Grandma’s house was situated on the Churchville Road, about two miles out of town. There were several kids at our stop, riding our bus to school. Soon after we moved in at Churchville Road, they started putting in the interchange for the new Interstate 95. They’ve done all kinds of things with that interchange by now, but the dangerous hill I’m talking about, was on the original Route 22.
Taking the hill toward town was treacherous. One needed to be careful with that maneuver, if a kid wanted to go that way on a bicycle. I broke my collarbone going down that hill, eventually. I never wrecked my bicycle anywhere else in that whole town. We were almost at the corner of Gilbert Road and Churchville Road, except for Mr Cronin’s place, which was on the corner, and used to be a farm.
Last I knew, the barn and two outbuildings were still there.
What happened was that Mr Cronin sold off some acreage to put in the new houses, on toward town from where Grandma’s was. We grew up right there, living a relatively normal life, sheltered from our father’s pulpit and his heavy hand. Ruthie and I were flower children of the 60’s. In those days, my sister and I both took up every sort of music our young hearts could accommodate.
We did an awful lot of singing when we were in high school, inside class and out, plus Ruthie played flute. I taught myself to play guitar, which almost overshadowed my trumpet playing. The 60’s were a time for playing guitars. We went to Methodist summer camp. I took my guitar, of course, and learned some things about the instrument I never knew before. People always wanted me to play.
Ruthie was a lot more of the women’s libber, by the time the 60’s were in full swing. I became more of a flower child, as time went by. To Ruthie and I, the 60’s was a time of music and tragedy. I got so my guitar and I were inseparable. So far, this was all before the time I ever smoked grass, but smoking time was on it’s way. I would carry my guitar in it’s case.
Ruthie didn’t like to smoke grass.
I heard something about Aunt Olie being a flapper when she was young. I just heard the word. Aunt Olie never said anything to me about being a flapper. It was pretty cool, though. I had visions of bathtub gin overflowing from the top, and speak eases, with cops coming to the door any minute. Aunt Olie would do the Charleston at the speak easy, maybe she’d get vaguely drunk, but she was cool.
Must have been far out.
Back summer camp, Neyati was a welcome summer diversion, during my sophomore year. The staff of the camp took a bunch of us indoors somewhere, and set us all up to learn what the face of the opposite gender feels like to the touch. I would never have chosen the girl I got, to be groping her face or anything, but that was a game the musically gifted high school students were playing that day.
That girl and I were friends, years afterward.
The other thing I spent my summer’s doing, was the Old Barn Theater.
I don’t remember much about that.
Grandma and Auntie lived in that house four years before we moved in, they were there with aunt Flo and Aunt Olie. They were a couple of Grandma’s older sisters. Aunt Olie had been the flapper, in the roaring 20’s. Aunt Flo had somehow been the treasurer of a company, before there were adding machines. Sometime after we moved in, Aunt Olie passed away, then it was Aunt Flo’s turn.
Aunt Flo was almost 94 when she died.
I don’t have much of a take on Aunt Olie, she didn’t like to tell stories. I do recall Aunt Flo being the most mellow person in the house. Seemed like there was always some sort of heavy discussion going on in the place. Aunt Flo would sit quietly on the love seat in the living room, by herself, since she was an old maid. She would help me weather the storm of the conversation.
From the tone of the discussion, one could easily get upset, except for mellow Aunt Flo.
She was always helping me stay calm when the discussion became the most tumultuous.
Aunt Flo and Aunt Olie were well-enough up in years they were pretty much non-entities to us youngsters. We were significantly younger. Old Mr Cronin used to bring our mail to Grandma, even after Aunt Flo and Aunt Olie passed on. Grandma used to talk to him about of taking that long a walk to the mailbox, way down by Churchville Road, but I think he just enjoyed Grandma’s company.
They were old. The weather and the distance didn’t matter to him so much.
Dad committed desertion back in ’64. In spite of all of Dad’s heroic words, he couldn’t really cut the mustard as a father. Dad had chronic schizophrenia, which meant that he was way too disabled to support a family. Ironically, Dad was significantly well educated and well read. Anyone who ever met my father, had to be impressed with at least his scholastic acumen, if not more.
Dad was constantly lashing out, beating his wife and children because of his own deficiencies.
Mom, with a household of four teenagers to feed, took refuge at Grandma’s. At least we had a roof over our heads, a dry place to sleep, and food to eat. Mom, and all the rest of us, were invited to move in with Grandma. We spent an early, turbulent period of growing up, listening to Dad run each Sunday morning worship service over, until entire congregations had to let the roast burn in the oven.
The Methodist Church ultimately fired Dad, and the man ended up running off to Florida. He couldn’t face his unemployment or parenthood or anything else. He’d gone back to school and gotten his PhD, of all things, but that didn’t help the man, anymore than it helped his family. Dad’s life was tragic. What Dad needed was a regimen of psychiatric medicines that had not been developed yet.
All Dad wanted was to get away, until about six months later when he missed his kids.
I was going to be a flower child, and nothing was going to stop me. We played the best 60’s music a hippie band could hope to play. It was during the Vietnam War. There were the soldiers, sailors and Marines, way back when the training camps were still in use, just up the street from where we lived. We’d get drunk at the gigs, and struggle to remember what we learned at rehearsals.
We did the popular music of the times, and since I didn’t recognize what that music actually was, I just played trumpet parts and guitar parts I’d learned in our rehearsals. That’s who I was anyway. I was one of those guys who learned to recognize whatever I learned in rehearsals. I had a good, solid sound on the trumpet no matter where I played. I could do concerts or march cadence, didn’t matter.
I wasn’t certain what it meant at first, to be a flower child, but eventually I got around to smoking pot and dropping mescaline, on top of drinking alcohol. I went to a university in North Carolina, until my alcohol and drug habit got to be too much for me. I got so all I ever did was sit in the Rathskeller and drink coffee. Coffee was the only way to get relief from alcohol I could find.
I used to make a fool of myself over at Sue’s apartment, off campus, puking and passing out, after getting stoned to the gills on someone else’s reefer, drinking alcohol. I smoked a lot of hooch for a while there. After all, Sue’s reefer connection was the same guy who got me started on the stuff, so the two of them owed me something. I could tell the reefer was ruining my life, from early on.
I couldn’t figure out how to stop smoking the stuff.
I’d go over to Kathryn’s dorm, and pass out on her lap, too.
I was supposed to be dating Kathryn. Whatever it was I was supposed to be doing over at Sue’s apartment, I cannot say. I’ll admit that Sue was a nice looking girl, but she obviously had a boyfriend. What I was going to do with either girl was a mystery I’m still not qualified to answer. I chased Sue for the entire two years time that I was supposedly dating Kathryn. I can’t help but wonder why?
I was a flower child alright.