held the can to his ear and told me to talk to him. Ya right? Dumbfounded I did and I screamed hay Joe. As I watched Joe pulled the can quickly away from his head and said quietly, God I can hear you don’t holler. We were connected, the first cell phone, texting would come next.
Dick was a radioman in the Navy, a radioman second class, so he could type, send, and receive Morse code like you and I talk. One day an icicle broke loose from the roof and took down our string so we went back to opening the window and talking to one and other well, Dick seen us again and decided to teach me Morse code. Other than being harassed because I couldn’t spell it was defeating I just was dumb ass. Hell when it came to spelling I just had no idea how to do it. I tried to spell them like they sounded, still do. Somehow me, Webster, my brother, teachers, and I guess everyone else. I don’t spell crape the same way I do. Because my spelling leaves the same smell crap as the word is defined, and the way everyone else does it smells right. Go figure. At any rate like always the next day all was forgot and life went on.
One night Dick came in just before dark and asked if Joe was home. So I shined my flashlight over to his window and he flashed back. Dick yelled over and had Joe come out side under my window and I dropped the spool of wire like we had done with the string and cans. He ran upstairs back to his window and I through the spool up to him and I went back home. Dick showed me how to hook it up. Dick had two clicking switches the kind that when you press down on the switch it would send a current through the battery and the wire making a clicking sound at the other switch. So I went back to Joe’s and we set his up and sent the first text messages to each other until we had to go to bed. He didn’t seem to have a problem with my spelling. Dick would yell out that’s not the way you spell that word get a dictionary. I think it was just to let me know he could hear what I was sending and understand every word. We got pretty good at it after a while and would spend the last hours at night and first thing in the morning planning our next disaster.
On Saturdays the whole neighborhood would get together after school and chores were done we would slide down Linden Avenue. When not sliding we would build snow forts then throw snowball at each other. Sometimes we made like Audie Murphy in the movie “To hell and back” and battle the kids from Mc Kindly Avenue.
Steve lived in the apartment downstairs and in front of Joe. He was the neighborhood jock and good at every kind of sports. Joe and I were just backstops, fetchers I guess. Donald lived on the corner of Linden and Myrtle Street We would meet up and go up the hill and the Yokem brothers and Zimmerman and trek up the hill to school at the top where Cole Avenue and Myrtle streets met. Fletcher elementary school with Donald’s sister tagging along, she was problem more boy than the rest of us. I found out the hard way.
One day we were playing and I as teasing her about the way she was throwing a ball and she promptly came over and knocked me ass over tin cups. When I got up and thought about hitting her back when I realized that I had a fat lip and everyone was laughing at me. It took a long time to live that one down. At thirteen, I think I weighed all of 80 lbs. And was four foot nothing; a stiff wind could knock me down.
The paper route
Over the winter I had turned fourteen and new every hiding place from Washington Street to Cole Avenue at the top of the hill and Prospect Street back to Forest Avenue the street at the end of Linden where we lived. At the time I would meet the paperboy in the morning and follow him as far up as his route took him and we parted as I went to school. One day he told me he got a job working at one of the town’s factories and was going to quit delivering the paper. I told Dick that I wanted to deliver the paper and take over his route. I think he passed out.
At any rate he took me down to the Jamestown Morning Sun the competitor of the now Post Journal. Little did I know what I was taking on? The paperboy mentored me for two weeks and Dick walked the route so he would knew it if I got sick. Although I knew the route he taught me when to collect from the customs, how to make my bank, and pay my bill. I learned how to act grown up, be polite or even condescending when needed. I idolized him for some reason and it was kind of sad to see him go. It’s funny how much someone can be a factor in your life for what turns out to be to brief a time but somehow makes you turn a corner form child to adolescent.
Dick had to get up with me to get ready for work at Merchant Calculators so he would read the paper along me as I folded them and set up my bags for my bike. I read the funnies and he read the news. When the paper was light like during the first part of the week Dick showed me how to fold them into squares. I would hang my bags over the handlebars and drive down the middle of the streets that were flat and could pitch the paper right up to the door. By holding one corner of the paper and winging it was like one of those ninjas stars points that you stick in people heads-Bruce lee style.
I had to get up at 6:00 o’clock in the morning and go out to the curb when the truck threw them on to the grass between the road and the sidewalk in two bundles. Eighty papers was one of the largest routes in town for both of the paper companies. Some twenty papers more than anyone else route by far. I was too dumb and to excited to notice, at first anyhow. It really wasn’t that bad until Sundays. Then I had to split the route up because the papers were as heavy as a fat person. On Sundays they took up four bags and it was worse on the holidays because of the extra store ads. But my mentor showed me that because it was Sunday could take your time and if I worked my way up to the bakery that they would let me park two bags there and come back and finish the back half of the route that made it doable.
One morning the truck was broke down and dick had to take down to the plant where the papers were printed and we had to pull my own papers of the line. Mine was backed up on the line so Dick showed me around and explained how the printing shop worked. When we got back and loaded the bundles in to the car there was a truck from Buffalo, NY with stacks of magazines. He spotted the TV Guide and asked how much could be made selling them house to house, The trucker said there were going at five cent each and sold for ten cents, that was six cents more than what I was making for lugging the heavy papers and the Guides were Smaller paperback book size but thinner. He had me buy ten copies and what I didn’t sell could be returned back for five cent each. It was a win-win for me. A gold mine compared to the papers. I got four cents for the papers and the sold like hot cakes and increased my income. Plus I never had to chase the people that bought them because they really wanted the beloved TV Guide. If I couldn’t shake down the dead beats on my paper route then they sent in the circulation man to collect it. He was a prick. He would strong-arm them to get my money except he kept it all along with any tip and I still had to make up for bill.
One night when I was collecting for the paper the man on the corner of Park and Mc Kindly streets suddenly seemed to me like someone else I knew. When he came back after fetching his money he must have seen the puzzled look on my face and asked what was wrong. I told him he looked like the man that I had seen in the morning paper that got some kind of reward or something. He told me that was him and that he was the Suns Political cartoonist for more than fifty years and been recognized by the National Press and the Associated Press as the nation’s top cartoonist. Then he told me to come in and see the next issue that he was working on. So it was the first time I got to view news before it would become news.
Don’t step in the horseshit
By now it was pretty much routine. Get up at 6:00 and walk my route, it was always quit; peaceful I guess I didn’t view it as work, just something I had to do. Back then you just did it and you never thought to question it. I seemed to have life good for the hour or two it took to deliver and I had no one could bitch at me. Someone more than likely would when I got home but at that time and moment I could just cruse without thinking. Winter was coming and I found out just how heavy those bags were going to get. Like I said before winters were a lot different.
As winter settled in I got use to trudging through one or two feet of snow and the howling wind rushing throw the trees. Jamestown had trees of oak, elm, chestnut, maple, and all types of pines. Like the spruce, Douglas fir, white and yellow pine. That is until the blight took most of them to extinction. Jamestown was the furniture capital of the world for centuries until technology got in the way and replace the real thing with chewed up saw dust and instruction written backwards and upside down.
I had an edge. By following the snow plow. No not a road plow but a sidewalk plow, the city actual plowed all the streets as part of our taxes. But that was before the Mayor and city council started voting behind closed doors. By the time I got to the corner of Linden and Forest avenues the city sidewalk plow would head up forest blasting a path through the two feet of snow like it wasn’t there. The blade was made of steel and the sheer power of the horse cut through it as if butter and a hot knife.
All I had to do was not get too close to the gasses coming out of the back of it and you had no Idea when that would be. It seems a horse can crap every five minutes and really doesn’t give a crap where his crap falls. Actually, the guy driving the horse and I were safely behind the wooden plow but somehow the crap fell over the edges so you got to step in like it or not. I knew I would walk it off as soon as I turn to go my separate way and finish my route alone. The horse was a well-trained fine animal, workhorse bread for the job. He was chestnut brown and a white face the driver said he stood sixteen hands high as tall as I was at that time Five foot four and both of us full of shit I guess.
The driver would get up and make his way through the snow to the horse barn where they kept horses for the city. Not just for plowing but for the police department. I can still remember Mr. Johnson the traffic cop directing traffic downtown with his horse standing nearby. A few years later when they discontinued using horses he traded his in for a Harley decked out black and white. But he still wore his riding uniform with high white riding boots and snappily decked out uniform with white gloves that stood out as he waved his hands and blew his police whistle. He just commanded respect I don’t think there was any one who didn’t like him except maybe the drunks he locked up.
A paper to far
The radio was predicting a blizzard warning but weather prediction was at best a good guess unlike today. So if weatherman said it was going to be bad you probably should brace for even worse. Still I went down and dug my papers out of the snow pile and started to fold them. I had trouble with the first bundle and by the time I went to get the second one I thought someone stole it. But the snow had buried it just that fast. When I got done I took off and headed out. As I rounded Forest and made my way up the hill toward Newland the wind was pushing me, the plow and driver were nowhere in sight, and even if they got ahead of me the snow was piling so up fast I more than likely wouldn’t have known that they had been there.
I turned on to Columbia and it was like god commanded the wind to stop it was so calm you could the snowflake instead of breathing them. As I looked back I could hardly see Forest and but I could still here the howling snarling wind. I made my way down Columbia to Myrtle and back to Forest.
When I stepped on to Forest the wind damn near knocked me down, but I only had one house on the other side of Forest to deliver and figured that I could make a mad dash and be on Newland out of the wind and the nastiest. I was never as wrong as I was soon to find out. I never made it to Newland. The house I had to deliver to was one of my favorite customers, a frail tinny old woman, as sweet as they come. When I collected for her she and I would talk and tell me stories about the Roaring twenties I’m guessing she was not only good looking then but also loved the times she spent in the speakeasies. Besides she would tip me a buck, a lot of money even for an adult at the time.
At any rate the house was down a ten or twelve-foot bank some twenty feet from the road. It was two stories high with a first and second floor porch. The snow filled in the house’s first floor covering it even with the second story porch and the road. I figured that I could at least put the paper on the second floor and call her before I went to school. By then the snow had a hard crust on it so undaunted I walked out on it, bad mistake. Half way to the house the crust couldn’t hold the weight of me and twenty or thirty pounds of Sunday papers. I was stepping one foot after trying to go slowly but it seems that it’s a physics thing. I hear it first. Crack. Then the next thing I knew was my bags, my arms, and hat were the only thing sticking above the snow.
There I was with my feet not touching anything pined in the snow with the menacing wind still howling but I couldn’t tell because it was above me now blowing it head long in to my face. I tried to yell as load as I could, knowing the wind would just scoop it up, and no one would hear me anyway. And there I stayed. I literally couldn’t move as I was pinned there like I had a clamp around me holding me tight. I don’t know how I didn’t piss my pants I was too scared to breath let alone move I knew if I did I would sink completely out of site not that I was in site. I would soon be totally out visibility from everyone and everything. Only it wasn’t so soon, it was sooner.
By the time Dick got worried I was starting to yield to the cold, the wind, and the fact that I was hanging with my arms over my head for hours, numb. I was becoming to blend into the environment too even though the wind would cover me up it would also change directions and blow me clean again but I was below street level. Finally and not a second to soon Dick came busting through the snow dragging me back to the car and maybe life itself. He told me he had driven my route over and over again when he though he better call the cops to help find me when he saw the reflective tape on one of my bags. He said he look that way every time he came down Columbia and turned down forest, but this time he decided to go up Forest and the headlights caught my bag and lit up the new safety tape that some had just invented and the paper decided to try out.
After that Dick made me quit. My financial empire was toppled by a cold windy winter day. Broke again, but at least I could sleep in for an hour or two before making my way to school.
The Farm (it ain’t green acres)
Muriel was my sister in law slash mother at the time and devout Christian member of the church that she and Dick went to in Falconer New York. Her parents owned a farm on the Plank road just passed the Falconer city line. Like any farm it was about a half mile from one neighbor to the next. Besides trying to get electrocuted by the power lines in the winter I would climb the apple and pear trees to get the fruit at the tops when I wasn’t eating fresh plowed dirt at spring planting time.
Dick had a patch in the upper field that was a one by nine acre rectangle to grow anything he wanted. Muriel’s sister and brother law, and parents, sheared the small patch that supplied the whole family it was by the farmhouse. In that patch were planted herbs, onions, celery, and other staples that were to be put up and split with Muriel’s mom and dad, brother, and sister.
There were also two barns, one that held the hay and feed for the pigs and a bull that would be butcher in the fall. The second barn, which held the hay, tractor, plows and all the other equipment needed to farm plus the chicken cope that supplied fresh eggs daily. The bigger one had a pigpen and stalls for the few milking cows and bull. We all took turns tending to them. The weekends were devoted to the crops and every night during the week and weekends were spent tending to the animals and weeding the million miles of crops. It seemed like a millions.
In the spring as soon as the ground was dry and firm enough for the tractor it was fired up and the fun began. I was allowed to start the tractor and pull it out of the barn, which was a great honor at fourteen. The other farm boys started much younger maybe ten or twelve but I was a city boy and I think Dick new just how rambunctious I was so there was my limit to my driving. I would have trashed something that I’m sure of, as was he.
Dick would plow and disk the field and lower plot then he would send forth the slaves to make ready with the hoeing and seeding and planting. The lower plot contained onions, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and spices like dill, basil, chives, pepper, and sage. Everything had to be in a certain order according to how much sun they needed or didn’t need taller plants so on down. In the bigger plot sweet corn, potatoes (both white and sweet potatoes), strawberries, green beans, Lima beans, squash, pumpkins, pretty much anything that you could eat we planted. Dick led the parade by making the furrow, Muriel would drop the seeds and then I would hoe dirt over the plant covering dirt. This was extremely back breaking work but there was a reward at the end. Food, country style.
Muriel’s mom was a marvel of a cook, everything was made from scratch and I mean everything. She cooked every day from morning until suppertime. They had a wood cooking stove like the one I grew up with, and she would have nothing to do with the newfangled electric or gas stoves, although they had propane for home heating, she didn’t want to talk about it, besides no one could make a good enough case once they sat down and ate.
She made a seven-course meal before the term was made the thing to do in the sixties. Like all farmers they were two things you were sure of, good health, from exercise, (not pushups, a gym or, weights), and healthy foods to fuel your body. Without that I don’t think you could do any of the hard work involved in farming. So eat we did, and like a good Swedish mom she piled it on, and on, and on, until you thought you would pop your belly. At breakfast you had pancakes, hickory smoked bacon, fresh eggs, hand ground coffee, homemade bread, home churned butter, milk right off the cows tits and something sweet to top it off like barriers.
At super time you thought you died and went to heaven, because by the time you got done and cleaned the tools and put them up for the morning everyone was famished. After washing up and then being re scrubbed again by Muriel because she had this fetish about dirt and germs I was allowed in the house to eat. The smell permeated the whole house, I think it worked its way through the walls because by the time I hit the door my stomach would start to rumble and my saliva glands could taste every flavor sifting through the walls and my nose.
Meat, back then it had a big slab of fat on it, beef or, pork were the main stay, potatoes pushed down into and flowing over with tasty gravy, frozen peas, string beans or corn but fresh from last year’s crop and again fresh hot bread from the oven with slabs of butter and jams of every taste. Desert was pies, pastries, cake and homemade ice cream to top them all.
The only problem I had was all the rituals had to go through at each and every meal. First, NO one touched anything until grace was said. It wasn’t Bill grace, over the mouth, down the throat and into the belly, thanks God let’s eat amen. It usually touched on every event of the day on and on until finally amen. Then the verbal warnings from Dick and Muriel. The do-not. Don’t slouch, don’t put you elbows on the table, don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t eat your desert first, don’t burp like that, don’t put so much on your plate, don’t serve yourself first, and don’t pass wind at the table, although Grandma spoke up one day and “said it’s better let loss to the world than be trapped up in side you, so don’t listen to them Grant”, don’t, don’t and so on. I don’t think I ever heard a word of it though I was too hungry to pay attention anyway.
The men were served first, then the children (me), then the woman got eat and I along with them got to do the dishes and put everything away, except the sweets you got to pick on them until bed time. The next day you repeated everything all over again. The only time it didn’t smell good around there was when the wind shifted and the smell of the sewage plant came across the swamp. At first you gagged then slowly you got accustomed to it.
Muriel’s dad and older brother worked at the sewer plant that served Jamestown and Falconer. Grandpa was the superintendent with Dick his son as his helper. Sometimes I would go watch all the balloons, toilet paper, and turds, washing down form the towns, a young boys dream; watching turds being processed and wondering why there were so many balloons floating by. Between farming and church you would think a kid couldn’t get it too much, trouble but I found way.
Ben over and say…
Dick use to come up with homemade toys like the rubber band gun, slingshot, and wooden swords. It was the slingshot that would introduce me to the local police. One day Joe and I had too much time on our hands, right, go figure, but one day we grew tired of shooting cans and missing every bird we saw so we went on to bigger targets. We stumbled on to the grumpy old man that would chase us of his property screaming and yelling when he saw any of us kids. He was mowing his lawn with a push mower and it had clogged up with grass so he bent over. Bad mistake, with his huge ass with a bull’s-eye right there in the middle staring me in the face I knew I had an opportunity to get even with the old son of a bitch. I had the perfect sized rock loaded up and let loose, bang it hit true, right on the mark, and his pitcher window was in pieces. We took off were running. It was only a few blocks away but by the time I got home and hid the slingshot the cops arrived with the old man. He got of the police car and screamed “there is the little prick that shot my window out”
Dick was not impressed. I got my usual beating but he really pilled it on that day. My ass was black and blue and I had to eat the whole bar of Ivory soap, no shit, I had to eat and swallow it. I also had to pay for the window, which would cost $23.76, which would translate in to about oh, $100.00 to $150.00 dollars today. Dick paid and I didn’t go out for a month and every shitty job he could think of I got to do. When I got home from school besides my normal chores and homework which usually end up with my ass tanned, or being told how stupid I was, he would find some back braking shitty job to do. When I was done I had to go to bed and leave my door open so that if I even thought about something or rolled over to loud I would get yelled at.
Then there was the time I stole from the store at Forest and Mc Kindly Street. It was what was called a small Mom and Pop store with the usual stuff like a Wilson Farms or Seven Eleven would have to today. All the kids would go there and spend their allowances on junk food, Twinkies, pop, ice cream and candy bars. The old lady that run it was a kind old lady and when I was broke which was a gimme, she would let me sweep the floor or stack the shelves to get enough for a candy bar and Coke a Cola. For some reason one day, and no real reason, I slipped something in to my pocket and headed home.
Again, by the time I got home Dick was waiting for me and I didn’t have a clue what was about to happen. He wanted me to come with him so I went down and got into the car and closed the door. He came out and knocked on the window and said we were going to walk I guess he wanted to see how long it be before I figured out what he was up to. It didn’t take long as soon as we rounded the corner of Forest and headed toward Mc Kindly I knew. The place was packed with kids and one was about to pay for his candy when Dick told the lady that owned the store that it was this kids lucky day and he would pay for his candy if he let Dick up next.
My throat swelled up and I couldn’t speak. Dick said”, do you have anything to say to her, Grant” with a big voice that filled the air so everyone could hear him, and that was his point. As I stood there shaking and stammering I muttered out a pathetic apology to her and tried not to look at her. Dick wasn’t about to let that go He yelled, Look at her and do it right, with meaning this time. Then she told me once was enough and then let me know that after she put her trust in me and how sad it was that I had let here down and that in no certainty terms the next time she wouldn’t give me the curt icy of calling Dick first, she would call the cops. And home again for another other beating and a lonely month of confinement in my room. At least I didn’t have to eat the soap.
One day Dick came in and announced that he bought a house in Falconer It was on Elmwood avenue and south Work streets two houses past the rail-road tracks a two story brown brick with four bed rooms and a cellar that you could stand up in so his word tools and benches mad to do carpentry, and crafts all the fun stuff guy do making thing with tools. We had a garage for the first time to park the car and house the yard tools.
The apartments he owned were located on spring and Second Street across from the police department. At that time the Post Office was on Third and Washington Streets, city hall and the police and shared the same building. It was a huge building was that erected in1901 built like something like a European or old English castle with torrents.
Shortly after he bought the apartment complex in Jamestown and we would not be able to move in until it when it through the courts for at least another month. So we started setting up the place for the drunks, winos, and older workingmen. Most of them had jobs but you had to catch them on payday. It was the only time would Dick entered a bar. Dugan’s was across from the Cycle shop down Second Street. Dick would go to an empty booth and they would line up and paid up, if they didn’t their stuff was on the sidewalk and the key was changed. Dick didn’t have time for drunks he had enough of dad’s drunken ass when he was a kid so he truly heated him and anyone that drank like him. There were weak and deserved everything they got.
On the weekends I would have to be at the apartments at 7:00am. To start the day I would go to the storeroom one the first floor and get everything set up the day. Brooms, mops, Pails, all the cleaning products were put out and placed at their appointed places ending up on the third floor with the broom begin the last thing in my hand. Each floor had lone hall maybe fifty feet long, that lead to the adjoining apartments with one good sized bathroom for each floor shared by all the tenets on that floor. Facing the wall I back swapped my way to the bathroom located on the back wall of the building some were in the middle of the hall. There I had already placed everything needed to clean that room.
There are some things you can’t burl deep enough in your mind and the first introduction to the room from hell refuses to be deep enough. The doors were always closed and that should have given me a clue. When I opened the door the smell of an outhouse hit me like a blast wave pushing me aside like it actually had a body and it had held its breath as long as it could take and it left in a panic.
Good God the image was worse. There was toilet paper with and without shit on it on the floor. The tub look as if had washed up on a silt barge, dumped it to the room, and was left with a ring that I would probably have to chisel off. Ripped up nudie magazines that were used and left on the floor because they ran out regular toilet paper. Then the best for last the toilet my favorite job, cleaning the toilet. If you ever seen a picture of Jackson Pollock’s work, “The Autumn Rhythm at the Metropolitan Museum of Art you would Know what the toilet looked like, kind of like a kid in the crib with his dipper in his hands.
Thank God for chemicals. My brother learned a degree in the Navy and passed it along to me. One part water, one part bleach, one part Ajax cleanser, a deep breath and it was head first as I leaned forward pushing my way by the fading mist of stench and hose it down. The longer you waited the longer you had to breathe the shit, real shit and all. I would use the rubber hose attached to the faucet in the tub and just hose the place down. Following the chemistry set rules after that; safely throw the shit on the shit until the shit begins to run. Dapple a good amount of the next chemical on as quickly as you can throw it without getting any of the throwing shit or the shit that was dissolving back in your face. It hit my pant leg once and I had a star pattern of wholes burnt permanently on them from the bleach.
As the bathroom simmered I continued to the next project. Opening doors and emptying rooms, no, not of their belongings, I sure as hell learned never to do any kind of steeling again. All the rooms were set up the same: a king-sized bed, a chest of drawers, stove and refrigerator, a fold-down leaf kitchen table and a rug that covered all but a foot that was on the hard wood floor around the perimeter. They were size-able rooms, with two windows that looked out on to Spring or Second Street.
Sum of the guys were neat but not most of them. I had to strip the beds of their sheets and pillow cases, the dollies from the nightstands and dresses, grab the towels, washcloths, dish clothes and toss them into the hallway which I had placed the canvas bags to contain them. Next I would plug in the Electro-Lux vacuum cleaner and I would vacuum the room. Once I pushed the vacuum cleaner into the next room I would start cleaning the fridge table, and stove, much like the bathroom they didn’t resemble their respected functions. The stoves were covered in a layer of cooking grease and food and the table needed a singled edge razor blade to find the surface. The fridge could contain anything but mostly something that resembled moldy grass with a musky smell that would gag a maggot. Again a deep breath was called for and pretty much the only option you had.
As I finished each floor I would throw the bagged laundry down the stairs to Dick and he would load them into the car for transport to the laundry mat, home. By the time we unloaded the laundry into the cellar it was time to eat and relax. Sometimes I would get to watch Mr. Mgoo the blind cartoon charter that bumbled his way through life-righting wrongs and not having a clue he had, funny stuff.
Buy know I didn’t get an allowance I would be paid to do the laundry, one cent per item, sounds easy? Right? Here’s how it really worked. After unloading the car first thing was the count, Dick wasn’t about to let me think I could count something that might cost him another nickel let alone a penny.
Once the count was finished the sorting began. Sheets, towels doilies, hand towels dish towels, all had their place according to what there were made of cotton, or terrycloth and what order that there were to be done. Towels were first because they were the easiest and only required standard laundry soap and washing. Drying towels took longer so they would be hung out first. Everything that was made of cotton linen required a multiple chemical baths. Each item had several piles divided in to loads for the washer. The washer was a porcelain cylinder with an electric motor that drove the agitator inside. It was also it was equipped with a hand driven ringer that we fed the material threw the ringers which pressed most of the water out of the material. Then it was to be carted outside to hang in the sun, when the sun was out. This was done right up until winter and it became impossible to get to the lines because the snow was too deep.
Before I could hang anything though I had to mow the lawn. The lawn was about a fifty by fifty foot patch that Dick seeded with Crab Grass that was as thick as a jungle and harder than steel, of course, but up until he order the stuff from a magazine nothing would grow there. I had three lawn tools a push mower, a swing cutter (a long broom like handle with a wicked serrated blade attached at the bottom to take out weeds along the fence), and my back small ass to swing and push my way through it all. Then back to the washer. Muriel would yell for help at the wringer and I got a brake mowing to ring and cart out the next load to be hung up.
One day I took my mind off what I was doing and my hand got caught in the wringer. Screaming bloody murder I was stuck while Muriel ran to get Dick and he came down the stairs and hit the release to free me. After a good ass chewing and a reminder about keeping my hand out of there we went back to work as long as I could bend my figures I was good to go, no brake for the wicked. Seeing that this took too long and my hand getting caught Dick bought a new washer with a wringer that was driven off the motor of the machine and had a safety switch that would spring the wringer before it took your hand from your wrist. It had nothing to do with the ease of working for Muriel and me it was all about efficiency.
After the towels were washed dried and folded the linens had to be done. Like I said the linens were a process all on their own. In the cellar we had two large washtubs that were attached to the wall with hot and cold-water faucets and draining threw the cellar floor. Each tub held forty to fifty gallons of water. The first one had soap and the second one was clear water for the rinse. What wasn’t stained went straight into the washer but anything else got scrubbed with a bar of Fels Naptha and elbow grease. In the washer the first wash had soap and bleach followed by starch. You knew when you had enough starch after they were ironed they could stand on they own.
When everything was done it had to be ironed but before you could do that Muriel and I would have to cart everything up to our apartment, which happened to be two floors up. This was no small feat, being an old house the ceilings were fifteen feet high so stair casings were longer, higher, and damn near strait up. Thank God the shit was almost dry and somewhat lighter.
The iron was already set up with distilled water for steaming and ready to go. Now is where I earned every penny that I made, all One thousand two hundred and sixty three cents worth. Ironing wasn’t as bad as it was boring, with sweat poring off me I ironed my way through mountains of linen, as I think back, no one was worried weather I was hydrated or not. Every piece had to be wrinkles free, folded and perfectly pressed so the bums could piss on them when they got them back. So that was how I earned my keep and my allowance.
One day I was sweeping the bottom floor when I heard and felt what I thought was an earthquake. Dick was yelling, get out you drunk bastard, then bang, bang, rumble bang. I started up the stairs when two suitcases appeared out of nowhere flying past me and down the stairs with such a force that they opened the steel door at the bottom. Next a body of an old man tumbling past me head over heels and landed next to his luggage and out into the street. Chico The beat cop poked his head in and asked what happened to Dick standing at the top of the stairs. Dick told Chico, “While you’re there earn your pay check and drag that s-o-b across the street”. Chico grabbed him by the back of his shirt and put one suitcase on his chest, made him drag the other one with his other free arm that wasn’t being dragged by Chico and literally dragged him to the jail across the street. It was just another day on the beet for Chico loved it.
Back to Falconer
By know the house in Falconer went through and we moved in a new set of rules and schools and fights. First up were the Irish boy’s, Brian and his hot freckled redheaded sister; she was a year younger than him. They were the epitome of evil they all lied, stole, or fought all the time. There dad was more of a prick that Dick at least when I got beat I usually gave him good reason for it. Their old man was just pure mean and didn’t need a reason to slam him or his sister and brother up against wall. Once the mom his stepped in between she ended up with black eye but it gave them time so that they could all scatter out of the house and get lost while he simmered down.
It seems that Irish boys, after kicking their way out of their mother’s womb, and pissing in their dads face, that they don’t stop swing until there are dead. I got in the way of one of his swings by leading with my face as usual and after a brief fight and fat bloody nose we were friends.
One day I found him with his brother and another friend pounding on a friend of mine, Timmy willet. Every one pick on Timmy because he was only about four feet high and blessed with a skin condition that made him look like a snake shedding its skin I wore glasses so I knew what was like to be a throwaway. I actually never thought about it until he told me one day how much that it itched. Somehow I got into the mix. Even though I couldn’t fight for shit but I could do some damage and the Irish, being Irish, as soon as the balance tipped they scattered. When it was over Timmy told me he didn’t need my help he had them right where he wanted them. We laughed and picked up his groceries and I walked with him to his house. The Irish boy never screwed with Tinny again.
Once we moved in to the new house on Elwood Avenue life settled down somewhat of a routine was obtained. Living just a block from the church cut down on travel time and opened up space for playtime, when Dick wasn’t home and I didn’t have to watch my niece (more sister), Linda, who was about five by then.
Church was down the street at the corner of South work streets and Elwood Avenue it was called The First Wesleyan Methodist Church, which had already become my second home. Sundays were spent there from 9:00 am until they kick us out after 10:00 pm when Muriel or Dick would lock up. On Tuesday was bible study Wednesday was family night and Thursday was youth night. Muriel and Dick both taught bible school on Sundays, and Muriel usually baked and volunteered Dick and I to as many other functions as she could get Dick to participate in, I had no such choice.
I actually liked Youth night, which Dick taught, he was going to collage to be a teacher and we were his Ginny-pigs. At first he had a hard time keeping up attendance because how many fourteen to sixteen boys want to go to church much less volunteer going on a week day.
Dick came in one night with an idea that he ingeniously came up with after playing with me on my vibrating football game. The game was played on a tin platform that resembled an actual football field goal post and all. The game came with everything needed down to a down marker. Eleven offensive and eleven defensive men and a kicker that once the device was tripped it would sling the ball through the uprights of the goal post. You also had a passer for passing plays. Each football player was molded in to the position they played on for each side of the ball, offense or defense. The game was made by, Tudor Tru-Action the Electric football Game.
The room that we had for the youth meetings had one of those big green chalk boards like schools had so Dick would go over that week’s lesson and right the verses from the bible, one set for the offense, and one for the defense. He had ten verses for each team. Somehow he created a card system made from three by five index cards with verses from every book of the bible and would pick the ten we had to learn for each play the following week. Five running plays and five passing plays along with five of any previous verses learned which would be used for punting or field goals.
He was the officials on the field and had a set of cards with penalties. But instead of penalties like holding or ruffling the passer, yards were lost or gained on how much of the verse you knew. Field goal weren’t a give me either you not only had to recite the verse but you had to explain it. If you ever played the vibrating game touchdowns came just as hard in his game as did the vibrating game.
He used the game I had and would bring it in and set up without plugging it in, and arrange the players according to where they were the last time we played. So the closer we got to the goal line the more enthused we got. So unless you were dead or projectile vomiting or such, you couldn’t wait to get there. If you ever wanted an example of peer pressure that was the long and short of it. We would call each and rehearse our verses or stand at the wall of shame. You were either David or Goliath and no one wanted to be Goliath thank God Dick wouldn’t allow us to stone each other.
At the end of the year we had playoffs winner take all and everyone got a trophy with the biggest going to the top player, which we voted on.
The parting of the water
With all the church you would think I would become a monk, the opposite was true I was Damien from the Oman the bad seed. I was out of control and Dick was no longer able to control me, I became catatonic when he would yell at me, beatings had become redundant I and I just plane didn’t give a shit.
My only bright spot was watching Linda, and I fucked that up one careless day, again by not taking direction. I had to watch Linda who was about five at the time and was pushing her up and down the side walk each time going a little faster each time because she love it. The faster the more she would laugh harder and harder when something happened it was like we hit an invisible wall the buggy went flying, my body went over the carriage, and as I hit the sidewalk as the buggy hit an instant later with Linda sliding face first down the cement. Muriel heard the screams and was outside as I was gathering my dumb ass of the sidewalk in front of her. When I righted the stroller I froze in terror, her face look like a cat had clawed her. The blood was streaming down her face as Muriel scooped her up and Dick rushed her to the hospital. I waited at home crushed that I was responsible and I could hear Dick yelling at me to slow down. The seen played over and over in my mind.
To this day I don’t think I remember what Dick did I was still in shock, and for the first time I hurt the only person that I loved. I recall going to my room and taking my skinning knife out of the sheath and drew it across my wrist, over and over again. I never was much of a boy scout so the knife was so dull you probably couldn’t cut water and by then Dick was back. And I would have to look at her every day until she healed. That was the beginning of the end, Dick had just about enough of me but I wasn’t done. I had one more piece of direction I couldn’t grasp and it was the people that I kept company with, the Irish boys, like I said they had no rules to obey and I had none that I would.
We would to go in to barns late in the evening when the pidgin would roost and catch pidgins. He had small pens he kept them in and we just had to have more. I didn’t know it then but he was stealing hybrid and selling them back to other collector and the cops were on to him but needed proof. I was just the kid to full fill their dreams.
The south side grade school had just merged into the high school and was closed until the city figured out what to do with the building. So the plan sounded good to me, go take the thick wire mesh that covered the windows to keep vandals like him and me out of places like that. We had already stole the rough cut wood from the furniture factor around the corner on South Work Street and built the frame out back of guess who’s house in the wooded area down by the Conawango river? Dick.
The cops were on to us like stink on shit, it seems that the guys lot we crossed belonged to a guy that hated kids cutting across his yard and when he saw us with the huge wire mesh panels bouncing up and down on our heads like wings flapping on an Albatross he did his civic duty. When cops came and this time I had to go to court as a Juvenal and stand before the judge to make amends. The next thing I knew I was on my way to the old man’s house in Frewsburg. New school, new rules new bullies to fight.
Dad had a small patch of land, about one-half acre, exactly three miles out on the Frewrun road, just before the second bridge, form down town Frewsburg and they didn’t call it a burg for nothing and that just about described Frewsburg back then. They lived in a very small trailer. It was about thirty feet long and fifteen feet long equipped with a kitchen, and bed room small but livable for him and the queen. That was Dicks name for my dad’s mistress. She was a widow he husband had died years earlier and then her and dad hooked up. The trailer sat down the bank some fifteen feet below the road no a gravel creek bed with the creek that snaked its way around the back of the property.
I got the couch for what was supposed to be for a month or two. But that wasn’t going to be my fate. Come fall I would found myself enrolled at the high school in Frewsburg and plans were being made to build on to the trailer. I think it was a conspiracy for cheap labor.
Each week Evelyn (the queens real name) would take the old man’s check and spend it on lumber supplies and dad would sit-down and make pencil blue prints of what we were going to build that week.
Every house has to have a foundation and I was soon going to be introduced to a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow. Every night the old man and I would lie out the plans for next evening. The first thing that had to be done was to dig a ditch to place forms for the foundation. Normally wooden stakes would be driven in to the ground and cotton line would be strung out to precise dimensions and the ditch dug between them. Normally. We had to use a foot long steel stake and a sludge hammer.
So each day I would gather up the pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow and go a picking, shoveling, wheelbarrow, and a whistling while I worked. If you ever swung a hammer against cement you would understand how hard the ground was. The last time this ground had been touched was when the dinosaurs walked on it. Once you got by the top foot or so you hit sand and it became manageable and I could actually use the shovel and wheelbarrow to move it out of the whole and put in another whole. After ripping open a few calluses the ditches were dug and it was time to build the forms and prepare for pouring. Dad built a cement trough and I got the job of making the cement but before I could do that I had to hull the gravel up from the creek because it was looser down by the creek it had to be carted by hand. The old man would help me shovel it in to the wheelbarrow and cart it to the site, which would get far the away each trip. We would mix and pour from one section to the next stopping just before lights end. I had a pile of rock about baseball size these would be pushed about half way in so that they would stick out so the next pour had something to garb on to and would keep the integrity of the wall.
One day on one of numerous trips to the creek I asked dad what was wrong with the old car that was parked down by the gravel pile. It was an old 1948 Buick that had been cut just behind the front seat and had a make shift wooden bed on the back. He told it hadn’t run in years and was there when they bought the land. He looked at the makeshift truck and then at the wheelbarrow full of rock and that bright bulb, like in cartoons lit up.
“Why don’t we look at it? Holly Christ why hadn’t I thought about that? He had me get in. There already a key in the ignition but when I turned it did nothing by then dad had the hood open and told me to forget it. When I asked why he told me first you have to step on the starter switch on the floor, and that the battery was dry and corroded. He checked the oil and it was full so he said when we are done get some pliers and pull the battery and we will see what it takes form there. I was like a kid at Christmas I couldn’t wait to do it, finally work I that I enjoyed.
The next morning I went down pulled the battery and walked it over to Ralph’s, our neighbor on the other side of the bridge. Ralph was Evelyn’s brother-in-law married to her sister Ilene. I just wished I had filled the battery when I got there instead of before, because by the time I got there I had battery acid all over me, man that shit burns. Ralph hooked it up to his charger then hosed me down with the hose while he chuckled, then I went back home to work.
The next day we tried the jalopy again once the battery was cooked enough, hot jumping mouse shit it started. I was in drudge’s heaven; know more pushing a wheelbarrow full of gravel. Wops, the truck was higher and held a tad more gravel. I all most fell over when he told me; well what the hell you waiting for load the damn thing up and drive it to the pile. I did and promptly got it stuck. Ralph saw me, and instinctively new what he had to do, so he fired up his tractor and came putting across the bridge to pull me out. The old man just shook his head chuckled. It seems that a lot of people chuckled about the things I got myself into.
By late July we had front side of the trailer framed, and closed enough to start work to start framing the other side of the trailer. The front would be the master bedroom and living room, and the backside would be a small storage area and my bedroom. By now dad trusted me to run the Skill saw and the dummy end of the tape ruler. But I guess I wasn’t quite ready yet.
The other side of the house was originally designed as a rectangle, but the property line cut through it so that one end would be cut off. It was on Turk’s land the dairy farmer next door. Dad went over and asked to by a half acre form him but he said no. Being a farmer every inch of pasture is as valuable as gold. He told dad in no uncertain terms he wouldn’t sell him an inch, end of story. New plans were drawn up and about a foot and a half were redrawn to compensate for the lost area.
About the dummy end of the tape ruler seems to apply to other stuff. Dad would cut the first two by four then would have me use that to cut any multiple boards thereafter would measure with the template. Well-being a careless, eager, youth, template seemed to have gotten mixed in with all the other twenty or so.
Dad would let me take coffee brakes while he set up the next plan of action; it was one of these brakes that he called me. Grant come here a minute, don’t you see something wrong? No. I must have had a stupid look on my face because I had no Idea what he wanted me to see. He took out the tape measure and went to one end and then other came back, sat down and picked up a piece of wood we would use instead of scrape paper and did some figuring. Looked at me and asked did you use the template? Yes I told him. Where is it? I don’t know? So after looking for a while and finding no template he went back and starting to check each two by four, about the second one in he put an x on the beam, turned and asked, what does that say on the side of it? Dumb less, I looked, it said TEMPLATE. It appears that after I cut the second one I handed it to him and every time I cut a new beam it would subtract one sixteenth of an inch, the width of a saw blade, thus the one and one half inch difference from one end to the other. One-sixteenth inch times twenty or so two by fours equaled one and a half inches, go figure. Dad demoted me to sweeper and dummy end of the tape again.
With everything closed up inside and the back room roof was shingled, but the front half only had a layer of thin tar paper on it. By now it was mid-October, and winter had not set in yet, but it was coming, like that morning. It would be a night that I would not forget soon. Like none I had ever seen before, that’s sure.
That morning the temperature dropped like rock off a cliff. It just kept falling as the wind steadily rose. We had the shingles on the roof but didn’t have time to put them on yet. Well it was time, and dad new it. After dressing for the cold we went out and climbed the latter and started hammering shingles on. It was a biting cold, a griping cold the wind was howling and slapping us from every direction. The wind was blowing head on with traces of freezing snow scrapping our face and penetrating any exposed skin. I had gloves but couldn’t hold the nail to hit it so they were gone after two minutes. The first hit I split thumbnail and every hit after I found a new nail to blast. Were damn near done when I hit the same bloody finger and screamed out in pain.
I guess you would think it would be a good thing that your fingers were numb from the cold, but the cold hard truth is, it is intensified exponentially. It shoots from your nail strait to your brain and if you had used your brain, you wouldn’t be hammering on it in the first place. But dad new if it didn’t get it covered we would not been able to sit in the living room watching Lawrence Welk on the TV. Somehow we got it done including the cap joining the other roof. When we got down and inside dad came over, I was rubbing my bloody hands and he looked down and said: you have to learn how to hammer nails with the hammer and not your fingers.
It turned out that if we hadn’t got the roof on when we did it would have a long cold winter, because it only got worse. It turns out it was the lowest temperature in rerecorded history, the winds were at a steady thirty knots with of gusts as high as fifty miles an hour, the temperature was twenty-nine below and stayed there for days, but we were dry, toasty and Lawrence Welk never looked so good with his candle lobby on his piano.
The coolest school bus in the world
Back to school. The only thing left to do on the house the kitchen, but at least we could live in it comfortably. We had the cabinets in place and were finishing when a chipmunk ran into the kitchen and decide that dads pant leg was his tree. Dad held his pant leg just below his privets and screamed in panic like I never heard before. He was yelling, get the damn thing off me, and get the chipmunk. It headed straight up his pant leg I guess it was still collecting nuts for the winter. I had no idea what to do, but when I was ready to whale dad with the hammer I had in my hands dad looked at me but this time he wasn’t chuckling. No! NO, dad yelled and just in time damn thing ran back down his leg and disappeared.
The old man got up at five in the morning to go to work, so he could be at there at eight, Exactly at five every morning, Saturday, Sunday, didn’t matter the old man was up. The smell of coffee wasn’t what did it I kind of enjoyed that, it was the damn radio. He would tune in to the farm report, because they told the weather and the farm news related like the current price of corn or some shit. Sometime they even talked about that, manure that is. If you lived in the country you had to know what the weather was going be, but dad didn’t turn it off then, the announcer just kept talking, and talking in a mono tone voice until I was about to go mad. Then silence, I could sleep for another hour then get up, dress, eat and wait by the window for the bus.
We had the coolest bus and bus driver in the world. John, a young farmer whose dad owned a huge dairy farm over in Fentenvill. John would let us do pretty much anything we wanted to as long as were civil about it. I can’t remember him scolding any of us. Usually I would sit at the window by if I was late I still knew when the bus was coming as soon as it turned from Dodge Hill on to Frewrun road and started down the hill. We had the only bus equipped with a duel set of glass packs.
“A glass-pack, sometimes called Cherry bomb (a genericized trademark of a popular brand of glass-pack) is a type of automobile muffler in which the exhaust gas passes straight through the center of the muffler. Packed fibreglass surrounds the exhaust channel and absorbs some of the high-frequency sound.
All mufflers impede the flow of exhaust gas and create back pressure on the engine. Muffler designs involve trade-offs between noise, back pressure, weight and cost. Replacing the factory muffler with one that creates less back pressure is a modification that is often made by hobbyists interested in increasing the engine power of their cars.
Glass-packs are an old, simple, and relatively inexpensive design. They are perceived as being effective at reducing back pressure, but not very effective at muffling noise. However, the turbulence created by the slots for the glass fill actually hinders flow more than modern designs.” From the online Wikpedia.
John had the glass packs put his bus he had convinced the school board that they were needed for extra power. They didn’t argue because the rest of the buses ran on the flat lands. Although I usually waited for the bus by sitting at the living room window, I really didn’t need to. I could hear it when it rounded Dodge road and descended down Frewrun road. The glasspacks would bellow like a castrated bull with every downshift. aroom ba ba ba. Until he stopped out front.
John never missed my stop because he was dating Sandy the girl across the street. She had a brother named Brian that became best of friends along with the Samborn brothers John and mark just down the road between the Turks and us. Peter Turk was an anomaly at nine he was about five feet nine and weighed around one seventy-five and strong as a grown man. His dad was about six foot ten three hundred or so pounds. I saw him carrying two-kicking calf’s that escaped back to the barn.
Every time we got in to the bus Brian and I would beg John to down shift and make the bus back fire at the Samborns house before they got on the bus. I don’t think he did it for us but to impress Sandy. Then he carted our dumb Asses off to school. He would announce our arrival by down shifting and ending in it with a loud backfire. Everyone in town new the kids from Frewrun were about to be turned loose on the world.
The first days of school was dictated to finding or classes and getting our books and what we were going to be taught. I had the usual shit, English, social studies, math, shop, and music.
There seemed to be a snag when Dick Frankson and I got to social study class. It seems that we weren’t on the list. They said we were supposed to be anywhere but there and we should go to the councilor and find out where we had to be. The guidance office they said we were to be at music class in the gym and they told us no, not here, not on the list go back to guidance. We started on our way when at the same time the cartoon bulb lit up. Dick and I made a U-turn and headed out the door.
Across the street was a small grocery store just loaded with shit food, the staples of all teenagers, Pop and candy? So after reporting to homeroom we headed to the store got our pop and sat started to pitch pennies. We got so good at it that about three in ten would lean up against the stair of the store, so in case of a tie we cut cards high card got all the pennies left. At the end of the marking period we were stunned. Dick came up and asked me if I looked at report card yet. I hadn’t I knew that either I failed or just pass in everything so what was the point, it seemed predetermined. When I looked I had an A in music, so did he. At the end of the marking period we found out that one kid was in charge of attendance and the teacher simple based grades according who was there and who wasn’t. A-students got D’s, his friends got A’s, and everyone else got what their actual attendance was.
The bully finely found me his name was John Mc Laughlin every time he saw me he would give me a monkey bubble. It was administered by making a fist with the middle knuckle sticking out farther and hitting someone as hard as you can. One day he caught me because I had to stay after and was alone waiting for the bus he promptly pounded me into the pavement. Another Irish kid and another beating. The thing I didn’t know, besides boxing, was that he was left handed with a wicked left Jab.
Dependable farmer Brown
The only time I went to the Burg was when Evelyn and dad went for supplies or dinner or groceries. One night I ask dad if Evelyn could take into town to meet my friends. He looked at me and you can go but you are going to have to use thumb or foot power to get there. Weather I Hitchhiked or walk was up going to be up me, let the thumb do the walking. So I did. I was hooked; freedom just couldn’t be this easy, could it?
I had time to burn on Saturdays now that the house was livable and bounders were met, so I hitched down to the Burge. On the way farmer Brown stopped and picked me up, God! What had I got into? He knew everything about me but I had no idea who he was. I found out he was a farmer right off though. I guess you would have to have been in a barn before they made them sterile. Cow shit is cow shit, it smells, its methane on steroids. I just got in because I played my curfew a little to close and hoped someone would stop. Usually someone would, but they didn’t smell like this, at first I gagged, but held it back remembering the sewage plant, that got me through it.
Here’s a picture for you. You are standing on the side of the road and here comes a 1930 maybe 40-ished brown pickup truck, it stops, you get in, the cow sit is trying to push you back out, but you get the door closed, he shifts in to first and you are not going anywhere until he gets to his farm one half mile short of where you are going. Here is an old man in his seventy’s dressed like Mr. Green Jeans with bib overalls and kneecaps made of cow shit. His cheeks looked like a chip-monk all puffed out holding a huge wad of Red-Mans-chew in his gums, cow shit and straw every wear in the cab of the truck is bad enough now add the fact that it didn’t matter if the window was open or not he would spew the Red Man Chew between his knees to the floor. Splat and every inch of floor was covered in Red Mans Chew and what it couldn’t hold went directly on his pant legs. Swish like a rock in a pond or a still motion drop of water in a pond.
Now this man loved to talk on, and on he would go, can’t say I ever listened, I just wanted out on one hand and a ride home on the other, before the old man new I was gone. Winter wasn’t so bad because the heater didn’t work and he was dressed for being outside from dusk to down. Like anything you get used to it.
When John, Brian, and me would see him an argument ensued about who was going to ride in the bed of the truck. The bed contained his shepherd, Sheep, a bale of hay, and you guessed it cow shit and straw but the worst was the chew, big brown spots stained the cow shit and straw in round pools. As bad as this seems he was one of the nicest old man I had the privilege to know.
Farmer Brown owned the land from the Bain road to the Horner farm and back from the road up over the hill to the flat lands south toward Fentenvill. He would let us hunt and explore it as we pleased. At the top of the hill was a huge patch of black and red barriers they stood ten feet high and had places that we could get out of the hot August sun and eat until our bellies popped. One day Brian and I were in one patch waiting for the Sanborn brothers and chewing on inch long barriers when we heard a rustling in the bushes so we came out to meet John and Mark only it wasn’t them. Brian was first, about a foot or ahead of me, when he turned and knocked on off my feet. As I turned I heard a growl and was face to face with a big old Black bear and it seemed that he was in no mood to shear his berry patch. The only way out was through the berries. Picking berries is one thing running through them is another. Brian was about twenty yards ahead of me on a dead run but I blew by him at warp speed drowning out his screams with mine. When I got home dad ask what happened to me when I told him he just chuckled and said I guess black Barrie pie is out of the question?
Mopeds, Hot Rods, and such
Every month Brian and I would go down to the Samborns because Mark and John would get the new issues of Hot Rod and Mad magazines, but we had to help clean out the fallout shelter they had in their back yard. A year earlier John F. Kennedy announced the Cuban Missile Crisis. John and Marks dad had a fallout shelter installed in their back yard. So John and Mark had to refresh the air, swap out the can goods and put in fresh water. We all took turns cranking the circulating fan and reading Hot Rod and Alfred E. Neumann jokes, “What me worry?” I couldn’t wait to read I Spy.
It’s funny how you can get an education and not even know little did I know that reading Hot Rod would enhance a future career. We learned about carburetors, Heads, or Ford vs. Chevy big blocks, ratios of gas to compression. Even though I sucked at math I could figure out compression ratios.
John and mark’s dad had three junk cars out in a field behind their house in those day cars were like computers today if they broke you went out and bought a new one so just about everyone had one in their back yard. So from Hot Rod mag. We learned diagnostic techniques and like dads jalopy we set out and got two running then invented demolishing derby in the field crashing two big old cars together for hours or until they ran the gas ran out. Then we would go down the road and take turns driving Scots 1956 Ford crown Victoria until one day Scott decided he wanted to find out what it would be like to crash it into a tree. At fifty miles an hour he went head long into an apple tree and totaled a perfectly good 56 Crown Royal. We all laughed like hyenas as Scott got out and fell down a few time until his brains found their way back home to head, not that he had any to start.
When we ran out of cars we would all gather at Brian’s house and ride his Mopeds in the gully on the other side of the bridge from my house. Brian and his brother made a trail coming from the barn on the hill down into the gully winding around the trees and back to the barn.
Mark had polio and just shed his leg braces and was still somewhat unstable on his feet. Back then no one had special needs. I guess no one noticed. Brian had what is called chicken breast. His chest and ribs were caved in like a chicken but no one paid him any mind. Both he and Mark overcome it by running like Forest Gump in Marks case and weight lifting at Brian’s house.
We all were taking turns on the Moped when it was Mark turn and like I said, Mark wasn’t to coordinate. It was his turn and first time on a moped, what a site. After falling off a few times he started to get the hang of it and was head down the trail when the tire blew and he headed off course. He never put his feet on the footpads so they stuck out as he weaved and bobbed between the trees just out of site when we heard him cry out in pain. We all were running to find him and when we did there he was stuck between two trees by the handlebars. His body was in a superman poise head pointed to the sky legs straight back with his arms pined straight along his sides. Brian had to go get his dads tractor and pull him out but it wouldn’t budge because the tires just spun in the soft swamp dirt. So Brian backed up to the bike and gave it a yank and out it came but Mark was still pined with the handlebars refusing to let go. So we chained on side of the bars to a tree and the three of us pulled as hard as we could on the other bar until Mark got free.
Well we finally blew the head gasket for the second Moped and Brians brother had to order it form Sears it wasn’t much fun pedaling with the foot pedals. So now all we had left was the old man’s jalopy, which was over at Ralph’s house in his field. So off we went. By now john Mc Laughlin had joined in. John, being a city boy from the burg didn’t get to drive anything, so when I had my fill which wasn’t too soon, The beating I took a few month earlier still fresh in my mind, I let him wait until last.
Ralph was an oddball farmer he raised rabbits to butcher and sell, so he had a large pen out doors with about eighty rabbits. When some wanted a few pounds he have got me to help him fetch one or two. The rabbits had burrows dug all over in the pen and soon as you entered them would all scramble down them. Ralph had a beekeepers smoker and he would pump smoke down one hole while I waited at the other end for them pop out. One day Ralph came home with Billy goat, that wasn’t a big surprise being Ralph. I mean this is a guy that has a spider monkey, four Ginny foul, six geese, a bantam rooster with inch and a half spears given to him by satin, Just about everything but snakes. Dad asked him why he bout a goat. Well the night before he was coming home from Andersen’s grill when a state trooper flashed his lights just as he was passing a farm that had a goat for sale sign in his yard, so he pulled in the drive way hoping the cop would go by, but he didn’t. The trooper asked him what the hurry was. So Ralph told him that he wanted to by the goat and he was afraid that he might sell it before he had a chance to buy it for his son’s birthday. The trooper told him that he better hurry he wouldn’t want the kid to miss out on that. Ralph said he thought the trooper would leave but instead he just stood there. Being that the trooper had him blocked in Ralph knocked on the door. When the farmer came out he knew he had instance sale. Five hundred bucks later… he came home with the goat.
The next day Ralph pulls in to his driveway with a new Ford Fairlane 500 that he used as a down payment on the car. It seems that the sales man was looking for a goat, but for his daughter’s birthday. He always seemed to get roses for a hand full of shit.
We butchered the rabbits in his barn that wasn’t very big, not much bigger than a two-car garage. All that he had it was two cows and some chickens and a shit load of titmice. He would gut them outside and the dogs ate that, then we took them inside and we would skin them, saving the pelts were save to tan. Well that was about to end.
Mc Laughlin never drove anything except his bike so everything we did was new to him. So after lurching, stalling, ball braking from us he finally got the damn thing going and like a drunk he drove everywhere but on the path. As we rounded the bend he hit a bump and went straight off the tree, the only tree in five acres, in into the pen full of rabbits. It was like a prison brake as eighty rabbits shot out and headed for freedom in to the woods. It was like herding cat but worse. We managed to catch one. I figured we all end up in teenage prison lock in our bedrooms for life. Ralph was outside when it happened so there was no denying it. But to our surprise all he said was my wife was getting sick of cleaning the damn rabbits anyway. So I guess we did her a favor but he made us rake the field and plant grass, so the next few weeks were spent at hard labor but it was better than spending weekend in bedroom jail for life.
Well now we had to come up with other plans to entertain our self’s. We had burned our way through four cars and two Mopeds in less than a month but we were all adventurous soles and came up with a plan. We would build a shanty in the swamp were the Moped track was. Being a master carpenter I appointed myself in charge of the build operations.
First we had to gather supplies, Lumber would come from an abandon broken down barn the Derby’s had on their property, a can of bent nail, and tar paper left over from the Samborns out building. Next Brian scouted the swamp and found four trees that were set up in a perfect in a rectangle. Brian’s dad loved the auctions so he had all kinds of hand tools we could use. So the four of us started building. The hardest part was getting the beams from the Derby’s barn, but Horner s tractor and hay wagon were commandeered when my dad and his were working on Saturday because we were not allowed to drive on the road. Our biggest problem would be the State Cops; they were always trying to catch Brian on the road and would play a game of cat and mouse with him, which was fruitless. Brian was born with a Moped between his legs; it must have been a relief for his mom when she spit him out. It wasn’t pretty but it served our purpose and we got it up before winter set in.
Brian talked his dad out of an old Ben Franklin potbelly stove so we had heat. We still froze our hinnies off and had to take turns warming our feet. I found out that steel toed shoes and a hot cast iron stove didn’t mix. At the bottom of the stove was an opening that the toes would fit in and it would heat them up quick, real quickly. The first time I stuck my feet in there I learned that it would be better to leave them out. They headed up OK but too fast and to hot. The leather of my shoe started burning and the steel proctor headed up and started burning my toe. As I tried to hop around and get my shoe off my foot at the same time it burned like it was still in there.
The damn thing was quit spacious. We had two homemade bunks stacked at one end and two singles on each side leaving a foot and a half walk way to get to the back two. Room for a card table and four tree trunks for stools to play poker and smoke cigarettes we stole from our parents. I had a system, dad always bought two cartons a week, and him and Evelyn didn’t notice that a pack was missing from each as long as I alternated from hers to his. One night I heard her ask dad if he thought there were going to fast but dad told her that she must be smoking more, so I was safe for a while.
After begging for a week to sleep in the shack dad finally said OK. It was Halloween night and we had plans and it had nothing to do with candy. Mc Laughlin didn’t like some in town farmer he had a grudge with so the plan was to stomp on his watermelons and squash his squash and pumpkins. Brian and I didn’t want anything to do with it because we knew how much work was involved but we would be happy to tag along and watch. John being John wasn’t happy smashing the shit decided to throw the stuff at his house. I guess the paper bag lit on fire with the dog shit in it and ringing the doorbell wasn’t going to do it. Well the old guy had other plans than calling the cops. This guy had a double barrow shotgun full of rock salt and John suddenly found out what the term in range was as he went screaming all the way home.
Just as the guy shot John in the ass the town cops turned the corner and lit Brian and me up like a Christmas at Macys. So with John running in one direction John still screaming in the other we headed in to the cornfield. The wind had knocked the corn down so we had to get down on our hands and knees as the cops were in hot pursuit waving flashlights over our heads we tried to make to the other side of the field. I was about five feet away from Brian when we dropped down to ground level. I don’t know about Brian but I didn’t want to home in a patrol car, or worse the old man coming to pick us up from the courthouse.
Just then the flashlights went out so when I look I saw one cop headed back to the police car. I ducked back down and called out in a low voice, (Brian? Brian?) Where are you? I heard him say over here where? Over here, just then I look up and there was the cop with the flashlight blinding me I’m right here. Remember the rabbits? I think I passed them. Somehow we made out of there and went down town like we had planned in the first place.
We met at the gas station in the where there was a tractor and wagon with a hay baler in pieces and four guy with a latter in the ally handing part up to the roof. So what the hell we joined in. It was Archery and Atkins on the roof putting the bailer together while we handed the parts up to the two other guys. In about an hour they had it all assembled and we scouted out of there. By now it was getting late when a couple of other guys asked us if we wanted to join them. But Brian said we better quit while we were ahead and I agreed so we headed back to the shack.
The next morning the guys that wanted us to go with them were in jail because they push the farmers new John Deer in to the Conwango River. The worst for them was that the seven had to pay restitution at the tune of ten thousand dollars. I was glad I didn’t have to split it nine ways and wonder who had the soap as long as it wasn’t me. They couldn’t have picked the wrong spot the river is thirty feet deep there and when they sent divers with cables to pull it up it was nowhere to be found. It sank out of site in the mud.
The rock pile
We were getting pretty god at sneaking down town but all good things must come to an end. One night we were just passing Samborns house when Evelyn Uncle Dusty stopped to pick us up, I thought he was cool but that didn’t work out that way it seemed. After he told us tails of how he use to do that when he was a kid he called dad right after he dropped us off. I should have listened to dad when he said anything that came out of his mouth was a straight out lie or just plain bull shit.
In the summer we always met at the little dinner in town that catered to teens. They found a niche squeezing the last nickel out us but my junk food diet got healthier. Now diet included greasy hamburgers, French fries, and cook-a-cola. When Scott Derby came in and said the old man and the queen were cursing town and looking for us. So Brian and I took off and headed for the shack hoping we could get there before his dad or mine spotted us. We didn’t dare to hitchhike so as we made the three miles home we would jump into the ditch and wait for the head light dimmed. We made it to the shack in record time, considering it usually took fifteen minutes to walk the three miles but between ditch jumping and running flat out until we thought we’d puke we made it back in seven.
When we rounded the corner we knew what the morning would bring. The Corvair was on the highway and the hood was hot and but lights were out in the house. We were screwed and we knew it so we tuck in and waited our fate. Morning came even quicker than we could imagine. Both the old man and Brian’s dad were pounding on the shack door shaking it like an earthquake. Brian’s went out first and was promptly yanked by the ear and drug off kicking and screaming. My dad just stood there and waited for me to get by him. As I was holding onto my sombrero trying to hide the cigarettes I had lifted from him last night when I saw my feet doing strange things. They were hovering in thin air for a second then I’d be able to take two steps and up they would go again.
The old man apparently and a better technique that Dick had because when dick kicked my ass it hurt but with dad it just lifted me about a foot off the ground. When we got home he told me he would deal with me after work. The old man was good for his word because after work he did deal with me. He told me to get the wheelbarrow out that meant confinement and hard labor.
Dad met me at the garage we had just built and I said what’s next? He pointed the rock pile that was blocking the entrance of the garage that we were picking at to fill the garage floor. This wasn’t a normal pile of gravel. This was a natural formation that must washed up just after Noah last flood, because only God could make anything as hard, long, and impenetrable. The pile stood four to five feet high, ten feet wide and thirty feet long. Dad looked at me and said that should keep you out of trouble for a week or two, get going.
When I put the shovel to it, it just bounced off dad turned when heard the ping of the shovel and suggested that maybe I should get the right tool for the job, a pick. By then Evelyn came out and they went to work and I was let to my task. Generally on Saturdays Brian and I would stop and wait for the Sanborn brother’s then hike to Still-water to go swimming or fishing. Not now, my summer would be spent A digging, a shoveling, and a picking of the God made concrete gravel pile.
A day or two latter I looked up and watched as Brian was standing on the road laughing his ass off. I asked him what his dad made him do. He had to shovel the shit that had built up in the barn and stay in the yard for two days he said. He claimed down the bank went into the garage, and grabbed a shovel and joined me, I picked and he loaded the wheelbarrow then I would wheel it to the garage and dump it.
Brian got thirsty so he went home to get a cooler full of bug juice his mom made in the summer. It was a sugary good cherry mix and tasted real good. It came in a can that she bought form Mr. Sanborn the Jewel Tea Man, Mark and John’s dad. After sucking the bottom of the bottle of the juice. About an hour later he went home and left me to my drudgery. As I was loading another wheel Bower full of gravel I saw Brian come wiping over the bank of the road with his dads tractor at the other end of the punishment pile.
The tractor had a back blade on the back and a plow on the front. Starting at the back of the of the pile he started grading the gravel toward the garage as I was shoveling and leveling the garage floor he came in to help rake it flat. By noon we were done and when Brian told me well that was fun what else can we do? He loved to run the tractor because his dad very seldom let him run it by his self.
Well I said, look at the driveway think we can get done before your dad and mine get home, because I don’t think either one of us is going to hear the end of this. I’m going to get hell for cheating and you’re going to get hell using the tractor. No, you might get hell, but I asked my mom before I took it, I just didn’t tell her that I was going to be so long.
Now the driveway is about thirty feet long and ran down it until it leveled off about ten feet before the garage. Besides that, there was the fact that runoff from rain ran down it from the natural grade of the road and made a small creek, which cut groves, and pot holes the like craters on the moon.
Brian made short work of the rock pile and had to go down to the creek to get enough gravel and sand to make it bond and form a rock solid smooth driveway. I was throwing hayseed on the leach bed we had filled in and he was down at the creek making a wading pool for us to cool off when we got done so we took a dip and cooled off. Brian had the tractor back in the barn and I was throwing more hay where the rock pile was when dad and Evelyn came down the driveway.
I thought that they would unscrew their heads as they slowly made their way to the garage. Dad got of the car and looked in to the garage he just stood there dumb founded and told Evelyn to pull the car into the garage. As he walked up to me I waited for him to start yelling. But instead he just kept shaking his head and mumbled something to the fact that a professional contractor couldn’t have done such a good job. He shook his head again and handed me five bucks, told me to give it to Brian’s dad for gas, and get the hell out of there before he changed his mind. A roadrunner couldn’t have caught me so Brian and I were off to the Sanborns then Stillwater to swim.
We got to the Samborns house just in time because John’s dad was going to take them swimming as long as they watched their younger brother. We got to the swimming hole and set our towels down to lay on and Mark took his younger brother Shawn (I can’t remember if that’s really his name because their sister usual watched him) him to the shallow end as we dove of the bank into the cool water. After a while John and I were on the bank when I looked down and watched as Shawn kept going in and out of site under the water just below us. I turned to John and asked can your little brother swim? He nodded his head no. Then I guess it took a minute but we looked at each other and dove in after him. I was a split second faster and grabbed him about the same time John did. I had him by the arms and John had him by the feet. We came shooting out of the water like a cork and by then a crowd gathered to help pull us up the bank.
Mark was running up from the sallow end yelling I can’t found Shawn, only to see us shaking and he said oh you guys found him. We all decided we had enough babysitting and went to Don Gages Warehouse to call his dad to come get us. Thank God their brother never said a word because we all would have been in teenager jail for life again.
Stocking the store
Every Thursday Brian and I would walk down to the Samborns to help their dad restock his warehouse with Jewel Tea home service products. Mr. Sanborn had a van that he used to deliver his Jewel Tea products. It was like a convent store on wheels. We would wait for the Semi-truck to blast his horn that he was coming. That was just the coolest thing to hear and more amazing was that something that big could be backed into such a small drive way.
After it released the air brakes, which on its own cool, we would get out the hand carts and start loading the boxes in to the warehouse, box after box, until it was empty. Mr. Sanborn had each shelve labeled by the customer’s names. We had to sort the boxes for each order as he called their names. I was the box cutter Brian would find the right box and get the product out then hand them to John and Mark to put it where it belonged. It took about two or three hours and was the only night Brian and I could stay out later than nine at night. When we were done Mr. Sanborn would give us five bucks and our choice of anything that was damaged in shipping like cookies that we would devour on the way home.
Mr. S was a cool dad he always treated me and Brian like we were his kids. He would stop and pick us up when we were hitching a ride to the Burg. But the greatest thing was that he would stomp on the gas pedal as we flew down Frewrun road at sixty miles an hour about thirty miles an hour faster than Mr. Brown and fifteen miles faster than Evelyn. He had a big old Dodge Custom 880 with a 361 Cid/ 265 HP engine and three-speed torqueflite tyranny.
The cat and dog game
Every night when we got home from school Sandy and Brian would get off the bus and head up their drive way at the same time their mother would let the dogs out to greet them. They had two dogs, a black and brown Shepard and a huge black Newfoundland. The first time I saw it coming across the street I thought it was a black bear and high tailed it in to the house, by the time I looked out the window I spotted Sandy petting it, I thought I was seeing things. When dad got home I told him that the neighbors had a pet black bear. He just laugh and said no, it’s just a Newfoundland dog, he’s OK and won’t hurt you. A what? A Newfoundland dog, you know kind of like a Saint Bernard, you know like Peter Pan’s guardian dog Nana. I didn’t know a dog could be that big, no shit. Brian told me later that the vet said he’d get to be about three feet high and weigh one hundred and fifty pounds when it grew to full size. He was right it did. The Shepard wasn’t any slouch either.
Every day the dogs headed straight for the house, jump up on our window just one second before the big old calico cat of dads took zipping in to the garage. Now the cat wasn’t the average sized cat either he went around twenty pounds and was mean as hell. You sure as hell didn’t pet him and forget a lap dance; he’d rip your hand off first.
One day just like clockwork, out came the dogs on a terror hell bent for cat. I had made to the window to turn on the TV and the cat was all toasty sitting in the sun minding his own business and hear came the Shepard. I guess the cat said not today! The dog had done it so many times that he had the jump and chase to the garage so fast that he was only a few inches behind the cat’s ass as it slipped under the opening at the bottom of the door. But not today! Instead the cat went straight up in the air and disappeared from my site and like the Cheshire cat he came back down, like lightning with his two inch paws claws out and came down on the dogs nose and ears and the blood flew and splattered against the window. This time the cat walked to the garage as the Newfoundland just watched like, what you do dude? As he looked at the cat, then the Shepard turned back home trying to look small. Both took for the high ground and never came across the road again.
The farm again
Haying. Sounds like a good idea, now, doesn’t it? Well at sixteen it did. So the next thing I found my self-employed at Tichners farm slinging hay bales that weighed as much as I did, but loving it. It was my first real job with real taxes, real work, and real pay. Seven bucks an hour, I saw Santa Clause that had never came before standing in front of me. Not only a buck more that dad and two bucks more than Evelyn, man was she pissed. Sweet shit, I was king of the day. One better than “Queen of the day”. Like on TV or Evelyn. I think dad saw a way to get me out of not only his way but also make the bitch happy in the process, and maybe some Peace of mind for all of us. It worked.
John would come and pick Brian and me up at 5:30 in the morning, then, go get the Sanborn brothers from there we headed toward Akeley Pa where his dad owned seventy acres of grassland that needed to be hayed. We worked from sun up until sun down. I had heard that saying before but had no idea what it meant until now, God I loved it. I not only got to take turns driving the tractor to pick up hay off the field but also got to drive it on the main vane to and from Akeley.
The farm was my salvation; I got paychecks my dad envied. I was going to buy my first car. I had it all worked out. A new Ford cost somewhere around two grand, so 2,000 divide by three divided by twelve equaled fifty-five dollars a month. Shit I was pulling down few hundred bucks a week. No sweat. I told dad to take me up to Ford. He said I don’t think so, you are only going to last two days, and He was close. In a week it was over, I was laid off. I found out that I had only my first week of waiting for unemployment and I wasn’t going to get anything else. So after two days when I was broke, from spending it all on shit. Two days later John asked me if I wanted to work full time as a full timer, milking cows on the farm. Like an idealist I said sure. This was great now I could really afford the car.
This farming shit was a whole lot harder than I could ever image. First I had to move in to my own room on the farm. Second I had to follow the rules of the house, and then I had to get up at three in the morning. I had never had to get up at three let alone work. Now I had to have Fifty head of cows feed, there tits washed, and sucked, all without being kicked, or stepped on, then crushed into the stall by a one thousand pound dumb cow. When I say dumb I mean it. The cow is by far the dumbest animal on the face of the earth. You can hit them as hard as you want and they don’t know you did. The only way to get them off you when they leaned on you was to grab their tail and twist it in a circle and yank it as far up their ass as it would go. Then they might move before you became part of the wall.
When I was done I had to catch the bus to school and have good grades then come back had fetch the cows back in to the barn to milked again. By the time we were done it was suppertime and John’s mom had supper, before any of us left the barn we had to shower and come in sparkling clean. She had another rule was if you used the ketchup you damn well better clean to top of the bottle leaving not a molecule of sauce on the cap.
That was Tuesday by Thursday I had a day off so I went home from school and fell asleep in my potatoes. Dad woke me up and told me he called John and fired me.
There were only certain times that you were allowed to swim and each creek or river had its own set of rules. The all were off limits in the spring whether or not you were swimming or driving for the obvious reasons because you were never sure where the bank really was let alone how deep it truly was. Then there was the inherent speed of the current just because it looked calm it was not necessarily so, it may be going five or ten knots which would make whirlpools, eddies, and swift undertows deadly as soon as you made one step in.
After the spring runoff we always knew when it was safe to wallow in the deep water of the Conewango, and fish for the big Carp and Northern Pike native to the river. When the tenets of the house at the Rendering works took their rowboat in the garage you were pretty much sure you could fish and swim in the Conewango below the bridge leading out of the Burg to Jamestown. Also it was the only time of the year you could cross the bridge without puke forming on your mouth because of the smell of dead things coming from the rendering plant.
It was one of those spring days, the Pussy willows were blooming and the skunk cabbage and wild onions were stinking up our paper bags that were full, we all had to collect them for our parents so we did that before decided to go fishing. We took out our pocket fishing gear, a stick with fifty or sixty feet of fishing line with a hook and bobber attached hopping to catch a Crappie or a few rock bass to cook and eat with the wild onions. Mc Laughlin started a fire then found a nice piece of slate for cooking the fish and onions on then we kicked back and resumed wasting the day away.
Someone got the bright idea that we should go swimming, so we found a spot where we could get in and out and dove in headfirst. Now the Conewango was trickier than Stillwater, because you had to find a place that either had a slopping bank or a tree whose roots were exposed so that you could get back on the bank, or it was a long swim to the next spot and which changed every spring. I think we got out of the water faster because by the time it took our feet to be submerged and were back on the bank shivering. It was kind of like going naked in the Artic. As quick as could we stood by the small fire getting warm when we looked at each other and started laughing. We were covered in mud from head to toe. We looked around and found a small water hole left on the high ground from the spring runoff to wash off and got dressed.
It was then that we all had another bright idea! Let’s build us a raft like in the Tarzan movies. We all gathered at the site early the next morning. Horner s dad was always buying shit at the auctions so he had a bucket of nails, bolts, and fasteners along with a two-man saw. I had dad’s new saw and my hand tools and the Sanborns were the laborers. Mc Laughlin would sometimes participate and sometimes he would just sit there and watch too much city in the boy I guess.
By mid-noon we managed to fall one tree, and a good idea was fading with the reality of what was involved, that’s when the Derby brothers showed up with a better plan. Being that we had no idea how to go about it, they seem to. Scott s grandfather owned the hardware store in the Burg and he frequently broke in and stole anything he wanted. Someone always saw him and call the cops. But when they caught him, they had to let him go, because grandpa never pressed charges. So now we had access to any tools we needed, but it didn’t stop there. We had figured out that flat lumber would be easier than trees and that we still needed something to make it buoyant.
Scott was a year or two older and wiser at least we thought so. He said that we could get everything at Klings wood factory, including their discarded fifty-five-gallon drums and him and his brothers would start to it gather it that night. The following Saturday we all met and there was a big pile of stuff everything we needed. There was a stack of planks, one by twelve’s, ruff cut solid cherry boards fifteen feet long, nine fifty-five-gallon drums and a wad of banding steel that held the lumber in stacks before being processed.
Now all of the rest of it was all stuff they tossed out so being ignorant teenagers we went to work. The hardest part was corralling the drums in the water, they had a mind of their own and just kept bobbing in all directions so we had to come up with another idea. After another day of frustration Brian said to wait and he would get some rope from the barn so we can tie them up, but Scott disappeared and within an hour he and his brothers each came back with three coils of rope from the hardware store. We all new enough not to ask where they got that shit. That night before we left we had the drums tightly secured and the raft tied to the bank.
To our surprise the drums were still tied to the bank even though we had one hell of a rain and thunderstorm during the week. So we took off to Klings because we still needed the cross beams to tie to the drums then nail and bolt the hard wood to form a platform on the drums. Two of us each grabbed one of the beams one at each end and proceeded to walk out of the lumber yard when the watchman started yelling, but by now we were too far for the fat bastard to give chase, and being only a half mile from the swamp we blended into the woods and seamlessly made our way to the raft before he had a chance to get back and call the cops.
By nightfall we had the raft done and setup camp for the night. Brian and I had told our dad’s that we were staying at Mc McLaughlin for the night, which they were OK with because John’s mother was a teacher and they thought we were honest and telling the truth I guess.
The next morning we were fishing, swimming, and diving off the raft like Huck Finn, except for john he was dogie paddling in the river. When I turned he was swimming to the raft and I said to Brian, look at John, he swims like a dog with cement balls, and Brian laughed so hard he fell in. Each day we would float the raft a little farther down the river until it got about two miles down then we discovered that the damn thing weighed two much to tow back even with the boat and motor that someone had hidden in the bushes. So we put the boat back and tied the raft back on the bank again secure in the thought that it would be there the next day.
This time when God sent a storm he piled it on with everything he had. Toreadors, gale winds, hale, and that rain over flowed the banks of the river and swept the tree and raft of our dreams away. Two days later dad was reading in the paper that the State Troopers in Pittsburgh were asking if any one up north was missing a raft. It seems that it was so impressively built that they thought it must belong to a logging company, that and because it had about Three thousand dollars’ worth of hard wood cherry built in to the deck.
Every night after dad got home from work he would consult his fishing chart to see if there would be good fishing conditions or not. It was based on some astrological thing Ben Franklin though up. If the chart said there would be good conditions, we’d go to the bridge at the Falconer, Frewsburg road and throw our lines in. We never got much but the thought of hooking a Pike or Muskellunge was too big for either of us not to. Now this chart never lied. Never. If it told us the moon and stars were right we would catch fish, if not, we came home with nothing. Believe me the damn thing never lied. We tried it both ways and decided if it said no it meant no and we’d stay home.
One night it said: chance of thunderstorms and excellent fishing. When it said excellent I couldn’t get the equipment in the car fast enough for either of us. Evelyn would drop us off and I would lug the gear down under the bridge and set up the lines. Then get the shovel into the soft dirt to acquire our bait, either blood worms or grubs hopefully both. Right on queue it started raining, light at first then the thunder rumbled in the distance. The carp were jumping at the flies buzzing the water and we started to get bite after bite, one hit harder than the last. Dad just new Moby Dick was lurking somewhere just below the surface and kept testing different areas of the Conewango to find him
Although I sucked in school I had pretense to learn little known facts. A new fact I had absorbed was that if you counted one second from the sound of the thunder and the flash of lightning that the lightning would be one mile away. Useful stuff, right, I didn’t know it but I was about to prove that to be correct, to the exact second. Flash…bang twenty miles away… flash…bang nineteen…flash…bang eighteen…flash…bang we were down to eleven mile and they were still coming at perfect intervals flash…bang….
Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…five…four…three…two…one. Just as dad hollered at me get my damn feet off of the wet cement of the bridge again. I said to dad hay the next one is going to be right on top of… FLASH… BANGGGGG…as I looked up a bright blue ball was traveling down the steel beams straight at us all I could think of was how odd. Then I was air born and was screaming but I couldn’t hear myself. Just then the lights went out and everything was black. When I came to I was stiff, as the cement and lightning that had just thrown me about fifteen feet to the water’s edge.
The old man was slipping, yanking and pulling on my legs, my eyes hurt and my ears were ringing, I still couldn’t hear but I could see windblown river raging six inches in front of my nose, but I couldn’t do anything about it. All I could feel was the sensation of being pulled backwards and the mud sliding under and around my chin. As I regained my senses I realized that dad was hugging me like a teddy bear and yelling over and over you OK? You OK? Can you breathe?
I look up and could see dads lips moving and muffled sounds coming from them but I couldn’t make sense of it. As I turned my head around wondering where I was and whose legs was I staring at and why couldn’t I feel myself? Then in a rush I jerked and pain shoot through me, as I screamed again. When all the feelings came back in one quick jolt I understood that those were my legs, and they hurt like hell, everything hurt like hell. The storm passed as fast as it came and dad was trying to get me back up to the road but my legs wouldn’t corporate and my head was still floating somewhere in lightning limbo, but we slowly made our way with me staggering like a drunk from the bar.
Evelyn came back as soon as the storm died down knowing that something was wrong because of the ferocity of the storm. By the time dad dragged me up to the car Evelyn had the door open and was helping dad pull me in to it I was still groggy. When we got home I had to be helped into the house and on to the couch where I sat. Dad told me years later that I sat there for about an hour just rocking back and forth saying what the fuck happened? What the fuck happened? And stared into space, saying what the fuck happened.
Later that night when the fog lifted dad kept saying his ass hurt, finally he reached into his back pocket and pull out a pair of needle nose pliers that he used to take hooks out of the fish that we caught, but his butt still hurt. When he pulled his pants down he had an x burnt in to his butt from the pliers when the lightning hit him. Because he didn’t have his feet in the water running down the cement abutment he didn’t get knocked down. Thank God for that because they might have found both of us in Pittsburgh the next day. It took a year or two before I would go out on a rainy day, if it clouded up I hightailed it home.
The nation stood still
I was in shop class when the intercom came on and the teacher got my attention with the kill sign, so I turned the drill press off. As the whine of the motor died out the Principal was notifying the school the President of the United States John F. Kennedy had been shot down in Texas along with Texas governor John Connally, Nellie, Connally, and Officer James Toque. We were told to go straight to our buses and go home and that our parents had been notified and would be waiting when we got there. They lied there was only the cat waiting for his food. Usually we had to go to homeroom so that was odd. We all got on the bus and it was the strangest ride home. Mush to somber for a bust load of normally fun loving country boy and girls. Teenagers. It was 1:30 our time but it was 12:30 central standard time at Dealey Plaza Dallas Texas I didn’t know what to think and no one else did either. All I knew was I was off from school until Tuesday.
When I got home I turned on the TV to watch the soap operas, but it was as they say now, preempted by some more important stuff. The death of the President. So I changed the channel only to find it on all three channels. With no other choice I watched. Not knowing that this was history was in the making I still felt compelled and that I had no other choice but to watch. It was like watching “Alfred Hitchcock’s Presents, you were always left wondering just what it was you were watching. That I was participating in something unique it left me numb, but curiously interested. Somehow I knew that the next few days it would never be the same again. I watched as the horse drawn casket was led by the United States Marine Band, the Scottish Black watch and, the Royal Highlander Regiment in step with the ominous sounds of the muffled Tenor drums and Bag Pipes that lead a man the world had admired down Pennsylvania Avenue to Saint Matthew’s Roman Cathedral.
He was buried in Arlington and they built what they called the eternal flame to honor him in to eternity with all the other dead solders that served our country with ultimate sacrifice their lives.
I guess that was when I realized the scope of what happened. For the first time I got a real education of what reality really was. I was in the eye of the storm even with all the violence and turbulence on the TV it was the first time in my life I that was mysteriously connected to reality. I was calm about it, a bit confused, but calm. It was surreal as I watch and truly listened to what the newscaster said, on Av for the first time.
Pass the gravy, or not
I guess the time as a sixteen year old it was over. It seems that I wore out my welcome. With raging hormones, puberty, and my vast worldly knowledge along with ego, and a natural Everson arrogance, must have got the best of my old man and Evelyn. It was time to go, leave the nest, get out of Dodge, and go away. I don’t know what started it but we were all getting on each other’s nerves, even though I had applied the inherent gene of invisibility I found out that, with invisibility comes great responsibility. Well that might have worked for Spider man but it didn’t with me, because I didn’t have much of that at the time.
It all happened so fast that it took less time than a particle in an atom smasher to get across the table. Dishes, cups, gravy and me all met on top of the table and I was staring straight into dad’s eyes. All I heard was DAMN YOU, I told you to pass the grave to her first, NOW PASS THE F*$%# GRAVY. What? I asked. I thought that I did? You did, but you didn’t offer it to her first. As I reached for the gravy to pass it to her … all I remember was the gravy disappearing. And finding myself staring an inch from the old man.
Now my dad and Dick had this unique stare, it put the fear of all sins straight threw everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed. When they looked at you, no matter who you were, you damn well better show submission, and you did, immediately. Now I was up close and personal with that stare, eye to eye, and not going anywhere. My body was laying on top of the kitchen table with the evening’s meal spread all over me. Dishes were still crashing around me and gravy dripping from the old man’s bald head. I was dressed out like a pig on a spit, the sacrificial lamb, being tenderized with a shoe.
Evelyn was pounding me on the head, with her high-heeled shoe, dad was under me pounding my face like a roofing nail, and I still had no idea what the hell it was all about. Jesus he was one hell of a strong man, even though I outweighed him and was one inch taller, it was all I could do to talk him. We rolled and rolled until I got him between my legs. By now I had realized that when I was blind, like when boxing, I had to take my glasses off. What a revelation, if I could take you to the ground and got my legs around you, I could suffocate you enough with my legs to make you pass out,
Somehow I got on top and I had him by the his neck, and for the first time in my life I had complete control over anything, let alone any one, and I wasn’t going to be denied. My fist was ready to pulverize his face as I felt Evelyn she was still smacking my head with her spikes. When I turned to her and looked at her; I told her that if she didn’t stop smacking my head I would get up and throw her through the window. She stopped. Dad just looked at me when I looked at him and, I said don’t move. He didn’t. I don’t know how long, but I just said, you ain’t worth it and got up, and went to my room and packed. Evelyn was in their bedroom peering out, but when she looked at me this time she knew her control over me was gone. So I went straight over to Ralph’s. I knew Irene was home alone and she wouldn’t let dad over when he was mad at me.
I headed up the bank and when I made it to the road I saw Ralph on his way to Anderson’s, I thought he had already gone, but this would work, it was a fast ride out of there. The next thing I knew he was asking me if I wanted a ride to the Burg. I got in as he drove off. As Ralph passed the Turk’s I knew my fate was sealed. It was the first time that I looked down at the driveway and felt empty, my life was draining out of me, and I must have gone catatonic again, I was numb.
The next thing I knew I was walking into my sister’s house on Forest Avenue Jamestown and it wasn’t until then that I realize that John was standing there, saying to, put my stuff in the spare bedroom at the top of the stairs and watch the kids so he could pick Audrey up from work. New schools, new rules, new bullies to fight.
By the time I got to John and Aud’s house they already knew what was going on because dad had called guessing that I would go there. I’m not sure but I suspect that they agreed that I would stay until summer was over then go back at school time. I had been coming up on the weekends off and on for a while helping them remodel their new house and baby sit. John had served in the Army so he used his GI Bill to buy the house. It was an old two-story house with an attic, a full stand up basement, with oak floors and beautiful molding. They were in the process of striping decades of wallpaper from the walls by hand.
I had firsthand experience stripping floors, wall and ceilings when I live with Dick so my help was greatly appreciated. Stripping wallpaper didn’t take a genius, just toughed knuckles and strong arms. Babysitting was another story that included watching, feeding, and picking up after Jeff, Nancy, Mike and Kevin. Four Tasmanian Devils that were like a kid’s gyro top spun from some kind of cosmetic dust from hell. But even they still had to obey the laws of physics and by seven o’clock they would start to spin out, but not quit down.
With the last bath, jimmies on and a bed time story I could contain them in their rooms for the final round of I want a drink, I got to go pee, I can’ sleep, until they conked out. The only worry was Jeff because he would walk in his sleep. I found him at the door going outside to play more than once, in the winter.
Mike was a hand full. One day I was sitting watching Loonies Toons with Nancy and Jeff when I heard a resounding bang from the kitchen then a loud Ha hahahaaa from Mike. When I went in only to find him sitting on the floor in front of the refrigerator laughing like a banshee. I picked him up and went back into the living room and continued watching He-Haw with Jeff and Nancy. About a minute later another BANG flowed by a horrendous laugh and when I turned the corner he got up and ran into the living room and jumped on the couch with the other kids. So this time I sat beside him determined to figure what was going on. Sure enough as “pop-fizz-oh what a relief its” the Alka-Seltzer ad came on he took off to the kitchen. I think he was on to me though because he just stood there until I turned back for the living room. As I peeked around the corner and he thought I was out of site he claimed up on a chair stood on the top rung then grabbed the top of the fridge and hulled his diapered ass to the top. Before I could close the distance to grab him he stood straight up with his hands over his head then quickly bent his knees and jumped as high as he could and landed flat on his ass wailing in a laughter that popped my ears. That was Mike.
All four of them had ADHD and all the other letters of the alphabet that had to do with hyper-activity. They were on the run from the minuet they got up until the sandman dumped a pick-up-truck full of sand in their eyes. Even then they walked, talked and twitched in their sleep and an hour after their eyes were closed. I was sixteen naive and happy to do something new even though it was a huge responsibility. I guess I accepted it as normal besides Aud and John were young and did all kinds of thing I liked to do.
Audrey worked nights at Johnny’s Lunch in Brooklyn Square downtown. John was a paid fireman and worked at different station threw out the city with a different schedule from week to week, four days on, four days off, for two weeks then two weeks then two weeks off. During his time off he worked at various part time jobs. When they weren’t working they would go camping at John’s family camp out on Frewrun road at Little Bone Run outside of Frewsburg. Jeff and Nancy were, Boy and Girl scouts, Audrey was Nancy troop leader so there was always activities and crafts to build or do.
John and Audrey loved to hunt, fish, ski, ice and roller skate, and march in the Moose drum band and Audrey marched in the color guard. By the time I got there John had joined the Scottish Kilt band and talked me into being a tenor drummer. I love to play the drums but the only lessons I had were from Lenny Davis who had taken professional drum lessons and taught me a little bit, like the double paradiddle, rim shot, and triple stroke roll. That was about all I needed to play the tenor drum, that and how to twirl the fat drum sticks without flinging them all the way to the Warner dam. Actually twirling took longer to learn even though they had a leather string to hold them to your wrist.
We marched in all the parades around western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. At first I was a bit embarrassed to wear the Kilt but when John told me all the girls loved them I couldn’t wait to get them on. He was right, they always asked if we wore underwear under them or not, so I soon got used to it and would brazenly show them that I did, but they never seemed disappointed. Besides that at sixteen I got to get in to all the beer tents with being asked how old I was. John would let me have at least one beer that he knew of but he had the gift of gab and soon was off talking some poor soul in to oblivion. As long as I didn’t overdo it nobody had any problems with it.
Summer blew by in a flash and the next thing I knew was the old man and Evelyn were at the door to bring me back to Frewsburg to go back to school. I wasn’t expecting him so when I opened the door with a cigarette in my mouth I was a bit surprised and not sure what to do but he just said, see that you’re smoking now. Yelp was all I could stammer, then stood back and let him entered. Then I told him I had no plans to leave, paradise, not in those terms but I knew I wasn’t going back. Even if I had to live in the park or the woods or something I sure as hell didn’t want to go back to her bitching.
I guess John and Audrey kind of new I wouldn’t go and somehow we all worked it out. Everything but the details was agreed on. The details going to up to Audrey, John, and me to work out and then get back to dad and he would approve or not.
Most of the rules were already in place, watching the kids, cooking and picking up after them when they went to bed and such. I think I would have agreed to walk to hell after crawling through a mountain of cow shit before going back to dads or Dick’s house. School was one problem and the other was the fact they could hardly afford to take care of the kids and themselves let alone adding on another mouth to feed. It was then establish that: I would have to get a job so that I could buy the things I would needed like clothes, glasses, personal supplies, and anything else that would inevitably come up. I would Baby sit Monday through Friday then the weekend was mine to do as I pleased as long it didn’t involve the cops. I would have to stay out of trouble and was told in no uncertain terms if not it was back to dad.
John laid out the lay of the land as to what he and Aud would put up with and what they wouldn’t. John told me that as big as Jamestown is that they would know the second that I did anything, anything at all good or bad. He explained that his uncle John was a police Lieutenant. That he worked for the fire department and the police worked hand and hand with them. Also that Audrey worked at Johnny’s Lunch and everyone including the Mayor, who happened lived next to us, and they would all know who I was by association. So they would know when and where I was without asking anyone. I didn’t test it but within a month John came in one day and asked me how my visit on Martin road was that day just to let me know what he said was true, so-and-so told him where I was and when I left and I had no idea who so-and-so was.
Audrey called Sam at Johnny’s and he told her that he would take me on as a stock boy, so where I would work was taken care of. Next I had to finish High School with passing grades so I wouldn’t be going to Summer School, but I usually did. I knew how to budget from watching Dick and Muriel do it every week, so that was a concept I at least new how to do in theory, applying that concept would be something else to prove.
John took me downtown and introduced me to the owner of Lander’s Mans Clothing store and set up an account, then off to Carnahand’s another man’s clothing store to do the same because Lander’s which didn’t carry shoes. I already had an eye doctor but I had to go over there and make my own account on my own so that when I needed them I could get them. With that all set up I could figure out where I wanted to spend my Howard Huge check on my own.
The next problem was a huge problem, school. Because I no longer live with dad who lived in Frewsburg, and although Dick was still my league guardian he lived in Falconer, John and Audrey surly weren’t going to adopt me so I had to pay tuition to go to Jamestown. This too would have to come out of my pocket to the tune of three hundred and some odd dollars and it was up to me to prove that I paid every account and save every receipt because I was using their reputation and personal word to the commitments I had made.
I went to work at Johnny’s the next day and got my schedule. I started out working Saturday and Sundays then gradually more time would be added on as I learned new things. I started out at seventy cents an hour, which was good pay. Some furniture factory workers were only getting ninety cents an hour, which was minimum wage for the state at the time.
With the details in place I went to work and school every day, to start, no what I went to work just because Audrey worked there and knew when I had to be there and I damn well not be late without reason.
School. When they tested me to determine what classes I would take for my sophomore year they told me that I should take regents courses. I was too scared to death to say no. I no idea just what to do about anything really all of a sudden I realize what it was like to have to face life on life’s terms.
New school, new rules, new bullies
I had been left to mine own devices before but this seemed like a whole new story. Everything was coming so fast that most of the time I had no time to think about it so I just took one thing at a time. They say that God will not give you more than you can handle, well he gave me a five-pound bag with six pounds of shit over flowing it all the time.
My sophomore year of classes consisted of: Algebra, Earth science, English, Drafting I, Music, and History and of course Gym. In my junior year I had: Geometry, English, Music, Drafting II, The Constitution, and Woodshop and of course Gym. My senior year I had: Algebra II, the Articles of the constitution, English, Drafting III, Music, metal shop, and of course Gym, god how I hated Gym except in the summer and we went outside.
The first year I actually brought books home and earnestly did the best I could. Math was just impossible; I failed Algebra I again but finally got through it in summer school. I really didn’t have time to stay after because I had to save that for my screw up and natural ability of being the class clown. Everyone would laugh except for the teachers it was one of those chuckle thing except it came with detention. It got so that I knew just when to interject and when to keep my dumb ass mouth shut so I didn’t get caught too often because It pissed john and Audrey off if I had to stay after I learned what days that I had to be there and when I could slack off, but I always pushed the envelope.
Like I said the first year I did do everything to the best of my ability and got through the first year.
Hi-Ho a sailing I will go
I had to register for the draft so I went down and got my draft card. I was labeled more likely to be drafted in the first round than anyone else. A few days later Dick showed up, he would stop and talked to Audrey from time to time to talk to her and he told me he wanted me to go with him to meet someone he knew on Hazeltine Avenue. It turned out to be the Navel Reserves and the man was John Nelson, a Navel recruiter, so after six hours of singing papers and swearing something to the tune of, I will uphold the rights of the constitution of the United States, and God. With my hand in the air and dressed like a clown but as proud as a peacock and I was an able-bodied seaman, signed, sealed, and soon to be delivered. I didn’t know then but Dick was smart enough to know that I would be first to go to a place called Viet Nam and I would never make it in the Army anyway.
That’s when my world rocked with all kinds of possibilities and I would magically transferred into a man and truly didn’t know it at that time. The Reservist met every Tuesday night, and I was introduced in to a man’s world right off the get go. We started by marching every meeting left foot or not around and around the compound, and then off to classes. I wanted to be an electronics mate but my math just didn’t justify it but I kept trying until I was told otherwise. At first it was kind of scary but as I got to now the other guys it turned in to fun on a new scale.
At first I didn’t know what I had in my wallet, it was the Naval Reserve identification card, a gold passport to of rite of passage. Although I was only eighteen, everyone who had anything to do with the card like bar tenders, thought I was twenty-one. Oh yes, pure Platinum gold, government approved, ID way better than a driver’s license. People looked at the age on a driver’s license but all I had to do was open my wallet and no one bothered to give a second glance.
After the meeting was over about eight or nine guys would all jump into Tom Dorsey’s big Catty which didn’t have any shocks and bad springs so it bounced our head of the head liner all the way down Hazeltine to the first Ranch on Washington Street, before it burnt to the ground some time later. I didn’t have to be home at any certain time so it was a balls out time and the drinks flowed like the Conewnago River. I was off on a different career and like the transformation to manhood and seaman ship I was about to add alcoholism to the ever-growing list of the transformation. My junior year was going to be different as my list of aquatints grew as I met more and more people.
When I was sixteen I met Nancy Pavoloc. She was Audrey’s baby sitter before I got there and Aud was her replacement mother. Nancy wasn’t home less but she had shit-heads for parents. Her mother was an overbearing foul-mouthed dominate she bitch of a gargoyle. The thing that came out of her mouth would make a seasoned sailors red faced. Her father was even worse. He would slap her around then give commands the demanded respect from the devil himself. She was two years older than me and looked like a cheerleader. I was in teenager heaven when her and her girlfriends were around.
Nancy always bugged me about not going out dancing at one of the Hip-hop sites and not having fun, she thought that I was too serious and boring for a teen. The truth was even worse, I was too afraid and thought I was too ugly to go out and have fun, besides I didn’t know how to dance. When I finally blundered out the facts one night she took it on herself to teach me to dance and told Aud that we were going to go up to the reserves and break my cherry, as she put it.
One night when I was babysitting she came in with a bottle of booze, her 45’s of Chubby Checker’s The Twist, a new dance craze from American Bandstand’s top forty. She told me to go upstairs and get a towel then we went to work. At first I thought that the towel would be for the mess we might make, but it wasn’t, it was going to be used to teach me the Twist. She had me grab the towel with one hand then wrap it around my back and grab the other end with the other and make like I was drying the hard parts of my back then twist my feet in the opposite direction and sh-bang I became a dancing fool, I was totally hooked for life.
When we were done she called Aud and told her to get the Cardosie girl next door to watch the kids next Friday so we could go to the Naval Reserve dance. After that I was outward bound twisting to new heights. I found that my ugliness dissolve when I danced and gained a new-found confidence that I never had before.
It took me two years and two summer schools to get through ninth grade math. I finally passed with a sixty-eight, one year and one summer school to get through Geometry with a sixty-six but they were done and I was getting better results with the help from Bruce, a new found friend.
I hardly brought homework home now because I did most of it at study hall. The only book I brought home was my math book and I did that at the Forest bar and Grill it was down the hill from the house, on the other side of Washington Street after the steps leading to the short cut from Forest Avenue down to the Square. The owner thought I was in collage as I sat there and had a beer, ate beer nuts and solved math problem I was sixteen and did it until I finished school.
Bird shit on the bridge
I first met Bruce, Jarvis, and Bird shit on the Washington Street Bridge on my way to a dance at Midway Park skating rink. I had hidden four beers that I stole from John, one at a time and had them rapped in a paper bag with tape wrapped tight around them thinking no one would figure out what they were.
It was the first thing Bruce noticed he had an analytic mind and it was fully activated. Bruce, Jarvis, and Birdshit blocked my way and were headed to Bruce’s house to get his mother’s car before going to Midway. Bruce was about six foot three and went around one-eighty the other two were my size with Birdshit being the taller of the two. As I maneuvered to get around them Bruce would adjust his body close to me to prevent me from passing them. Finally I got tired of this house shit and waited for the light to change at Washington Street and Forest to change then timed it so I could scoot across the bridge to the other side and go on my way thinking that they would leave me be. Like that was going to happen.
They crossed behind me and Bruce kept saying hay how about a beer you got four, one each. Come how about it, it’s a long way to midway and were going to my house and get my mom and dad’s car you can ride with us if you just give us a beer. That comic book light when off and the bulb glowed, why not? We guzzled the four beers down right there on the bridge and went off to fetch the car. It was the beginning of the four screw ups carters. Off we went to Midway in his mom’s 68 red and white four door Chevy that look like mommy’s car, but it was sure better than walking or hitch hiking thirty some miles.
The dance got to be an every weekend ritual that started at the liquor store on Cherry Street buying Orange Mist. A mixture of white wine and orange juice that came in a pint chilled at forty degrees. We each got a pint and gave Birdshit a swallow from each of our bottles because he was only fourteen and his parents wouldn’t give him any money and he was too young to work.
When we got to Midway we had to wait for the skater to finish before the dance could start so we went to the bar downstairs and started to get wasted. After drinking a few beers we went upstairs to the bar and stud under the heater that blasted a constant wind of supper heated air directly down on you as you entered from outside to the dance floor. I would send a rush threw out your body as the alcohol rushed to your head then away we would stagger threw the heard of female buffalo meat that migrated from Pennsylvania to screw New York men. The reverse was when we would go to Pa. To single out and ambush female pray that we could take out to our cars to dress or in this case undress.
Midway got boring because the female beef didn’t seem to like a bunch screwed up drunks trying to fondle them or just being arrogant asses braying as they passed by so we would change up and go to the Celoron Skating rink dances and repeat the same braying ass making process all over again.
One night when I actually got a girl to dance with me I missed my ride with Bruce and had to walk back from the dance at Celoron and was making my way hitching a ride home when three guys came up behind me. I knew that they were looking for trouble just by the way they were posturing. So I headed toward the other way back to Jamestown. That was bad mistake, they followed then started to overtake me because I was to drink to run very fast. As they closed and I looked back I hadn’t noticed that one had peeled off and got in front of me. Bang, with my face beat in I hit the ground and was engulfed in a set of linebackers arms one of which was making short work of my face with the other two kick at my ribs and back.
When I came to I made my way to the house of the yard I lay bleeding in front of and pounded their door until they came. After some time an old man came to the door and told me to go bleed somewhere else then slammed the door almost in my mashed up face, but I was in no shape to move so I just kept pounding until he finely gave up and called my brother-in-law John.
So there I laid in pain in thirty some degrees bleeding with paid racking my broken body. So much for the Good Samaritan, seems that they weren’t the Christian type. John tried to talk me in to going to the hospital but I wouldn’t have any part of that. All I wanted to do was go to bed.
But the next night I did go see the doctor at about 9:00 at night. I met Ollie and Jarvis at the Doctor’s rail. It was on Front Street adjacent to Lincoln Junior High School. It was an office building that was built on the bank of Front Street. It jutted out over the hill that ran almost vertical for about Three hundred feet below meeting Steel Street. The trees didn’t grow on the bank just below us but about twenty yards below Tall Maples shaded the area below giving the place an eerily serene atmosphere appropriate to getting buzzed after which we’d head down town.
One night after we hit the doctor’s rail we headed for the Ranch to finish of the evening with a round of draft beers. Jarvis was as usual fucked but a bit more so than we though. He wanted to get a pack of butts at the News Room at the corner of Wash and Third. Just up the street from the Ranch. You could enter form Washington Street and it open up on Third. The place was about a half a block long and narrow we been buying cigarettes they for some time but it would be the last time after this night. As you walked in the newspapers were lined up the whole length of one side of the room. Jarvis took one step inside and let loose with a, projectile vomit that the devil would be provide of. He covered the hole lea-nth and berth of ever newspaper and magazine in the place. Ollie and I were impressed unlike the owner who promptly called the cops. Ollie grabbed jarvis and we high tailed it out of there into the hands of the police. They happened to be just down the street. It was only two feet but Jarvis hit the sidewalk pretty hard when Ollie dropped him and we split across the street. When we turned around the cops had Jarvis. It was Bob Raider so we relaxed as the attempted to load Tom in to the patrol car. The fun was just beginning. Bob had tom by the back of the pants and the collar of his shirt and tossed him through the open doors into cars back seat and through he went after one bounce off the seat he hit the payment on the other side and rolled out in front of a car coming down the street. As they drove off Ollie noticed that they were headed away from the police station and across the bridge. The next day Jarvis told us that they took him home and dragged him up bank of his house and left him at his door step. He said he remembered that and that they took off with the eeriness blasting and left him there which the mud that filled the back of his pants when they drug him up the bank and a hell of a hangover.
We never littered the place. Not after we got caught one night in Ollie’s uncle’s Asphalt Company on Livingston Avenue. We would go that way to avoid the cops on our way to Lake Chautauqua to swim or fish for the ladies. The damn cops had us boxed in with one car and two cops. There were eight of us killing of a case of Iron City quarts that we bought from Paul’s store. Paul was going to file to go bankruptcy in a month if business didn’t pick. After me and Ollie starting to go there and buying cases of ice cold Iron City quarts we told everyone and business picked up. Paul had a huge refrigeration system in the cellar that kept beer at the optimal tempters, 48 degrees. At these tempters even the horrible taste of panther piss went down like silk. Besides after the first quart no one tasted anything anyway.
The Ollie Mobile
Ollie had a bunch of rites that had to be performed before anything got started.
His dad worked for the city and was one big dude. Ollie was big to me, but so was everyone else. But his dad was a mountain of a man, and as hard as a diamond. A hard ass to him as Dick was to me. The first time his mom and dad invited me in I got the look down. I must have passed his inspection, maybe because he wasn’t much different than Dick, and I wasn’t imitated by the look.
Ollie would take his mom into using the car and as soon as his dad instructed in what we weren’t going to do we left, to do just that. With key in hand we would go pick everyone else up by stopping at Jarvis house to get him and Bird Shit. Then we would got to Paul’s and pool all our money to get beer. Bird Shit and Jarvis usual had only change so Ollie and I made up the rest. I went in because I had an ID. Teenagers Gold Card, my Navy Reserves Id with a picture displaying a balled head guy and glasses that didn’t remotely look like me.
Well, we had to get the car back in the same condition that we took off in which was as slow as his Grandma, until we turned up Colfax Street, then Ollie would open up the four barrel the rest of the way. We all learned to drive in his mom’s car, first: was Jarvis, then me, with Bird Shit silently bringing up the rear. Each week we would all meet at Ollie’s and take off for the dirt roads. By now Ollie figured out how to turn the odometer back, like they did in the Schuster’s car lots. So we began to expanded territory too include the back roads of the county. With the night stars of the town below us observed the big city of Jamestown.
One night the gas pedal came off on somehow disappeared. Ollie drove all over town to find one. We went to every car lot only to come away empty. So he headed down every street in town until we came across one on Seventh Street. We had just turned off Washington Street and were two blocks down Seventh when he spotted a 68 just like his mom’s. He parked the car hand like a Ninja crepe up to it and extracted it silently then got back in the car put it neutral and we pushed the car down the street until Ollie felt safe.
The reservoir was the perfect spot. There was a drive in parking lot for Willard Park. You could sit and watch as other teens trying to get laid, get drunk, and gassed like us. Often we discussed whose old man was the worst that week. Bird Shit always won. I didn’t have to put up with that shit any more so I just drank and drummed “Wipe out” or to the music blasting from the radio.
One night Ollie told me to drive because I just got my permit. I was nervous before I even took the wheel. I must have shook the car down the road when Ollie said stop, I did. He made me get in the back and told Bird Shit to take over. He got in with me and handed me a quart of IC beer of which I took down to calm my nerves. It worked Ollie had me drive again when I was sufficiently stewed and I drove like an expert.
West End Street was another spot you could view the city from above. Way better than Science class. As we downed some Orange Mist and chased it down with Iron City beer and a dose of Rolling Stones “Jumping Jack Flash” you just had to here Ollie and his rudiments, Ollie quote. “ISH that’s good stuff”-or- “Drink all you can and sell the rest”, “DPFFN&K. YMGTH if you do “FY sq. LB” “&” “GDIATH”. The last is “God damn it all to hell” DPFFN.
The “God squad” was always on patrol prowling around down town on Sundays. Sundays were grate I got done work and I sure as hell not going to church, so we went down town. The drunks were sleeping in, and the churchgoers were in church, churching. So down town was as bear as a baboon’s rump. We actually had the whole town to our self’s. We would go to the top of North Main and Sixth Street and skateboard all the way down to Johnny’s lunch in the square. But like everything else it took too long between rides, besides that I usually hit the viaduct before getting that far. Ollie wasn’t much better, but Tom was a wiz at it.
So onetime when Jarvis took to lone to get back me and Ollie stayed at the top of the hill but we were bored and went looking for the Coke machine that was in front of the gas station between sixth and fifth Street. We were sucking it down when we saw Jarvis working his way between fourth and fifth. Then Ollie spotted the tires. The discarded tires that came from the customer’s cars, which were piled up, by the side of the building.
By then Tom got back and joined in grabbing a tire and started rolling them down the street. We were at the top of Potters Ally when Ollie’s tire got lose and went sailing down the alley like a drag racer on nitro. It bounced of the building but continued down the alley all the way to First Street. You know we weren’t about to let a good thing go. Tom rolled his but it stopped about two streets down so I sent mine sailing. It bounced over Tom’s and kept going and I thought it would make all the way when got to 3 Ed Street it was stopped abruptly by a cop car. We were still running when we got to the Six Street Bridge before we felt safe.
Lightning, no—White lightning oh NO
When we got bored we would venture down town, usually when Ollie’s dad was pissed off and he wouldn’t let Ollie’s mom give him the car no matter how much shit she out up with so we had to walk. We start by meeting at my house or from Johnny’s after work. If it was from Johnny’s we would hit the Narrow Gage, the town house, or go listen to one of the Knight Brother’s practice singing “On Broadway” in the building on the other side of the ally going to Warner’s damn and Noah Ark Hardware store.
One night Ollie called and told me to meet him at Jarvis’s house, so I did. Tom new someone that had White Lighten so we took off to his house. When we got there was maybe ten people playing poker, so I joined in for a while. Ollie told Tom to get going because we were headed to the dance at the school and it ended at midnight. He acted like we were going to miss out on something so Tom told the guy to get us some booze.
He told us to follow him to the cellar, which we did. Once we got accustom to the low light, we stood in front of the largest keg I have ever seen. It was a five hundred gallon keg. Five hundred gallon was legal to have, we were told because the constitution allows one per person- per household.
That’s what we were told but we really didn’t give a shit as long as we could partake. And partake we did. Or should I say I did. He poured of a gallon masonry jug and we went upstairs and resumed playing cards waiting for everyone else to leave. I had a sixteen-ounce glass full and while our host kept saying take it easy on that shit. I was the only one that didn’t hear him. That was the last thing I remembered until I woke up in jail. Some thing I did recalled. Like when the cops came and I thought that the telephone pole was closer than I thought and stumbled out into the street trying to lean on it. That’s when Bob (The cop) tossed me in to the back of the patrol car.
It all started when we left the dance because they thought we were to drunk and I reeked with urinal air fresher so they kicked us out. We wondered down town and the fun started. We started at the Hotel Jamestown ballroom we heard that there was a dance there but it was for old fogies, but before we left I had to take a leak so we went to the bathrooms upstairs. For some reason I decided to vandalize the place.
Smart, dunking me I had to tear off the drip bottle from the urinal and splash it around the room. But most of it went on me. We left and started down Cherry, then down Second Street when we pass the bank on the corner of North Main and Second Streets. It had an outside spigot so when I turned it on the handle came off so I stuck it my pocket and left the water run. Ollie and Tom went to the bank on the other corner and waited for me to stagger over and join them.
The bank they were at had two pillars with a ledge that had flowerpots on them so Ollie was sitting on one of the ledges and I joined Tom sitting in the vestibule. We were chatting about how we got tossed from the dance when a beat cop came by and starting to tell Ollie to get his dumb ass of the ledge. Ollie told him to go F— himself and hit him on his head with a full beer can knocking him down. Tom and Ollie got the hell out there. I was still trying to stand up without falling down. About that time the cop regained his footing and I had made it across the street. Ollie and Tom were down by the viaduct yelling at me to run but all I could do was stagger over to a car and fall on it. Of course I had to pick a new Catty with a telescoping antenna and it snapped off.
I got restitution for the antenna thirty-six seventy-six because it had to be special ordered from the dealer, and indefinite probation for leaving the water on at the bank, but more than likely because I stunk up the Jail and the court room for days. At first I had to go every week, but after two weeks he went over my sentence and decided that I was probably the only one that actually reported but was always on time. He told me to come once a month and if he wasn’t there I could just report to his sectary and leave. So I did and he was never there. But I went every month and reported.
It took a few months before Aud and John trusted me to go out on my own but, time flies when you’re having fun. Soon things got too busy to get in to any serious benders for a while. Even without school, babysitting, working at Johnny’s, and the Navy I had plenty to do.
God I hate Gym
Gym was a bad place for a nerd, that wasn’t a nerd. I was as far from smart as I was from athletic, and fear was stamped like a tattoo on my face and in my body language. The truth was somewhere in between. I was competitive but got routinely humiliated. Sometimes fate would let me have one, which only led me to believe there would be hope of being a hero like my brother Bill. Like fighting I could lick it out but usually ended up taking the beating and the loser in everyone eyes.
By the time I got to high school nothing had changed. The bad came with good. The bad started the first day. Dodge ball, my favorite game, bullies delight. At least they insisted that I take my glass off, I’m sure they knew I was going to catch the ball with my face. The coach had us divide up into two teams. Bullies on one side and wimps on the other. Now picture this: guys six foot and a hundred and fifty pounds, some, but mostly more, against five foot or less ninety pounds maybe one ten scared bunnies or deer with the head lights of fifteen semis at full steam down your Bonnie path.
This went on and on until one day, like it happens to me sometimes, I had enough. This was it. In the last class we had dodge ball, the same bullies, a two hundred plus and the biggest two hundred plus that just got his testosterone nut off on beating on me. He had hit my face about fifteen times. Actually everyone on that side would step aside like always and let him get the ball. Then I became the moving target dodging in and out of the other bunnies that more resembled twigs in your front yard. This far in to the semester the twigs got wise to me and push me into the front to get wailed in the face. But it didn’t matter he was the coaches pet so if he crossed the line somehow it was OK. He would get me in to the corner against the wall and with the force of a ball beaded hammer on a penny slam the damn thing in to my face. Then he would laugh and go get the ball and do it until the bell rang.
The only reprieve I had was, going to boot came which gave me two weeks from this ass wipe, what a tradeoff. When I got back the class was playing basketball and I thought I was safe. No, not from George he was a basketball jock and was god at it. I had no interest in basketball and no clue what the rules were let alone what I was supposed to do with the ball when I got it. Well George did. He did the same thing with this ball as he did with the dodge ball. He would take his pin out of his shorts and deflate the ball so that when it hit my face it was sure to cover it all in one hit. If it bounced off he would make the proper adjustments and wailed me harder just to make sure it was at the proper weight and spread.
He soon tired of that and started a new game it was called knock the dweeb on his ass as hard as he could. You can’t deny physics: moving mass=George against an unmovable object=me All this equates in to object=me finding the floor whit him jumping on top in lure of getting the ball back so he could do it again. Like dodge ball everybody scattered the moment he got the ball but this time I had boot camp lessons. The bigger they are the harder they fall and I was about to apply my new found fondness of physics against him he just didn’t know it yet. The first two run I let him hit me but I got the ball and ran to the basket and scored knowing that would piss him of. Boy did it ever. So he went back to his end to bring the ball from out of bounds I was planted at mid court with none of our class mats from either side in the court with him or me. It was man on man as they say.
Usually he had a shit-eating grin on his face but this time he had hate and total imitate flaring from his huge nostrils like a bull in bullring. Out he came on a dead run right for me I was all lined up for him with steam spouting from his nostrils and head lowered he came he was fast for a fat man so the distance closed fast, But I held my own I bent my knees and placed my hands on my knees and waited for him to lower his shoulder about a foot away I leaned to my right then stuck my foot out and down he came like a n earthquake the whole gym rumbled as two hundred pounds or blubber hit the court. I was on him in no time and I mounted his back planting my knees in the center of his shoulders then grabbed his thick Italian hair and slammed his head in to the floor three times as hard as I could got up and walked to the showers.
The showers were no refuse for me I knew I wouldn’t have time to get dress and get away so I just tried to stay away from him. He wasn’t about to let me get the best of him and I knew it but I also knew even if I got away him and his three other brothers would be on me like stink on shit sometime during the week so I kept running the maze of lockers hope he would tire. Fat chance he was pissed and bent for Montezuma’s revenge, he had a heart (mine) ready for sacrifice.
As we rounded the corner of the lockers I was in a flat out run and was jumping a bench when I was stopped in midair, kbam, right in to Fred Smerless. Now Frank was a huge man six-foot eight and three hundred pounds. I bounced off his chest and landed flat on my ass in front of him just as George came up behind me. Frank reached down and grabbed my jersey and lifted me up and behind him with one hand then grabbed George with the other. Face to face with George he said: I like this boy George and I see what you did to him, now leave him be so I don’t have to come after you and your brothers. Do you understand George? By then the coach came in and asked George if there was something wrong. Frank looked down at George and told coach he had everything under his control. Coach just turned and went to his office.
God I love gym
Not all gym classes were bad though when spring came we got to go outside and play softball of shorts. It was the only sports thing that they would let me ware my glasses. I could actually hit it out of the fenced in area of the back of the school. Now that would be because of the way they played then. It was kind of like batting practice. You would team up and one would pitch and the other would bat. A dream comes true for Jarvis and me because by then we were dying for a smoke. Jarvis was as shitty at sports as I was but he could underhand a softball and put it the same place more times than not and I had a pretty good swing. At least good enough to get the ball over the fence that ran the back edge of the field, which was about one hundred to one fifty feet away. The rule was that if you hit it over both you and the pitcher had to go outside the fenced that ran the school parameter and find it. Well because of all the action on the field and the fact that the coach was more interested in the track team than us losers no one paid us no mind.
Tom and I couldn’t wait to get it out of the park because before we left the locker we would roll up two cigarettes and matches in our tee shirts. The only drawback was that there was a certain amount of uncertainty in the pitch and hit. It would take about four or five hits to get the range and distance correct because we didn’t know exactly where they would have us line. Because the track team ran laps right at the outside edge of the fence in line of where the ball would go. I hit one on purpose one day and took his pins out from under him so Tom and I got detention. It was a big gym class about fifty kids all doing something different.
From the train ride into the sardine can
I got my orders to go to boot camp. Everyone I knew had gone to the Great Lakes training instillation at Great Lakes Illinois but because of the Viet Nam war it was over booked so the navy sent me to Quonset Point Road Island. The Naval base was the home of the Sea Bees advanced training for construction engineers run by harden combat Marines. The Sea Bees are the first ones on the beach just after the troops invade. They were the forerunner of the Navy Seals before the need for Seals was formed. The beaches had to be cleared of explosives before they could send in the Marines. Then Quonset huts built and runway established so fighter protection and supplies could be flown in. Sometimes there were still enemy forces still there firing at them as they worked. Real gritty guys working under fire as they laid runways. Most were civilians at the beginning.
The day before I left Nancy Pavoloc had gotten married so I had my dutiful bag packed and train ticket with me, which was a good thing because the reception was a typical Pollack ceremony plenty of booze. John actually had to carry my duffel bag, shoulder me and place me in a birthing compartment. He then give the conductor my ticket and orders instructed him to tell me where I was and what I had to do if and when I sobered up enough to take direction.
I came to awareness somewhere past Binghamton New York the next morning in feeling like I was in someone else s body. It had to be because mine was somewhere else and this one hurt too damn much. This was my first train ride so everything I did was new. The first thing to do was to find the dining car and act like a sailor, so I ordered steak and eggs with a Tom Collins chaser. No one asked me for ID when I was dressed in my uniform any more. I gagged the Toms down first and ordered another one then took my first bit of eggs as they stared back at me and begged me not to be eaten. After one bit I gave in to their request. It was good fortune that the latrine was only a few feet away because the eggs had no problem escaping. Two Toms later I manage to talk the stake in to complying with my request to get well again and the Toms were doing their job of bringing my alcohol level to its proper state.
At start I was the only sailor on the train but the closer we got to New York City more and more got on. By the time we got to the Base it was almost all sailors. I think they were drafted anything that could walk on two legs and some that may have had more. When we hit the last stop there was no drought that we could have filled a stadium and maybe fielded two teams to play. When the train stopped there was about twenty buses waiting for us, I hung back but found myself being herded, then shoved, then as I added my bag to the back of the bus and turned around it was too late grab a seat. I was glad because they made anyone with a seat have someone sit on top of them. If you didn’t comply they found the biggest man (and believe me there were plenty fat guys to go around) and shoved him on top as hard as they could.
By the time they got done a sardine would have more room in a can and the only thing missing was juice and I bet five to one someone probably add that too along with the sweat and B.O. the juice was beginning to fill the can. I guess I should have known something bazaar was about to happen when I packed the last duffel bag in place well that filled the last pocket of air on the back bench set that ran the width of the bus along with the last two aisle sets on both sides. It was an hour or more to the base from the train. It was ninety some degrees. And although the sun was shining it was dark, or maybe I passed out from the wayfaring stench of men that hadn’t had a showered in two days.
When I really was about to pass out from the pressure of bodies, the heat, the smell, and then being compressed into a faceless log of shit in the smallest small space of a meat carrying bus destination for devil in HELL. I always knew that the closer you got to the devil the hotter it would get and the more violent he would be. Here I was only one step from finding out up close and very much in person what his disposition would be. The second my foot hit the hot sandy windblown compound the devil had me by my silk navy tie. You know that black thing that is around every sailor’s neck, the one that they told you time and time again that the proper way to tie it was in a square knot. He was yelling over the top of over three hundred other stupefied dogs for sacrifice saying look you assholes this is what will happen to you if you don’t learn to tie a square knot, do you all hear me? Here I was at the wrong end of that very wrongly tied silk tie getting tighter chocking the life from me as he swung me round and around him as my feet almost never touched the ground. Around and around until every other non-swinging person answered: YES SIR drill sergeant sir. When he finally let go I went sailing in to someone and we both hit the sand and rolled two times before coming to the feet of the next drill sergeant who grabbed us and started barking commands all the way to our barracks. Something about us being the lowest form of shit he had ever laid his eyes on.
The thing about the Navy is there idea of time is not the same as my idea of time. First off their clock is all fucked up; there are too many numbers on them. When they asked what time is it and you say is four o’clock they get right up in your face and snarl it’s sixteen hundred you asshole, you mean to tell me you don’t even know what time it didn’t mommy teach you when you were laid and cracked the shitty shell you were born in? Now take this clock and hang it around your neck until you can tell me what time it is and I want the Captain in the next barracks to here you, you piece of shit, what time is it. Sixteen zero four o’clock, SIR. Louder shit head the Captain can’t hear you, you dumb fuck.
Now the last thing you want to do is get caught doing something wrong like smoking when smoking lamp is out which in boot camp is most of the time because if no one told you that you could smoke you had better not be smoking. One guy got caught he was made to go outside and dig a six long by three foot wide and six feet deep grave for his dead cigarette with a table spoon. That was about nine o’clock at night at three in the morning (fifteen hundred Navy time) they woke us up and mustered all of us while he stood over the grave and blew taps through his thumb ta DA ta DA DA, to the now flag covered smoke. It was raining and cold but we all stood at attention and held a salute until the ceremony was over then we had to march until the rest of the barracks finally got up to muster for the morning. When one screwed up you all screwed up and you all go down for the billing.
Getting the boot
Boot camp is made for hard for a reason. To save not you’re your life but the life of everyone around you, so training and fitness is necessary evil and in boot camp they make it as evil as they possibly can. When we weren’t marching we were running in place, or drilling with the M1. We fast stepped everywhere to class, from class, to the mess hall, back again. I think I marched in my sleep.
One very hot day it was over a hundred they told us we were going to cool of at the pool. I knew by now that just because it sounded good it didn’t mean we were going to like it and I was right. This was the Navy, we are talking about boot camp, and we were going to get the boot, really. They marched us into the pool area and there was a tower there and as I looked up the sergeant shoved me to the bottom rung and said “clime it boot”. I looked up and thought I was going to throw up, this thing was fifty feet high and I don’t care to be any higher than my head. I have a natural fear of heights ever since crawling across the bridge at Kennedy. I was smart enough to keep my eyes straight ahead and not look down and take one rung at a time until I found myself at the top I slowly made my way out to the end of the platform and waited my turn for the dive, I should have felt relived there was no diving board, The sergeant said cross you’re on your arm across your chest and hold your breath, then I felt a kick in my back and off I went straight down feet first at thirty two feet per second squared for one and a half seconds and fifty feet to the water. Wet cement is softer.
I thought my eyes would explode but I was wrong it was going to be my lungs. I never had time to take a deep breath before I was kick in and I was at least fifteen feet underwater faster than the time it took to get there. And as I found out when I first experienced creek water this was no different you still can’t breathe it. When I hit the water I hit it so hard that it actually blew the buttons off my shirt and boy I wished that hadn’t happened because I was about to need them. Part of the exercise was to learn how to float for days if necessary. Just because it’s a good ship, it does not mean it will float forever. Now anyone can float but few can do it for the hours that we were going to be in the water. Not to worry we were about to get hands on experience as to survive which could be days if your ship got shot from under you at sea.
First we had to use our hat as a floating device. You take your hat and swing it over your shoulders then hold it in front of you as you kicked your feet to help hold you up. That was after you threaded water for fifteen minutes fully dressed and no may Wests assist you. The hat actually gave some relief for your arms so you could catch the breath that the dive blew out through your eyes ball sockets. After the hat they had us take off our shirt, now try doing that without drowning. Once you had it off you tie the selves at the very ends. Then you grabbed the shirttails and like the hat you swing it over your head to gather air. When it lands in front of you it is like a balloon with wings. You stick the arms of the sleeves under you and lay on the chest part of the shirt it will hold you quite comfortably for the next fifteen minutes until the air seeps out. After the air escapes from the shirt it’s the pants turn, by tying the legs and buttoning the fly you then by holding them by the waist and again throw them over your head and you had another way to stay alive. When they were no longer able to hold you up you still had you’re under ware and shoes and if they all failed you then you fed your socks to the sharks because they were the only things that wouldn’t keep you up.
Duck and cover
It wasn’t the first time that I fired a weapon; the first was when I lived on Linden Avenue with Dick. The Sprits kids’ father was a police officer that worked for Jamestown police department (JPD) and he would let us shoot his Thirty-eight-snubbed-nose pistol that the detectives used. He would take us out to the Lakewood Rod and Gun shooting range to shoot, plus my brother-in-law John had all kinds or high powered rifles like: The German Mauser, the British En-field, and a Walther P38 hand gun and he let me shoot them all. But this was my first with the m1, but there was a surprise in store for us at the range.
The Marines lined us on the shooting line and instructed us to load our weapons which I did, but as soon as I heard my magazine click in the rifle I heard bang and the dust in front of me sprayed my face as I turned to figure out what the hell happened The drill sergeant was slamming a recruit to the ground and three others came out of nowhere to help him. Just my luck some ass wipe decided to go off his nut and start shooting up the works including me. But I did get qualified and aced it by at least hitting the target.
Learning in the Navy is the polar opposite that of high school. First off they have your undivided attention second if you don’t understand something you had better speak up or it may cost you or someone else s life and they make sure that you know that right off the bat. And you learned because you have no choice what so ever.
Damage control was the most fun you can have and drown at the same time. Damage Control is about, firefighting and saving your ship from sinking. To learn anything in the Navy it starts in the classroom. You are given a textbook and attend classes for a period of time depending on what they want to teach you. Then the real hands on training starts. The Navy also has the best training devices in the world related to what they want you to learn. So when I got to the damage control class it a real mockup of a section of a ships compartment. Live wires, primed water pipes, and real steel bulkheads two decks connected in which they lock you in and flood it with real water and real electricity and real fire. Real future shock in which you have a designated time to stop the fire, water, and keep from getting electrocuted in real time.
So in the tank we went, and the real shocking truth set in as we began to save our asses and the ship. There was water coming from three different sources, a broken water main, a huge crack in the wall, and a hole in the deck above, and topped off with sparks flying from an electrical box with real fire shouting out of it. All you had to work with is what was in the room and what you brought in with you. Like fire hoses, Dc plugs, and pipe straps. A Damage control first class barked commands to each of us at lightning speed and you damn well better have understood everything you were taught in class because you were going to need it. Must be everyone in my class learned our lesions because we save the USS Buttercup in record time, five minutes and twenty three seconds flat. We were proud as peacocks. We also got the weekend off as promised for finishing first so we got to screw off until noon the next day along with a pass to town. Good thing because I was sore as hell and aced all over. This was a whole lot different than Commander Tom’s spaceship on channel seven in the morning.
Exploring new frontiers
Downtown Boston was a whole new ballgame for me. This was the big city. It wasn’t the first time I had seen skyscrapers, but it was the first time I would get to be in one. Now I found out why they call them sky—scrapers. The first time in town I was on an assignment to clean some Admiral’s office in one of those skyscrapers but I really didn’t get the whole scope of what a big city and tall buildings was all about. We were quickly bused in and out so I didn’t get to see much but the back of the sailor’s head in front of me.
They marched us to the elevator with our gear of mops, cleaning agents; all the things Dick had taught me to use for the apartments. So I assumed the worst, but when we got to the fifty-first floor to my surprise it was just an office. Before the officers of the detail left they said they would be back at noon. It was no monumental task just general cleaning, we were done in about an hour and a half. Someone asked what time it was, someone answered nine-fifteen. Oh, wonderful, what do we do for two hours we are in a building full of Navy offices in Boston? One of us stumbled on a radio and turned it on. Frankie Valli from the four Seasons’ was swooning his hit whishing we were home. When “Hennery The Eighth I am” came on I went to the open window. There was no air condition in the office and was so hot my balls were sweating.
As I watched everyone else making Asses of them self’s singing and dancing just knowing I was doing the same thing, when I turned and looked down. Big mistake. I felt like the guy that had his hand reaching up for someone to grab as he fell to his death in Hitchcock’s film “Vertigo”. At first I didn’t realize where I was sitting. I was on a windowsill fifty some story up looking down at ants. As I gazed at the skyline of Boston I saw Prudential Tower and yelled look at that, it makes this place look like a Lego building. That’s when small became a reality. Because when I turned to tell everyone I peered down and realized that the ants that were crawling around below were car and trucks. I froze. But it wasn’t until then that I realized I was leaning out of the window fifty stories up. I dug my fingers into the steel frame and instinctively I threw myself to the floor and stuck there like glue.
An hour later I hadn’t moved when someone told me that if I didn’t get my ass off the floor I would be Court Marshaled right where I had my hands were implanted. I got up and the detail was over and we were headed back to camp. Somehow we all graduated with honors and we all flew on the Mohawk express home.
They is the pitch, it’s a hit! And, O’ Boy it out of here.
Tom had a beautiful arch in his pitch and I would put everything the old man taught me into to it and send it way out into the field down below. The field was a vacant lot at that time and was grown over with golden rod and tall grass, and I mean tall, some three feet high. We would take off and go lay in the tall grass and smoke. No one could see the smoke because the sun would blind them. And they very seldom would come yelling for us. Even then we would yell back that we just found it, which was and out and lie because we already had in our hands, or say were still looking for it, which would buy us another few minutes to finish or smokes.
One day the wind was blowing and we got to talk about where to meet to get drunk on the weekend and the bell went off without consulting us. When the wind stopped for a minute and we lied there we both relished that it was far too quite so we took a chance and stood up. To our surprise the bell went off and we hadn’t heard it. We ran like hell but by the time we got to the door the last student close and we were locked out side in our stinky gym close. This was not a good day for either of us to be getting a detention. It was Friday, I had to be at work, and Jarvis had to register his old man’s twenty day permit on their car or we would have to walk to Snug Harbor and it was ladies night.
Lady’s night wreck
Me, Ollie (Bruce) and Tom were going to meet at Johnny’s Lunch at eight then leave for the Snug harbor bar on the lake. They were going to pick me up after work when I got the hot dog sauce started then drop me off after the bar closed to finish it. That was the plan anyway. Oh we got to the Snug all right but it was the leavening that turned out to be the problem, and what a dozy that would be. We all got snot-faced drunk and closed the place.
Actually the bouncers threw us out. Ollie tried to talk Tom into letting him drive but he would have nothing do with that good idea. So we all climbed in to the car and off we went down Sunset Drive in West Ellicott, a short cut that Tom new. Now Tom had just gotten his full night lesions about a week earlier and had only drove the car about three or four times because his dad had just bought it.
It was a two year old Dodge convertible two door with a 318-horse power engine. Tom decided to see how fast the damn thing would go. It went too fast, because when the ninety-degree turn came up faster than Tom could drive we ran out of road. The side and country road at that time were paved in dirt then covered with oil to keep the dust down in the summer or they were carpet coated with basalt and tar either way it made the roads like driving on ball bearings. We were on a dirt road with loose gravel to patches of fresh oil put down like they do with sand or salt in the winter.
I was in front watching the speedometer clime and Ollie was in the back laying down when the road disappeared in front of us. Tom did a knee jerk reaction that put in to spin on the ball bearing gravel and we went ass over tin cups flying like we were shot of a canon. All I remember was Tom yelling what do I do, and I said I don’t know about you but I’m getting under the dash.
As my head disappeared under the dash the last thing I saw was the front right side of the car hitting the ground with its headlight then all hell broke loose as we tumbled down an embankment end over end until everything went black. Not because I passed out but because it was a moonless night and the headlights went out. We skidded three hundred and thirty eight feet after taking out some farmer’s fence and landed on its left side on the other side of the creek. When I came two Tom was standing on shoulder and face yelling it’s going to blow up in a terrified panic.
I was lying on my back with my feet in the air as Jarvis was doing a dick dance on my face and body until I finally grabbed his leg to stop any more damage to my already damaged body. As I unscrewed my body until I finally stood up and felt my way around the interior of the car. With the smell of gasoline filling the cab and Tom still screaming I tried to make sense of where I was and why could I be standing up inside of a car when it finally downed on me that the car was on its side, the window was the tip off it was too damn long to be a side window. Once I realized that the window was opposite the seat I knew the door was up. Tom was still thrashing around in shock but I couldn’t get the door open because it was too heavy.
Finally after what seemed like days I found the window handle and rolled the window down when it hit the stops Tom crawled up my back and disappeared. About two seconds later I heard him yelling help me, help me. Buy now my eyes were adjusted to the nigh darkness and I spotted him tangled up in the farmer’s fence kicking and trashing to get loose.
My back was killing me so I sat down and let Tom kick himself until he finally wore down enough to sit down himself. That’s when I realized that something was missing but I couldn’t wrap my head around what it was. It was Ollie. When I told Tom we had to go back and get Ollie out of the car he freaked and kept saying it going to blow over and over again until I finally grabbed him and half dragged and push him until we got back to the car.
We had to crawl up using the hot muffler and pipes then by grabbing the emergency brake cable we made our way to the top of the car. Then I went down inside and somehow dragged Ollie’s hundred plus lifeless body to an upright position. Tom started pulling him out as I push with my head between his legs until he hit the ground with a resounding thump.
By now the cops and the ambulance were up on the road trying to figure out how to truck a gurney through ruff grass and creek stones some four hundred feet then threw a fence across a six foot wide creak and get it anywhere near the car and us. When they got there Tom and I were waiting by the ambulance for them to wheel Ollie up the hill. As they were butting Ollie in to the back of the ambulance Ollie’s head kept falling off the gurney and they kept slamming it in to the door with. After I called them stupid Asses a few times the trouper finally stepped in and chewed them out and they finally got it right and took him to the hospital.
When I got up in the morning I had a head and backache induced from the devil himself to go along with a massive self-induced hang over? As my shaky hands tried to get a cup of coffee down me I then got ready and went to work. Later that afternoon Ollie came in to see how I was and to inform me that Tom was in Buffalo and on his way to boot camp for the Army. It seems that he chose the army over a beating from his dad so he stayed with Bruce all night then got up and went to the recruiting office first thing and told them that he would join only if they sent him right there and then. They complied and put him on a bus to Buffalo. He ended up in Nam and served two turns of duty. He received a purple heart for getting shot in the ass as he ducked into a foxhole in a firefight.
I got a ticket to ride
(In a Parking lot)
I met Mike4 Wilson one night when Ollie and me went in to Sam’s Supper Subs where he was working running the dump. Me Ollie and Jarvis were making our self’s a sub and mike was raiding the cash box for what he called his tips. After Five bucks worth of drinking at the Brown Derby we went off on another adventure. Because we ran out of money and the only place to replace it was the First Street parking Ramp. They had a night box for people that left the ramp after hours. Most people in those days were honest and left there fee in the envelope provided. Mike ran that place too.
We had just spent our last buck a pitcher of beer at the Pub so we headed down to the ramp to fetch a new batch of readymade cash. Re-supplied we headed off to Skippy’s to see Frank the owner. Frank was a cool bartender, mostly because he catered to underage drunks like us, as long as one of you had some kind of ID he would assume everyone was eighteen. I think ever one from northern Pa. was there that night and we were at full throttle drink mode.
I had cut about a quarter inch off the end of my pinkie that day slicing tomatoes at work and John had it wrapped in a yard of fat gauze to protect the end of it. That was a good thing because a fight broke out when one of the Pa. Guys tried to hit on one of our guys women. We were in a booth at the end of the bar next to the bathrooms because Jarvis had to pee every five seconds. I looked up just in time to see a bottle of Pabst Blue flying straight at me like it had a homing device on it. I stuck my had up just in time to keep it from hitting my face but it landed right on the very end of my finger which started bleeding all over the place. Ollie was bitching that I almost got it on his leather jacket as I weathered in pane.
As I got up to get out of the line of fire and was headed to the can to see if I could stop the blood from dripping all over the cops were headed in the front door. As I hit the men’s room door I found it locked as I turned Ollie and Mike were shoving me and Tom into the woman’s shit house. There was some girl on the toilet doing here business but we didn’t have time to gawk. I told her to spread her legs and jumped through the window above her head I thing half the bar followed us. I hit the ground running with Tom, Ollie, and Mike in tow. I could still hear the screams of the poor girl when I looked back and saw a cop trying to get out the window to chase us. I always wondered if he was standing between her legs as he tried to get out the window.
The next day Mike was tending the parking lot at the corner of Washington and 3 ED streets. When I got there he was parking a new Mustang but you couldn’t see it. The smoke from the tires hung like fog over the lot and a screeching noise filled the air as Mike slid the Mustang in backwards in to a parking spot as sweet as sticking your finger in your nose and pulling out a bugger. He rose out of the blue smoke with a smile on his face and told me I had the next one. All I could say was: all that service for fifty cents a day? Mike just laughed and went to his booth and we readied for that nights escapades.
Booze over troubled waters
It started off innocent enough Ollie and Tom came over about nine that night with a case of beer and a pint of Orange Mist to celebrate New Year’s. I had the kids in bed and we sat down to play cards. Somehow the word got out that there was a party going on at Forest Avenue. The next thing I knew there were people coming in the door in droves. The boys from Frewsburg even came with Mc Laughlin. There wasn’t more than ten or twelve people at a time but I think there had to have been over a hundred in all toll threw out the night.
At one point I went up to the bathroom and there was some broad I had never seen in the bathtub and another girl poring beer on her head. I asked what they were doing and the beer pourer said that she wanted a beer bath so she was giving her one. I told her that she either had to get off the toilet or spread here legs because I couldn’t hold it any longer. So she spread he leg and I let it go, she just opened another beer and started pouring. By the time I got down stairs the little sink in the kitchen was over flowing and had covered the entire kitchen floor with an inch of water.
That was about two in the morning and I told Ollie to get everyone out of there because Aud would be home soon. If she found the place like this I would be skinned alive. Ollie had herded everyone out of there and I had the floor mopped by then. When he came back in to tell me I decided to take time to sit down for a bit. It wasn’t until then that I saw what the rest of the house looked like. What a F—–g mess. There was beer and empty booze bottles all over the place, one of Aud’s good crystal glasses was broken mixed in with spent cigarette butts and ashes I was overwhelmed. How the hell am I going to get this mess cleaned up in an hour, my God what a f—king mess.
Ollie asked where the garbage can were and I told him out back, so he left to get them to put the bottles and party favors in. I started to sweep and vacuum the rest of the mess up and within an hour we had the house looking like nothing ever happened. That was when Aud came in and Ollie disappeared like Caspar the ghost. I went to bed. I know I drank as much as anyone but somehow I didn’t feel like I had.
The next day John came up to me and asked if I had a party New Year’s night. I told him all about it. I knew he wouldn’t tell Aud so I didn’t sugar coat it. I even told him about the girls bathing in beer. He laughed and told me that he listened to the police scanner all night to see if they were dispatched to Forest Avenue and he told me Both houses on each side had two calls a piece and three call for the house across the street but none at our house.
I told him I was too busy thinking about how I was going to get rid of the drunk assed people I had in our house to worry about anyone else’s parties. He said that he would have never known if he hadn’t gone out to put the garbage in the cans. But both Fifty-five gallon cans were full to the brim with empty beer and booze bottles and there was no way he was going to get the garbage in them.
A simple case of Biology
By my senior year I had mastered the grading system enough to skate by with a passing grade at the end of the year. The first two week were review, in the third and fourth they started too actually teach you something. The fifth and final weeks they reviewed what you had learned in the third and fourth weeks. So my grades went A+,A,B+,B,C+,C, D,D which equaled passing.
So with that in mind I decided that I would go with what works. Even though I had a heavy load I did what worked until I got bored with school. To me all I had to do was baby sit, make Reserve meeting (which I loved), and work to support my smoking and drinking habits. So that’s what I did. Screw school.
One day I was sitting in Dugan’s bar having a beer and a guy walk in and sat beside me. Telling me how he hung TV cable for the city. As we talked I got more and more interested. That’s when fate stepped in. I told him I would help him. He told me that he was an independent contractor. I told him I worked cheap beer and lunch. He was hooked, and so was I.
Every day he’d pick me up and we laid cable all over town, climbing poles, he was bonded so we could in to homes and hook up peoples TV’s. We got boozed up in the process and I was getting an education of how to work at something else besides feeding people hot dogs. Life was good until—, the letter from school arrived and I wasn’t home to intercept it. This happened to me before at dads. Again I out foxed myself.
John came and told me that the gig was up and I told him I didn’t much care. He must have talked for an hour to convince me to go back to school. I listened but I told him that I had been skipping school for at least a month and didn’t think I had a rats ass graduate. He kept on me until I agreed to talk to the principal, but I firmly believed it was too late. John called the school and made an appointment. Then he told me good luck, and that was that.
The next morning I walked in to the God’s office as we called it and sat down hoping it wouldn’t be too long. The principal looked at the report on me, shook his head, and told me that I had skipped thirty-nine days the most anyone had, ever. My grades were almost passable in Gym, Music, Shop, and History, but in Math, and Biology I was boarder line, if the border was in China. Also I had been in detention more time that I was in class and except for study hall that I never seem to miss (because that’s when I slept). It looked like I didn’t have a tinkers shoot in hell to graduate.
With that said he told me if I would come back I might have a chance if I studied like hell. Then he told me that I had to serve the rest of the year in detention. I agreed. I knew I didn’t have much choice and I didn’t have much else to do any way I was headed to the navy, weather I graduated or not. I never saw the cable guy again. So I was on a mission to go out with a bang. It was too late to study seriously but I figured that if I skimmed through the books I may stand a chance. So for the first and last time in my life I took all my books home and got at it.
Come exam time I studied just like I had for every exam before, by getting drunk the night before. Somehow the Math exam was easy along with the rest of my classes. The only one I figured I had no chance at was Biology. Mss. Gronquist told me not to bother to show up because I would need at least a One hundred to pass. Plus I had to turn in my lab book by the next day, the one I had a
About ten labs of two hundred labs that I really had done. It was required by the state because I was a Regent student it came with no exceptions, that and I had to have at least a ninety-five to pass at all. My Grades in Biology at that point were: 95,83.66,53,41, and 39 equated to a 63 the test counted to one half of the grade. I stayed up all night to put some kind of mark on every single page as required by the state, she told me that all I had to do was leave any kind of mark as long as no page was left blank. None at all. So at three in the morning I quit with about fifty or so pages left. I could no longer hold the pen.
The next day I handed in my lab book, which I stayed up all night to finish. The test was to be that Friday, it was Thursday, but there was a big party at Jarvis’s house that night and I knew I couldn’t miss that. So I was pretty bombed when I got up, but I knew the cure was in my locker, I had a pint of Orange mist. Ollie was there to greet me before the Biology exam and we split the pint and the quart of Iron City that he had brought with. I made it to the exam room three floors up just in time, she was about to close the door and lock us in for the test.
I sat down and she handed out the test. As I picked mine up I noticed two things. One I had to piss like a bent Moose, and two she was standing right over me. I told her I wanted to go to the shit house but she refused and told me that if I left I couldn’t get back in. So I pinched my now constricted Boa and looked the test over. As I went down each line I seemed to know every answer. There were one hundred multiple-choice questions. One thing the Navy taught us to do was how to take a test. Take your best guess if you have no idea, skip what you don’t know and then come back and read it again then guess. Only one answer is right, one is totally bogus, and the other two are similar, pick one and don’t change it.
Man I really had to go pee, I was actually gritting my teeth, but she was still hovering over me. The test time was for two hours. I took twenty minutes to wiz threw the test. It was that or wiz in my pants. So I pinched my poor thing as hard as I could hoping that I could make it through the ordeal. So I looked it over and decide I couldn’t hole the Boa back any more, got up and handed it to her. She looked at me and smiled a, I told you so smile, but I really didn’t care I had to go now before I let it lose right there.
We had to wait a week and had to report to each class to get our death report of the exam. When I got to Biology I fully expected to have failed the test. She stood in front of the class to read off the grades. She announced that there was one A two C’s and the rest of the class of thirty students failed. She handed all of the graded papers back face down to each student and instructed us to wait until everyone got there’s before looking. Then she would tell us when to look and not before.
I was last one to get mine, and she stood hovering over me just like she did at the test. When she said that she was disappointed that none of her coveted A students passed and was totally surprised who got the only A, then she handed me mine. I think I was more shocked than she was, I had a ninety-nine at the top of mine, with instructions to see her after everyone else left.
I sat there may be, because I was in shock that was the first A I had seen outside of maybe Music in years. The last sobbing A student left and she closed the door.
When she closed the door she came over to me and sat down at the desk beside me and asked how I did it. Still dumb founded I asked in response what do you mean how did I do it. She said how did you get all but one question right? I know you didn’t cheat because I stood right beside you.
Yes you did I could feel you breath back there. How did you do it? You were the biggest goof off I have ever seen. You turned in the sloppiest homework, when you did. Most of the time and the only thing you were stellar at was disrupting the class, although you are funny when you get going. But never mind that how did you pass my class? How is it that in all three of my class you are the only one with an A. Outside of only nine other students in three classes you are one that passed higher than a C?
I don’t know all I can tell you is that I read a lot of magazines like Popular, Science and popular electronics. I got to admit though, that other than bringing the book to class I never took it home. But I guess it was because I listen to what you said even though you didn’t think so. She looked at me and said I guess I will have to make it harder next year and wished me luck.
Jump the Mohawk, your Ordered to active duty
You’re in the Navy now, you’re not behind a plow. I had been pretty much a purple haze, as Jimmy Henderson put it, all summer long so when I got my orders it seemed like it was all too soon. Summer had just gone by in microseconds but I knew the day was coming. I had to go up to the Navy Reserve office and pick up my traveling orders from John Nelson the Recruiting officer. When I got there my orders were to report to 100 Fulton Street New York, New York to enter active duty and be assigned a base and or ship.
When John gave me my orders he told me I would be traveling with one other person named Peterson and that I was lucky because he had been to New York before.
Then he instructed me about my orders and traveling arrangements. We were to take the Mohawk out of Jamestown, fly to Bradford, then to new castle, then on to New York City TDA (Temporary duty assigned). I would be bused to the receiving station and get orders from them as to where I would be stationed for the next two years. After two day I received orders to report to Norfolk Naval Base transit station Norfolk Virginia.
I hopped a jet out of LaGuardia port New York and headed for Norfolk First Class no less. I was in heaven I ordered Lime Coolers. By the time I checked in at the base I didn’t give a shit where they put me as long as it had a bed. By now I kind of got use to sleeping in strange places with strange people, when I awoke it was a different story some places are stranger than others. They expected me to do something while I waited, like sweep the floor. I pushed the broom to the door then stepped out and went to the base movie. When I got back the broom was still there. I picked it up and signed out and went to bed. The next day I noticed that there were a lot of empty bunks in the room where I slept and that they assigned only the one closest to the door where the orderly was stationed. I look down the long rows of twin bunks I noticed that they were all empty except about four or five closest to the door where the orderly was stationed. I knew what I had to do. I packed. I packed and moved all the way down to the last bunk on the same side as the orderly sat so that when he stuck his head in the doorway and call your name for duty he wouldn’t see me. Out of sight-out of mind. It worked beyond my wildest dreams. I became invisible. The rest of my TAD was like shore leave I came and went as I wished.
Ship out seaman, you have a new home
I was just beginning to have a good time and my shipping orders came in with my assignment to the USS Oglethorpe AKA 100 peer Six at 20 hundred hours. I walked up the Gang plank to my new home right on time. I saluted the flag and the OD. Handed him my orders. I was never so nervous and overwhelmed by the formality of it. This was the real navy and I was just a green kid from Jamestown New York. Someone led me around the ship then handed me off to the Chief Gunnery’s mate. He was a huge gentleman form the south, man he was huge but still he instilled a sense of calm in me. He put me up in the Chiefs Quarters and bade me a good night. I hit the sack and went to sleep well sort of I had to Piss so bad I look like a bent Moose Bowinkel. I got up in a pitch black night with no Idea where the head was. I felt along the halls holding my balls in pain when I found the hatch leading outside I felt alone bulkhead until I came to a railing and was ready to on load when the Chief said: You can piss over the side if you want to but then I would have to take you to Captains mass and that’s no way to start your Navel career is it? As he lead me back into the dark and to the head just in time. When I headed back in to the hallway the Chief stopped me and gave me a lesson in how to see in the dark how I had to give my eyes time to adjust. He said the tick was to not look at what you wanted to see. Look to one side or up when you wanted to see down. Worked like a chime.
The morning came fast and to soon. I reported to the Quarter Master and was instructed to go to Administration was assigned to a Division the Fourth Deck division was led to my birthing area. Assigned bunk and locker. From there I was led to Bose swain Mat third class Reed. God hated me, I got the hardest asshole the Devil ever bread to a woman. The first thing I would wake up to was this ass-wipe. Every God Damn morning at 0600 he would yell as load as he could “Drop your cock and grab your socks REVELY, REVELY. ”The he would yank hard on my underarm hair sometimes taking some with him. And I mean every god damn morning. I didn’t like it but he was a lifer from the Navy that Dick was in hard ass navy “hangs everyone to the yardarm.’ I felt I had to go with the flow of things. I was mule. A fucking mule to get to jackass I would have kiss ass to move up the line somehow. Every morning revile call you jumped into the military dress code of day and went to work.
Then head to the chow line I had, heard that Nave food is good, the best on, aboard ship boy I was bummed it was Green eggs and ham I do believe that it was Sam the man from the Doctor Susse’s book that was serving this shit, then blop some kind of goo was deposited on my tray I wanted to barf.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. SUSS. Actually Sam’s eggs would have tasted like paper these will be sent to the can and came back for corn flakes and powered milk… They handed me boxes of Kellogg cornflakes stamped rations 1943 K-arts and milk some toast and cold butter. I learned that if you hit the side of the bowel the roaches would scatter then you could eat the crap.
On deck I started to get the feel of the bull shit paid attention to what the first class boatswains mate wanted and started learning. But I still had to carry two five gallon steel mop cans with the ringer. My hindered and fifteen pounds just didn’t have enough ass to tote it up three decks all the way down to the end of ship. I struggled like Charley Chaplin Then swabbed the deck fore and aft all the way back to the end of the ship. When done we all together for our assignments usually chipping or panting. By now I was fairly good painter after building dad’s house and panting Aud’s and John’s house I was good at it besides Dick taught me so I was already doing it the Navy way. So I would find pint can in hand brush in my pocket and paint can to pint with reed barking inspiring commands like ”Busy hands are happy hands”, The only chatter coming from you I want to hear is the chatter of the tool in your hand, get off your ass and paint that deck. But they slacked off if just did the job right.
The ship USS Oglethorpe AKA 100
Captain C. B. STAFFORD JUNE 30, 1966 – SEPT. 30, 1967
Captain L. TOLLEFSON OCT.1, 1967 – NOV. 1, 1968
Oglethorpe is a county in Georgia named in honor of James Oglethorpe, founder of the state.
Ship’s characteristics: dp 14,200 tons; 1.459′,2″; b. 63′; dr. 26’4″; s. 16.5 k; cpl. 425; a. 5″ .38, 8 40 mm; cl Andromeda; T. C2-S-B1. Her keel was laid down on the 26 December 1944 by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, under contract for the Maritime Commission. She transferred to the Navy while still on the ways. She was christened by Mrs. Ellsworth Buck, wife of the New York Congressman and launched on 15 April 1945. She was commissioned at the Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York on 6 June 1945. Her first captain was Captain James Campbell, USNR. Following her shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, she served as a training vessel at Little Creek, Virginia and Newport, Rhode Island. On 1 August 1945, she sailed for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal. Receiving news of Japan’s surrender while en route, she continued onto the Western Pacific. After carrying general cargo between Pearl Harbor, Kwajalein, Guadalcanal, and Noumea, she returned to CONUS during December 1945 and was assigned to NTS and later to MSTS where she continued to carry cargo in the Western Pacific. On 25 June 1950 the Communists North Koreans invaded South Korea. The Oglethorpe joined the amphibious forces in Yokosuka, Japan on 9 July and was quickly converted for wartime operations. On 18 July she transported and landed cargo at Pohang Dong, Korea in support of the US Calvary Division. She returned to San Diego in August to embark troops and equipment of the 1st Marine Division. She sailed and landed the Marines and equipment on Inchon, Korea on 15 September 1950. For 6 days she supported the amphibious assault on Wolmi-do Island and Inchon. In October 1950, the Oglethorpe embarked troops and equipment of the 1st Marine Division for an assault at Wonsan. On 25 October she landed the troops and equipment at Wonsan and supported operations there until 30 October. She earned 2 battle stars for her actions in Korea. On January 1951, the Oglethorpe was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet. She participated in amphibious training along the East Coast, in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. In October 1955, she answered a distress call to aid the flood stricken people of Tampico, Mexico. Six LCMs loaded with food, clothing, and medicine transported supplies up the swollen and treacherous Panuco River and distributed them to the Mexicans for 5 days and nights. In 1956, the Oglethorpe was dispatched on a “classified” mission to the Mediterranean as an experimental “maritime Pre-positioned Shop” for rapid deployment. Partly modified, she carried ammunition, fuel, guns, vehicles and supplies and cruised the Mediterranean independently for 5 months under the direct operational control of CNO. Her ultimate destination was to land on the Island of Cyprus, combat load her cargo to support elements of the 82nd Airborne out of Europe. In July 1958, the Oglethorpe was part of the fleet that transported the Marines to Lebanon. During 1959, she participated in the historical cruise down the St. Lawrence Seaway on “Operation Inland Seas.” In 1962, she stood ready off Cuba when President Kennedy demanded the removal of Soviet missiles. Once again in the Mediterranean, she joined the ready forces as hostilities heightened between Greek and Turkish factions on Cyprus in early 1964. She returned from the Mediterranean in August 1966. She entered Boston Navy Shipyard in early January 1967 for overhaul and refitting. The Oglethorpe then continued to operate off the East Coast for training purposes until 1 November 1968 when she was struck from the Navy list.
Home Sick blues
I had been on the ship for about two months when the first class boatswains mate came up to me and asked when the last time I had been of the ship other than to go to the dunk wagon ( A roving truck that made re-wrapped sandwiches an junk food, also called a roach couch.) I told him I didn’t know. He told me to go get dressed into my whites and meat him at the gang blank in one hour we were going to hit the beach.
I met him and we headed to the gate that leads to the real world. We hopped on a bus that took us down town and the fun began. He took me to his favorite bar and it became a blur of the purple haze I left behind in Jamestown. By 0100 we were drunk to perfection, and headed to his favorite eating establishment. They served breakfast 24 hours a day and we had worked up a huge appetite.
The next thing I knew was three Marines were bugging him and one of them tipped his plate of eggs on his lap. Big mistake. Hell was released from its bounds of a small but wired Bosons. Now two skinny sailors against three Marines the size of sumo wrestlers, well maybe more like linebackers. All I remember was the boatswains mate kicking one in the ball taking him out with one blow while he spun on his feet and grabbed the other one by his tie and spun him like the marine that had me by my tie in boot camp. That was the last thing I saw as I was hit in the head and was headed for the floor. I did manage to get a few hits in after I got up. I don’t think the Marine that hit me expected me to recover so fast, but I was uses to being pick one by bigger guys like my brother. By then the Shore Portal had arrived to break it up. They had to pry the Boatswains hands from the Marines thought. When all was said and done the three Marines got a ride to the watch command and we were let free. The waitress told them that the Marines started it all so they turned us loose.
The waitress fixed us a new set of eggs after we relocated our glasses and sat back down. The boswins turned to me and said: now isn’t this better than sitting back on the ship? Hell yes it was just like home now. We laughed, ate and returned back to the ship.
One day I was tying of the deck mops to be cleaned. What we did was to tie the mopes to a rope and through them over the side and let the pounding of the ocean to clean them. Well I couldn’t find the rope that we used every day so I hunted one down. I tied seven mopes to it and tossed the in to the sea never to see them again. The rope snapped like it was a thread yanked from your pants. Like everything else in my life the boswins was standing right there with me. After he told me to log them, lost at sea, he told me to replace them. I asked him how am I going to replace them and he told he give a shit how just do it. I knew he wanted me to steal them but as I cruised the ship all the usual places were lock up tighter than a nun’s pussy. Shit I was screwed. Then it accrued to me that I had made friends with the supply officer. I help him when he came aboard and told me that if I ever needed anything come to see him. So did. He promptly handed me seven new mops which I returned to our material locker. At the next sweeper call the boswins unlocked the locker then looked in and said. How in the hell did you get seven new ops? I didn’t figure you get maybe two or three but seven, and new? I. He chuckled and said you catch on quick don’t you? Then went about his business.
Sailors come and sailors go but in the last few months a heap of them came to the term and left the ship for home so I was transferred to the second division and signed a new boswins mate in charge. He was a twenty year lifer and was a master in ropes and knots. He was the only one that could finely teach me to tie a bowline knot. He took a shine to me and Joe and one day he asked us if we would be interested in a new line of work. Sure why not? The new job was that of an over the side line painter. We were instructed on how to rig a plank over the side of the ship to paint the markers that guided them little fuckers back to the ship, while the ship was docked or under way. We were under Way from Monday until Friday returning to port on the weekends for liberty or shore leave if you had time coming.
We had no Idea how prestige’s a job it was. For one the only person that really knew were we were was the lifer boswins, the second it was a high priority job. The appearance of the ship was at stake and we were the only ones authorized to be over the side at any time. When all hands on deck was issued that every swing dick was expected to respond, no exceptions, well we were one of those no exception. More than once it was called into question and the boswins got us out of it. Man we busted our asses to please him. All hands meant grunt work haling one hundred pound bags of supplies up and down the gang plank to a hold deep in the ships bowls… The one when I did it there was this stupid marine was laying in one of the passageway so that everyone had to step on him on their way down. I called him an asshole. The second time I tried to step over him carrying a fifty pound bag of something I almost tripped. The third time I got up on the lip of the hatch and jumped as high as I could on to his gut. The next time I came to the hatch he wasn’t there he was in sickbay. Doc told me latter he was lucky he was in shape or I would have killed him. Thank god he never saw my face or he would have killed me.
Side painting what a splash.
Side painting was a blast and we were left to our own devices. As long as the job assigned was done no one watched us. Most of the time we had it done in a few hours. We took turn as to who would be lowered down then pulled back up warning each other as to when someone came around so we could at least look like we were doing something. Sometimes we would lower it just enough that we could both shinny down and paint together. No one had any idea we were there.
It gets hot in Norfolk in the summer, sometimes up to 90-98 or so. It was a week of those and in the Navy you can’t skinny drip. You have to be in full uniform while on duty. When you’re over the side you can open a few buttons and maybe hike your paint legs up but that’s about the long and short of it.
We were painting the anchor that day Joe took the morning shift and I went over after lunch. We rigged the Boswins chair and I lowered Joe down fifty or so feet until he was even with three anchor and he started to kick off the side. Each time he kick out I would swing the rope left to right dropping a foot or so at a time until he was swinging in a large ark. It takes a while but eventually you swing under the curve of the ship until you can stand on the anchor. When the rope goes slack I knew he was safely on the anchor and doing his job of covering the red lead paint from the previous day. Navy regulations are strict about the look of the ship in port; it has to be covered in Battleship Gray head to toe, fore and aft.
At noon I pulled him up and we went for chow. That afternoon it got stifling hot on the anchor I had told Joe I was going to take a swim. God he said they will crucify you if you do. When I told him that I really didn’t mean it but the devil in me got the best of me and I drove off. Shit, I knew it was a long way down but not a far I thought it was. I hit the water at about oh, sixty feet a second squared, dropping about oh, sixty feet into the water sinking like a stone to a depth of twenty feet. I thought my lunges would burst before I resurfaced. Joe was right they were going to crucify me when I resurfaced alarms a bullhorn were blasting from not only our ship but the one parked at the opposite pear. “Man over board” was ringing in my ears as two boats came screaming to my rescue. As they were bringing me to the other side of the ship they had to lower another boswins chair to hull my dumb ass back aboard.
Thank god Doc was there he made everyone get back called, for a stretcher then, leaned down and whispered in my ear “shut up play dead and moan, he knew. I moaned and they hustled me off to sickbay. Doc was just a corpsman and the doctor was on base so I lucked out. He made everyone clear sickbay saying you can’t have him until I examine and clear him, shutting the door neither of us could help from busting out laughing. He went over to one of the locked cabinets and got the cough syrup put enough in two cups of coffee two kill a good sized horse and toasted me. About an hour and a few more GI gins later I went back to my rack. The boswins was waiting there for me. He smiled and asked, you slipped right? Right. Nothing was ever said and I knew enough to keep quiet about it. I asked the boswins mate no Captains mast? No he said you’re lucky this jackass is ready to retire and doesn’t give a crap, I told him you slipped and weren’t tied off because you had to get to a spot your safety line wouldn’t reach so he let it go,
Lady night out.
A bunch of got together for New Year’s night and rented a room at the most expensive hotel in downtown Norfolk. After we all bought our booze and checked in Mac and me went out to explore the bars off the strip. The prices were a whole lot cheaper the farther you got form the strip. We found a dive about five blocks from the hotel, we didn’t want to stray too far so we could find our way back to our room. Sometime around 11 hundred hours whacked out of our gourds we found are selves attempting to play eight ball in some dive. Neither one of us could knock a ball in after we broke the rack. So a couple of over-sized ladies asked if they could have the table so we let them at it. I was sitting at the bar when one of them dressed in a Minnie skirt bent over in front of me. I still had my Q-stick as I turned to Mac laughing my ass off because her panties were exposed and she had a hole in them about the size of a half dollar. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I poked the Q-stick right smack in the hole in her panties. She screeched and stud up taking the q-stick wither. Mac and I cracked up laughing so had we didn’t notice that we were smack in the middle of the road where the bouncer lived up to their name. We literally were bounced out on to the street. Somehow we managed to evade the SP’s and made it back to the hotel before midnight.
When we arrived at our room we found six other guys. Sam was passed out and Big Ben was now were to be found. Somehow Mac remembered to buy him his Vodka and was looking for him. Someone said that the last they say him he was in the head, Mac no he just came from there. About that time we heard someone out in the hallway yelling Happy New Year. It was Ben. Mac and I went to the door when we opened it there was the House Dick and a hotel guy hanging on to Ben the House Dick asked is this belong to you. We said yes and dragged him in. He was blasted and was proudly dressed in his shirt, skivvies, shoes, and socks with his Dixie cup on his head too drunk to notice that he had forgot to finish dressing. The hotel Dick told us that it would be advised if we stayed in our room until morning.
The next morning when I woke up there were five guys and myself in bed all looking like shit and feeling worse. When I got back to the ship I had someone else’s blouse on it said USS Essex.
Grant-ny get your guns.
I woke up one morning and found myself surrounded by a wall of people Joe was one of them. I asked what the hell you guys want. A first class gunner named JB asked how I would feel if I could strike for gunners mate. I asked Joe you going to do it? Sure he said why not. I wanted to become a cook because it was about the only thing I knew coming in to the Navy. JB said anyone can be a cook but only two can become a gunner’s mate today. Ah why the hell why not. Just like that I became an active gunner. I had shot a few guns with the cop’s dad and John my brother in law had rifles that he let me shoot but that was the extent of my experience. I fell in love with my job. I think I was just naturally mechanically inclined.
Down by the River Charles.
Life in the Navy is a day by day operation as long as everyone dose what there told the ship will sail on time with out to much concern, but sometimes shit happens. We were next to a carrier when that shit happened. An acetylene tank blew up it took out a large portion of it and two sailors with it. That has a tendency to sober you up fast.
About a week after New Year day we set sail for the Boston shipyard for overhauls. We cast of the lines and headed out to sea as normal but somewhere in the middle of the night we headed north to Boston and a flow blown Nor Easter. On a ship you have many duties. First is your daily duty. It’s like going to any other job. You’re up before the roster, shit shower, shave and head to the chow line as fast as you can before they run out of the good stuff and start serving shit on a shingle at 0600. Believe me it’s the last thing you want a top a hangover with. You stand in line and wait for the cook to finish eating. Then grab a tray and dig in. By the time you’re done eating they call sweepers. The call goes: “Sweepers, sweepers man your brooms sweep down all passages ways halls and decks, sweepers.” When you are doe you go to your assigned job. Everyone is assigned a battle station for general quarters. Stations for watches are on a rotation base and you are trained for a host of watches, like lookout, helm, or communications. Out of all of them Com on the bridge is the most difficult. You are in contact with everyone on the ship, like the engine room, radar, aft helm, damage control, signalmen, and navigation. The Captain barks out the orders and you relay them to the correct location, and at the same time everyone on the list are call in to report their positions. In the meantime you have to keep track of all the positions of every contact anywhere within a designed area of the ship. They may be twenty or more contacts at any giving time.
It was one of these watches that tested all my resolve. It was my watch on a simulated battle maneuver sitting on the central control radar eighty feet above the deck. We were nearing Boston and a nor’easter was blowing straight in my face with Forty mile an hour Gail wind at twenty below zero. Dressed in dungaree shirt and pants, a foul weather cote and stocking cap. No gloves and no cover, just the pure elements of the storm for four hours until I was relieved. I was treated for frost bit face and hands. Then went straight to my rack and passed out from the ordeal.
Four hour later JB came and got me and Joe for one of those jobs you just shake your head and wonder what ass hole thought this shit up. Whenever a ship comes into port it cannot have any red lead paint showing. The whole thing was chipped out and decked out in nice shiny red lead patch work, our guns included. So Joe and I got a bucked of battleship gray and hike it up to the forward guns. Well it had warmed up to a whopping ten below since I was on watch, but at least I had scrounged up a pair or thread bear cotton work gloves that only hat three fingers covered. It was a thankless job. As Joe and I painted we would get may be two or three strokes and a film would thicken over the top and we would have to truck down two decks where we had a burner set up. We put the paint cans on them to get them up to boiling then run up to the Forties and get two more strokes. After three hours of this bullshit and the temperature dropping it truly was an impossible task. At least the deck hand had blown torches and they weren’t making much head way either. Finley I went up and as I made a pass the brush froze on the surface of the gun. Fuck it, I told Joe, they can lock me in the Brig I am not doing this anymore and went below where the burners were and waited my fate a minute later Joe came down to. Fuck your right it’s to fucking cold to do anything. So we both sat.
Fate came. It was our divisional officer and the second lieutenant. They asked why I wasn’t up on the gun painting and I told them I wasn’t going to go back up there. He said, yes you will! I said I would glad to paint if I had a brush to paint with. He asked where mine was and I told him where I left it and if he would get it I would be happy to resume painting. He left. About two minutes later and told us to sit tight he would go tell the captain. He came back and told us to stay out of view of the deck hands; you can bet your ass we did.
Hiking the breeze.
I loved hiking home from Boston it only took eight hours and there was always traffic not like hiking through the dank dark desolate woods of PA. You never know what fate can bring and what you can bare when strange thing that travels the roads in the middle of nothing and nowhere. One time I decided to take a new route because I had a ride to New city and figured I would hike from there back home down route Seventeen, now Eighty-six. Bad mistake, real, big horrible mistake.
I fell asleep on the way and the guy woke me up and said this is as far as I am going you will have to get out, so I did. As he drove off I realized I had no idea where I was. It was pitch black, so dark I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. I was stunned, the Thruway exit that I was. The only thing I could do was try to walk where ever the road leads. I soon found out that the only way to know if I was even on the road was to have one foot on the asphalt and one on the grass of the road. I lit a Zippo on noted I was four hours from Norfolk and somewhere headed toward New York City.
The next time I checked I had walked for two hours and still had not seen any kind of light, and this creepy feeling that there is something sinister lurking in the darkness. Normally I am not afraid of the dark but visions of Edger Allan Poe were seeping into my mind and the hair on the back of my head would stand up. As another hour passed I could hear the surf from the ocean and smell l the familiar salty ocean breeze. Finally a bright lite lit the night air and transformed my darkness in to a lit universe that I could recognize even thou I still had no idea where I was. The lite came in the form of an old beat up Dodge pickup truck as it passed I could tell there were three guys in it. I came to a screeching stop and for a full minute that seem like an hour it stood there with the motor running in the middle of the road.. It backed up as fast as it passed me then stopped and the passenger door opened up. As I peered in to the cab I could see three gruffly looking burly guys. The one on the passenger side said get in.
In the back of my mine I knew I was going to be beaten, robbed, and left for dead just like the time in Celoron. I got in any way I figured there was nowhere to run and might as well get it over with. The driver asked what the hell I was doing way down hear. I asked where hear was. Really the guy said you have no Idea? Nope. They told me I was about five miles from the thruway all the way down by the beach in New Jersey. Fuck I told them I’ll never get home this way and explained that I needed to get to route 17 headed west to Jamestown. They had no idea where Jamestown, no one ever dose but they knew where Buffalo was, and new where the road that would get me to route seventeen and told me they would drive me to it.
I made it to the exit for my way to route seventeen and headed home. I thought it would only take me maybe three hours, but you know what happened to the little boy that thought. I found myself in Binghamton NY around six in the morning I only had three hundred miles to go to get home. By the time I got home it had taken me eighteen hour to get home.
One time a guy picked me up in the middle of the night somewhere in the middle of nowhere in PA. The guy acted weird when all of a sudden he ran his hand up my leg like a man dose to a woman. I told him to get his fucking hand off my fucking leg. He did and continued to drive about ten minutes he pulled of the main drag and headed down a road that was under construction. He drove for about two minutes and I could tell this road was a road to nowhere I wanted to go I was about to tell him to let me out when his hand began to roam north up my leg. A pulled out my rope knife and planted it in to his hand and my leg. He let out a scream that could have raised the dead, and there may have been some around there that he left behind before who knows. He hit the brakes and was trying to stop the bleeding as I jumped out. As I was checking out my options, which didn’t look good at this time, I could only see two. One side was down a bank that I could see no bottom or head to the front of the car. The back was blocked by the rear end of his car because the back tire had slid of the side of the road. So I ran forward and when I got about ten feet in front of the car he started to come at me, but his back tire was spinning in the soft gravel and was starting to pull his car into the ditch. As I backed up I edged my way toward the bank of the road and just as he thought he was going to hit me I jumped in the opposite direction and he went off the road and his left front wheel hung on the steep dropped off that I had hoped he would drive back into it but somehow he managed to stop before going off the edge. But he was hung up again this time with his front tire pulling him toward the ditch. It was long enough to allow me to make my brake. It had to be at least a mile back to the main highway and my legs were getting weak and my chest felt like it was going to explode. As I stuck out my thumb I saw that he managed to get out and was coming as fast as that car could take him. I turned back around to see a car had stopped just ahead of me. I barely had the strength to make to the stopped car and got in. I screamed out still in a state of panic, GO, And GO NOW. An old man and his wife asked in unison what was wrong, I told them if you go and go now I will explain. They did and I explained. They were quite quit but they got me to where I was a long way from the fagot that was up to no good.
After that I thought maybe taking the bus would get me there faster and safer. No, they stopped in every dishwater town and habitat along the way and it took Twenty four hours by bus, by the time I got home it was time to go back.
I was headed back one time and someone dropped me off just outside of Arlington Va. I was on the wrong side of a four lane highway and was going to cross when I spotted three huge men headed my way just as I reached the middle of the four lane highway they were closing in on me and I knew I was in for it. I was close enough to see it in their eyes and they were moving at the quick step. Just then out of nowhere a black Chevy SS stopped. He was rolling down the window and hollered out “get the fuck in they are going to kill you”. I ran to the other side and jumped in as the three guys met us at the car. The driver was screaming as he hollered out “roll up your fucking window”. As I groped for the handle and roll as fast as I could one of the guys was trying to open the door I had just as locked it. He was pounding on the window as one moved to the front of the car and the other one already had grabbed the driver’s hair and was trying to pull him out of the window. The driver yell “get his fucking hand off me”. As I was trying to pry his hand off him, it was just enough to allow the driver to put the shiftier in first. When he let go of the clutch the car engine growled and the rubber filled the cabin as we lurched forward sending the man standing in front of the car up over the windshield and the roof in an instance. As the smell and smoke from the tires continued to fill the car until we could barely see I heard the guy that was standing in front of the car hit the pavement behind us with a thud and a grunt of pain that had to empty his lungs when he hit the pavement. The guy on the driver’s side still had a hold of the driver’s hair and I was trying to get his fingers loose as the driver shifted in to third gear I managed to get enough fingers loose and he disappeared we could hear the guy hit the payment at about seventy miles an hour. There was a distinct thump, thump, of his body hitting the highway as we sped toward Norfolk in silence. When the guy stopped to let me out at the base we just looked at each other and said nothing.
Not all the hiking experiences were bad I had people go way out of their way to get me where I was headed many bought me something to eat or just got me to safety like the guy in the Chevy SS. I met a lot of good people and learned a lot about life from people from all walks of life.
I think the best time I had was when I fell in love on the bus. She got on when we reached Pittsburgh PA. I was outside grabbing something to eat, a Babe Ruth candy bar. When I returned to the bus she was sitting at the outside seat next to me. I had left my Pea coat on my seat to save my spot. She was on her way home from a school just outside of Pittsburgh. She was studding computer language. The only thing I knew about computers is that we had one that was supposed to run all our guns. But it didn’t work. She had a sparkle in her eye that transfixed me. She was slender built much like my first love. She had this alluring smell in her hair that got my Testosterone flaring. By the time we got to where she live she had to get off was when I realized I didn’t know her name. She had showed me where she lived as we passed her house. When we stopped in Franklinville and the bus driver wouldn’t let our love get in the way of his schedule. As her hand slipped from mine I knew I was in love but it was not to be. I could never convince anyone to drive that far and never saw her again. I often wondered what would have been, but my future wife was in the wings, I just didn’t know it yet. Fate sometimes has a way of saving a sole maybe here’s, but certainly not mine.
Down by the River Charles…Muddy waters
Running home was put on hold by the Navy we were shipping out to head north to Boston Shipyard for a complete over haul top to bottom out of the water repair’s. First on our list was to paint the ammunition lockers from top to bottom all five decks. First off we had to figure out to run the ammo lift. The buttons for up and down didn’t work on any of the floors. So we had to open each switch box on each floor to throw the right switch to the go to the floor we wanted. To solve the problem we left a paint poll that was just the right length to poke to proper button switch. The only problem was that you had about one second to poke it without getting your hand chopped off, or stuck with just enough room to get your hand on the poker. The lift was designed for ammo not people, there was only enough room to squat and you had to make sure there were no mistakes like not getting your foot tucked in fast enough. Thank god we were young and desperate enough to pull it off. Going down was the worst because you had to grab the stick as it passed by while waiting for the lift to get half way past the floor to pop the switch just in time to stop it level so you could get off, or get the big stuff off. If it wasn’t lined up just right you weren’t getting off or you had to double trip the switch and inch it up or down to get it level. We just had to be good we didn’t have time to waist.
Once we solved that problem we knew we would never get the job anywhere near done with brushes and rollers so we had to commandeer the yard birds compressor and hoses and everything else that comes with it, like the tools to repair it if something happens to south, the navy thinks of everything, to the point they could show a chimpanzee to use it.
Any job in the navy has a name and a number. Every nut bolt, screw, every single thing that could be picked up or move as a number. The only computers were confined to land bases. This was old style WW II stuff. But it works don’t change it. You went to a book or file and look up the job assigned to you that was on a schedule daily, monthly, yearly. On the card they explained every move to make, what to take, what color paint, two sizes, how many rags, what screw to turn, or wall to paint. But most of the time you got what something more that you bargained for, so you adopted the environment to suit your needs they had a degraded reference to rigging it by whatever means necessary. Fix-it when you can get back to it to do it right. 20:00. eight reports. You had to mark every defect was down. Say we took apart a forty mm guns and number one gun down for repairs. Repairs expected complete Jan… ya ta, Yataro. But it was vital information for the captain to know.
Well painting those damn lockers qualified as any means possible. So every night weekends included we had to everything possible to get it done. This started off waiting for the yard birds to go home. We had to lug compressor, hose, and equipment from half way smack in the middle of the ships interior, some hundred or more yards just to get it to the lockers. Then we had to load it on the elevator send it down five decks, to set it up. Once you got it down you had to run five decks of electric cords down for lights, running the compressor. Then we had to lug five gallon cans of paint from the paint locker that was on the back side of the bridge, brushes, rollers, and paint polls eight feet long, rags. Lots of rags. We painted all night long working are way up from the bottom deck. Each deck had eighty or ninety rails that locked the ammo in place. Each of them had to be painted we laid them down and painted three sides then the next night turn them over and paint the down side. Each floor was about the size of a two bay garage. Ten feet high. It took four or five days to do one floor. As we were drilled from the first day on the ship if it doesn’t move paint it. One guy painted the first class Boswins mate’s foot once when he didn’t move. Once. At the end of a shift we looked like snowmen. You couldn’t use goggles because there was so much paint and nowhere for it to go so within a minute the room was filled with paint you just about just move the sprayer in the direction you wanted it to go and didn’t worry about any holly-days because it got as much paint on it as we got on ourselves and we were covered for sure. We literally socked a rag in paint thinner and washed our faces with it like you would with a wash cloth.
After we cleaned the equipment of our paint we had to hull all of it back before the yard bird got there and discovered what we were up to. They didn’t like other people use there sprayers. Some of the equipment belonged personally to some of them. If they found out they would have been hell to pay, and another Captain’s mass wasn’t our idea of fun.
Life on a cruise ship
One night Ro and I, a, (ship fitter) decided to visit one of the bars in town before shipping out to sea when we ran into some sailors from the cruise ship docked on the adjacent pear from us. There were buying us all of our drinks and the bank was live, loud, and on fire. Drink after drink until the bar closed and they threatened to call the SP’s after two hours past normal closing time. The two of them had their own bunking area. It was superb. Two bunks in a ten by ten foot area. With a table and chairs and a lounge chair to boot. When we got there they drug out two gallon jugs of vodka and Jonny Walker’s Scotch and the party began in earnest. We pounded away until I heard the blast of a ship’s horn stating that a ship was about to pull pout of port. That’s when I realized it was going to be our ship. In a panic I tried to navigate on my hand and feet to my gang plank. When I had to be lifted up so that I could salute the ensign and the flag. Someone must have dragged me to my bunk when I realized that I was in no shape to face anyone so I crawled under a gun cover and passed out cold, it was eight in the morning. As I awoke I knew I was in trouble so I gathered myself up and made my way tow the gunnery shake to finish dyeing. That’s when I ran in to Doughty. Oh my god he said where the hell did you come from? That’s the first time I heard the bible thumper swear. I just pointed up and swaying back and forth I whited for him to say he was going to right me up. But instead he said god I have to rewrite the eight-o-clock report before I give it to the captain and he ran off.
Back to No Fuck Norfolk
After our fitting and everything we were ordered to ship out to the Caribbean for ship wide training, unpleasing, and military maneuvers. Before leaving Norfolk we loaded up on ammunition. Every gun locker and the forward Hold was filled to the brim with explosives. The Oggy was the largest combat cargo ship on the east coast at the time. The forward hold held the Ammo for beach operations like when the Marines landed on D-Day. The hold was three decks deep and held about 100,000 tons of ammo. Everything from small arms to the field artillery that the Marines would need on the beach. Also included in that was our stuff, what we had in our own ships ammunition lockers. We could pound the piss out of anything. Sure as hell didn’t want to be on the receiving end.
By the time we got to the Crib it was full on summer, 90 degrees was a cold day. Nothing like bundling up with a May-West life jacket, every button buttoned, with both pant legs tucked into your socks , and a helmet that weighed a ton for a four hour watch. I was at a loss as to how I was going to shoot anything. The steam from my body fogged my glasses up and I am as nearsighted a Mr Mgoo without them.
General Quarters- General Adequate would ring in my ears for days on end. Day and night. We drilled, over and over again until you could literary do it in your sleep. In fact at night when we ran Dark you are as good as blind. And if you don’t know when to duck, jump, or dodge everything you could kill yourself.
We had fire-drills, gunnery-drills, Abandon-ship drills, man-over-board drills, drills, drills, day night, in the middle of chow, weather dress or not. I went up naked alongside three other men lucky enough to be caught in the shower. I was glad that they called it off before I got all the way on deck. There is nothing com-paired to than your privets swinging in the breeze to fire you up. After a month of this we were granted a twelve hour leave on the beach. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
Getomo was what they called a Cinderella liberty except instead of midnight we had to be back at noon. Well we were all pissed especial when we found out that we could only go to the EM Club on base. Turns out that’s all you need. We left the ship at eight and had to be back by noon. Well we left the club felling sober, but after walking about a block and the heat of a thousand hell heat you in the face you become blasted on your ass, in fact a few guy passed out and we had to drag them back so the SP’s didn’t get them. Nothing like sobering up at four in the afternoon only to go on duty, still half plastered.
Finally after all the drilling we were issued ship wide orders to full on armed gunnery drills. Finally we would get to load and fir the big guns. Finally I got what I was trained to do… Shoot something with a gun that didn’t sound like a fire cracker.
First off were the 40tys. We had four Twin 40 millimeter guns. For and aft.one mount on each side, and one five inch/38 on the fantail. The 40 mm’s we a fun type of gun to shoot. The shells were like oversized 30-30s they were clip loaded four to a clip from the top down. The ammunition came in a box that held four clips to a box. Once hulled up from the ammunition locker there were stacked in a circle around the guns in their own rack holders. We had seven sailors to a gun… Two to hull it up to the gunnery deck, two to put them in the racks and pass them to the men on each side of the loader. Then the man firing the gun. The whole apparatus sits on a revolving rack the gun moves in any arch be means of a supperhetrodyne electric motor and swings in any 180 degree pattern which is steered by a joystick. It has a foot peddle gun trigger that when held down it would fire in rabid detonation or could fire short bursts to get our range and tracking with tracers. My favorite stuff. It was like a kid with a fire hose spraying the sky. I was a nervous-Nellie waiting my turn to shoot the world all to hell and back and in the morning Joe and I would get our chance.
The plane was coming in from the east high in the morning sun when the order to fire at will was issued and the fun began, at least for me. As for the piolet of the plane I was shooting at it was a different story. No one told me that the target was the sleeve waving five hundred yards behind it. Cease-fire came screaming through my head phones even over the percussion of the gun blasts. Cease-fire, cease-fire you are hitting the plane. At the time my tracers had found a blank spot so I didn’t get called for it. It seems they thought that the aft gunner was the one hitting it, but as soon as they called it out I realized that I was the culprit. We all kept our mouth shut and agreed with the assessment that it wasn’t us. So when the second round of planes came around I got it right and shoot the sleeve off the plane which made it disappointing because that was the only one they had so it ended the shouting lesions for the fleet as well.
Well thing went from bad to worse as for the gunnery lessons. The Marine Second Lieutenant gunnery office was always challenging me and Joe at something involving gun whether it be big ones like shooting the sleeve off planes or field striping fourty-fives so why not.. One time he made the statement that his marines could field strip a fourty five caliber pistol in twenty minutes and was sure enough to bet that neither Joe nor I could match the time. Shit we were looking at an easy twenty bucks we were striping the down in five minutes so we took the bet. Well his challenge caused one for us. So Joe and I got the stopwatch out and took to seeing which one was best. So after two or three tries we were ready to take him on for the next day at the Armory. Well he walked in on us and he saw the stop watch click off eighteen second not minutes he called the bet off. He wasn’t renowned for paying off bets. Another bet was our next shoot out. We were set to fire the five inch thirty eight gun at a tug towing a sled with a huge bull’s eye rigged on its deck. Well he figured that he had this one in the bag. BUT! He found out what the off set for the target was and rigged it back to zero. Which made the gun absolutely true on target. We were at the gun when the gunnery officer set in the offset. As soon as he turned his back to instruct the deck hands as to how to handle the projectiles Joe got up and cranked the offset back to zero. We were supposed to fire off twenty-five round that day. But shit happiness. With the offset at zero I started firing. It was a perfect day. The ship was cutting the waves just right for knocking shit out of the sky and water. It had just a slight roll to it so that when the target was on a high wave were coming up down on the bottom of the wave. When the gun fired it actually rolled the ship about five feet and if you wait until it just comes in to view you can’t miss. Like I said it was just perfect. The first round hit just over the target, the second hit just under just as we were instructed it was called bracket and hafting, split the difference and it is direct hit, BAM. Joe was perfect as he had split the difference I cut the fucking thing to pieces. After seventeen rounds the sled was sinking, fast. Again cease-fire, cease-fire rang in my head phones. So I quit firing and Joe ran around and reset in the four mill off-set and got back to his post just in time. I think every officer on the ship came running to see what went wrong. God we had a hard time keeping a straight face as they mulled over the problem so they could explain to the caption of the tug why he was hulling a sinking sled back to base for the first time in Naval history. We could hear the tug Captain yelling to get the torches and cut the fucking thing off before it sank them. From the sound of panic in him he I think he was pissed off about something. After everyone left the Marine Second Lieutenant came over and said he wasn’t paying because although no one could prove it we cheated. We didn’t care we had just done something no one else had the balls or stupidity to do and got away with it. Well such is the Navy way, Brains over brawn. This guy was a piece of work and we knew he wasn’t going to tell anyone.
One night I was on the mid-watch on the bridge the OOD told me to wake up the Second Lieutenant to relive him for his watch. As the Messenger of the watch I headed down to the offices quarters to shag his ass out of his bunk. When you wake someone on a ship you try to do it gently as you can, just because you are not on the type of schedule that normal people are you get jousted out of sleep at an inconvenient time of the day or night and you were sure as hell didn’t want to wake up any one else unless you had to. Sometimes you literally just lay down after hours of work to get up to replace someone that got injured or some other seemingly stupid reason like guarding garbage. No matter what you’re up and at it, whatever that may be. Well it was time for him to get up and I had the unfortunate duty to roll him out and on to his feet. It was next to impossible. I would go down and he would sit up like he was going to get up. But after a few minutes the inpatient officer that was to be relived would send me back down, same thing. Up and down I went no office came up. Finally he was up sitting on his bunk dressed after twenty minutes went by so I confidently told the deck office he was right behind me. Nope. Down I went yet another time. This time he was standing in front of his mirror shaving. But because I was behind him and he had his straight razor in mid stroke to his chin I froze. What the hell do I do about this? I stood in awe as he stood there in mid stroke eyes open but asleep and unresponsive. Never in my life had I seen anything like this. I just turned went back up looked straight in to the deck officer eyes and told him he would have to go down himself and see what I saw because I sure as hell didn’t believe it myself. That time he came a flying up and with no one to ceremoniously relive because the Officer of the Watch was yelling curse words any sailor would be proud of. He stood what remained of his watch with saying anything… I think he was awake I don’t know because my watch had ended so I got the hell out of there.
When you have enough time in you take a test to advance to the next pay grade. This a hugemungaus thing to happen. Going from a deckhand to a rate for whatever job you want to do for the remainder of your duty. As a deckhand you are just a number 7945872, that was my number my soul visible. By making rate I was a part of a larger whole. I went from part of the ship to a person. I had face that important people talked to, and ask for input. I loved it. The advantages and new found confidence made anything a possibility. Joe made rate along with me, so basically we just disappeared. As long as we did our job no one knew if we were there or not. Got to love the Navy. Just lazy enough to get the job done, done right, and still have time to crew off, lots of time. How anything gets done is really a bit strange but everything important gets done. Was a third class Gunners Mate. I was at last important whole.
Water, Water everywhere, but not a Drop to Drink
After stopping off at Montego Bay for R&R we would head for the Med to meet with the rest of the fleet to train with NATO for assault landings which the ship was designed for. Montego Bay was probably the most bountiful place I have ever seen. We sat eighty or so feet out of the water from the deck and you could see the rocks and coral at the bottom of the ocean. Cristal clear if it wasn’t for the fact that it was salt water you would think that you could drink it. As you sit on the beach with the turquoise blue waves hypnotically lapping the shore your mind enters in to a dream world. You think of captain Black Beard slipping out to board our ship and take the treasure with broad swords shinning off the full moon as a backdrop to our fantasy. Then you are snapped back to the reality that you only have an ever so few days to take it all in. then it’s back to your never ending chain of watches aboard the dull gray beast that got you here. But a dream is a dream as the hot young brown skinned girl turns back into a sand dune.
I watched the anchor of the ship docked next to us come from the depth of eighty or so feet clear the surface of the water on my way back to the bridge to stand my watch and get ready for us to part and set a new course to Roda Spain some thousands of nautical miles away.
From one dark blue Sea to another far and distant land
Sailing the ocean was going to be a whole new game. We had been in heavy storms before but I was about to see the entrance of hell. We were three days out and the ocean was calm and as smooth as glass when I went to bed. I was shot we had put in a hard day ad I welcomed the comfort of my bunk. I went out like a light. I had the Twelve to eight watch and was assigned the helm. When the watch commander sends someone down to wake you they use a flash light with a red filter so it doesn’t blind you when you get up. At night all decks below are also illuminated with red lamps for the same reason so by the time you get to the Com deck it only takes a few seconds to get used to normal lighting.
That night I would wake to something out of a Chaplin move. He watch taped my bunk shined the light to make sure my eyes were open and awake. He left to wake someone else as I laid there. I stood up turned to go to my locker on the other side of the ship to get dressed. I got there in record time. I hit the bulkhead with the force of an atom bomb. POW. I shook my head wondering what the hell? When I felt the deck rise to the height of vertical and stare straight down to the opposite bulkhead and was off again. This time I grabbed a rack leg and held on to for dear life, again what the hell. Bouncing off the walls the squawk-box was announcing t\not to go outside of the ship. I guess. I finally arrive at the helm and took over. When I took the wheel it spun out over my hand and spun so fast it damn near took my arm off in the process. I finally got control by standing off to the side of it and held on with two hands with my feet planted solidly on the deck. I did that for four hours as the ship slammed the waves to the likes I have never seen. Damn scary is what it was. The wave were braking over the bow and coming half way to the bridge when we rose out of the wave it slammed on to the wheel house shaking the whole ship to the core. Each wave forced the ship to list to thirty degrees a few more and we would capsize. By morning the worst was over as I looked outside I watched as the aircraft carrier next to us disappeared before my eyes. A few seconds later it rose about fourty feet above us. It was riding the ground swells like us as we toped one it slid to the bottom of the one they were riding.
General quarters, General quarters, fire, fire, this is not a drill. Oh fuck! Joe and I were down at the very bottom of one of the cargo holds fucking off one of are lazy days off trying to remove a hangover from cards the night before. We had a make shift table and a deck of cards so we took time playing solitaire or go fuck (a dirty version of Go Fish). Sometimes we would pitch pennies or fling cards at each other like gun fighters. Occasionally we would actually do some painting and chipping. No one in their right mind would come down and see if we did anything.
We scrambled to get to the top of the ninety foot climb out of the hold. Just as we got to the hatch someone battened it down. We were locked in for good. If the ship went down we went with it. The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up and that prickly feeling that you get just before you crap your pants. I asked Joe what the hell do we do know? God were fucked. Joe climbed all the way back down and up with a chipping hammer and we took turn banging on the hatch. We had gone down after lunch some eight hours later we were hanging on a latter ninety feet in the air with both arms getting weaker as we took turn pounding on the hatch. Four an hour the ship swayed back and forth at the mercy of the waves dead in the water. A ships night mare dead in the water in rough seas it could capsize which I had been through before.. Thank god we were in calm water.
About an hour later we heard Secure from General Quarters. At least we knew the ship wasn’t going to burn us alive or sink, BUT, there was still one problem, we were still locked in the hold pounding on the hatch getting more tired and weak from the strain of pounding and hanging ninety feet in the air. Joe had climbed down for a rest and I was about to give up when I heard the bolts of the hatch and the dammed thing open and let a rush of air from the hold blowing up from the bottom almost like the hold was released from holding its breath in for eight or so hours. I know mine did. I yelled at Joe to get his ass up and I climbed out to the surprise of the guy that let us out. What the hell were you two doing down there he asked? Hoping not to die I told him.
We finally crossed the Atlantic and were headed into the Mediterranean Sea we were entering the Sea when I realized that we could see two contaminates, the Europe and the African sides at the same time. The rock was just like the life insurance ads pictures but much more stunning in person. As we pulled into port I was stunned at how large the rock was. We stayed there only long enough to load supplies and head to grease where we would stay for a week.
We went over a thousand miles from No fuck Norfolk to No fuck Naples. This was our new home away from home as they say. From Naples we would go to different ports in the Med and do Navy things. So the first thing was to get us some marines to fuck with. So it was off to a base on Malta. There was a port where we picked up the guys that landed first the engineers in charge of making landing strips and setting up Quonset huts to live in while they were there. A quonset hut is made of a heavy quorate steel of variant lengths to make temporary places to house troops. These Marines would stay with us for the duration of the Med. cruise. Of course on of the goofy bastards had to stick to us like glue. He was like a big clumsy puppy. For one of the ones that was suppose too be smart. He wasn’t the most well lite one around. So sailors be what sailors be we would mess with him. And he never got the fact that we didn’t care too much for him. After a while he would ware on your nerves. He was like a five year old always asking WHY, WHY, WHY no matter how you explained it was still why? Even after the answer way; because a dozen times. But he was useful for amusement purposes. Joe was cutting his own hair one day and goofy wanted him to cu his. Joe didn’t really want to but the guy wouldn’t quit asking so Joe relented. Big mistake. From the front it looked like a pro did the job but from the back it looked like a five year old mowed a lawn with scissors. Besides the missing patches of hair Joe nicked the hell out of him to the point that it looked like a pond full of Parana chewed his neck and head. He kept asking Joe what was running down his neck so Joe told him it was just sweat and he believed him.
The fertility gods of Ephesus Turkey
Turkey was quit an awe inspiring place we had to dock out away from the docks so we had to take the little fuckers to shore for liberty. At least we didn’t have to disembark like the Marines. We lowered the Gang-plank and walked down claimed in to the captain’s rig and sailed in looking sharp, first class. The other ships end there landing craft and looked like a work party, except they were in their whites. The first bar we hit was huge maybe hundred tables full of marines and sailors, smoke and the pungent smell of stale beer. The beer was in tall skinny bottles. The bottles were about eighteen inches tall and only about three inches around. They probably held sixteen ounces of beer. The tables were about three feet around and there wasn’t an inch to put anther beer on it. The bar keeps would bring them but never took any away. The beer had a tasty down the thought taste to it and it was cold on a hot day and went down like water. The bottles were falling off the tables so at first we didn’t notice. When all of a sudden tables went flying and bottles were being smashed by MP’s which were coming from all directions. “Recall, recall, back to your duty stations now recall! “ Get your asses moving god damn it recall, move, and move, know. We all jumped to our feet to stunned to do only what we were told to do. We were running back to the docks when a guy in front of me had a run in with an apple,. Bop right in the back of his head. It only served me to run faster. We hit the boats and high tailed it out of there back to the safety of the ship. They were already moving and we were loaded on the run. We got the hell out of there.
At Ephesus We picked up a replacement for JB his tour of duty was over and was being flown home. Our funniest guy was leaving and a new guy fresh from Viet Nam was to replace him. His name was Rosdahl. A meat head that was all fuckup. He came and because he out ranked me and Joe he thought he was king shit. Another as hole that going to into physical specimens of good health. He ended up just about as successful as our first office was, fat chance. He started doing Jumping Jacks. Joe did one looked at me and we both laughed and went to the 40’s to do our job as he hollered out You two are on report. We gave him the big finger.
About noon shithead now his official name came up to see how we were doing. Joe asked him how the reporting was coming along as I held out from bursting at the seams. He just said fuck you guys and stormed off.
This guy was a jerkoff and he rode the FT’s because the were smarter than he was. He actually told them this. In particular Glenn. For some reason the two of them went at it every day. I wouldn’t fuck with Glenn he was built like Arnold Swartenager.
It came out of the twilight.
I was on watch when it came, it just came, no one new when, it just appeared above our five ship formation. It was a clear as glass star filled full mooned night. When all of a sudden there were two moons. The real one off to the south east and the one five hundred yards overhead. The same distance as each ship was from each other in formation on the same course and speed eighteen knots. As far as I know the only flyable thing that can stay in the air at that speed is a helicopter and that it was not. It was round and smooth with no markings, no doors, no windows, hatches, nothing but a silver ball floating at eighteen knots. For three days and nights this thing dogged us doing nothing. We were already at Defcon III (Increase in force readiness above normal readiness) with guns loaded. I took my turn at the Five-inch gun ready for action? I don’t think even an armored piercer would put a dent it. On the third day I guess our Captain had enough and radioed Washington for permission to take the target out. Washington said no way and issued special orders. Because I was Petty officer of the watch I had to follow the Captain and the second in command in to the crypto room to open the two key safe and get out the special orders. As they read the Numbers from Washington I had to confirm them. Then the fur started to fly. Orders to change course were barked out and all the ships went in different directions. We were to meet up again the next day.
Out of the fog it came
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of the ships fog horn blasting out its mournful warning. I was standing on the forward gun deck when all of a sudden a huge shape appeared out of the fog. It was another ship from our squad. It must have had orders to for at the same location, but I drought that they meant occupying the exact same point in the ocean. Five feet may be a lot of space for most anything else but not a ship. We were sailing off to Sardinia for a D-Day type landing this is what all the training came down to. Were we going to stage a landing and kill all the sand monsters that lived on some shitty patch of Sardinia that presumably no one gave a shit . And that we did. Joe and I were at the five-inch gun ready to blow the hell out of some sand dooms when we heard the crack of a much larger gun. It was the USS new Jersey BB62 firing off its sixteen inch guns. We sounded like a BB gun verses a shotgun. The shells actually do whistle going over head.
We were cleaning up and restoring the unspent forty amo. The ammunition was stored in sealed boxes with four round clips four to a box. It took two of us to lift and swing the in place on the upper most tiers. Well as we swung one of them it hit the rack and slammed to the floor and the box must not have been closed properly because they all spelled all over the deck. Then as I bent over to pick them up a loud hissing noise came from the pile. I bent over and grabbed as many as I could the seaman that was helping me stepped on my back and made tracks. I scoped up as many as I could and headed out the hatchway to the side of the ship and tossed the in the drink. I thing it woke Davy Jones up because some of them went off spraying water high into the air as they went off one at a time, boom, boom, boom and boom. Soaking wet and pissed off at the seaman I went back to the amo locker and through the rest that spilled on the deck and tossed the in to the drink. None of them went off. Sailors were running toward me as I headed down the find the seaman that had left me gh and dry. There he was under his rack shaking like a leaf. I grabbed him by the hair and drug him out and proceeded to explain that if the hole amo locker went off he, me, nor and one on this ship, the dock would be blown to vapors. Then I had to go explain what happened to the Captain I made no mention of what the kid did. He only did what I wanted to do.
USS New Jersey (BB-62)
Back to Naples and Home world bound
We hit Naples around midnight It was December and just as cold as it is at home. This Christmas I would spend in a foreign country and the only tree would be in the Mess hall, with fake boxes decorated under it. But in the gunnery shack we had makeshift tree made from green painted coat hangers with spent shell from the M1’s and 45 Cal. 1911. a Gunners dream Christmas.
Each of us had a bottle of booze and a shit load of cookies the cook gave. We each passed our presents around the big finger and said marry fuck you-s to each other the Ken cut the cards so I could loose and paycheck. Then everyone wanted to go up to the FT’s hide out to do something and tried to talk me into it. I wouldn’t give in I wanted to be alone. About one in the morning Rosdahl and Glenn came in Rosdahl as hammered. I mean fall down drunk on your ass hammered. I thought it was odd that Glenn was with him they hated each other. Glenn told me they had kid and made up. Not likely. Glenn kept om to go somewhere and I refused.
The next thing that happened wasn’t Glenn came over and told me that he was going to toss him over the side. I guess it went over my head or I just thought he was joking. He was not. All fucking broke loose. The room went dark Glenn Hit Rosdahl in the face so hard I thought it would come off. As I stood up Glenn turned off the lights and shout us in. Fuck Rosdahl had a bead on me with fist flying he lunged thinking I hit him. Now we were basically a closet hammering at each other in a coal black darkness, bang, bang. This went on and on. I was trying to find the door and he would reach out and grab me. At one point I found his head and grabbed his hair and pounded and pounded his head into a corner of an Art Metal desk.
Just then I he got lose again and found my leg. I let out a scream that deafened me. My god it hurt and burned like I lit it on fire. Just then Glenn busted in as I cut loose to the Head I saw Glenn hammering on him.
By the time I got down there the blood was running down my leg. When I pulled down my Dungs I had a perfect dental in print of his teeth. About a few minutes later Glenn came in and pulled down his draws and had the exact same dental in print on his leg. I was scrubbed up and I left to go to my bunk and hope it was a fuckup dream.
It was not a dream and my le hurt like hell. At roll call Rosdahl was missing. I figured that Glenn did what he said he was going to do pitch Rosdahl. Just then the second Lieutenant followed by our normally missing Ensign then Rosdahl.
They asked if we knew anything about this. We all could have gotten an academy award. We all acted dumbfounded. Somehow we got away with it. It seemed that Rosdahl was in a black out and no idea what happened. God what a mess he was. He had Monkey bubbles all over his head. It looked like a mountain range huge bumps cover every inch of his head front and back.
Glenn later came to me and threatened me, you know if you say anything … I didn’t know at the time how far he was going to take this.
He kept at it sneaking up and whispering in me ear your dead meat. If you say anything… I’ll kill you. I knew he meant to carry through with it. One night We cot this strange call that someone was hurt one one of the crane’s on hold two aft. Strange because no one would normally think of being there at 0300 hours. Being Petty officer of the watch it was me they sent to check it out. I climbed to the top and no one was there as I turned to go back Glenn was there with his head sticking up at deck level. I told him to stop an pulled ot the Fourty five cocked it and told him to leave. He took one more step and I reminded him although the gun was not support to be loaded mine was. He left. After that I slept with my blade open under my pillow.
Back to the World
Finally we were back in the Atlantic ocean headed home.