My First Pet

This is not an earth shaking story (none of them are), but I wanted to document it while I was thinking of it. I remember the first dog I ever had. I wish I could remember his name, but I do know he was a cocker spaniel. He had those long floppy ears that practically dragged on the ground. He was just a little dog, blond in color if I remember right and I loved him more than anything else at the time. I don’t know how old I was but I think it was after my sickness. We were still on Kelley Street, so it was before Floyd.

The main problem was that the little dog liked to chase cars. Every time I would let him out, he would race up and down the street and whenever a car would go by, he would bark at it and chase along beside it. He did this until one day, he was hit by one of the cars. I don’t remember what we did about it. Maybe take him to a vet or something. He might have had his leg broken, because I do remember that from that time on, he limped. But that didn’t stop him from chasing the cars. He still did it, just not quite as fast.

The first big tragedy of my life happened when I was away from town for a few days. I think I went on a school trip with my class and was gone for several days. When I got back, I looked for the dog and he was nowhere to be found. Finally, I asked my mother what happened to him and she confessed that she had given him away to another family. She had never liked the dog and said we couldn’t afford to feed him. I was so upset. I cried and carried on for some time and finally my mother told me who she had given him to.

It took me 2 or 3 weeks before I could get over to the house that now owned my dog. It was across town and I was little and just couldn’t travel the streets easily. I finally got there, though and knocked on the door of the house. The lady came to the door and I explained that I used to own “put in name of dog here” and could I see him, please. She told me, she was sorry, but almost as soon as they got him home, they let him out and he started chasing cars. This was a busier street than I lived on and my little dog was hit and killed by a car.

I had never experienced a sadder, more devastated feeling than I did that day. It took me a long time to forgive my mother and forget about by pet. Now, years later, I can’t remember his name but I can still picture him in my mind’s eye. I loved that dog a lot and in a way, still miss him.

Dad

The in-Between Years

Before I go into the Floyd Kader years, let me briefly talk about the couple years between the time I was sick and the time my mother married Floyd. It was the summer of my 11th year when I was relagated to the bed for the summer. As I said, I read a lot. When school started I went to Verona Elementary school which was about 6 blocks or so from my house. I walked to school and back again. I attended Verona for 3 years, the 4th 5th and 6th. I only remember a couple things about Verona.

One is that during the 4th grade I became really interested in Astronomy. I could name all of the planets and knew a lot about space. (This was before Star Trek and Star Wars – much before) The other thing I remember was a switch box which was attached to a light pole just near the school. It was placed in such a way that on the days I was late, I would turn the corner on Capitol Street and my head would hit the switch box with a loud whak. I did that more than one. You’d think I’d learn to avoid it, but no such luck.

The other thing I remember was that the flag was controlled my our class at the school. They would raise the flag and then run the rope for the flag in through the window into our classroom. So we could put the flag up in the morning and take it down again in the evening without ever leaving the classroom.

This is not exciting stuff, but it is what I remember.

The next 2 years were 7th grade and 8th grade. In Battle Creek, this was Jr High. I think it’s called Middle school these days, but we called it Jr High. The only think that stands out for me for those two years is those are the years that I played violin in the school orchestra. For the first time in my life, I learned Beethoven and other great masters. I really wanted to learn to play the violin. But, the summer between my 8th grade and 9th grade, my Mother married Floyd Earl Kader. We moved as a family from Battle Creek to Belleview, Michigan to a farm. Belleview High School did not have an orchestra, so my violin days were over. Just another reason, I disliked that transistion.

I have been trying to think of some friends I had during this time period. For some reason, I can’t think of a one. I had friends in High School and will talk about them when we get there, but before High School, I knew kids, too, but I can’t remember their names. Too bad. If I do, I’ll amend this and add them.

I think I have some pictures that may trigger some more memories. I want to be complete, but not too boring. I hope my life hasn’t been too boring.

That takes us up to the marriage.

Dad

Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been sick and just haven’t felt like doing much of anything.

I just thought of this story this evening and wanted to record it before I forgot it. It’s out of order, but that’s OK. I’ll colate it into the proper place later. My mother married her third husband in the summer between my 8th and 9th grade. I was just ready to start high school in Battle Creek and I was pulled out and moved to the farm in Belleview. His name was Floyd Kader and I pretty much hated him. Mainly for coming between me and my mother, but also for taking me out of my comfort zone and into an environment that was completely foreign to me. There will be (I hope) many posts about Floyd. He controlled my life for 4 long years.

The story I remembered was this: Every Sunday night, we had a special treat. We would have ice cream. I can picture my mom, Floyd and me sitting around the big dining room table enjoying that ice cream. Our favorite flavor was Cherry Vanilla. I loved maraschino cherries and I used to suck the ice cream off the cherries and put them in a little pile on my plate. Then when I was done with the ice cream, I’d eat the cherries separately. One day I was doing this and Floyd suddenly reached over and scooped up most of my cherries and ate them.

I was really mad. “You took my cherries”, I yelled. He laughed. Then I realized. Hey, those cherries had all been in my mouth. It was my turn to laugh. I don’t remember what he did but he wasn’t happy. He never stole my cherries again.

Some things are fun to remember.

Dad

Please read…..

Just a quick post. I noticed no one has commented on anything I’ve written for the last several posts. I think I had an option set wrong and have corrected that. Let me know if you have tried to comment and couldn’t. Or, try again and see if it works now.

Thanks,

Dad

Rheumatic Fever

It must have been 1953 when I turned eleven since I was born in 1942. The next summer would have been the summer of 1954. That summer was a major turning point in my life. I’m going to put down as much as I remember of it, but that was the summer I contacted Rheumatic Fever.
I had had measles earlier that year and I’ve since heard that measles can lead to rheumatic fever. I started to feel that something was wrong in early May, 1954. I told my mother that my joints were hurting and she took me to the doctor. He immediately put me in the hospital because this was the era of polio and other serious diseases and they couldn’t cure them as easily as they can now days.
I was in serious pain. I remember crying a lot (I was only 11, remember). I spent 2 weeks in the hospital and then they sent me home. I was sent to bed and told not to get up for three months. So, I spent June, July and August in bed. You may have already figured out that that represents the summer months, usually off from school. So I got to miss my summer and didn’t really miss any school. I’m not sure what grade I was in (probably 4th or 5th), but my teacher told my mom that missing the last couple weeks of school in May were not enough to affect the year, so they passed me on to the next grade and all I missed was a summer of playing that I felt I was entitled to.
We did not have a TV at the house on Kelley St. If we did, it would have been in the living room and I was stuck in the bedroom. So, since I had nothing else to do, my mother would go to the library and bring home 10 or 15 books for me to read. She did this about once a week, so I went through a lot of books during that summer. The books I remember the most were the “Freddy the Pig” books by Walter R Brooks. I just looked them up on Amazon.com and most of the 26 books in the series are still in print. They are about a talking pig who is an amateur detective and solves crimes around the barnyard. Some of the titles are “Freddy the Detective”, “Freddy the Magician” and “Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars”. I loved those books. During that summer, I read every one I could get my hands on plus any others that my mother picked out at the library. I’m sure that that was the beginning of my love of books and why, I still read to this day.
Rheumatic Fever is a disease that attacks the muscles of the heart. I was told that some people who get it end up in a wheel chair for the rest of their lives. I was told that I was lucky. That they caught it in time and not much damage was done. I was, however, excused from sports for the rest of my school life. I was never able to participate in any sport or activity that would put a strain on the heart. (Explains a lot, right) I was supposed to take a medicine for the rest of my life, but I took it for a few months and then said “To heck with it” and stopped. Never have taken it after that. Later, when I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force (a chapter I will write in a few weeks), because of my history, they did a special check of my heart and almost wouldn’t let me join, but in the end, said it looked like it had healed just fine and so I could join the Air Force. After that I never worried about it again.
I think I dodged a major bullet.

Dad

The Early Years … continued

After thinking about it, I’ve decided that this post (probably a chapter if this was a real book) should cover the years from when I was five until age eleven when I got rheumatic fever.

They were the Ray Clemens years. A really dark time in my childhood and I don’t remember much about them. I have just spotty memories of a few things that happened. As I said last time, we lived on Haskell Street in Battle Creek. I attended Ann J Kellogg Elementary School for kindergarden. My kindergarden teacher’s name was Mrs. Penny. She is probably the only teacher whose name I remember until high school.

It’s funny what you remember. On my first day of kindergarden, I remember sitting on the floor. On a rug, I think. We all had rugs that we took naps on at some point during the day. Anyway, I was fine with being left alone for the first time. But I remember one boy whose mother brought him into class and he definitely didn’t want to come. He was kicking and screaming and finally the Mom sat him down and scolded him and then left. He sat there and sniffled the rest of the day. Probably a future serial killer.

Here are some isolated memories of those years, in no particular order, because I have no idea what order they came in, just that they occured on Haskell before I was eleven:

1) I wanted a bike really bad, so I begged and begged until Ray agreed to get me a regular 2-wheeler bike. No training wheels for me. He decided I would learn to ride a bike the right way. So he sat me on the bike and we went to the top of this long hill that was near our home. I thought he was going to run along side of me to keep me steady in case I fell, but no, we got to the top of the hill, he put his hand on the back of the seat and pushed and off I went. I first time I had ever been on a bike and I was flying down this hill all alone. I was terrified. I’ve never forgotten that feeling. But like being thrown into a pool to learn to swin, I knew I had to master the bike by the time I reached the bottom of the hill or I was dead meat, so I did. By the time I was to the bottom, I had conquered the balance and was pedling and riding like a pro. He scared the heck out of me, but I did learn to ride a bike really fast. Never tried that on my own kids, maybe I should have.

2) A minor incident I remember was – my mother always told me to be careful with Tom, my younger brother. I was the big brother and I was supposed to keep him safe. Well, at some point after learning to ride the bike, I decided to take Tom on a ride. I put him right behind me on the seat and off we went. Well, we hadn’t gone 10 feet and Tom got his foot and leg caught in the spokes of the back wheel. It torn the pant leg and put a long gash in his leg. Of course, he screamed bloodly murder and so, I took him home to Mom. She was very upset with me and took him to the hospital for stiches. He has a scar on his ankle to this day from that incident. Not sure if they took the bike away from me as punishment or not. But I never did think it was really my fault. If he wasn’t smart enough to keep his leg out of the spokes, why is that my fault. Of course, he was only 3 or 4 at the time.

3) I had a friend named Joel. (Don’t remember his last name) He and I got into all kinds of trouble. The only thing that has come through the years is a time when he and I were riding our bikes about a mile from home and we stopped in front of this store that, I think, was a drug store. It had a display of pocket knives in the window and Joel and I looked at those knives and boy, did I want one. Just think of all the cool stuff you could do with a neat knife like that. So, Joel went in the store and distracted the clerk while I stole the knife from the window display. It was surprizingly easy. It might have been the start of a life of crime for me, except when I got home, I was dumb enough to play with the knife in full view of my mother. She knew right away that it was new and I didn’t have it before. So, she asked me where I got it. I told her her I bought it. She asked where I got the money for such a nice knife, since she knew I didn’t have any. So, I broke and admitted the whole thing. Of course, I blamed it all on Joel, but that didn’t matter to Mom. She and I immediately drove back down to the store. She made me go in and apologize to the owner for taking the knife and give it back. Luckily, the man didn’t press charges. He said something like “boys will be boys” and let me go with just a talking to. I look back on that incident for making me the honest type of person that I believe I am. It really could have gone the other way.

4) My mother worked a full time job (as did Ray). So, I was left in the hands of babysitters much of the time. I remember one time coming home and finding no one there. Not sure why or where everyone was, but there was no babysitter, either. There was, however, a collection of hot dogs sitting on the dining room table. Maybe they were for dinner and my mother had stepped out for a minute, I’m not really sure. I just remember eating hot dogs. I must have eaten 6 of them at least (remember, I was, like 8 years old). I got so sick to my stomach that I started throwing up all over the place. There was thrown up hot dogs in the dinning room and the hallway and the bathroom. Boy was I sick. This was what my mother came home to that day. What a mess.

5) My only other memory of those years are of Ray and his abuse of my mother. I can vividly remember laying in my bed listening to them fight in the other room. Of him hitting her and stomping out of the house. Of her crying. Those were tough times for her. Ray was a violent man as well as a womanizer. I don’t think it’s slander to talk about him now. He’s dead and besides, is it slander if it’s true? I can’t go into any detail because I’ve probably blocked out most of it, but my mother finally came to her senses and divorced him. For some reason which I’ve never understood, he got Tom in the settlement, so Tom went to live with him and I stayed with my mother. I think that is one reason Tom and I were never very close as brothers.

Shortly after the divorce, we moved to 68 Kelley St in Battle Creek, Michigan. This was right next door to my grandparents house. Both houses are there to this day and if this memoir ever gets in print, I will include pictures of the houses. We lived on Kelley for many years which I will continue with next time.

Hope you all are enjoying this as much as I am remembering it.    

Dad