Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Real Nightmares

The Cowboy Kid, smiling at the dangers of the trail, ready for that bronco of a bicycle to buck him off into the marsh, ready to stand firm in the middle of stampeding railroad trains. He stood up to the challenges of the wilderness he existed in. He had faced down a growling, angry dog (well, actually he fled in abject terror, but why besmirch his adventurous image now). He had my trusty companions by his side, Peppy and Topper. He had the daydreams of being a blossoming Frank Buck.

But what of the nightmares.

Like the mist that rose in early morning across the marsh, nightmarish images can appear on the brightest days. They can blight a snowy road with a spray of blood or turn a summer flower into a siren of doom. And the most nightmarish aspect of all is they are real, they can't be changed and they claim squatter's rights in a back room of your mind.

Yes, The Kid lived back behind a swamp in the middle of what was nowhere at that time. It was an insulated world in many ways, but it did have a great connecting link to civilization. They lived
beside the great Lincoln Highway.

The Lincoln Highway, Route 30, also called in these parts, the Lancaster Pike. The Kid's family was tied to the breadth of the country by that road, which began in Times Square, New York City and ended in Lincoln Park, San Francisco, California.

The Lincoln Highway has been probably as dominate a landmark throughout The Kid's life as the Brandywine Creek. It seems to him it'd been
around forever, but it was just twenty-some
years old when he was born. It started out being named the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway and was the brainchild of the man who also gave us the Indianapolis 500 Speedway and Miami
Beach, Florida. Carl Fisher [pictured on left] looked out one day in 1912 and realized with the growth of automobiles there was a need for a
good road. He decided to build one coast to coast with the help of money from the automobile makers. Henry Ford didn't see the point and without Ford's money it seemed a doomed dream, until Henry Joy, head of the Packard Motor Car Company suggested naming it after Abraham Lincoln. This struck a patriotic chord and eventually funds were raised and the highway completed.

And The Kid's first nightmare image appeared on it in the first winter after he moved to the swamp. He rode a school bus to school. It was late afternoon on the trip home. There was snow across the fields, a drifting here and there even across the well-traveled Lincoln Highway. The sun was bright, it glistened on the white of the fields and also off the lanes of the road. The bus slowed, as traffic in both directions had and moved slowly pass the cause that lay on the center lines on the side to which he sat. A dog had been hit, it hindquarters crushed, its blood and other parts smearing the white. It struggled to get up, but couldn't, never would.

The bus passed, moved on. The Kid did not know, will never know, if anyone stopped to tend the dog or to put it out of its misery. There was no carcass the next day, only the stain, so someone took it away somewhere. Beyond that The Kid could not know its fate anymore than he was ever able to erase that scene from his vision or thoughts. Perhaps it was an omen.

Although I have been speaking of his isolation during this period, The Kid wasn't on a desert island somewhere. The house and land belonged to the owners of the hauling company his dad
worked for and their terminal was a quarter mile or so up the highway toward the east. The terminal was across the highway and set back. Opposite its entrance drive on marsh side was a small apartment building.  Most tenants worked for the hauling company. His father and mother socialized with two families who lived there. Joe Bender and his wife remained long time friends of his parents. They had a daughter, Dot, but she was older than The Kid. (She was in a later time and place to become his babysitter and even later, she and her husband became friends of The Kid and his wife. Those are stories for later times.)

The other family was the Humes. They had a son, Tom (he was the model for Thomas in "Ground Dog Day"), but he was even older than Dot. He wasn't particularly interested in being a playmate to a 7 year old. So when The Kid's parents visited with the Benders or the Humes, Dot or Tom spent time amusing him, but beyond that they were as invisible as anyone else in his day-to-day world.

Further up the highway lived eighty or ninety boys, none of whom were his age. It would have mattered little if there were. This was the Church Farm School (now known as CFS: The School at Church Farm). It was a boarding school started in 1918 by the Reverend Dr. Charles W. Shreiner of the Episcopal Church. It took in boys of lower economic circumstances and gave
them a college prep and religious education. The students helped pay the cost of this by working the farm belonging to the school. As far as I know, this is still the case on the 1,600 acres of farm, school buildings and dorms.

But those boys were as insulated and isolated as was The Kid. They lived in their self-contained world and he never saw them. That school could have been a hundred miles away in another state for all it touched upon his life.

Between the Church Farm School and the apartments was a factory, White Motor Company.

Based out of Cleveland, Ohio, the company made a variety of mechanical tools and vehicles. It manufactured sewing machines, roller skates, lathes and bicycles.

As you can see from their logo on the left, they also were once automobile makers.

The company existed from 1900 to 1981 as the White Motor Company. This particular plant between the Church Farm School and the swamp made trucks, perhaps their most famous product.

Running alongside the truck factory just before the Church Farm School was a row of small houses. The first was next to the highway, then they ran back along the driveway of the factory, sitting up on a high ridge. The outer edge of this ridge toward the truck plant was covered in gravel.

The Kid can't recall how he came to meet them, but living in one of those little homes was a family with children his age. Perhaps the events which occurred later that summer have erased some memories from his mind, because he cannot remember the family name or the name of any individual member. There were four children, three boys and a girl. The girl was the youngest. She may have been four years old. All the children were close in age and the oldest was seven or eight. The Kid didn't know them until halfway through June of the year he came.

The reason for this was their father had been killed in the war (World War II). Since those little homes were company houses,  either he worked for White Motors before his death or the mother was working there then. The boys were students at the Milton Hershey Industrial School. Yes, the same Milton Hershey of Chocolate Bar fame. Milton and his wife, Catherine [pictured on the left and she looks as if she ate a lot of Milton's chocolate], established a boarding school in 1909 for orphaned boys. It provided care and education from pre-kindergarten through Twelfth Grade for boys in need (today this includes girls). Besides an education, Hershey provided for their clothes, board, nourishment, health care and career counseling.

When The Kid moved to the swamp over Christmas vacation at the end of 1947, the boys were back in Hershey, Pennsylvania by the time he settled in. But he did meet them somehow in the summer of 1948. Sometimes they would come down to his place and sometimes he would go to their home. He remembers an instance at their place that summer.

He did not know who built it, but there was an underground structure atop that ridge amidst the houses. The boys used to use it as a fort or a hideout in their games. Once as they ran about in a game of war atop the high embankment, The Kid slipped on the loose edge and fell face first down the gravel side to the drive below. He didn't feel hurt, but when he pushed himself up he felt a twinge in one hand. When he looked down that hand was covered in blood. The Kid had a strange reaction to hi wound. He felt embarrassment. He didn't want anyone to see it, so after climbing back up the embankment, he stuck his bleeding hand into a pants pocket and hid in the underground hideaway.

One of the boys found him and took him into their house, but their mother ordered him to take the hand out of his pocket. She then washed it and dabbed it with iodine or mercurochrome. Which ever it was, it stung something fierce. After the cut healed he was left with another inch-long scar, this time running along the creases of his palm. (This was not to be his last battle scar of childhood.)

Summers fly by for children. It came time for the boys to leave again for their other life in Hershey. The boys came down to his place for one more day of play and they brought their little sister along. Late in the day, they left to go home, walking down the long lane, then up the shoulder along the Lincoln Highway to their house a quarter mile away.

The Kid and his mom were outside when they left. The two of them heard the screech and squeal together and his mom began to run down the lane. The Kid followed behind, but before reaching the highway, she stopped him and told him to stay where he was. She then walked up the road where The Kid could see traffic was coming to a stop.

Walking home, the oldest boy had noticed wild flowers growing on the bank across the pike. He wanted to pick a bouquet to give their mother. He had been leading their sister along, now he gave her hand over to one of his brothers and told the boy to hold on to her because she wanted to go pick the flowers, too. The older boy crossed. His sister struggled, but her brother held her tight, until she bit his hand and he let go.

She ran out into the traffic lanes and was struck and killed.

The Kid didn't know what happened to the family after that summer. He didn't see them the next year so assumed they moved away. How sad to lose your husband and then your daughter. How awful to lose your sister that way. (Strangely, this scene was to repeat itself a couple years later.)  How did those boys deal with the guilt they must have felt because the guilt The Kid felt in her death was heavy enough. They were going from his home, from visiting him, when it happened. He wished his last memory of them wasn't the sound of car brakes skidding on a highway. He wishes today he could remember their names.

The portrait of The Kid at the top of this post was a detail from the one here. It is from the same year he first moved to Glenloch (1947), but was taken next to his grandparents house in town during a visit.

There was an itinerant photographer who came through town. He supplied the hat, bandana and pony. This guy must have got around [note this was marked as 479 on the stirrup]. Almost fifty years later, when The Old Goat was working for the bank, this subject came up. So many of them around his age had similar pictures, they decided to have a "Pony Picture" day. All brought in their old photo and there was a display put up. Lots of little kids in the same hat, same kerchief on the same pony were hanging on the wall. That hat must have been plopped on so many heads it's a wonder they all hadn't shared heads full of lice. Maybe the guy cleaned the thing every time.


Tamela's Place said...

what a cute pic. of you Larry on the pony:).. Wow that boarding school looks alot like the vincennes In. orphanage that my husband grew up in.. This post brought back alot of memories of when my husband was young. At the age of 4 and 5 years my husband and his older brother were playing on a highway and my husband watched his brother get struck and killed by a car. Their mom was sick in bed with cancer at the time so she wasn't strong enough to tend to them like she needed too for she was bedridden most of the time.. Shortly after the death of His brother his mom died and it wasn't long after that my husband and his little brother were placed in an orphanage..He had a very hurtful childhood but God has healed His hurts.. PTL!

God bless you and yes i did get your comments.. thanks.. T :)

Larry, aka The Kid & The Old Goat said...


Now I kind of see those events through eyes on the other side.

I've never felt sorry for myself because everyone has their hurts and some are worse than mine. My wife's father's older brother was struck and killed by a train at age 14. My wife's mother and her best friend both died when my wife was 17. My father's dad died when my dad was a teenager and he had to leave home and support his mom and two brothers.

This is a hard world we live in and harder still if we can't see beyond it.

Larry E.

Greg said...

Very sad ending to your story, Larry. It seems so senseless that tragedies like that ever happen at all. But the Lord knows what he's dong.

Emil Kirstein said...

Very interesting. God bless.

Ron Tipton said...

I keep coming back for the next chapter. Where is it? I am becoming impatient. I'll cancel my subscription if I don't get it. You have been warned.