Saturday, December 5, 2009
Cherokee And Rosedale
The elementary school we attended was called Rosedale and I attended there from Kindergarten through part of the fifth grade. In the 40s grade levels were identified as grade 5 b and 5 a. After I was hit by the car, I missed a half of year of school, so I was what they called a mid-term student. This meant that while other students ended the fifth grade at the end of May identified as being in 5 a, I was ending 5 b. My mother had decided that it would good if she kept Dave out of school to be at home with me as I recovered. So he was also a mid-term student.
During my years at Rosedale several things happened, but two events stand out that were potentially life-change for me. One had to do with a test the school wanted me to take. Everybody probably has a story about how they were misunderstood in school. I’m no exception. As good as our mother was in so many ways, she did have some peculiar ideas that bordered on eccentric. She never wanted her children to stand out for any reason—good or bad. If anything happened that might put us in the spotlight, she was uncomfortable and even somewhat suspicious. So when the teacher sent a note home with me, asking my mother’s permission for me to take special test, my mother automatically assumed that the teacher was saying that I was dumb. Because of this, she refused to give her permission. Unfortunately, from that day forward, I was convinced that I was not as smart as the other kids which gave me a “why try” attitude. It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally found out that the teacher wanted to test me because she thought I might need to be in an accelerated program at school. Naturally I can’t help but wonder if I would have been a better student if my mother had told me sooner.
On another occasion, Rosedale had a talent show and I decided to tryout. By the time I reached the fourth grade, I found that I could make people laugh by imitating certain sounds with my mouth—cars, animals, airplanes, etc. So I thought this might fit in a talent show. However, when I tried out the teacher in charge wasn’t impressed. But, instead of simply telling me no, she said she wanted more singers in her show and asked if I knew a song I could sing. My dad sang and played the guitar, and one of the songs he sang was called “Old Shep,” a very sad song and I had listened to him enough that I was able to remember all the words. So I sang that song for the tryouts, convinced that I was wasting my time. To my surprise she put me in the show. I honestly couldn’t believe that anyone would be entertained by listening to me sing.
On the night of show, several of our neighbors attended. Because of the sadness in the song, several of the little girls cried which made my act a little more noticeable that the others. For a few weeks I was a semi-celebrity. It didn’t last very long because popularity was based on the sadness of the lyrics. However, a couple of days after the show, one of our neighbors came to our house to ask my parents if they would let her be my agent, to have me sing at different events around town. I honestly have no idea what would have been involved, but it didn’t matter because my parents said no. It is interesting that I don’t remember being very disappointed, but I still wonder what it might have led to. I am thankful that my parents were wise enough to decide against it. It wasn’t until many years later that I had a short-lived stint in show business.
Another thing I remember about Rosedale was my friendship with a girl named Floy Dean Ragsdale. She died of leukemia when I was in the fifth grade. This was my first experience with the death of someone I had spent a lot of time with. It was also the first time I realized that death wasn’t just something that happened to old people. I handled it by pretending it wasn’t true, by not thinking about it.
In those years, the extent of our involvement in sports was finding a vacant lot, choosing up sides and playing ball—mostly softball and baseball. Sometimes we did play touch football, but we usually played that in the street. I’m not sure why we didn’t play it in a vacant lot. Of course, the game was interrupted from time to time when cars would come down Cherokee Street. One street over, toward Broadway was Bannock Street. So, when a car would interfere with our game we would yell at them as they passed by, “What’s the matter with Bannock?” We were too young to be reasonable.
One of the vacant lots was right next door to us. It wasn’t very big, but it was big enough for a soft ball game of workup. I don’t know if the majority of people today know what the rules of workup are. It was best if you had enough people to cover all of the positions and have two or three people as batters. A batter could stay in that position unless they were struck out, put out at a base or was left on a base with no one to bat him in. When the batter was put out then the one who had been playing catcher would move up to be a batter and the one who was playing pitcher would become the catcher—thus the name, workup. Another way that a batter could be put out was if someone caught his fly ball. Then the batter would change places with the one who caught the ball. This was a faster way for someone out in the field to get up to bat.
Two games of workup stand out more than the others. I was playing center field, which was usually a boring position in most workup games. So, to keep from getting bored, I had a big/little book to read when things were slow in the outfield. Since they don’t have big-little books today I guess I had better describe them. The contents were the same as comic books but instead of a magazine format, these were like small books—thus the name, big/little books. As I am trying to describe these books I know that most people are probably thinking, “What?”
Anyway, on this particular occasion I was out in center field reading my big/little book. The batter hit a high fly ball and as I was reading the ball came straight down, hitting me on top of the head. I was afraid the other players would be upset with me, but they were too busy laughing for them to be upset. On another occasion it was my sister who got the laughs. She was pitching and the batter hit a line drive directly into her stomach. It knocked the breath out of her and as the air was leaving her lungs, the sound she made was like, “uhhhhh, daddeeeee!”
During the months I was recovering from my fractured skull, the doctor told my mother that I needed to be very careful not to get a hard hit to my head. It seems the concussion had caused some kind of fluid to build up near my brain and a hard blow could have caused that fluid to do possible brain damage. A few months after the accident Dave and I were walking down Bannock street about a block from our house when a neighbor decided to be a bully and since I was the smallest, I was his target. He shoved me causing me to lose my balance and I slammed my head against a cement wall in front of a neighbor’s lawn. This is the only time I ever saw Dave hit somebody in anger. The blow to my head probably wasn’t hard enough to do any damage, but Dave didn’t know that, and even though I know it sounds like an exaggeration, Dave hit the bully hard enough under the chin that it actually lifted his feet off the ground. I know some people still wonder if I did end up with some kind of brain damage. If I did, it wasn’t from this occasion. The only result was that the bully backed off and never bothered us again. Having witnessed what Dave had done to him, I can’t say I blame him. This wasn’t the only time one of my brothers came to my rescue.