The school year continued in 1971. Just before summer of 1971 I met a girl. Linda is her name. We would hang out at her house, go to school functions and generally enjoyed each others company.
I liked Linda a lot. However she had a sister. Her name is Brenda. She was blond and sweet and easy to talk to and I fell in love at first sight! I broke up with Linda and started going steady with her sister Brenda. Linda was hurt but not surprised. She told me later that this always happened. Every time she landed a boyfriend her sister would steal him away from her. I remained friends with Linda even to this day.
I enjoyed Brenda’s company. We did everything together. School dances. Eating dinner at her house. Or just hanging out with her made for a fine day.
Brenda had siblings. The youngest was Sherry. Then Adam. Then Andrea. Then Michelle. Then Linda. Brenda was the oldest. And of course her parents Benny and Ginney Beck.
Benny was a salesman and a landscaper. I even worked for him along with Brenda’s aunt Gayle landscaping yards. Here on the west coast of Florida a typical landscaping job would be an island in the middle of the front yard with a huge sago palm tree. Around the tree would various ground cover topped off with a liberal layer of mulch. It was the hardest work I have ever done. After you dig down through the topsoil you hit limestone. You toiled in the hot sun with your pick axe and shovel to make the island and the hole for the tree. Then clear out at least a half foot of sand and limestone to make room for the ground cover and mulch. It was backtracking work.
Benny, Brenda’s dad drank. His favorite bar was the silver spur bar located in Port Richey. The bar has been torn down long ago. Benny called the silver spur his office. Many a night he would come home drunk and staggering. He would enter the house, look around and bellow “Someone make me a glass of iced tea!” Most of the time Brenda was in earshot and she would run to get her dad some tea.
Brendas mom Ginny was a hard working waitress. She worked at Pappas Greek restaurant in tarpon springs. Pappas Greek restaurant was at the time a high class restaurant. It catered to the rich and famous. Ginny waited on many celebrities over the years she worked there. She told us a story about one celebrity in particular. Chuck Conners from the TV show Branded. She said that he was the most disgusting the most rude the most obnoxious person she had ever met. Chuck was a drunk. There is no other way to put it. A curb kissing drunk! He would yell at the waiters and waitresses for no reason. He would have them take their order back and demand to see the chief. He would throw dishes and have a general tantrum. Well all of this paid off in the end for Ginny. He would pay for all damages. Then he would give Ginny a $200 dollar tip! The aggravation was well worth it for Ginny!
One day I was hanging out with Brenda at her house. It was the Christmas season of 1971. All the decorations were on the tree and the house was fixed up very festive. Brenda’s youngest sister was on the floor playing with this and that. I noticed her standing up and looking at the tree. She toddled over to the tree, picked a glass ornament from the tree, and put it in her mouth and bit into it. The ornament broke in her mouth and she screamed! Some blood was coming out of her mouth. Brenda and I had both been attending a health class conducted by Mrs. Parker. She had told us in class the best way to remove something from an infant’s mouth was to invert the child. So I took two steps towards the child, grabbed her by the legs, and tipped her upside down. I ran my fingers in her mouth and removed all the glass shards. All the time Sherry is screaming at the top of her lungs. She went to Brenda and Brenda cleaned her up and settled her down.
Brenda is one year younger than I. She was in 9th grade and me in tenth. I continued to date her through 10th grade and 11th grade. In the beginning of 12th grade we started to make plans to get married.
Brenda had one year to go before we could get married. In the mean time we began to dream. We started looking a apartments. We were in love and excited!
As I have told you before, my mother loved to move. I had graduated 12th grade and my father decided he wanted to contract his own house. And I could do a lot of the work too. Dad got the contractors lined up and had drawings made. My job was to paint the entire house.
In 1973 I graduated from high school. I got a job putting up guard rails at the new condominium being built at Gulf Harbors in New Port Richey.
In 1974 Brenda graduated from high school, so there was nothing to keep us from getting married, except maybe for our extreme poverty. So we got married and I decided to join the navy to support us. It was the only way. In the navy everything would be taken care of. Food, medical, and housing. So that is what I did. In August of 1974 I reported to the naval training center in Orlando Florida.
After the 9 week training at the Orlando naval Training center I got orders for A school at the Great Lakes naval Training center. We drove there and I checked in. For some unknown reason I was never assigned a billit. I never had to stand a watch at Great Lakes. All I had to do was attend classes.
Brenda and I found an appartment in Zion, a town just north of the training center. It was a small apartment and we had very little furniture. Our bed was cushions on the floor. I had brought my motorcycle with us. I parked it in the living room at night to keep it safe and avoid robbery. We had hardly nothing but we were happy!
After A school at the Great Lakes Training Center I received oil orders to report to NAS Point Magu In California. I first took 1 mouth leave before heading to California.
The day came for us to go so we said our goodbyes to our parents and got into the loaded car and headed out on the highway. It was about a 3000 mile drive from Port Richey Florida to Oxnard California. We made the trip with no problems and checked in at my new command. We needed a place to stay so checked into special services and they directed us to a home just off the base at Port Hueneme. It was a small duplex in the back yard of the landlord. It was perfect!
We had neighbors that lived in the other unit of the duplex. Larry and his wife. I can’t recall Larry’s wife name. Well evidently the head of their bed was just opposite of our bed and it rested on the wall next to the bed. One night as Brenda and I had gone to bed we lay there and we head a sound. It was Larry’s bed banging against the wall while they were having “relations” right next door. Brenda and looked at each other and laughed!
One day Brenda told me that she was not feeling well. And as the day progressed she really did not feel good. She could not keep anything down. The nausea was intense. We made an appointment at the doctor office and soon we knew the reason for the nausea. Brenda was pregnant! And on August 23rd 1975 she gave birth to our son Alan. We were so happy. We loved Alan and we loved each other.
Soon after the birth of Alan I received new orders. I was to report for duty on the USS Cleveland LPD-7. The ship was currently in Okinawa and I was to fly out to meet the ship. So we packed all our belongings and I moved Brenda back to Florida and took one month look leave before meeting my ship in Okinawa.
After my first WestPac cruise, the ship returned to San Diego. I called Brenda and asked her why she was not here to meet me on the dock. She told me she was not coming out and that she wanted a divorce.
I was devastated. However I believe this was largely my fault. I was young and did not have a good sense of responsibility. I would rather hang out with my friends than be with Brenda. I failed in many ways in our relationship.
The divorce was a hard pill to swallow. It took me years to get over Brenda. However we worked together to raise our son Alan and we remain friends to this day.
10th grade started in early September 1970 at Gulf Comprehensive high school in New Port Richey Florida. I took the bus for the 6 mile trip to school. I would wake up and shower and dress. Then get my homework together for the day. Then go to the kitchen and eat breakfast my dad had fixed. Then I said goodbye and made my way down the street towards the front of Leasure Beach.
Brian Bateman and Cindy Ponti and I would meet around 6:30 in the morning in front of Bob’s grocery and deli to wait for the bus.
The bus would arrive and we would enter. The bus was always chaos. A concaphony of sound and movement as the kids conversed with one another. You could not hear yourself think even if you tried! I did not like the bus. My parents would not allow me to ride my motorcycle to school. However I had just purchased a car. I worked out angles of logic in my head to propose to my parents in the near future. Perhaps I would be allowed to drive my car to school soon.
The bus made its way up Congress street. We were about a mile from school at this point. There was a slowdown ahead and the bus crawled ahead at about 2 miles an hour in the early morning light. There had been an accident at the corner of Congress and Massachusetts. It was a bad accident.
Some seniors heading for school had run the light at high speed and ran into a Krispy Kreme truck. The occupants of both vehicles were ejected from their vehicles. The drivers of both vehicles were dead. The teenage driver of the car was hanging half out the drivers side window. Half of his face was gone as well as some of his scull. His brain was visible. The accident had just happened. Help had not arrived yet. The bus continued to crawl ahead at a painful pace while the grisly scene was indelibly etched into all of our minds. We all watched with our faces pressed to the bus window as the bus slowly went by.
The incident affected us all. Instead of the usual madhouse of conversation and bedlam, there was absolute quiet mixed with hushed whispering. I don’t believe any of us ever forgot this.
I made a new friend in 10th grade. Martin DeMoulpied is his name. Back then everyone called him Mope. He was in my drafting class and was in 11th grade. Mope has a great love of music. We still jam together. He has numerous guitars on his wall.
In the summer of 1971 we formed a band called Wheatstone Bridge. It consisted of Marty Demoulpied, John DeFasio and me James Culpepper. Marty had and still has a vintage Rickenbacker electric 6 string guitar. John played drums. And boy did he play them! Watching him play was a visual delight! I had brought my Farfisa mini compact organ and amp down from Michigan. As in Michigan with the band Wheat, we had no need for a bass player as I played the bass notes on the bass keys on the Farfisa organ.
We were about as progressive as a garage band can be as we did not play other peoples music. We wrote and preformed our own music. And then I added one more instrument. A model D mini Moog synthesizer. It was all the rage those days with some top groups using it. Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer come to mind. We rehearsed in John DeFasios garage.
We landed a gig at a Gulf High dance. We were delighted that we got the gig and a little surprised. We were not a dance band. We considered ourselves more sophisticated and far from the top ten genres. During one of our brakes during the Gulf High gig a student approached us and asked if we could play some dance music. We could not. However I believe most of the attendees enjoyed our unique music! I also enjoy that Marty and I still jam to this day!
It was the Summer of 1971. I had turned 16 in May and had passed my driving test and now had my drivers license.
As mentioned earlier, I had a job at Rickey Restaurant in New Port Richey Florida. The work was not hard and the employes were friendly.
Richey resturant was a small diner that sat around 20 people. It had a small pond out back with a rather large aligator in it. Fanny, my boss, would after the diner had closed, dump scrapes out for the creature. It’s a wonder she was not eaten alive by the monster! I was a bus boy and earned a whopping 1 dollar an hour. My duties included keeping tables clean, bussing dishes to the sculley for washing, keeping the restrooms clean, and whatever my boss Miss Fanny wanted me to do.
I was allowed a meal free on my shift for work and a half hour to eat it. Richey restaurant had the best tasting hamburgers because they were ground fresh daily from top grade sirloin. That is what I usely got along with a plate of steak fries until one day as I decided to clean out the meat grinder in the kitchen….
I unscrewed the wing nut of the grinder, removed the die and blade, and pulled out the meat auger out. To my horror out came dozens of maggots too!
I never ate anything made of hamburger at the restaurant again. I would only eat things that were either boiled, fried, or roasted. But never ground.
My desire and need for a car increased. Especialy after riding to work in the rain on my motorcycle. So I began to hint to dad that I was about ready to start looking. I had saved up 650 dolars so far. Dad said to save up another $150 and that we would then start to look.
So I contuniued to work the 150 hours to make up for the deficit. Soon I did just that and one summer Saturday we got in the car and started to hit the dealers in the area.
We stopped at a number of dealers in the area. Out came the salesman with their fake smiles on and the firm handshakes. To tell you the truth I liked all the cars! Dad did not and we walked away from numerous dealers without a car. We made it as far south as Ridge Road and to the Volkswagon Dealer there. They had a nice collection of cars. I was not looking for a high performance car. I wanted one that would sip gas, be safe, and be friendly to my sparce wallet! We looked at used Honda’s. We looked at used Fords.
And then we saw a 1968 Rambler Amercan 2 door coupe. It was clean and had low milage. It had a streight 6 engine with 3 on the colume. I was in love and wanted it so bad I could taste it! The salesman wanted $800 for it. I had $800 dolars in my pocket and I would have given the whole “wad” to the saleman to have the car!
Dad tried to tamp me down and motiond me to stay quiet. He looked and looked at the car. “Tires are not in the best contioion. Some dings on it too. We will give you $500 for it.” The salesman shook his head. “We can’t let this fine car go for so little.” “Okay.” said dad. “We will just have to look someware else.” and he motioned to me to follow him out the door. I was in a panic! Way was dad doing this? Then I found out why dad did this. The salesman said “Wait! Let me go tell my manager your offer. Don’t go away I will be right back!”
So we waited. Dad looked at me and winked. I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest! “Steady son. Let’s see what happens.” Presently the salesman came back. “My manager says he could lower the price to 700.” Not low enough said dad. Thank you for your time.” “Wait!” said the salesman. “Let me see if my boss will go any lower.” He want to his bosses office. Dad leisurely walked around looking at the new inventory. I paced like I had a wife in labor! The salesman came back and said “We can go to $650 and no lower.” Dad said “If you also pay the tax and licensing fees you have a deal!” The salesman told his boss this and we had a deal! I took a deep breath and began to relax.
So after all the paperwork was signed I was handed the keys to my first car. I was in heaven! Dad got in his car and I in mine and we made our way home north up US 19 to home.
One Saturday in late November 1970 I made a new friend. His name is Patrick Conoly. He lived a couple of streets over from me. Brian and I met him as we were cruising the neighborhood. Pat was rough and tough. He grew up in Levittown New York. He was a bit of a street fighter if you know of the type of person I am talking about. He greased his hair back. He wore his cigarette pack rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve. He wore what he called “street boots”. They were somewhat pointed. I admired Pat. He was somthing that my upbringing would never allow me to be. He drank beer. Hey could swear in a way that would make a sailor blush. Pat attended 10th grade for awhile then dropped out of school entirely. He was tough and he looked tough. He fascinated me!
Pat immediately took the roll as leader in our group of three. The three of us formed a small group that Pat named “The Leasure Beach Bombers”. We would roam the streets at night in Leasure Beach like tough demons from hell.
Brian and I along with Cindy Ponti had begun to build a fort in the woods. The three of us searched our garages in search of building supplies. We managed to collect some plywood, two by fours, and various bits and pieces of supplies.
Cindy and I dragged our supplies over to Brian’s house. We then piled the stack of floatsom and jetsam on Brian’s wagon and pulled it down the street. We pulled the wagon to the dirt road and headed down it. We pulled it back of the cement processing area (Leasure Beach was still under construction at the time. Only around 20% of the lots were sold.) and past the waste water processing area. On the west side of the dirt road is a pond and just past that a clearing.
We stopped and dragged our building materials into the clearing. Then we began to dig. Our intentions were to dig a basement and then cover the hole with the building materials.
So we dug and we dug and we dug and we dug. We dug out a space aproximently 10 feet by 6 feet. We kept digging and around 5 feet down we hit water. We did not know that the water table is very high in Florida. Anywhere in Florida you only need to dig a few feet down to hit water.
So we stopped digging. The rectangular hole was only about 4 and 1/2 feet. That would have to do. We laid plywood on the floor so at least we would have a dry floor. Then we went home with the intent on meeting here again tonight after dinner. It was a friday night and our minds were full of ideas.
We met back at the fort around 7 PM that night. Pat Conoly came along. He had brought some beer and some joints. I had tried alcohol at that time but never had tried marijuana.
So all five of us sat around the pit that we had dug with our feet hanging down in the pit. The joint was passed around and me, not wanting to seem like a greenhorn, which I was, took a big drag on the joint and passed it on.
After the coughing subsided I began to feel this feeling of euphoria sweep over me. The joint came around full circle and was again handed to me. I took another big hit from the joint and passed it on.
The feeling of euphoria increased. I looked down at my lap and noticed that my legs were missing! I started to laugh uncontrollably! I blurted out. “Were are my legs! I can’t find my legs!!” This started the others laughing. I could not stop! I laughed and laughed and laughed! Finally Brian, who was sitting next to me said to me whilst wiping tears from eyes “Look! Your legs are down in the pit!” I looked and that brought on another wave of laughter to all of us! I was indeed very relieved that I had found my legs!
Sometime in late August early September 1970 I began 10th grade at Gulf Comprehensive High School in New Port Richey Florida. So far I enjoyed school. No problems so far. I did have to hide my laughter when I heard some of the kids talk. I had never been exposed to the “Southern drawl” way of talking. It was very amusing to me and I wanted to laugh out loud. However I tamped down the desire roll on the floor with laughter!
I especially liked the drafting class that I enrolled in. It was so fun to dream up plans for a home and to learn how to do this properly.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to get a job to earn money for a car. I had turned 15 in May and had my restricted license.
So all I needed to do was wait until I was 16 and pass the test. Driving school or drivers education was not a requirement to get your license back then. So my dad and I went to the tax collectors office to pick up a Florida drivers handbook. I began studying the manual at once. I even wrote it out as this helped me remember.
I still had my CL70 motorcycle and I got permission to drive it on US19 to look for work. The motorcycle was under 5 brake horsepower so was allowed on most streets. Mom was not happy about this. Dad reassured her that it was necessary until I had earned enough to get a car.
So I began canvassing US19 at all the businesses that may be looking for help. One after another I asked and was turned down. I was beginning to get discouraged. However I pressed on. I was 5 miles from home when I spotted Richey restaurant on the east side of US19 just south of the bridge. “Why not” I said to myself. I was getting used to rejection and the indifference the world cared about my problems.
I parked my motorcycle and entered the restaurant. The restaurant was a typical home cooking eating establishment. Nothing fancy. A meat and potato place if you will. The clientele were mostly truckers and construction workers. There was one waitress working the tables and a large woman sitting behind the cash register folding napkins.
I approached the lady at the cash register and said “Hello. My name is Jim. I am wondering if you are looking for help.” The lady frowned at me and motioned to the waitress to come over. She said “Betty. This boy is looking for a job. Please go get Fanny so she can talk to him.” She pointed to a booth and said “Sit over there and wait for Fanny to come talk to you.
I sat down in the booth and looked around. There were a few diners sitting alone at tables eating. There was an elderly couple in a booth enjoying their repast. There were a few at the bar too (no alcohol) eating their meals.
Presently Fanny joined me at the booth. She was a slim lady in her early 70s. As it turned out the lady at the cash register was her sister Bertha. There was one other sister that was a silent partner in the business. I never met her.
Fanny said “I am looking to hire a bus boy. I can’t pay much. 1 dollar an hour is all I can give you. You can work after school until closing Monday through Friday and 8 hours on Saturdays and 8 hours on Sundays.”
I thought it over. This only gave me 1 hour for homework and very little free time. However I did the math. That would be 20 hours during the week and 16 hours on the weekend. At 1 dollar an hour that would be 36 dollars a week. That is 144 dollars in 4 weeks! A lot of money back then for a young boy just getting into the job market. It would not take long to save enough to buy a car. A reliable used car back then could be purchased for 500 to 1000 dollars.
“Yes. That is acceptable. When do you want me to start?” I said. Fanny said “You can start Monday after school. That will give you a free weekend.” “Thank you” I smiled! “I will see you Monday after school!”
I headed out the door and put on my helmet. My spirit was lifted after all the rejection I had been through today. Things were looking up for this relocated Michigan boy! I got on my motorcycle, checked for traffic and pulled out onto US19 north and headed for home.
In the 1st week of August 1970, just after we had arrived at our new home, my mother took me to Gulf Comprehensive High School in New Port Richey to register for school. 10th grade took place at Gulf Comprehensive High School on Louisiana ave. New Port Richey Florida. This school is now, at the time of this writing, a Middle school. Registration was uneventful. Classes included math writing history art French and drafting. I found that school was easy here in Florida compared to the curriculum taught up north in Michigan. I did not know the reason for this.
Earlier in the week dad and I went down to the tax collectors office to get a license plate for my Honda CL70. Mom was not too keen on me driving a motorcycle and was even more nervous of me driving one on the road. However I intended on getting an after school job so mom saw the need for me to be more mobile. She would fuss over me like a mother hen. “You be careful Jim! Make sure you are visible! Wear somthing bright so people can see you! Oh those things are dangerous!” Mom would go on and on as all good mothers do that love their children, to make sure her baby was safe healthy and clean.
Dad and I made it home and at once I installed the new license plate on my motorcycle. I wanted to explore my new highway freedom so asked if I could head out and take a look around. They said yes with a few restrictions. I must avoid driving on US 19. US 19 was a busy and dangerous road even way back then. So I got out a map to have a look as to where I could go for a ride. I discovered that I could ride to Aripeka, just north of us with only a very short ride on US 19.
It’s a very pleasant ride to Aripeka heading north on the Dixie Highway. The road turns to dirt after you get by Sea Pines then turns to pavement just south of Aripika. On the ride I wound through quaint little fishing communities. I took the road until it stopped at US 19. I then turned the motorcycle around and came back the way I had come.
I stopped on the bridge in Aripeka, the one that goes over the river and visited the bate and tackle shop near the bridge. I got a coke and some cheese curls and returned to the bridge and my motorcycle.
Aripeka is lovely and very picturesque. A quaint little fishing community if you will. The people that live there are friendly and very laid back. The area is known worldwide for it’s artistic draw. It is not uncommon to see an artist happily at work painting the picturesque scenery.
I finished my coke and cheese curls and started up the motorcycle. I thought to myself that all is not as bad as I thought it would be. I had vehicular freedom. I had made a new friend. 10th grade was on the horizon with all of it’s possibilities and challenges. Yes life is good I thought as I mounted the motorcycle and made my way back home.
In late August 1970, the furniture finally arrives from Battle Creek Michigan after a two week wait. At last we could sleep in our beds and hook the TV up to the so far unused TV antenna.
The first thing that came off the moving van was my Honda CL70 motorcycle as it was the last thing to be loaded onto the van in Battle Creek. I had no gasoline yet so I wheeled the motorcycle into the garage.
I watched as the movers unloaded and brought our worldly possessions into the house. It was good to have our stuff back. It was fun to “camp out” in our new home but to have all our luxury items back was good indeed. I spent some time in my new room setting up my stereo, hanging up my posters, and organizing my stuff.
The boat davits were in and the boat in place. The reason for davits is as follows. This was salt water. And barcicals form on surfaces left in seawater. If you have ever removed barnacles from the bottom of a boat, you know what I am talking about. Its grueling work. So we would put the boat up on the davits after the days use to minimize barnicle formation and to make boat cleanup easier. A new floating dock had been installed and attached to the seawall for ease of boarding.
Dad and I decided to take the boat out for the first time. We lowered the boat down on the davits and walked it over to the dock.
The boat was about 7 years old at the time. A fiberglass 15 foot boat with a 35 HP Johnson outboard engine. The boat was designed for fresh water like we had in Michigan. It was really too small for deep sea fishing so dad later on purchased a deep V fishing boat.
We loaded a cooler with drinks and lunch into the boat and said our goodbyes to mom. Mom was not keen on boat rides and very rarely road in the boat. Or anything besides a car as far as that is concerned.
We made our way slowly in the canal heading for the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. We traversed the entrance to the Gulf, saw the channel marker, and headed for it at top speed. Top speed for this small boat was about 30 MPH.
We took the boat out about two miles and then we dropped anchor. Dad had brought his tackle box and dropped a line in with a lure on the end. We dragged our lunch and drinks out of the cooler and ate our lunch while dad attempted to fish. We had no idea of how to fish in Florida or salt water. All the fishing we had done was in the fresh water lakes in Michigan. So the fish just looked at dads lure and rolled around on the bottom in uncontrolled laughter! They were saying “What is this? Look at what this silly northern man is trying to catch us with? Does he not know that shrimp is what we like? What a greenhorn!”
Dad continued to fish for a little while longer. He had no luck so put the fishing gear away and sat back and finished his chicken sandwich.
It was pleasant weather. Not too hot. It was getting late in the afternoon and we would be heading in soon. Big fluffy cumulus cloud hung near the horizon towards the west. Soon it would rain as it did most summer days. Rains were different here in Florida. In Michigan it may rain on and off for 2 or 3 days. Here in Florida during the summer rainy season it rained every day in the afternoon like clockwork. The rains would form on the seabreeze and move from east to west across the peninsula.
Dad started up the boat and we made our way back to the entrance to the Leasure Beach canal. We slowly with no wake, made our way to our dock and unloaded the boat. Then we walked the boat over to the davits and winched the boat out of the water and swung the boat over land. Then we gave the boat a good cleaning with brush and hose. Then we hooked the hose to the boat motor water intake port and turned on the water and started the engine so as to wash out any remaining salt water from the engine.
We went inside and told mom all about our adventure. It was a good day indeed!
Well my family had made the move to Florida. It was sinking in. I was not happy about it. However I made the best of it. People talked funny with a southern drawl. But all in all things were okay. Dad was having a dock and some davits installed on the seawall out back so we could put the boat in the water. It had been a week and our furniture had still not arrived.
Earlier that week mom and I registered for 10th grade at Gulf Comprehensive High School in New Port Richey.
One day the doorbell rang. It was Betty Bateman with a welcome to the neighborhood gift. The Batemans were one of the three homes in Leasure beach that were occupied. The Batemans had just moved to florida from Oak Lawn Illinois. They were in the Aluminum business and were hopeing to set up a bussiness here in florida.
The Batemans had a son my age. Brian Bateman was his name. Brian would become one of my closest friends in Florida, He was one year behind me in School. That made no diffenence and we would become the best of friends.
One day Betty Bateman brought Brian over to meet me. We talked and found it easy to do so. We asked for permission to roam the new neiborhod and got it. LIke I have said the subdivision was very new. Canels were still being dredged out to make room for all the homes as all the homes had access to the Gulf of Mexico. It was very interesting boys of 14 and 15. All the machinery and building going on is iresistiable. We made our way around the place and stopped off at his place on 1st Isle North. His home was a similar florida home like ours. It had a different layout than ours and had a Florida room, somthing we did not have. Dad in a few years remedied that by adding on a florida room.
I said my goodbyes to Brian and headed home. It was so hot and humid! I still was not used to it. i made my way home and stood under an air contioning vent panting like a rabid dog! However I was glad I had a friend. I missed Michigan. However I know I could not change what had happened. We were here. No use to fret over it. I was taught to use what you have right in front of you. Happiness is not always obtainable. However cheerfulness is somthing you have control over. I choose Cheerfulness over Happiness every time Hands Down!!
In August 1970 we made the move to Florida. I was 15 and had my learners permit, so I could help with the driving. We had 2 vehicles and a boat that we were going to bring with us.
Early one morning in the first week of August 1970 the moving van pulled up to our home at 114 Beaumont drive.
My friend Carlos Washington and I watched as the movers loaded up the moving van with all of our worldly possessions. We talked and in our minds we knew that this was goodbye. I had known Carlos and his sister Carol all my life. It was hard to say goodbye. I did not want to go. However we said our goodbyes and Carlos drove off home.
The time came for us to go. The cars were all loaded up and the boat was hitched to the Chevrolet. I took one last look around. The backyard with the garden and basketball hoop. Inside the house. The kitchen with the built in kitchen nook. My room. It was indeed hard to leave it all behind. However we did. I took one last look back and got into the car. Off we went!
It is aproximently 1700 miles from Battle Creek Michigan to New Port Richey Florida. We made the trip in 3 days. About 600 miles a day. We enjoyed the stops at the motels and the meals eaten.
Before we got to our new home we stopped at the realtors office to let them know we were there and to get the keys to the house. Then we headed for our new home.
At last we pulled up to 301 3rd Isle North, our new home in Leisure Beach. We were one of the first to build in this new subdivision so there was a lot of construction going on.
We entered our new home and looked around. As you know, I was not keen on moving to Florida. However I loved the house. It had a single car garage. 2 bedrooms. 2 baths. I had never seen a house with 2 baths. A large living room with an adjacent dining room and a functional kitchen. And best of all a canal in the back with Gulf of Mexico access!
There was a problem. The moving van had not arrived yet. In fact it would be 2 weeks before it arrived! Dad made calls to find out what had happened. We had no answers. We would have to make do. So we went to K-mart and bought some dishes. Some cooking utensils. Some lawn chairs. Some tv trays. And sleeping bags and pillows. This would have to do until our stuff caught up with us.
We spent a lot of time inside as it was so hot and humid outside. All homes in Florida at that time had air conditioning.
The time we spent together without television and everything that we took for granted was good for us as a family. I believe it drew us closer together.
Christmas 2020 was wonderful considering the isolation we all had to endure during the year because of Covid-19. The feeling of the season was all there in spite of the isolation. The sights. The music. The warm feeling that you get that comes with the season. Of being with the woman I love so very much. The warmth of hearth and home.
Visits with family members happened, aleit in a demishied manner. The happiness still happened in spite of Covid-19. And now as I look forward to 2021 and my retirement I am again reminded what Christmas is all about. It is not just about the light. Or the music. Not even the presents. It is a feeling of a hope of peace on earth where there is no war and all live together in harmony.
I know this may be too much to expect. But like John Lennon I am a dreamer. And I am not the only one. My one wish is that we could one day live together in peace and harmony and the world could live as one.
So now Christmas 2020 is over. It was my 65th Christmas. Wow. Christmases now are spent with grandchildren. We watch with great pleasure as they open each present selected with love and care.
It is my hope that all of you will cling to each Christmas memory.
The following is what I believe Christmas is all about.
C – Christ. Christ is what Christmas is all about is it not? After all Christ is in the word Christmas. The Christmas story is a beautiful story. That God sent a savior, his only son down to earth to save us from all the iniquity that we all face as mortals. And to make peace with our brothers and sisters. Some of us only make peace around this time of year. I wish we could keep this spirit of peace alive the whole year.
H – Home. Christmas to me is a time to be home with the woman I love very much. A time for home and hearth and that warm glow inside.
R – Rest. Christmas is a time for rest and regrouping. A time to recharge your batteries and make way for the new year.
I – Ice skating. I live in Florida now. However I was raised in Michigan. I have fond memories of heading out to the pond for a afternoon of ice skating.
S – Sleep. I get a lot of time off at Christmas time. Most of the time 12 to 14 days off in a row. I use this time to sleep in and get some rest.
T – Turkey. To me and my family Christmas means Turkey with all the fixings!
M – Memories. Christmas means memories of all the christmases from the past. All the memories of the people from Christmases past come flooding back to mind. It is a time to relive all the Christmases from your past. The good ones. The not so good ones. The sad ones and the happy ones!
A – Art. Christmas is a great time to enjoy the arts. Whether it be a Christmas live performance, or just staying at home to enjoy Christmas shows on the television. Or perhaps driving around the neighborhood and looking at all the Christmas lights!
S – Santa. Christmas means Santa! I have fond memories as a child believing in Santa claus. I remember waking up very early and heading out to the living room to find that Santa truly was here. To find the entry glass of milk and the crumbs left behind from the chocolate chip cookies left there for Santa. It is very easy as a child to believe in Santa claus. It becomes harder and harder to believe as you get older. How is it possible to believe in a man that travels all over the worlds delivering toys to good boys and girls, and expect nothing in return. You don’t have to believe in Santa. You will still get your presents. But you will not receive the joy that only comes from believing. At one point in my life I stopped believing. But I sure do now!
So this is what Christmas means to me. And I am now looking forward to a fantastic 2021.
I hope all of you had a fantastic Christmas! Now let us all look forward to a fantastic New Year!
The school year of 1969/1970 continued. Christmas came and went. The school trip to Chicago came and went and soon the school year was over. It was a bittersweet time for me as I knew that in August we would make the move to the west coast of Florida. I did, and still don’t like change. People of the north think that Florida is some warm magical place with palm trees swishing in the breeze. I was intrigued at the idea of living in this “magical ” place. However there were a number of unknowns that unsettled me.
Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington, and myself were still practicing and jamming in our band Wheat. I had been having some problems with my Farfisa portable organ. Some of the keys made no sound when the key was depressed. Carlos knew of a repair man so we loaded it into his car and drove it over to the repairman. By the way. Carlos and Greg are both a year older than me. They were 16 and both had their drivers license.
The next week Carlos gave me a call and told me the repair was done at that we could go pick the organ up. “Great” I said and Carlos drove over and picked me up.
Carlos seemed in no hurry to get to the repair shop. He kept making side trips for this and that stopping here and there. What was he up to? What would normally take a 15 minute drive turned into an hour drive. I began to get suspicious.
Well the thing that I didn’t know about was whilst we, Carlos and I, were zooming all over town here and there, my mom dad and girlfriend Sandy were setting up a farewell party at my home.
At last Carlos made it to the repairman. I paid him and put the organ in the trunk and we started to drive towards my house. When we pulled up to the house on Beaumont drive I noticed that there were a few cars parked in the street in front of my house. Very strange. We got out of the car and Carlos opened the trunk and I lifted the portable organ out and headed toward the front door and entered. All at once kids appeared from hiding screaming SUPRISE!!! Sandy Rockwell my girl. Greg Habenicht, Greg Hamilton, Mike Zull, Dennis Squires, David Zaborski, Mary Mishler, Carlos Washington, Carol Washington and others. Wow. I had never had a surprise party thrown for me! However it was bittersweet. This meant that the move in August was real and it was not too far in the future. I danced with Sandy. I held her tight and told her that I loved her and that I wished with all my heart that I did not have to go.
The first week of August came and the time for the move was very near. In fact it was just days away. We had a gig coming up the day before the move. We would get in our cars and make the move to Florida the very next day. Our band Wheat had been practicing for the gig for David Habenicht, Greg’s brother.
The gig was located right across from my house on Beaumont drive, across the retention pond on Wattles road. The gig went well. Everyone seemed to enjoy. After the gig we packed it in and the three of us, Greg, Carlos, and I got together for one last chat about our band. We were sad that it was our last gig. I did not want to go. I made my way home with my farfisa organ and went to my room and got ready for bed.
The event Woodstock had taken place earlier this month. The song Woodstock by Crosby Stills Nash and Young was running in my head. I did not want to move to Florida. However I knew there was no way to stop the move. I climbed into bed and thought things over. I knew what I had to do. So as I always do, I manned up, and forged ahead bravely into the unknown.
In September 1969 my last year of school in the Harper Creek school system began. I would walk to the Wattles Park Jr. High and ride a bus to Harper Creek High school. Sometimes I would catch a ride to school on the back of Carlos Washingtons motorcycle. My parents did not like me to ride with Carlos as they thought it was dangerous. They were right. However I rode anyway from time to time.
Wow. Ten years of schooling in the Harper Creek school system including kindergarten. It seemed unreal to me that this would be my last year in this school system.
I can’t remember the names of my teachers in 9th grade. School life as a freshman was different in a few ways. It was first time I had a homeroom. No recess. We were all way too mature and grown up for that! I tend to differ with that thought. Recess is good for both the young and the old. You are never too old to play.
Classes consisted of the usual. Math. Sciences. History. English. And somthing new. Vocational classes. Machine shop. Auto shop and woodworking. I choose machine shop for my vocational class and at the end produced some fine punches.
Social activities at the school included football games and school dances. My girl Sandy and I loved dances and attended most of them. It felt so good dancing with Sandy. Holding her close. Smelling the sweet fragrance of her cologne and hair. I was in heaven when I was holding Sandy close to me.
Around May of 1970 our class took a field trip to Chicago. A Friday, Saturday and a return on Sunday via Greyhound bus. This trip made me, and I believe many other fellow students feel very grown up. The trip was chaperoned albeit lightly. My mother went too to serve as one of the girls chaperones. We all stayed in one hotel and ate our breakfast together in the hotels large dining room. After breakfast and announcements we all would que up for the bus for the days activities.
There are two side trips that we took on the Chicago field trip that stands out clearly in my memory. One was the trip to the The John Hancock Center.
The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,128-foot supertall skyscraper located in Chicago Illinois. Located in the magnificent mile district, its name was changed to 875 North Michigan Avenue on February 12, 2018. Despite this, the building is still colloquially called the John Hancock Center. When the building topped out on May 6, 1968, it was the second-tallest building in the world, the tallest in Chicago, and the tallest outside New York City. It is currently the fifth tallest building in Chicago and the thirteenth tallest in the US, behind the Aon Center in Chicago and ahead of the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, it stands at 1,500 feet (457 m). The building is home to several offices and restaurants, as well as about 700 condominiums, and at the time of its completion contained the highest residence in the world. The building was named for John Hancock Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building. In 2018, John Hancock Insurance requested that its name be removed and the owner is seeking another naming rights deal.
From the 95th floor restaurant, diners can look out at Chicago and Lake Michigan . The observatory (360 Chicago), which competes with the Willis Tower’s Skydeck, has a 360° view of the city, up to four states, and a distance of over 80 miles (130 km).
I remember the elevator ride to the top floor. It was a very fast elevator indeed!
The second side trip that comes to mind is the trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. What a place! As you walk into the atrium there is a pendulum that hangs from the ceiling that looks like hundreds of feet high. The pendulum never stops swinging back and forth and it is said that it is the rotation of the earth that keeps it swinging.
My favorite exhibit was the German submarine U-505. It was one of just six German submarines captured by the Allies during World War II, and, since its arrival in 1954, the only one on display in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the only one in the United States. The U-boat was newly restored beginning in 2004 after 50 years of being displayed outdoors, and was then moved indoors as “The New U-505 Experience” on June 5, 2005. Displayed in an underground shed, it remains as a popular exhibit for visitors, as well as a memorial to all the casualties of the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. I was amazed how anyone could survive in the cramped quarters of the submarine.
It was a good trip indeed and on Sunday morning we all got on the Greyhound bus and made our way back to Battle Creek, all the time singing at the top of our voices, 99 bottles of beer on the wall!
In the summer of 1969 we took a trip to New Port Richey Florida. Mom and Dad had retired earlier in the year from Kellogg’s. He sat mom and I down and told us that he would like to move to Florida. He was tired of the cold, snow, and harsh Michigan winters.
Well dad deserved the move. He had worked hard all his life and he deserved to be where he wanted to be and to be warm and comfortable! On the other hand moving to Florida would mean a big change in our lives. It would mean moving again into the unknown. New school. New friends. I told dad that I would go with them as I was only 15 and had no choice in the matter. However I told dad. As soon as I was 18 I would move back to Michigan. Well this never happened as I stayed in Florida for the rest of my life.
So in the summer of 1969 we got in the car and headed for New Port Richey Florida. We had been there once before in the early 60’s. My aunt Zoe had been corresponding with her brother, my father for some time now and invited us to come down and check out the housing market.
We drove the 1700 miles from Battle Creek Michigan to New Port Richey Florida in 3 days as my dad drove about 9 hours a day then layed over in a motel to rest, clean up, and have dinner.
We arrived at my aunt Zoe’s and uncle Ward’s house in Gulf Harbors in New Port Richey Florida. Gulf Harbors is a gulf of Mexico community connected to the gulf via canals.
When I got out of the car I immediately felt the hot humid heat of a typical Florida summer day. I now understand why everyone had air conditioning in their homes and in their cars. How could anyone live in this hot humid heat? It was like breathing clam chowder! Ugh. I was hoping mom and dad would change there minds and return to Michigan immediately!
The next day Ward drove us out to realtors to have a look see. We looked at some already built homes away from the water. They were nice. However dad wanted to be near the gulf. So the realtor drove us to Leasure Beach in Port Richey Florida. All of the lots had a canal in back for access to the Gulf of Mexico. We looked at the models and dad and mom fell in love with one of them. It was a 2 bedroom 2 bath home with a single car garage. No basement. If you dig a few feet in Florida you hit water. There were many lots to choose from.
Mom and dad selected a corner lot at 301 3rd Isle North in Leasure Beach Port Richey Florida. They signed the papers and they told us work would begin in a month and that the home would be ready to occupy in the summer of 1970.
I knew that big changes were coming in my life. I was not sure I liked the idea of once again leaving my stomping grounds and heading into the unknown. Would I adapt? Would I make friends and be excepted? These were questions that were in my mind that I had no answers for. However I was taught at an early age to work with what you have. Don’t complain. Work hard. Be polite. Have good manners and to think of others and not yourself. I believe that these basic standards helped me, when we made the move in the summer of 1970, adapt quickly to the Florida way of life.
In July of 1969 we made our yearly trip to Dubois Pennsylvania. This trip we stayed at Uncle Bob aunt Donettas home on Shaffer siding. As it so happens, something very interesting was happening in space. The first lunar manned landing was going to be attempted.
The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.
Apollo 11 flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, crew; deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth; and deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector. During the exploration, the two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also were to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras. This was to be the last Apollo mission to fly a “free-return” trajectory, which would enable a return to Earth with no engine firing, providing a ready abort of the mission at any time prior to lunar orbit insertion.
Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.
Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into the flight.
The first color TV transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred during the translunar coast of the CSM/LM. Later, on July 17, a three-second burn of the SPS was made to perform the second of four scheduled midcourse corrections programmed for the flight. The launch had been so successful that the other three were not needed.
On July 18, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and climbed through the docking tunnel from Columbia to Eagle to check out the LM, and to make the second TV transmission.
On July 19, after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon out of contact with Earth, came the first lunar orbit insertion maneuver. At about 75 hours, 50 minutes into the flight, a retrograde firing of the SPS for 357.5 seconds placed the spacecraft into an initial, elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles. Later, a second burn of the SPS for 17 seconds placed the docked vehicles into a lunar orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles, which was calculated to change the orbit of the CSM piloted by Collins. The change happened because of lunar-gravity perturbations to the nominal 69 miles required for subsequent LM rendezvous and docking after completion of the lunar landing. Before this second SPS firing, another TV transmission was made, this time from the surface of the moon.
On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM again, made a final check, and at 100 hours, 12 minutes into the flight, the Eagle undocked and separated from Columbia for visual inspection. At 101 hours, 36 minutes, when the LM was behind the moon on its 13th orbit, the LM descent engine fired for 30 seconds to provide retrograde thrust and commence descent orbit insertion, changing to an orbit of 9 by 67 miles, on a trajectory that was virtually identical to that flown by Apollo 10. At 102 hours, 33 minutes, after Columbia and Eagle had reappeared from behind the moon and when the LM was about 300 miles uprange, powered descent initiation was performed with the descent engine firing for 756.3 seconds. After eight minutes, the LM was at “high gate” about 26,000 feet above the surface and about five miles from the landing site.
The descent engine continued to provide braking thrust until about 102 hours, 45 minutes into the mission. Partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east longitude. This was about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and occurred almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled. It included a powered descent that ran a mere nominal 40 seconds longer than preflight planning due to translation maneuvers to avoid a crater during the final phase of landing. Attached to the descent stage was a commemorative plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon and the three astronauts.
The flight plan called for the first EVA to begin after a four-hour rest period, but it was advanced to begin as soon as possible. Nonetheless, it was almost four hours later that Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed the TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth. At about 109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon. About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM. Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke by telephone link with the astronauts.
Commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents, were left on the moon’s surface. A one-and-a-half inch silicon disk, containing micro miniaturized goodwill messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders, also stayed behind.
During the EVA, in which they both ranged up to 300 feet from the Eagle, Aldrin deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, experiments, and Armstrong and Aldrin gathered and verbally reported on the lunar surface samples. After Aldrin had spent one hour, 33 minutes on the surface, he re-entered the LM, followed 41 minutes later by Armstrong. The entire EVA phase lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, ending at 111 hours, 39 minutes into the mission.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface. After a rest period that included seven hours of sleep, the ascent stage engine fired at 124 hours, 22 minutes. It was shut down 435 seconds later when the Eagle reached an initial orbit of 11 by 55 miles above the moon, and when Columbia was on its 25th revolution. As the ascent stage reached apolune at 125 hours, 19 minutes, the reaction control system, or RCS, fired so as to nearly circularize the Eagle orbit at about 56 miles, some 13 miles below and slightly behind Columbia. Subsequent firings of the LM RCS changed the orbit to 57 by 72 miles. Docking with Columbia occurred on the CSM’s 27th revolution at 128 hours, three minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM jettisoned and remained in lunar orbit.
Trans-Earth injection of the CSM began July 21 as the SPS fired for two-and-a-half minutes when Columbia was behind the moon in its 59th hour of lunar orbit. Following this, the astronauts slept for about 10 hours. An 11.2 second firing of the SPS accomplished the only midcourse correction required on the return flight. The correction was made July 22 at about 150 hours, 30 minutes into the mission. Two more television transmissions were made during the trans-Earth coast.
Re-entry procedures were initiated July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit. The SM separated from the CM, which was re-oriented to a heat-shield-forward position. Parachute deployment occurred at 195 hours, 13 minutes. After a flight of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds – about 36 minutes longer than planned – Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the recovery ship USS Hornet. Because of bad weather in the target area, the landing point was changed by about 250 miles. Apollo 11 landed 13 degrees, 19 minutes north latitude and 169 degrees, nine minutes west longitude July 24, 1969.
All of this was extremely fascinating to me. Wow! Man had set foot on another world. I remember going outside and looking up at the moon. The moon seemed different to me now as man had now been there. I could never look at the moon now and not think of the brave men that made that journey to the moon and returned safely to earth.
I have always liked science. Especially experiments. I had a chemistry set at a early age. Also a microscope with plenty of slides. I had discovered that you can see red blood cells with the microscope. It was just a matter of collecting some blood. Anytime I cut myself by accident I would rush to the telescope and prepare a slide. If there was a long interval between blood letting I would ask mom or dad for some blood. Most of the time they would not agree to this, but once in a while I would score.
In the summer of 1968 I discovered alcohol. It actually began in the later part of school year 1967/1968. In science class we had learned about solutions mixtures and reactions. Wine for example. Grapes ferment and you get alcohol. Now if you take a bottle or Welch’s grape juice, some sugar, and some yeast you have all you need to make wine. Rot gut wine. But wine nonetheless. It’s easy. You take a medium sized pot. You poor the grape juice into the pot and warm it to about 120°F. Then add a cup of sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Then add a packet of brewer’s yeast and stir until dissolved. Then you cover it with cheese cloth and put it up out of the way for around 40 to 50 days. I did so in the basement on shelves under the stairs.
2 or 3 months pass and I began to wonder how my wine was doing. I went down in the basement and took the pot down from the shelf and removed the cheesecloth covering the concoction. I noticed scum floating on top so I strained the stuff through the cheesecloth and using a funnel, poured the liquid back into the Welch’s grape juice bottle.
It was summer and mom and dad were both at work so I thought today would be a good day to try tasting my wine experiment. I took the bottle of homemade wine down from the shelf in the basement and put it down on the work bench under the basement stairs and removed the cap from the bottle. I took a big whiff of the stuff. It had a very strong and inviting aroma. I took the bottle and headed upstairs and put the bottle down on the kitchen breakfast nook table.
Okay. So now would be a good time to try the wine as both of my parents were at work. I had no idea what to expect, so I turned up the bottle and drank it all down. It was not easy as it went down. It kept trying to come back up! I did not know this about alcohol. It always tries to come back up! Well anyway I got it all down so I went into the garage, got on my mini bike, and headed out across the Beaumont drive retention pond and across Wattles road and over into the big field where we rode motorcycles and in the winter rode sleds.
The next thing I knew I was on the ground at the bottom of the big sledding hill. I could see my mini bike next to me on it’s side with engine still running roughly and the back drive wheel turning slowly. I tried to get up but could not. I finally managed to get into a sitting position and reached over and turned off the sputtering engine of my mini bike.
What was this?! Is this what it was like to drink wine? I did not like it! The world was spinning around and I could not get up! I tried to get up again and failed. So I layed there and closed my eyes. This made it worse. I began to spin even faster.
I felt a growing uneasiness deep in my stomach and in a few moments this uneasiness turned to full fledged sickness as I turned and emptied my stomach on the grass. This was terrible! I never liked throwing up and I always tried to avoid it. Another wave of nausea came over me and up came more wine up from within me.
It took awhile. It seemed like hours. However I managed to stand up on wobbly legs and get on my mini bike. I started the engine and began to ride back home. It seemed like hours to get home and I fell a few times in route.
At last I made it home. I parked my mini bike in the garage and stumbled into the house. I felt bad. Real bad! I never wanted to experiment with alcohol again! And I had just remembered somthing.
Today when my parents got home from work we were off to a piano recital. Oh God! How was I going to do that! I could hardly walk or even remember my own name. I thought maybe a shower would help so I stripped of my clothes and jumped into the shower. The warm water felt good pouring over my enebrated body. I threw up once more in the shower, got out and got dressed and climbed into my bed.
I awoke to mom’s face staring down at me. She asked me why I was in bed and to get ready to leave for the recital. I told her I was just tired and okay I was ready to go. I discovered that my head ached when I stood up. This was not at all what I had expected wine drinking to be! However my inebriation seemed to go unnoticed. I dare not tell my mother that I did not feel well and that I did not want to go to the recital. I knew that if I did this it would rouse suspicion and further inspection. I must attend! So I dressed in my suit and got ready for the recital.
So off we went to downtown Battle Creek to the recital. I had memorized Anita’s Dance for the recital and I hoped my memory would not fail me. I looked at the program. I was 7th or 8th down the list. I remember sitting there with my parents, waiting in agony as my head throbbed to the rhythm of my beating heart.
At last my turn came. I made my way to the grand piano, sat down, and collected my thoughts. It was all still there. The music came out of me effortlessly albeit a bit painful. The weeks of practice had paid off and my muscles had learned what to do, and made the proper responses so the music flowed out even as my brain experienced pain.
All in all the experience deadened my desire for alcohol. Not to say that over my life I have not got extremely drunk. Curb kissing, commode hugging drunk if you will. However these instances have been few and very very far between.
A lot happened in my life as the decade of the 60’s drew to a close. In the future few posts I will be writing more memories about the final 2 or 3 years of the 1960’s as I remember them.
In 1968 Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington and myself started a band. We called ourselves Wheat. Greg came up with the name, and we all liked it. Carlos played the electric guitar. Greg played on a drum set, and I played the farfisa portable organ. Bass notes were played on the organ, so we remained a trio.
We practiced regularly and rehearsed either in my basement or Greg’s basement. The songs we worked on were definitely from the hippie genre. We worked on Jimi Hendrix songs, Cream, Steppenwolf etc.
We played a total of 5 gigs. The first one was at a Wattles Park junior high school dance. The second was at the band’s friend Dennis party. The third gig, arranged by my mother, at the Jackson mental health asylum for a Christmas show. The forth gig at a party in Carlos back yard. And the fifth gig at a friend of Greg’s brother’s David. This gig was bittersweet as it was our last and it took place on the eve we moved to Florida. All of these gigs took place in 1968 and 1969.
The summer of 1969 ended and school began. I was going to be a freshman in high school! Exciting and a bit scary all at the same time. High school was a bit different. We had more than one teacher for one thing and no recess. I guess this was the price to pay for growing up.
Harper Creek high school lay outside the 2 mile radius from my house so for the first time in my school life I rode a bus to school. Harper Creek high is a large school complete with gymnasium and football field. I took my first vocational classes here. Auto shop and machine shop.
I had my first real girlfriend in 9th grade. Sandy is her name. She was wonderful. My parents often dropped me off at her house where we would go to the basement to listen to records. Or we would roam the neighborhood hand in hand. I was in love. My first real love. And I knew Sandy loved me too. Our physical love never went further than kissing and holding each other as it should be. I had the deepest respect for my girl Sandy. I remember going to numerous school dances with her and I especially enjoyed slow dancing with her. She was all I wanted and needed.
We first met at Harper Creek High school were we were both Freshmen. We attended many dances there and football games.
We enjoyed each others company so much. When I learned that I would be moving to Florida in 1970 after the 1969 1970 school year I told my dad that as soon as I was 18 that I would move back to Battle Creek and resume my relationship with my girl Sandy. However this did not happen and I remained a Floridian all my life.
The Boy Scouts was a big part of my life in the 60’s.
I joined the Cub Scouts in the summer of 1963 completing the 5 badges, Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion, and Webelos. I began Boy Scouts in 1965 at the age of 10 and continued on till the end of school year 1969 – 1970 at the age of 15 when we moved to Florida.
Oh the great times we had under the leadership of Ed Hicks our Scoutmaster. Most of my friends were in it from tenderfoot on. I prior to Boy Scouts attended cub scouts and earned the Webelos badge. So I was ready and prepared to make the change to Boy Scouts.
The following are the current ranks of a Boy Scout. Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle. I was a Boy Scout through the rank of Life. I never joined a troop after I moved to Florida.
The troop 135 met at the Wattles Park Jr High building (torn down now) cafeteria on Wednesday nights at 7:00 PM. I played bugle and earned the Bugler patch for doing so. I would hide in the curtains on the double stage that separated the cafeteria from the gymnasium. Then at exactly 1900 I would play the assembly bugle call and all the Scouts would line up and square up for inspection. At the end of our meeting I would again hide in the curtains, wait for the signal from one of the leaders, and then play taps to end the meeting.
A typical Scout Camp out in the 60’s
We were a motley crew indeed. Too young to have military discipline and bearing and too old for toys and kids stuff. After Mr. Hicks and Mr. Hamilton looked us over and gave us a rundown on things happening with the troop, we all went to the round tables in the cafeteria in our different squads that formed the troop and worked on merit badges.
A Boy Scout Jamboree
A memory comes to mind when the troop participated in a Boy Scout Jamboree. I was a tenderfoot and it was my first camp out. I had been studying the boy scout manual about cooking, and general camp keeping. Our troop arrived at the Jamboree and Ed Hicks instructed us to set up our tents together in squads. Our squad finished setting up camp and then hung out around the fire and chatted.
Three older scouts from another troop walked into our camp and asked if any of us would like to join them for a “snipe hint”. The following is a quote from Wikipedia as to what a Snipe hunt is.
“Although snipe are actual birds, a snipe hunt is a quest for an imaginary creature whose description varies. The target of the prank is led to an outdoor spot and given instructions for catching the snipe; these often include waiting in the dark and holding an empty bag or making noises to attract the creature.”
The older scouts in our squad smiled and one of them said “Na I will pass but thanks for asking. Why not you Jim? And you Cliff and Greg? Why don’t you go with them?” Well we had never been on a snipe hint so we told the older boys yes. We would love to go. “Okay. We will start in about 1 hour after it gets dark. We will come and get you.” Said one of the older scouts.
After it got dark the boys came and asked if we were ready. We said yes and we followed them into the big field where 20 or so other tenderfoot scouts were waiting. The older Scouts gave half of us pillow cases. He then gave us instructions. He said “Okay boys. Here is how to catch snipes. Break up into pairs. One of you hold the pillow case open and crouch down behind your partner and follow him close. And you with out the pillow case raise your arms up high and swing them back and forth. While you are doing this both of you yell out. Here snipe! Here snipe! Be careful. Snipe are very fast and hard to catch.” We all nodded that we understood our instructions and the older Scouts signaled for the hunt to begin.
So there we all were. 20 or so of us combing the field for snipes! All of us screaming at the top of our lungs “Here snipe! Here snipe” with half of us crouched down with pillow case in hand and the other half with raised arms swinging them back to and fro. We looked ridiculous! All this time all of the older scouts were laughing and laughing and rolling on the ground in amusement! It soon became clear that we had been had! Hoodwinked if you will. The older Scouts called off the hunt and gathered us around. One of the older Scouts said “Now that you have all been on a snipe hunt you are now able to conduct snipe hunts in future camp outs. You must never tell the younger scouts that you all were tricked. But that is the fun if the whole thing as now you can do the same thing!” We all agreed that it was fun and promised to keep it to ourselves.
Our troop camped out many times in many locations. My favorite was camping at Ludington at Hamlin lake in Michigan. There was a boy scout facility there with bunk house and dining hall. I learned and earned fishing merit badge there as well as archery and rifle shooting. One camp out comes to mind at Hamlin lake. It was a 20 mile canoe trip down the big sable river that flows into lake Hamlin and eventually into lake Michigan.
A typical Boy Scout Canoe trip
We set out down the river in about 20 canoes and made a stop each night and set up camp and prepared the evening meal. For lunches we were previously instructed for each of us to bring 3 cans of soup. When we stopped for lunch a fire was prepared and we would each dump one can of soup into the big pot. Ed Hicks called it trail soup as it was a mixture of many different soups. It was quite a long trip but we made it in 3 days to the end at Hamlin Hamlin lake. Going down the river was fun and easy as we were going down stream. As soon as we hit Hamlin lake the going got tougher as there was no longer any help from the river. We had to paddle the last five miles all on our own.
Scouting was a big part of my life and I am so glad I participated in it. I believe that it helped me be what I am today. I am forever grateful for Mr. Hicks and Troop 135!
In the summer of 1968 the cousins of my friend Greg came to visit. They were 2 boys about our same age. Greg called them “The Tornadoes”. We asked him why and he said. “Everything that they touch breaks. I have to hide my best toys when they visit!”
We asked and got permission from our respective parents for a camp out in Greg’s back yard. After getting an affirmative we started making plans for the nights activities and shenanigans.
If our parents thought we were little angels and just sat around the campfire singing and then calmly get in our sleeping bags and go to sleep, they were sadly mistaken! We would roam the neighborhood looking for mischief!
Our late night antics included many things. One night we took some ducks from a neighbor’s pen and stuffed them into his car. You can only imagine the mess they made!
Or perhaps steal a watermelon from Mulvaney’s farm.
Or just run around the neighborhood like heathens from hell, ringing doorbells and then running and hide.
Or perhaps calling a taxi to come to a address that we had stalked out and wait in hiding to see what happened and watch the argument between the taxi driver and the innocent people involved.
This nights mischief included making peace signs on the asphalt roads near the school. We used gasoline poured out in a giant peace sign on the road, light it and run from the giant fireball and hide.
We would roam the neighborhood smoking cigarettes and laughing, except for Carlos. He hated smoking and you had to hide your cigarette pack from him. If he got hold of them he would break them one by one between his fingers.
We were not bad kids. Just very mischievous and energetic. This night I speak of with the “Tornadoes” in tow, we took it just a bit too far!
After lightning the peace sign on Boyer drive the five of us continued up Boyer drive towards the Jr. High school. On the way one of the “Tornadoes” got into a VW bug parked in someone’s driveway. He discovered that the vehicle was easy to push and in a moment we were all pushing the car down the road towards Wattles Road. This is where we went to far. The moment that car left the driveway the charge becomes grand larceny.
It so happens that the owner of the VW worked nights and was just about to leave for work and observed the whole thing. At once he emerged from his house and chased us all down Boyer. He caught one of the “Tornadoes”. We ran to the end of Boyer and crossed Wattles road and hid in back of a house. We knew that we all in serious trouble. We watched as a police car turned right and headed up Boyer to the scene of the crime. We decided to give ourselves up. Greg blamed his cousin for being too slow and getting caught. However we could not abandon Greg’s cousin. We all had to go back and face the music.
So we headed up Boyer to the mans house, and joined Greg’s cousin. The policeman asked for our telephone numbers and he called our parents.
Soon our parents joined us. There was a long talk between our parents, the owner of the VW and the policeman. Betty Habenicht, Greg’s mom gave us a good chewing out. If we tried to talk she simply said very sternly “Shut up” and continue on with her yelling.
The owner of the VW decided not to press charges. We were turned over to our parents for punishment.
Needless to say we were all grounded for the rest of the summer. I don’t know about the others. I was not allowed to leave my yard. The summer was ruined. However it was our own fault. Our parents had taught us better to respect others property. This was the first and the last time I had got into serious trouble with the law. The whole experience frightened me and gave me a renewed respect for the property of others. Other than traffic tickets I never again ran into trouble with the law.
The winter of 1967 started out like any other in Michigan. Children and adults alike brought their snow gear out of storage and prepared to salt the sidewalks. Driving was a bit more treacherous, but Michiganders were used to this inconvenience — after all, it’s not the winter season in Michigan without a few cold-weather annoyances. But nothing could have prepared the people of Michigan for the storm that loomed on the horizon, waiting to take its deadly toll on the Great Lakes State.
Michigan has cold winters. Very cold and most years the cold in accompanied with lots of snow. The winter of 1967 was a record in Michigan as far as snowfall.
The 1967 blizzard caught many Michigan residents off guard. In several locations, the temperatures were in the 50s and 60s, and then a couple of days later on Jan. 26 and 27, the blizzard dumped lots of really heavy snow in a relatively short period. 28 inches of snow fell in the Battle Creek area in 2 days!
Here’s the snowfall totals measured in some of Michigan’s cities after the 1967 storm:
Kalamazoo … 30 inches
Battle Creek … 28.6 inches
Lansing … 24 inches
Saginaw … 23.8 inches
Flint … 22.7 inches
Grand Rapids … 18 inches
Jackson … 16 inches
Muskegon … 11 inches
The death toll from the Jan. 26-27 blizzard in Michigan reached 22. According to wire reports, most of the deaths were caused by heart attacks. In many of those cases, the heart attacks stemmed from trying to push stuck vehicles or by shoveling the heavy snow.
However, traffic fatalities were relatively low with only three reported deaths during the storm.
The 1967 blizzard caused difficulties with many everyday items, including the pickup of milk. Many farmers had to dump their milk, because the Michigan Milk Producers Association was unable to pick up the milk from the farmers, according to a story in the Jan. 29, 1967 Jackson Citizen Patriot.
For us kids it was heaven! No school and endless adventures in the snow. We built forts in the snow and even tunneled deep into the snow with our fort making.
For the adults it was a terrible thing. I remember that dad could not go to work as his car was buried in the ditch. I also remember people being driven to hospitals on snow mobiles as driving a car was impossible. The snow drifted up on our house completely covering the back of the house!
Dad bought a snow blower in 1968. However snowfall in 1968 was light. It snowed a bit more in 1969 but not much. And in 1970 we packed it all in and moved to Florida. So we never got to use the snow blower! However dad packed the snow blower in the moving van and took it with us on the move. I never understood this as a snow blower is about as useful as tits on a bull in Florida! I guess he thought he could sell it here in Florida for reasons I never quite understood. Some of my friends in Florida had never seen a snow blower. It was very interesting to them. However the motor came in handy in making a go cart after the move to Florida. So to me the snow blower that became a go cart was a beautiful thing!
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 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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
Alan loved going to football games. He often attended them.
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 Michigan
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 went over to 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!
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”.
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 was 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!!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
I would like to preface this post with some thoughts on who I thought was my hero. I had a few hero’s in my youth. Some would come to no surprise. Superman. Batman and the usual comic book hero’s. However. The hero that has stood the test of time is Will Robinson of Lost in Space played by Bill Mumy. His attitude and bravery remains a benchmark to this day on how a person should conduct themselves. I am forever grateful for this.
In May of 1965 I became a double digit person. I had been laying down hints in my parents path that I wanted some kind of motorized vehicle as my friend Greg had one and Carlos was going to get one too. I had high hopes. But alas. My birthday came and I received a badminton set. I was devastated! However I did not let my disappointment show. I tried to cover my fallen Crest and even played a few games with my mom and Greg.
The summer of 1965 was filled with the usual fun and games. And soon it was September and time for school. And so 5th grade began. Class was held in the eight room brick building that once stood on the Wattles Park Elementary property. Mr. Buckinburger was my teacher. He was a cheerful man but took no nonsense from his class. He made learning fun. Especially science. I loved learning about weather under his tutelage. He had a way of connecting with his young students and setting them at ease.
There is a television show that has steered me towards technology and the love of all things space. Lost in Space. It aired September 15 1965 with the episode The Reluctant Stowaway. Here is a short synopsis of the episode from lostinspace.fandom.com
On October 16, 1997 the Robinson family and Major Don West are about to launch aboard the Jupiter 2 and begin their mission to establish a colony on a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. Despite high hopes for the mission, it is undertaken in an atmosphere of international tension resulting from the effects of overpopulation and rapidly depleting natural resources all over the planet.
Dr. Smith, the staff physician, boards to the ship to sabotage the mission. He reprograms the Jupiter 2’s environmental control robot to destroy critical systems aboard the ship eight hours after launch. Shortly before lift off, Smith realizes that a technician has removed the Robot’s power pack, thereby foiling his sabotage. At the last moment, he manages to reinstall the power pack unseen, but when he rushes to leave the ship, the hatch seals and he is trapped aboard. Because of Smith’s additional weight aboard, the Jupiter 2 veers off course into a swarm of meteoroids.
As the meteoroids pummel the ship, a fear-stricken Smith revives Major West from suspended animation. West saves the damaged ship by steering it out of the meteoroid swarm. The Robinsons are revived from suspended animation and John Robinson and Don West attempt to repair their damaged guidance system. This necessitates deactivating the spaceship’s artificial gravity. Will and Penny, delighted, do somersaults while weightless. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith floats helplessly on the lower deck, his attempt to deactivate the robot before he is destroyed along with the Robinsons thwarted.
When the artificial gravity is restored, Smith crashes to the floor as the fatal launch plus eight hour mark arrives. Despite Dr. Smith’s command to abort, the robot goes on its pre-programmed rampage. It destroys control systems and sends the Jupiter 2 into hyperspace, traveling faster than the speed of light. Don eventually manages to pull out the robot’s power pack before it can destroy the cabin pressurization system. The Robinsons stare out the main view port of their spaceship and John realizes that he can’t recognize a single constellation. The Jupiter 2 is lost in space.
A spacewalk is needed to repair damaged navigational equipment. Although Don is trained in extra-vehicular activity, as mission commander, John Robinson insists on making the spacewalk himself. He feels that Don, as pilot, is too important to risk. John has some difficulty because of his inexperience, firing a rocket gun which causes him to collide with the Jupiter 2, and he loses his tools. At that point, his tether snaps and he begins to float away.
The word in school is that it would be good and it should be watched.
It was Wendsday September the 15th. Mom and I were having dinner at Bill Knapps alone as dad was attending night school for bookkeeping. I especially liked Bill Knapps au gratin potatoes. I was enjoying them and I reminded mom that Lost in Space started at 7 PM. She assured me that we would be back in time.
Mom paid the check and we drove the 3 miles to home. The check came to $3.85 for both of us! Things cost much less back in the day. But you see it is all relative. Dad made around 4 dollars per hour and mom a little bit less. So almost a full hour of work for that meal. But anyway, mom was right. We made it back home with 10 minutes to spare. We pulled into the garage and I helped mom in with some packages and turned on the old Zenith black and white television to get it warmed up and set the channel to channel 3 the local Battle Creek CBS channel. I watched the show in slack jaw amazement! I looked with pleasure at the technology and listened to the technobable. The show instilled in me a desire of all things space. Also a desire for technical functional inside spaces. All the switches and displays fascinated me. The shows producer Erwin Alan did a great job of stimulating young minds in things of outer space.
I loved the show and still do to this day! Some of the kids in my class loved it too! When the the bell for recess rang we would gather on the back yard back of the brick schoolhouse and reenact episodes from the show. Each of us would assume a role of one of the actors. Maybe one of us would strap on an imaginary jetpack and zoom around the yard and look for Penney. Or perhaps setting up the drilling rig to mine dutronium. Or maybe to rescue Judy from a pit where she was chased into by a hideous monster. Or maybe all of us would stand with our backs to the wall of the school building at attention, pretending to be in a state of suspended animation in the freezing tubes as the Jupiter 2 careened from the sky for a crash landing on some foreboding planet.
We played out the episodes with great joy and abandonment. We all waited anxiously for the next weeks episode came out so we could practice our acting skills in the playground. Lost in Space was and still is one of my favorite television shows!
(The pups speaking) – Oh my sister and me we sweepy! We all day running and gweeting humans and we eats foodies on floor and bark at humans and and and……lots of petting yes yes! Do we has hairs? We sweepy now okay? My dad wants tell you a story now ok? It will help us sleep. Merry Christmas!
(Dad speaking) – Christmas is a wonderful time of year. A time for not only receiving, but of giving. It is fun to receive things. And I do like receiving. However, it is by far much more important to give. It is a time for family. A time to regroup and to focus on things that are really important.
It is a time for home and hearth and that warm glow that this time of year brings. I have many memories of Christmases in the past.This year I would like to bring you home for Christmas with me.
Christmas as always been my favorite time of the year. Not all of them were the best. However, most of them added a very special memory. I was born May the 12th, 1955. I don’t really remember much about my first Christmas. Come now. I was just a little over 7 months old. Give me a break. It was over 60 years ago. It must have been good though. I always seemed to be very happy around Christmas time!
Christmases were always 2 days in our house. Christmas Eve we had a simple meal of cold cuts, baked beans, chips, potato salad. Then we got in the car and attended the Christmas Eve service at the Lakeview Baptist Church. In the early days we opened presents on Christmas morning. Later on, when my belief in Santa began to wane, we would open our gifts on Christmas Eve. This made the trip to church almost unbearable, as everyone knew what happened when we got back home. The presents! Yes! Yes! Yes!
I remember one time I received my first wrist watch. It was early in the evening before we made our traditional trip to the Christmas Eve service. Dad saw I was excited. The excitement had been building for weeks now. These weeks of jingle bells. Reindeer hooves and Christmas stockings. So dad gave me a small package early. It was a Timex self winding wrist watch with hands that glowed. It made me very happy. I remember when Christmas Eve was winding down, and it was time for bed, climbing into bed and pulling the covers over my head and staring at the glowing hands on my watch until I drifted off to sleep.
The first Christmas I can really remember was Christmas of 1960. I was 5 years old. I was instructed Christmas Eve not to go out into the front room until they had got up. I was a good boy. I did what they said. They did not say that I could not come into their room and pester them to get up. As I recall, it did not take much pestering. They got up and we went into the living room. Oh my God! Where there only yesterday was only a tree that I had helped my mom decorate, were presents everywhere under the tree! And my stocking was stuffed to overflowing! I could hardly wait till we sat down for the opening! But first breakfast.
Mom called me over to the breakfast table and said “Hey Jim! Come look at this!” We had put out cookies and milk for Santa the previous evening and there on the breakfast table was the empty plate with crumbs on it, and the empty glass of milk! And on a chalk slate a note from Santa wishing me a Merry Christmas. This was proof positive that Santa really existed! Besides my mother would not lie to me about something so as important as Santa Claus!
At Christmas 1965 I was 10. I was scoping out the gifts that were appearing under the tree and decided that my mother was not getting the amount of gifts that she deserved. So I proceeded to gather up all of her cosmetics and wrapped them. This was about 1 week before Christmas. Mom could not figure out where all her stuff went! She found out on Christmas morning!
Christmas 1965 I received a 3 speed bicycle! It was all the rage and I rode it with such pride!
Christmas Eve 1968 was a very special Christmas Eve. It was when Apollo 8 orbited the moon. Mom dad and myself sat glued to the TV set and watched it unfold as we ate sardines and crackers.
Apollo 8 took 68 hours (almost three days) to travel the distance to the Moon. The crew orbited the Moon ten times over the course of twenty hours, during which they made a Christmas Eve television broadcast which they read the first ten verses from the book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever.
Christmas 1972 I was working as a seasonal worker at K-Mart. It was the first time I had money of my own to buy Christmas gifts. I bought for my parents. A ice cream maker and some kitchen appliances.
Christmas 1976 I was in the navy and was going through a divorce. I had duty over the Christmas holiday and had to stay aboard the ship to stand watch. I tell you it was a grim Christmas. I did not want anything to do with Christmas that year. Until I attended a Christmas show presented on the ship. My Christmas spirit was renewed by the show.
Christmas 1977 I was still in the navy. The ship was in drydock in long beach California. I shared an appartment with one other sailor Fred and my friend a civilian named Andy. I decided to cook Christmas dinner for us all. We decided to stuff the Turkey with an ounce of good marijuana. We ate the Turkey and the stuffing and waited for the buzz to come on. It did after some time. I have never been so stoned in my life!
Christmas 1980 I was out of the navy and I bought my son a go cart. He was too little to reach the pedals so I built up the pedals with blocks of wood so he could reach them.
Christmas 1991 I was dating my current wife Susie. We both went out and bought an artificial tree and bought presents to go under it. It was a good Christmas indeed!
Christmas 1993 Susie was here with me and we were husband and wife. Our sons James and Mark received lots of presents and after they were all open both of them got into a box. My babies in a box!
Many more Christmases came and went. Each one added a special memory that I will remember all the rest of my life. That the cool thing about Christmas. One Christmas adds to the next. They are all cumulative.
So now it is Christmas 2019. My 64th Christmas. Wow. Christmases now are spent with grandchildren. We watch with great pleasure as they open each present selected with love and care.
It is my hope that all of you will cling to each Christmas memory.
The following is what I believe Christmas is all about.
C – Christ. Christ is what Christmas is all about is it not? After all Christ is in the word Christmas. The Christmas story is a beautiful story. That God sent a savior, his only son down to earth to save us from all the iniquity that we all face as mortals. And to make peace with our brothers and sisters. Some of us only make peace around this time of year. I wish we could keep this spirit of peace alive the whole year.
H – Home. Christmas to me is a time to be home with the woman I love very much. A time for home and hearth and that warm glow inside.
R – Rest. Christmas is a time for rest and regrouping. A time to recharge your batteries and make way for the new year.
I – Ice skating. I live in Florida now. However I was raised in Michigan. I have fond memories of heading out to the pond for a afternoon of ice skating.
S – Sleep. I get a lot of time off at Christmas time. Most of the time 12 to 14 days off in a row. I use this time to sleep in and get some rest.
T – Turkey. To me and my family Christmas means Turkey with all the fixings!
M – Memories. Christmas means memories of all the christmases from the past. All the memories of the people from Christmases past come flooding back to mind. It is a time to relive all the Christmases from your past. The good ones. The not so good ones. The sad ones and the happy ones!
A – Art. Christmas is a great time to enjoy the arts. Whether it be a Christmas live performance, or just staying at home to enjoy Christmas shows on the television. Or perhaps driving around the neighborhood and looking at all the Christmas lights!
S – Santa. Christmas means Santa! I have fond memories as a child believing in Santa claus. I remember waking up very early and heading out to the living room to find that Santa truly was here. To find the entry glass of milk and the crumbs left behind from the chocolate chip cookies left there for Santa. It is very easy as a child to believe in Santa Claus. It becomes harder and harder to believe as you get older. How is it possible to believe in a man that travels all over the worlds delivering toys to good boys and girls, and expect nothing in return. You don’t have to believe in Santa. You will still get your presents. But you will not receive the joy that only comes from believing. At one point in my life I stopped believing. But I sure do now!
So this is what Christmas means to me. I am glad that you came home with me as I shared my very special Christmas memories.
Merry Merry Christmas everyone! And a happy New Year!
Third grade continued in 1963 and soon winter arrived. Winters were always harsh, brutal, and incredibly beautiful and glorious for inhabitants of Battle Creek Michigan. Especially for the children. Christmas break came so It was time to drag the sleds, skis and toboggan from the attic and get ready for winter fun!
Directly in front of our house was the Beaumont pond. Greg and Carlos would come to my house dragging their sleds and we would head out across the retention pond to Wattles road. Then cross the road and enter the huge field. There was some great hills there for sledding and skiing.
Also there was a large pond for ice skating. Mom and dad would occasionally come with us to skate. Mom and I had figure skates and dad had hockey skates. Mom taught me how to skate and to do big figure eights on the ice.
Spring in Michigan
Winter turned into spring. We were beginning to look forward to summer. We counted down the days to he end of school. And soon it happened. Spring turned into summer. The summer of 1964 flew by as summers do for kids. However there was plenty of time for adventure and fun. Perhaps is was a bike ride down Wattles road to the county park for some fishing or a dip in the river. Or maybe just hanging out and just messing around. Children knew how to mess around back then. They did not need video games or smart phones to have fun. The days were long and the fun was genuine!
In August of 1964 it was time for registration for the upcoming school year. Mom took me to the school for registration. All my shots were up to date and I was healthy and ready for the new school year. At registration there also was a kiosk to register my bicycle. I filled out the papers and they gave me a tag to attach to my bike. Afterwards mom and I went to downtown Battle Creek to Jacobson’s and Sears for school supplies and new school clothing.
The old white buildings and the brick building at Wattles Park Elementary in the early 60’s. The white building in the back is Mrs. Whites kindergarten class building. They are long gone now.
4th and 5th grade was held in the old white building on the Wattles Park elementary school property. It was a one story wood building with four classrooms. The rooms had very high ceilings. Each room had large lights hanging down from the ceiling on long cables. One of the classrooms was a music room. I learned how to play the violin there with 3 or four other girls. The only name of a girl that I can remember is Sally. Mrs Hardesty was the music teachers name. The building has long sense been torn down along with the little one room building used for kindergarten class.
A 60’s Classroom
My 4th grade teachers name was miss Ogar. She was a young and very attractive teacher. All of us boys immediately fell in love with her. We all had a crush on her. She had a spiffy little sports car. We all thought that was very cool.
A typical girls school restroom of the 60’s
One day my friend Tim and myself were caught trying to peek into the girls bathroom. It was inevitable. Hormones were raging in our young bodies and we were beginning to take interest in girls. How could this be? Just a year ago girls were poison! Anyway Miss Ogar caught Tim and I trying to look into the girls bathroom. We snuck up on the door and gingerly opened it to look in. Out of nowhere Miss Ogar appeared behind us. She had a big grin on her face. I think she understood the curiosity that lived on all young boys about the opposite sex. Anyway she looked at Tim and I. She managed to wipe the grin off of her face and put on a more stern look. She said “Tim. Jim. What are you doing? Why are you trying too look into the girls bathroom? Have you never seen a girls bathroom?” Tim and I were looking down at our shoes. We shook our head no and continued to look at our shoes in embarrassment. Miss Ogar simply took both of us by hand and lead us in to the forbidden bathroom. Nothing was really different except the absence of urinals. The place did look cleaner and there were no graffiti on the stall walls. Tim and I were embarrassed at being caught. However we were grateful that Miss Ogar took the time and had the understanding of what went on in a young boys mind. The curiosity. The need for answers.
Some Halloween costumes popular in the 60’s
October came and Halloween was just around the corner. Halloween was the second most important holiday for young people. It’s importance was only surpassed by Christmas. Halloween took some planning. A store bought costume or make one yourself? I decided to be a hobo on Halloween of 1964. Mom helped me sew on some patches on some old tattered jeans. Hobos had lots of patches on there clothes right? I had a tattered flannel shirt to use. Also a straw hat. I smudged my face with charcoal as all hobos had dirty faces. The costume was complete.
Trick or Treat in the 60’s
Halloween came and off I went over to Greg and Carlos’s house to join them in trick or treating. We went down Jono road then up Wattles road. Then Boyer and Crosby road. As the bags were getting rather full at this point, we stopped at my house to leave our “booty” and to get fresh bags. Then we continued around Beaumont drive and returned to my house to drop off our remaining candy.
Halloween Party in the Barn
Every Halloween the Pugh’s the people that lived on the corner of Boyer and Wattles road had a Halloween party for all the children in the neighborhood. This event was the climax of the Halloween season. It was a wonderful thing for them to do! The Party would take place in their barn. There was bobbing for apples. There were hot dogs, sloppy joes and chips. And the best candy apples ever! Also fresh apple cider so good and so sweet. So leaving our candy at my house on Beaumont, Greg Carlos and I headed out the door and made our way up Wattles road to Boyer to join the party. It so happened that the Inquire and News, a local Battle Creek newspaper was at the party to cover the story of the generosity of these fine people for doing this for the community. A snapshot was taken for the newspaper and I was in it! Unfortunately that straw hat. Remember that? Part of my hobo costume. It completely covered my face! You could not tell it was me! Nonetheless, we all had a great time at the Halloween party. I am forever grateful for the good memories.
My mother was born in Dubois Pennsylvania April 25 1914 to William and Ida Fairman. She was the youngest of 8 siblings. First born was my aunt Ethel. Then came Grace. Then Doniett. Then Leona. Then Billy. Then Estereen. Then Bobby. And last but not the least, Ruth, my mother.
Moms father, my grandfather, came over from Italy in the early 1900’s. He started a small dairy farm with 6 milking cows. Over the years this Fairman dairies grew and is still in operation today in the Dubois area albeit it in a different location. They had a garden and my grandmother had 15 or 20 chickens. They ate the eggs and the chickens too. It was my grandmothers job to select the chicken for dinner. Cut it’s head off then throw it into boiling water and then pull all the feathers out. Then of course cook it. It was a messy business for sure. Not many of us deal with this anymore as all our food is found at the supermarket packaged and ready to cook. Grandma would not eat any of the chicken except for the back. I imagine her appetite for chicken was diminished by the gory procedure involved!
Mom at about 3. She told me later that she had just got a lickin’ for something that she had did.
Moms family was poor but happy. They made do with what they had. Mom would make a doll out of clothespins and bits of cloth. She loved baseball even at a very early age. Even at the end of her life she would be glued to the television when baseball was on. Especially during the World Series. She also loved basketball and was on the girls team later on in high school.
A Early 1900 Dairy Farm
All the children in her family had chores. Moms two main chores when she got old enough to do them was washing and sterilizing the milk bottles and get them ready, along with her brother Billy, for the next morning milk deliveries. Then she ride out with my grandfather to make the deliveries. She would get up early, rain or shine, and hitch up the horse to the milk cart in the barn and load it up with the days milk, cheese, and butter for the days deliveries.
One time when she was washing the bottles her brother Billy came into the prep room with his girlfriend. Boys always had short hair back then and Billy had an odd habit of brushing his hair on the mechanized bottle washer that had brushes that rotated. He just put his head against them and grinned with pleasure as the brushes massaged his scalp and brushed his hair. His girlfriend thought this was a clever thing and so tried it herself. Unfortunately she had very long hair and her hair was immediately tangled up in the brushes. Billy quickly cut the power to the machine and spent the next hour getting his girlfriend untangled!
A one room Schoolhouse circa 1900
On one of our visits to Dubois, mom drove me over to her old 1 room school house where 1st grade through 5th grade was held. The old student desks were still there. The ones where the chair was attached to the desk and the writing surface folded up so the student could put books in the desk. She ran her hand over one of the desks and said “This is where I sat.” Grades one through five was held in this one room schoolhouse. Mom told me of playing baseball with her classmates out back of the schoolhouse.
In the early 1950’s my grandmother Ida, moms mom, had a stroke. It was severe. It affected her left side. He walked very slowly with a shuffle and could not speak. She never recovered from this and remained the same until her passing in 1963. My mother had long sense left and had married my father. She now lived in Battle Creek Michigan. However, my grandmother had plenty of family about her to help her. The family resided in Shaffer Siding in Dubois Pennsylvania all there life. So all my aunts and uncles were always near by to help her.
Approximate location of the Diner
My aunts got together and purchased a parcel of land right next to the house my mom was born in. They then built a hamburger stand and diner. The diner was on the main road that ran through Dubois. This was long before freeways so they always had plenty of traffic going by and plenty of business, mostly truckers. Aunt grace and aunt Doniett ran the place. Many truckers and travelers would frequent the place. On one of our visits to Dubois Pennsylvania, mom and I walked out the front door of the Larson home where my aunt Grace lived. Then we walked down the street for about 50 yards to a trail that cut through the high vegetation along the road. The slope of the trail was a bit steep as all the homes in the area were built on a siding. Hence the name Shaffer Siding. We made our way down the trail and walked onto the diners property and made our way inside. There would be aunt Grace in the kitchen as the cook and aunt Doniett in the dining room acting as waitress and cashier. Over in the corner would sit my grandmother Ida in her chair with left arm held tight to her torso silently overseeing the whole operation. Grace would come out of the kitchen and give me a little cup of ice cream or some other treat and doter over me and smother me with wet aunt kitchen kisses!
Approximate location of Moms Homestead
After visiting and talking to Aunt Grace and Aunt Doniett for awhile mom said. “Jim. Would you like to see the house where I was born in?” The house was right next door. It was in bad repair. My grandmother had long ago moved in with my uncle and aunt Bogle so that my aunt could keep an eye on her. “Yes I would like to see!” I exclaimed. So off mom and I went across the parking lot where the big trucks were parked and into the adjoining yard. As I said the house was in bad shape. Shutters were hanging from their hinges. Some of the windows were broken. But nonetheless we ventured inside. We stopped at the front door and mom stopped and fingered the front of the door and found a small nick. A depression if you will. “See that Jim? That is where your uncle billy shot and missed when he shot his pellet gun at me. I told your grandmother what happened. Boy did he get a lickin’.”
Like I said, the house was in bad shape. Paint was pealing off the outside and the wallpaper was torn and tattered inside. The old original wood stove was still in the kitchen. There was no furniture in the house. Mom said “Let’s go upstairs and I will show you where us kids slept.” So upstairs we went. Upstairs was no better than downstairs. There was dust everywhere. Down the narrow hallway to the right was the bathroom. Inside was an ancient iron tub. The kind you may have see with the iron animal legs. Also an old toilet and sink. Further down the hall was a large room. Mom called it the ward. It is where all the girls slept. Adjacent to this room was another smaller room where the two boys slept. It was fascinating to me to see where mom lived when she was my age.
I don’t know much about mom between 1924 and the time she married my dad in 1946. However, I do know that she got involved in the World War Two war effort. When the war started in 1941, she moved to Philadelphia and worked for Philips electronics making electronic devices for aircraft. One day after work she and a few of her friends that worked at the Philips plant went out to one of the many beer gardens that had set up business around the Philadelphia ship yard.
They found a booth in the corner of the bar and ordered their drinks. She noticed a sailor sitting a few tables from them glancing up at her and then looking away. Then glancing up again and looking away. It bothered her. Way was this skinny man in a sailor suit with the sailor hat staring at her. It revolted her and she resolved that if he approached that she would reject him and send him packing. The sailor walked up to the booth where the ladies were sitting and introduced himself. “Let me introduce myself” he said. “My name is Robert Culpepper. May I buy you a drink” he said looking directly at my mom. “No” my mother said in disgust. She was repulsed by this man. How dare he come over and ask if she wanted a drink. However Robert was persistent and eventually she agreed to allow Robert to buy her a beer. The other ladies at the table sensed that two is company and that three or four is a crowd. They excused themselves and left my mom and Robert alone at the table. Mom was tense at first but eventually relaxed and opened up to this man. She found him very polite and easy to talk to. They talked for hours until the bar closed. They were asked to leave as the bar was closing. Robert asked my mom for her phone number and she reluctantly gave it to him. It was 1944 and Robert was stationed at the Philadelphia ship yard waiting for the decommissioning of his ship the SS Belknap that was heavily damaged by a kamikaze attack in the pacific theater. After the war ended mom moved back to Dubois Pennsylvania and Robert moved back to Battle Creek Michigan. However they did continue to write to each other. They were in love. She did not want to admit it but she was deeply in love with this man. And in June 29 1946 they married and mom moved to Battle Creek and moved in with him in a small apartment in downtown Battle Creek. The appartment in downtown Battle Creek was small and full of cockroaches. Also their neighbor next door fought every night ending with a beating delivered in a drunken rage by the womans husband. They began to look for more suitable quarters.
Mom loved to move and they did numerous times. They bought some acreage on D drive north in Battle Creek and did some gardening and raised chickens. Mom got a job at the Kellogg cereal company as a cereal packer. Dad had a drinking problem and mom gave him an ultimatum. “Either you quit drinking and get a job at Kellogg’s or I am leaving you!” she said. This scared my dad and he quit drinking at once. He loved his “Rudy”, his nickname for her and would not let anything come between them. He then applied for work at Kellogg’s and got the job. He joined the grain millers union and reported for work. Things were looking good for this grain miller and his wife. Over the years at Kellogg’s he made OK’s, product 19, corn flakes, and fruit loops.
Mom and newborn me
Around 1945 they moved to 100 Jono road and in May of 1955 she had one child. Me. It was the only child she had as her uterus was damaged in giving birth and soon after she had a hysterectomy. Mom quit her job at Kellogg’s to take care of me. Later on when I was old enough to hold my own and fend for myself, she was re hired at Kellogg’s and resumed her job as a cereal packer.
One day in late 1955 she noticed how dirty the car was, and intended to wash it. However it was December and it was very cold outside. Biterly cold. Dad told her not to do it. However my mom was stubborn and she went ahead with the car wash anyway. She them came down with walking pneumonia that almost killed her. She was a smoker at the time and she tried to smoke even though she had pneumonia. She told me later on that it tasted horrible. Like having shit in her mouth. So she quit smoking and never again smoked. Maybe things happen for a reason.
In 1959 they moved again. This time right up the street to 179 Jono road. I remember pleasant times with my mother there. She took good care of her family. However she did not put up with nonsense. One time when we were attending services at Lakeview Baptist church I decided to “act up”. This embarrassed her that her child would act this way. And in public for all to see! She did not say a word but picked me up and took me into the ladies room where she gave me a good spanking with her hair brush. This affected me and I very rarely acted up in public again.
Mom had an old ringer washer in the basement and I so enjoyed watching her do the laundry. She showed me how to feed the clothes into the ringer to extract the water and even let me try, admonishing me to be careful not to get my fingers caught in the ringer. Then she would hang the clothes up on lines strung up in the basement if it was winter. In the summer she would take the clothes to the line in the back yard. She did have a dryer but very rarely used it.
Old toy store
One day in 1961 she took me to downtown Battle Creek to a toy store. The store was an old house that was converted into a place of business. It was a wood building with wood floors that would squeak when you walked on it. The place was a child’s dream come true. There were games, models, balls, and toys of all types.
Mom had a reason to come there that day. As it was a very hot summer, she wanted to buy me a plastic pool to put out in the back yard for me and my friends to swim and cool off in. The pool was about 4 feet wide and about 2 feet deep. It was round. I was delighted! We got it home and mom sat it up. My friend Greg and I spent hours and hours submerged in the pool pretending we were submarines going round and round the circular pool so fast that centrifugal force spilled the water over the top of the pool.
Toy Bow and Arrows
One day I decided to take the suction cups off the ends of a few arrows I had. Mom was strictly against this but allowed me to shoot them as long as it was not at anybody or the house. My back yard at 179 Jono road had a slight slope that extended about 30 feet from the house. At the bottom of the slope was my pool. I had been playing all afternoon with my bow and modified arrows, shooting them into the air and watching them stick into the ground with delight! And then it happened. One of the arrows had significant power to make it all the way down the slope and into my new pool. The arrow not only pierced the side of the pool, but the bottom too. I pulled the arrow out of the pool and watched the water pour out from the side and the bottom. I felt sick. I went inside sheepishly and went to mom In the kitchen and told her what I had did. She frowned and said “Let’s go look.” She wiped the flour off her hands and followed me out the kitchen door to the garage and then out back. She looked at it and shook her head. Seems to me she was thinking to herself as she looked at the damage, ‘I know I should have not have let him use those sharpened arrows.’ Dad applied tape. The water did not escape as fast at first. Then the tape got so wet that it failed too. It was the end of summer days playing submarine in the pool. To my dismay, the pool was taken to the road to be picked up by the trash man. Mom had it right. I should have taken her advice and not use the modified arrows, instead of trying to wear her down with my pleadings. I learned that day that mom had my best interest in mind. It was a hard but valuable lesson to learn.
Worship in the 1960’s
During the sixties mom was involved in the church. Woman circles. Meetups at the Evan’s and the Josylyns, Pot luck dinners, Sunday worship, Wednesday worship and Sunday school. I went to Sunday school and later on to youth group on Wednesday nights. I remember many times when she had groups over for bible study, coffee and snacks, and conversation. Then a bit later she sent me off to youth camp.
A Boston Terrier
We had a Boston terrier dog named Candy in the late 60’s. She was very attached to my mother. She would follow mom around all day as she worked around the house. Candy was especially attached to mom and especially on family vacations. One trip comes to mind when we had rented a cabin on spider lake in the middle of lower peninsula Michigan. We were headed north in the car. Candy was at moms feet where she rode when in the car. She needed to be very close to mom in this very nervous time. Mom needed to stop into a drug store to get something she had forgot and also to get us some ice cream cones. Most drug stores back in the day had soda fountains where you could get your favorite icy delight. Mom and dad got out of the car leaving Candy and I behind. As soon as mom left the car Candy went insane! Candy began to pace back and forth and began to wail pitifully as she strained to see out the car windows on her very short legs. I could not console her. No matter what I did. At last she spotted mom emerging from the store front. A ear piercing wail and a continued struggle to see out of the car. At last mom entered the car and Candy rushed into moms lap and began to lick moms face with her slobbery tongue and lips!
Kresge Lunch Counter Circa 1960
Around 1962 mom and I went to downtown Battle Creek to the Kresge store lunch counter for lunch and then off to Jacobson’s department store for some clothes shopping. I loved going to Kresge’s. It was bright in there with many things on the back service counter to keep me busy looking at. Then after a hot dog and a cherry coke or perhaps a malted milk, we were off and began our walk down the street in a leisurely stroll towards Jacobson’s.
Jacobson’s circa 1960
“Let’s go find you some clothes for school Jim.” So up to the third floor and to the children section we went to select me some new school threads. The store was equipped with a tube suction system like you see at a drive up teller. You would put the cash or check in a cylinder then insert the cylinder into the vacuum tube. The system would send the cash or check to the office to be put in the safe. We had brought the items to the counter and mom had settled up with the cashier. Mom asked me “Would you like to put the money in the tube Jim?” “Yes” I said and at once inserted the cash and coins into the tube without the benefit of the cylinder.
Vacuum tube delivery system
The look on my moms face was a look of horror! The took on the cashiers face was even worse! You could hear the loose change clanking and banging in the tube as it made its way to the front office located on the top floor. The cashier called the front office on the phone and told them what at happened. It seemed that we waited there forever as the cashier and the office gradually got all the money little by little. It was not a good day for mom. However mom knew that mistakes happen.
Many great memories come to mind of my mom. The time when she was a den mother for the cub scouts den 135. She had it all set up in the basement of 114 Beaumont drive. We made stuff with alphabet letters. We also went into the big woods near out home to collect leaves for identification and pressing.
Enquire and News Battle Creek
The den even took a field trip to downtown Battle Creek to tour the Enquire and News paper. I was fascinated with the big printers as the uncut paper flew down its feed. And then the trip to the radio station WBCK Battle Creek Michigan. We were herded into the broadcast booth with instructions to keep our little lips shut unless spoken to. It must have been like herding kitty cats for my mom. We all were generally good. However we were very energetic! Mom was very tolerant and patient and never had to raise her voice to any of us in the den.
In the early days of my life I was always with mom. Trips to the Kroger grocery store. Downtown to the bank. A stop off at the butcher on Michigan avenue.
Mom and Dad retired from the Kellogg company in 1969. We moved to Florida in 1970 and after I graduated High School I got married and enlisted in the navy. It was the only way I could see to support my wife. Mom and dad were living on Lagoon Drive in a rental. I Came home and told them what I had done. Dad looked very proud. Mom did not! She was worried that something would happen to me. We talked for a while and dad and I assured her that all will be well and not to worry. I served my tour in the navy and came home in 1978. I stayed with them and when to school to study electronics. After that I moved out again and married for the 2nd time. In 1985 mom and dad were living on Cypress Knolls in New Port Richey Florida.
One day she came home from a doctor visit with some disturbing news. Her mammogram should some anomalies. She needed further tests. She scheduled the tests and waited for the results. The doctors diagnosis was breast cancer. Her options were radiation treatments or, full a mastectomy. She was scared. Mom had always dressed well and displayed her femininity well. She was worried that dad would not love anymore because she would only have one breast. The success rate was much higher with the full mastectomy than radiation or other surgical options. She chose the former. Dad had reassured her that nothing on earth could stop him from loving his “Rudy”. She had the procedure and fully recovered.
In 1996 mom and dad were living at 10125 Regency Park Blvd. in Port Richey Florida. Moms short time memory had been failing in recent years. She was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease. We did not known it at the time. But the signs were there. My son Alan had told me that mom had told him that she felt like she was loosing her mind. She was already experiencing the classic symptoms. Memory loss, difficulty planning and solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks, difficulty determining the time or place, difficulty finding the right words to say, misplacing items, withdrawing from her social events, experiencing personality and mood changes including confusion, depression, anxiety, and fearfulness. The worst of it came to a head in the summer of 1996. I was having trouble with my transmission on my car. I had dropped off the car at the repair facility and was waiting for my mom and my wife Susie to pick me up. Mom was going to pick Susie up and drive to the transmission repair shop. This never happened. She did not pick up Susie or me. My son came and picked me up and we went over to mom and dads house. No trace or word of her. Where was she? We called the police and they said they put an all points bulletin out for her. They said that they would be on the lookout for her.
Dad was devastated. Where was she? I decided to stay over at his house for the night to wait for any news from the police. I went home where Susie had a bag packed for me. I then returned to dads house. We sat at the table all night waiting for a call. It did not happen. The next day found us sleeping on the couch and recliner. Around 8 AM the phone rang. It was the police. They had found her! In Mobile Alabama, about 700 miles from home! She was alive but confused. She had driven up into someone’s yard, turned off the engine and sat there in her own urine and waste. Eventually the property owners came out and asked if they could help her. They noticed that she was very confused and not able to answer questions, so they called the police. The police also got notice from mom and dads credit card that she had used it on route to get gasoline. The ambulance came and took mom to a local hospital.
That evening my oldest son, Alan, his wife and I traveled to the destination in Mobile the police had given us. It was very late and we were tired so we stopped off somewhere near Gainesville Florida and got some shuteye. The next morning bright and early we continued our trip towards Mobile. We found the address where moms car was. We talked to the owners. They were very understanding. We then made our way now in two vehicles to the hospital where mom was. A hurricane had recently hit the area and the hospital showed it. However it was still functional. We asked the lady at the front desk as to where mom was and she told us. We entered her room and there she was. A big smile on her face! She was not concerned at all and she had enough mind left to recognize Alan my son and I. After talking with her doctor at the hospital she was released and we made our way back to Port Richey Florida. I asked mom on the way back home why had she driven so far. She said “You father was with me. He told me where to go.”
Fargo Drive as it is today. In dis repair.
My wife Susie dad and I got together and talked about the situation. It was decided that they could no longer function on there own with moms Alzheimer’s and dads macular degeneration. As it was now mom drives as could not see and dad gave instructions o mom as to where to go. So it was decided that we would put their home up for sale and we would purchase a bigger mobile home on our property at Fargo Drive.
It was good. Mom and dad had their own room. Dad hovered over mom and took very good care of her. Dad would say “Ruth. Are you ready for a ice cream cone?” Moms face would light up and they would both head out to the kitchen with ice-cream delight on their minds.
As time went on her Alzheimer’s got worse and worse to the point she no longer talked. She had a blank stare on her face. She would wander around the house in a daze. Her situation broke all of our hearts. Here is a woman who 3 years ago could run rings around us. And in high heals!
One day I was in the living room surfing on the TV remote if memory serves me correctly. Mom came shuffling in past the kitchen from their room to the living room. She walked up to me and grabbed both my arms and looked me in the eyes and said in a very scratchy and strained voice. “I love you Jim.” Then she gave my arms a squeeze and shuffled back to her room. She never uttered another word. Ever!
Moms Alzheimer’s disease continued to progress in 1999. It got to the point that she needed 24 round the clock care. She was admitted to Windsor Woods assisted living facility. We visited her often and took her on trips to park and other outings. However she was in and out of the hospital. Also dad was in the hospital. His kidneys had shut down and he was in intensive care. He was dying.
I got a call from the hospital that I had better come now. Dad was dying. We hurried over to the hospital and rushed to dads side. He was in some discomfort as his lungs had filled with fluid because of renal failure. We told him we loved him and that we would take care of mom. He could not speak but looked me in the eye as if he understood. I asked the nurse if there was anything she could do to ease the pain. She did and soon after dad relaxed and passed away. After leaving dads room it was late at night. We decided to stop by moms room in the hospital. We did so and when we walked in she looked up at us and began to laugh. A big smile on her face all the time. She was laughing and acting very joyful. She had no way of knowing. However I believe she sensed dads passing and was rejoicing in it knowing that he was heaven bound!
Mom continued to get worse and in the early morning of December 29 2001 she passed away in her sleep. I will never forget my mother. The lessons I learned. The fun we had.
This post is a bit out of order chronologically. These events happened just before the previous post.
Ice skating in the 60’s
This was the winter of 1963, and it was a very cold winter indeed. All the oil furnaces in the neighborhood were on and working overtime to keep the homes occupants warm in the brutality cold winter. In those days, as a child, and you lived within 1/2 a mile from the school, you were expected to walk. It did not matter if it was 20 below 0. You walked! For us kids it was glorious. It was winter break which meant days outside enjoying the snow! Ice skating in the ice rinks our parents made by laying down plastic sheets to create ice on the lawn to skate on. Or sled riding on the big hill near the pond. We got so cold that after awhile your lips seized to function and you mumbled while you talked. Then back in and peal off the winter clothes covered with ice. Then into the kitchen for hot chocolate!
One day the unthinkable happened. A murder on Jono road. And in the very same house that we had once lived in on 100 Jono road! The home in 1963 was owned by Floyd and Daisy Zick. Daisy Zick was an attractive and very flirty woman. Her across the street neighbor Mrs. DeFrance had many times seen her entertain men at her home in the mornings while her husband Floyd was off too work as a butcher. Young boys in the neighborhood had even snuck up on her property and hide in the bushes to get a glimpse of her sunbathing toppless on her lawn chaise chair in her back yard.
100 Jono Road
It was Tuesday, January 14, 1963. It was cold, bitterly cold, even by mid-Michigan standards. The night before the temperature was near zero. Today the temperature was going to dip to between ten to seventeen degrees below zero after nightfall. Daisy Zick worked at the Kellogg cereal plant in Battle Creek and that morning she was making her lunch a sandwich and a banana and getting ready for her shift at Kellogg’s when there was a knock on her door. She opened it and perhaps expecting to find one of her men friends at the door. Instead she was attacked and stabbed multiple times with a curved packing knife. She had put up a fight by the look of the wounds on her hands and arms. They found her in the guest bedroom, crumpled up in the corner of the room next to the bed and nightstand. This room ironically turned out to be my room when we lived in the house. She had many stab wounds to her arms where she had held them up to defend herself. And many wounds to her breasts and torso and back. The perpetrator then fled in the Zick’s car leaving the garage door open. The car was later found abandoned about a mile away on Michigan avenue.
Daisy Zick’s Car
The police got involved and started investigating and contacting a number of people in the nearby area. Wattles road, Jono road and US 12 were all nearby streets and points of interest. As the police combed the area around Jono road and Wattles Road, more information emerged. Mrs. Beulah Hankey who lived Wattles Road claimed that she passed the Zick car being driven north on Wattles Road between 11: 20 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. She was with my friends mother Mrs. Habenicht, another neighbor who was able to substantiate this story. Mrs. Hankey felt her estimate of the time was accurate because Mrs. Habenicht left her home at 11: 20 a.m. after giving her young son medication for a heart condition. Little did Mrs. Hankey realize that Daisy’s killer was behind the wheel. Lloyd Eakins the oil delivery man had been making oil a deliveries at a homes on Wattles Road, just off Juno Street, at around 10: 00 a.m. Like so many people that day, he didn’t see anyone walking in the cold.
Heating Oil Delivery
The investigators pulled up in the Habenicht driveway around 11:15. Betty Habenicht had called ahead for heating oil to be delivered that morning. The deliveryman, Mr. Lloyd Eakins of Battle Creek, arrived at her home between 11: 00 and 11: 30 a.m. He told investigators that he didn’t see a car or person on Jono road. He did remember seeing Mrs. DeFrance walking toward her mailbox. It stood out in his mind because her dog barked and chased his truck when he left. Mr. Eakins was a little confused why the police asked what kind of gloves he had been wearing that day. When he pumped oil, he usually wore red cloth gloves for heat and pulled on a pair of black rubber gloves over them.
The De France Home
Eakins’s story matched up with that of Mrs. DeFrance, who provided the police with a description of the man she had seen across the street at the Zick home that morning. When pressed for details of the man she saw, she could only offer a generic description. The alleged killer stood about five feet seven inches and weighed about 135 pounds. From what she could tell from across the street and from behind, he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties. The man had been wearing a blue denim–type jacket with lighter blue pants and had black or dark hair but no hat. From what Mrs. DeFrance could see, he was a white man.
Daisy Zick in better Days
The murder to this day has never been solved. However, there is great speculation. Could the person been a woman dressed as a man? A jealous wife of the many men she had been entertaining in the mornings? Or perhaps a scorned man that she had dumped? A robber? No one knows.
Betty Habenicht came over to our home on Beaumont drive later and told my mom and dad what had happened. It was unbelievable that something like this could happen in our quiet neighborhood. And right in the home that we had once owned! It struck terror in the hearts of all the people that lived in the area. Fear entered our lives. No one ever locked their doors back then. No one felt the need to. This changed overnight as doors all over the community were slammed shut and locked. This act of pure savagery rocked not only the community but also the Kellogg Company, where Daisy worked. It was the end of innocence for the community.
Much of the information in this post was gleaned from the book Murder in Battle Creek. The mysterious death of Daisy Zick. Written by Blaine L. Pardoe. The book is available at Amazon Kindle.
The Summer of 1963 seemed to end rather quickly as they always do for a child. The beginning of school year 1963-1964 was coming soon. Still school did not start for a few weeks yet. Plenty of time for adventure. And Greg Carlos and I had gotten new toys! V-rroom Engines. The engines were battery powered and made the sounds of powerful racing vehicles! And Greg got a V-rroom Race car! This was a Line Controlled Race car with great racing sounds! Fun Fun Fun! There was also still time left in the summer to go to the park and fish and for adventure.
V-rroom engine for bikes
V-rroom line controlled race car
My dad one day brought home a clean 55 gallon drum from Kellogg’s cereals where he worked. He was going to use it to replace the old burning barrel we had that was quite rusted our and in need of replacement. However, before he did I asked him if we could use it for a few things Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington, David Zaborski and I wanted to try out. First off, we wanted to see if we could make a diving bell out of it and a clean garbage can. We filled the 55 gallon drum with water. Then one of us got in and a garbage can was lowered over his head. then the two remaining outside would sit on top of the garbage can until it went below the surface of the water. If we heard a knock we would immediately get up to let the aquanaut out. It was great fun and we were never in great danger.
Rolling Down a Hill In a Barrel
There was somthing else we wanted to try with the 55 gallon drum. We wanted to take it to the big hill we used for sleding in the winter. So we rolled it across the Beaumont Retention pond and across Wattles Road over to the big hills. One of us would get into the drum on his hands and knees with back pressed up against the interior of the drum. The with a little push off it would go down the hill. What a sensation. The world seemed to turn on end and you lost all sense of which way was up or down. Then at the bottom you would pour yourself out and have to wait a few minutes for you dizziness to subside before standing. This activity would keep us busy all afternoon!
Circa 1960 Barn Lunch Box made by Thermos
Alas summer did not last forever. Mom took me into town to buy new school clothes and to get school supplies. She also got me a new lunch box. A barn with a thermos inside. Almost like Dad’s.
The day came for school to start and I waited for Greg and Carlos to come so we could walk together to school. We always walked together to the school. The doorbell rang and Mom kissed me and gave me the new lunchbox and school supplies and off we went down Beaumont drive towards Wattles road. We crossed the retention ditch and headed north up Wattles road the 1/4 mile walk to school. Both Greg and Carlos were a year ahead of me in school so we said our goodbyes and off we went to our respective classes. My teachers name was Mrs. Williams. She was a older lady with curly short white hair. She was gentle but demanded respect from her students. She taught us what all children learn in third grade. Reading writing and arithmetic. We got a recess in the morning and one in the afternoon. And a 1 hour lunch. The lunch room was centrally located at the 1 story school. All the tables folded up into the walls for storage and for assemblies. I remember one assembly in particular.
It was from the people against tuberculosis and lung disease. The man giving the lecture was a cowboy and he made us laugh. I learned from this man that a yawn is a catchy thing. and he demonstrated it! He yawned and soon had us all yawning!
Beaumont Drive Retention Pond
My Home at 114 Beaumont Drive
The School day would end and it would be time to go back home. I found Greg and Carlos waiting for me outside by the bus lineup. Off we went walking first down Wattles Road to Beaumont Drive and across the retention pond and to my house. We said our goodbyes and I went in my house while Greg and Carlos continued around Beaumont and cut through the back to Greg’s Yard. Then playtime at home and dinner with my parents. I was back in school. Not a bad thing considering that it was my old school. I felt completely at home.
I must say it was wonderful to be back in my old stomping grounds. A Long summer and days of freedom were ahead of me. The world was my oyster!
A typical summer day was as follows. Wake up and watch Captain Kangaroo at 7 AM on the television. Then fool around with some toys. Then have breakfast with mom and dad. Do a few chores for the parents, followed by a half hour of piano practice. I would then ask mom or dad if I was free to go out. After hearing an affirmative, I then I would head over to Greg and Carlos who lived not even a mile away. I would walk up Beaumont drive and cut through a yard that touched the back of Greg’s yard. Greg and Carlos lived next door to each other, separated by one empty lot on Jono road. On the other side of Greg’s house was were we used to live before the move to Lakeview. Greg and Carlos were, and still are my best friends in the world.
So I would make my way through Greg’s back yard and to his back door. Most of the times Greg was in the middle of his morning chores. Perhaps I would find him feeding their dog Jet as I approached him on the back patio. Greg had more chores to do then Carlos or myself. So after Greg told me that he would be busy for while, I would cut though the vacant lot and head over to Carlos’s house next door.
Most of the time at this time of the morning, I would find Carlos in the living room sitting on his fold up TV tray/chair, eating Alphabets and watching TV. Many times I would join him in a bowl of Alphabets and a slice of toast and watch the tube with him. Alphabets were a forbidden cereal in my family as both my parents worked at Kellogg’s. So the temptation was irresistible. A couple of early morning TV kids shows come to mind. Tarzan. The Three Stooges. Then we may go down to the basement and play some pool. Or play with the fantastic train set that Carlos’s father had built. Complete with a little town with roads and train crossings. Even mountains and tunnels! Then it was time to go out and find the adventure of the day. Besides, Carlos’s mom wanted us out so she could clean the house. So out she would come from the kitchen screaming in her high pitched voice that told us that she wanted us out from under foot “Carly” her nick name for Carlos. “Carol! Out out. Both of you out! Look at this place.” So out we went into the summer day. By this time Greg was done with his chores and we had spotted him in his back yard. Off Carlos and I went to see Greg.
The Big Woods
What remains of Steve’s grocery and the Mapes Gulf filling station.
County Park in Wattles Park
There were many adventures way back then. Perhaps it was building a tree fort in the big woods east of us. Or heading down to the county park on our bikes to fish and swim. Or maybe riding up to Steve’s grocery for candy and a soda.
And then heading back home in the late afternoon for a cold cut picnic under the umbrella table served with ice tea! Then heading inside for some quality television. Then off to bed. The summer was indeed long and sweet!
114 Beaumont Drive as it is today. At the time I am speaking of in this writing, there were no trees. And hardly any houses! It was a kids dream to move to an area were there was construction work going on. An irresistible force to a young boy.
It was in the middle of the school year and second grade in 1962. I could not wait for school to be over. Remember this was the first year at a new school. I did not have many friends yet. It was a period of adjustment. I still missed my old school and my friends. My best friend Greg would come over from time to time. That was grand. But it never lasted long enough. I also sorely missed my old stomping grounds. Then came good news that made my heart leap! My mother was tired of Lakeview. It was not what she expected it to be. Also it was discovered that the big old house had termites. And the furnace was on the way out. With all the troubles with the old house it became clear. It was to become the deal breaker for my dad. So the search was on for a new place. For one reason or the other, my parents decided to build a new house instead of buying an existing house. Maybe it was the termite problem thst was a negative factor. Also I think they were tired of old appliances and the like. They wanted to modernize!
One evening my parents and I sat down at the kitchen table and had a family talk. We did this often. They made me part of the decision making process in all things. We had gone to different locations with a tape measure and measured out lots. They considered lake front property. The lakes were to far away from work. They considered going out to the country. Again too far from work. They considered the distance to the Kellogg plant where the both were employed. And location too I suppose. Maybe mom was tired of “city life”? Dad had raised chickens before and I think he did not want to do that again. So scratch the country idea. Then dad said to me something that brought great joy to my heart. They asked me what would I think of moving back to Wattles Park. “What would I think’? I said. “What would I think’!!?? That would be great” I bellowed! “That would be so great!!” My heart leapt with joy. I could hardly believe it! So it was decided that the best move would be back to the Wattles Park area. We were moving back to Wattles Park! Back to old school and friends. Life was good!
The black line is a line from the old house on Jono to the new one on Beaumont. Well within walking distance.
The lot where construction took place was at 114 Beaumont Drive Battle Creek Michigan to be exact. The road looped back in on itself. No outlet. This was a brand new subdivision just off of Wattles road. The location was in walking distance of my old home on Jono Road. Now school really dragged on and on for me. I could not wait for it to be over and to start a new school year after a glorious Summer!
Construction of the new house continued through the school year of 1962-1963. Every few days we would visit the site to watch the progress made. Very very interesting to a young boy of 7. First the huge hole dug for the basement. Then the cement blocks for the basement walls, and the pouring of cement for the floor. Then the digging of the well and the rest of the construction. The new house was built from cement, block and wood. A one story home with a basement, 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. Most modest homes back then had only 1 bath as apposed to the time of this writing, where almost everyone has at least 2 baths. And a fireplace. A basement with an oil furnace, a large sink and a black and white tile floor. Not as big of a yard as the one on Jono road but nice enough. Every couple of days we would drive out and look. Little by little the house took shape and neared completion.
The days dragged on and on and at last the last day of school arrived. It was a happy day. I would not be returning to this school in the fall. However, I did make a few friends at school. I was sorry I would not see them in the fall. We said our goodbyes and I walked to the student pickup area as dad had told me in the morning that he would pick me up. This was a bit odd, as I always walked to school. Rain or shine. Sleet or snow.
I saw dad’s car parked at the curb ahead and ran ahead and got in. “Hi dad” I said. “Hi Jim” he said. “I have a surprise for you!” My ears perked up! “You do?” “Yes I do. How would you like to spend the night in our new home? Mother and I signed all the papers today while you were in school. We brought out a few necessities. Mattresses, pillows, some food for breakfast.” “Yes yes” I exclaimed. So off we went. We pulled up to the new house and entered. Bare wood floors and no furniture but for a couple of folding chairs and a card table. I was in heaven! I went outside and looked up st the sky. The sun was setting. In Michigan the twilight lasts a long time. Up to 9 O’clock. I listened to the crickets and creatures of the night waking up. A peace settled over me that is very hard to explain. A warm feeling of security and belonging. The air had a sweet sweet smell to it. I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I smiled and turned to go back inside and join my parents for a board game at the card table. It was so so good to be back home.
I wrote about my mom in the post Fear Milk and Horses. And I will write more about her in a future post.
So now let’s talk about dad, and what he told me about himself and situations in his early life. And what i can recollect in his presence in my life.
Dad was born to my grandparents James Elbert Culpepper and Annie Elizabeth Mims on September the 1 1907. James and Annie were married in May of 1894. Annie was 16 and James was 20. They had six children. Hugh, Eddie, Homer, Ellis, Zoe, and Robert, my father. My dad was the youngest , born the first of September 1907. Hugh the oldest born in 1895. Hugh only lived 2 years.
Workers on the farm early 1900’s
Dad told me quite a bit about his life. Dad, along with my family lived on a co-op farm in Thomasville Georgia. My Grandfather James managed the farm. They grew sugar cane. The owner of the old plantation allowed my family a plot of land to grow their own vegetables. Also a smokehouse for meat preserving. I imagine bacon tasted much different from it does today. Less nitrates I suppose. Different taste.
Everyone worked hard and on Saturday came bath time. They lit a big fire to heat up water and poured it into a large horse trough placed in the middle of the large kitchen. Zoe and grandma went first. They were girls. Girls first ya know. Dad was the youngest, so was next to use the water. In retrospect, I pity the rest of his siblings that had to bathe in the increasingly used and dirty water. Back in those days long underwear was sewed on around October. Not buttoned on. I wonder if that is why they only took a bath once a week. A lot of things we take for granted, they did not have. Like shampoo, and conditioner. Your hair was more oily back then I presume.
Former slaves Circa 1900
It was around 40 years after the end of the civil war, and the freedom of slaves. Even so many former slaves stayed and worked the farms. This time for wages. This was the case on the co-op farm where my grandparents lived.
The live in farm hands had their own small dwellings on the land in back of the old plantation. In the evenings dad’s family, and live in farm hands would gather around a big fire in the farm-yard to tell stories and talk. Dad told me of a time when my grandfather told ghost stories. Grandfather could weave a story that sounded so possible and believable. He not only worked up the black farm workers into a frightened frenzy, but the white farm workers too! He played on their superstitions if you will. One time he told of how ghosts would hide out in the woods and bushes and wait for an unsuspecting mortal to come by. Grandpa James would say ” Oh yes. You best be very careful going home tonight.” he would say with a worried look on his face. “Just look at that moon! I’ve never seen it so bright and full!” All this time the eyes of the farm workers would widen into saucers! “Oh yes” grandpa would exclaim. A worried look on his face. “and watch out! Dem there ghosts always bring kindred spirits with them. Wolfs mostly I reckon. Demons running back and forth and the like.” A long pause as grandpa paced back and forth with his hands behind his back. Eyes of all the workers on him as he paced back and forth. “I tell you what.” stopping his pacing and looking about at the workers. “I will go ahead first and clear the air of ghosts with this here garlic.” he said pulling a clove of garlic out of his pocket. Grandpa mumbled some unintelligible words over the garlic and said to the workers “Is that okay with all of you?” “Yes yes Mr. Culpepper.” one of the workers exclaimed ” That there sure nuff would put us to ease a spell.” said the workers. “Okay its settled. Off I go. I will whistle 3 times like this.” Grandpa would put his 2 little fingers in his mouth and let out an ear splitting whistle. “See ‘yall in the morning.” And off grandpa went down the trail toward the old plantation house. A little while later off in the distance came 3 distinct, well spaced whistles. The workers were still a bit wary to leave but soon they all got up and headed for their homes on the farm and bed. Now my grandfather had not gone home to the old plantation house. My grandfather went had ahead and hid in the woods, waiting for the farm workers to come down the path towards their homes on the farm. As they drew near he let out a ghostly wail, and a shriek! The workers stopped dead in their tracks on the path, the hair standing straight up on the back of their necks! One of the black farm workers cried out, “Lord a gorshen! It’s dem spirits coming to get us! Stays away you spirits” and off they ran as fast as they could down the path towards their homes. Grandfather rolled on the ground and laughed and laughed!
Dad and his friends loved cars! The only problem was there were not many of them back in the early 1900’s. They would wait all day on the dirt road outside the farm for one to come by. Some days none came by. But when they did see one, is was glorious to the boys.
Fishing Circa 1900
Life for dad, back in the early 1900’s was good. Long hot southern Georgia days filled with work in the field, followed by a swim in the swimming hole. Or perhaps some fishing in the creek. In 1917, this chapter of his life would come to an end.
Sometime in 1917, the family made the move to Battle Creek Michigan. Dad was ten. They all packed it in and headed north. I don’t know the particulars of the move. I.e. what kind of car? Maybe a trailer? Was it done in one move? Keep in mind. This was a huge family. Lots of items to be packed and moved. I don’t know the address as to where they moved. But it was in downtown Battle Creek.
Dad told me of watching the brick layers lay down a road. They were very fast. A brick in place in just a couple of seconds. Dad had to earn his acceptance after the move. The move was somewhat of a cultural shock to dad and his siblings. They had moved north. They were far away from the farm. They spoke with a southern accent, and this brought ridicule upon them. But through it all, they became excepted and liked by the community. My grandfather James landed a job a Post Cereals. Things were looking up as they settled into their new surroundings.
Trolly circa 1910
Boys were mischievous back in the early 1900’s as boys are still mischievous today. Maybe they weren’t as violent back then. You were not supposed to hurt anyone. And you were responsible for any damage that happened. In 1922 dad was or was about to be 15. One of the mischievous things he and his friends enjoyed doing was tripping the trolley. First you obtained a 12 foot board. Then you waited for the trolley to come by and thrust the board over the electric wire overhead to derail the voltage pickup wheel. Then run as the trolley conductor chased you down the street!
And of course he and his friends were involved in outhouse tipping. This event only happened on Halloween. Outhouses were still popular into the late 20’s, early 30’s. It was a place you could be alone in your most private moments. There were still a few of them left in town. Even though indoor plumbing was available. The boys would wait in the bushes for their next victim to enter the outhouse, then wait a few more seconds for the occupant to “settle in” and then charge the outhouse tipping it over on its door and run!
It is sketchy as to what I know about dad from around 1922 to 1941 when he enlisted in the Navy. However I do know this. In 1928 he 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 in the team that developed Corning Ware. More about Alan in a later post. The marriage however was not a good one, and in 1939 ended in divorce.
A Filling Station circa 1920
Dad once ran a filling station. It was back in the day when all had stations were full service. You did not have to leave you vehicle. They did everything for you. Checked the oil. Tire pressure. Filled it up for you! Service with a tip of the hat and a smile. One night dad was closing up and counting up the days till, when a man came in and demanded all the money. The man had a gun. Dad reached for the money and handed it over. In that split second after the man received the cash, dad’s hand darted out and grabbed a shovel that was propped up near the cash register, and swung it at the thief and connected on his head. The man fell unconscious. Dad called the police and continued on with the closing of shop.
December the 7th, 1941
On December the seventh, 1941 Japan invaded Pearl Harbor. At once dad went downtown and unlisted in the navy. Years later he told me the reason he chose the Navy, and why he did it at once. Dad said, pointing to his head, “In the army and the marines you do a lot of walking. And walking with heavy weight on you. In the navy you ride!” “Also I enlisted at once before the army or marines could draft me.”
Great Lakes Naval Training center 1941
So off to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Great Lakes Illinois he went. Dad was not a lifer. His agreement with the Navy was discharge after war was over. A reservist serving the duration.
The USS Belknap DD-251
He was then received orders to report to the USS Belknap DD-251. The Belknap was an old 4 stacker destroyer. She was laid down in July 1918 and launched in January of 1919. She was a reservist ship until the start of WW2. Then she was placed on the active list and was ordered to Reykjavik Iceland to patrol the waters for enemy submarines. Dad was known as Pappy on-board the Belknap, as he was the oldest on-board. The navy is and was the place to drink coffee. Everywhere dad went on-board people would offer him a cup of Joe. During 1940 Belknap was converted into a seaplane tender (reclassified AVD-8, 2 August 1940) and recommissioned 22 November 1940. She was assigned to Patrol Wing 5 at Hamilton, Bermuda, and remained there until early 1941 when she returned to Newport Rhode Island. Between May and September 1941 she made three voyages from Newport to Newfoundland and Iceland.
Exploding Depth Charges
One day while on patrol they started tracking a “ping” coming over the sonar. They were on to something. General Quarters! The object was shadowing the ship! The captain ordered depth charges be deployed. Boom. Boom. Wait. Floating up to the surface came a great whale! A bad day for the whale for sure.
The Belknap was then ordered to the Pacific and arrived during September 1944. During 18–22 October she served as a screen ship during the Leyte invasion and during 3–11 January 1945 as a shore bombardment and beach reconnaissance vessel at the Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, landings. On 11 January she trained all her guns on a Japanese kamikaze which eventually crashed into Belknap’s number two stack, crippling her engines, killing 38 men and wounding 49. Belknap remained at Lingayen making emergency repairs until 18 January when (ATF-102) towed her to Manus, Admiralty Islands. Following temporary repairs at Manus, Belknap proceeded to Philadelphia Navy Yard via the west coast, arriving 18 June. Decommissioned 4 August 1945.
Dad was standing watch on the bridge when the kamikaze pilot hit the number two stack. He hurried to help control the huge fire that had started. He was manning a fire hose, and training the stream of water on a fire when one of his shipmates grabbed him and took him by the shoulders and said. “Bob. You are hit”. My dad put his hand to the back of his neck and it came away covered in blood. His helmet had 2 holes in it. One the size of a quarter and the other the size of a half-dollar. Shrapnel from the attack had hit him. Dad had been out on his feet. Shock took over and he continued to fight the fire in a semi-conscious state. Just as soon as he brought his hand down and saw all the blood, he passed out. Dad was lucky. The shrapnel from the kamikaze attack had entered his helmet then his skull and then exited never touching his brain. All damage just under the skull. For the rest of his life he had a few fragments that remained lodged in his head just under his skull. Dad brought the helmet home with him after the war. He allowed me to play with it and I did so playing army with my friends. Dad received the Purple Heart for his wounds.
After the ship made it’s way to the Philadelphia shipyard for eventual decommissioning and scraping my dad was assigned to the base for discharge. Dad and a few of his buddies from the ship went onto town for beer and some R&R. They entered one of the sleazy beer gardens on the strip, found a table and ordered their drinks. Over in the corner in a booth sat four girls just off from their shift at the Philips Factory where they assembled electronics for the war effort. Dad had his eyes on one of the girls. A very pretty brunette with high cheek bones and a shapely figure.
Beer Garden 1940’s
Dad approached the booth and introduced himself. Ruth, the girl dad had his eyes on, snubbed him. She did not want anything to do with dad. But dad was persistent, and managed to get Ruth’s phone number. He was in love. For him it was love at first sight. And so was Ruth. She just did want to admit it. But she was deep in love. The war came to an end on September the 14th 1945 and on June the 29th 1946 Ruth, my mother, became dad’s wife.
Battle Creek in the 40’s
Bob and Ruth moved to Battle Creek Michigan soon after their marriage, into a very small apartment on Capital Avenue. The place was tiny! Only one could be in the kitchen at once. Also the place was full of cock roaches. To top it off their neighbor beat his wife regularly. The man was an alcoholic. A slave to the stuff. Soon they both got tired of the situation at the apartment, so dad bought some acreage on D drive North in Battle Creek Michigan and built a very small house on the property. And I mean the place was small! About 500 square feet of living space. But they were happy there and they farmed the field. They harvested potatoes, corn, beans and the like. Mom got a job at Kellogg’s as a box packer. Dad was having a problem back then with booze. Mom did not like this. One night dad came home drunk and mom gave dad an ultimatum. She said “Either you quit drinking and get a job at Kellogg’s cereals, or I am leaving you!” And she he meant it! Dad quit drinking on the spot. Nothing was going to come in between himself and his “Rudy”. Rudy is what dad affectionately called my mom.
100 Jono Road
However the place was rather small. And as I have said before, my mother loved to move. In 1950 they bought a home on 100 Jono road in Emmett Township, Battle Creek Michigan. It sits on a 3/4 acre lot. Dad had his garden, and both he and mom worked at Kellogg’s. This is the house my parents owned when I was born in 1955. Soon my mother became restless and wanted to move again! This time right down the street! More about 100 Jono in a future post.
179 Jono Road
179 Jono Road was where I really got to know my dad. The fun we had camping out in the back yard. Or waking up very early to get in the car and pull the boat to a lake and fish. My father’s family always came first.
Mom and dad made a number of moves until he retired in 1969 from Kellogg cereals. And in 1970 he packed us up and moved to Port Richey Florida. He had bought a house on 3rd Isle North in Port Richey Florida. Dad enjoyed his retirement, but also stayed busy. He had taken a course on bookkeeping before his retirement and landed a job at Richey Booking in New Port Richey Florida.
Dad was a true man and provider. He never let us down. I know I have disappointed him in many ways. But I still try to please him to this day. As though he was looking down on me.
Florida National Cemetery
Dad passed away on May the 21st 1999 at the age of 92. Mom would soon follow him in death on 29 Dec 2001 at age 87. Both are Interred at Florida National Cemetery, Section 135, Site 770.
September 1962 turned into November. The days were getting shorter and there was a hint of chill on the air in the evening. This meant hide and seek at night with the group of kids that lived in the area. The rules were simple. We must stay on the north side, of highland ave, and stay within the boundaries. The boundaries were Tom’s yard and both yards adjacent to his. The “seeker” would face the big oak tree in Tom’s yard, and cover his eyes, whilst the “hiders” scattered! This was great fun for me. Full of excitement and adventure! So many places to hide! There was the shed in the back yard. Or the culvert you could squeeze into and hide. Or maybe in the garden in the hedges. And it was nighttime. Darkness adds an element of adventure to outside fun. It let our imaginations run wild. Also it was the first year I was allowed to be outside at night. That gave me a new sense of freedom and responsibility as I would later find out the consequence of not returning home on time. Times were a bit different back then. I believe now that my parents must have thought that all was well. Safety in numbers you know.
In 1962, we were at the beginning of the space age. On February 20, 1962, NASA launched one of the most important flights in American history. The first orbital flight with astronaut John Glenn. In 1961 there where already 2 U.S. flights. Alan Shepard in May 1961, in the Mecury-redstone 3 Freedom 7, U.S. first manned suborbital flight on 5 May 1961. Then Gus Grissom in the Mecury-redstone 4 Liberty Bell 7, blasted off for another suborbital flight on 21 July 1961. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin had already taken the lead in the race for space by his orbital flight on 12 April 1961. Then on 6 August 1961, Gherman Titov completed 17 orbits of the earth. We were definitely behind in the race. Then we at last flew an orbital flight. John Glenn blasted off for 3 orbits around the earth on 20 February 1962 in a Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7. The U.S was beginning to get it together. There would be 2 more U.S. launches in 1962. Scott Carpenter in the Mercury-Atlas 7 Aurora 7 on 24 May 1962 . Then Wally Schirra in the Mercury-Atlas 8 Sigma 7 on 3 October 1962. These events fascinated me. This fascination has stayed with me all my life. People would stop what they were doing and listen to either the radio or watch the television to keep up to date on the details. I stayed home from school on launch days. I am not sure if this was an excused absent. I think it was as many of my friends stayed home too. Launch day in the media was not at all like it was with the space shuttle, where the media would break in just before launch, or just before landing. Launch day in the 60’s began early in the morning. CBS was the channel of choose where I lived in the 60’s. So Walter Cronkite was our commentator. He would interview other astronauts and make it so plain in everyday language what was going on. He would break out models to illustrate the staging and other functions of the spacecraft. Thank you Walter for tweaking this young mind, and planting the seed of curiosity in all things space. The boy across the street, Tom, took this interest to a new level. Tom was a couple of years older than me. So he was not in my league, or tight circle of friends. But he was a kind boy. Never a bully. And he knew I was interested in space and science. Tom had built something in his basement, and asked me if I wanted to see it. “Sure.” I said. So I followed him over to his house and down into his basement. There in the middle of the floor was a replica of the Mercury capsule. Tom’s dad was a modeller at Clark Equipment in Battle Creek. And had helped Tom to build this! It was Fantastic! I was speechless. Tom gestured to the open hatch of the capsule. I climbed up and lowered myself into the seat. Wow. In front of me were dials, toggle switches, screens and other eye candy. It was so cool, and further locked in my interest in space and the sciences.
Young boys cannot resist construction sites. Be it a house being built or construction in the road, it is irresistible! All that fun. The dirt and the big machinery. Well one day Dave and I were riding bikes around the neighborhood and came across a huge hole in the road, surrounded by big earth movers. The dirt was very loose and both of us discovered that we could make big avalanches of dirt, down the steep slopes of the hole. I would estimate that the bottom of the hole was 15 feet below. Over and over, Dave and I pushed dirt down into the hole. Great clouds of dust envelops us. What fun! Until… a policeman pulls up. We were only 6 or 7 years old. We were scared, and we knew there was trouble to pay for. The policeman approached us and looked down sternly at us in the pit. He pointed to us and said “Come on up here boys. Right now!” He asked us what we were doing and who was going to pay for the damage we had made. Who was going to dig out all the dirt we had pushed into the pit. He wanted to know who was going to fill in the mess we had made. He took our names down and asked us who are father’s were. “Where do you live and what is your telephone number?” he said. Both of us sheepishly gave the policeman the information and he wrote it down in his book, and told us to go right home. He would be calling our parents! OH the terror that arose in our young hearts. Later that evening the phone rang. It was the police department. It was the policeman that discovered our mischief. The conversation went on for some time. I sat and sweated it out at the kitchen table. There was long silences where Dad was not talking. Only listening. Soon the conversation was over and dad hung up the phone and came into the kitchen and sat down at the table where I was waiting.
I was looking down at my shoes. He said “Look at me Jim.” I looked up at him. He was not happy. There was a frown on his face. He said “I am very disappointed in you Jim. I thought your mother and I had raised you better than that. We have taught you to respect other people’s property. Why did you do this?” I did not have an answer for him. All I could do is shrug my shoulders. He put his head in his hands and thought. “Well.” he said. You know that fishing trip we have planned for the weekend? You can just forget that. I will have some chores for you to do instead. In the meantime, you just think of what you did. Now up to your room with you!” I ran up the stairs and dove into my bed. I was upset but I knew I had brought this on myself. It was the first time I had got into big trouble. And with the police involved! I was ashamed of myself. What hurt more was the pain and embarrassment it had caused my mom and dad. It hurt bad to disappoint them. All in all I did learn a valuable lesson from the affair. To treat other peoples property with respect. Even as I would expect others to do!
It was September 1962. I was seven years old. The beginning of a new school year in Battle Creek, Lakeview Michigan. As you can imagine, I was not looking forward to returning to school. A new school. Strange faces. No friends. A bit daunting indeed. The name of the school was, and still is, as the school still exists, Coburn Elementary. It was about 1 mile from home. I had no problems at the school. I was welcomed without fanfare. I was and still am shy. It took a few days for me to begin to feel comfortable. The teacher and kids were friendly. Studies included arithmetic, reading, and writing.
One thing stands out in my memory was the maypole. The pole had long strands of different colored paper. Each kid that danced around the maypole would take the end of a paper strand, and when the music started, dance around the pole, weaving in and out of the dancers dancing in the opposite direction around the pole. This would weave the colored paper strands around the pole. It fascinated me.
It was also my first infatuation with a girl. We first met when both of us were selected to take the blackboard erasers outside and pound them together to release the chalk dust. We went outside to do what we were told to do. We talked about the school and where we were from, and how do you like it etc. Penny and I were both a bit shy. However, the words came easy, and talking to her and she to me was delightful. Also she was new to the school too. We played together, went to the cafeteria together, and kept each other company.
One day the class was watching a movie in general assembly in the gymnasium. As usual, Penny and I are together, chatting, and waiting for the movie to begin . 20,000 leagues under the sea, if memory serves me correctly. The lights dimmed and the movie began. We settled back and watched the movie. I was of the age when girls had “cooties”. But Penny was different. She was sweet. I liked her. We could talk to one another. We were like two peas in a pod. Then came the part in the movie when the Nautilus rams the frigate Abraham Lincoln, and throws professor Pierre Aronnax, Ned Land, and Aronnax’s faithful servant Conseil into the sea!
Penny sat up startled, and put her hand in mine and pulled me close. My first reaction was to pull my hand away in revulsion. Ugh! A girl so close! But I did not pull my hand away. I did not! It felt nice. She was warm and right there next to me. She had put her hand in mine! And held me close, as if she came to me for protection. It felt good. Her hand felt good in mine. I could hear her breathing softly there, right next to me. All these feeling were new to me. I had never experienced human touch of a girl. All I know, is that I liked it. It felt good, her there next to me. I did not want it to end. So we sat through the movie hand in hand. I was afraid that if I removed my hand the moment would pass and the feeling would go away. I don’t know for sure how she felt. I do think she liked it too. Our very young hands remained entwined throughout the movie. It was only when the lights came up, did we release one another and went on with the serious business of being a child. I will never forget Penny.
We move from the home on the left in Wattles Park to the one on the right in Lakeview.
In late summer of 1961 we made the move to Lakeview. This was preceded by a week of boxing and packing. I carefully packed up all my toys. Omitting a few to hold me over during the move.
I took a walk around the house and property as if to say goodbye. I loved it here, and it was sinking in as to what the move would mean. There was the basement where a lot of fun was had. The laundry chute where my friend Greg and I had so much fun sliding down. My room. The kitchen with the built in oven and fold down table. The large yard with the straight row of poplar trees my dad had planted. Those trees are still here to this day. Giants now. My favorite climbing tree at the very back of the property with the tire swing. I loved all these things. It was hard to say goodbye.
The day came and the big moving truck pulled up in our driveway. Two men carefully hauled all of our furniture and personal effects into the truck and covered and strapped it in. The moving van then started off on the 8 mile drive to our new home. We took one last look around the house, got in the car and followed the movers to Lakeview.
The unpacking took place without incident. At 6 years old, I had very little responsibility in the unpacking duties. This gave me the opportunity to scope out the neighborhood. I asked my parents permission and got it. My bike was one of the last things to go on the moving van so it was already waiting for me. Dad told me to have fun and don’t cross the street. I waved and off I went. I discovered that if I stayed on the sidewalk and made right turns at every street, I ended up where I started. It was fun! There were no sidewalks or curbs where I lived previously so this was new to me. I listened as the bike tires made sounds as they passed over the joints in the concrete sidewalks. Clack a clack a clack. I rode around the block a number of times then returned to the house and put my bike in the garage.
Basement Bar and Sump Pump
The Lakeview home was a 2 story home built in the 30’s. It had a large attic and a fairly large yard. Not as big of a yard as the one in Wattles Park. However, it had some interesting features. A large brick bar b q. A great oak tree to climb, and several pine trees that I was told never to climb, as the limbs are too limber and can break. There was a large living room inside and a formal parlor. The ceilings were very high as they made homes back in the day. Also very high baseboards. The home was heated by a oil furnace. As I discussed in the previous post, there was a bar in the basement. It looked like a real bar, with beer taps, two tables with chairs, and neon bar signs. The basement had black and white tile on the floor and dark paneling on the walls. Over in the corner was the laundry and a sump pump. Upstairs right next to the large kitchen was mom and dads bedroom. My bedroom was upstairs along with the bathroom.
The first night in the new house was both exciting and terrifying. In all my life I had always slept near my parents as their bedroom was on the same floor and one room away. Being a small child with a vivid imagination, I was prone to have nightmares. One comes to mind. And it was a recurring nightmare. This one happened 3 or 4 times at the age of 6. I was walking alone in the woods and I heard the sound of wood chopping off in the trees. I listened and made my way towards the sound. I hide behind a tree peeked around. There in the clearing was an enormous lumberjack dressed in plaid shirt, denim work pants with a wide belt, suspenders and heavy work boots. He had a full beard and long scraggly hair. Except for his clothing, he looked much like Aqualung from that Jethro Tull Album. I watched him as he raised his very large and heavy ax high up and Woooomp, bring it down on the log he was splitting. He would look around from time to time. Not sure what he was looking for. He terrified me! I decided that now was a good time to retreat back into the woods and put some space between him and I. I turned to go and as I did I stepped on a stick and it went CRACK! The lumberjack instantly turned towards the sound and bellowed “Who is it out there” in a deep booming voice! “I haven’t had my supper yet! I hope you are a young tender boy. You will roast up just fine!” I at once started to run, and immediately tripped and fell. He was on me in an instant! Three big strides and he had me, and dragged me into the clearing. He tied me up and began to sharpen his ax and knifes. “Yes indeed” he bellowed. “You will cook up just fine, and just in time for supper.” He then grabbed me and put my head down on the chopping block, raised his ax, and I woke up. As I said this dream happened 3 or 4 times during the age of 6. Each iteration a bit different, but with the same results.
Well. It came the time for bed. We were watching some television and dad said “Okay Jim. Head upstairs, brush your teeth and mom will be up in a few minutes to tuck you in and hear your prayers.” “Okay dad” I said. I headed for the staircase and noticed that it was very dark up there. There was a light switch at the bottom of the stairs. I turned on the light. This helped. I bounded up the stairs and into the bathroom to brush my teeth and put my pajamas on. I then ran back downstairs to the kitchen for a drink of water, then back up to my bed. I got under the covers and waited for my mom to come up to tuck me in. She came a few minutes later and did just that. She Heard my prayers, and gave me a big kiss on the forehead. “Goodnight. See you in the morning. I love you!” she said. “Goodnight mom. See you in the morning.” I said. And she headed back downstairs and turned off the light.
At once my overactive imagination took over. I darted under the covers and peered out into the darkness. Dim light was coming from the street below. It cast an eerie shadow on the wall. I heard the creaking of the old house. I was not happy being all alone up here. Why did we have to move? I did know this. I would have to adapt to the situation. My family did not believe in complaining. I just accepted my situation, knowing that although we were not back at the previous house, we were still together. So, I just pulled the covers tightly over my head, still a little afraid of the dark, and drifted off to sleep.
As I’ve told you before, my mother loved to move. As soon as school was out in 1961, the house hunting activity started in earnest. My mother had her mind set on Lakeview in the Battle Creek area. Mom and Dad have been checking the listings. Night after night after dinner we would head out in the car to Lakeview to look at homes. I was not at all happy about moving. However I was quite young and did enjoy looking at all the homes. Especially when the outing ended up at the Dog ‘ Suds for a root beer served in a frosted mug.
Dog n Suds
Day after day this repeated. And visits to the real estate office where the realtor allowed me to handle a one hundred dollar bill! At seven years old, it was the most money I had ever had in my hand. I was hoping that Mr. York, the realtor would allow me to keep it. I would be rich! My young mind tallied up how many jaw breakers and other assorted candy this money could buy. But alas. Mr. York had not forgotten about the C note. At the end of his talk with mom and dad, he collected it from me. Visions of riches and mountains of candy vanished at once.
The Lakeview home
One day after looking at homes, we returned to the realtors office. It seemed that mom and dad had decided on a home. It was an two story wood and stone house, built in the late thirties. It had a pretty good sized yard with some nice trees to climb. It had a very large living room and a formal parlor. All very high ceilings, as they were built back then. It had a large kitchen, and strange as it may seem, a bedroom just adjacent to the kitchen. This would become my parents bedroom. It had a bathroom upstairs. Also one bedroom upstairs, which would become my bedroom. Then the basement. Wow what a basement. The floor had black and white tile on the floor, and against one wall a bar! A real bar with all the taps and bar things. It would become a very fun place to play. It was my favorite place in the entire house.
The Lakeview area
Well here we were at the realtors office. I played with an Etch a Sketch whilst mom and dad signed papers. It seemed that they signed papers for hours and hours. But at last they were done signing and we went back home to Wattles Park our current home. It was a done deal. The realtor was also handling the sale of our current home. All that could be done now was to wait for the sale of our home. I was both sad and excited about the move. It is the fear of the unknown you know. Leaving my school and friends and having to make new friends and getting used to a new school. But such is life both then and now. The ability to overcome fear and bravely forge on into the future.
It was the school year of 1961 At wattles Park Elementary School. I was in first grade. Not only were we learning our ABCs and 1 2 3’s, we also had in my opinion, the best playground, anyone could ask for to play in. The school was a new school, and it had a lot of work going on around it. This meant that there were a lot of dirt piles, mud puddles, and wooden planks to play with. The girls would be over near the building, doing their jump ropes, jacks, and other girl things, while the boys immediately turned into vehicles. 5, 6, or 7 of us made engine sounds and raced around the playground in and out of the mud piles using the wooden planks as bridges, passing over imaginary rivers. We ran all over the schoolyard, with tremendous speed, making hair pin turns a little over 2 feet above ground! We felt powerful and invincible!
The back of Wattle Park Elementary where this happened
As I have mentioned, there were these enormous dirt piles. Well they seemed enormous to us small children. You know how everything look bigger when you are little. I would estimate these piles of dirt were no higher the 3 feet. They seemed like mountains for us boys. They where there for us to conquer. They were irresistible. We named each of them different names. Mount wheat. Mount Jupiter. Mount Goofy. and others I can’t recall. All of us, like a pack of heathens from hell, with engines roaring, would race to the top of each “mountain” and claim it for our pack!
The front of Wattle Park Elementary
There was also a lot of dirt and rocks laying about. An almost irresistible thing for a boy to leave a rock alone and not throw it. We were severely warned about not picking up rocks and throwing them. Especially at each other. Well. Just telling this makes it all the more irresistible to a young boy or girl as far as this goes, to do just that.
Well. One day it happened. The thing feared most by school officials and teachers. We heard a loud yell from a boy and intense crying and screaming. I don’t recall the boys name. He had been hit in the eye with a rock. A teacher had been summoned and came running out to the boy. She put her arm around him and started to take him back into the school building. On the way she passed us boys, who had stopped there vehicles for the time being, to observe the drama going on. We all got a good look at the boys face. It is something that I will never forget. Right out of a horror film. The image will be forever etched into my memory. His left eyeball was laying on his cheek and intraocular fluid was running down his face. It was a horrifying sight! Us boys just looked at each other in horror. A bit pale from the experience. I would only hope if any youngsters are reading this to remember to listen and heed the warning of their elders. They have the benefit of a life time experience, and are only looking out for your welfare! So ride hard, run fast, and be safe!
Almost every year we took a summer vacation to Dubois Pennsylvania. It was a 9 hour drive from Battle Creek Michigan to Dubois.
Dubois, back then was a small town with friendly, hardworking people. Two aunts on my mothers side of the family lived there with my two uncles. We either stayed at the Larson home or the Bogle home. I recently looked on Google Maps for the Bogle home. It is no longer there. It was a large 3 story house that my uncle had built in the 1930’s. He even made all the concrete blocks by hand. It had a cellar that had very low ceiling. As a small child the home was very interesting to play in, and also very spooky! Especially the attic. It was fun going through the many boxes that were stored up in the attic. I even found a picture of Abraham Lincoln up there that someone had snapped long ago when he had passed through town. On one of our trips when I was very young we stayed at the Bogle home. At that time, my aging grandmother was living there also. She is the one I wrote of the the post “The tornado of 1961” She had had a stroke and one side of her was affected. She held her left arm as though it was in a sling, and could not speak. Well. As a small child around 2 or 3 years old I had a habit of getting on my hands and knees in bed, and rocking back and forth. I had done this for some time, and at home when I was younger I could move the crib around the floor of my room doing this. One night I was doing this very thing in the guest room of the Bogle home. My grandmother’s room was right next door. I must have been making a racket because my grandmother shuffled into my room, grabbed me and gave me a good spanking! It shocked me! I never rocked in my bed again. There is something to be said about corporal punishment. It left a lasting impression on me. And I was none the worse for it.
The two homes were set in the Shaffer Siding area of Dubois. I did however find the Larson home where my Aunt Grace and Uncle Ab lived, just up the street from the Bogle home. The home was a wood frame home built in the 1940’s Large rooms and not as spooky as the Bogle home. The area around the 2 homes is so different now. Gone are the forest, and the meadows. Now there are shopping malls and businesses. It is a shame.
Current snapshot of the area.
The Larson Home
My Uncle Ab in his rodeo days
Uncle Ab Larson, long ago, was in the rodeo. He was a horse man. A cowboy if you will. He used very colorful language. It was very hard to understand him. He muttered. But I loved him, and I think he loved me too. When I was a small child, he would get out his rope, and tell me to run. He would swing his rope and catch me in it! What fun! They had around 25 acres of land. Uncle Ab would take me to the barn and show me how to care for the horses. Feed them, brush them, clean out the stalls….everything! They even had a horse for me. Mark was his name, but when I was there they called him Pony.
From left to right – Ida May, me, mom, Alberta around 1959-60
This brings to mind my two cousins, Ida May, and Alberta Larson. Both girls were cow girls if you would. Not squeamish of anything. They were both very knowledgeable about horses. Every year they would come home from the county fair with loads of blue ribbons for their horses. They were the best there is to introduce me to riding. Early in the morning we would go out to the barn and saddle up three horses, and go for ride out back in the vast forest and meadows. I can still hear the sounds of birds and wildlife. And the wind blowing through the trees, and over the gently swaying fields of wild flowers. There was no hurry, as the horse was always a bit slow leaving the barn and a bit faster returning. We came upon the brook that meandered through the property and let the horses drink. And then across the meadow and down the slopping drop offs. It was wonderful. Then the ride back. The unsaddling and brushing. Then give the horses a good feed of oats and hay, and put them in there stalls. We would then go in and Ida May would offer me a coke.
My Aunt Doniette, my uncle Bob’s wife was a kind sweet soft spoken person, where as aunt Grace, uncle Ab’s wife was more assertive and outspoken. I remember sitting down at the table for the evening meal at the Larson home. Aunt Grace suggested that my mother, Ruth, should say a blessing over the food. At once uncle muttered out loudly “Bull Shit!”. Grace just tuned to him and gave him the evil eye. He muttered something and bowed his head. I get the feeling now that she had to be strong to handle uncle Ab. I am quite sure Ab was quite wild in his youth. Maybe that is what attracted him to aunt Grace.
As I said Doniette was quite the opposite of her sister. I never heard a word of anger leave her lips. She had two outside cats. Cats were needed to keep the vermin down, as most people had livestock and feed. Every morning she would yell out the back door. “Here Kitty Kitty Kitty Kitty” in a shrill voice. Out of nowhere the big calico cat, Marmaduke, and the big black cat, Blackie would scurry up on the porch at my aunts feet, and look up at her waiting as she put there food down. They would devour this food fast and off they would run. No one could approach these cat but aunt Doniette. She would go out in the morning and collect the eggs from the 20 or so chickens in the chicken coup just off the barn. She was good with animals. She could set the chickens at ease, as she reached under them to gather the eggs.
Memories of going in to town, or going to a movie come to mind. Or going to the local public pool. Walking out into the forest with my uncle Ab, and listening to his hard to understand wisdom and speech. Thinking back I believe he had more wisdom then most people gave him credit for. Even way back then he could see damage coming to the earth. He told me that the reason the climate was changing was because of all the trees being cut down. Yes. There was wisdom in my old uncle. Just no one would listen.
He also taught me how and where to pee outside, and where not to pee outside. Around the back of the barn was a large paddock where the horses were let out before letting them out to pasture. Around it was a fence with an electric wire to keep the horses in. You could hear the pulses of electricity snapping and popping all around the fence. He said to me “This is where we can pee. Just never pee on the electric wire.” One of the electric wires were about 1 foot above the ground and one about 1 foot from the top of the fence. Well. Him saying this to me made peeing on the wire irresistible. Never tell a child you can’t do that. It will only make doing that irresistible! Well. I started to pee and started to turn towards the bottom wire. Uncle Ab let out a grunt but it was too late. I peed on the lower wire! My eyes went wide and I shrieked in pain and tore off to the farm house! I heard my uncle chuckle! He was laughing! Well I ran into the house crying and told my Aunt what had happened. She went to the back door and yelled for Ab. He came and they both disappeared upstairs. But I could hear the yelling. My Aunt was giving her husband a good chewing out. Well it was not his fault. It was mine! But he took it like a man, and he never mentioned it to me.
Now my uncle Bob was a complete opposite of uncle Ab. He was also soft spoken, like his wife Doniette. He had a huge vegetable garden just off the back porch of the farm house. He grew tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, corn, cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage. He also had a huge area of different berries. Blueberries and huckleberries come to mind. Most of the vegetables and berries were canned at harvest time for the winter. It was aunt Doniette’s job to do this. It was hard work. Sterilizing all the mason jars, and lids, preparing the vegetables and berries, and packing them. It was a work of love for her. Her husband wanted her to do it so she did. She did not complain. She just did it. However, when my uncle died, she got rid of all the canning gear. All the jars, lids and the pressure cooker. All of it! I guess in death she was released from her contract, and she felt it was the proper time to stop.
And then the long 9 hour trip back to Battle Creek Michigan. These trips to Pennsylvania are held in a very special place in my memory!
My neighborhood in the early sixties is about 5 miles east of Battle Creek Michigan. Just on the edge of the farmlands. A good majority of the people in the area were involved with the cereal industry. Kellogg’s, Post, General Foods, and Ralston Purina were all in the area. My neighborhood was in Emmett Township. People were hardworking and strong. The average wage for a factory worker at Kellogg’s, was around $4.50 and hour. But then again, things were much less expensive back then. It is all relative. Dad bought the house on 179 Jono for around $15,000. That was a lot of money back then. I remember dad sighing when he would go to the gas pump. “20 cents a gallon?” he would sigh. “What’s the world coming to”!
It was a very pleasant neighborhood to grow up in. Sweet smells of freshly mowed grass. Sweet sweet summer nights, and harsh winters. The mournful wail of the train whistles, as the freight trains made their way into the “cereal city”. I remember also the huge dead tree about ½ mile away standing in the meadow. It had been struck by lightening years ago. Also the wail of the whistle at the Kellogg company in the afternoon. That is when the workers came home, all maching out with the lunchboxes in hand. Dad would be home soon.
I had 3 very close friend that lived on the street. Greg Habenicht, Carlos Washington, and his sister Carol. We all stuck together. Weather it be fishing down at the county park. Or building forts out in the meadow and woods. And sleeping over at each others house. Sometimes in tents pitched in the yard. Smell can be a very powerful memory inducer. I remember the smell of Greg’s house. It was not an unpleasant smell. It was distinctive. I once borrowed a sleeping bag from the Habenicht’s. It had that smell.
Before I started school in 1960, I was up bright and early to watch Kaptain Kangaroo. We had an Zenith black and white console TV. There was no such a thing as cable TV back then. An aerial was used. Either one mounted on the roof or rabbit ears. The smell of breakfast cooking and coffee brewing. The kitchen at 179 Jono had a fold down dinette. And As I recall a double oven, and a separate cooking surface. The living room had a large fireplace with stone mantle. And directly below, in the basement, another identical fireplace.
Bike riding was the thing to do. In the early sixties, we were restricted to Jono Road. No further. Later on in the late sixties, this restriction was lifted. The three of us would go as far as Goguac lake. This is about 6 miles from where I lived. So fun! But in the early sixties when we were restricted to Jono Road we would ride and ride. We would take hamster water bottles and tape them to our bikes. They were gas tanks. When the water ran out we refilled them and off we went. For engines we used cardboard and clothes pins, and attach it to the bikes fender support, so that the cardboard would rub against the spokes of the wheel. It made a fairly good engine sound.
In the winter, out came the sleds, toboggans, and ice skates. The yard next to ours had a steep slope. That is where we tobogganed and sled. Ice skating was done at either the Habenicht’s or our house. They would lay out great sheets of rolled up plastic and build up the snow around the corners. Then they would fill it up with water and admonish us NOT to go on the ice until they told us we could. The ice had to be at least 5 inches thick to hold us up.
Winter meant cold and snow. Us kids wanted blizzards! We would sit by the radio in the morning and hope that they would call a snow day, and we would not have to go to school. Most of the time we were disappointed. The adults did not. Blizzards for us kids meant snow forts and tunnels through the snow. For adults it meant shoveling the car out so they could go to work. We would build two forts then team up for snowball fights. All in great fun.
I remember campfires when the Washington’s, the Habenicht’s, and my family would get together and cook wieners, and marshmallows. Or just having a quiet supper on the patio, on a hot summers afternoon. Cold cuts and ice tea! I learned at an early age to like tea! None of my friends could stomach it!
One day I asked my dad if he could put a cover over my wagon. Like a covered wagon. He did, using cardboard. I was fascinated with interior spaces and wanted to ride inside. My friend Greg would push me around his circular driveway that went from the street, around the back of his house, and back to the street. He was a good sport and did not mind pushing me. Then it began to rain, and I wanted to see how well the cover would protect me from the rain. It did well for a while then it kind of deteriorated. But that was okay. I had fun with it.
Trips to the drive in theater was done a couple times a month. We would pile into the car and off we would go. Us kids would sit outside and pull down a speaker so we could hear and enjoy the movie. By the way. There was always a cartoon before every movie back in those days.
It was a very nice neighborhood indeed. I have fond memories of way back then!
It was the spring of 1961. Springtime found my dad watching the weather reports very closely, as this was the time when tornadoes came from out of the southwest. Dad showed me where the southwest was, and I also keep an eye out in that direction. As this was the era of the cold war, he had made a fallout shelter in the basement of the house. It was a great place to play, and doubled as a tornado shelter.
It was the 1960/1961 school year and I was at kindergarten class in the old one room school house building that I had talked about earlier. I am not sure exactly what we were doing at the moment, in class. Coloring, playing with modeling dough, I just can’t remember. I noticed that it had become very dark outside. Almost as dark a dusk. Miss White gathered us up and told us that we were all going to get out of school early today. Buses were already lined up outside. I did not take a bus, as I lived within 1 mile of the school. In those days you walked to school if you lived in that range from the school. Rain, snow, or shine!
So off I went for the ½ mile walk home from the school on Wattles Road to my home on Jono rd. As I walked, it became darker and darker, and just before I got home it became more windy, and hail began to fall. I have to tell you I was frightened! I burst into the front door of my house, and at once searched out dad. “Is it time to go down to the shelter yet dad?” I asked. “Not yet” he replied. I was scared. The wind was whipping around the house. I could see leaves and other stuff flying in the wind outside the window! Again I asked dad “Now dad?” “Not yet son” he said. “ I will tell you when”.
The only grandparent I ever met, my grandmother, my mothers mom, was here from Pennsylvania. She was about 80 years old and had a stroke some years back. Her entire right side was effected. She could walk, but very slowly, and with a kind of shuffle. Dad was attending to her, and getting ready to take her down to the basement. All of a sudden, the weather stripping on the house picked up enough wind speed to give out a great sound! It sounded like 20 people blowing whistles at the same time! Goosebumps rose on my arms and again I asked dad “Is it time?” “Yes” he said. “Head for the basement” Before he could get the whole sentence out I was down the basement stairs, like a greased pig, and in the shelter! By the time dad got grandma down the stairs, it was all over. The tornado had hit the DeFrances house 5 doors down from us. It had took the garage of the house, lifted it off its foundation, and moved it over about 2 feet and set it back down. Then the tail of the tornado lifted up over our house and the rest of the neighborhood, and set down again in the woods at the end of the street, tearing up a lot of trees.
Meanwhile my mother was on her way home from work at the Kellogg company of Battle Creek, where she worked as a packer. She was driving east on US 12, about to turn right onto Wattles rd, when her car lost control and was spun around. Evidently the tornado had whirled her car around. When she got home dad calmed her down. I think he made her a drink.
No one was hurt in all of this. It did however leave a lasting impression on me. The power of nature if you will. And later that year, when I viewed The Wizard of Oz, for the first time, it really sunk in! I felt the goosebumps on my arms once again when the tornado came! All through the years I would keep one eye out, looking to the southwest, and be ready to raise the alarm, once again if needed!
The Washington’s lived 2 doors from us in 1961. I have already mentioned Carol Washington was one of my best friends. The Washington family were Russell Washington the father. Lila Washington the mother. And Carol and Carlos Washington, the 2 children. It was a fun place to play at the Washington’s. A full basement with a pool table, a ping pong table, and most of all a full train set, with all the scenery. Mountains, roads, buildings, and train crossings with working lights and barriers. Such a fun place to play. Lila Washington was a great house cleaner. She would bellow at us to go outside so she could clean the place up. They had a huge back yard, and in it a very tall tree with a tree house installed in it! Such fun! They also owned a very small car made by King Midget Motors.
King Midget was a micro car produced between 1946 and 1970 by the Midget Motors Corporation. Although the company started out by offering a kit to build the car, they soon added completely-assembled cars and later only offered completed cars. Company founders Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt first sold the King Midget as part of their Midget Motors Supply operations in Athens, Ohio. By 1948, they began to use the name Midget Motors Manufacturing Co., too. In about 1956, Dry and Orcutt changed the name of their company to Midget Motors Corporation. Midget Motors’ primary methods of advertising their cars were through small advertisements in popular magazines that appealed to home mechanics. The ads were tiny but effective; they showed a midget car and some earlier ads contained the phrase “500 lb. car for $500.00” The ads brought in a steady stream of interested customers. Some of the magazines featured articles about the car and several pictured the car on their front cover. This method of direct selling continued for most of the life of the company.
What a fun car this was to ride in. It had a 2 cylinder tractor engine. I believe top speed was about 40 MPH. In the winter of 1961 Mrs. Washington would pile us kids into the car and take us to school that was about 1 mile away. We would head up Jono Road then turn right onto Wattles Road and head towards the school. It was a good car but there was one problem. It was one wheel drive. So if you came across ice, you were done. The car would come to a stop, and the one wheel would spin and whine, trying to find traction. Well this was no problem for us! Us kids would all pile out, find a place to push, and PUSH!!! Up the icy road we would go to the top of the hill! It was no problem from there as the road was flat. The car would come to a stop at the school and off we went! I will never forget this. Mrs. Washington, and her King Midget Motor Car!
Mister Hunt and his wife lived across from us at 179 Jono road. Mr. Hunt was a large man. A farmer. I never heard him talk except when he yelled at us kids to get out of his yard. He never smiled or spoke. Even at the young age of 6, I could sense that Mr. Hunt had issues. His wife Helen was a lovely lady. She was a good friend with my mother. Both of them would do different things together. Go to church. Have coffee, and enjoy each others company. She must have been hard suffering to put up with her husband. I heard stories that I was told that could not leave the house about the abuse Helen suffered at the hands of Mr. Hunt. They thought I did not notice. Helen knocking on the door with a weird black thing around her eyes. And the crying, with Mom trying to calm her down. Also all of a sudden the unexpected trip to get root beer, at the Dog ‘n Suds, alone with my dad. Trips like these were reserved for special occasions, and we all went together. Very strange in this little 6 year old mind. Dad later told me later when I was older that Mr. Hunt was a chronic alcoholic. That he would consume a 5th of whiskey, and a case of beer a day! So I can now imagine he was out of his mind most of the time. He was a slave to the booze. In retrospect, I feel sorry for him. I wish someone could have helped him. I know his wife tried.
Mr Hunt had a dog named Tilly. A large Friendly Brown dog. Us kids would always play with her near the street. She seemed to hang out there and wait for us kids to come home from school. We would bring her bits of food. I think she loved us, and her waging tail showed it! One day, Tilly was absent from her post. We looked around and spotted her sitting near the Hunts house. She did not look quite right. We discussed it among ourselves and decided to take a risk and approach Tilly to see what was the matter. As we got near, it was obvious to us something was wrong. Very wrong. She sat there shaking and enormous bulge was on her head. She was quite unresponsive. Even as we tried to offer her treats. She was in very bad shape. At that moment Mr. Hunt came out of his house bellowing at us kids to beat it! “Get lost” he shouted. “And stay off of my property!” We all ran in fright.
A few years later my dad told me what had happened. Mr. Hunt, in a fit of drunken rage, and attacked Tilly with a hammer! The poor dog. She was loyal to Mr. Hunt, and this is how he re-payed her. Rest in peace Tilly.
I am not the one to judge Mr. Hunt. That is up to a power far greater than me. I only hope that God has mercy on him, as I am sure there is a special place in hell for people like him.
In the Summer of 1961, I began piano lessons with Miss Winter. She would come to be my second and last piano teacher. I left her tutelage at the age of 15. A nice older lady, never married, with a lot of patience. This is where I spent most of my time learning piano and musical theory. In the beginning all classical music from the greats. Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, etc. This is where I learned scales and all the theory of music. Endless scale playing became a norm in lessons and in practice.
She had recitals for her students, and afterwards, most of the time, a picnic in her backyard. It was always sloppy joe ( I still love to this day, Sloppy Joe) and potato chips that she served, with Cool-Aid of course!
She taught 6 or 7 kids. I think of them from time to time. I wonder if they went far with their music. Miss Winter introduced me to the Classics. Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and many others. She also sent me to the Western Michigan University to be adjudicated by the music professors. It was an all day affair, with children from all over the area in attendance. We would work on for weeks a piece of difficult music, Anitra’s Dance by Edvard Greig comes to mind. And Fur Elise by Beethoven. After I could play the piece flawlessly while reading the music, I would then memorize the music. Weeks of practice at home, while trying not to peek at the music. Practice took place right after school, and homework. I would then go before the judge, a professor at the university, and play my piece. Then the judge would hand me a piece of music that I have never seen before, and was asked to play it. I became very good at sight reading over the years I was with Miss Winter. I would always walk away from the judging with an excellent, or superior rating which pleased my parents very much. Mom wanted me to grow up to be a concert pianist. Sorry mom. That did not quite work out, but thank you for making me stick to the training and not quit.
Miss Winter also understood that us kids wanted more modern music. So then came the jazz and boogie woogie. Boogie Woogie was a close to Rock and Roll that Miss Winters would get. This step in my musical training steered me more towards Rock and Roll, and my music preference in later years. I know now that Miss Winter is long gone . If I could tell her something now, it would be thank you. Thank you Miss Winter for the gift you gave me that no one else can take away from me. I am forever grateful!
Spring and Summer of 1961 was good to be a kid. Movies at the Theater, trips to the museum, picnics and trips to the lake. This was the year I started formal music lessons also. It cost 5$ an hour, every Thursday after school. Mrs. Wolf was my first music teacher. A young mother. I never did see her husband. She had a Daughter my age Becky, and Mrs. Wolf would drop her off at my house from time to time. My dad had put boards in the attic over the garage. I went up there and made kind of a hangout there. Becky loved to go up there too. She was a bit of a tomboy but played the piano beautifully. One day Becky was dropped off and Mom took us to the Movies Downtown Battle Creek, to see a Disney Movie. It is very special, as this was the first outing where one of my parents did not go with me. I felt very grown up! I paid, and got 2 tickets for the movie, and Becky and I went to the vending machines to get a snack. One quarter would go a long way in those days. I had a change purse stuffed with quarters, saved up from my weekly allowances. I got Becky what she wanted, and what I wanted from the machines. As we were heading back to our seats a man leaped out of nowhere and grabbed my change purse, and ran! We went and told the management what had happened, but there was nothing they could do about it. That day I learned a valuable lesson. To keep my money hidden, and out of sight until needed!
Most homes in the early 60’s had a clothes chute that went from one of the bedroom to the basement. It was great winter fun, when it was way too cold to go outside. My best friend Greg Habenicht and I discovered it one day, and decided that it would be great fun to go down the chute to the basement.
The basement at 179 Jono Road was typical of most homes in Michigan. Concrete block walls and cement floor, with a number of steel poles to hold up the house, It was a great place to play!
We went to the basement and piled a huge stack of clothes under the chute. Up we went and began to take turns going down the chute. Down we would go, then run up the stair to the bedroom where the chute was down again. Over and over! Down and up! What a racket it made!! It made an incredible banging sound! Mom working in the kitchen began to get suspicious of all the activity, and she started to investigate as to what was going on. We continued to take our rides. First Greg went down, then I. We landed in the basement at the feet of Mom. There was this look or her face. That is all it took back in the day. “The Look”. She told me years later, that she wish she could have done that too. And it looked like fun. She said to stop, and of course we did. But what fun we had before we were caught!
It was the 1961/1962 School year. I made the move from the one room school building I attended in kindergarten, to the main buildings of the School. My first grade teacher was Miss Thorley. A stern, take command woman. She would give you the “look” and you knew you better not cause a problem there. Lots to do. Spelling, learn colors, simple math, and story time. I got my first exposure to the songwriter Burl Ives there. Recess was fun as now you were in with the general population on the main property of Wattles Park Elementary School. We would run around the very large school property pretending we were vehicles, with all the sounds. VROOM, SCREECH, ROAR! Adults just don’t do that. Oh to be a kid again and to do these things. Only kids understand this.
It was a cold winter in 1960/1961. I was only 5, but enjoyed the snow very much. There was a small hill on the side of the house where I would sled. It was not a very steep hill. However. Mom was very protective, and was always fussing. You see, she was very protective of me, her only child. She worried that I would get hurt. She was afraid of most things she deemed dangerous. Sledding. Going out on the ice. Swimming etcetera.
Keeping the above in mind, this may be a good time to tell a side story about my mother when she was a child, helping her family with the dairy farm. The year was 1924. Mom was 10. The Fairman family, (my mother’s family) had cows, and chickens on the farm, and a large garden. One of my mom’s chores, was to help deliver milk. Milk was delivered to the customers, in this small town of Dubois Pennsylvania on a horse-drawn cart. Mom would carry the order from the cart to the customer’s door. They would make the stops one by one, delivering the milk, butter, buttermilk, cheese to the milk box on the customers stoop.
Grandfather would often stop and chat with the customers if he ran into them. Then they would head down the road toward the railroad tracks. There is more stops on the other side of the tracks, no pun intended.
Well, the two horses started across the tracks and stopped in the middle. They both see a train coming down the tracks. My grandfather shook the reins with all his might. The horses would not budge, as the train whistle screamed out its warning. The train was suddenly upon them! WHOOSH, there went the horses, swept clean from the cart! I can just imagine the look on my grandfather, and my mother’s face!! This event helped to instill the fear of things that remained with her the rest of her life. Something was definitely watching over them that day.
So now back to the small hill on the side of my house where I was sledding, and my mother was fussing. Dad would give me a wink. He knew I was having lots of fun. He was always the one that would convince mom that everything was okay. Dad would grab mom by the shoulders, look her in the eye and say, “It’s all right Ruth. He is just fine. He is having fun. All is well.” Moms worried look would turn into a smile. And at least for that moment, her fear would seem to melt away, as dad gave her a big hug, and I zoomed down the hill. More about mom in a later post.
It was the winter of 1960. Cold and lots of snow. I was headed home alone from kindergarten. We always took a shortcut through the Beaumont Drive retention pond, on the way home to Jono Road.
You would think that the ice on the pond was thick enough to carry a small boy, but this year must have been a warm year. I headed out across the pond, and halfway there the ice cracked, and I fell in! Cold!! OMG!!..
I have maybe ½ mile to get home so I pulled myself out of the hole and before I could get to my feet I was lifted up. I looked up in astonishment to see the face of David Habenicht. He said nothing as he carried me, cold, and wet the rest of the way home. He was not as bad as his brother Greg said he was.
There was a bubble bath back in the early 60s called “Matey”. On the box was a coupon to get a matey camera. All I had to do was send in 3 coupons and 3 dollars to get the camera.
I asked my mom if I could get one. She said “Well. That’s a lot of money Jim. We will see.” 3 dollars was a lot of money back then. Mom talked it over with dad and they agreed that I could get the camera. Well as you can imagine, I was the cleanest kid in town. I would sometimes take 2 baths in one day, so I would use up the bubble bath quicker.
A picture of my dad and I taken with the Matey Bubble Bath camera
When the 3 boxes of bubble bath was gone mom helped me mail out the coupons and the check for 3 dollars. I would check the mailbox daily, and in about 2 weeks it came! I was a happy shutterbug!
I received my first bike on Christmas of 1960. I was so proud of it! It was a small 24 inch sears bike with training wheels. I practiced and practiced with the training wheels on until I noticed that the training wheels weren’t touching the ground as much as they did at first. So around mid summer of 1960, dad took the training wheels off and let me try my first solo ride!
I did okay. I took off down the driveway, turned right, and took off down Jono road towards the Habenichts. There was one problem. He never told me how to stop! I panicked. I went barreling down the road but could not stop! Screaming at the top of my lungs I yelled for help. Fortunately the neighbor Mr. Washington was in his yard, and he headed me off and stopped me, just before I slammed into a mailbox! I am forever grateful for that.