Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dancin' Julie

When we moved to Hurst there wasn't much there. It's only bragging right was having better bad roads than Bedford's bad roads. One thing we liked though was the ability to light it up on July 4th without worrying over city ordinances. My dad loved the Fourth. We may not get to wear PF Flyers because Sears had a cheaper alternative but by golly no expense was spared at the firecracker stand on the Fourth. He put on such a show the neighbors stopped buying their own fireworks so they could watch ours. We were so proud of him! He would smoke his one cigar of the year and light off the fireworks with the hot ash. He would buy us those little round things that popped when you threw them to the ground and always included a batch of sparklers for the little girls. Good times indeed.

As we grew older Glenn and I would talk him into a few packages of Black Cats. He bought little sticks which would stay lit for an hour or so and we would light off our Black Cats one at a time. He wouldn't let us have a cigar which was probably a good decision on his part. We would blow up anything we could find with those Black Cats. Sadly, as is the case with most good things, the city decided explosives in the hands of the general public was not a good idea. Ordinances were passed and the good times almost ended. Our dad was not happy with this decision and blamed the Communists. However, he did follow the new rules....partially. He still took us to the fireworks stand but bought only the sparklers and those wimpy throw down thingies. What a let down.

The next year we talked him into some Black Cats but his warning to us included arrest and probable prison time if we got caught setting them off in the city limits. We obliged him by walking out into the street to set them off thinking they wouldn't arrest two little boys...and since we weren't on our property they wouldn't know which set of parents to imprison. We were cautious. Every time a firecracker went off we would hide and watch for the police to show up. My mistake was the decision to set off a complete package of fifty firecrackers at one time. Glenn's mistake was to launch a used tomato can into space.

I had a huge bag of Black Cats. There was no way I could go through all of them in one night if I set them off one at a time. I opened up a package of fifty and adjusted out the wick so I could set them all off at once. Using the wisdom only a twelve year old boy can muster, I lit the package off in my hands. The hiss of the wick and the speed of the burn toward the package scared me half to death. I immediately tossed the whole thing behind me and ran. Unfortunately for my little sister Julie, the package landed right at her feet. Fifty powerful Black Cats started going off as she jumped and danced in a feeble attempt to get away. I discovered that fifty firecrackers tend to dance around when they go off simultaneously and they went everywhere Julie tried to go. Julie was a skinny, and somewhat clumsy little thing and she put on quite a show. She jumped, waved her arms in all directions, screamed, jumped....it just went on and on and on. I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Then Glenn started laughing. We laughed so hard and just couldn't stop. The parents heard the commotion and tried to get to Julie's rescue. Their faces were contorted in what can only be described as hilarious mad. They were trying so hard not to laugh. When they arrived on the scene Glenn and I adopted the same expressions on our faces. There we were. Four people with skewered up faces staring at each other while Julie finished her performance. I never enjoyed a better Fourth.....AND I didn't even get spanked for it. I was banned from ever touching another firecracker but it was well worth it. Julie forgave me a few years ago so all is well between us.

As this show began to cool down, Glenn slipped back into the street to light off his remaining firecrackers before they were confiscated. He put a used tomato can over the load and lit it off. It sailed high, hovered in the air for a second or two, then began its rapid descent back into the atmosphere....and landed right on the hood of the police car that had pulled up due to a call in about firecrackers going off in the city limits. To Glenn's credit, he walked right up and told the policeman he was the guilty party. Even so, my dad was the one receiving the lecture and promise of a fine if it happened again. Our days of celebrating the Fourth the way the founding fathers intended had just come to an end.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The rest of the story....

We eventually left River Oaks and moved to Lake Worth. We lived at 6101 Graham Street. It was a corner lot and a good sized yard. Daddy always kept the yard so nice and had rose bushes. He was very proud of his yard. We moved there at the end of my fourth grade in school. If my math is right, and that’s questionable due to memory lapses and not math skills, I was eleven years old. Peggy would have been nine and Milton almost fifteen.

When daddy bought the house it was a prefabricated house. It was basically nothing but a shell. Everything had to be finished out and daddy, Ed, and Milton did most of the work. If daddy was working on something, Ed and Milton would be pitching in on anything he wanted including digging lateral lines for a septic tank drainage. Ed and Milton could have their room any way they wanted and, as you remember, they painted the room a light brown with two walls decorated with dark brown cow brands. The brands were worked into the texture before it dried. Grandpa Walker had an old radio the boys inherited and they built it into one wall….sure wish we had thought to remove it when we sold the house.

Peggy and I decided...well, I decided because I was older to paint our room Paprika!! It was really the color of paprika spice, loud!! (I just now stopped writing this to go to the kitchen. I can’t believe they were allowed to paint their room that color!!)

Milton and I used to get in trouble for dancing on the old hardwood floors. We loved to dance to rock and roll. It was called something else by adults back then. (I felt it prudent to leave that name out of print.) Mother would make us stop only to get far enough out of earshot so we could crank it up again.

When Milton was a teenager he was friends with a young man in school that was responsible for Milton going to church and being baptized. That led to mother going back to church and daddy going with her to eventually being baptized himself. (Years later uncle Wayne would serve as an elder in the church.)

I will insert a bit of information on Ed now because it falls in place before Mary Wayne’s next memory. Ed married Mary Lynn. I was their ring bearer. I was told by my mom I had no desire to be anyone’s ring bearer. She said I made the comment, “I don’t wanna go to no marryin’”. I did have a terrible crush on Mary Lynn though so I went through the process without too much urging. I have a brief memory of being pushed down the aisle at the actual wedding but that is all I remember of that ceremony.

Milton married at a very young age and fathered two beautiful children. He and Linda divorced and Milton married one more time. Her name was Judy. He and Judy had a little girl, Gloria, about the same age as my Kevin. (Milton was killed in a car accident when Gloria was an infant.) I communicate with her through Facebook. I rarely get to talk to her or see her. She has two beautiful daughters and I can see Milton in all of his children.

This ends Mary Wayne’s wonderful story. I’m so glad she put her memories into words. You may notice more information was included on Milton than the other sibs. This is because his son, Don Walker, asked for as much information as I could gather about his dad. He was just a little boy when Milton died. He wants to know as much about him as anyone can provide so cousins, pass your memories on!

I told Don all I could remember about Milton and my favorite memory was of seeing him drive down River Oaks Blvd one day in his 1950-ish Ford coupe. It was white with red wheels, chrome rims and baby moons. I was about six and waiting in the car for my mom. I saw Milton and leaned as far as possible out of the car window and started yelling at him as loud as I could. Even though he was stopped at a red light right in front of the parking lot where I sat, he did not hear me. I mean I yelled his name, I waved my arms...he never even moved. Even his friends in the car heard me and punched Milton over and over while pointing me out. He continued to stare at that red light and never heard me. I’m pretty sure he had hearing problems.

I could tell more memories but I guess this has gone on long enough. I will tell the story about Mary Wayne and Peggy trying to drown my brother Glenn, Bruce, and me on a later post.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Now, where was I?

About a month ago I mentioned it wasn't wise for me to write when I was depressed. Then I promised I would get back to work soon. I also begged for more followers. Well, I haven't been depressed all this time. I have been too busy knocking things off the to-do list and playing with my grandchildren to sit down and concentrate long enough to write. I told Debbie this morning I had to spend some time writing today or my head was going to explode. It probably wouldn't actually explode but who wants to risk something like that. It could get messy and Debbie would make me clean it up.

Many of my memories are 'warm and fuzzies' about growing up around a slew of wonderful, yet crazy family members. I wanted to write a story about aunt Cricket's kids because they are a product of the woman herself. She was so much fun to be around and her daughters grew up just like her. She had two daughters, Mary Wayne and Peggy. Three boys rounded out the family. They were, in order of age, Edwin Lee, Milton, and Bruce. Sadly, I don't have too many memories of Ed or Milton because they were so much older than me. I will tell what I know over time but most of what I know comes from a series of letters I received from Mary Wayne. She and Bruce are all that remain of the family and I hope they are both around to attend my funeral 40 or 50 years from now.

I wrote Mary Wayne and asked a few questions about the past so I could get some facts about the early years. Instead of simply replying to my questions she wrote a series of stories which were a delight to read. Warm memories flooded my heart as I read and things I had completely forgotten came back to me in a rush. I don't expect any of you to have that same feeling as I pass these memories on. I do hope you enjoy the tale. It is written from Mary Wayne's perspective and I edited slightly to make the story flow in the proper sequence. I also added information in italics. Otherwise, the words are her own.

Mary Wayne's story:

We moved to River Oaks from Temple a few months after Peggy was born. That would make me two years old. Mother told me that one day I came down the short hallway to the kitchen carrying Peggy on my outstretched arms. Mother was afraid I would drop her and being startled, she screamed. I promptly dropped Peggy on the floor. Mother scared me when she screamed. What else would a two year old do?

We lived nine houses down from aunt Blanche and uncle Leroy and three doors from the city park. Milton and Ed would go to the park and play on the swings. They would swing so high they would go over the top. That always scared me! They weren't afraid though and would do it over and over again. On Friday nights a local company would set up a large screen on one end of the park to show movies. We would take our blankets and sit on the ground watching movies....much cheaper than going to the theater! Occasionally mother would give Peggy and me each a dime to go to the movies at the theater on River Oaks Boulevard. We would walk there and cross that busy road to get there. We paid five cents each for the movie and had a nickel each for a candy bar. Of course I was in charge of Peggy. I guess our parents thought it was safe. (One of my earliest memories was being invited to go on one of these hair-raising trips. I was sure we were going to die crossing the road and couldn't enjoy the movie for fear of the return trip.)

While living in River Oaks mother developed a mild case of polio. She had to be in the hospital so Peggy and I were sent to your house (aunt Blanche and uncle Leroy's) to stay. Being a small child, I didn't know if mother would come home or not but I knew I wasn't going to stay there! After everyone was asleep I slipped out the backdoor and went home. Daddy didn't make me go back.

When I was in the first grade daddy fell off a bridge in Mineral Wells where he was working. He crushed his lower leg. I guess we were on workman's comp or something. It was near Christmas and I overheard mother and daddy saying we weren't going to have Christmas. This was serious stuff to a seven year old! The next day I sat on my teacher's lap crying as I told her what I had heard. As all sweet, caring teachers do, she leaked the news to the fire department. On Christmas Eve, while we were off getting our free tree, men from the fire department came bringing presents for all of us. Mother was so embarrassed but I loved that old cracked face porcelain doll more than the one mother and daddy had bought me! Let me explain. There were only two bedrooms in that old house so when mother and daddy talked at night I could hear everything they said. I think they talked much softer after that.

It's hard to have a lot of memories when you are so young but I do remember a few things mother shared with me. Apparently aunt Blanche helped mother out with things a lot. One story I remember is one mother recalled about going grocery shopping with aunt Blanche helping with the boys. Aunt Blanche was supposed to keep Milton in tow but he proved to be too much for her. At one point he got away from her and ran through the store hollering "high ho Silver". As he ran past the candy counter he grabbed some candy and yelled to the clerk, "Mudder will pay for it". Aunt Blanche was quiet and shy so this horrified and embarrassed her. Milton was a happy, smiling little boy but very mischievous.

Here's another memory told to me about Milton. The city bus ran on our street daily. One day some balloons were floating across our yard just out of Milton's reach. He started chasing them, ran into the street, and was hit by the bus. Mother grabbed him up and ran to the doctor's house at the end of our street. He wasn't hurt all that bad but to be cautious he was confined to bed. That poor bus driver came by our house every day bearing comic books for Milton. We all thought that was wonderful. Later on, some kids were playing "pop the whip" up the hill from us. A young child was popped out into the street. That same bus driver couldn't stop and hit the child, killing him. The bus route was changed after that and no longer came down our street.

Tomorrow I will finish Mary Wayne's story and include a few memories of my own. I just realized the story ended on a sad note. It is a good place to stop though so until then....