Monday, February 7, 2011

Wintertime Fun, Car Hit & Suspense

Wintertime provided its own opportunities for dangerous fun. The one that sticks out in my memory the most was hitching rides on the rear bumper of cars in the snow. Of course the old style bumpers made it much easier to have something hold on to. Back in those days plowing neighborhood streets didn’t usually Because of these conditions, a car would come down the road very slowly allowing us the time we need to grab the back bumper, squat down sliding along on our shoes. Sometimes we were able to ride this way for as long as a city block. There are many reasons why this was dangerous, but the one thing that happened a lot usually ended with nothing more than skinned knees, and sometimes knuckles. This happened when you hit a patch that wasn’t covered by snow and when our shoes hit the asphalt this had an immediate braking effect causing us to pitch forward on to our knees. Since it usually included holes in the knees of our jeans, it made it difficult to hide this from our mom. As a father and grandfather, I shudder to think about the other things that might have happened.
I will probably think of our other dangerously fun activities as my story continues—some of them when I was an adult.
At this point of trying to remember, I am wishing that I had started writing the biography sooner. Even though I spent 5 and a half years at Rosedale, I can’t remember many more events that took place during those years. But there are two other things I should probably share.
One is my friendship with Ray Hogman who lived a block north of us on Cherokee. He was an only child who spent a lot of time at our house because both of his parents worked. One thing in particular about him is that we argued a lot. Not only did he seem to know how to push my button, I think we enjoyed our arguments. The only time these disagreements would turn into something physical was when we resorted to pushing and wrestling. Even though I have to admit that I felt like it sometimes, we never actually hit each other. To give you some idea about how much he could aggravate me, I need to tell you how one of our arguments got me in trouble.
My parents never allowed any “bad” words of any kind. Not only did this include the euphemisms like heck, darn, etc. we couldn’t say “blast it” or “blast you.” On one occasion, we were playing in the front yard of my house and Ray did something that pushed me so far over the edge, I yelled, “Blast you, Ray!” Just as I finished that verbal explosion, my dad came around the corner of the house from the backyard. That day didn’t end well.
There was one particular weapon that I had that gave me an advantage he didn’t have. When he was a very small boy, he had fallen and cut his head just below the eyebrow above the eye. By the time I knew him, the permanent affect of this injury was already there, which caused his right eye to be slightly slanted. Of course this kind of scar had a stigma at that particular time in history. From the right profile, the scar gave him an oriental look, which, in most people’s mind, made him a “Jap,” especially if they didn’t know him. I knew this was a sore spot with him so I would call him, “Slant-eye,” when he made me angry. This was not only mean On my part, but it wasn’t fair because he didn’t have an equal insult for retaliation to use against me.
I probably wouldn’t be telling about this, except for how it led to one particular occasion when he was desperate to retaliate. It was about a year after I had been hit by the car and my accident was well-known in the neighborhood. If fact, I wore it like a badge, enjoying it when someone would say, “He had a fractured skull and a concussion of the brain.” I’m not sure why, but “concussion of the brain” seemed to make it sound worse. Anyway, on this one particular occasion, Ray had me angry enough to cause me to say, “You stupid, slant-eye!” Ray reacted immediately, pushing me to the ground.
“Don’t call me that!” he yelled, standing over me.
Being pushed to the ground insulted my dignity enough to cause me to repeat my meanness. “You’re a dumb, stupid slant-eye!” I said, looking up at him defiantly.
Ray sputtered in anger, standing over me with clinched fists. “Yeah, well you’re a dumb . . . you’re a dumb, stupid, . . . , a dumb, stupid, car-hit!”
I stared up at him and he stared back, both of us kind of frozen. I finally broke the spell with a frown that was slowly turning into a grin. “What?” I asked.
Still angry, Ray said, “A car-hit! You’re a car-hit!’
In quick order, my frown went to a grin and the grin to a laugh, until I rolled over on my side, saying, “Car-hit?” over and over, between laughs. Ray kept staring at me, obviously trying hard to keep a straight face. He was losing the battle.
I continued to roll back and forth laughing, “Car-hit! You called me a car-hit!”
Ray’s frown held out for another two seconds before he broke up too and soon, we were both laughing at each other laughing. From that day on, we continued to use car-hit as a joke, but I never call him slant-eye after that.
One of the highlights of our day was being able to listen to the radio—not like radio is today. This was during the golden age of the radio drama and comedies like “Fibber Magee & Molly.” In some ways I feel sorry for those who missed this era, having their imagination stifled by television. A television program is limited to what we see, whereas radio’s view was expanded by our mind's eye where there was no limit. When we heard Fibber Magee open his closet there was no way that television could compete with radio even when our eyes were closed. The dramas included shows like “Lux Presents Hollywood,” “One Man’s Family,” “I Love A Mystery,” “Intersanctum,” “Grand Central Station,” “Suspense,” “Let’s Pretend,” “Lights Out,” “Mister Keene, Tracer of Lost Persons,” etc. Our mother wouldn’t allow us to listen to some of these programs because of the nightmares they triggered. Just like when I went to see the movie, “The Mad Ghoul,” there was part of me that wanted to hear these shows. But, inevitably, I was always sorry at night when I went to bed and the lights were turned out. In those days there was no such thing as a night light.
In addition to “Fibber Magee & Molly,” there were other comedies like “Red Skelton,” “Burns & Allen,” “The Great Gildersleeve,” “Our Miss Brooks,” “Henry Aldrige,” “Amos & Andy,” etc.

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