The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
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 by Laramie Boyd
Those Were the Days, My Friend
2017 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
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        There are many events that occur in our lives, many thoughts and memories in our minds. But we forget a lot too. Recently I decided to write down some of the things I recall about growing up, things that happened, people I knew, things I wanted to share. I write these things because they allow me to relive parts of my life, and with each event I write, other situations long forgotten come to mind, some pleasant but some I wish I hadn't recalled. At least they take my mind back to an earlier time and place, when I was younger, life was easier, and I was full of hope and dreams. And for me this is good, because I'm content, for the most part, with my past.
        One of my most vivid recollections of growing up is when I asked a girl to go out to a movie. I was in the eighth grade at the time. I had saved up $.80, enough for two admissions, popcorn, ice cream and maybe a soda. Well, come date day I couldn't find my money. I was in a state of panic. Mom and Dad and I looked high and low with no success. I knew my folks couldn't afford to replace the savings so I was really feeling down. But, at the last minute, while Mom was dusting off the mantle, she picked up a bowl, and there it was, my treasure, just where I had hidden it a few days earlier. I don't remember the movie Colleen and I saw, but I do know that I put my arm around her shoulder during the show, so I considered the day a resounding success.
        There was a girl named Stormy Weather in my sixth grade class who was very cute and also a good athlete. I used to fantasize that of all the boys in school, she liked me best. Frankly, though, she never really showed those feelings toward me, unless beating me in some game was her way of showing a romantic interest.
        In Junior High School, occasionally someone would have a chaperoned party at their home, inviting boys and girls, eating snacks and drinking soda pop. Without fail, "spin the bottle" was the game most of the kids wanted to play. In this game, the boys and girls would sit on the floor in a circle and there would be a drawing to see who got the bottle first. They were glass in those days. The person who drew the bottle would spin it on the floor, and if the spinner was a boy, whichever girl the bottle pointed to would be "forced" to go into a closet with the boy, and they would kiss. And the same rule applied if the spinner was a girl. Whichever boy the bottle pointed to, along with the girl spinner, would disappear into a closet. Even most parents approved of this tame game, and being together in a dark closet stirs up all sorts of fantasies for 8th and 9th grade boys and girls.
        When I started the 9th grade, I stayed with my grandparents for a brief time. They were very religious, as my grandpa was a Nazarene preacher. I knew this wasn't going to work, even though I had gone through the ritual of being "born again". What that meant was, I answered an "altar call" during a church service, by going to the front of the church, getting on my knees at the altar, and saying out loud that I accepted the beliefs of my Church and that I agreed to live my life by the teachings in the Bible. I was expected to eliminate any "sins" in my life, as outlined by the Church, such as cursing, going to the movies, dancing, smoking or drinking, and other "worldly" habits. As the years passed, I admit that I didn't live up to that promise. Emily Dickinson said, "The only Commandment I never broke was 'Consider the lilies of the field ', and I know what she meant. And my stay with the preacher and his wife didn't work, as I moved out of my grandparents' home but was never resented for having done so.
        I had an uncle named John Henry Jr. who lived with my grandparents. Almost everybody called him Buck. Buck was an alcoholic. During one of his binges, while his parents were away, he sold every stick of furniture in their house. He needed some drinking money and couldn't find it any other way. When his folks got home and found the house empty there was a lot of sadness and anger, but they knew he really couldn't help his behavior, and they forgave him and loved him just the same. A few years later Buck was found dead on Skid Row in Los Angeles. He was red headed and freckled faced, played the guitar and sang country songs, and always called me Tanker, why I never knew.
        When I was four years old my family moved from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in an old jalopy that looked like it was in the movie "The Grapes of Wrath". Growing up in Los Angeles, I recall our neighborhood where old men pushing two-wheeled ice cream carts went up and down the streets with little bells jingling to attract buyers, and trucks that displayed fruit and vegetables for sale right on their tailgate, and Helms Bakery trucks coming by selling all their rolls and donuts and bread and such, and the truck drivers blowing a piercing whistle to get the attention of housewives in their homes. Our dog, Buster, used to chase after these carts and trucks, or any passing car on the street. One day he chased the wrong car, and lost the fight with a front wheel. He recuperated for a week or two under our house while his bruises healed.
        A neighborhood boy I knew and I were feeling restless one summer day, so we decided to play the game of clothespin matches in my front yard. By inserting a wooden match into a clothes pin a certain way, with rubber bands attached, then quickly opening the jaws of the pin, the match would take off like a rocket. So we loaded one up, fired it, and it lit up and careened over a fence and landed next door in a vacant lot that was covered with dry grass. The grass caught fire and was all ablaze when the fire trucks came clanging to the rescue. Luckily they arrived just before my house caught fire. When the Fire Chief and Sheriff left, I had to answer to my Dad, who was not opposed to applying a razor strap to my backside in order to get a point across and a few questions answered. That ended my career in rocket science.
        In my junior year at Glendale High school, I was asked to join a social club. The Loopers, as the club was called, was made up of a bunch of guys who often organized parties and trips, and around school wore blue and white jackets with a LOOPERS logo on back. I think some of them thought they were members of the elite class on campus, but realistically they were just a bunch of young boys who thought it was manly to go out occasionally and get high on a can of beer and then brag about it at school the next day. I am not totally ashamed to admit that I gave in to that temptation more than once.
        These Loopers had a tradition of going to Balboa Island every Easter week vacation, renting a large home, as there were about 15 or so members of the club, and generally enjoying the time off from school. One night the senior class members decided to liven things up by throwing all the upstairs beds out the second story windows. Well, the local Police arrived and hauled all of us down to the jail, where we spent the night. The next day the desk Sergeant called my mother and asked her to come get me, as I was under the age of 18 at the time. My Mother thought it was my Uncle Al, a great prankster in the family, and she told the sergeant how silly he was acting, even calling him Al. The Sergeant didn't see the humor of it all and finally convinced Mom to drive down to the island. When she arrived to get me, she didn't recognize me, as I had dyed my hair, in a mad moment of rebellion I guess, and it turned a bright orange. I'll never know why I did that. I guess it was just something I wanted to do.
        During my second semester at UC Santa Barbara, I lived in a house on the beach with three other students. We had a great time there, as you can imagine. We had a lot of parties in that house on the bluff, and the remains of them shone brightly all around. The inside walls had no plaster, so you could see the wooden studs and cross braces. We decorated these areas with all of our vari-colored beer cans, all makes and sizes, filling every wall in the house. It was quite a display. While admiring our art work, we often chased rats that crawled under our rugs at night, catching some of them. This was not exactly the Waldorf Astoria, but we sure did have a lot of fun growing up, away from home, on our own, learning many of the lessons of life.
       In 1953 I began dating Barbara, a 12 year Catholic school graduate from Glendale. She would visit me at UC Santa Barbara and I would go south to see her when I could. We dated for 4 years and it took me 4 dates before I kissed her, and even then I missed and gave her one on the nose. Valentino I wasn't! Then in 1957 I decided to do something I had been thinking about for quite a while. I got a ride down to the dentist's office where Barbara worked. She usually stayed after hours to clean the office when her Dental Assistant work was finished, and when the Doctor left, I positioned myself, got down on my knees, and asked her to be my wife.
        I had no job, no car, was in debt, had no particular skills and only a partial education. When Barbara said the only way she would marry me was if the ceremony was in a Catholic Church conducted by a Catholic priest, this gave me something to think about. My Mother was a very strict Protestant and I was raised in that atmosphere, and Catholics were not high on the favored list. But I was also raised to make my own decisions, so I did. I agreed to Barbara's conditions for marriage, and she said the magic word, yes. I don't know for sure why she did, but I hope she knows. But in reality I didn't see any conflict of interest. I understood why she made the demands she did, and I also knew I had found as good and decent a lady as there was, and one of the reasons was her total faith in her God and in her Church. I felt if she could instill some of this faith in any children we might have together, then it was no price at all to pay to marry her way, in her Church, by her Priest. And eventually, in fact in no time at all, my Mother came to realize what a treasure I had found. And this is true even until today