My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Monday, August 26, 2019

I wanted to be Harry James

Riverland Terrace School had a program that provided music lessons to students.  Together with Leonard’s School of Music students were able to rent instruments and take lessons during school hours.  This arrangement had been very good for those musically inclined. All those who signed up were not necessarily worthy.
One day in 1955 a representative from Leonard’s School of music entered our classroom. He smiled and place several boxes on the teacher’s desk. We sat attentively eyes forward with question marks reflected therein.
“Children,” said our teacher. “Mr. Leonard is here to test your aptitude for music. Some of you will enjoy this next half hour. I want you all to give him your devoted attention.”
We sat straighter in our desks swiveling our heads to smile at friends or, in my case, with a look of perplexity.  My only real encounter with music during my short life had been my mother’s love of singing. She was a member of the choir at church.  She had a lovely voice which I did not truly appreciate at that early age of 9. I wasn’t a big fan of Mario Lanza whose works my mother loved. She had several of his records which she played often.
Mr. Leonard brought me back to class with his booming voice.
“All right, children. I’m going to pass out some papers I want you to hold onto until I can get my equipment to work. On these papers I will ask you to mark the questions asked after each sound issues from my speaker here.”
He turned to the black box on the desk. It was plugged into the wall. There was a click as the pressed the switch. The speaker wailed a screechy noise.
“AAAH!” we all screamed slamming our palms over our ears.
“Sorry. Sorry.” He said adjusting the black box through knobs protruding from the top. “OK, that should do it.”
He turned to the class.
“If you will look at the paper in your hands you will see questions one through ten. I am going to issue some sounds through this amplifier and I want you to mark on the sheet what you hear. The first question asks if the two sounds you are about to hear sound the same to you.  It’s a very simple succession of such questions. With the answers we will see if you would be good at taking music lessons. Those of you who score high would have a good chance of learning to play an instrument quickly with a great deal of enjoyment. Those who don’t do well probably wouldn’t have any interest in playing an instrument and it would save you the trouble of learning the hard way.”
The first sounds came through the speaker.
“Let me play those sounds again.” The two sounds issued from the speaker again.
“Mark yes or no to the first question. Did those sounds seem the same to you.”
The next 9 questions were repeated in the same manner.
I could not distinguish the sounds so well and my answers were questionable to me. So I answered them with guesses each time.
When we had answered number 10 Mr. Leonard asked us to pass the papers up front after we placed our names at the top. While the rustling of papers proceeded to the front he packed up his equipment. The teacher handed the stack of papers to him.
“Al l right, let’s see how we did.”  He quickly looked through them. He placed a mark at the top of several of them, then, looked at the class.
“I see several of you have very high marks. I would very much like to speak with those children.”
Having always achieved high marks on all my tests thus far, I sat expectantly for my name to be called.
Four classmates were called to the front of the room. I wasn’t one of them.
Those four huddled around Mr. Leonard at the desk. Their talk was done in quiet tones. When finished the four, all smiles, returned to their seats.
“Thank you, children.” He said after which he picked up his boxes and left.
I was aghast at not having been asked to the front to speak with him along with the other four. I’d never failed a test. It was my first failure. I didn’t know how to react. The rest of the day was a loss for me. I simply could not get over receiving no recognition of making a good grade on a test.
The teacher closed the door after he left.
“Well, children, that was fun wasn’t it?”
The classroom began to buzz with yeses and noes.
“Why did so many fail?” The shout came out of my mouth without thought.
“What do you mean, Rickey? That wasn’t a test.”
“It sure seemed like one.” I shot back.
“I can see where you might feel that way but it was just a means of seeing if anyone was inclined toward music.”
“Do we get to see our grades?” asked another student.
“There were no grades.”
“Why did he call them up to the front?” asked another pointing to the four.
“The questions indicated that those particular students have an aptitude for music. He wanted to see if any of them were interested in learning to play an instrument.”
“What if we wanted to play one? Does that mean we can’t?” another student asked.
“No, of course not. The music program is for anyone who wants to learn. It just so happens that this test provides information about a student’s ability to distinguish sounds. It has been a very good guide for the music teachers to see which children will have an easier time learning to play. All right, I think we’ve given enough time to this. Let’s get out your readers.”
Her explanation did nothing to ease the sense of failure in my mind. The day droned on until the final bell. I walked across the golf course and across Maybank Highway for home.
That weekend my mother was concerned about my mood.
“Rickey, what’s wrong?”
“Nuttin’, Momma.”
“I know you better than that. What’s wrong, honey?”
“We had to take a test last week and I failed.”
“You don’t fail tests. What subject was it?”
“It was something to do with music. We had 10 questions and I didn’t pass.”
“Let me see that test paper.”
“They didn’t give it back to us. He kept them.”
“He? Who’s he?” she asked.
“Some guy from the music school on Maybank Highway.”
“You mean Leonard’s School of Music?”
“Yes’m. It was Mr. Leonard. He kept the test papers.”
“How do you know you failed?”
“‘Cause he called the four who passed up to the front of the room. He didn’t call me. So I musta failed.”
“I don’t remember you telling me you had to study for a music test.”
 ”I didn’t know about it. None of us did. He said it would tell him who could take music lessons and who couldn’t.”
“I’m going to call your teacher to find out about this.”
She went directly to the phone.
I went into my room. I knew my momma would straighten it out. She’d find out why they gave a test without giving us time to study. She’d get it straight. I grabbed a Mighty Mouse funny book and plopped on my bed.
Half way through Mighty Mouse mom came into my room.
“That test isn’t something you have to worry about, Rickey. It’s not part of your grades. It’s only an aptitude test. They’re just trying to find out who would like to be involved with music.”
“So, since I failed I can’t take music?”
“No. Have you ever wanted to play a musical instrument?”
“I don’t know. I never thought about it.”
“What instrument would you like to play?” She asked not expecting an answer.
“What is that thing Harry James plays?” I asked with a new light in my eyes.
“He plays trumpet. Do you want to play the trumpet?” My mother asked with a touch of disbelief in her tone.
“Yes!” I said with real enthusiasm. At that moment I wanted to play the trumpet with all my heart.
“Why don’t you ask your teacher what you need to do to learn. We’ll see after that.”
Monday morning came and I was in the classroom at the teacher’s desk first thing.
“Yes, Rickey. What do you need?”
“My mom asked me to ask you what I need to do to learn how to play the trumpet.” My face beamed with a huge smile.
“Do you want to play the trumpet?” She asked with a touch of disbelief in her tone.
“Yes Ma’am!”
“If you feel that strongly then take these papers home and have your parents fill them out then bring them back to me.  I’ll see that Mr. Leonard gets them.”
The following week Mr. Leonard came into the classroom. He requested the four students already chosen to come with him. As they stepped out into the hall he turned back and said, “Rickey Croucher, will you come with us too?”
With a huge smile on my face I jumped up and ran to the door.
“Yes sir!” I said. 
We walked down the hall to another classroom. It was here that the music lessons were taught.
The five of us sat down in respective desks.
Mr. Leonard stood in front of us.
“Each of you has signed up to learn how to play a musical instrument. I’ve brought each of you the one you have requested. Your parents have agreed to the rental fees so let’s not disappoint them.”
I squirmed in my chair as he called each student by name. Up to the table in front they marched. Mr. Leonard opened the case to each instrument and placed it in the student’s hand. He gave a few minutes explanation about that particular piece. He then closed the case and handed it to the pupil.
“Rickey, come on up,” he said smiling.
I rushed to the table. There sat my case with my very own trumpet. My excitement rose.
He opened the case. He picked up the instrument in all its splotchy brass color and handed it to me.
I held it in my hand.
“Here, let me show you how to hold it.”
Something wasn’t quite right here, I thought. This didn’t look like any trumpet I’d seen in pictures of Harry James.
“Are you sure this is a trumpet?” I asked.
“No, Rickey.  This is a cornet.”
“What’s a cornet?”
“It’s like a trumpet.”
“But I want a trumpet!”
“Your hands are too small to play a trumpet so I got you the next best thing. Your hands can hold this and work the valves much easier. With a trumpet your hands would have problems.”
“But I want a trumpet, a real trumpet.”
“You’ll have to settle on the cornet until your hands have grown into a trumpet. Learning the cornet is the best way to get yourself ready for that day.”
“But I want a trumpet.”
“I’m sorry. This will have to do for now. I promise, everything you learn to play on the cornet will be the same as if it were a trumpet.”
My disappointment was evident but I replaced the cornet in the case. I snapped the clasps, picked it up and walked back to my desk.
I smoldered while he gave out the books to study for our first class the next week.
When I got home I slung the case onto my bed.
“What’s wrong, Rickey?” asked my mother.
“He said I couldn’t play the trumpet.”
“What’s in that case you just threw across the room?”
“It’s a crummy cornet.”
“That’s like a trumpet isn’t it?  Did they run out of trumpets?”
“No ma’am. He said my hands weren’t big enough to reach the buttons on a trumpet so I had to settle for a crummy cornet.”
“It looks like a trumpet to me,” mom said. She had retrieved the case and pulled the horn from within.
“No it doesn’t. See that bend in the tube here and it’s too short to be a real trumpet.”
“I bet if you learn to play this you can easily pick up a trumpet one day when you have grown and blast away with all the training you’ll pick up.” She was trying to show me the benefit of the cornet.
Stubborn cuss that I was I didn’t see it that way. I took the lessons for three, maybe four weeks. My heart wasn’t in it because I wanted a trumpet and a crummy cornet just wasn’t going to fulfill that desire.
I never put my heart into practicing on that crummy cornet. My mother said if I wasn’t going to practice there was no sense paying the rental for the horn. I had to agree.
I turned it in to Mr. Leonard the next week of class. He took it with a knowing smile. I walked away from my musical career on that Friday in third grade.
It’s a shame we look back on these decisions through old eyes. I have often regretted the decision of that 9 year old brat.  So in 1975 I went back to Leonard’s School of Music (yup, it was still there) and bought a trumpet. My then wife bought a flute and we set up lessons for the weekends. We lived in Florence. That arrangement did not work well right along with the marriage, so, the lessons and the marriage were ended after a few years.
That trumpet is still around. Added to that is a trumpet a friend of mine left to me in his will. The desire is not so fired up as in my youth but I have begun to attempt learning to play once more. Now I have time, lots of time, and the internet. Perhaps in a few years I will be able to play a tune or two. We’ll see. And to top it off, I’d really like to learn on a cornet.

Monday, February 18, 2019

A passing breeze

Recently I googled my Great-Grandmother's farm just to reminisce.  It wasn't the warm fuzzy I was expecting. The old rutted dirt road leading up to the fenced in farm was now a paved two lane with yellow stripes in the middle. The fence enclosing the fields and barns was gone. The old house still stood next to the road but not one of the buildings--barn, smoke house, tool shed, or two hole outhouse were anywhere to be seen. The old bricked up well was still on the side of the yard but it was covered over with an iron grating to keep idiots from falling in.
Across the street was a double wide with a car parked in front.  To the left of the old run down house was a white house built out on the field that used to run high with corn. The field was now a lawn, flat and green, sparsely dotted with new trees in the area where watermelons used to grow.
I went further up the paved road just around the bend where the branch was. The branch was the little stream that ran from the forest to the old dirt road and under to the other side. It was a favorite spot for us kids to float sticks and wade to cool off our bare feet in the summer heat. I searched and searched but there was no sign of the little stream. Both sides of the road were covered in dried bushes and weeds.
The old forest where Clyde and I went hunting squirrels was covered in new growth trees. It was all so foreign.
My son said, "It has been a long time, dad."
He is right.  It has been a long time. 60 years is a good stretch. During that time practically every sign that we were there had disappeared.
The old house is now unsafe to enter. The well is covered as a safety precaution. The water cannot be brought to the surface thus removing its significance. The old barn, the sugarcane mill, the gate leading to the cows in the field have all been removed as if they had never existed.
I felt the same as I did the day in 1972 when I drove up to the Riverland Terrace School grounds. While I was overseas it have been demolished. Not one brick remained to show there had been a school on that site. I was in shock for days.
Recently, James Island High School, or what was our high school, was demolished. Bricks from the site were given to some of the alumni for a price, I imagine. Which means another bit of concrete proof of our past is past.  It's gone.  With these things go our reference points. We can no longer say, that is where I went to school, or that is where my childhood was influenced. We cannot look at our children with pride as they enter those old buildings to begin their education.
Traditions used to be important. Those things handed down generation to generation used to have deep meaning.
Now families are split apart. The young move to where the job is. The family ties are frayed and eventually broken.  Traditions?  They are lost in the shuffle.  The old folks?  They are lost in the shuffle. We used to sit on the front porch and listen to the tales told by our grandfolks about the times in which they were raised. We carried those tales forward so that families knew where they came from.
I should never have googled my Great-Grandmother's old address.  I was just reminded that we all pass and with us our life story which may or may not have been significant at the time.  Life goes on.  And in a few years it will go on without me. I plan to be cremated and my ashes to be released on the top of the white cliffs of Dover. Whether that last wish will be  granted remains to be seen, but , to coin a phrase, I, too, will be gone with the wind. All traces slipping into the breeze scattering me to the ages. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Notes from a life

I found these notes in one of my old sketch pads. My dad had started writing about his early days. I typed up this portion. I was saddened when it came to an abrupt end. There is no follow up anywhere.
Any typos or grammatical glitches are due to my incompetence as a typist.

This was 1938 and Neville Chamberlain had returned from Germany waving a piece of paper saying peace in our time, but the majority of the people could see different and that most of the fellows my age whom I knew who didn’t work in the mines, were flocking to them to get on. There were three coal mines within 5 miles of where I lived and I’d worked at all there of the.  At this time I was working at Snowden. Things were looking pretty black for Europe by this time and it was given out that all people working at the mines were in a reserved occupation and couldn’t be drafted in the services, so I decided to volunteer for the Navy, which I did three months before the war started.
I reported to Chatham barracks for a physical. I was told that I had passed and would be sent for. They asked which branch I wanted to serve in. I chose the engine room branch because I did not want to tote a gun or even fire a gun on the ships. I got my wish.  While going through boot training nothing really happened worth mentioning, except near the end of our training war was declared.  We were on the parade ground and listening to the prime minister talking and telling us we had declared war on Germany. Three minutes after 11 o’clock the air raid warnings sounded.  We had been told time and time again not to panic but there was utter confusion with people running everywhere. My buddy and I were walking towards the shelter we were assigned to when an officer blasted us for not moving fast enough. We thought we were doing what we were told. Anyway, nothing happened and it was soon over. That was the one and only time I ever went into a shelter during a raid.
In a couple of days time some of the class I was in were detailed to take a repair ship to Dover which was about six miles from my home. It had no armaments on it at all and it was old. Were told we had to get there as soon as possible.  We got it out to sea. It was a coal burner and all the speed it would do was five knots. We eventually got there. This is where I lost my buddy because he never came on this trip. I didn’t know then but it would be nearly seven years before I’d see him again.  We took the ship to Dover and after it was berthed most of us were sent back to Chatham. I found myself drafted to another old ship0 called the Curacoa. She was an ack ack 4.7 guns and also experimental for magnetic mines. She could do 26 knots. We were mostly used for convoy duties.
We were sent to Norway. That is where we really saw our first action. We were hit hard while there. If it had not been for our First we would have ended up prisoners of war. The Captain wanted to beach the ship but the First Lt said, “No. Let’s take it home.”
I’ll never forget this action because they had just piped that we could get something to eat as there were some of our fighters overhead. We were on the mess deck getting sandwiches when action stations sounded. We had to pass under the bridge to get to our deck. While going through, that part of the deck, the ship was hit. I was picked up and blown through four bulk head doors and at the other end hit a wall. As I did this the lights went out. I really thought I was blind, but the lights came back on after a while. I found I didn’t have a scratch on me.
I stayed on this ship for quite some time. I joined it as a second class stoker and made my way up to leading hand before being called back to barracks to go through school for Petty Officer.
There was another time on this ship when we were called off of shore leave to go looking for a destroyer called the Glowworm. The last word was she had contacted the German fleet. I don’t know what good we would have been had we ever found her.
During my time on this ship I’d palled up with Harry. He used to come home with me when we were given leave. I remember that on one of these times we took a bike to Deal. For the first time in I don’t know how long we saw Sylvia. We talked and she asked what we were doing in Deal. I told her we were just looking around before the pubs opened so we could get a drink. By now that was mostly what we went ashore for was to get drunk and forget our troubles. She said she didn’t believe it. We told her to stick around and she would find out. To my surprise she did. She stayed with us until she thought we were sober enough to ride the bikes home. That was the last time I ever saw her to speak to.
As I said earlier, I spent quite some time on this ship but one day the regulating chief came to me and said the depot had sent for me to go through for Petty Officer school. He had tried to delay it as he had no one to take my place in double bottoms, as that had been my job most of the time on board, but they refused. So I had to go. To be truthful, I don’t remember leaving. You see, everyone wanted me to have sippers, as we called them, of their rum. I travelled from Scotland to London before I ever came to, I was so drunk.
The Curacoa’s next trip was another Queen Mary escort over to America like we had done before.  That was her last trip because, I understand, there was a submarine scare and seeing the Queen Mary had more speed than the old boat, she was cut in half and most of the crew went down with the ship.  I lost most of my best mates on her.
I went through P O school and passed. I was drafted onto the Uganda. She was new. We went to the shipyard to commission her. Of course, we had to have working up trials to get the ship’s company to operate expertly. We were sent to the Med to join the fleet. We went through North Africa and Sicily.
As I said before, my duties were double bottoms, which took me all over the ship during action.  I remember being on deck when zero hour came in Sicily and watching the fireworks go off when we invaded. We also picked two paratroopers out of the sea that had been dropped too early. We watched the barges going in and at times were called for bombardment. After Sicily we went with the invasion fleet to Italy. A tanker got hit and lit up everything around. I especially remember the day we got hit by a chase-me-Charley bomb, as we called them. It went through two armored decks and through the bottom of the ship and blew back inside. The hole left in the bottom you could drive a double decker bus through which left one engine out of four operational. That one engine took us back to Malta where they patched us up. We were told we would go back to the UK from there but when the time came and we left the Med we ended up in the US. 
Our first call was Norfolk where we received our first real meal since leaving Malta. I was still in double bottoms. There was one Chief, one Petty Officer, two leading hands, myself and another plus three stokers. We had to keep the ship in trim. The other leading hand was in the forward end of the ship flooding some tank when the Chief sent me to tell them to stop.  On the way over they were coming back and said everything was closed off. I told the Chief what they said and he said OK. It must have been several hours after that the boiler room lost steam through water in the oil line. So, of course, there was a big panic. It turned out that all the blame was put on me. Now the chief mail(?) job was to check things out after things were down, which I never knew him to do ever. Anyway, I was taken before the Captain with charges of negligence. He listened to the officer in charge of our party list the charges. Then he asked me what happened. I explained it. Afterwards, He said, “Commander Reedit looks to me like the wrong man is standing in front of me.” Two or three days later I was called to the bridge in front of him again. He told me that seeing as there had to be a scapegoat to answer I was elected. He was sorry but he would have to reprimand me. He said Commander Reed—(this must be the Bloody Reed dad always talked about)—wanted a severe reprimand but that he would not go along with that because it was unfair to me. As far as he was concerned it should have been the chief who was in my place. Anyway, before I got off the bridge Commander Reed had beaten down the steps and met me at the mess deck. He wanted me to go have a drink with him and forget everything as it would never go on my papers. I told him no thanks to him and, no, I would not have a drink with him and I would not forget in a hurry what he had tried to do.
It wasn’t long after we had reached Charleston, SC, that my PO rating came through. He sent for me and congratulated me. He said I was one of the first he knew who had made PO in such a short time in the Navy. Sometime later he sent for me and told me that he was sending my name in for sea candidate. He said he was submitting Stonebridge as well so that I would have a friend to go through the school with. I told him if he did I would refuse it as I wanted to get out of this mob not die in it. Neither Stonebridge nor I were submitted.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It's OK, I promise

You know, I don't feel like writing a blooming thing. So I decided I won't. And a decision is a decision right? Write. Ok. It's Sunday. The weather is nice. Blue sky, cool breeze wafting Spanish moss along the old oak limbs. Don't hear any birds though. Nope. Not one. Interesting. No crickets either. Come to think of it no bug noises either. Odd. Oh well. Gosh, traffic has slowed down as well. Hmm, actually I haven't heard a car go by in quite some time. Unusual.
Sasha is lying along the section of books on the wall. Asleep as always. She's 9 this year and seems to have a bit of trouble with her movements unless of course you pull some Ben and Jerry's from the freezer. then she is right there under your feet. Wait. Was that a bird call? No, guess not. Anyway, she's getting up in age. Past me in dog years now. Gray muzzle and all. Still good company though.
I cooked some oatmeal today in the microwave. Gloppy mess supposed to be good for the old cholesterol levels. Have to wait to see at the next official physical. There it is that was a car I know. Let me just peak out this window here. Nope. Kinda quiet out there. Now, what was I saying? Oh yeah. Cholesterol. Well, before I became engaged I decided I was gonna eat whatever I wanted and when the time came for the big one then my arteries would clog up all at the same time and I'd drop immediately to the floor without the chance to think about anything. Then I became engaged and I became very health conscious because I wanted a long life to stretch out in front of me. Now Post-engagement I think the other diet plan is the right one. Much like the whole point is to die broke. Then your kids don't have to squabble over what you have left behind. We enter with nothing we go with nothing. Simple. Beats the taxman taboot.
Well, as I was...wait a minute. There's something outside. A shadow just fell across the window. Hold on while I go take a look. .....
There's something in the sky out there. Just sittin' like a stationary cloud but it's bright and metallic. Looks too heavy to be just sittin' there. Hold on while I call the cops....

Seems they've had several reports about this thing. Only it isn't just one. They're dotting the sky all over the county. I'm going to go out and take another look. They are very high up there and there are lots of them. Now there's a sound coming from the sky. A deep humming noise and the saucer-like, yeah, I said saucer-like, things are beginning to spin in two directions at once. The middle section is spinning counter-clockwise and the two outer sections, clockwise. The bottom has lights beginning to blink green then red. I came back in. It's unnerving. They just sat there for the longest time and now this movement. Sasha seems to be getting a little agitated now. Wait, she's just gotten up and cocked her ears toward the front door. I'll go check it to make sure it's locked. I'll let you know what's going on. ...
There was something out there in the hedge. Sasha started to bristle and bark so I let her out. She took off toward the spot and then dashed around the corner barking steadily. Abruptly the barking stopped and she doesn't respond to my calls. I stepped out to see but the air seems charged. What little hair I have stood out like Einstein's and crackled. Too weird. I came back in. Sasha seems to have disappeared. I think I better call the cops again. I'll get back to you.
Ha, Ha. Just ignore all the things I rote earlier. Nuthin too em. Tha burds is churppin and tha beees is hummmmin. Yu noe me i'm alwaas ritin stuph ta get a lefff. Dun yu wurry nun. Things is gunnu beee ok. Wunce yu let them in yur houss and let emm stik this wire in yur hed things is ok. Even Sasha is beddr. She kin talk now. En thet rite gurl?
Din say she spoke Inglish...
So if yu notis dark hevvy clowds over hed. Just open yur dors and welcom thim. They ar kwite frindly. 

More Rotten Tomato Soup

WE kids would enter through the side doors. A short gloomy hallway floor labored under the feet of dozens of small children making their way to class. To the right upon entering was a classroom. To the left was a double wide stairway of two levels leading to the second floor. Ignoring the stairway but turning to the left was another hallway the entire length of the school. In the middle of this passageway was the entry to the auditorium on the right. It served several functions. At noon it was the cafeteria. The bell would ring and we'd all pile out of our classrooms and line up for our turn to march into the lunchroom single file with our square plastic tokens ready to be redeemed for the lunch prepared for us by the ladies in the kitchen. Each token cost a dime. We were told to have it ready in our hands for the lady collecting them at the window separating the kitchen from the dining area.
We were given our tray of food in exchange and proceeded to the tables aligned in several rows. Their was an aisle down the middle of the auditorium separating the tables into two separate areas. On the tables were bottles of ketchup, mustard and on good days jars of peanut butter with spoons stuck into the middle of the honey-sweetened childhood delicacy.
We'd place our trays on the table, sit and commence "to eatin" with kid-jostling fun. Lots of talk about the things kids love. The boys talked about worms and tadpoles and tin cans tied to cat's tails, while the girls talked about their cooty talk. The teachers were constantly nearby to keep all this juvenile energy under control. If we were naughty we were removed from the table and, depending on the seriousness of the behavior, were sent accordingly to the appropriate place of punishment.
There were seats in the front half of this auditorium adjoined at the armrest facing a stage with old cranberry colored velvet curtains separating the backstage area from audience view. The chairs were dark cherry stained wood with fold down seats without cushions inappropriate for the squirming bottoms of restless children. We were sent to these chairs for minor infractions of dining etiquette. For the major faus pas it was a swift march out of the lunchroom into the afore mentioned Principal's office and the legendary paddle o' holes. ( A side note: I asked a fellow employee last night if they endured corporal punishment during their school days and could she describe the paddle uses. As expected she said she had no first hand knowledge of the paddle but had heard it was a thin plate of steel with holes drilled into it. Hmmmmmm.)
This auditorium was a Broadway theatre to us yokels as we grew to teenhood. The local theatre would put on plays for the children about every 3 months. At the beginning of the school year each child was given a chance to purchase "season tickets" which we took home to our parents with gleeful hope radiating from our little cherubic faces. I remember My folks were able to buy a season's pack for me one year. I remember 'Puss 'N Boots" and "Snow White and Rose Red' as two of those plays offered that year. I believe it was the Dock Street Players who provided this service to the local schools. It was a thrill for us sitting there awaiting the parting of the curtain. We'd buzz with anticipation staring at the heavy deep maroon drapes with the fringe at top sporting the letters RTS--Rotten Tomato Soup, we'd chant. The teachers were not as stringent during the plays because it was after school hours, and probably Saturdays, these plays were offered.
When those curtains finally began to part to the opposite corners after a heavy tap on the floor off stage the tempestuous frenzy died down as stage lights brightened and the players booming voices let fly the opening lines. All childhood energy froze into the fantasy world before us. The costumes were grand for wee eyes glued to the action. The story gathered momentum and we scrunched forward on our seats anticipating the next move and the curtain would close off the world to an explosion of kid-wonder. All the pent up energy would come out in boys fighting with imaginary swords. The girls would fuss with their dresses and try to talk to one another ignoring all the boys showing off. This pandemonium continued until the hard knocks sounded from backstage demanding attention before the next act could begin. It was amazing how quickly this room full of kids became quiet and still and breathless awaiting the action to begin again. It was grand to be alive. Simple entertainment. Live entertainment. Grand stuff for kids or adults.
When it was over the long walk home was full of remembering and reenacting. Swords and boots and capes of fabulous color upon a heroic figure that was me as I bounced back home fighting off villains.
I performed on this stage a couple of times myself but that will have to be another entry another time.
Riverland Terrace School. RTS. As kids it became Rotten Tomato Soup. We learned a lot in that old building. government training films were shown to us here. Duck and cover as protection against the nuclear blast that could come at any time. Open your windows and place the clothing you plan to wear next day on the back of a chair near the window to allow fresh air through the fibers. Science films about germs and such. There were others but they don't stick out in memory.
I was part of a spelling bee once. The teachers who recommended me were disappointed when near the end and almost there I was unable to spell "Kindergarden"
thought they gave me hints and three chances. I certainly felt stupid but I'll never forget how to spell that word now.
I believe that's enough memory lane for a while. I write most of this stuff thinking my kids would be interested but I don't think they are. Now I write them because I enjoy the memories. 

Children! BEHAVE!

The weather's turned cold again. The last blast before the warmth of spring and the heat of summer rush in on us back to back in April. Summer is the major season down here with its heat and humidity.
We used to fight back by spending time at the beach--Folly beach--on the sand and in the waves. The wind blowing in over the ocean kept us cool until we arrived back home and sported 1st degree burns over every area of skin except that covered with swim wear. Then the heat was a burden to bear inside as well as outside. This may be true but as children we only noticed it when we wanted sympathy or ice cream from the mobile vendor whose jingle perked our ears though he might have been a mile away.
"Please! We gotta have a nickel! The ice cream truck's coming!" And we'd get our nickel and run to the edge of the road waiting impatiently for that small white dot down the road to emerge at our feet as the Popsicle man on 4 wheels. When he stopped every kid from the local vicinity would beat feet to the sliding window. Inside was a man with a three day growth of beard and cigarette dangling from his mouth handing out ice creams and collecting nickels and dimes from chubby little fingers extended up to him. Smiling faces on tiptoe happy to start ripping into the paper surrounding the glorious chocolate covered ice cream on a stick. Happier still to shove that big cold treat into mouths filled with cavity prone teeth, but who cared. This was child heaven.
Every one of us would wander off to our respected front porches, climb into the swings, and slurp happily on melting ice cream bars. The swing would ease back and forth passing our little shirtless bodies through cooling breeze. That sticky oozing hot ice cream we were unable to eat before melting would run down our arms and faces and onto our shorts. Drips would accumulate on bare legs and dirty feet. Yup, a child's heaven.
When all we had was a stick and sticky bodies covered with dried rivulets of clotted milk and dirt we'd begin to swing in earnest. The swing would reach to the sky, or at least the ceiling with a loud bang. Usually at this point someone's mother would rush to the front door and warn us to swing a little less exuberantly. Who listens? Within minutes the ceiling bump would bring the parent once more on the scene with demands that we get out of the swing and go play in the yard. Once we went for a third bang on the ceiling but were stopped abruptly by the screws snapping from the ceiling of the porch and the swing sailing out over the rails and into the yard five feet below. That time it was the screams that brought the parent to the door. No one was hurt so we got no sympathy only an I-told-you-to-out-and-play-in-the-yard speech. Then, as we scattered, a frowning look as the parent viewed the damage and calculated the trouble and cost to fix it. Not a kid's worry though. We took off in all directions ready for the next adventure.
In the heat of summer we used to hike down the road, pails in hand, with our older relatives--cousins--to the local briar patch which just happened to be full of ripe, juicy blackberries. Our little mouths would be drenched in blackberry juice, our stomachs distended with those squishy berries and our pails filled to the brim. We'd walk back to the house excited about the blackberry pies in our immediate future or blackberries and cream the next evening. The days were long and leisurely with plenty of time for all the activities we could dream up and we did.
The garage at the side of our house had a slanting sheet of tar covered metal that made a 45 degree angle with the roof. "Don't be climbing up on the garage roof, now, you children." we heard this every day. As soon as we were out of sight we'd plant our little shoeless feet at the bottom of this steep incline, grab the side with our hands and ease our way up to the roof. With each trip up we'd carry a load of pine cones and deposit them behind the board at the front of the garage that came up 3 feet from the roof floor. We'd make several trips until we stock piled enough, then we'd shout out our challenge to any passing kid.
"Come on! We'll stand you off and beat you in a game of war!" would be our cry. "Beat us if you can!"
The challenge would be answered with a flurry of pine cones sailing up into our faces. Each one would be blocked by the trash can lids we held in our left hands as shields. We were knights of the round table defending the high ground from the black knight and his minion. Our cloud of cones would sail with the added strength of gravity--we were kids whatted we know?--right onto the top of the enemy's pointed heads and garbage can shields. Thunk! Thunk-thunk-thunk! Oww! Pine cones hurt with their pointed barbs and at times made contact with exposed skin. The battle would last until our pile was exhausted. We'd holler "Finished!" and make our way down to the ground to run off to the local mound of dirt to finish the battle in a game of King of the Hill.
Summer, here, was just as hot before air conditioning, but we never noticed it. The heat was just part of life. We escaped it any way we could. As kids we escaped through our imaginations into make believe lands and constant motion. It was our friend because it hailed the end of school for the months of June, July and August. We were free from "jail" to learn life's lessons on our own terms. We were happy and we showed it.