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! 

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

Our Evergreen Playboy

JohnsonSmith74

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Years before the bunny-magazine hit the news stands, the boys of Evergreen Street had our own ‘play boy’ magazine. (Calm down – this is a squeaky clean story.)

It was not a magazine actually, but a catalog – a catalog right out of Aladdin’s magic storehouse! It overflowed with all manner of exotic and exciting items to thrill, inspire, and educate us. This wondrous publication was the Johnson Smith Catalog, which gained almost Biblical respect among the boys of the neighborhood. (The illustration at right is not from a 40s edition.)

This was the late 40s and early 50s. We were school boys then, grade school, junior high. Cokes were a 5c, and bubble gum a penny. Everything in the Johnson Smith Catalog was dirt cheap! We always had enough change in our pockets to order that next ‘gotta have’ item.

For only $2.50, shipping included, I ordered a telescope kit. What came in the mail was only two glass lens, and a single page of instructions. But I was NOT disappointed. Actually BUILDING the thing was the major part of the fun. The telescope body was made from a section of round, aluminum rain-gutter pipe, almost 3 feet long. The movable focusing scope was a piece of metal electrical conduit. The ‘seat’ for the eye-piece lens was an empty wooden sewing thread spool supplied by my mother. But guess what? When finished, I could actually seen the craters on the moon!

Then there were the crystal radio sets. Years before battery operated transistor radios, for $1 (or less) we ordered crystal radios. They were not much more than a small pea-size glass-like crystal, a small coil of copper wire, a thin wire ‘whisker‘ which sat onto the crystal, and a short metal rod inserted through the copper wire coil. It came with a one-ear ‘ear-bud’ head phone, and an metal alligator clip fastened to a long wire. To listen to your favorite radio station all you need do is: set the whisker on the crystal, attach the alligator clip to a metal pipe (most schools had hot-water radiators for heat, with lots of metal piping), move the metal rod to the right position to tune in your station – then LISTEN! Remember, there were NO batteries, NO outside power source. Unfortunately, there were teachers who caught us listening to the radio in class.

I ordered the ‘learn to throw your voice’ kit, fortunately BEFORE ordering the ventriloquist dummy.

There was the disappearing ink, fake ink spill, fake vomit, fake doggie poop, whoopee cushion, miniature ‘spy‘ camera, and my favorite – ITCH POWDER. (It really worked!)

No doubt, there were very few male 12 year old Johnson Smith customers who did not order the X-Ray Glasses. They were a huge disappointment. It was enough to warrant a letter to the Better Business Bureau.

The frame of the infamous X-Ray glasses was nothing more than two pieces of cardboard glued together to hold in the ‘X-Ray’ lens. X-Ray lens – yeah, right! Then ‘lens’ were nothing more that pieces of BIRD FEATHERS! The false-advertised X-Ray vision was created when one eye, looking through the bird feather saw a shadowy silhouette of the cute girl in front of you, and the other eye saw the same silhouette, but slightly off to one side. Where the two shadowy figures merged in the center, your eyes/brain gave you the fuzzy impression of viewing a skeleton. Bummer.

Amazingly, Johnson Smith is still alive and well (and selling X-ray glasses), although the cost of a single item is more than 6 months worth of my orders way back when. And the catalog is in color now, and on-line. Oh, and now they’re more truthful in advertising, admitting that the X-Ray vision is only an illusion. Peggy Sue – you are now safe from prying eyes!

Things just aren’t like they used to be. Oh well.

 

~~~~