THE NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR DISASTER

WHEEL OF MIS-FORTUNE

Lately I see ads for the Neshoba County Fair.  My first memory of that fair was in when I was no more than 5.  My family was there.  And Dad and I rode the Ferris Wheel.  I must assume that at this time Mom was pregnant with my sister, Mary… because otherwise, she’d have gone on the ride also.  Mom enjoyed stuff like that.

This time it was just Dad and me.  But it turned out not to be all fun and games… much to Mom’s dismay.

Something ‘mechanical’ happened to the wheel.  It ground to a stop!  Dad and I were no more than one chair ‘below’ being right at the top when it stopped!  Over the side, I could see something smoking below… and several men throwing dirt on it!  As young as I was, I still KNEW that this was NOT a good thing!

Mom was on the ground, screaming and crying.  Mom’s first child, Emma, had died at birth.  Now her second was trapped at the top of a smoking ferris wheel!  The fact that Dad kept his cool was very comforting.

Yes, I survived this, my first trip to the Neshoba County Fair.  The motor fire was extinguished, and the gears disengaged to the wheel, and it was slowly turned by hand by several workers so that all of us could be safely rescued from the crippled contraption.

And such was my first experience at the fair… and on a ferris wheel!

The picture above is only an illustration of this story! Mom didn’t bring her ever-present camera that night, otherwise I’d have an actual pic of this event!

I WAS NOT THE MEAN WIDDLE KID

THE MEAN WIDDLE KID

As a child, I was never exactly a perfect angel 100% of the time.  I was not like Red Skelton’s character, ‘The Mean Widdle Kid’.  I was never really ‘bad’… but often times there was definitely room for improvement.  Here are a few examples, so you can judge for yourself.

My earliest infraction, I’m told, happened just as I’d learned to walk.  My maternal grandparents, and my mother’s older sister, lived next door to us.  My aunt had sensitive skin, and regular bath soap proved to be an irritant.  Therefore, she bathed in plain water and used COLD CREAM afterwards.  Because she used so much of the stuff, she purchased it in the largest jars available.  $$$

One day, while left unattended for a few moments, I got into her almost new jar of cold cream, and before I’d been discovered, I’d plastered the entire jar all over myself… and the surrounding floor!  $$$.  And as I aged, there more ‘naughtiness’ to come!

I’m told that I also attempted to disassemble my Grandmother’s alarm clock… but the tiny screws prevented me from taking apart too much of it.  In my defense, I was only ‘studying it’ to see how it worked.  This curiosity of how things worked carried on into pre-teen years.  I disassembled by sister’s ‘Waa-Waa’ baby doll so see exactly what it was inside of it that allowed it to CRY.  That sure may my sister cry!  But a few years later, she was more mad than sad when I ‘dug into the innards’ of her new 45 RPM Record Player!  How it could actually ‘change records’ was a mystery to me!  She still talks about that today!

My life-long friend Buddy Gorday, who’s 18 months older that I am… I first met when he was old enough to cross the street (Evergreen in South Jackson).  He was the unintended bloody victim of a funny prank of mine that literally ‘went sideways.’

This happened during our ‘pre-teen’ years, and the two of us decided to ‘build a CIRCUS’ is my backyard.  Crazy huh?  Anyway, the first project was the TENT.  Mom let us use an old sheet, and we had access to several 2 x 4s.  I remember that this wood was long, about 8 to 10 feet in length, and heavy.  We’d propped them just outside our garage… standing up. 

We were in the process of going back and forth into the garage for ‘supplies,’ when I got the idea of pulling a great ‘prank’ on Buddy.  While he was INSIDE the garage, I’d stand on the OUTSIDE, beside the 2 x 4s, and allow one of them to fall BEHIND HIM just as he exited the garage.  Boys always get a charge out of scaring other boys.  Somehow, my ‘timing’ was off… way off.  Buddy emerged from the garage, and I ‘let’ a long 2 x 4 fall.  It hit him in the head just as squarely as if I’d aimed it at that very spot!  Yes, there was blood.  There was also a large bump on his skull.  There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And Buddy made a hasty dash home and into the arm of a now very anger Mrs. Gorday!  

I know.  ‘Boys will be boys.’  But sometimes, and this was one of them, when boys will be boys is NOT a good excuse.  I was forbidden to associate with him… after all, I was obviously DANGEROUS, or at least CARELESS, or both!  It was many, many weeks before ALL those wounds had healed and we were back to where we were BEFORE I pulled the infamous ‘falling circus tent pole trick.’

Buddy and I TOGETHER often did something which proved to be quite  ‘unsettling’ to strangers around us.  We looked at it as being something that THEY could have easily done also if only THEY’D THOUGHT ABOUT IT TOO.  When we were attending Enochs Junior High (on West Capital) we never missed the latest Sci-Fi movie to come to town.  After school, we walk downtown to the movie… but we’d make a side stop at the KRYSTAL… where we’d both get a bag filled with those tiny, delicious, and aroma-laced burgers with that distinctive KRYSTAL SMELL!  You can almost smell them a mile.  You certainly can smell them across a movie theater!  We made a LOT of movie patrons mad… because we could hear their mutterings, just after we’d heard them sniff, sniff, sniffing!  We took Krystals into the movies NOT to be ‘bad,’ but to be SMART!

I did get into trouble at school once.  OK, maybe more than once.  My favorite teacher at Enochs was Mr. Peter B. Green, who taught me science.  He was a character, a one-of-a-kind.  Yes, he was a GOOD teacher, and he himself was ENTERTAINING.  We never knew what to expect from him!  

There was a catalog advertised on the back cover of 99% of the comic books sold back in those days… advertising the JOHNSON AND SMITH CATALOG, a delightful catalog offering everything from X-Ray glasses, to devices to help you throw your voice, crystal radios to telescopes, and tons of magic tricks.  I ordered the FAKE INK SPILL.  It was made of tin, and painted in glossy black ink.  It looked REAL.  And Mr. Green kept a bottle of black ink on his desk!  

He always spent time between classes ‘flirting’ with the cute new teacher across the hall.  So It was no trouble to set up the ink-spill spoof before class.  He walked into class after the bell, and right away, noticed the ‘spill.’  He muttered something under his breath, and walk away… he’d left the room to look for something to clean up the mess.  He was gone for quite a while, returning with a small container of water, and several towels.  He stood at the corner of the desk, and slowly wiped through the ‘spilled ink, which immediately fell to the floor with a distinctive metallic ‘CLINK.’  Then… he looked straight at me!  How did he know?  I think his only remark was “GOOD ONE!”  He KNEW that I was not a mean widdle kid! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WHEN NOT SEEING IS BELIEVING

Most of my life I’ve lived by the mantra that seeing is believing.  That’s always held true in science, chemistry, and physics class.  But now that I have my senior’s degree in life, I’ve been forced to re-think a few former ‘givens.’  I’ve had two astounding life-lessons pertaining to the grave fallacy of believing in what you see… or at least, believing in what you believe you see.

Carol and I have been back home in Mississippi for just over 5 months now.  We purchased the former home of our nephew and his family.  There’s usually a few adjustment to living in a new environment, as you learn it’s personality and quirks.

Lesson one: our master-bath shower.  I don’t like a soggy bath mat, and assume that others might not also.  So before stepping into the shower, a place my ‘dirty’ T-shirt on top of the math mat.  Did I mention that the glass door to this shower is clear glass?  No frosting, no lily pads, no mermaids, no frogs.  Just crystal-clear glass.  Half way through my shower I happened to look down at the T-shirt on the bath mat.  To my horror, it was FLOODED.  The shirt had standing water on it, and clearly visible was hundreds of splashes as more water continued to pounded it!  The bathroom was FLOODING!  Or so I thought.  It wasn’t what I saw.  It was what I thought I saw!  You see, a quick check revealed that the clear glass was revealing the T-shirt on the mat OUTSIDE the shower… and it was also revealing a REFLECTION of the shower spray hitting the floor on the INSIDE of the shower!  These two perfectly combined images made it APPEAR that both of them were one and the same!  What a relief!

Lesson two:  I’m only now ‘recovering’ from this latest lesson.  It happened just within the past hour!

Carol and her sister are on a week’s vacation in South Carolina there to holiday on the beach with family.  Mary Ellen’s son and two grandkids went along also.  Her daughter-in-law had to stay home to work.  I’m not a ‘beach person’ myself, so I eagerly agreed to stay behind and baby-sit the four-legged children.  We have two, Mary Ellen has two, and her son-in-law has one… and this one is staying at Mary Ellen’s.

It’s only a short hop over to M.E.’s place, and I make the trip 4 times a day, for feeding and outside time.

This morning I was making trip one to ME’s.  As soon as the garage door opens, you can here the active pups inside, anticipating what is coming.  I went inside, saw the three active pups eager to get into the backyard, walked across the hallway, across the den, and opened the patio door… and there were only TWO PUPS scrambling to get outside!  My nephew’s larger dog, Delta, was not there!  Somewhere between the back door opening into the garage and the patio door, Delta had simply disappeared!

Needless to say, I was only a degree or two from freaking out!  A thorough search of the house revealed not a trace of Delta.  I went outside and called.  No Delta.  Before making the dreaded call to South Carolina, I drove the entire neighborhood calling for the lost pup… but to no avail.  Finally I made the call… and was told that Delta often ‘hides’ when outside.  I looked.  No Delta.  Perhaps she would also hide INSIDE.  I search everywhere, including closets, and under furniture.  This is a 40+ pound animal, so hiding space is limited.

M.E. called her next door neighbor, who joined the search with me.  I know that the circumference of that neighborhood is one mile, and I made it many times.  And then South Carolina called! 

 I was told that a church friend of my nephew’s had picked up Delta, and that she was (safely) with this friend!  Whew, what a huge relief!  

I’m at a total loss as to what my part played in this whole fiasco. It could ONLY mean that Delta was NEVER at the door eager to go outside as she always is.  I EXPECTED her to be there, therefore, I THOUGHT that I saw her there!  I expected three, so I saw the two as THREE! 

But, as I explained to Carol, I would swear in a court of law that Delta WAS THERE when I arrived!  It was the same thing as that morning in the shower when the bathroom floor was flooding!     

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WHAT’S YOUR LETTER?

If you were asked what letter of the alphabet most aptly defines your life, what would that letter be?  That’s an unusual question, huh?

In my case, that letter is a no-brainer.  It’s the letter X.

First of all, there were never many X’s in the telephone directories of yesteryear, not even in the in the midst of folks’ names.  But there’s an X in mine, handed down to me over generations.  My father’s grandfather was a Hendrix (sir name) and the Hendrix name was bestowed up on him (William Hendrix Murphy) and I was named after my father as William Hendrix Murphy, Jr.  

Yes, there are more than just a few folks named Hendrix, but I’ve not run across all that many.  I think I met more Fox’s that any other name which include an X.

But the X tie-in doesn’t stop with my name.  I was married previously.  This means that I have an X.  And that of course means that I am also an X myself…an X to my X.  But just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two X’s don’t cancel one another out… I’m still an X and she is also.

There are two other important Xs in my life, but not ones that pertain to my personal earthly being.  Back before the days before broadcast television (Yes, I’m that old) we had only RADIO for ‘our broadcast-listening pleasure.’  My very favorite radio programs, around the age of 5 to 7, was one called DIMENSION X.  (I now have a CD of dozens of these old recorded radio shows!)  My mother forbade me to listen to Dimension X because she thought (correctly) that it would cause me to have nightmares.  But boys will be boys, and I am one.  I slipped Dad’s battery operated radio under the covers, and faked being asleep, while listening to our brave space explorers being lost on Mars and other similar scientific terrors.  The night I was caught was a night to remember also!

One of my all time favorite, early 1950s black and white sci-fi MOVIES was ‘The Man From Planet X,’ starring the mother of Sally Fields (of The Flying Nun fame)!  This is a true statement, not just ‘some other X’ to add to my ‘X-list.’ I even have the CD of that old movie today.  Funny thing: it’s not nearly as frightening today as it was in the 1950s.

All that said…. What other letter of the alphabet could possibly be more meaningful to me that X?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HUNT & PECKER

     I’m a strange bird in many ways, and I admit to that.  As a prime example, even as a fledgling writer, I’ve never learned to type!  Yes, I’m what’s called a ‘Hunt and Pecker.’

    Once I actually attempted to learn, or should I say, was encouraged to learn.  That was way back in the early days of computers, with their ever present keyboards.  Some folks believe that ‘typing’ is required.

    I began (full-time) work for Jitney-Jungle in the fall of 1967.  Those first few years typing was never a requirement, as I was producing silk screen and hand-painted signage for the company.  I’m sure that by today, somewhere, there’s a silk-screen apparatus that has a key-board… but back then… none was required.

    Because I’d formerly worked in the advertising department of the Clarion Ledger Newspaper, the heads of state at Jitney decided… why ‘farm-out’ print advertising when we have a warm body already on the payroll who can do that!  So, I moved across the street and into the main corporate office, hired a couple of co-employees, and we began producing the weekly print-ad artwork, camera-ready for the newspapers.  

    Our first ‘typesetting’ machine was among the first photo-typesetters on the market… and it didn’t even have a keyboard!  Although electric, it was in no-way electronic. Each and every type-font came on a large plastic disk about the size of an old LP record.  Oh, and each type-font SIZE had it’s own separate disk!  Early expense requirements meant that we could have only a limited number of type fonts and sizes.

     The way this machine worked was: in a darkroom, the 35 mm paper onto which the type would be ‘exposed’ was fed into a loadable cassette.  The type machine itself looked somewhat like a cross between a record player and a pinball machine.  To produce the words ‘Chuck Roast’ you placed the desired font/size disk onto the machine, inserted the cassette into the side, advanced the paper to the ‘expose film’ area, then turn the font-disk until the ‘C’ lined up correctly.  Then with your left hand you pressed a lever which locked the font-wheel into the correct position, and next with your right hand you pressed a corresponding lever on the right side which exposed this first letter onto the film.  ‘C’ was now done.  Then you moved the font wheel to the letter ‘h’ and repeated the left right, lock-print lever dance.  Next came ‘u’ followed by all the others.  Needless to say, it took quite a bit LONGER to print out ‘USDA Choice Boneless Chuck Roast’ than it does today!  You see, knowing ‘how to type’ was of absolutely no benefit in ‘typing’ with the Varityper!  It was basically ‘Hunt and Pecking by default!’  

     Also, there were physical limitations as to the type size we could use.  The minimum was 14 points (about 1/8 inch tall) and the largest was 72 points… around 3/4 inches tall.  So, for the larger PRICE NUMERALS we often had to use ‘clip art’ numerals, especially for the larger ‘featured’ items.  

    All of these various ‘labor intensive’ requirements required that these earlier four and eight page ad ‘tabloids’ displayed only a minimum number of items per page… something in the neighborhood of six to fourteen items.

     Because type-setting was such a long, labor-intensive process, there were many, many times, (in order to be home with the family) I’d take the Varityper home after 5 and set type sitting at our kitchen table!  Like I said, there was no NEED to learn how to type.  ANYONE can ‘hunt and peck’ 2 words a minute!

     But things changed when computers came along, and with them, computer-generated type-setting.  The next generation of computer assisted ad layout meant that type could be set directly in position and onto a page layout clearly and accurately presented right on your computer screen!  Now, typing was almost a requirement!  So… Jitney sent me to TYPING SCHOOL at the then new R & D Center!  

    I must not be ‘cut out’ for typing.  I was a miserable failure at it… much like I was at learning to play the piano during grammar school!  Oh I played (a bit) but my piano teacher, Miss Nellie Robinson, told Mom that I was not learning the notes… but playing by ear!  Typing was like that for me also.  So, folks at Jitney finally ‘gave up,’ by saying that I could type with two fingers far better than I’d ever be able to using all ten!  They were right.  I typed this using only two. 

    In my ‘can’t type defense,’ when I was hired on full-time at Jitney we had only 22 Jitney-Jungle stores.  Our little corporate in-house Advertising Department was instrumental in ‘growing’ that number, within a couple of short decades, into a mega-chain with the largest number of employees of any home-owned and home-operated company in the entire state.  Yup, I can’t help but be proud of what my two little fingers, ‘Woody left’ and ‘Wood’ right, helped to accomplish! 

Bill Murphy

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

WAY BACK WHEN…

A Big Yellow Cat

If I could go back… back to my childhood days… way back to the days when ‘a drug problem’ at school’ meant that the office was out of aspirin… I’d go back!  You’d better believe I would! Things were truly different  back then.  No, we didn’t have Covid, but we did have mumps, measles, chicken pox, and polio.  We didn’t have TV, but we did have AM radio that brought Amos and Andy, Fibber Magee and Molly, and Guy Lumbardo into our homes.  We didn’t have cell phones that rang during church… but we had telephones with long cords and a favorite place to curl up and whisper sweet nothing to that favorite someone across town.  We didn’t have TV to keep up us half the night… or the internet to rob us of valuable family time.  But we did have those amazing places called libraries that carried countless books on countless subjects that gave us countless hours of pleasure while reading.  Hardly anything was ‘right at our fingertips’ back then, which made possessing anything – mean that we had to put out some effort to possess it. This only made things much more dear to us.  And as one of the most popular songs of the day stated, ‘little things meant a lot.’

Looking back, I remember those simple pleasures, those special treats that we found while outside discovering the world around us.  You see, our world was the real world, and not some animated imaginary world on a small flat screen manupilated by our fingers.  A good example was:  About every six weeks or so, the city sent to our neighborhood a great yellow monster!

The street on which I lived was two blocks north of Battlefield Park.  It ran east and west. Connecting our street to Battlefield was Peabody Street, running north/south.  In the 40s, Peabody had yet to be paved… it was still gravel.*  Periodically, the city would send out this great yellow monster, a road grader, to smooth out the ruts and bumps of Peabody Street.  And the neighborhood kids lined the path to watch this great machine at work!   Oh what a treat that was!  The one in the photo is only a toy-model.  But it still brought a smile to my face!

I’ve always had a deep fondness for airplanes.  Perhaps that’s because our home on Evergreen lay directly below the landing approach to one of the main runways of Hawkins Field, Jackson’s original airport.  Those old Delta and Southern DC-3 lumbering directly overhead never got boaring to this young boy!

Back then, a dollar would buy far more than it does today.  In the late 40s, a fully dressed hamburger was only a quarter… and it came with condiments on BOTH buns (something you never find today) plus lettuce, pickle, tomato and onions.  A soft drink was 5c.  When I began driving, and dating… I had $5.00 set aside for my week’s spending.  I could take that $5, put gas in Dad’s car, buy the date and myself burgers and drinks, tickets to the movie, and still have money left over for snacks for myself the remainder of the week!  

In 1945, the southern city limits of Jackson was only yards south of US Hwy 80!  And I had a cousin who also lived on Evergreen, who walked south on Peabody, crossed Battlefield Park, then crossed over Hwy 80… to squirrel hunt!  Yes, I helped eat many a squirrel that was bagged just south of Hwy 80… when that area was mostly forrest and fields.

Not long ago I found an eye-opening bit of local history which underscored just how old I really am. It was an old highway map of Mississippi, dated less than 10 years before my birth. It showed that both Highway 80 (East and West) and Highway 51 (North and South) were only PAVED just a few miles outside of Jackson! Can you imagine traveling to Memphis on a gravel road? How about on a MUDDY gravel road?  

Yes, I know, times have changed.  And they keep on changing… especially in my lifetime.  But, times have also changed during my parents lifetime, and durning their parent’s lifetime!  Not long ago I saw a list of average salaries of profession people at the turn of the century (1900).  It stated that railroad engineers then made more that medical doctors!  Yes, times have changed!  It makes me wonder what it will be like when my great-grand children are adults.  I don’t think I want to know!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE SON

My mother’s been gone for twenty-five years,  and I’m now eighty-one… a great-grandfather almost a dozen times over.  So… let me get this off my chest.  I once sorta-kinda, lied to my dear mother.  OK, it was a genuine lie.

I was in the seventh grade at the time, Enochs Junior High.  That’s the time when boys really begin to think of girls as both exciting and desirable.  But there are two types of girls: first the ones who are ‘just friends,’ usually the ones you’ve know for many tears… and then there are fresh acquaintances who turn your head for the first time.  The girl of this story was a neighborhood girl, one who’d been a school mate for years… Winnie Holston.  Winnie lived one street over, on Silas Brown.  And Winnie was really gorgeous, which I somehow failed to notice at the time! 

We were about to have a sock-hop at Enochs.  It was to be my first school dance.  But I didn’t know how to dance!  I mentioned this to Winnie, and she suggested that I come over to her house after school, and she’s teach me a few dance moves.  Great!  Problem solved!

Now this was 1953, back during ‘old fashioned’ times.  And yet, even ‘back then,’ I considered my mother as ‘old fashioned.’  She had a belief young men didn’t visit young women ALONE in the house… and Winnie was alone in her home after school!  So… I didn’t tell my mother of my plans to learn how to dance.

My childhood pal Buddy Gorday lived at the end of our street.  To get to Winnie’s, Buddy’s was along the way.  So I told mother that I was going to Buddy’s.  But instead I made two additional rights and went to Winnie’s and learned to dance! (Would you say that in this case, two rights made a wrong?)  

Winnie and I played no other parts than that of dance instructor and student.  I may not have become a Patrick Swayze, but at least I didn’t embarrass myself and my dance partners on the gym floor!  Looking back, I’ve often wondered why!  Like I said, she was a real beauty.  I suppose that being friends, I was simply too close to the forest to see the beautiful tree in front of me. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Doing What Old Men Do

    I’ve just returned from a delightful outing with my childhood pal Buddy Gorday.  For the past hour, we’ve been sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the Madison County Airport, a very active airport for its size, watching aircraft takeoff and land… and sharing sweet memories of the past.  We were doing what old men do.

    There was a time, way back when, in the days when I was far, far younger, when I simply couldn’t relate to this.  This morning my memory was jogged to such a time, many years before, when I experienced a stark and powerful illustration of the ‘progress’ of time, which I could not at that time comprehend.

    Buddy is only eighteen months older than me.  But a year is much, much longer when you’re ten… than when you’re eighty.  Remember?  This day, Buddy and I were far closer to 10.  We were in his front yard at the time, probably doing what robust, active boys did during those days long before TV and video games.  We chased one another, dared each other to ‘see’ if we could jump over the neighbor’s hedge, always doing active and physical things like that.  And that’s when we spied him… and old man slowly making his way down Evergreen Street.

   I don’t recall if he had a cane or not, but he walked slowly, carefully, and slightly bent over as if he needed one.  I stopped my activity, and simply stood and watched, actually a bit confused.  In my young mind, I could relate to only my then young and active body.  I couldn’t understand his slow gate and posture.  My thought was:  Why is he walking so painfully slow?  Doesn’t he understand that all he needs do is to stand elect and walk purposefully and correctly?  I even walked a few paces myself as if to demonstrate!      

   Fast forward seventy years.  Now I understand.  

   This morning, when Buddy pulled up in my driveway, it was two ‘old men’ meeting to go out and play again.  But we had no plans to chase one another around the yard, or to jump hedges.  It was to do what ‘old men’ do… sit and watch the airplanes take off and land.  It’s only ‘the fun’ that has changed to other things.  I’m sure we haven’t changed a bit!

The photo above is of Buddy and me taken on Evergreen Street. I’m sitting in my beloved and much-used airplane ‘kitty-car.’ I’m not sure of the date, but at the time, we were just doing what kids did in the 1940s.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

My Son’s Bleeding To Death!

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating: It’s no small wonder that I survived childhood!

I give you MERCUROCHROME, a common home remedy found in 99% of homes in the 1940s. Yes, it contained trace amounts of mercury. Yes, mercury is poisonous. And yes, mercurochrome is not seen around much anymore.

It was mostly used on cuts and scratches… and it also containing alcohol…and it burned like the dickens! But some mothers, mine included, used it for other purposed also.

In addition to having mercurochrome, in the 1940s, most doctors still made ‘house calls.’ This was an amazing thing where the doctor CAME TO YOUR HOUSE, instead of you going TO THEIR OFFICE! Crazy, huh? Well, on this particular day, my mother’s little boy, maybe 3 or 4 at the time, had a sore throat. Since it cured most everything, out came the mercurochrome. Using a ‘Q-Tip’ Mom ‘mopped my throat’ with this foul tasting red stuff. You’d get better in self-defense if nothing else!

I must have gotten better. Mom must have forgotten about my sore throat… and her treatment. But don’t you forget, mercurochrome was red… blood red.

Yes! In front of her, I coughed up some bright red stuff! Racing to the phone, and in sheer panic, Mom called our pediatrician. Come quick! Billy’s coughing up blood! Hurry!

I think that’s why we have ambulances today, otherwise one would have been called. Anyway, the doctor raced from North State Street down south to Doodleville and to 802 Evergreen.

Today I must assume that mercurochrome probably had a distinctive smell, because it didn’t take long for the out-of-breath doc to piece together the true story. ‘You just mopped the kid’s throat, didn’t you?’

I’ve often wondered if the doctor charged Mom double that day. I probably would have!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A WILD AND CRAZY GUY

Glacier Washington

Perhaps you remember when Steve Martin was on Saturday Night Live and did a skit featuring a ‘wild and crazy guy.’  Now I’ve never really been known as one of those, but once while in high school, I did come close… very close.

It was the summer of 1957, between the 10th and 11th grades at Central High..  Our family took a week long and many miles long motor trip from our home in Jackson, Mississippi diagonally north/westward across the nation to the sleepily little town of Glacier, Washington… perhaps 20 miles east of the East coast and 5 to 7 miles south of the Canadian border.  This little town was the last settlement at the foot of Mount Baker, along the end of a dead-end highway 542.

My mother’s uncle lived in Glacier, and the family had not seen him in many years.  Uncle Ed worked in the logging industry, operating a crane which loaded cut logs onto trucks which transported them down the mountain.

In the winter, Glacier was a bustling ski mecca.  But we were there in summer.  Although there was snow on the mountain (my sister and I tobogganed down the slopes) it was not the tourist ski season while we were there.  According to our map, the census said that Glacier had a resident population of only 25.  We were there 3 days and I only laid eyes on 7… including my own family!

Uncle Ed invited two of his closest friends over to meet us.  These two middle-aged ‘mountain men’ owned and operated a gold mine on Mount Baker!  I was enraptured by the tales they told on one-another… and about Uncle Ed.

The day before we left, the two miners asked if I’d like to come back the next summer, and work in the mine with them.  Uncle Ed said he’d enjoy the company if I wanted to return.  Would I?  YES!!!

In my tender 16 year old brain, this was the chance of a life-time!  I’d never been so crazy-adventurous.  This was my unbelievable chance to try my hand at becoming a wild and crazy guy!  My mind went wild.  I decided that I’d (try to) grow a beard… and grow my hair out… and bleach it blonde!  When school started the in fall of my return from Mount Baker, no one would recognize me… the wild and crazy guy!  

Did I do it?  No.  So what went wrong? 

Hormones!

When school started in the fall of ’57, my dreams of a beard and bleached hair deep inside a gold mine were shattered by a tiny imp with a bow and arrow… brought on by a cute, seductive blonde in eleventh grade American History class. My heart began to skip beats, and my hormones went on over-time.  Basically, I traded my plans for blonde hair for the blonde across the room.  

So much for my dreams of becoming a wild and crazy guy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~