25 A Week In Sydney
26 Interview with the Widow - 1
27 Interview with the Widow - 2
28 Three Kings of Orient
29 1969 - Year of the Rooster
30 Summer in Europe
31 Bellybuttons & Maggots
32 Yes/No vs. Maybe
33 Blood, Beer and Warm Feet
34 Mine Universe
35 Hands off, Boots on
36 The Accidental Cure
37 It's the Only Thing
38 The Professor's Stable
39 Little House on the Highway
40 "9/11 is OK"
41 Suspected Child Abuse
42 Midlife Crisis
43 Where Am I Today - 1
44 Where Am I Today - 2
45 The Rosebud Period
46 Angular and Giddy
47 Sandin, N. A., Computer
48 Hot Trailers
WHERE AM I TODAY? - 2
This is the follow-on for the thoughts covered in Part 1 of the same title. Before we go on though, here are two pics from the earlier period. The first is the “Deer Tail Inn”, my only memory (and only pic) from Michigamme. The memory may be imperfect, however, since I recall that I played house with a little girl – this was probably her younger brother, or maybe she just got home from work and was still in her mining clothes. The second pic is the only one I’ve ever seen of me wearing knickers. I don’t even remember owning a pair!
One sharp dude >
I went through two full years of school in Dearborn and I was older, so I have many memories. Our trailer was parked just next to the MSHD office and it was very convenient for Dad. The office and our trailer were between the widely separated lanes of an Expressway that crossed Telegraph Road. When the Expressway was put in, entire communities were bought up and the houses were destroyed. The infrastructure however, remained. One of the homes was salvaged and became the MSHD office. Our trailer was parked on a slab that was the floor of a garage for a nearby house. Behind our place was a large area with streets and sidewalks where we could play and use our imaginations, totally undisturbed by others who never ventured between the lanes!
Dad was a paving inspector. One of his duties was to sample the concrete that the contractors were installing by making a beam that was about 6” x 8” x 3’. Then after the proper curing period the beam was put in a device that applied steadily increasing force until the beam broke in three approximately 1’ sections. The force required was measured and recorded and the broken beam was discarded.
That pile of broken beams was out between our trailer and my Adventure Land. I hated to see the waste and set out to build a shack with them. The result was more of a fort than a shack. I made a stove out of a small drum, installed some old rugs and mats for sitting around and had my own private play space that was impervious to the bullets and arrows of my enemies who were constantly attacking.
Fort Sandin – after Christmas, the tree was burned for heat
After a nice fire in the stove, a potato in the ashes baked perfectly. The skin turned black and had to be discarded, but the flavor of the smoked and baked potato was never to be forgotten!
Dearborn was the site of my first “serious” crush – Jean Talbot. She and her sister were both in my grade (I don’t remember why – they weren’t twins). I spent a lot of time talking to her and thinking about her. In fact I think that was the year the teacher noted on my report card – “talks incessantly”.
A dog was part of that place. I thought he was mine, I called him Steve, and he was with me whenever I was home. The guys in the office thought he was theirs, called him Spike, and he was at the office at all the appropriate times to carry off his dual life. He was free to roam and he always came back, but one day he showed up in bad shape. He had broken bones and lacerations and was clearly suffering. In those days pets that developed health problems of any sort were simply put down. Mom and I hid in the trailer with pillows over our ears and Dad took him out in Adventure Land with a gun and a shovel. We heard one report and that was it.
Steve may have tangled with traffic on the Expressway, which was fierce. We also heard that a guy who raised chickens nearby had trouble with an egg sucking dog. I can’t imagine that Steve would need extra nourishment with all he had access to, but he may have enjoyed the thrill of scourging the chickens. We will never know.
Playing with matches one day resulted in igniting a bale of straw used to keep the wind out from under another trailer. I ran back and forth to the water faucet with a bucket taking about a cupful each time. An adult saw the problem, FILLED a bucket, and proceeded to get us off the hook.
A favorite male teacher had both legs broken by a hit and run driver. Two or three of us rode our bikes down the Expressway to the hospital to visit him. He survived and somehow we did too. School, friends, and stores were all across the Expressway and I crossed those lanes constantly walking or biking. I could have used the ramps, but it would have added a mile or so and involved being close to traffic for a lot longer.
A friend had a paper route and asked me to fill in when he was away for a while. I suppose the money wasn’t all that much but it seemed like he made a fortune for just delivering papers.
World-shaking events happened while we were in Dearborn. Victory in Europe, the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Victory in Japan, to name a few. My brother was in the Army in Europe, so we monitored the news constantly – radio, of course.
After Dearborn there was another blur of towns. I didn’t go to school in Melvindale. We lived in a trailer park for a very short time. A sweet little girl about my age lived nearby. She would ride by on her bike and we would ignore each other properly. She would disappear for a while and suddenly come riding by again wearing a different uniform. I suppose she had something in mind but I was too busy. Our playground there was a rancid swamp next to the park. We had a wooden raft and spent lots of time harassing the frogs and ducks and bugs that frequented the area. Girl, what girl? I was King of the Swamp!
Fennville is a complete blank – I think I had “new town” overload and just shut down!
My only experience with a genuine one-room school was a very brief stay in one outside of Kalamazoo. I learned a lot there, simply listening while each grade had its lessons. We had a spelling bee for the entire school and I managed to outlast everybody (that is, all 25 or so, mostly in grades lower than mine).
We lived in a “new trailer park” that was basically a bunch of trailers in a field. The fields on either side were filled with sheep so the wind was flavored all the time. Trash was gathered in 55 gallon drums and burned regularly. That smell actually gave some relief from the sheep smell. I think we moved due to Dad’s assignment, but maybe it was just to get away!
From the one-room school near Kalamazoo, I went to East Intermediate School in Jackson – an absolute night and day comparison. It was a huge school with huge classes, but it was well organized, had real courses with real goals and I mostly liked it. Swimming was a mandatory class and we swam naked. I thought it was coed, but after a few days I realized that some boys just developed more slowly than others.
The school was a long walk from where we parked the trailer, and it was up hill in both directions, but the dogs and street gangs kept me from dallying.
The summer after Jackson we lived outside of Grand Ledge. My brother had a gas station there and we parked way back off the road behind the station. We had the use of a two stall garage and I had the run of an old barn. The farm was not active at the time. Twin girls my age lived two doors down. They were grandkids of the farm owner.
I pumped gas at the station and did other chores for Bud that summer and for a couple years after that. We had a puppy, but of course the highway got him. Bud and I slept outdoors most of that summer. When it rained, we just moved our gear into the garage. The garage was also the site of my chemistry laboratory. I got a chemistry set and went through most of the experiments in the accompanying manual. I still remember some of the smells when I run across them again.
The puppy was the first tenant of my personal graveyard. I can show you where to dig to find various roadkill, a mason jar full of June bugs, birds killed by the neighborhood cats, and other things that died somehow that summer.
During the summer in Grand Ledge, Mom made arrangements to substitute teach in Perry, so before school started we moved there. I don’t recall the details but Mom was soon offered a full time position and she accepted. With her newfound independence, Mom put her foot down and said that if Dad got an assignment elsewhere, he would have to commute. She said that she didn’t want to uproot me again through high school. Dad came around, and by the end of our first year in Perry, they bought a house and we learned how to use indoor plumbing.
Perry holds many memories, some of which have been discussed in Ponograms #1, #10, #11, #16, #23 with mentions in a few others. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Perry was featured again in a future Ponogram.
So I went to some 14 different schools and lived in about 20 towns from K through 12, and that seemed like a lot, but it was only an introduction to what was coming. The Monday after high school was over I started work for the MSHD and my hop scotching Michigan continued. It went on during the Army in Missouri, Texas, and Germany. Then after college in Wisconsin, California, Thailand, and finally Hawaii.
Those who know me will have to judge whether this instability left any scars. While others have a home town or even an old family home to “go back to” I really don’t. I do feel very comfortable whenever I visit the UP, but that is as close as it gets. All the other places were just layovers in the grand tour.
In contrast, my brother-in-law still lives in the house my folks lived in when I was born!