For Father’s day my daughter Lisa gave me access to a website: StoryWorth. This site allows you to post writings, then share with others. Kind of like this blog. Don’t worry, I won’t sign you up since I intend to post much of what I write for StoryWorth on this blog, and you already have access to it. Apparently StoryWorth will also print a hard cover of my writings at year’s end. Whoopee! I will finally publish a book!
So, here’s the story about my early memories:
I was born November 11, 1949, at KOA Hospital in Kirksville, Missouri. My Dad tells me the nurses named me “Little Hitler” because I had wild black hair all over my head. In my baby picture I look like a prune with electric shock hair. I didn’t see any moustache, so I don’t know why nurses thought I resembled Der Fuehrer. Anyway, I’m glad that moniker never stuck. Today I have plenty of hair that is gray. I am part of the “silver tsunami”, and am on Medicare and Social Security. Thanks, FDR, and the workers still paying into Social Security!
Back to the beginning. I am the oldest of four, so I had a lot of adult attention for a while. I am told my aunts liked to dress me up like a girl and take me downtown to show me off. Their playing doll with me, however, did not affect my gender identity. I am told I was precocious as a young child. I said hippopotamus to the delight of all around. I am told to this day I have a way with words. I think so, but that is for others to judge.
We lived in Green City, Missouri, in Sullivan County where my relatives hark from. My father, Warner, and my mother Annabelle, graduated from Green City High School. Afterwards my Dad joined the Merchant Marines at the tail end of WWII. He was an oiler on tanker ships shipping high-octane airplane fuel across the ocean—as floating highly explosive ships they were a prime target for German and Japanese submarines. He was lucky to make it out alive. A little known fact—Merchant Marines had a higher per capita fatality rate during the war than any other branch of service. Yet they were not considered “military” since private companies supporting the war effort hired them. So they never qualified for many of the benefits veterans enjoy, but were granted admission to VA facilities many years later. Thank you for your service.
My earliest memory is crawling on the linoleum kitchen floor while my mother cooked. She wore a plaid dress. Back in the day women always wore dresses. My mother was always singing like a bird. To this day my heart warms as I recall her arias, her playfulness, her reading stories to me, her being a mother, and later a grandmother. She died years ago in her mid-50s, struck down by cancer. Heaven needed an angel.
Here’s a few other random scenes: I remember playing at a neighbor’s house with two older girls. We went upstairs and looked down through the air grate to see the adults below. We dropped marbles on their heads. Great fun!
I am told that a friendly older man who called me “partner” had a pig named Bill. To me it was “Bill Pig”. I don’t remember much about it, but it must have happened because I’ve seen a picture of me riding on the back of a pig with an older man and my Dad beside. Must have been fun.
My father worked for the Missouri State Highway department. He started out working a summer job as a helper on a survey crew. He planned to go back to sea, but ended up working for the Highway Department for nearly five decades, retiring as a Senior Construction Inspector. One of my earliest memories was me sitting on the front porch waiting for him to come home. He drove a black car—most cars were black then—I believe it was a Fraser, which are no longer made. He has a thing about cars. A few years back he wrote his autobiography, and in it described each and every car he ever owned. Whatever.
Another not so pleasant memory is one Christmas when I got a wind-up train set. Dad and my uncle Bob put it together. They wound the engine so tight it broke. I never did get to play with it. What I really wanted, like Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story, was a BB gun. I did eventually get one years later and had fun shooting targets, shooting at birds (don’t think I ever hit one), frogs (didn’t kill them), trash cans and metal clothesline posts.
Speaking of clothesline posts, years later in Chillicothe, Missouri, I decided it would be fun to bong the post that was made of metal pipe containing a nest of yellow jackets with my baseball bat. I did just that, and one flew out and stung me on my upper lip. My face started swelling like a poisoned toad, and I was rushed to the ER. The doc gave me a shot of adrenaline which I thought I had enough of coursing through my system, but apparently that was the anecdote in those days. I lived to tell about it. Natural consequence lesion learned: Don’t bong pipes with stinging insects in them.
Dad was assigned to a field office in Chillicothe, and we moved there in the mid-50s. In the early years we lived in a development called Veterans Ville. Apparently there was a housing shortage after the war, and in Chillicothe they built some one-story wooden framed apartment like domiciles to alleviate the shortage. I remember long wooden porches with dogs sleeping under them, including our dog Fritz. Shirtless bare foot kids with sticks would run around in packs like wild dogs. Some would poke sticks at the dogs under the porch, not adhering to the admonition to let sleeping dogs lie. Unfortunately they teased Fritz to the point that he would snap at any kid passing by, which proved to be his later demise. While running in a kid pack myself I remember going to a small greenhouse and smashing a couple of windows with bricks. Kids were caught. Parents were told. Consequences were imposed. Lesson learned: Don’t throw bricks at windows.
Well, writing this has conjured up many more memories, but I’ll save that for later. In the meantime I hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane. Hippopotamus.