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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Changes Within the Boy With Two Left Thumbs

Junior High School was a terrible experience. It did not help that I was combating other changes beyond my control. I was not just entering a new school; I was entering puberty. My body was altering in ways I didn’t understand and I was gaining a great deal of curiosity about girls I’d never had before. I was plagued with strange new sensations that pleased me at the same time they scared me.
I was picking up bits and pieces about sex that were generally wrong and not appropriate, but I still did not know how babies got inside mothers. I had no idea of any role I might play in the baby scenario. The birds were creatures that sometimes made washing the car necessary and bees were insects I pinned in cigar boxes.

One day it dawned upon me I did not know what girls looked like “down there” below the navel. I knew there was something different and boys and girls weren’t supposed to see that difference. We had separate restrooms at school for some reason. I could certainly see girls' bodies were becoming less like mine. They were becoming more like my mother’s. Their chests were growing lumps and their hips were rounder than we boys.
I noticed their underpants were different from mine. Now how could that happen? I had seen girls’ underpants because girls wore dresses to school and sometimes one would hang upside down by her legs on the Monkey Bars or a March wind would blow a skirt high. I saw my briefs had a slot down the front; their panties were completely smooth with no such slot. So, how did a girl urinate? You may think these were weird questions, but when nobody has ever explained the real differences between girls and boys they aren’t. I had never played “Doctor”; had never engaged in the “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” routine, so I didn’t have a clue what the differences were. But those differences must be important because I was beginning to react to girls in a new way.

Like how?
Let me count the ways.
In grade school seeing a girl’s underwear brought giggles and a jingle about seeing London and France, but little else. By the time I entered Seventh Grade seeing a girl’s underwear or even a good bit of her upper thigh sent some kind of shiver through me and I didn’t get the giggles; I got the chills. I actually found something exciting about seeing a girl’s underpants as irrational as that was. I also found myself staring at those lumps on their chests for no good reason. It was as if something in my eyes automatically turned my gaze to a girl’s chest.
Even at that youthful age there were a couple of girls who showed some cleavage. If you were talking to them and glanced down you might even see a little of the roundness of those lumps. Remember that Michelle, the girl I kissed in grade school that upset her father? Notice her to the right? That viewpoint meant nothing at the time the photo was taken, but now seeing something like that would cause that strange little tingle inside me.

Most my female Seventh Grade classmates were still flat and not yet in training bras, but dress code did required them to wear skirts or dresses to school, so they all presumably wore panties. I asked myself,  “What if they all didn’t?” That thought brought on that tingle and the tingling felt good. I began checking out the girls’ legs, especially when they sat down, to see if I could glimpse anything.
I employed an old routine, although at the time I thought it was an original and cleaver ruse. Walk past a girl’s desk and drop something, typically a pencil. As I picked it up I would try to see up her skirt. Pretty much 99% of the time you couldn’t see very far, but that tinkle came anyway just with the anticipation. Once in a while you caught a glimpse of some material, usually pink or yellow. I never found a girl sans panties in any of my classes. What was hidden there would have to wait and I would have to wonder.
Don’t think I was the lone 12-year old pervert. It is lucky I didn’t bump heads with other sudden pencil droppers. There was a rash of butterfingers among boys and a particular habit of reaching down to find a dropped object while the head was bend facing to the side.

After a time Seventh Grade was throwing enough scares at me to take my mind off girls. Shop was another class I dreaded almost as much as Gym and I had to take it all three years of Junior High. I should have known my way around tools because of my heritage. My mother’s family was builders. My grandfather was a master carpenter. My father was a truck driver, but he knew mechanics. He could fix truck and car engines. They should have passed on these skills to me, but neither had the patience to teach a kid. My grandfather considered me in the way if he was constructing something. My father seemed to think I knew an open-end from a box wrench or a Phillip’s Head from a slotted screwdriver by osmosis. Both men would quickly tire of trying to explain anything to me and send me off to play. Of course I was happy to oblige, especially with my dad. I never wanted to be out there “helping” him anyway, but my mother often told me, “Go help your father.”
Helping dad mainly consisted of my standing nearby and handing him a tool I couldn’t recognize when he asked for it. This usually took three or four tries until I selected the correct object along with a comment about how dumb I was. Even more upsetting was when I grew old enough to drive and he would send me to an auto store to buy a part. No matter what I was to get once at the store the clerk would ask me a question about the part that I couldn’t answer, like do you want a left-handed floozle handle or a right? I would now face the choice of taking home the wrong facing floozle handle or nothing and have my father go get it himself. Either way he would remind me once more of how dumb I was and probably call me Gertrude in the bargain. I much preferred to avoid my dad than to play out such scenes.
My shop teachers were like my dad and grandfather, although they never called me Gertrude. I have never understood why certain people become teachers. I have had too many in my life who expect the students to know everything the moment they walk into their class. If you don’t know or have any difficulty understanding something, they have nothing to do with you. They spend their time with the students who already know and don’t need them. Meanwhile those who could really use some close-up and personal instruction are left to flounder or fail. If I all ready know everything, why am I there?
I’ve had opportunities in my life to teach and train people. I had two rules. First, I never assumed my class knew anything until I determined exactly what level of knowledge they had. Second, my object was no one failed. No one of normal intelligence should ever fail a junior high school class, unless the kid just doesn’t care. If students are flunking a class, then it is the teacher who is failing. You are there to teach these children, not to exhibit your superior knowledge or to take the easy way of concentrating on those already able to achieve. True, you can’t always motavate a student, but you oughta try.
Mr. Elmer Hemberger (pictured right) gave us a quick tour of the shop, pointing out all the power drill presses and band saws, planers and lathes that could do us serious damage. He certainly must have been familiar with such dangers seeing as how he was missing a couple fingers. Those missing digits didn’t particularly instill confidence in me. He then pointed with a remaining finger to a large pegboard full of various mysterious hand tools. Finally he had us select a project to work on. I picked out a bookend lamp, which seemed a practical project for an avid reader. It looked simple enough, four pieces of wood and a lamp. But I quickly showed my ignorance of which tools to use or how to use them and so Mr. Hemberger seldom came over to me to give any advice. I completed my bookend lamp off in a corner alone. It was a little uneven on one end, but it served its purpose and I got a passing grade in wood shop.

I spent a lot of shop time making magic belt hooks on the jigsaw. Simple little thing, but I thought it was really cool. You just cut these pieces of wood in sort of the shape of a pipe, except in the middle of the stem you cut a triangle pointing up. It looked like the sketch on the left. The belt rested against the side of the triangle. This provided a counterweight allowing you to sit the thin end of the stem on the edge of a table where it would balance. I liked it because it was like a magic trick. I must have made dozens of these. It made me look busy.
As long as I looked occupied and wasn’t bleeding purfusely Mr. Hemberger didn’t care what I was doing. I was a kid who didn’t know a ball peen hammer from a claw, so I wasn’t worth wasting much time on. Somehow I received an overall Grade of C in shop for the year, probably an act of mercy. I even had Bs in two marking periods. I must have gotten good at making magic belt hooks.
Well, I was getting pretty good at making those belt hooks, but more likely I got my Bs in metal shop. You see half a year was metal and half a year was wood. Mr. Raymond Kipp (pictured right) was the Metal Shop instructor. He was a short man and like a lot of men of small stature, had a slight Napoleonic approach to teaching. However, he didn’t seem to mind that his incoming pupils didn’t know much about working with metal. After all, the average home didn’t do much foundry or sheet metal work at their basement workbenches. Melting down metal always included the off-chance someone might burn the school down, so he gave us all a bit more hands on attention.
Schools didn’t allowed Girls to take shop in the 1950s. Shop was men’s work! Girls had to take Home Economics during those periods. I have the feeling a lot of girls would have liked to take shop just because Mr. Kipp was the teacher. He was what women would call cute. By the time my own daughters were in high school girls and boys both had to take Shop and Home Ec. My daughters loved shop, but then they were better at it than I was.
I was a bit more accomplished at metal shop, but not great. I pounded out some ashtrays and metal candy dishes, but my best project was pipe holders. Pipe holders shaped like shoes became my belt hooks of foundry work. My father smoked a pipe so they made handy birthday and Christmas presents. You can mold a lot of pipe holders over a three-year span.
Overall, my Seventh grade marks weren’t too bad, but still a slight drop off from Sixth Grade where I finished with a B minus. I managed a 2.38 average for Seventh Grade, which is a C Plus. My worst subject was spelling in which I got straight Ds. The explanation given was “Poor examinations”. Yeah, I probably couldn’t even spell “examination”. If I could have thrown out Spelling, I would have finished with a B plus.
My best subjects were Science and the creative ones: Art, Music and Reading. I still had some interest in the sciences at the time. I also had my Homeroom teacher for General Science class. His name was Ray DiSerafino (pictured right) and I would bet every person who ever had him for a teacher admires him. Everybody knew him as Mr. D.
He was truly a teacher who cared about we students. His classes were always well behaved because the pupils respected him. He had time for everybody. In Stuart’s memoir, after telling some of the negative prejudices he had suffered, he writes of Mr. D under the heading, “The opposite of anti-Semitism at DHS”.
"There is one teacher who stands head and shoulders above all the others at DHS, and I have just recently learned that they named the football stadium in his honor.  Without any question, Raymond DiSerafino (Mr. D) was one of the finest teachers (if not the finest teacher) I ever had.  Interestingly, I have no recollection of any courses that he taught.  But I do know that he, and he alone, made me believe in my own abilities to get into college.  I was sure that I would not get into college because I was Jewish (I still am) and I assumed that colleges were as anti-Semitic as DHS.  One time I specifically asked Mr. D if he thought I had any chance of getting into college.  He was surprised at my question wondering why I would ask such a question.  My response was that I did not know if colleges admitted Jewish people.  I recall clearly his surprise at such a question.  He was not able to think in such biased terms, and he assured me that I could and should apply to any college I want.  He was right!  He literally opened my eyes to a world of people who were not anti-Semitic.  Where ever you are, Mr. D, 'Thank you!'"

Mr. D also coached sports teams at Downingtown and eventually he became the Principal of the high school, during which service he was named one of Chester County’s Top Educators of the 2oth Century. He died in 2009 at the age of 83. Thank you for the soul you were, Mr. D.
One of those rare people who encouraged my writing ambitions was Mrs. Jean Pollock (pictured left), although the Lord knows why she did. I had her for my aforementioned disaster, Spelling. She also taught English and Reading. My English marks were not very good. I finished with a C after receiving D for each of the first three periods. Yet she still sensed something worthwhile in the moody, skinny kid sitting in the back of the room. She always took time to talk to me and tell me not to give up. You wouldn’t think a guy who couldn’t spell and was barely getting by in English was a prime candidate for a literary career, but she believed in my dreams despite that.

I wish I’d had more teachers like Mr. D. and Mrs. Pollock.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hard Workin', Pyromaniac, Duckin' from Dad Blues

I did odd jobs about the neighborhood after we moved back to Downingtown. Simple things an eight-year could do at first, such as run around to the Esworthy’s little store on Chestnut Street and fetch a loaf of bread. My list of services grew as I did, wash a car now and then, mow a neighbor’s lawn, rake leaves in the fall and shovel snow in the winter.  (The photo on the left is the building that once housed Esworthy’s little grocery on Chestnut Street as it looks today.) As my round shoulders became more intrusive and prominent I started finding money along the sidewalks as I went about. At first I considered myself very lucky, but I soon figured out why I found dropped coins that others missed. My backbone was curved and my head was always pressed forward and down. I wasn’t looking at where I was headed; I was watching the earth pass near my feet. This did inspire a short story as a teenager that I titled, “Gift”.
I had home chores to do at as well. My folks had seen to that early. These were simple, pick up my toys when I was done playing, that sort of thing. They were civilizing me more than assigning work. When we moved to the swamp I had to help with mother’s garden in the summer and some of her cleaning. My duties in Downingtown were the same as my little odd jobs, wash the car occasionally, fetch things from that Esworthy store, rake the leaves, mow the grass weekly as soon as I was strong enough to push the mower (no gas or electric mowers in those days it was all push power) and burn the trash.

I liked burning the trash. There was something perverse in my imagination I suppose, a latent pyromaniac perhaps. (I use to try and set some of my plastic racecars on fire after causing a crash. This never resulted in flames, only very smelly melted and blackened plastic.) When I dumped the combustible from our wastebasket daily I pretended the pile this made in the 55-galleon drum was a city under attack from the Nazis (World War II died hard in we children’s playtime imaginations). Then I would strike a match and drop it in upon a piece of paper, and another matches across from it and so on as if the bombs were dropping. At times, I hit a jackpot of long white tubes among the scrap paper. I pretended these were people trapped in the strafed city.
I had no idea what these tubes really were. They had two parts, an outer tube shell and a smaller tube inside, which slid back and forth in the larger. I eventually learned my burning people were tampon inserters. My grandmother would have been appalled.

I wasn’t always prompt in doing my chores though. Doing these tasks about the neighborhood for hire always seemed easier than doing them at home. My folks did give me an allowance of twenty-five cents a week.
Twenty-five cents was worth something in the 1950s. It could get a kid into the movie house including a large bag of popcorn. It covered the cost of a comic book, two toy soldiers and five packs of bubblegum with baseball cards. It could buy you a double-dip ice cream cone, a large Coke and give you change back.
There was a group of stores at the end of the shopping area downtown, between the main drag and the Bicking Papermill.. There was Joe Mfauewd’s Shoemaker Shop where I pointed out the man with the facial discoloration, a corner bar and Zittle’s Cigar Store. You could spend your quarter at Zittle’s and walk out with a brown paper bag full of goodies. Daniel Zittle sold candy for one cent a piece; some kinds you could even buy two pieces for a penny.  (The photo on the left is from an earlier day, but it shows Daniel Zittle standing in front of the building that will house his cigar shop, he is the man standing on the left. At the time of this photo, the building housed the Achieve Printing Office. In my youth in would have a Shoemaker Shop on the left, Zittle’s Store next to that and a Tavern on the far right.)
In 1953 the Downingtown Farmer’s Market and Auction opened just east of the town limit along the North side of East Lancaster Pike. It was a long building, with two large wings jutting off the back corners. Inside the long part was stall after stall of everything in the world for sale. Down one side it was all foods. The Mennonites and Amish of Lancaster County ran several of these stalls bringing in fresh produce and butchered meat from their farms. Down the other side was – well, pretty much name it and it was there, records to rugs, shoes to skin creams, clothes to closet organizers. The Farmer’s Market was to become a central place in my young life. To my friends and I it was the mecca of teenage paradise.

In one of the wings they held an auction every Friday and Saturday night (the Farmer’s Market was only open on those two days). They auctioned off all sorts of items. I wasn’t much interested in this activity at twelve years of age. I was interested in the contents of the opposite wing. Pinball machines and other coin operated games filled it wall to wall. It was like the Penny Arcade at Dorney Park and was destined to become a regular hangout for we Townies. (I was surprised I could not find any photographs of the Farmer’s Market except a few of when it caught fire in 1976. That is why you see a fireman squirting water on it in one picture and smoke and flames in the other.)
One of my friends, Gary Kinzey, suggested we walk down to the Farmer’s Market and see if we could get a job. The first stall we inquired at hired us. It was a greengrocer. There was no ID required, no permission slip from the parents requested, nothing bureaucratic at all in this hiring of child labor.
The owner assigned me to cleaning celery.  I really didn’t last very long at this position. My friend got to be at the counter waiting on people, which frankly ticked me off. I was envious because his job looked more fun and easier. He was up front talking with people, bagging up items. Meanwhile I was stuck in the back with a brush and an unending pile of celery stalks. Did people in Downingtown actually eat that much celery? The boss paid us an equal amount, twenty-five cents per hour. We worked four hours a day. It may sound like slave wages, but remember in 1953 you could buy a restaurant meal for fifty cents. Two dollars was a small fortune to us; that was 40 plays on a pinball machine or enough ice cream and candy for a two-week tummy ache.

I stood all night with my hands in cold water giving spa treatments to celery for a couple weeks, and then I quit.
The changes in my life were starting to have  a negative effect upon me. I had gained some acceptance at East Ward after three and a half years and the bullying had toned down from sheer boredom on the part of others if nothing else. I was still ducking from the Charles-Bird-Way Gang frequently because I was out and about the streets more each year I aged. (Pictured left: Jimmy Charles, leader of the gang.) My interest in school continued declining and my marks and deportment reflected my attitude.
Now being older, Dad was including me when taking mom places on the weekend calling these family outings, but that simply exposed me to more of his criticism. If we went to Hopewell Lake or Kirkwood Pool it was my not knowing how to swim with his threats to throw me off the diving board. If we went to the Auditorium in Coatesville for a movie he would be nagging me to stand up straight as we walked to the theater, thumping me on the back and making the thread of that brace. If we were at the stock car races it was my fear of height. If we just took a ride it was a threat to take me up on some tower. If we stopped in a restaurant to eat he would mimic my choice of food, plus make me embarrassed as he came on to every waitress.
Now I went into Seventh Grade at Downingtown Junior High School. At East Ward I had been with the same kids all day for four grades. We had come to something of a truce, besides I had made a few friends who I expected to be with me at the Junior High School.  However, I was also in the East Ward Band. Mr. Paltorne (pictured right) came to me in Sixth Grade and recruited me for the Junior High band, which he also led. I agreed. Since band rehearsals were schedule during a regular school period, all band members were assigned to the same section, 7A. None of my friends were in band at that time so they were all in a different section than I.

I was basically starting over with a bunch of strangers, many of whom came from the West Ward. I didn’t have classes with my friends and our lunch periods didn’t necessarily line up. Besides, kids didn’t look upon band members quite the same way as they did football players either. They considered us dweebs who sometimes put on funny looking uniforms that didn’t quite fit.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bugsy and the Great Golf Wound

My family had moved back to Downingtown at the end of 1949. I entered East Ward School again (pictured left from the back porch of 417 Washington) in January 1950. I walked out its doors for the last time in June of ‘53. It was a short three and a half years since I had moved back and in that time so much changed.
When I returned to Downingtown there was one family on the block who had a television set. By 1953 all I saw when looking at the roofs along the street was antennae. Almost everybody had TV. The Radio networks that had been playing drama and comedy programs back when we lived in the swamp were now turning into all music and news stations. Soon the most popular show on local radio would not be “Fibber McGee and Molly”, “The Lucky Strike Program with Jack Benny", “Lux Radio Theater” or "Amos ‘n’ Andy”, but some guy playing Rock ‘n’ Roll records on air named Joe Niagara (right).

When I first started watching movies at the Roosevelt the films had been in black and white and now at least half were in glorious Technicolor.
All our home appliances had marvelous technical improvements.
Grandfather had replaced the icebox and Frigidaire with a refrigerator that had a freezer compartment. One of the treats before had been the ice cream Pap-Pap brought home every Friday night, which was payday. He bought it at Hutchinson’s Drugstore, hand-dipped from large tubs into little cardboard boats topped with wax paper. Now mother kept half-gallons of her favorite flavors in the freezer compartment right next to the frozen fish sticks.
My grandparents still bought their groceries from Morris’ Market on Friday night (Pictured left and right). I use to go with them and while they shopped I would wander up to Newberys to see what new comic books had arrived. I would sometimes return to their car and wait and read. They parked along Wallace Avenue. One Friday I sat in the car reading for about fifteen minutes before realizing I was in the wrong auto. Nobody locked his or her cars then, but now we sometimes did, especially if we went to Coatesville. My mother had switched her shopping to the A&P Supermarket and in the near future, grandparents and parents would do most their grocery purchases at the new Downingtown Farmers’ Market.

By 1951 all my great grandparents were dead. So were my paternal grandparents. Only my maternal grandparents remained.
There were some other changes. Skip Amway, a slightly older boy who had befriended me when a lot of boys wouldn’t, moved away. A pretty girl my own age moved into the house on the other side of the farm machinery store. Patty Robinson (pictured right at a younger age) was her name and she would become a friend. However, my playing with the local girls, Iva, Judy, Bonnie, Mary Louise and a girl who lived on Chestnut Street named Betty May Bell was decreasing. I was spending most my time with Ronald or Stuart.

My body was beginning to change. One of those changes was very prominent upon my face. My parents had finally gotten me glasses. I was nearsighted and had astigmatism. I hated glasses. They were heavy and irritated the bridge of my nose. Besides, they were ugly. They didn’t have thin almost-invisible wire-framed glasses. They didn’t have contact lens. All they had were these dark and large plastic horn-rimmed frames, what my middle daughter would refer to many years in the future as “Birth-Control glasses.”
Now my tormenters had a new name to throw my way, “four-eyes”. Glasses were still rather uncommon on young people in the 1950s so it was one more thing to set me apart from everybody else. Stereotyping went with glasses. You were considered a brain simply because you had poor eyesight and nobody wanted to be around an egghead. Photographers would no longer shoot me full face. Their lights glared on the lens, so from now on my school pictures were always at a three-quarter profile. I hated that angle.

I also developed Scheuermann’s Disease causing curvature of my spine giving me rounded-shoulders as I grew into adolescence. I thought for years I had Scoliosis, but that is a sideward curving of the spine. Mine was Kyphosis, a curving forward of the upper vertebrae. Kids gave me new nicknames as this became more pronounced. Humpback was probably the kinder one; the other was, Quasimodo. (Recently my doctor informed me that I was wrong about the Scheuermann’s and I indeed have scoliosis. I’m not sure I agree with them).
My father was all over me about my “stoop-shoulders”. He constantly told me to stand-up straight. Tell that to my spine, I thought.  He kept repeating, “If you don’t stand up straight I’m gonna put you in a brace.” I used to worry about having to wear some cage around my chest. I even had nightmares about it. I though it would hurt and be humiliating. Have you seen those things? They look like medieval torture devices.

I also dreaded the BIG CHANGE looming at summer’s end, Junior High School. In the meantime I continued my adventures with Ronald and a lot of summer days over at Stuart’s.
I think that was the summer I went buggy. No, I didn’t flip out; I got interested in Entomology. I bought books on insects and began to collect specimens. I had a butterfly net and a killing jar. In those days I used tetrahydrozoline to kill the bugs. I could buy little bottles of it at a hobby shop just for that purpose. It is a little disconcerting to realize tetrahydrozoline is a major ingredient in Visine and other eye drops. Well, it’ll keep the flies out of your eyes.
I wonder if an 11 year old could boy tetrahydrozoline so easily today. It is a poison. It was the execution drug of choice for knocking off insects. Because this is the base ingredient in Visine there was an urban myth that a few drops of that medicine slipped into a person’s drink would bring on diarrhea, just a hilarious practical joke. Actually tetrahydrozoline will not cause diarrhea, violent or otherwise. It can cause severe vomiting, seizures and possibly coma, so don’t slip any Visine into anyone’s drink.
In fact, I wonder if anyone can purchase pure tetrahydrozoline today?
I would mount my dead insects by sticking a pin through the thorax and into the cardboard on the bottom of cigar boxes. I would put a label beneath each specimen with its common and Latin name. I had several cigar boxes full. My prize capture was a Rhinoceros Beetle (Scarabaeidea Dynastinae). These are large black beetles with a horn on the nose, thus the name. I captured it and put it in the bottle. When I stuck my pin through, it started to walk away and I had to kill it again.

The cigar boxes eventually ended up in the attic of my parents home where I suppose living bugs finally ate my dead collection. Bugs and boxes are long gone now. I was proud of my collection, but it creeped a lot of people out. That is an actual photo of one of my groupings inside one of my grandfather’s empty cigar boxes.
If I had been the cool guy on campus having several boxes full of bugs would have added to my coolness. But I wasn’t Mr. Cool, thus walking about sticking pins through dead insects was only another sign of my weirdness. And speaking of bugs, Ronald Tipton was all ready a shutterbug in grade school and snapped your picture when he could afford film.  You may have seen the photo on the right before. What you didn’t see in that cropped version was the word written below me. When Ronald showed this photo to Jack Swarner, our sometime bully, he snatched it away and scrawled “Bugsy” upon it. I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

Those particular doors were one big change looming that I dreaded come summer’s end. Although I still had my adventures with Ronald and a lot of summer days over at Stuart’s, the coming change of schools haunted my sleep. Remembering that brief visit at the end of sixth grade gave me nightmares.

Stuart, Gary Kinzey and I were lounging around in Stu’s house on one beautiful summer’s day. Stuart’s house had many porches. There was a small porch at the front that entered into a narrow waiting vestibule before entering the main hallway. He had a railed wooded porch on the west side of the house with some chairs. There was a cement porch off the kitchen and there was an enclosed porch off the formal parlor toward the front of the house. That enclosed porch was his father’s office. Stuart motioned us into that office. (In the photo on ther eight can be seen the cement porch off the kitchen and the enclosed porch that was his father’s office jutting out just to the front. The white shed porch on the rear of the house was a pantry.)

He walked us over to a corner and showed us his father’s golf bag full of clubs and we decided to play some golf. We took a driver and a putter from the bag and retreated to the back yard. The Meisels had a large yard. We were twelve year olds and never played any form of golf. It wasn’t a good thing, because a driver was too big a club even for that yard. A five or six iron may have been fine. Still, we were too weak and inexperienced to drive the ball very far. As it was, we didn’t even get to do much driving at all. We accomplished enough damage on our first swings.
We choose a distant stump as the first hole because it did have an actual hole at the base. Stuart went first, these being his father’s clubs. He managed to connect with the ball and sent it rolling in the general direction of the stump. I took a swing and did about as well. Gary stepped up and dropped his ball on the ground. We had not known about using those little wooden tees. I handed him the driver and said, “Wait till I get out of the way.”
Gary didn’t wait. He reared back and swung for the bleachers. He missed the ball, but his club connected with my head dead center. I was very fortunate his blow landed an inch above my glasses. It was exactly like the cartoons in the movies. I saw these little stars shooting about in otherwise total darkness. I was out briefly, but not down. I never fell over. I could hear Gary’s voice echoing up from a deep well.

Gary asked, “Are you okay?”
I blinked and the world came back. I said I was.
He was staring at me with a look of horror.
“You’re bleeding,” he said.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes you are,” he said.
I saw it then.
Blood was spurting down across the lens of my glasses. Every heartbeat sent out another shower.

Gary began running about me yelling something. Stuart was also running in circles, but he  was yelling for his mother. His mother came out of the kitchen door to see what the racket was about, saw me and she started yelling, too. I calmly turned away and walked across the driveway into Dr. Neff’s office, which was right next door.

Doctor Neff had become our family doctor recently. I don’t know why my folks decided to switch from Dr. Parke. Maybe they felt he had gotten too old but Dr. Parke was only 52.
The receptionist put me to the head of the line when I stepped into the waiting room, fearful I would bleed over the relatively new office furniture I suppose. Some one called my home, because while I was lying on the examination table having my head sewed shut my mother and grandmother arrived with Mrs. Meisel in tow. They looked as if they were at a funeral.
Meanwhile, I was telling jokes to the doctor.
It took four stitches, an appropriate number for a golf injury where the golfer neglected to yell “Fore!” Now I had a half-inch scar down the center of my forehead to go along with the one-inch scar on my left cheek caused by barbwire. I carried these scars well into middle age.

The scars I was about to receive were to my psyche and my soul and they ran deeper. No one was there to stitch them up.


From First Quarter Tales, 1965

I was swimming in outer space. It must have been outer space because I saw stars. I always thought that was a joke, all those cartoons where a character takes a head shot and sees stars floating about them. No, it’s real. I saw these little twinkling pinpricks of light surround me, some were red and some were white, and there may have been a comet mixed in there also.
Uuuh, pretty!
From somewhere in the deeper blackness I heard Cary’s voice. It sounded as if he were calling from down a well, his voice echoed and reverberated inside my head. I opened my eyes, somewhat surprised to find them still in their sockets. I was standing in the exact same space as a moment ago, except now Cary stood directly before me looking scared.
“You okay, Frank?”
“No,” I replied, “I always walk around with a golf club embedded in my frontal lobe; it gives me a convenient place to hang my hat.”
His eyes widened. “Hey, you’re bleedin’.”
I said, “You’re crazy. I’m Welsh.”
“You’re bleedin’,” he repeated.
“Come off it, Cary. I oughta know if…” Then I realized Cary wasn’t the only one gushing.
I saw a red liquid. This warm substance was spewing over my glasses and down my chin where it splashed to the ground. Squirt, squirt, it was coming out of my head like water out of a wildcat oil well.
Ruben was dashing around in circles shouting for his mother. Cary joined him, yelling for me to go into the house. They were running and colliding with each other and then Ruben’s mother came out of the house to see what all the noise was about.
She took one glance my way and began screaming, “Get a doctor.”
It was like a Three Stooges short, three loonies running about literally screaming bloody murder. I turned around and walked across the Rayzel’s driveway. Right next-door was the office of Doctor Best, my families’ family doctor.

I calmly walked into his waiting room and his receptionist stood up as I entered.