Monday, June 15, 2009
Chapter One - Part Four
Even though there were a lot of advantages in being the youngest of four children, the baby of the family, at that age there was a down side as well. Monday through Friday were lonely days. But they would have been worse if it were not for my mother.
On the typical week day, my dad would go to work, my brothers and sister would go to school and I would stand and watch them leave, not looking forward to the day. I guess my mother saw how sad I was because she made up a game we would play just about every morning. After everyone else was gone, she would help me put on my coat and we would pretend that I was going to work. I went out the front door, rode my scooter around the house and come in the back door. My mother would have a cup of coffee waiting for me on the kitchen table. Of course the cup was filled mostly with milk. Through the years memories of that particular game has given me a warm feeling. It was just one of the ways she expressed her love to her children.
On some occasions, when my game with my mother was over and neither Bobby or Rex were available, I would resort to my other friend. His name was Johnny and nobody could see him. It is interesting that I don’t remember when he came into my life for the first time or even when he finally left for that matter. Maybe he is still around but I just can’t see him any more.
Johnny was so important to me that I even wrote a song about him. I would sit at the piano, hit one key and sing, “Johnny get your gun, Johnny get your gun.” That was it—no follow-up lyrics to say why he needed to get a gun or if he ever got one.
A block from our house on Broadway was the landmark Montgomery Ward building. In those days everyone called it Monkey Wards. Don’t look for that building because it was demolished in 1990. It was like losing an old friend.
Most people don’t know this, but the origin of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reign Deer was as a marketing concept of Montgomery Wards. In fact, I have memories of a special building (a one story annex) that was built south of the larger building. Its main purpose was to house the Christmas displays; toys, several electric trains running over miniature layouts and even larger moving scenes that displayed puppets skating, etc. But the star of all of this was Rudolph. After the story came out in book form, Gene Autry came out with his recording helping to make the story of Rudolph known in every household.
Just south of the building was the Merchants Park semi-pro baseball field. These leagues were very popular in places that didn’t have major league teams. Today I suppose these have been replaced by the minor leagues. The reason I mention this ball field is because I remember one occasion when my brothers and I sneaked in to the park. We didn’t really watch the game. It was far more fun to play under the bleachers.
Another memory I have involving that park isn’t actually about the park itself. Since we were only a block away from the entrance, the vacant lot on the corner became a parking lot for those who wanted to attend the games. Of course they had to pay to park there. The fee was ten cents per car. This was quite a bit if you realize that you could buy a loaf of bread for 8 cents and a dozen eggs was 18 cents. Part of my memory is of a man standing on the corner yelling, “Park your car here!” Adding to the significance of that memory, there was a radio program that had a character named, “Park Your Carcass.” Don’t ask me why—that’s show business. Because of that, I was convinced that the man on the corner was yelling, “Park Your Carcass.” In my four-year-old mind, it was all tied together.