It seems that, as we go through life, we live in many different “neighborhoods”. Not only where your home is, but also classrooms, work environments, etc. We are, in a way, forced to be in contact with people from whom we learn concepts of life, love, right and wrong.
My first neighborhood was on Nichols Avenue in Lorain, Ohio. It was a great place to grow up. Lorain was a fairly big city, about 70,000 people of many ethnic groups. People came from all over the world to work in the many industries Lorain supported. There was U.S. Steel (where I worked as a teenager), Ford Motor Company, American Ship Building and many others. A man or a woman with limited skills but a great work ethic could make a good living for themselves and their families. It was truly a microcosm of America at the time!
My family was composed of Mom, Dad and I, until my sister Carole was born when I was 4. My brother Danny came along when I was 10. Economically we were lower middle class; spiritually we were rich and happy.
Since I hadn’t started school yet, all there was to do was play. My brother Dan was too young and my sister a girl, so luckily there was Larry Melia, Tommy Bayne and Jimmy Karnik. There were also the Baum twins but they were not allowed to cross the street. (10 yards wide and 1 car per hour…ha!)
Larry Melia was my best friend. We were inseparable from sun up to sun down. I was about one year older then him so he looked up to me as a teacher and protector. I really enjoyed the role because it also helped me be a better person, and later a better older brother.
I spent a lot of time at Larry’s house learning from his family. His parents Laura and Bill were a class act. The way they walked, talked, dressed and generally carried themselves taught me very much. I also learned what making out was from his older sister. No, not directly, but through advanced spy operations carried out by Larry and I.
One night when I was staying overnight at his house we heard his sister Wilma and her boyfriend Tom in the front room. They were in junior high and we kept hearing them talking, laughing and giggling. Our young boy curiosity got to us and we quietly opened the bedroom door and proceeded to crawl to the end of the hallway. Afraid he would get caught, Larry would hide behind me as we peeked in.
It is important to understand that making out in those days meant sitting next to each other holding hands and kissing closed mouth…no laying down or touching forbidden body parts.
Even though we were 5 and 6, it was an exciting learning experience. It wouldn’t be for another 6 years before I had the chance to try it myself.
Just a side note: Wilma and Tom have been married for at least 45 years. Wonderful people, great couple. We told them this story at their dad Bill’s funeral a few years back and they got a good laugh.
Saturday morning T.V. was a huge part of developing my concept of what life should be. All the shows, all the characters, both cartoon and real, were righteous heroes who stood for justice and the American way, There were no gray areas: good was good, evil was evil. You must always defeat evil and evil never won. That was the theme for Roy Rogers, Sky King, Rin Tin Tin, Mighty Mouse and the Lone Ranger.
After we watched T.V. we would play outside until the sun went down. Since we were too young to go to Lakeview Park, we set the field behind the Hageman’s house so we could play baseball and football. We would pretend we were all sports heroes. There wasn’t one of us that thought we couldn’t play in the big leagues when we grew up.
In just a few weeks summer would end and my neighborhood would expand by starting school.
Thanks for stopping by and keep an eye for Chapter III, The Elementary School Years.