A Baby Boomer's Scrapbook

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Out of Life's School and Into School Life.


1946 was a good year.  Suddenly, I was in the arms of a beautiful women, surrounded by even more women, just waiting to hold me in their arms (Grandma was probably there and I'm sure Midland County Hospital had some very nice nurses).  Of course this is all speculation because I don't remember any of it, but perhaps the ups and downs of this life are the result of a pursuit to continue things the way they must have started.


Regardless of the way it happened, I hope to leave this life at least as well as I came into it.


As you might expect, there isn't much to remember at the beginning, but I do remember a few things about my early childhood.  For some reason though, the scoldings and spankings seem to stand out more than the more pleasant memories.  I suspect that childhood traumas, both small and large, have a way of sticking in your head.  One of the first memories is when grandma scolded me for eating the earthworms that lived in the dark black dirt under the porch.  I remember the scolding but, unfortunately, not how delicious the worms must have been.


Well, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself and should say a little about how I got from the hospital to that dark dirt underneath Grandma's porch.


My Dad grew up in Bannister, Michigan and Mom grew up in Lansing .  They married in 1945 after Dad was discharged from the Army Air Corp. In the Army, he was the engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17 bomber.  After being shot down over France and spending the better part of a year as a Prisoner-Of-War, he spent his last few months of his time in service recovering from severe stomach ailments in a Michigan Army hospital before he was discharged. 


Mom and Dad were married in September of 1945 and I arrived in July of '46.  





A few months after my brother Roger was born in February of '48, we moved to Tulsa for a little more than year while Dad attended the Spartan School of Aeronautics on the GI Bill.


I have a very few vague memories of Tulsa .  Again, mostly traumatic events.  I remember my first ride in an airplane.  One of Dad's school buddies had a Piper Cub and he took me up.  The ride was very short because I was so scared, I cried the whole time and the pilot returned to earth quickly to calm me down.


I remember my Dad and his friends making and flying big box kites in a strong Oklahoma wind.


I also remember getting my mouth washed out with soap.  Mom says that I would sometimes bite other kids when I didn't get my way so that was her solution.  I don't remember the biting parts of my life but I sure do remember the soap-in-the-mouth parts.


I may remember some other things about the trailer park we lived in, but it could be only memories from looking at the black and white pictures Mom has kept.  Some photos are of several trailers that were overturned by a tornado.  I guess we were lucky that ours wasn't one of them.  



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School didn't work out as well as planned for Dad and, after about a year and a half in Tulsa , we moved back to Midland .


Dad went to work for a while at Trombley Motors, a Studebaker dealer, where he did auto body work.  When a friend of his was fired, Dad quit too and went to work at a General Motors plant in Lansing .


While at GM, Dad was driving the 1946 Ford sedan that he bought new with his “mustering out” pay when he got out of the Army.  The seat covers were wearing thin so Dad began to carry scraps of upholstery cloth home from the GM plant in his lunch pail.  Grandpa Bishop then sewed up some nice new seat covers from the discarded fabric.  Unfortunately, a plant security guard noticed the nice Chevy seat covers in Dad's Ford and he was fired.  Although his supervisor told him to com e back in week and he could have his job back, we instead moved to Midland where Dad eventually got a job at Dow Chemical where Grandpa Bishop already worked.


Grandpa had built a home on Towsley Street and Dad parked our trailer in Grandpa's driveway where we lived until we moved to Mills Township when I was about 6.


There, that gets me back to the worms under Grandma's front porch where, afterwards, the memories start to pile up a little faster.


Towsley Street was still gravel when we lived there and the milkman used to com e in a horse drawn wagon.  Of course, I was as fascinated by the horse as any kid would be and regularly waited outside for the milkman to com e by.  The horse always seemed to know where to stop and when to go.  I don't remember the milkman ever using the reins.  As soon as he got back on the wagon, the horse would start and then stop again at the next house.


Besides milk, the milkman also brought big blocks of ice for Grandma's icebox.  He would set the ice on the back porch along side the bottles of milk.  The quart bottles were clear glass and had no labels except for the words on the white cardboard caps.  You could always see the yellowish cream floating at the top of the bottle.


I also remember the big iron tongs that Grandpa and the milkman used to use when they carried the ice blocks.


Later when he came home, Grandpa would use large iron tongs to pick up and put the new block of ice in the icebox.  Sometimes Grandpa would let me try to lift the ice with the tongs, but was always too small to lift those big ice blocks.  It was fun when we got to eat the large clear chunks of melting ice that were removed from the icebox when the big new block of ice was put in.


There was a small open field across the street between houses to the left and right.  It was the width of an ordinary yard but went all the way back to the dike that "helped" to keep the Tittabawassee River from overflowing into the homes on Towsley Street .  I say "helped" because there always seemed to be a flood every spring and Grandpa would use a rowboat to get to his car that he had left parked up by the Bensen Street Bridge when the flood came.


Anyway, back to the vacant lot. The lot was occasionally mowed but much of the time it was overgrown with tall weeds that my brother and I would play in.  There are a couple of vivid events that I recall related to that vacant lot.


There was an older girl with the last name of Wrathel who lived in the house just to the right of the lot.  When I say older I mean maybe 7, 8 or 9, but I'm not sure.  I don't remember her first name either and, although Mom says it may have been Betty, I'll call her Eve just for this story.  For propriety's sake and to protect the innocent I won't go into much detail, but one nice summer day, Eve took me into the tall grass in that lot beside her house and decided to show me, at the tender age of 4 or 5, some things that she thought I ought to know.  Apparently the weeds weren't quite tall enough and my mother saw us and decided that I was probably too young for that particular lesson and, with stick in hand, Mom cut that phase of my education short.  I didn't understand at the time what I had done wrong, especially since Eve didn't get a spanking like I did. 


There are probably lots of lessons in there about fairness and discipline and older women and such but who knows?  Of course, I did eventually catch on about why my mother was upset but, by that time, hormones had begun to take over and any potential lessons I got from the experience were probably strategically ignored.


The other event related to that empty lot had to do with two of Eve's older brothers.  They caught a large snapping turtle in the river and had dragged it there to try and do it in.  Using a machete, they took turns and hacked and hacked at that poor turtle until it must have died a death of a thousand cuts.  They continued to hack on the shell for a long time in an effort to get the meat out so they could cook and eat it.  Finally, after giving up from exhaustion, they decided to wait until their Dad came home from work to finish the job.


I also remember learning to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in front of Wrathel's house.  At the time, the sidewalk only ran on the other side of the street and sloped slightly downhill from Terry Mashue's house on the right to just past the vacant lot on the left.  Terry had a 20" bike that was just right for a five year old.  He was a couple of years older and would hold the bike up while I got on at the top of the hill and get me started until I fell on my trip down the hill.  My falls began to occur further and further down the hill and I finally got the hang of it.  Terry was very patient for being so young.  I also remember some real fun snowball fights with Terry and his younger brother.


Unfortunately, Terry was a part of another, more serious, event later in my life.  Both of our families moved away from Towsley Street and I didn't see Terry again until years later.  He had ridden his bicycle in front of a car and was killed.  I don't know what I was thinking when I went to the funeral home but I was expecting to see the same boy that I last saw holding me steady while he pushed me off down the hill on his bike.  Not paying any attention to the fact that I was also several years older, I was shocked to see that the body in the casket was a grown young man that I didn't even recognize.  I have been doing my best to avoid funerals ever since.


On a brighter note, the elementary school near Grandpa's house where I went to Kindergarten was only a couple of blocks away.  Mom would walk me there and back sometimes but most of the time I would walk with several other kids in the neighborhood that went to the same school.


There are three things that I remember clearly from that school.


There was a cornfield just behind the school and one bright, cold, fall day I pulled an ear off of a stalk and found that it was an ear of popcorn. I took it to the teacher to show her and the other kids and instead of being happy to see it, she scolded me for taking the farmer's corn and made me put it back in the cornfield.


Another time, I discovered how tasty that white paper paste was and began eating more than I put on the paper project I was working on.  The teacher didn't like that either.


The last thing I remember from Kindergarten was when I raised my hand to ask the teacher to go to the bathroom, she told me that it was almost time to go home and that I could hold it until then.


I couldn't and left a puddle under the chair when I left for home that day.


The teacher never said a word to me and, after that, always let me go to the bathroom when I asked.


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