High School with Art was fun. During lunch students milled around all over the campus. I did notice Art as he hung out of a second story window. He briskly waved and shouted, and received attention from everyone. I heard him yelling, "Que dice sapatos "? and I replied with my best accent, "De nada". The student body was very impressed, I am sure. We were communicating in the Spanish language. Roughly translated: "What do you say, shoes"? answer: "Of nothing". Surely you have guessed, neither one of us was doing too good in Spanish class. Later I learned to say, "El torro poo poo" instead of B.S. It's more sophisticated.
The spring of '42 I became 16 and driving Dad's car was a special treat. Although the '36 Ford had pushed in fenders and sprung doors, it was my pleasure to be able to drive after I had cleaned and washed it. Like any of my friends, we became good drivers and accidents didn't happen. Snap shift, down shift, and close parking came easy. I lucked out by telling my Dad each time I wanted to go anywhere. This gained a level of trust for me as I did exactly as outlined and returned on time. Soon, no cexplanations were necessary and I had use of the car at anytime.
It was in the fall of '42 when I met Jean Allen. She was a girl from England, and a refugee no less. She lived with her older brother and a girl from Scotland. They were boarded by an older couple and lived about two miles from our church. Jean played the piano for our youth group and soon we were dating regularly. Picnics and outings took on new meaning and time passed so very quickly. Our group of friends grew to over 50 young people, and it was good. At this time America was host to thousands of English children trying to avoid the Battle of Briton*.
*(The German armies occupied all of Europe except Sweden (neutral) and Switzerland for a period close to four years. Only England was able to repel their furious bombings and airforce. Young British flyers made the difference. Their aircraft were named Spit-fires. These young men were very courageous fighting the Battle of Briton.)
I did experience something totally unexpected one evening. Jean and I were having fun skating in time with the music, played by an organist at the rink. I had him play a favorite tune and I sang to Jean as we skated. Very romantic, I thought. Meanwhile, my friend Jack was skating with his girlfriend, Joyce. She was a refugee from Scotland. They were having a miserable time with twisted ankles and flip flops all over the ice. I expected they would leave the Winter Gardens never to return. Then, I suggested that Jean would teach Jack to skate and I would teach Joyce. We traded partners. Shaking a lot, I propped Joyce up and we barely made the first turn as her skates were slipping out from under her. Soon, I was carrying her full weight. This gal was full figured and taxed my ability to continue. The music stopped and the ice cleared of all skaters. Joyce and I were across the ice half way around as she lost it and fell forward as her skates revved up to the max. speed behind her. My manliness demanded that I could not allow her to fall on her face on the ice. I quickly reached down and with my left hand secured a grip on...the softest thing I ever felt in my life! Next with my right hand I gripped the second softest thing I had felt in my life. The audience cheered as I skated backward holding Joyce up by her bazooms as she was leaning over and her skates, as I said, were fully revved up. When finally we sat and recovered from the effort, totally exhausted, Jack, in anger, came to me and firmly said, "Next time, let her fall"!
My Mom and Dad had a habit of going to a movie every Wednesday night for many years and now I was no longer going along. Dad especially tried to encourage me to continue going, but I didn't and instead encouraged him to come to church and hear a sermon. Finally, with Mom's insistence, he did. Making stools and tables for the nursery-aged children at church became one of his projects, as he now was becoming involved. He didn't make a commitment or experience salvation at that time though. At prayer meeting I made a vow that what ever effort it took, on my part, I would help him make that commitment.
While in High School I couldn't play football because helmets were soft with no eye protection. On the basketball court, because of short legs, I performed more like a tank. To play baseball, I needed better depth perception, so I played "left out". Alas, for three years I took a gymnastics class and excelled. Especially upper body, hand over hand climbing the ropes. We used parallel bars, high bar, the leather horse and rings. We practiced tumbling, handstands and presses. All this was preparation for the future.
My friends, Art, Jack, and Dewayne had no problems with others, and together we couldn't be intimidated.
Shirley had to attend a ninth grade class with me as she had need to take a speech class before her graduation of twelfth grade. She sat in the back of class, as I sat in front under the lady teacher's nose. I wanted Shirley to give my Mom a good report of me. I should have guessed, the teacher took this as "eagerness" on my part. She assigned me a speech to be given without notes the next day. Studying at home, I discovered I couldn't memorize my own name. Next class, I arose to speak as the blood drained from my head. After reciting the title, I pronounced the word "sits" incorrectly and the whole class fell apart. Shirley laughed so hard she ended up on the floor and the teacher stomped out of the room. One "heluva" (Swedish) speech. Class grade "D". Mom forgave me.
Flay had a good looking girlfriend, Helen. One day after school the two of them were in our dining room talking girl talk. While I was in the kitchen for a drink of water, I overheard their conversation. It seems Helen was using toilet tissue to fill out her bra, as this was a new trend. She told Flay, "He was foolin around 15 minutes and I didn't even know it."
During the depression, Flay sat with her boyfriend on our front porch. He offered me a nickel to leave. I took the bribe and quickly bought a candy bar. After dark while returning home I ate the candy and had picked up a small stick. Forgetting my promise, I returned to the porch. The unfortunate boyfriend asked for a bite and without hesitation I offered the stick and watched as he took one horrendous bite. Fortunately for me, he then had to leave, go home, and cry.
Later, Flay had a new boyfriend, Harvey. A really nice guy and well liked, with a new 1940 Chevy Coupe. He was very generous and when he came to court Flay, we all got the benefit of an oversized box of chocolates. Forget the fudge, Mom, we're on a new diet. Harv had a milk route and delivered chocolates as well. He was able to shuffle the cartons around on the truck and pilfer a lot. On payday, his bubble burst as his employer had a strict inventory and old Harv was charged $. Somehow the family's interest waned without the chocolate supply.
My brother, Ray, was the most. He was about 5 when it seemed the family would have to go hunting the neighborhood for him. Very often he walked a block then lay down on the warm sidewalk to take a nap. Other times we would come across him sleeping in a corner of our sand box.
At school I was not used to high grades, but did as much work as I could. In June of '43, a counselor tapped me on the shoulder and said that I could graduate six months early because I had all of the necessary credits. What a pleasant surprise, because I was so ready to start college and get on with my life. That summer I worked as usual and instead of returning to High School I went on to Pasadena Jr. College. The subjects were tough and speech class not too much fun. The Army offered a test for" Army Specialized Training", a college program for 17 year olds. The test was given in schools in nine western states and took about four hours. It consisted of Science, English, History, Math, and everything I could imagine. On the test day an Army Officer opened special cartons containing the test material with a sharp razor blade. At exactly 10:00 a.m. we were signaled to turn over the test papers and begin. It was weird to think that so many 17 year olds in every High School were involved at the same time. Afterwards, I talked with some of the others being tested and they all were quick to admit that it was not possible for them to finish. I had skipped some of the questions and was able to finish. At this time a new boy had arrived at the High School and he was also included in the test. His name was Sterns and he was a refuge from Germany with his parents. His father had purchased the only camera shop in town.
A couple of months later Mom called me at Pasadena Jr. College and said she had a letter from the Army that I had passed the A.S.T.P. test. I was very surprised to be one of 25 in nine western states to pass. Meanwhile, at Sunday School we finished the book of Ephesians, verse by verse. Jack had to leave and join; the Army Air Corps as a radio operator. Our group of 50 dwindled fast as so many were being called to duty.
The sixth chapter of Ephesians speaks of "Children obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right". My favorite quote is verse 13: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand".
It was time for me to go and I took the Word with me. Art joined the Navy and Dewayne the Air Force. Neither one completed training in time to go out of our country. So be it! They were my support and better guys I could never meet.
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