I suppose that this manuscript could have been titled “Best of Times/Worst of Times”, but I think that “Wonder Years” better captures my sense of the first eighteen years of my life in retrospect.
A lot of significant events occurred during the first eighteen years of my life, and the high school years loomed larger in my life than other years. Although the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the introduction of the polio vaccine were mentioned earlier, other changes in the society occurred that reverberated through society. See Appendix 12: Events of Significance, 1961-1965.
I feel privileged to have grown up in small town America. I could know everyone in school and many of the adults in town, especially as a result of my work at Easter’s grocery store. I could play outside without constant supervision and could cover most of Colfax on Halloween with my friend Bob Van Elsen and not have my mother worry about my safety.
In retrospect, it was a simpler time and things seemed to happen more slowly. Phone and mail services were the only way to communicate other than personally. I had to spend time in the library finding my way around rather than surfing the Internet. I would not trade that experience for anything. Facebook at the time was writing in someone’s annual and texting meant passing notes in class.
I am sure that my parents thought that they lived in simpler times, too, and that the pace of life manifested by Rock and Roll caused them to feel lucky that they had grown up when they did. I feel that way when I have watched my children grow to adulthood and their children now beginning their own travels through life.
The influence of my parents cannot be overestimated. My father was nondemonstrative, but he provided for his family by his steadfastness and loyalty to his work at Easters. His work ethic of doing it himself rather than supervising someone else to do the chore was not lost on me. My mother was more of a ‘spit fire’ and had the stronger personality of my parents. When she did not like my behavior, she would go outside and pick up a switch, place it on top of the refrigerator, and then threaten to beat me with it if my behavior did not change. She no doubt caused my father to purchase an accordion and the King Silver Bell trumpet when the household budget probably did not have that much money to spare. She also would get me a T-bone steak for a good report card.
I well recall leafing through a Sears or Wards catalogue while reclining in a lounge chair in our house on Locust Street in Colfax. For some reason I was looking at engagement and wedding rings in the catalogue, and I blurted out to my parents my surprise that someone would actually purchase either from a catalogue. Silence greeted my outburst. When I looked up, my father had his head buried in the newspaper and my mother was pointing to her wedding ring. Inadvertently/unknowingly, I had embarrassed my father, and he reacted by
pretending not to have heard. I am not aware that my mother ever had an engagement ring, and her wedding ring was the thinnest of bands. I felt badly, of course, and I learned from that event.
My brother Kenneth certainly had a lot of influence* on me during the ‘Wonder Years’. Of course, I wore some of his hand-me-downs, especially during the early years. The last hand-me-down of his that I remember wearing was a white sport coat. After that I was taller than he was, and his clothes no longer fit me. I also played his hand-me-down trumpet initially as he moved to the clarinet.
Kenny also teased me a lot, but mostly during the years in Pleasantville. During his later years in Junior and Senior High School, he had less time to devote to such activity. Probably a little brother was a bother.
I sometimes mimicked Kenny’s haircut as can be seen in several of my class pictures, especially beginning in 6th grade. Butch wax was part of the hairdressing, and it came as a stick or as a wax applied by fingers. As an aside, my father Kenneth used HA Hair Arranger for his adult life.
Finally, Kenny and I were bedmates for many years until he left home in 1960. Even when he returned from college periodically, he and I shared the bed and the bedroom. While I do not recall anything specifically that we discussed, our sharing of the space must have led to some other mimicking of behaviors.
After graduation from Colfax High School, classes would typically make an effort to meet every five years on Memorial Day weekend as a group and to attend the Colfax Alumni Banquet. The Class of 1965 was no different. Our last gathering was in 2015, the fiftieth year since our graduation from high school. See Appendix 13.
While I might have done things differently if I had it to do over again, in the end it could not have been any other way than the way it was.
*Top 10 reasons why I liked having Ken as an older brother given at his 60th birthday celebration:
10. Having a scapegoat on which to blame things since he should have known better
9. At Christmas, having two sets of toys to play with
8. People not having such high expectations of you
7. Being able to get pity dates from sisters of his high school classmates
6. Getting to see how clothes will look on you later on
5. Having a steady supply of Playboy magazines
4. Being able to embarrass him in front of his friends
3. Getting rides because Mom made him take me
2. Learning what excuses won’t work with the parents
1. Knowing that I will always look much younger.