A Baby Boomer's Scrapbook
Kauppi has been one of my best friends from the first grade on but, between
grades 4 and 5, his parents were divorced and he moved away with his mom and
older sister, eventually ending up in
dad was a chemist and executive at Dow Corning and, I think, one of the
co-inventors of the silicone sealant that we all use around tubs and sinks and
for engine gaskets and stuff. As a result, they were pretty well off, at least
think Mr. Kauppi owned more than a section of land surrounding the corner of
Waldo and Baker Roads with woods and fields, a large, spring fed pond, a big
circular drive to ride around with bikes and go carts and plenty of room to play
and have fun. It was also fun that
Mike and his sister Natalie also had horses.
Kauppis also had a part time maid and yard/house boy to take care of things for
the time I got to high school, Mr. Kauppi and his second wife, Mary, also had
two little kids, Eric and Martha.
in my Junior year, I think, the kid that did Kauppi's yard and home maintenance
work quit for a better job and I took over.
only paid 50 cents an hour but as long as it gave me enough money for weekend
fun, like movies, dances and dates I didn't care too much. In the winter, I
worked Saturdays or Sundays emptying trash, shoveling snow, and cleaning and in
summer, doing yard work like mowing, cleaning out brush, weeding flowerbeds,
painting and washing cars (a Porsche and a Volkswagen).
the oldest of seven kids, the Kauppis knew I was well qualified so I also did a
little baby-sitting. Their house was back in the woods a ways and surrounded by
trees so Mary and Mike's dad took advantage of that and, summer and winter, I
would watch the kids in the house while, as nudists are want to do, they often
romped and played naked in their outdoor sauna, the snow or in the woods.
Mary would usually wrap a sheet around herself whenever I walked in, it wasn't
unusual for me to walk into the house on Saturday mornings and find Mr. Kauppi
sitting in his favorite easy chair, reading the newspaper in his birthday suit.
was there so much that when Mike was home, I was treated pretty much like
family. Sort of a well-liked Cinderfella. And, during the summer, Mike and I
would often work together. Me for 50 cents an hour and Mike for just bein' their
I graduated from
to end this preamble on how I got to college, I think shortly after Mike
graduated from High School he had been accepted at
at less than $1300 a year, including room and board, my folks couldn't afford it
so the Kauppis offered to help and, if accepted, I could go to
I think about it, I can still feel how exciting (and how cool) it was to pile
all of our worldly possessions into Mike's old green '54 Ford sedan and head out
on the highway into the great unknown.
remaining memories of the trip out to
hadn't made lodging arrangements before we left so when we got there, we rented
a hotel room until we could find a cheaper place to stay.
was no dorm space left and, although we looked pretty hard, we couldn't find an
apartment right away and ended up spending more than a month in that old hotel. Actually, although it was downtown and a
little to far from the campus, it was pretty nice, with TV and maid service and
all. There were also a few
restaurants within walking distance, which was good but it was also bad because
we ended up spending a lot more money than our budgets would allow.
eventually found an apartment in a subdivided old house about 4 blocks from the
first quarter of school went fairly well (
apartment we lived in was part of a house that was separated into a one-bedroom
side and a two-bedroom side (about a 1/3-2/3 split size wise). We had the small side and the other was
occupied by 4 guys from
guys next door were interesting characters, of legal drinking age and real party
animals. On some weekends it was
pretty hard to get any sleep from the noise through our
we'd spent most of our living money much too soon, we spent some of our spare
time looking for part time work but didn't have much luck. I had filled out bunches of job
applications that all asked the question "Are you LDS" and answered
“No” out of ignorance until I finally asked someone what "LDS"
meant. As you may know, LDS means
"Latter Day Saint's" (Mormon) and in all likelihood, if you weren't
Mormon, you wouldn't find a job. It was an interesting lesson.
were able to find a couple of day labor jobs though through the school bulletin
board. One job was for picking apples and the other was for digging up potatoes.
potato pickin' job didn't go very well. They
gave us a belt to wear that had a large hook on it. A large gunny sack was hung on the hook
and, as we bent over to pick up the potatoes, the sack was dragged along between
our legs while we loaded the open sack with potatoes. We got a nickel for every hundred pound
sack we filled and, at first, we could do about 25 bags an hour. It's a good thing we were young and
strong because it was, literally, a backbreaking job. Unfortunately, after about three hours,
the potatoes petered out (too small and too far apart) and we had to stop.
the farmer said that he couldn't pay us because there weren't enough potatoes to
make any money on, an older student got angry and told him that, if we didn't
get paid, he would tell the school and the farmer might have a real hard time
getting help in the future. Fortunately,
the small protest worked and after he left for a little while, the farmer came
back with our meager wages.
apple pickin' job went much better but only lasted a couple of days.
were unable to find any more work for the rest of the school year.
addition, the Mormon culture was a bit of a shock and our social lives were the
pits. I'll give you an example.
Halloween we were looking for something to do and decided to go to an advertised
Halloween dance at the Stake House on campus. We didn't know what the Stake
House was but, hey, a party is a party so, in an effort to look somewhat
costumed for the occasion, we blacked our faces and dressed down to look like
ticket seller for the dance sat at table on the sidewalk at the entrance to the
Stake House and when we pulled out our money he kind of looked at us funny and
may have said something like "Are you sure?". We should have asked
"Why not?" but he took our money anyway and we went in.
if this was a Halloween Dance, the whole room looked like it was filled with
Penguins and Princesses cause everyone was dressed in suits and gowns. We stood
there for a few minutes until we noticed that many people had turned their heads
our way with strange or amused looks on their faces. We left quickly. We were
hoping to at least get our money back but the money taker out front had
first quarter ended just before Christmas and Mike had the money for a trip home
but I didn't so I was alone for the two or three weeks between the first and
second quarters. I still didn't know
anyone yet so it was a pretty lonely time for me.
I was invited to the landlord's Christmas party, which was interesting. They were either non-Mormons or Jack
Mormons so I had a little too much to drink. I accepted an invitation to
night I went to the downtown theater to see "The Pink Panther" and on
my walk home, since it was almost a mile, I was glad to accept a ride from a guy
driving a nice new Chevy. I'd done a lot of hitchhiking in Michigan and it was
pretty cold so I didn't think twice about getting in the car with him until he
asked me if I was interested in "fooling around" (he may have been a
little more graphic than that). I
suspect I told him in some way that I wasn't interested in that sort of thing
and asked him to drop me off at the next corner and he did.
too long after that, armed with a couple of checks that I got in the mail for my
tuition, room and board, along with a naïve hope to get a part time job, on
whim, I offered to buy a nice blue 1936 Ford that my landlord had for sale for
$200. I didn't have enough to give
him the whole $200 so when I handed the landlord $100 and an IOU, he let me take
the car until I could
This is not the '36 Ford I had but it does look just like it and is the same color.
dumb thing to do but hey, it's a kid’s job to do dumb things, right?
Mike got back, I think he was a little shocked and surprised that, considering
our previous financial straights, I would spend my money on a car but I also
think he liked the car so he didn't say much.
second quarter saw a little improvement in my social life when I met a girl but
was that was the start of a downhill academic slide. Socially, Mike's didn't do
as well but managed to keep his grades up.
the extra $100 that I spent on the old car money, though, and no job
opportunities to fill the gap, things got pretty tight. Mike kept bugging me to
ask my folks for money from home but I was too embarrassed or ashamed to do that
so we began to run out of food. We ended up by eating macaroni without cheese,
salad without dressing, and as many untasty staples as we could afford. It
wasn't enough and we got desperate.
began my life of crime.
food store where we shopped used stick-on labels to price their goods. So, when
no one was looking we would switch labels on the cans of stuff we wanted to buy.
Like taking the 29-cent label off a can of corn and putting it on the 49-cent
can of tuna. I think we only did it a few times but I still feel lucky that we
occasion where an opportunity for crime reared it's ugly head was when, at the
Laundromat, one of us noticed that the big glass ball that held the gum in the
bubble gum machine was loose and when we wiggled it, the ball came off and a lot
of the gumballs fell out on the floor. Of course, we didn't want to put all of
that dirty gum back (too, unsanitary... some poor little kid might get sick) so
we dumped them (along with the pennies) into one of our laundry bags and took
at that same Laundromat, we discovered that, although we had enough quarters for
the wash, we didn't have enough dimes for the drier. We did have lots of pennies
from that gumball machine though so, while the washer was going, we sat on the
floor and, by rubbing them on a rough cement pad under the washers, ground
enough pennies down to dime size so that we could finish our laundry.
our money for the next semester eventually came and, since I didn't have the
extra $100 to finish paying for the 36 Ford, the landlord was willing to accept
a deal to take car back and keep my $100 for the last month or two of rent. That mostly ended our desperation and
along with it, my petty criminal career. The only consequence was a lifetime of
Anyway, to go back to the beginning of the second Quarter,
somewhere about that time, I met a girl. To protect the innocent, I'll change
her name to "Linda".
Anyway again, lots of high school girls would
I didn't suspect their motives to “convert” me at first but
"Linda's" parents were very nice and invited me to
A bottle of Gin even saved my buns one night. "Linda"
and I were standin
g alone in the parking lot at a local high school dance one
evening when a group of guys that "Linda" knew gathered around us to
talk. When they found out that I was a
I said, I didn’t do too bad during the first quarter and ended up with a
“B” average, I think. After I
met “Linda” in the second quarter, my interest in school started to slip and
so did my grades. I think I ended up with a “C” average in the second
quarter. I didn’t have much trouble with the Automotive Technology courses
but, because I didn’t plan on it, I didn’t take any college prep stuff in
high school and had a rough time with most of the generic “101” and
“102” courses. In addition, because I just took easy courses, high school
was such a piece of cake that my study habits were not just bad, they were
non-existent. In hindsight, laziness
from lack of interest didn’t help much either.
Mike did a lot better. He was a
better student than me to begin with and, though he tried as hard as I did to
find a girlfriend, he had no luck and was forced to avoid that distraction.
also didn’t help either of us, career-wise, to read some posted letters from
former Auto Tech students who described their job experiences. One guy was working for an automaker
(Ford or GM) and it sounded like his job was more like a high tech mechanic than
an engineer. Another guy explained
that he was working in the exciting new field of “emissions control”. To macho guys like Mike and I, who were
typically more interested in power and speed, emissions control sounded awful
boring and we began to look for other fields of interest.
unpleasant choice of classes was physical education. It was required for first year students
and I took swimming the first quarter, which wasn’t too bad. For some reason, in the second quarter, I
ended up in the Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) program. I
didn’t like that at all and I was glad I didn’t join up after school as my
dad was encouraging me to do before I got the chance to go to
memorable experience with AFROTC was when we were asked to “volunteer” for
the campus blood drive. We were
standing in formation and told that those who volunteered to give blood could
leave but those who chose not to “volunteer” must remain standing at
attention for the remainder of the hour. After
recovering from hepatitis at age 15, I was told by a doctor never to give blood
for fear of infecting others so I chose not to “volunteer” and remained at
attention. After standing in the
field all by myself for several minutes as the only one who didn’t volunteer,
and after some harassment, the group leader finally broke down and asked me why
I wouldn’t give blood. When gave
him my reason, he thought about it for a few minutes and then left me standing
there alone. When he returned, he
said that he’d talked a Dr. who told him that they would test my blood first
to see if it was acceptable and if not, I wouldn’t be asked to give.
very old white haired doctor tested my blood and said it was OK to use for
plasma (whatever that means) and I did give ‘em a pint but I think my initial
refusal to give put a black mark on my record and soured my attitude so my ROTC
grades weren’t too good after that.
of the automotive curriculum, Mike and I both changed our majors the third
quarter. My grades had dropped to a “C” average anyway and I was hoping a
change would revive my interest in school, at least a little. Mike changed to Sociology (I think) and I
changed to Landscape Architecture.
turned out for me that Landscape Architecture was even less fun than Auto
Technology and my collegiate interests began to fade even more.
or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, as my school experiences
deteriorated, my love life improved, or visa versa.
possible, I would borrow Mike’s car and pick “Linda” up after school (my
’36 Ford broke not too long after I got it but I couldn’t afford the fuel
pump part needed to fix it). Actually,
her last class was not at the high school. Most
students who were Mormon took an hour of religious instruction each day at the
when I dropped her off at her house, I would go in and visit. The most
interesting visit was one day when I took her home and her Mom wasn’t there.
yard was fairly secluded so we went through the house out to the swing set
located near the garage. “Linda”
was leaning against one of the swing set’s legs and, after several minutes of
serious necking and petting, with the breathing getting pretty heavy, I looked
up to see “Linda’s” mom standing with her hands folded across her chest
silently watching us from behind the screen door.
I have no idea how long she had been there.
As I slowly began to remove my hand from
deep inside “Linda’s” pants in the hope that her mom wouldn’t notice,
“Linda”, not knowing that her
was there, grabbed my arm to push my hand back in.
When I whispered that her mom was watching, her gut reaction then was to
jerk my arm out which, unfortunately, must have made what I was doing extremely
obvious to her mom.
thought my goose was cooked until, after a few seconds, Mom gave me sort of a
Mona Lisa like smile and turned away from the screen door.
was said as I passed through the house on my way out to the car and, although we
were much more cautious about showing affection for each other when at her home,
“Linda” never told me if her mom ever said anything to her about that day.
“Linda” and I didn’t slow down much when we weren’t at her house. More about that later while I cool off
from the memory.
I mentioned, at school the Landscape Architecture curriculum wasn’t what I
expected. There was more landscape
than architecture to it and I ended up having to learn about plants and trees
and bushes and such and I was bored to tears.
course spring was in the air as well and with “Linda” to distract me, my
attention to schoolwork deteriorated even more and, by the time the school year
ended, my grades had dropped to a “D” average.
last day at school was the most memorable. Mike’s last class (final exam)
ended later than my last class so I picked up “Linda” from school and
brought her back to the apartment for what I hoped would be an intimate
farewell. I wasn’t disappointed.
lucky to have been able to make love with three girls in my life. I’ve had three first times, so to
speak. Unfortunately, all three first times ended the same way. “Linda” was the first “first
time” and just as we got to the most passionate part of our goodbye, there was
a terrific banging on the door.
to start the trip back to
car was already packed so it took only minutes to get going. Mike drove
“Linda” home on our way out of town so we didn’t have a chance to say much
before we parted. I don’t know if I left the impression that I would be back
in the fall but I’m sure when we left that Mike and I were pretty sure that we
wouldn’t. I’m also pretty sure that “Linda” was expecting me to return.
got a letter from “Linda” not too long after I got back that said she was
“knitting booties”. Fortunately, for both of us, that turned out not to be
true. Mike did go back out west to school in the fall but switched to
The summer of ’65…
The trip back to
After a short recovery
time at beaches and drive-ins, Mike and I went job hunting. One of our first job
leads from the employment office was at a store in downtown
Mike eventually got a job
helping to install new lanes in the bowling alley. Mike didn’t like it very
much but it paid enough for Mike to buy a car (an MGA sports car, I think) so he
stuck it out until he was ready to go back to school in the fall.
Just before I got back
Again, not the '55 Plymouth convertible I had but just like it except for color.
Joe Hansen was a neighbor
who had an Insecticide/Herbicide business and he offered me summer work for a
buck an hour so I took it. Although I’m pretty sure Joe had another crew
besides us, Joe’s 16 year-old son Larry and I worked together and I think did
most of the work. Joe seemed to spend most of his time going from bar to bar to
find customers. That seemed to work OK until the end of the summer when the bugs
and weeds went away and Joe slipped me a last handful of cash and told me that
he didn’t need me any more.
I think that even before
After Joe let me go, I
was able to get a job as a gas pump jockey at the Bay Station near McDonalds on
Saginaw road and, shortly after that, had to make a decision about school. After
one year of school I began to assume that a college education would probably
give me a better (or easier) living than a blue-collar factory job but I felt
guilty about my first year’s performance and didn’t want to borrow more
money from my former benefactors. It was a full time job but the gas station
owner was willing to let me work around a school schedule so I signed up for
three classes at
I was only making minimum
wage of a buck and a quarter an hour and, with school and my job, working lots
of hours, but none of that seemed to hard to do at the time. Living for free at
home still left me enough money and no apparent obligations to anybody or
anything left me plenty of time to party and roam. Life was good…
For a while…
I knew it was a risk to
take only nine credit hours at Delta and, sure enough, within a couple of months
of starting school, I got a notice that I had lost my deferment and was eligible
for the draft. I was kind of expecting that so, at my dad’s encouragement,
I’d already visited the Air Force recruiter to see what it would take to dodge
the draft by joining the Air Force. The recruiter arranged for me to take a day
While I was waiting to
hear from the Air Force (or the Draft Board), I partied on…
Knowing the end of my
home life was near, whether I was drafted or got into the Air Force, I dropped
out of school so that I would have even more time to party.
One night I met
once I got behind the wheel, I decided to drive around to try and find a good
place to park. Not knowing
was supposed to be at the Ashman Street Bay Station to open up at 6AM that
morning but thought I could get at least an hour’s shuteye so I laid down. I
didn’t wake up till almost 7 and, lead footing it down
wasn’t hurt much but that nice
'52 Pontiac 4 Door Sedan
accident was my fault so I got a ticket and had to go see the Justice of the
Peace. After a stern scolding and an $85 fine, I found out that the Justice of
the Peace was also the head of the Draft Board. I asked him how long it would be
before I was drafted and, without hesitation, he said 45 days from the notice
that I’d lost my deferment. I told him that I’d been talking to the Air
Force and when I asked if I still had a chance to avoid the Army, he said
“Well, if you’re sworn into the Air Force by the day you’re supposed to
climb on the Army bus, you can tear up your Draft Card.” I should have ignored
Air Force was doing it’s best to accommodate draft averse kids like me and I squeaked in just under the wire. I was
supposed to report to the Army on January 5th and was sworn in to the
Air Force in
my time was short and having no idea how my life would change when I left for
the military, I tried to pack in as much fun (and female
did get in at least on more date with
in what may have been an American Legion or VFW hall, several other guys didn't
think it was so funny and at least four of them picked me up by the arms and
legs and threw me out into the snow. My loud protestations that I had already
signed up fell on deaf ears (well, the music was sort of loud) and made no
was eventually able to convince the doorkeepers of my innocence and was allowed
back in but I think we left a short while later. I don't remember what happened
with the rest of the evening but my memory loss may have had something to do
with my numerous trips to the punch bowl. Fortunately, Sue doesn’t remember
either so at least I didn’t do anything more that was so bad that it was
memorable to her.
free time during my last few weeks in Midland were spent dragging the drive-ins
with friends and in a frantic search for the that one girl that I’d write home
to (and get the Dear John letter from) while I was stranded in some far off
distant land (Well, Wyoming is ‘kind of’ far off!)
Luckily and sadly, I did find that one girl and did get that ‘Dear John” letter (actually, a ‘Dear Max’ phone call) but that’s another story…
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