Chapter 3 – Part 3

In the summertime between the 4th & 5th grade I started to hear some of my parents conversations about moving. Any decisions made by my parents regarding the family were never discussed with me. I was always told as a matter of fact what would be happening next. This was probably more the rule than the exception with most families at the time. It seems parents let kids have more say today in most everything, or at least discuss things beforehand.

When the word came down that we were moving, I was devastated. The thought of me leaving my childhood friends and familiar neighborhood was hard to comprehend. What I understood clearly was, I didn’t want to go. There was one fact that got me through the initial sadness. We were going to move into a brand new house; which did not exist yet. The house was being built by my dad & uncles. In 11 year old years;(like dog years), that would take forever, so I still had plenty of time. I would be at least married by then, I thought.

Larry Melia & I Just Before I Left the Neighborhood

Moving day arrived in the middle of 5th grade; along with many mixed emotions. In a way, I was really excited to see the new house, but did not want to leave the place I knew & loved. Since the house was on the other side of town, my best friend (Larry Melia) & I made a pact to keep our friendship together by bicycle. The realization that we could still see each other by meeting at the park, or the old neighborhood, made the world right again.

I started back to school at Charleston Elementary within a few days of moving. Even back then I was confident in my own skin, so I didn’t experience the “new kid in class” angst. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, my mom was from England. Upon arrival to the U.S., she joined a club comprised of English women who had also married American soldiers during WWII. One of the women in the club, Betty Misita, lived on the next street with her husband, son, & daughter. Her son Michael was my age & became my first new friend. He helped me meet other kids at school, as well as the neighborhood. As I will get into later, he & his family turned out to be one of the biggest influences in this period of my life.

Mr. Koval was my teacher for both the 2nd half of fifth grade & all of 6th. Of all the teachers I had, I remember the least about him as a teacher. Strangely, what does come to mind, is his relationship with Mr. Davidson, another teacher at the school. All my other teachers seemed to be what you picture they should look & act like. They appeared to me, (for reasons I can’t fully explain) like two big kids, who would rather be somewhere else, looking for a place to cause trouble. Maybe that is why he didn’t make an impression on me as a teacher. ( If you’re still alive Mr. Koval, no offense intended)

Except for the onset of puberty, Marjorie Poplar, & Bonnie McCartney, the rest of my elementary schools years were uneventful. The three things I just mentioned go together hand in hand. I’m sure you guys out there know what I mean. HA! Margy was blonde, Bonnie was brunette, and both amazingly beautiful girls. I could tell puberty was invading me, because for the first time ever in my young life, I was stumbling over words when I tried to talk with them. Even today, this is how I can tell I’m really smitten by a woman.

Coming up in Chapter 4, part 1, will be about the new neighborhood, it’s interesting people, how this period completely changed the course of my life. Part two will cover my experiences in junior high school. ( 7th & 8th grade ) Part 3 will be my stories & trials of dealing with the change of life called… puberty………………

Till next time………………

- SP

Chapter III – The Elementary School Years – Part 2 of 3

I am going to make a little detour here in part 2 before closing out the elementary school years in part 3.
I would be remiss not to speak of the joy and importance of being free to just be a kid during those formative years.

The day would truly begin when the end of school bell rang. A sweet and joyous sound, actually not marking the end of school, but rather the beginning of fun and adventure. During school we would talk amongst friends deciding what to do before the street lights came on. (It was the official time you had to be in the house or else.)

A typical school night would find myself, and the other 8-10 kids in the neighborhood all playing together outside; sun or snow. We would play from after school until dinner time. My dad would stand on the front porch and whistle for my sister and I to come home. Dad had two distinct tones to his come home whistle. The first time he whistled it was sharp but pleasant, because you knew a home cook meal was waiting. If he had to repeat, the second was shrill, and said without words I had about a minute to hit that porch. If I wasn’t there yet, and he had to yell my name, even God said “ That boys in trouble! “ Our neighbors, Frank and Marge Baum, would call their kids Larry, Terry, and Mark with a bell.

After dinner, we would watch “ Popeye the sailor “ cartoons on the “Barnaby” show then right back outside. We would play wiffle baseball ( played with a plastic bat,and plastic ball with holes) on the field we built. The field also supported our football games during that season. If at least one set of parents were out on their porch after dark, we got to play flashlight tag. Our neighborhood ,like many others during that time, was filled with the sounds of adult neighbors talking while their children play. A stark contrast to today’s empty yards, and just an occasional wave to other people on the street.

Saturdays were always magical whether during the school year or summertime. After the morning shows I talked about in Chapter II, we would grab our gloves, bats, balls and head to my second home, Lakeview Park. Along the ¾ of a mile walk we would stop, pickup friends, and say hello to their parents. We would play pickup games of baseball, football ( tackle without pads) or basketball all day long. The difference between playing ball in the neighborhood and the park was the interaction with guys who we sometimes didn’t know. This brings us to the importance of personal interaction with others as a kid.

Some people believe everything you need to know can be found on the internet. Certainly most any fact can be found. You can interact with millions of people all over the country and the world instantly. With all this knowledge and communication, why is there so much violence among preteens, teens, and even young adults today? I believe much of it is caused by a generation of young people who looked at a monitor rather than someone in the eye. When you’re put in situations with other kids, such as a park , face to face, with limited adult supervision, you learn to work things out. When we, and another group of guys approached the only diamond left at the same time, the potential for violence was there. Many in today’s world would pull out a gun or knife to try to show who’s the bigger “man.”

In our situation, because both groups had experience dealing with others face to face on a human level, a compromise was usually struck. Were there times when it turned to “violence?” Of course; boys will be boys. It was however, the exception rather than the rule. Our “violence” was a fair fistfight which was broken up as soon as someone was clearly the loser before they were seriously hurt. Most of the time we would become friends and friendly rivals. Bullies are a growing problem among young people today. Some kids are even resorting to suicide. When I was growing up there were bullies, but they weren’t a problem long. Usually the problem was solved by the person being bullied and his or her friends. If it got passed that to the school, a very large and nasty football coach would “council “ the bully after hours in an empty locker room. Of course, many methods which worked well in the past are now politically incorrect. Where has political correctness taken this country?

- SP

see more stories from the early years

What was your favorite thing about growing up?

Chapter III – The Elementary School Years – Part 1 of 3

Summer is over and the rumor is this school business I’ve heard about is going to start. As I talked about in Chapter II, my “neighborhood“ was really expanding. What a great adventure it was to board the yellow school bus heading for parts unknown, or Brownell School, whichever came first.

For whatever reason, my parents started me in the first grade, rather than kindergarten, with Miss Brown as my first teacher. I remember her as a pretty woman with black hair, black glasses, and a black dress. I’m sure she had other dresses, but that’s the only one I remember.

The school building itself was the last of the real old school style, built in the early forties. It had a porch with an archway leading to the front door. When you entered there was a circular atrium from which the different classrooms branched off. The structure was made predominately of wood rather than the concrete and tile floor of most schools of today. The building itself no longer exists; replaced by an empty lot in a now bad neighborhood. Gone forever are the great smells and atmosphere unique to this style of school building.

Original Gangster

I attended Brownell for just one year because a new more modern school was completed closer to my house. Second grade found me at Lakeview School across from my favorite childhood place, Lakeview Park. Mrs Peters was my second grade teacher, followed by Mrs. Gerber- 3rd, Miss Manley-4th, and Mr. Berry through half of 5th. I’ll explain a little later why it was only half a year.

In a stark contrast to my later academic habits, I was a good and well behaved student. At that time all you got for grades were O’s for outstanding, S for satisfactory, and U for unsatisfactory. What meant the most to me were the nice side notes my teachers would write about me on the report cards. I won many spelling bees, but my crowning achievement of elementary excellence was winning the fifth grade prize for best report on the United Nations. The prize was a crappy book about the U.N. autographed by the school Principal; not cool. What was cool, was knowing for that moment, I was the best in all of the 5th grade. My chest is still a little bigger to this day because of it. (And I still have the book!)

It is my theory we learn much of what we know about ourselves and our relationship with others by the third or fourth grade. After that we just get older and think we can change the root of who we are. We over emphasize what we think is appealing to others and then build a facade around our weaknesses thinking no one notices. The result of this approach to life is never really feeling free to express the inner beauty of our true selves. Exposing our vulnerabilities to others not only brings freedom of mind and soul to us, but also to those around us who long to be free as well. Sorry, I got off on a little tangent; back to school.

It goes without saying recess was the biggest attraction of elementary school. At Lakeview School outdoor recess was all about two things; the boy’s version of a Maypole, and kick ball. During the winter months we had gym class, featuring dodge ball. Nothing manlier at that age than taking a hard rubber dodge ball flush in the face and holding off tears and embarrassment.

To me, the second biggest attraction in the third grade was Carol Zagorski. She was by far the prettiest girl in the whole school. Curley blond hair to her shoulders and her blue eyes added up to my first known crush. She was the first, but not the last girl to teach me, pretty girls can make us men do stupid things. I devised a fool-proof plan to win her favor. I sacrificed a nickel from my lunch money (previously earmarked for a bottle of chocolate milk) to buy her a Chuckles candy bar. A Chuckle was made up of six different flavored licorice squares made to share. I envisioned me showing her a clever physical trick, so wowing her that we would soon be walking hand in hand sharing my gift of Chuckles. Didn’t exactly work out that way. The trick required me to walk with my head back so I couldn’t see where I was going. I proceeded to walk directly into a telephone pole in front of the school, opening a deep gash in my chin. Bleeding profusely, I dropped the candy and ran into the nurse’s office. Walking back outside while gathering what was left of my dignity, I saw her talking and laughing with the most popular guy in school. She was offering him one of my Chuckles. I walked away with two scars; one under my chin and one in my heart. Does some version of this story sound familiar to anyone, whether you be a man or woman?

- SP

What was your favorite thing about growing up

Chapter II – The Pre-School Years

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.

- SP

Why Do I Wear Suits?

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question, I would be as rich as people think I am.

When I was growing up, men and boys always wore suits for occasions such as weddings, going to church, parties, funerals etc. It was a matter of respect. Respect for yourself, your family and others. My daughter gets upset with me whenever I go to one of her school functions because I always wear a suit (not pink..Ha!). It is second nature for me to “dress for respect”. This is the way I was brought up. As we all know, when we leave our parent’s influence, we have the tendency to not follow some of the things they insisted upon. This did not happen to me because of an adventure that “superpimped” me forever.

Have you seen the new T.V. show called “Pan Am”? The show depicts the glamour of flying as it used to be. The stewardesses were all gorgeous; the pilots handsome. They wore meticulous uniforms accenting the class of air travel.

As I stated in Chapter I of my bio, my mom was from England. Working 3 jobs, dad saved enough money to fly us to England to meet my grandparents for the first time, when I was 7 years old. Passengers always dressed up to fly, so mom bought a pilot’s suit (uniform) for me to wear on the plane. It was complete with an authentic pilot’s cap. I had worn regular suits before, but this one was “superpimp”!

Starting at the airport, I could see people smiling and pointing at me. As I was boarding the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines plane, I saw more dressed up kids in front of me. The stewardess greeted them cordially. To this day I remember her blonde hair and blue eyes as she saw me. Her face lit up with an angelic smile and said to me: “You are one handsome young man in that suit.”

After everyone was seated, she took me into the cockpit to meet the pilot. Flying was so different before 9/11. He showed me all the instruments and even let me sit in the captain’s chair. What a thrill! However, my biggest thrill was yet to come.

When the plane took off, she took me back to the “galley” and showed me off to the other stewardesses. As I sat in their laps, talking and laughing, my seven year old body started acknowledging feelings I never felt before. I didn’t know what the sensations meant, but I knew I would never be the same again.

The Superpimp Suit Syndrome was born…

Chapter II of the early years, coming soon!

Thanks for stopping by,

- SP

Chapter I – My Birth

My Parents Joan and Mike

I was born in Lorain, Ohio at a very young age (ha!) to my parents Mike and Joan.

My dad was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II with many combat jumps deep in enemy territory, including the D-Day Invasion. My mom was an English nurse during World War II. She was very beautiful and outgoing, and soon caught my dad’s eye at a town hall dance while he was on leave in London.

They fell in love in the turbulent days of World War II. The first product of that love was yours truly.

Born to humble beginnings, dad worked three jobs to keep the family fed with a roof over our heads. Our house was smaller than most apartments, but it didn’t matter because there were no rich people in sight to compare. Mom kept us clean and the house organized. The most important thing was that there was love in our home.

Me as a toddler

These humble beginnings, along with great family and friends was the start of a very interesting and exciting life. Please join me in about a week for the next chapter of “The Early Years” to find out about my first known interaction with a woman at about the age of 7.

- SP