The 1950′s moved into the 1960′s. When I was in third grade, we went on a family trip during Easter Vacation. We went to South Carolina to visit my grandparents and my Uncle, my father’s folks. I don’t remember it well, but I do remember it.
All eight of us traveled down South, stopping from motel to motel, until we reached our destination. It took three days to get there and three to get back. We spent four days there.
At the grandparents’ house was near Charleston, South Carolina. We had a good visit. Grandma and Grandpa were glad to see us.
We called my Uncle Paul “the nut man” because he gave us cans of nuts, on condition that we let him help us eat them. This seems disrespectful though because my Uncle Paul is a monk. His monastery was down there. His religious name is Brother Mary Conrad.
He and dad climbed a water tower and took aerial photos of the monastery. We went into the woods once or twice and Grandpa told us to watch out for rattlesnakes. We thought he was kidding us, but when we got to the back of the house he produced a rattlesnake’s tail and other such evidence. There was a bridge called a cow bridge because cows couldn’t get across it.*
Eventually, we went back home. For me, this trip was over too quickly.
Throughout the years, my dad’s job was that of a Detroit Public School teacher. Sometimes he taught math or English but usually science. Now he works for Edison. When he taught science, he brought home an unusual collection of plants and animals.
Among the plants were a venus fly trap, rubber trees, a banana tree and assorted cacti.
Many of the animals ended up as pets. These included a parakeet named Prettybird, goldfish, crawfish, turtles large and small, praying mantis, hamsters, toads and field mice. There were snakes, lots of snakes. Most of these were garter snakes. There was a bat that we named Wimpy because he ate hamburger. There were hens and roosters that we hatched in the incubator. We raised them from eggs.
There was an alligator that was sent to us via U.S. Mail from our Grandpa in South Carolina. We named him Albert. He was our pet for about a year and a half. We used to put our fingers in his mouth and let him bite us. He died while my grandparents were up from the South visiting.**
When I was in the fourth grade, we moved to the east side of Detroit. I must have been fairly popular at Saint Gregory’s. We had a ten minute going away party for me, on school time. Also, they all wrote me going away letters for homework. I had to write a going away letter to the class as well.
We moved into a large house on the corner of Piper and Scripps. I was the first kid in the family to see the interior of the house. When we moved in, we were all delighted. We had work to do, but this home had space to move in. The back yard was large, with a lot of trees. The Detroit River could be seen, in the distance. We had lots of fun and good times at our new house.
I’s switched to Saint Martin’s School. In fifth grade, I had my first male teacher, Mr. McNally. In sixth grade, I had a better time in school. Mr. Milroy was the boy’s home room teacher. Sister Laura taught us when we exchanged.
One night, I was rummaging through a pile of paperback books. These had been chosen by my dad as readable for my reading level. One was an old fashioned Boy Scout Handbook. I read it, mostly by the fireplace. I ended up joining the scouts. By November 1966 I passed Tenderfoot, the first scouting rank.
In my twelfth year I changed a lot. Sister Laura and Mr. McCloskey were my teachers.
Around my eleventh year, my brother Michael was born. Now, our family increased to ten: Dad, Mom, myself, Tommy, Dennis, Patricia, Matthew, Timothy, Michael and Joseph, the baby. I like TV. My favorite shows were the Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The F.B.I. and Star Trek.
I became a Second Class Scout and an Assistant Patrol Leader. I’ve been awarded one medal.
*In its walkway, the Cow Bridge had round metal bars, spaced a bit apart. Humans could walk on them but not cows.
**Wimpy was from the Popeye comic strips/cartoons. Albert the Alligator was from Pogo.
Also, another story from this time is when President Kennedy was murdered in November 1963. They pulled us from school and brought us into church for the announcement. Being ten years old then, I can still remember that day. Men sat on their porches with their faces in their hands or just staring into space. My dad working as a lifeguard at an empty swimming pool, talking with the other lifeguard about life and America.