Once Upon a Time

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The initial reason Crystal and I began this blog was as part of a platform for our yet to be published book. One Hundred and Fifty Years of Marriage is both a memoir and a historical non-fiction book. While historical accounts of our parents lives are intertwined with world altering events such as the Great Depression and WW2, Crystal and my childhoods occurred during a much more pedestrian time. Discounting much of the civil unrest of the sixties and an unprecedented youth rebellion against Viet Nam and the “man”, the sixties and seventies represented a Renaissance of American values. Much of the first half of our book describes our lives during those last days of American innocence. Amidst all of the tumult, life in America went on pretty much as our parents had envisioned and fought for some years earlier.

In 1964, I was ten years old. As most young boys, the summer meant one thing to me, baseball. I played almost every day. It was always easy to find others around the neighborhood or at the park who shared my obsession. When I wasn’t playing ball there was bike riding, watching some boob tube, or just chilling in someone’s basement (literally, it’s cooler down there).

Then dad came home and it was time for dinner. After dinner, dad usually read magazines or did some left over project for his job. Every now and then, however, the two of us, occasionally joined by mom, would move out to the front porch. In those days this was not an uncommon practice. Before the advent of air conditioning most people did this out of necessity.

In our neighborhood, however, by this time most families at least had window units. This was a social tradition and not to be disrupted for the sake of cool air. Neighbors would wave and occasionally join us, or we would join them. Discussions were kept light, no politics or religion. Subjects ranged from neighborhood occurrences, to weather, to movies and events. I loved our front porch discussions. I generally sat quietly while the adults talked.

Occasionally, I would join the conversation, especially when someone talked about the White Sox. I knew every player and most of their vital stats. Some of my favorites were Gary Peters, Don Buford, Ken Berry, and Floyd Robinson. Since we were south siders, the Cubs were seldom discussed. That is except for 1969 when they had a really good team. They had an infield of Santo Kessinger, Beckert, and Banks, which ranks among the best of all times. All of Chicago was united in support. They were sure to go to the playoffs. That is until the Cubs luck took over; and they were nudged out during the last week of the season by the Miracle Mets and their upstart pitching staff. Who ever heard of Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, or Tom Seaver (Tom Terrific)? At least Koosman and Seaver had the common sense to eventually wind up with the White Sox. I couldn’t hate them anymore.

One day while on the Brown’s front porch, Mr. Brown offered me my first taste of beer. Both of my parents were there of course and queried prior to the big event. It was awful. I couldn’t believe all of the fuss made about the stuff. Why would anyone willingly drink this bitter, foul “beverage”? Mr. Brown laughed like he had just put one over on me. My mom seemed concerned. It was her lifelong job to protect me from evil. Dad didn’t seem too concerned. These are the same parents who were buying me pints (it kind of grows on you) a few years later in Germany. It’s a different culture over there. You know, when in Rome (or Munich).

One of my favorite front pouch traditions though, was eating watermelon. Dad would cut the nice neat slices and hand me mine. It was cool and sweet with a crunch. Then it just seemed to melt in your mouth. We sat and quietly ate our melon while the sun set, spitting out the seeds in the grass. I always hoped we would someday get our own watermelon from the seeds. But we never did. Just for sport, I often tried to see how far I could make them go. This was one of the few times I could just let fly. Mom kept the house somewhere between immaculate and museum quality. Out on the front porch though, there was a freedom I have seldom felt since.



Dad and I in Front of our Oak Lawn House and Front Porch a Couple of Years Ago


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