Of course those were the good old days. We were young with visions of future fame and fortune. Wisdom and inspiration will come later. Memories are fun to remember, embarrassing to reveal. Suddenly, we arrive into our real world with only distant memories of the way we were — and still awaiting wisdom and inspiration.
Under the category of revelations I discovered in the first grade, girls were smarter than boys. I always have been appreciative and respectful of God's arrangement. During my early career (first, second and third grades), we lived on Pershing Court, 210 Pershing Court. We moved there from 504 Walnut. The rent was better. Sixteen dollars instead of $22. There were kids — lots of kids, and all played in the street.
One day a couple older boys appeared and were socializing with us. One told a joke — all laughed and I joined in. The next day at lunch, I shared the humor with Mom and Dad. About halfway through the story, I caught the joke. Quick editing did not solve the dilemma.
Just to the northwest of Lincoln school was the "the draw." Today it is pretty, manicured by the city, and now called Lincoln Drive. The only house close was the now blue house on the west. In those days, it was left to its own devices and was great. You could hide from the rest of the world in there. It resembled the Belgian Congo. I didn't know anything about the Belgian Congo, I just heard Mom call it that. There were two ponds. At a certain time of the summer, they were full of pollywogs — soon to be frogs. At the south end of the draw was, and is, a large drainage tube (about 7 feet). As a rite of passage, every kid went in as far as they dared. Not far in was a protruding 1-inch pipe. Dick Coffelt said, "Boy, you better hope they don't flush the toilet when you go by there." I always ducked.
At 12:30 on Dec. 8, 1941, we assembled into the gymnasium of Lincoln school to hear (on radio) President Roosevelt declare war on the Japanese. I understood Pearl Harbor was way out in the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles. I had heard the folks talking about trouble with the Japanese, but it never registered until then.
Bobby Maupin next door told me a joke he heard while his folks were playing bridge. "There were three ducks: a German, a Jap and an American. The German duck ate sauerkraut and sank, the Jap duck ate rice and sank and the American duck ate beans and went ‘put put’ on across.” The folks bought a house on west Fifth Street — the one-block street that collides with Elm next to Big Creek. It was pretty much a "professors row" and a great place to live.
I was elated. I had just landed a job with Fort Hays State. Starting salary was 18 cents an hour. The money was good. My first paycheck was $3.47, and I received it at the Bursar's Office just like Dad. Sometimes we would be working in the same area as German prisoners of war. I remember thinking I was getting 18 cents an hour more than they. They were happy campers, and salary was not a problem.
It was the summer of 1943, and I had just received a raise from 18 cents to 22 cents an hour. Donny Riegel and I were hoeing weeds in what is now the parking lot behind the Student Union. Our subject for the morning was sex. Here we were, 10 years old, and we didn't really have it all figured out. If we didn't get it in the first 10 years, how were we supposed to get it in the next 10? At that time, the closest thing to any pornographic material was the underwear section of the Montgomery Ward catalog. Most were artist's models wearing girdles. I suspect our generation was not as worldly as those to follow, and I'm sure Donny and I were on the low end of the curve for our generation. Oh, we knew the generalities all right, it was the details we needed. We knew all about the cattle herd and the bull out there. And we knew it was a one-for-one deal to get a calf — and one of our co-workers had nine brothers and sisters. We regarded his father as an experienced veteran. Another question we had: If you kiss a girl, which we hoped to do someday, do you put your nose to the right or the left? Is there an instruction manual out there for the proper etiquette? We didn't solve anything that morning.
We had an eighth-grade basketball team. We were playing Ellis at Ellis. The school had a basketball court with a stage on one side and four rows of seats on the other. Above the seats was a balcony — again with four rows of seats. The teams were seated on the stage, and I was on the very end. In the balcony, Ellis had a pep band, and in the band was a girl playing a trombone. She had rested her toe on the lower railing and while playing pumped her knee to the beat of the music. I was distracted — totally. It was the second time Coach Whitsett yelled "Dalton" I heard him. "Get in there for Riegel." As I jumped into the game, I yelled, "Hey, Twanger" (Twanger was our given name for Donny Riegel), and I either said, "Which way are we going" or "Who is my man?" Maybe both. I didn't have a clue what was going on in the game. That was not one of my finer moments.
I sure hope some senior lady from Ellis doesn't write in and say, "That was me you pervert."
Anyway, Donny Riegel was a very good athlete. Some of you old-timers will remember when he pitched for the Larks. They went down to play a doubleheader at Liberal. The other pitcher got sick, so he pitched the first game right handed and won and then pitched the second game left handed and won. I remember he wrote left handed.
This has to be recorded under the category of "stupid stuff kids do." We (about 5 or 6 of us during ages 11, 12 and 13) would welcome spring with a swim in Big Creek on the west side of the college. There was a gravel road on the other side of the creek. One year as we were preparing for our annual dip, a car full of older girls and boys came by. They were hooting, honking, pointing and laughing. We kept trying to get behind each other until we finally just jumped in. Generally it was the same bunch of us for three years. It was cold, dirty, muddy, and we kept telling ourselves it was fun. It really wasn't. It was west of campus and that anatomy of Big Creek doesn't exist anymore. On my last visit, a snake swam across in front of my face. I have no plans to return.
It seemed every year the New York Yankees were playing the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. It was such an important event, they would turn it on the speakers in our classrooms. I always sided with the Brooklyn Dodgers. I guess because the autograph of Pee Wee Reese was on my baseball glove. I didn't have much talent, but I fantasized I would one day pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ironically, Donny "Twanger" Riegel did.
Anyway, those are some "Rambling Recollections" — fun to remember, embarrassing to reveal — and still awaiting wisdom and inspiration.
Thanks for the memories.
Bud Dalton is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.