Mimosa Tree1953One Christmas, I got a plastic rifle and my friend, David Kay, broke it over my head on Christmas Day. That same Christmas, I got a carpenter's kit. Saw, hammer, etc. I looked for something to saw. Finally, I went under Nanny's dining room table and sawed part of the leg off. Goy put me outside when he saw what I was doing. We had a large beautiful mimosa tree in the yard. I remember my mother crying as the tree lay on the snow-covered ground.
Bow & Arrow1955My friend, Louie Fredricks, lived on top of the Army and Navy store on the main street. Louie was more advanced than me. More street smart. He bought me a beanie for my eighth birthday. I loved that hat. I also heard the record, 'You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog,' at his house. One year, Louie got a bow and arrow for his birthday. His older brother, Jimmy, took us to the park and ran around in a circle while Louie and I stood in the middle shooting arrows at him. (Made perfect sense to me.)
State Police1956When I was in fifth grade, for the first time, we had a club. Today it might be called a gang, but we were more like Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat.
We built a clubhouse along the creek behind Mr. Canby's oil company. It was just boards nailed to trees. We had to rebuild it every few weeks because someone would dismantle it. We found out it was the boys from the east side of East Ward. Our retaliation was leaning railroad ties (8"x8"x8' pieces of wood) on their front doors and ringing the doorbell. Thank God no one was actually hurt, but someone squealed.
I remember that fateful Monday afternoon when two state troopers showed up at school. I saw them standing in the hall and talking to our principal. I somehow knew they weren't giving a safety patrol lesson. They came in and went to the back of the room. I sat in front of the teacher's desk even though my last name started with a W. I never looked back. I heard the footsteps coming down the aisle on each side. One took one arm, one took the other arm, and they lifted me out of my seat. Off we went to the station. I wasn't allowed out of the yard for a week.
The second year in fifth grade I was much better. But I still couldn't read. When our final report cards were handed out, I asked George Murphy if I was still going to be in fifth grade. He said, "No, you're going to sixth." Victory.
My Boat1957Goy had made a small flat-bottom boat to fish from in the Brandywine Creek. I kept it tied to a tree behind the Methodist church, which was next to the creek. Every so often it was missing, but I always found it down the creek and brought it back. One day, Mrs. Straus saw two boys pulling it down the creek. She called the house, and Nanny told me. I went up to the third floor where Goy kept his 25-20 Winchester. I put the bullets in the gun, snuck out without anyone seeing me, ran down Brandywine Avenue to the railroad bridge, and went to where it crossed over the creek. There I saw Tallucci and Bones, two Johnstown boys, stealing my boat. I aimed the gun at the side of the boat and shot. They immediately turned the boat around and started upstream toward the church. I stayed on the bridge till they went under, and when they came out, I shot one more time. They returned the boat, and it was never stolen again.