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

Lost in Transition

"Perhaps the biggest handicap in life is wanting everyone to like you. It fences you in and is a hard rail to climb over. It isn't logical and it borders on insanity.  It's a syndrome. It is self-suffocation.

"And along the line The Kid caught this disease."

Yes, I know, I am repeating myself from the beginning of my last post. There is a reason why and eventually we will get to it. Life is a process, these things take time.

The Kid’s family moved a lot during his early years. He lived in three homes in his first six months, first in an apartment in Modena by the railroad, then in "the big house" (as his mother called it) on George Thomas III's Whitford Estate and then to the Avenue in town.

The apartment had been his parents, but they hit hard times and the place had bedbugs, so they moved lock, stock, barrel and The Kid in with his mother's parents. Who knows why all moved from the rental house in Whitford, where his mom had been raised, to the house in town four or five months after his birth. Was it a change in his grandfather's job? Was it the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of war? Was "the big house" (pictured on the right) not big enough for five people? It looks big enough. It doesn't matter why they moved to town, just that they did.

His grandparents didn't own the house in town either. It was another rental. His father went to war and The Kid lived at that Avenue house sleeping in the middle bedroom, until his dad returned in 1947 and moved his mother and him to the swamp.

His father went to work driving milk tankers long distance and the swamp house belonged to the owner of the trucking company. They gave his dad the house rent free as a gesture to a returning vet.

When his dad left that job they lost the house and moved back to town into the grandparents’ home again. The Kid came to consider that Avenue house his real boyhood home even though he only lived there for a total of 8 or 9 years, and most of them when he was a preschooler. Still, he was constantly connected to that home from December 1941 through February 1957, a total of just over 15 years.

He had moved into that house over Christmas 1941, moved out over Christmas 1947 and moved back over Christmas 1949. Somewhere around 1953, his parents rented a home of their own on the same block (right). But in those years, while his parents had a place of their own, when his father came home weekends he was packed off to his grandparents down the street. The Kid seemed to always be in a state of flux between bedrooms.

It the years of isolation, when he was dumped at my grandparents for some weekend visits, he could spent some time with a long time friend, if a child of seven can be said to have a long time friend. Billy and he were a set piece by then. (Billy on the right in the photo. The dog is Peppy, a Toy Fox Terrier.) What The Kid missed in the years of isolation was a broader stage and any growth in relationships. He was removed from a society of contemporaries at a time when many, perhaps most children are developing those social connections. To make matters worst, before he moved back to town, Billy moved away and wasn't there to help introduce him back into society. The other friends he had back in first grade had drifted away, some like Billy moved and others simply turned on him, all but one girl who he seemingly knew all my life.

It was about The Kid’s years back in town that I wrote  in the last post. I made this statement near the end of that post, "You don't know the relief he felt when his parents moved out of that town."

The move rescued him from the bullying and the insults, but it may have robbed him of some opportunities to grow socially as well. In that last year in town some blossoms had begun to bloom that were snipped off by the move.

His parents moved in March 1956 to a home they bought in the country several miles to the North. The Kid did not go with them at that time, but moved back to that Avenue home with the grandparents. This was done so he could finish out ninth grade in town. His parents thought it would be too disruptive to change schools with only a few months to go. He hated going to that junior high. He was being hassled too much by other kids and wasn't getting along very well with several teachers either. His grades were suffering, the worse he was ever to have and he wasn't at all certain he'd graduate, but he was stuck until mid-June when school ended and he finally joined his parents. He moved away from town about two weeks before turning 15.

The Kid was a very confused and troubled boy those last years in town, yet there were also some positive things happening that were brought to a sudden halt and the new home was something of a step back to isolation, not quite the heavy solitude of the swamp, but removed from more populated society nonetheless.

One of the things lost was his paper route and he enjoyed delivering papers. He also enjoyed the money made doing it. The Kid was very flush with cash as a fourteen year old, but with the move had to quit that job and give up his wealth. He held some on and off jobs during his high school years, but none paid as well or was enjoyable as that paper route. There was a lot of freedom and movement hauling those papers about town, much more than picking crops on summer farms.

Another possibility that opened was sports. He and a friend had both tried out for Babe Ruth Baseball, but just before being assigned to a team and actually getting to play, he had to resign. 

Probably the biggest set back was leaving MYF and Boy Scouts.

He also lost the opportunity to come out of my shell socially in town. One day while waiting in the cafeteria line at school, a boy from his classes invited him to church on Sunday evening. The boy, whose name was Jakie, said it was a youth group, where they discussed the Bible, played some games and this Sunday were going to Dick Thomas' Brick Oven after the meeting. (Photo on right is the interior of the Brick Oven -- from "Life Magazine", December 16, 1940.) The Kid figured he could endure an evening of church to get to Dick Thomas' eatery, maybe the all time favorite diner in my life, with its foot long hot dogs, delicious barbecue sandwiches and hamburgers. Dick Thomas also cooked up terrific French Fries and shook up thick milk shakes, not to mention offering a nice malted sundae.

(As an aside, Dick Thomas, who had an artificial leg, was of the same family as George Thomas III on whose estate The Kid’s mom had grown up. His family came to the area in the late 1600s onto the same land grant as The Kid’s father's family. Dick Thomas died about three decades ago and the Brick Oven has disappeared into history.)

The Kid went for the restaurant, but enjoyed the meeting that came before and suddenly he was with kids who seemed to accept him right into the group. He became a regular member of that Methodist Youth Fellowship, but that too ended with the move.

Scouts came out of those MYF meetings. A couple of the other boys were Boy Scouts and they began urging him to join their troop. He was reluctant. His initial experience with the Boy Scouts in that town had been as bad as any other. When he was 12, one of his closer friends and he went to join Boy Scout Troop 2. They went to an orientation meeting in the firehouse across town where the Scouts met. They came to be sworn in, but were greeted with a hazing. They were made fun of, shoved about and laughed at by the Scouts and by the Scout Master. Blindfolded at one point, they were threatened with nudity and paddling and who can remember what all. The Kid was scared and couldn't wait to escape. He never went back. 

But this was a new Troop, Number 82 and he joined it, became a Patrol Leader, went camping a lot, and was well on his way to First Class when the move came. That ended scouts as it ended MYF as it ended Babe Ruth Baseball and somehow, perhaps, a new and different Kid was lost in transition.

(The photo of The Kid in his summer Scout uniform is one of his least favorites. He was 14 years old, with gangly arms, bony knees and a skinny body. His head looks like a balloon about to pop.  He hated wearing short pants in those days.)

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