Archive for May, 2009

Smoking, Rock and Roll, Fasching, and a hay ride

May 31, 2009

As I previously mentioned, cigarettes didn’t really attract me.  I was curious as to how they actually tasted though.  In an effort not to repeat the Big Booze Caper, I simply asked my mom if I could try one.  She smoked Kools, which were mentholated, and smelled strongly of, well, menthol.  Menthol, of course, was used to rub on a chest cold.  I couldn’t resolve the reasoning behind putting menthol directly into a cigarette and sucking it down into your chest from the outside.  But I persevered and she relented.

I lit up and took a huge drag directly into my lungs.  My eyes lit up like a pinball machine, my brain signaled that it was going to force me to my knees (and did), while my poor lungs tried their utmost to eject all that crap I had just put into them.  I was speechless – literally – for about two minutes while trying to catch my breath.  Finally, with tears in my eyes and completely closed up sinuses, I managed to gasp “that’s not too bad”.  I never smoked again until I joined the Navy at nineteen.

A short mention about Rock ‘n’ Roll: I was for it.  When I first arrived in Germany, Elvis hadn’t hit the European airwaves yet, but his contemporaries had.  Such artists as Bill Haley (and the Comets), The Platters, Bo Diddley, Chubby Checker, The Beach Boys (yes, they were together in 1955 and made “Kokomo”), and all the others that created songs in which you could actually hear the lyrics.  There were a few in the “Thwee Liddle Fishies” class, but not many.  Fast bops, slides, floats, and twists were guaranteed to make you perspire, but it was the very, very slow ones that made your knees turn to noodles and your breath come slow and shallow.  Neck tucked close into each other’s shoulder, arms wrapped tightly behind each other, and barely moving your feet to the music was really the soul of rock and roll.  It was meant for lovers.  Ballads far outnumbered flashy, guitar twanging, music.  I think the real reason parents were so much against rock and roll was that it had such a strong influence on their teen’s libido.  My goodness, they would say, look at them touching each other right out there on the dance floor.  How shocking!  My dad used to have to resort to banging a fist on my door to get my attention when I really cranked up the music.  His stock phrase of “turn that crap down!” came back to haunt me in later years as I blurted out those very same, exact, words to MY daughter up in her room.

My love and I had a favorite song; our song.  I suppose it is okay now to reveal what it was.  The song that really stilled our feet while on the floor was “Earth Angel” by The Penguins.  I had a copy and Virginia had a copy, both 45RPM (the ones with the big hole in them).  Never would a single night at either of our houses go by without that song being played by us.  No matter where we were we would always share a kiss when we heard it.

I eventually wore out my copy and was unable to find another one until CD’s started being produced with “oldies” on them.  Humph, I’m NOT an oldie, thank you very much.

Virginia and I had morphed into a couple.  We stopped being two different individuals and began to see ourselves as two halves of the same whole.  We had the same likes and dislikes. I tried very hard not to be clumsy both socially and physically and I like to think that I succeeded in both categories.  I was now able to talk to her, and parents, in whole sentences complete with subjects, verbs, and a few undangling participles thrown in.  I began to lose my physical gawkiness by way of taking ballroom dancing in gym.  I was hooted at mercilessly by my peers but I didn’t care at all.  By the time we graduated to mambos and tangos I was really fleet on my feet.

I only remember one time I got really flustered and that was at a birthday party at Wayne’s house.  We played charades and the subject was ‘song titles’.  I got handed my strip of paper and, as I unfolded it, I began to flush, I backed up and started stammering “no, no way, n-n-n-no way”.  Virginia picked up on this and clapped her hands in glee “He got mine!  He got mine!”  The paper read ‘Brazil’.

I am sure that Cary Grant or someone like that would have smoothly acted his way out of this situation but I locked up.  I was completely frozen.  Every thought left my mind as I immediately thought of the only way to convey the name of that song to my teammates.  The first syllable was simple, really; mime putting on (our taking off) a bra.  The second could be dealt with if necessary.  If it were just between Virginia and I, there would not be any hesitation, but as the rest of the girls started smiling, snickering, and clapping hands to their mouth to keep from bursting out in full cry, I stood rooted to the spot and let the entire two minutes expire.

When the timer went off, Wayne grabbed the paper, looked at it, bopped me on the shoulder and said “you idiot, what’s so hard about ‘bra – zil’?  At that, the girls burst out laughing and my humiliation was done to a turn.  I slunk away to my seat in disgrace; foiled by a bit of lace.  Back at her house, Virginia showed me, using a live training aid, what I should have done.  I should have done that to her back then – that’d show her.  There is nothing more useless than having a good retort – but an hour late.

One of Germany’s favorite seasons is Fastnacht (or Fasching) which begins on Fat Thursday and runs through February fifth.  It is the German version of Mardi Gras with costumes and all.  In a manner similar to our American Sadie Hawkins day, the women take of and run everything on the first day, or Weiberfastnacht (or ladies Fasching).  It is during this time that the town of Stadt began to come alive with the sounds of oompah bands and the clink of beer steins.  It would go on this way every night for the whole week.

Virginia and I loved to get mixed up in this celebration to the extent that we would get dressed up in costumes and join the merrymaking in the streets.  Strangers would ladle beer from huge vats by their side in doorways into your mugs as you passed.  If you weren’t careful imbibing, you’d really end up in your cups – and I’d already done that once.  We would be hard pressed to find any empty seats anywhere just to sit down and rest.  One time we got separated and couldn’t manage to get back together for almost an hour.  Fortunately, she was dressed as a brown fox and I spotted that long furry tail from across the street easily.

Our night would end in one of the local dance halls doing just that – dancing.  Our favorite was the dance called the Zwiefacher, which is a sort of waltz with an extra measure thrown in.  Neither one of us was very good at it, but we tried hard and got a lot of laughs.  By the time we got home, we were completely worn out.

Our parents got into the swing of costumery (is that a word?) for the Officer Club Fasching Ball on the base.  A lot of thought was put into their costumes.  My mom was decked out in fishnet stockings, a tight, and very short, black skirt and a highly peek-a-boo blouse.  She had on heavy eye liner, rouged cheeks and vivid red lipstick.  My dad had drug out one of his old summer uniforms and laid on every bit of brass he could find covering both shoulders.  He had added rank insignia all the way from his Lieutenant’s bars to actual General’s stars and added a huge ribbon across his chest that held up a six-inch across golden plate that was originally a souvenir of Mexico.  Attaching gold braid over each shoulder as an aiguillette completed the look.  He also sported blue trousers with a large red stripe down the outside seam.  He was going as a South American General with his consort.

Virginia’s parents were just as creative as mine were.  Her mom dressed up as a winged fairy complete with a very tight, light green lame’ gown and a push-up bra; she had even added ‘feelers’ sticking out of her beehive hairdo.  Her dad used one of his bear rugs and allowed him to be virtually sewed inside it.  The head sat atop his head and, with the bared fangs, looked pretty real considering how tall (and large) he was.  He just had to be really sweating in there.

I would have paid good money to get a peek at that Ball if our parents were any indication.

In our wanderings afield (literally) Virginia and I met a great many people.  One of our favorite places to visit was the farm of Wolfgang and Hilde.  Their farm was spread out across a small hill outside town and commanded a magnificent view of the river valley.  It is this view that first attracted Virginia and me.  We found a nice rocky outcropping with a flat area on top and would come out there every chance we got during the summer.  To throw a picnic lunch together, adding a camera or two, and bicycling over there was a real treat.

On our second trip there, a fellow about our age rode up on a huge horse, dropped to the turf and hailed us.  Over the course of fifteen minutes we learned that his name was Peter, he was eighteen, and his family owned the area we were picnicking in.  In the States, this would have been called trespassing and I’m sure we would have been run off with a shotgun, but in Germany, where the laws were a mite different, we were seen as friends.  Hiking across fields is not frowned upon at all as long as you take care not to damage crops or annoy the animals.  Most gates had signs on them advising such things as ‘leave open’ or ‘please close’ and one should take care to do just that.

In any case, Peter invited us back to the family home to meet the rest of his clan.  He had a sister (Anna) and a brother (Sig – short for Sigmund) and their parents were the aforementioned Wolfgang and Hilde.  Over time, Virginia and I were pretty much absorbed into their family.  I spent many hours helping with chores while Virginia learned how to prepare a lot of different German dishes in the kitchen.  I learned how to milk cows, pitch hay, drive a tractor, and handle horses – even the two huge Percherons Wolf owned.

Wolf, as he was known to everyone, had a huge garden close to the house that contained all sorts of melons.  The usual watermelon was not present, but other types were.  He didn’t worry about anyone slipping in and stealing them because that sort of thing just didn’t happen.  A portion of the garden was allotted to corn.  His corn stood very tall and had huge ears on them.  I remarked that they would be very good eating.  Wolf looked at me a bit puzzled and said that nobody ate the corn except his pigs.

I expressed surprise at this and told him that roasted or boiled ears of corn was a great thing in the States.  I helped him gather about ten ears and we took them to the kitchen.  Virginia and I had to convince Hilde also that ears of corn tasted good.  Finally, she located a big pot which we filled with water, added a dash of salt and put the dehusked corn into.  As it merrily boiled along, all of us got ready for dinner.  When we all sat down and began the meal all eyes turned to Virginia and I as we each grabbed an ear of corn and buttered it.  By the time we had eaten a couple of rows Peter had tried his and urged everyone else to give it a try.  Soon the entire family was happily slurping down corn on the cob.

Wolf’s comment was so typically American that I couldn’t help laughing: ‘learn something new every day’ (‘lernen jeden Tag etwas Neues’) was what he said.  At least there is one family in Germany that eats corn on the cob instead of feeding it to the pigs.

It turned out that hay rides existed even in Europe.  Peter and some of his friends invited Virginia and I to go on one with them one autumn evening.  The ride followed tradition because when we arrived, there was a huge four-wheeled cart with stake sides filled almost to the brim with hay.  Attached to the cart’s tongue were two of Wolf’s huge horses.  We had some refreshments in the house before we trooped out into the yard and jumped into the hay.  Altogether there were six couples but the cart was pretty large and we all fit in with room to spare.  Sig, Peter’s younger brother, picked up the reins and off we went.

Before too long, the sun had finally set and a huge harvest moon peeked over the rim of the surrounding hills and flooded us all with its silver light.  All of us lay back and watched the stars come out one by one while the horses clopped around the farmland.  From time to time, we would field a question from one of the other couples, or ask one ourselves of them.  It was so relaxing to lay on top of that sweet-smelling hay.

Virginia put her head on my shoulder and nuzzled up close.  I inhaled the delicate smell of her hair and perfume until I was almost dizzy.  I was truly, deeply in love and expressed that emotion often with tender kisses and touches.

The ride seemed to end much faster than the two-hour interval would indicate as we fetched up back at the farm house at what seemed just minutes from leaving.  We went into the house and had some more refreshments, plus a little of Hilde’s special apple strudel.  Soon it was time to say goodbye when Virginia’s dad pulled into the yard and tooted the horn.



Drinking and “Wake Up Little Susie”

May 25, 2009

School was as boring as most of base life.  In winter, the rooms were steam heated and stifling, in spring when the heat had been turned off but before warm weather really arrived, the rooms would freeze your feet and force you to wear your coat all the time.  Our teachers – pardon me for dumping on them – were generally ones that managed to take a civil service examination and get hired.  They, for the most, part were only in Germany to take vacations and have fun; not to teach a bunch of hooligans (their word) who wouldn’t listen.  We had an art teacher whose only job previously was at a stateside kindergarten. She had us making cutout doilies and coloring in a book.  What a huge waste of air she was.  We also had a History teacher that would, in later years, remind me very much of Ben Stein’s speech delivery: very slow, halting and dry.

There were some very notable exceptions.  My language teacher, Mr. Espana, spoke six languages – all fluently.  He tried to teach us basic German but only managed to get mostly blank stares in return.  I tried mightily and received passable grades.  It was only until he introduced me to a group of local German Boy Scouts that I really took to the language.  There will be more on that later.

Another outstanding teacher was my Science teacher.  I have tried mightily to remember his name, but keep coming up with a blank.  Under his instruction, I learned physical science and loved it.  Our classes would go out into the countryside and visit ponds, rivers, forests, rock formations, and other great things.  He instilled in us a sense of wanting to learn instead of dreading being taught anything.  For some reason, but only secondary, his classes tended to attract more girls then boys.  Note I only say this in passing.  It was nothing to me at the time.  Right!

Aha, thought associations made the connection:  his name was Mr. Wagner, and he was great to be around.  Among other things he taught a group of us the different ways of communicating with each other: semaphore flags and Morse Code by light, buzzer and radio.  I studied diligently and passed my examination for a Novice Amateur Radio License under his tutelage.  There was no agreement with Germany at the time for licensing of US hams in country, but they did allow us to take the license downtown for a German license.  Of course, the exam was in German, which I knew well by then.  I passed the first time and received my operator’s license.

Not having a place for a shortwave radio at home (nor could I get permission from the base engineers to put up an antenna) I had to rely on buses to go downtown to the local club for operating experience.  I met a great bunch of guys and gals at the club.  The ratio was about even for boys to girls.  Technical issues appeared to not be a problem with the distaff side of the German populace.  Many of the American girls that I tried to teach Morse code to simply wouldn’t apply themselves hard enough to even learn the entire alphabet.  There was an exception though – Virginia.  She liked being able to send me love notes that nobody else could read.  In one class, we would chatter back and forth simply by waving our index fingers like flags.  Not one single teacher ever got wise to us as we passed the time ‘talking’ in class.

I mentioned that we did pass love notes in the previous paragraph; she and I had begun going steady during the Sadie Hawkins dance.  In any given school with over four hundred and fifty students you would find many pairings, splittings, hatreds, and attractions among the students – mostly between boys and girls – but not always.  Virginia and I weathered the storm by staying together for almost the entire three years my dad was stationed there.  From the day we met at the Teen Club until, once again, I had to say goodbye to a loved one as she left for Italy, we hardly ever dated anyone other than each other.  All was not clear sailing because I thought at one time that I had lost her to a jerk, er, jock, from the soccer club.  She only went out twice with him and then came right back to me because, as she put it, he had his hands all over her and she didn’t like that because it wasn’t me.

I had almost gotten used to having my heart torn out of my chest by saying goodbye to someone I cared for.  Being a service kid has advantages beyond measure, but knowing that any long-term relationship is doomed because a parent is being sent somewhere else looms large over it.  Virginia and I were seriously thinking of ways we could remain in Germany – like getting married on the quiet.  She nixed that idea, but not without thinking seriously about it.  I just wanted to run away to Paris and live like a Bohemian making love day and night.  I was later to get a portion of that wish.

One lonely Saturday night when Virginia’s family went visiting another family at a base nearby, and my parents were out also, I wondered just what my dad’s bourbon tasted like.  I had never even gotten a sip of it before so I was profoundly curious.  As my parents were gone for the night so I helped myself.  I had no idea what a ‘jigger’ was, so I simply filled a small water glass from the bottle.  I sat back on my bed and began sipping it.  Hey, that’s not too bad I thought.  A few more sips and it tasted right good to me.  Several sips later I was boiled as an owl.  When they came home, I was hanging over the edge of the bed, groaning that my eyeballs had fallen out and I couldn’t see to find them.

My head hurt, my stomach was turned inside-out and here was my dad’s smiling face floating in and out of focus asking me if I wanted another “shot”.  He could be so cruel at times and this was definitely one of them.  All I wanted him to do was put me out of my misery.  I wanted nothing to do with hard liquor for several years afterward.  Finally, to add injury to illness, (as my dad related to me the next morning) my mom had clapped a hand to her mouth and rushed from the room stifling a huge guffaw.

The next morning, for some reason, my head was reasonably clear and I went to my normal bowling league.  Did fairly well as I recall.  After that foray into alcohol, I stayed mostly sober for a long time.  I say mostly because I did allow a small beer from time to time when I found myself downtown during mealtime.  No more hard liquor though, no sir, not I.  At least until I discovered Schnapps.

Virginia and I did get into trouble once in what we termed the “What Were We Thinking” caper.  One fine Saturday, we decided to cycle our way over to a neighboring base about fifteen kilometers away (9.3 miles).  We packed a lunch on a nice, sunny day and headed out.  The first part was really great.  We would stop and take pictures, snack a bit, and just generally take our time.  The trip involved descending down to a river and climbing back up again on the other side to a small plateau.

The descent was made fairly fast as we flew downhill.  Once we hit the river, we stopped again to take pictures and drink lemonade from a small kiosk.  Refreshed, we started up the other side.  The grade was not very steep, but it certainly was steady.  Gradually, we slowed down to a crawl and, finally, gave up and walked our bikes the rest of the way up.  We still hadn’t tumbled to the fact that we would have to go back up the way we just came down so fast – and the grade on that side was really steep.

We arrived on top puffing for air and just sat at the side of the road for what seemed like hours.  Actually, I think we rested for about ten minutes.  Over to the base we went and did some visiting with friends.

On the way back, the sun was occasionally hidden behind clouds, but we just thought of it as relief from the sun.  Soon, the clouds cover was complete and we could hear rumblings in the distance.  Not good.

We blazed down the hill to the river in record time, crossed immediately and started up the other side.  We had just begun when the skies opened up and dumped heaps of rain on us.  Large trees sheltered us for the most part, but they began leaking and this added to our misery.

Virginia had me stop for a second as she noted her back tire was flat.  Somewhere on the trip down or across the river she had punctured it.  Oh, great, now we had rain and a flat.  We found a small open-fronted shed sitting next to a field and dragged the bikes into it.  Both of us carried a tool kit and patching material so we got busy pulling the tire off the rear wheel and did the patch.  Part of the procedure was that the tube had to be dry – this was a problem as nothing we had was dry.  All we could do was wave the tube around and hope it would help.

Finally, we got it patched and re-installed on the wheel.  During this process, we noticed it was getting hard to see very well.  It was getting very dark outside and the wind was coming up even more than before.  In what was probably the best decision we made all day we decided to just stay where we were until the rain abated.  Pushing a couple of hay bales around, we created a nice little nest where we could be out of the wind.  I stretched out and she cuddled up and laid her head on my chest.

We were so beat that within minutes we fell asleep.  A loud MOOO from a wandering cow jolted us awake – but two hours later.  We were now deep into twilight and going to be really, really late getting back home.  We still had about a mile-long climb ahead of us even before we got to the road to Stadt.  We were in so much trouble now.  Use your cell phone I hear you saying – hah; in 1957?

The rain had tapered off to a light drizzle so we started out trudging up the hill again.  Our food was gone, we didn’t have any more water, and it was almost full dark now.  Finally we hit the top of the hill and flew down the road towards home.  We eventually made it back to her house about four hours late.  Her mom was getting frantic but at least she hadn’t called Virginia’s dad yet.  She did call my mom though and got her started up so when I hot-footed it over to my house I got the third degree also.

I don’t think it would have been so bad if Virginia’s mom hadn’t found bits of straw stuck in her hair and, worst of all, in the waistband of her pants.  The “but, mom, all we did was get out of the rain” defense didn’t cut any ice with her.  The sentence was: three days confined to the house and school only.  I caught hell from my dad for getting Virginia into trouble but I think I made up for it by going over to her house the next day and apologizing to her parents.  The whole time I had the eerie feeling her dad was going to load up his shotgun.


Intro to Germany, Virginia, and Sadie Hawkins

May 20, 2009

Life in Stadt became as humdrum and dreary as it could almost right away.  I found that I would be attending a US school right in the center of the housing area and that we had all the normal things to do right in one location.  Damn, I was looking forward to wearing lederhosen and yodeling a lot.  (I was influenced by a lot of movies.)

We had a movie theater, an Exchange (military five and dime), a commissary (military supermarket), barber shop, and other really attractive places.  We even had a Teen Club.  Imagine, if you will, a Quonset hut (a large corrugated steel barrel cut lengthwise and plopped down on a foundation – Google it if you are really curious) full of nothing but flat, dusty concrete, a really old phonograph, a rack of records that were old ten years before, and two bathrooms – guys at one end, gals at the other, and a laughingly named item called a ‘snack bar’.  No snacks were ever available except when a dance was being held.

This, was supposed to be the social venue for us teens.  Most of us would rather have a root canal with no Novocain than been seen entering (or leaving) the Teen Club.  Some of us, however, did venture in just to check things out of course.  I spotted one person that I knew, Benny, from the teen dance back at the Andrews Officers Club.  Several other guys were sitting at the three tables along with about five girls.  Benny introduced me all around.  Back then, introductions were made with handshakes, and standing when someone was introduced – not simply mumbling “yo” or ‘hiya”.  My name recall was almost perfect until he got to Virginia; after that, I don’t remember a thing.  She was a beautiful, dark haired, girl with a willowy body.  The best part was that when she stood, she was as tall as me!  She was very close, if not actually over, six feet tall and was nicely proportioned.  I surreptitiously took inventory:  nice face – check, great smile – check, nice breasts – check, narrow waist – check, shapely hips and long legs – check.  In short, I was in love again.

During the summer of ‘57, I turned fifteen.  This is a glorious age to be.  Old enough to attend senior high school as a freshman and get away from all the kids of lesser ranking, but, unfortunately placing yourself once again at the bottom of the totem pole of teen society.  It also makes you act really goofy around girls.  I have no idea if girls that age felt as self-conscious as us guys, but if they did it was well hidden.  I tried several times to interest Virginia in accompanying me to any place where I could be near her.  This was always rebuffed with what looked suspiciously like a smirk and a toss of her head.

Interspersed among my primary campaign for Virginia’s heart were the smaller struggles to make somebody of the female persuasion to at least ‘like’ me.  It seemed that the harder I tried, the faster the putdown struck.  I redoubled my efforts and began to receive acceptance, but only for a first date.  Anything beyond that was usually not in the cards.  I tried being studious, but that only attracted girls that wore horn-rimmed glasses, put their hair up in a bun, and buttoned their sweaters all the way to the neck; not that I had anything against that particular type.   Attempting to be a ‘jock’ only garnered bruises and pain – no cheer there so I moved on to class clown.  I found I could make girls laugh quite easily, especially when I asked them to a movie or dance.  Rats!  I was becoming ever desperate.

A few notable girls began letting me though their shields.  Sally was a ‘tarnished’ cheerleader who fell from grace after being dumped by a real jock.  She and I had fun, but then we drifted apart again.  Ann was very pretty, but was constantly snapping her gum in your face.  I endured it for almost two weeks only because she had the most magnificent breasts. They appeared able to defy gravity and bounced gently even when she stood still. Then, to my consternation, she switched to another guy who chewed gum also.  Last I saw of them they were happily swapping gumballs away.

Between working my way through the distaff side of the freshman class (it seemed) I kept trying to scale Mount Virginia.  She appeared to yield several times, but still only let me get near her in school, never in a social situation unless several of her friends were around.  It was finally one of her friends that gave me the final clue:  “stop trying so hard!  She likes you, so stop being a goof.”

I reevaluated my presentation, scaled it back a bit (stopped being a goof), and took Sandy’s advice.  It worked!  Soon I was able to hold whole conversations with Virginia without stepping on my tongue, embarrassing her, or, as the British say ‘dropping a clanger’.  We began to make music together.  Our first actual completely alone date took place in the very same teen club we met.  The record player turned out to be broken, again, but I was hearing my own tunes inside my head.  Movie producers and directors have been trying for years to show, on screen, this phenomenon but have never been able to convey it properly.  Soft violins, soothing woodwinds, classical guitars, sighing winds, crashing waves, and all the other visual representations can never actually convey what hits a guy when it suddenly dawns on him that “this may be what I’ve been looking for all along.”  Boom – right between the eyes.  You actually hear music inside your head.  Your conversation slows and then stops.  You slowly reach across the table, timidly hold hands, and look deeply into each other’s eyes.  Such was a defining moment in my life.  We were now ‘an item’ and I knew I was under her spell, my pulse had doubled, and I was having trouble breathing.

My age made me about eight months older than Virginia, which was cool.  Her dad worked in the motor pool as a mechanic and she didn’t have any brothers or sisters at all.  This, indeed, was good news.  We would go to her house instead of mine on our dates.  But, I get ahead of myself.  We made small talk for a while but then she said she had to leave for home.  I offered to walk her home, but she told me no because her dad was coming to pick her up.  We walked outside just as he pulled up in his car.  When he got out, he was the largest guy I had ever seen.  He topped six feet, six inches, and must have weighed at least two-seventy.  I mentally vowed not to dally with Virginia’s affections.  No sir, not me.

A couple of months later Virginia and I went to a Sadie Hawkins dance.  Sadie was a fictional character that existed in the Li’l Abner comic strip which was a basis for some very colorful costumes.

NOTE:  For those interested in this long-running November tradition, please check out this site and leave me a comment if this link fails.

According to tradition, she asked me to the dance, but not after fighting off two of her friends who were at the snack bar table with us.  I think they just wanted to get her goat, but maybe not.  She won out in any case and off we went later that week to the dance.  It was a costume dance and, when I went to pick her up for the walk to the gym, my eyes had a seizure.  The only word that came to mind at that time was ‘stuff’.  She had managed to ‘stuff’ herself into a highly erotic push-up bra under a red, polka-dotted silk scoop necked blouse.  A very tight, and very short, torn black skirt and sandals completed her getup.  In short, she was the embodiment of Daisy Mae.  I was costumed as my favorite character in the strip: Fearless Fosdick.  This costume, it was said behind my back, actually wasn’t far from my true nature.

Virginia’s arch enemy, Linda, came as Moonbeam McSwine, and, after slinking around me, Virginia was ready to send Evil Eye Fleegle after her with a quadruple whammy.  In any case Virginia kept me busy the whole evening on the dance floor so Moonbeam couldn’t get me.  When the line of kids waiting for Marrying Sam finally got short enough for us, we stepped into the arch and “got hitched”.  Later that evening she agreed to wear my small ruby ring and I gave her a stuffed Schmoo.  We were now going steady.

This event caused much consternation at her house as she wasn’t fast enough to hide my ring one afternoon after school.  She wore it on a small chain and would drop it into her bra when near anyone other than her friends.  She had an armful of books one day and her mom opened the door instead of her brother.  Ping – Bip went her mom’s sonar and she ranged on the ring immediately.  After running through the gamut of ‘you’re much too young’ and ‘there are other nice boys out there too’ she finished off with ‘just wait until your dad hears about this’.

Strangely enough, he didn’t seem to mind all that much.  I remained a bit nervous near him, but he never mentioned anything directly to me about our going steady.  After several more dinners and evenings spent with them I was accepted as a fixture in their house.

My parents, on the other hand, didn’t really have much to say on the subject one way or the other.  My mom remarked that she thought Virginia was a very nice girl and my dad was uncharacteristically silent on the subject.  I think he was basically happy I was beginning to settle on a just one girl as it did wonders for my grades and general attitude.


Across the Atlantic and aboard a train

May 15, 2009

Our cruise from New Jersey to Bremerhaven took about two weeks.  Modern cruise liners make the trip in just a few days, but this old, cranky, MSTS ship could only potter along at about six or eight knots and don’t even think about stabilizers.

The interval was good for me though as I spent a lot of time remembering all the good times Kathleen and I had had.  There was a small contingent of teens on the ship, but they were either too adolescent or intimidating for me.  The boy nearest my age was sixteen and had already developed the bad habit of smoking.  He tried to get me started, but I resisted because smoke from my dad’s cigars had always made me nauseated.  My mom also smoked, and that just made her look cheap somehow.

Now that I think about it, a tremendous amount of peer pressure was present back then for everyone to smoke.  We saw advertisements on television, billboards plastered all over extolled the virtues of smoking as well as seeing live entertainers on those very same televisions smoking while doing their thing.  I can recall dancing cigarette packs appearing on several shows.  Some of the shows were sponsored by cigarette companies and you always got the feeling that the performers were told they had to smoke just to do their shows.

On board there also was one girl named Mary who was sixteen.  Being tall for my age she and I were able to see almost eye to eye – me slightly taller.  She had wonderful breastworks and liked to show them off by wearing tight sweaters.  She resisted all of my efforts to obtain a better look at them and, at the end, practically had to carry a ball bat to whack me when I got too close.  The name of my game was called ‘fixation’.  I was fixated on breasts and would do anything, some things really stupid, to obtain my goal of another fondle.  After a particularly unsatisfying evening in one of the lounges, I finally gave up.  This was induced by an eighteen year old guy who threatened to move my ass somewhat nearer my head if I didn’t stop bothering Mary.  He was either her larger brother, or had been hired by her to fend me off.  Either way, it worked.

I did meet a very nice girl named Heather who turned out to be just six months younger than me.  I had noticed her from afar but never was brave enough to wade through her younger siblings to talk to her.  They would bust up any conversation I tried to start with taunts, chants, and just general goofiness.  On the few occasions we did manage to get alone, she turned out to be a bit shy.  She told me she had never before had any kind of boyfriend.  I also found out that she had never been kissed until we finally shared a few while watching the ship’s wake from the fantail.  She wasn’t kidding.  We bumped noses and teeth a couple of times until she learned how to do it properly.  It was a tough thing to do, but someone had to do it.

The rest of the time we teenagers spent playing shuffleboard, reading books, and just generally horsing around.  This being a military ship, not much thought had been given towards making the passengers very comfortable, but we made out fine – well, that should be put another way.  Actually, that way is just fine.  There was a very small bit of deck space allocated right between the stacks up on the highest deck we could reach.  We kids would take turns getting away from it all by stepping over the small chain across the ladder and sneaking up to this deck.  Except for the two stacks immediately fore and aft you could see everywhere around you – including any nosy crewmembers who might want to bother us.  There was a small life raft tied to the deck that one (or two) could sit (or lie) in and talk (or whatever).  A small piece of string draped over the chain let everyone know the observation deck was in use.

Mary had enough protection surrounding her so I never got a chance to escort her to what we called the ‘fun deck’, but Heather and I did whenever we could outsmart her noisy and inquisitive siblings.  I guess it should have been called the Libido Deck owing to all that went on up there.  If you didn’t police up the area before bringing your girl up, all kinds of surprises were to be found.  Someone even found a bra (36C) tucked under one of the raft seats along with two used condoms.  Yuk.

The one time Heather and I went up there was during the day.  The clouds were low and there was a bit of rain in the blowing wind so we hunkered down in the raft under my raincoat.  She and I cuddled a bit, and I was allowed to unbutton the front of her blouse and kiss above her bra but that was all.  When she accidentally dropped her hand into my lap and felt my erection I think she got a bit scared.  She said she was sorry, buttoned up everything and told me to take her back to her cabin.  Luckily, I had my raincoat with me on the way down.  She told me twice more that she was sorry and that it was her, not me.  I dropped her off at her parent’s cabin and headed for a cold shower.  “Missed it by THAT much” as Maxwell Smart would say.

The ships company held a dance for us kids one evening.  It turned out to be pretty good considering that some old records from the Forties were all we had to dance to.  Fortunately, I had learned how to dance to them and didn’t make quite a jerk out of myself as others.  Heather didn’t dance much so we mostly just sat at the table and talked with some other kids.  Since none of her younger brothers and sisters was allowed into the room, we could talk normally.  The chaperone did catch us kissing once though and told us to knock it off.  Once, we snuck out and headed for the ‘fun deck’, but when we got there a line had formed.  We would have been waiting for quite a while before our turn came.  Instead, we walked around the boat deck and found a nice dark corner to practice more kissing.  Once she got the hang of it, she was good at it.

We arrived in Bremerhaven in the dead of night, wearily dragged our baggage down the gangplank and boarded busses for the train station.  My dad was to be stationed in a town called Stadt, and the train was headed that way with stops all along the line to drop off US servicemen and their families.  The bus ride seemed interminable, but we arrived around one in the morning at the terminal.  We had been assigned rooms in a given railcar so they were fairly easy to locate.  All signs were in German so with the aid of a little Berlitz book we translated our way down to the waiting train.

My brother and I had been put into a small room adjacent to the rest of our family.  When I found the correct number, I opened the door and stopped in my tracks.  A very shapely woman had her hands over her head and was in the process of lifting a dress off her body.  In the flash of half a second, I noted (in order): she didn’t wear a bra, had a very even tan, her panties were light green, her dark hair framed a very pretty face, and her steely-eyed glint threatened to reach out and kill me.  At first, neither she nor I said anything, but I finally found my manners, stammered an apology, and got the heck out of Dodge.  When my dad saw me bowing and backing out of the room he asked why so I told him that we needed to verify our room assignments.

He checked with the porter and we definitely had these two rooms so something was amiss.  The woman came out (in her dress, dammit) and chatted with the porter briefly.  He indicated that she was in the car behind this car.  After a brief three-way conversation (my mother had taken the full German course at Berlitz) the woman accepted my apology for bursting in.  What the hell, it was my room anyway, why was I apologizing to her?  There was a lesson in there for me, if I would only think about it.  I filed the mental image of those bare breasts away in a special corner of my brain marked “to be opened in the event I want to salivate”.

Three rooms down another womanly shape appeared as a door opened to the corridor.  My radar switched ranges and homed in on Heather.  I had hung around with her on the ship, but almost always surrounded by the most obnoxious siblings I had ever seen (outside my family, that is).  She was alone this time, which gladdened my heart.  Actually, I needed no encouragement whatsoever to head for girls; it was the actual talking that got me into trouble.

We chatted for a bit about where we were headed (her for Kaiserslautern), how much we missed our friends back in the States, and what we were going to do about things that teens normally did.  For all we knew, we would end up speaking German and attending school downtown (on the economy as it was known). I told Heather I thought her name was great and that it made me think of fields of flowers.  Damn, I was a real romantic back then.

After obtaining permission from both sets of parents, Heather and I went down to the diner to get something to drink.  I had tasted something called Apfelsaft (Apple cider) in the ship’s cafeteria before, plus it was the only German word I could pronounce correctly so far (outside of Dumkopf which I loved to call my brother), so I ordered it for the both of us.  When it came time to pay (after two more of them) I pulled out a wad of cash.

Now normally this amount of bills would be impressive but before we left the ship all US cash, including our change, had to be turned in and we received what was called ‘script’ in exchange.  Even such things as nickels had their paper equivalent.  My ‘wad’ was worth about five dollars, but would definitely choke my brother (which, at times, wouldn’t have been a bad idea).  I paid for the cider and we strolled back to our car.

Her siblings were out in force and were continuously barging in on our conversation so we finally gave up at about two-thirty in the morning and went to our respective compartments.  Heather and I promised to either call or write, but I sent two letters and received just one from her.  But after that, I didn’t get any more.

Tomorrow afternoon we would get to our new home.


I’m a lover, not a fighter

May 9, 2009

Life as a kid transiting from pre-teen to mid-teenhood was definitely not a bowl of fruit.  Nasty ‘appointments’ with larger kids so that they could sharpen their fighting skills were the normal routine.  I tried to counter these semi-monthly beatings by offering friendship, but, for the most part, it was rebuffed with a taunt something like “come on you little shit, afraid to fight?”  This is doubly embarrassing when the whole interchange is almost always being viewed by your girlfriend since the two of you just got off the bus.  I figured out that there was just no answer to this type of tactic except to try and get in the first blow.  I’ll call him Mr. Galoot (but his real name was Dickie).  He was half a head taller than me and weighed more, but I had the reach on him for sure because, by then, I had grown out wiry.

I asked my dad if he could help me defend myself and got a lecture on how to ‘just walk away’.  Clearly, he had never been through this sort of thing back on his dad’s farm because this advice only caused more garbage to be dumped on my head.  Finally, he relented and signed me up for some boxing lessons at the base.  Now we’re talking, I thought.  Let him screw with me now.

While enduring several bloody noses and skinned knees (mostly from falling down after being hit), I graduated from the class.  During the time I was taking it, I never once let on that I was feeling a lot more confident that I could take out Mr. Galoot.

One fine day, I stepped off the bus and – WHAM – a book slammed into the side of my head.  Mr. Galoot had ridden home with his older brother and was waiting for me.  Turning to Kathleen, I handed her my books and turned to Mr. Galoot’s smirking face.  “Okay, let’s get this over with” I sighed, and moved to the side of the road.  His eyes tracked me as I walked towards him.  As I passed, I planted my foot, and crashed a fist into his side.  He woofed loudly, dropped to one knee, and then came up fighting.  I was totally familiar with his fighting ‘style’, which was, to say, nonexistent.  He aimed to overpower his opponent immediately, kick him on the way down and stomp on what was left.

He began to flail at my face and chest.  I parried almost every one of them but a windmill left that rocked me back a bit.  He saw that as an opportunity and waded in towards me.  That was his big mistake as I was waiting for it.  I lowered my head, drew my left arm way back (which I expected him to track) – and hit him squarely on the chin with my short right cross.  He dropped straight down and actually spit out a tooth.  I asked him if he wanted more and received a wave of his hand as he shook his head.  I offered him a hand to help him up but he just spat on it.  I shrugged and walked away.

Kathleen handed me my books, took my arm, kissed me on the cheek and we walked silently away.  Mr. Galoot never bothered me again, nor did any of his sidekicks; and, no she didn’t say “My Hero!”

One time, I invited Kathleen to a dance at the base Officers Club.  It was a spring dance that all the local teenage children of base personnel were invited to.  It took three or four tries for me to get up enough courage to ask her.  We had been going to the Saturday movies (by ourselves) for a long time, but this was a different thing entirely.  It was a dance where we got to hold each other out in public; tightly.

I was definitely no Fred Astaire, and she wasn’t Ginger Rogers but we managed to not step on each other’s feet while keeping time to the music.  I wasn’t brave enough to try a fast dance, and that was fine with her, so we sat them out at our table.  There were three other couples at our table that were just a bit older than Kathleen and I so they had plenty of dancing experience.  We exchanged small talk between periods on the dance floor and eventually found that one guy’s dad worked with mine.  This turned out to be a good thing because we were later reunited at another duty station.  Service life can make for a really small world at times.

Once, when the girls all took off for the powder room (does anyone know why this happens?), Benny asked if Kathleen was a ‘civilian’.  I told him that she was and that her dad was a pretty successful carpenter.  He told me she was very pretty, which made me feel great.  When the girls returned, a slow dance started and we all trouped to the floor.

When she put her head on my shoulder for the first time this evening and nuzzled my neck, my raging hormones reacted in a predictable manner and I (in the current vernacular) popped a boner.  I tried valiantly to keep from poking her in the tummy, but failed miserably.  No matter what I did, every time I moved I’d bump her with it.  I just knew she felt it.  This knowledge didn’t help me at all as I wondered if some erotic thoughts were controlling her thought processes like mine were.  My brain had turned to mush which put the rest of me on auto-pilot.  Casting chivalry to the winds I pulled her tightly to me which caused us to slow to a popular teen dance step called ‘barely moving’.  Perhaps we even stopped and just wiggled our toes, I don’t know for sure.  Mercifully, when the music ended, she saved me by handing her shawl to me as we walked off the floor.  I was able to drape it down over my arm in front and then on my lap as we sat down.  She was a pretty astute girl.  I decided that she knew fully what was going on.  It is said that girls mature earlier than guys and I really believe that.

Kathleen and I dated many more times throughout the years between 1953 and 1955.  We were young teens and full of life.  Whatever we did was notable only by its intensity and candor.  We would ask each other many questions that under other circumstances would embarrass the hell out of anyone but us.  We had grown up together, so to speak, and come from grade school kids playing together through that memorable moment in young love at the theatre when I first touched her breast.  Now, months later, we felt comfortable enough together to ask each other really personal things like: “do your breasts get sore being strapped down like that?” or “did it hurt when you bumped me at the dance that time?”

She and I never got to be total lovers in every sense of the word.  The main reason was that both her parents and mine began watching us like a flock of hawks hovering over a field of mice whenever we were together.  We had virtually no chance of ever being alone in private at all.   Kathleen told me one day, after a couple false starts, that she wanted to give me her virginity.  Internally, my mind snapped to visions of a naked Kathleen and I think I responded somewhat like “Ummm, whazzat, whuffo, eh” with a faraway look in my eye and my hair on end.  She repeated the simple declarative sentence and added that we just had to find some place we could go to be alone.  I thought to myself “Uh oh, what’ll I do, what’ll I do?” and mentally ran in ever-tightening circles while I tried to aim the conversation in another direction.  This succeeded, but I never forgave myself for just not going along with the hand dealt me.

It was not to happen though, ever, because one day our incipient love life was shattered as my dad announced that we were moving again – this time to Germany.  Kathleen and I had planned meticulously for our supremely definitive event for weeks.  I even managed to work up the nerve to buy a pack of condoms (‘rubbers’ as they were known back then).  Even this act took me several tries to complete.  I ended up with a lot of stuff from the drug store I didn’t need until I finally did it.  As it turned out, the guy at the counter never batted an eye.  They didn’t hang on shelf hooks back then, you had to ask for them at the counter – AND there was only one kind.  The sight of a wand glowing like a nighttime traffic cop’s flashlight would have sent the girls of the fifties into catatonic states, running from the room screaming or laughing hysterically – depending on their upbringing and sense of humour.

We had an extremely tearful farewell date and clung to each other too emotionally mixed up to try anything more than just to hold tight.  My heart broke to see the tears in her eyes as we said our final goodbyes. The movers had come, we had packed the car for our trip to New Jersey to catch the liner for Bremerhaven, and the time to part was on us.  Too soon, our time together had come to an end.  The chapter on my ‘first (read: intense) love’ had come to a close.


Models, curiosity, Popsicles, and fun places

May 1, 2009

Building plastic airplane models was a very big thing back then.  I must have had around twenty or thirty models hanging from the ceiling in my room.  Building them was fun, but my parents soon began to wonder how safe it was to have all of them hanging up that way.  Once in a while one of them would come crashing down and dismember itself on the floor.  The pieces would be put carefully into a box and saved for a special occasion.

That occasion was when the Fourth of July began to creep up on us.  About three weeks prior, we would begin amassing our stash of explosives.  No construction company ever took more care in their selection of firecrackers, cones, cherry bombs and other items that are now completely proscribed.  Our real favorite was the Roman candle.  Roman candles would be our weapon of choice when mock (and maybe not so mock) battles were fought in our front yard.  We would light them off and run around blasting balls of fire at each other until the two-foot long tube gasped its last ‘phutt’.

Our cherry bombs had rubberized fuses so that, once lit, you could put them into water and they would still go off.  None of us would EVER consider putting one down a toilet, but the local ponds were fair game.  It would sound like a major battle was occurring when us kids would head for the local drainage pond and fire away.  The big ones (some cherry bombs were just over an inch in diameter) would always sink to the bottom before going off.  Huge gouts of muddy water could be brought to the surface when one exploded.  Anyone foolish enough to float their destroyer models would be depth charged unmercifully.

Hammerheads were another explosive to be careful with.  This was a firecracker that was about two inches long and half an inch in diameter.  It was called a hammerhead because the fuse stuck out from the middle of the tube.  We all handled these with the utmost care as they could take an arm off easily.  I put one in a knot of a four-inch tree in the woods, lit it, and got the hell away while it sputtered.  It exploded with a huge boom and the tree slowly dropped to the ground.  I decided that these were just a little too much for me to handle and gave the rest away.

Dead plastic models (like the ones that had fallen from ceilings) were a favorite target of small firecrackers called ladyfingers.  Ladyfingers were jammed into an opening in a model and when they exploded, parts of the model would whirl away into the air.  We would gather the pieces, jam them together again and fire off another ladyfinger until nothing of use was left of the model.

The whole fireworks thing was treated as no big deal by anyone.  You could buy fireworks most anywhere for a month before the Fourth.  Somehow, the fun of fireworks has been legislated away and what is left is a dry, uninteresting shell.

While playing on hot, sweaty summer days we would down gallons of water and other liquids.  We were never too busy though to ignore the soft tinkling of the ice cream truck several blocks away.  Each and every day this truck would drive through our neighborhood with the mechanical bells tinkling right above the windshield.  Kids would gather at its frequent stops and hold out money for their choice.  I was partial to twin pops.  These were just popsicles that were joined down the middle and had two sticks coming out of them instead of one.  They cost a dime, but I would almost always share with Kathleen.

You had to eat one fast in the heat or they would disintegrate rapidly.  One usually ended up wearing it all over your arms and chest.  The worst was grape.  It made your tongue purple.

I was always poking into things to see how they worked.  I disassembled my alarm clock and carefully laid each piece on a cloth on my desk.  I never got it back together completely correct though because it suddenly began keeping double-time.  I would set it and two hours later it would indicate four hours had passed.  I remained mystified as I tried my best to fix it.  Never did though.

All things electronic became my passion while I was working on the Radio merit badge.  The first task was to build a complete crystal radio by myself.  Nothing but the components could be purchased.  I sweated bullets winding the coil just so, and making sure all the joints on the breadboard were soldered perfectly.  I was so disappointed when it didn’t work the first time.  I messed with it for two days until I discovered that I had reversed the winding of the coil – one of them was electronically coupled to the other, but with reverse polarity.  In short, they “fought” each other and the radio didn’t work.  It was as if you had put two batteries into a device, but reversed one of them.  They would both be one and a half volts, but work against each other producing zero volts.  Simply reversing one set of joints made it suddenly spring to full voice.

I tuned that radio every Saturday morning carefully to listen to the likes of the Lone Ranger, Big Jon and Sparkie (“If you go out to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise…”), The Kids Morning Show, and other serialized programs.  Nighttime radio scared the crap out of me with shows like Inner Sanctum, Dimension X, Suspense, and Captain Midnight.  Comedies also prevailed for us kids with such items as Henry Aldrich, Our Miss Brooks, Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, and The Life of Riley.

My second, and final, task for the merit badge was to assemble a one tube radio.  This was a job an order of magnitude harder than a crystal set.  No matter how much I fiddled with the results I couldn’t get it to work.  I couldn’t even get the little filament inside the tube to light up.  I saved my allowance for a week to buy a new one but still couldn’t get it to work.  I didn’t give up though and when a repairman came to fix our TV (yeah, they used to make house calls), he took the time to show me where I had gone wrong.  I didn’t realize that tube diagrams were printed in such a manner that the pins were viewed from the bottom of the tube, not the top.  I had wired every pin incorrectly.  He spent almost an hour showing me where I went wrong and to add suggestions for improvement.  He also gave me a spare tube ‘just in case’.  Before he left, my new radio was working great.  I spent a lot of time huddled under a blanket late at night listening to that radio.

Being exposed to all these electronic things had a profound influence on my later life.  It was the field I entered in the Navy, as well as being a solid base for my life after I retired.  I never forgot some of the things that good man taught me in the hour or so we were together.  Most notable, was the mnemonic phrase I learned for the electrical color code used for electronic components like resistors, capacitors, and the like:  “bad boys ravish our young girls but violet” (the slut) “gives willingly – get some now”.  In order, it stands for black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, grey, white – gold (5% tolerance), silver (10% tolerance), none (20% tolerance).

Kathleen and I continued to hang out together.  Our twice daily walks to or from the bus stop were the high points of my day.  She and I were hardly ever in the same classroom at the same time so we barely saw each other during school hours.  We had assigned seats on the bus, but I managed to bribe the kid sitting next to her with a nickel each day to swap with me.  At first, we got soundly jeered very hard by our peers, but, in time, they left us alone.

Backpacks weren’t invented yet, so ‘carrying books’ was an acceptable method of staking your claim on a particular girl.  Once you started doing that, nobody else was supposed to encroach on your territory.  Several tries were made, but were rebuffed, surprisingly enough, by Kathleen.  The bus stop was about four hundred yards from our houses, but the trip took almost half an hour.  We would walk a bit, stop and talk, and walk some more.  Soon, we would reach her house, where she would peel off, and then mine.

As quickly as possible, I would blow through my homework and prepare for late afternoon activities.  Likely as not this would consist of hopping on my bike and making the rounds of my friends’ houses to see if we could drum up anything to do.  If nothing was going on, I would drift back to Kathleen’s house and we would just sit on her front porch in the swing.

We would quietly shift closer and closer to each other as inconspicuously as possible until we were hip to hip.  No ‘funny stuff’ was tolerated by her mom though.  When we could feel her peering through the curtains at us we knew that she was on her way out with something to drink, or a cookie plate, or both.  She would say something like “Hi there thought you would like something gee isn’t it a nice evening I think I’ll sit here too”.  Then she would plop down in a chair and keep us from doing anything further.  In the dictionary under ‘mama bear protects her cubs’ is a picture of her mom.

Some Saturdays Kathleen and I would spend just wandering around on our bikes.  Within our community we had two nearby strip malls.  Well, the term ‘strip mall’ doesn’t quite come up to the connotation it has today as the poor thing only contained a drug store, a grocery, a dry cleaners, two liquor stores, and a Laundromat.  One reached it by pedaling across our little housing area and crossing a busy road. Not much to look at and certainly not a good destination.

The other direction, we could ride all the way into the outskirts of Washington itself.  This was our favorite destination.  We would each pack a lunch and a little money for the streetcar ride and head out.  To get to Barney Circle would take us almost an hour of easy pedaling as it was only about five miles away.  Once we got there, we could lock up our bikes, drop a dime into the change machine at the front of the streetcar and head into town.  We knew those tram routes by heart and ended up traveling all over the entire DC area.

Our most favorite destination was the Glen Echo amusement park.  You had to make three transfers but eventually you would reach it on the Cabin John run.  Kathleen and I were allowed to go there during the day by ourselves, but if we wanted to go at night we had to have a parent or two with us.

Even in daylight, it was a great place to go.  Rides all cost either a nickel or a dime and food was just as cheap.  I never won much of anything for her, but I sure tried.  I was convinced the gun sights were crooked and the milk bottles were made of lead, but I gamely struggled to prove I could do it.  She, on the other hand, was really great at throwing a hoop over things.  She once won a real camera by making a spectacular toss from about fifteen feet away.  The guy couldn’t believe it but grudgingly gave her the prize.  The Midway had everything you could want to have fun.

We would bundle up on the Tilt-A-Wheel, the roller coaster, and the fun house.  Of course, my favorite was anyplace dark.  Kathleen and I would spend hours at the park and always came back from there stuffed with food, sated by all the noise and excitement, and ready to hit our respective beds that night.  But it was sure worth it for the kisses we shared in the darkness.