School year 67 68. 2 new vehicles. Spring Summer and Fall and Winter of 1968. Eighth grade. And Camping in the Snow.

Jr High

Wattle Park Jr. High

Frog

In the fall of 67 I started 7th grade. Mr Wilson was my teacher. We learned the usual stuff. Reading math English etc.  This was the year that we dissected animals so we could see there insides.  It was a gory experience.  I had a cat and it was so hard to get it’s brain out having to cut and saw through its skull.  The classroom smelled of formaldehyde for weeks! It was not a pleasant experience especially for the girls in the class. We also continued to reenact episodes of Star Trek in the playground.

Honda-Mini-Trail-Z50-Right-Side

Honda 50 Mini Trail

I continued my adventures in the fields on my mini bike with my friends Greg and Carlos. Greg had a Yamaha 100 and Carlos had a Honda 90. I still had my little mini bike and was always trailing behind as the mini bike was not very fast. Dad noticed this as I trailed behind the others. So he began to work on mom to upgrade my ride. Dad won approval from mom and one day when I got home from school mom and dad sat me down at the kitchen breakfast nook. Dad told me that he had seen that I was not keeping up very well with the “pack”. He asked me if I would like an upgrade for my ride. “Of course I would! That would me great!” I exclaimed.  “Well” said dad. “Take a look in the garage and see what we got for you.” I leapt out of my chair and flung open the garage door.  There it was! A brand new 1967 Honda 50 mini trail! It was a 3 speed automatic clutch vehicle. It had a 50 CC dual overhead cam engine. I was delighted.  Dad helped me put gasoline in the tank and we started the engine. I asked if I could take it for a ride and got approval. So off I rode across the edge of the Beaumont retention pond and across Wattles road and over to the trails in the hills.

CL70

Honda CL 70

Spring and summer continued with many adventures riding the trails with Greg and Carlos. Dad watched me as we rode off on our adventures and noticed that I still was not keeping up very well. The mini bike was just not powerful enough to keep up with Greg and Carlos on their more powerful motorcycles.  So he gently began to work on mom again about this. Mom resisted at first but at last relented.  So one day in late summer I came home from a long ride and parked my mini bike in the garage and entered the house.  Mom and dad were waiting for me at the kitchen table. “Sit down with us Jim.” Dad said. I sat down and dad said. “We have noticed that you are still having trouble keeping up in your rides so mom and I have decided that you need one more upgrade for your ride. Let’s take a ride to the Honda dealer and see what they have.” I could not believe my ears! Was I going to get a motorcycle? I have wanted one for some time but never asked for one as I had vehicles and was satisfied with them. Could this be a dream come true?

Honda

A Honda Dealer in the 60’s

So I got in the car with dad and we drove to the Honda dealer. Wow what inventory they had there in their showroom.  Big cruisers that were far to big and expensive for me. Road bikes. Trail bikes etc.  Dad brought me over to one that seemed the right size and power for me. It was a 1969 CL 70 trail bike. It was still 1968. However the new models were out. It could be licensed also as it had a place for a license plate.  It had lights and had a 70 CC dual overhead cam engine. It was blue. I fell in love with it instantly! The Honda CL70 was a small motorcycle with a 72 cc (4.4 cu in) four stroke engine, a pressed steel frame and a four-speed manual gearbox. It essentially replaced the Honda CL90. It was very similar to a CL50 with a larger engine. It had a high-mount exhaust and a high rear fender. This allowed the look, though not really the capability, of extended off-road capability, before real dual sport motorcycles were available.

Dad finished up with the salesman and after some dickering they decided on a price.  Once paid for we loaded the brand new beauty into the station wagon and headed home. At last when I went out for adventures with Greg and Carlos, I could keep up! I was in vehicle heaven!

The summer came to an end and fall began. It was time to start eighth grade. The final year of Jr. High. I think my teachers name was Mr. Stetson. I may be wrong. I am a bit foggy on what his name was. It was a good class and it introduced me to government and politics.  Nixon was about to be elected president and there was a new course called capitalism versus communism.

gym

Gym class

I got into some trouble in gym class that year. I am very much a follower in many ways and still am to this day.  Being a follower would get me on trouble from time to time over the years. A few of us got together and decided it would be fun to run around the gym floor and pull people’s gym shorts down. The object of this was to determine who was wearing their athletic supporter and who was not.  The gym teacher was in his office so now was a good time to try and pull this off.  So we spread out and began to pull shorts down.  I found out that 2 people were not wearing their cup before the gym teacher came out of his office and caught us.  He yelled “Hey! What’s going on here! Alright you boys. Line up on this line right here.” He said as he pointed to a line on the floor. We knew we were in for  it now! We went back to his office and came back with his paddle! It was a monstrous thing with some holes drilled in it so it would administer more pain.  One by one we each receive one wack! One was all that was needed. It hit so hard that it lifted us off our feet momentarily.  It hurt. However we did not cry as that would show weakness. One thing for sure is that we never pulled the same stunt again!

Camp

Camping in winter

In December of 1968 Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington, Mike Zull and I planed a camping adventure in the snow.  We got approval from our respective parents and  one cold evening we loaded up our motorcycles with provisions and headed out into the field directly across from the Habenicht residence. We set up camp. No tent. Just sleeping bags. It gives me chills as I am writing this. It was so cold!! We lit a fire and settled down around it.

smoking

Greg, Mike and I had started to smoke cigarettes that year hiding it from our parents. However our parents knew and were always smelling our breath. They were not stupid.  It took me years later in my adulthood to stop the nasty habit of smoking. Carlos did not smoke. He hated it. Once in a while he would ask either Greg or myself for a cigarette.  If we gave him one he would immediately break it between his fingers right in front of us! We learned quickly not to give him a cigarette if he asked for one! So we smoked a couple of cigarettes before climbing into our sleeping bags.

Greg noticed that Mike had placed his sleeping bag very close to the fire. Greg said “You are too close to the fire Mike. Move back a little bit.” Mike said “I will be okay.  Don’t worry.” “Okay” said Greg. ” I still think you are too close. Be careful or the bag will catch fire.” Mike said he would be careful. We all got in our bags and soon fell asleep.

bag

We woke during the night with the sound of mike crying and moaning. He was saying “My legs. My legs.” It had happened.  His sleeping bag was too close to the fire and had caught on fire while Mike was sleeping. The fabric of his pants and the fabric of the bag had burnt right into his lower legs. He was in extreme pain.  He had third degree burns. So we got him up on the back of Greg’s motorcycle and Carlos and I followed Greg and Mike out of the field and made our way to the Habenicht home. Mike could not bend his knees without causing extreme pain so he left his feet off the pegs and let them drag behind him. We woke up Betty and Glen Habenicht and they  made preparations to drive Mike to the hospital. Greg asked his mom if we could go back to the field and resume our camp out. She said no. Greg pleaded and assured her that we would be fine. Still the answer was no. So we laid out our bags in Greg’s basement and spent the rest of our adventure there.

We were not happy about what happened and we were disappointed that Mike did not heed Greg’s warning. It had ruined our adventure. The following morning Greg and I rode out to the field with me on the back of Greg’s motorcycle to retrieve Mike’s motorcycle. Greg and I started back. I drove Mike’s motorcycle back to the Habenicht home and parked it on the patio next to Greg’s motorcycle. The incident drove home the importance of safety especially when it came to fire!

My Brother Alan Lee Culpepper

into sunset

As I mentioned in the post “My Dad” I have a half brother by the name of Alan Lee Culpepper. In 1928 my father married Mabel Margaret (Last name unknown). In 1930 they had a son, Alan Lee Culpepper. Alan would later become a chemist at Dow Corning. In Midland Michigan.  He was instrumental in the team that developed Corning Ware.  The marriage however was not a good one, and in 1939 ended in divorce.

Alan loved to fish.  In the late 40’s and early fifties, after my dad married my mother, you would find him waiting in the driveway with his fishing gear, waiting for my mom to get home so she could take him fishing. My mom loved to fish too so that was no problem.

I remember Alan as a very smart and friendly person.  He was always ready for adventure and fun! Dad told me that Alan always wanted the best on things. Fast cars. The best in fishing gear, golf clubs etc. I always had fun when he visited. He would take me golfing with him and showed me how to stand and hold the club. I loved him very much and wanted to be just like him. In the sixties he did not come to visit as much as in the fifties.  However when he did come to call it was a very special time!

Football

Alan loved going to football games. He often attended them.

car wreck

One night after the game as he was driving out of the parking lot and onto the highway, and  he was involved in an accident. He got out of his car to inspect the damage and a drunk driver mowed him down  to the pavement. His injuries were extensive and he stayed in ICU for weeks. When he was released from the hospital he was completely deaf except for a noise in his ears like roaring freight trains. The noise did not stop. It was with him 24 hours a day. This was devastating to Alan as he loved music.  Music was now out of the question for him.

spider lake

                                                   Spider Lake Michigan

Deafness_and_hard_of_hearing_symbol

Alan visited us a few times after the accident.  One time comes to mind. A visit to spider lake in Michigan.  He took me out for a round of golf and he went fishing with dad and I. He was learning to read lips and was getting quite good at it. Alan was very self dependent and would not allow us to help him at things like ordering a meal at a restaurant etc.  He wanted to do things on his own. However his deafness was taking a toll on his physic.  He was no longer a happy man.

On night in the winter of of 1967, a few weeks before Christmas,  I was out messing around.  I was over at my friend Greg’s house then looked at the time. Time to go home. Dad at an early age instilled promptness in me, as there were consequences for being late. I hold on to this to this day!

cream

So I put my coat on and said my goodbyes to my friend Greg and headed out into the bitter cold of a Michigan winter night. I remember that it was so cold that the snow crunched under my feet. I remember a song was running through my head. Tales of Brave Ulysses by Cream. I wanted to learn it as Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington,  and I had just formed a band called “wheat”.

weep

I walked through Greg’s back yard and made my way to Beaumont Drive and my house. I entered the house and hung my coat up in the coat closet and headed into the living room. My dad was sitting in his rocker and he was weeping. I had never seen my dad cry. It scared me. I approached him and said “Dad! What is the matter?” He looked up at me through tear stained eyes and said “Oh Jim.  You no longer have a brother. He is dead.” I was shocked! Alan had had enough and just could not go on living. He had put a revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. I watched my dad age overnight. He could not stop weeping and his body shook with sorrow.  And to top it off, he had to call the Kellogg company and tell them that he would not be in for work the following day. He made the call and started to talk but could not. With a quavering weeping voice he called me to the phone and handed it to me. He could no longer talk as he was overcome with grief. I took the phone and told the lady in human resources what had happened and that dad would not be into work. The lady thought that I was the one that took his life. I told the lady no that it was my older brother.

A week later we drove to Midland Michigan for the funeral.  It was grim and sad. Dad’s ex wife had insisted on a open casket.  That was a bad idea as there was extensive damage to Alan’s head. The morticians had done their best to make Alan look presentable but they were limited on what they could do. They tried to reconstruct his head with wax and makeup. He still looked hideous.

After the funeral, we drove over to dad’s ex house as she had said that there were a few things we may want that had belonged to Alan.  She gave me Alan’s fishing gear and a 8 MM projector that had belonged to him. These thing were fine. However nothing could replace Alan.  Nothing!!

Gun

To this day I hate guns.  I have nothing to do with them. I know it is people that kill and not guns.  However knowing that does not diminish my hate for guns one iota! When I see one it just reminds me of that awful cold winter night long long ago.

Christmas 1965. The summer of 66. 11th Birthday. Junior high 66/67. And a Trek to the stars.

School continued in 1966 under the tutelage of Mr. Buckinburger and so did the fun with Lost in Space reenactments in the playground.  Soon Halloween came with the usual visit to the Pughs Halloween party and the 3 bags of “Booty” collected  on our well planned canvassing of the neighborhoods. Then came Thanksgiving and the time off from school for the holiday.  And everyone knows what comes after Thanksgiving! CHRISTMAS! YES YES YES!

Christmas

I have already been thinking of what I wanted for Christmas.  I wanted a motorized vehicle so bad I could taste it! I had my eye on a small mini bike sold at Sears. It had a 5 HP Briggs and Stratton  lawn mower engine.  I wanted it so bad. However I knew the chances of getting were slim to nothing. My friend Greg’s dad had already made a mini bike for him. My friend Carlos was also promised a vehicle, but still didn’t have one. Mom was quite firm and expressed her fears to dad most graphically.

Christmas eve came and we made our usual pilgrimage to Lakeview Baptist Church for the Christmas eve service. I was by far to old to wait for “Santa” to deliver my gifts so I could open them in the morning. In this time of my life,  opening of gifts took place on Christmas eve. The excitement had been building these past few weeks. Maybe just maybe mom would relent, and give the green light to dad to go to Sears and purchase my mini bike.

I could hardly stand the wait. The Christmas eve service seemed to go on and on and on. I sat in the pew and tried not to fidget.  At last the final hymn was sung and we made our way out onto the cold winter night and to the car.

We made it home. Mom put out some potato salad and snacks and we all settled down in the living room in front of the Christmas tree. Most years I played Santa and handed out gifts one by one. One to mom. Then dad. Then me. I received some models this year and a base station with walkie talkies. That was pretty cool. It had a range that covers all of Beaumont Drive.  Some clothes and this and that. I did not expect a mini bike to be in the living room so I began eyeing the door leading to the garage. Dad saw this and said ” jim. Do you think something else may be out there? Why don’t you go check.” I sprang up off the couch and did just that! Over in the corner of the garage was a 6 foot toboggan and next to it a some skies and poles. No mini bike. But wow! The toboggan and the skies were fantastic. My parents had trained me to be satisfied and grateful for what you have. Even if I had received something of far less interest to me than the toboggan and the skies, I would have held my tongue and Express my gratitude and thankfulness to my parents.  I was taught to choose cheerfulness rather then happiness. Cheerfulness is much easier to maintain because it is entirely in one’s own control. And so I expressed my thanks to mom and dad and planned adventures in the frozen hills!

Winter turned to springtime and then came my birthday. I saw no reason in asking for a mini bike. Why waste the energy. Dad, however had seen traces of my disappointment and had been gently working on mom for her approval.  I asked for a model that had caught my eye. And a Frisbee.  Mom smiled and dad said “What. No mini bike? I thought for sure you would ask for that.” I said “Well I figured no use in asking for that as you probably would not get that for me.” Dad said with a wink “Ask Jim. Ask.” The smile on moms face disappeared.

mini bike

My birthday came on the 12th of May. The three of us gathered on the patio for hamburgers and chips and birthday cheer.  My Hope’s were at bay. I was excited but not expecting the impossible.  After the meal I opened the gifts.  A frisbee. Some jarts and a couple of other items. We set up the jarts and had some fun playing together.  As dad was about to release his jart towards its ring, he stopped. “Oh wait! I just forgot.  Sorry. Jim. There is one more item in the garage. Go check it out.” My ears perked up and I ran for the garage back door.  There it was!! In the corner was a brand new sears 5 HP mini bike!!! Yes! Yes! Yes! Well dad over the months had been working on moms approval and had won it. Mom was not entirely convinced.  However she gave her approval a few months ago. So dad had bought it, brought it home unboxed, and put it in the garage. I never noticed it out there!

What a birthday. Of course I wanted to ride it at once. Dad approved and mom grudgingly approved.  “Jim. You be careful.  Bob! Watch him! Oh those things are dangerous.” So dad choked the engine and pulled the starter cord and the engine started. I had ridden Greg’s mini bike so I assured dad I had some knowledge.  “Ok Jim. Be careful.” And off I headed across the retention pond edge and over to the hills across Wattles Road.  What fun. What excitement.  What freedom! The entire summer was spent exploring my new freedom in mobility along with Greg and Carlos!

school

Spring turned to summer and before I knew it it was school time again! Wow summers flew by fast! In the school year of 66/67 I was in 6th grade. First year of junior high. This meant a move from the Elementary school to the Jr high school on Crosby drive. The school was still within walking range so no bus ride to and from school. Mr. Gifford was my 6th grade teacher.  He was a short middle aged man who always was dressed in a suit and a bow tie. He was a good teacher and he further influenced my liking of science and space. He would read to his class a chapter of a book every school day. I especially liked it when he read science fiction.  Especially technical science fiction that explains how things work.

On the 8th of September 1966 Star Trek premiered on CBS. The first episode is call The Man Trap. The following is a short synopsis of the Man Trap.

When the Enterprise takes McCoy to perform routine physicals on Robert and Nancy crater, two archaeologists working on a remote planet, Captain Kirk is surprised by Dr. Crater’s resistance to the crew’s presence and to their demands for additional salt. One crewman is found dead, then another, with mysterious facial scarring. McCoy discovers that all salt has been drained from the bodies. While Kirk and Spock try to discover why Dr. Crater will resort to violence to make Enterprise leave, his wife – who is really a shape shifter that sucks salt from the bodies of other beings – infiltrates the ship disguised as a crew member and begins to prey on the crew.

Star Trek and Lost in Space combined had a great influence over me. Star Trek targeted adults whereas Lost in Space targeted children. This made the show very desirable albeit more scary. As with Lost in Space,  a few of us would reenact Star Trek episodes at recess at the Jr High. Most of the time Jon would be Spock and I Capt. Kirk. And Bill would take the roll of Scotty. Peggy was Yeoman Rand. In the very back of the schools property was a woods.  That is where we set up the bridge of the Enterprise and engineering and the teleporters. This is where I learned the Vulcan sign live long and prosper here. I as captain took the risks.  Sometimes I had to rescue someone. It was very pleasant to rescue Yeoman Rand as Peggy was a very attractive girl. Jon/Spock would walk around saying “It’s not logical.” The following Halloween I dressed up as Spock and practiced not showing the slightest bit of emotion. Jon and I took this s little bit further. I would go over to his house. His room was the loft in the attic.  That was the bridge. Another room on the main floor was the teleporter. And in the basement was engineering and the warp engines. Fun times pretending.

All in all it was a very good year. I now owned a motor vehicle. And a new fantastic tv show. And now looking forward to 1967. Life was good indeed!