Thursday, June 20, 2013


A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.

One maneuver I participated in surely takes the cake.
In the early nineteen-fifties various delivery trucks, plus all parcel-post trucks, were battery powered. Many of the old battery powered vehicles had wooden-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires. A big chain, powered by huge batteries, led to the rear drive wheels. The operator sat up front like in any other motor vehicle.
Many Gasthauses, close to the brewery, had their beer delivered in wooden barrels on a wagon drawn by a pair of Clydesdale horses. The battery powered trucks served the more distant establishments.
On level ground these electric trucks easily outran the horse drawn ones. However, going up an incline, the battery powered vehicles really labored. They slowed down to a point where our walking home from school would be considered fast.
My buddy and I had long observed that the battery powered postal trucks had a pullout step in the rear of the truck. The postman used it to step up and back down to retrieve the parcels. We figured if we could run out into traffic, while the cars behind were held to a crawl, we could pull out that step and get a ride home.
Oh boy! As a kid, things always make so much sense. After all, how in the world could an inquisitive kid think things through if he never partook in any such wonderful experiences?
Then, guess what? The day came when everything fell into place. As we moseyed up an incline heading home from school, we noticed a postal truck holding up traffic as it slowed to master the slight hill. “The postman cometh!” We ran out into traffic, pulled out the step, sat down on it, and grinned. Just the perfect size for two boys with school satchels on their backs. We sat there looking kind of proud and worthy of praise as we faced the cars that followed behind the truck. If the postman knew he had stowaways, we could not tell, nor did we even pondered the risk.
After the hill leveled out the postal truck gained considerable speed, but still slowed down traffic. The road was wide enough for cars to pass, if one wanted to fight the trolley tracks in the middle of the road.
We were doing so good that in no time my pal realized he had to get off. We had zipped past his road. With no time to contemplate, he just jumped off the moving truck. I did not know a twelve-year old could be so acrobatic. When his feet touched the pavement, he immediately went tumbling like a frantic rag doll, as the cars that followed blew their horn.
Well, I still sat there. The vehicle kept gaining speed. Soon I too had to get off. To stay on for the duration, only the Lord knew how many miles to the next stop.
The word inertia was never explained to me. Even if it had, what could I have done about it then . . . looking at the cars following.
I was in the process of moving backward. I’ve seen people jump off still moving trolley cars, but they faced in the right direction when they jumped off.
Well, “There I go.” I also made the jump. A good thing the cars that followed kept considerably more distance since the first chap’s sprawl. I hit the pavement so hard that every bone in me rattled. Flopping around and rolling with the traffic, I came to rest at the edge of the bicycle path. I am sure the cars that followed blew their horns and hollered at me. I did not hear a thing. I crawled up onto the sidewalk, my head in a whirl. After a sobering resting spell I got up, pulled my shirt around so the buttons were again in the front, straightened out my breeches, gathered up my satchel, and slowly dragged myself home.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


This short story is from my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant."I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the future.

This story happened in 1946


At six years old, the Red Cross sent me, and a few others from our town, to a rest camp in the Bohemian Woods. After we jumped off the train, we joined kids already at the depot. From there guardians chaperoned us through a town. To where we walked I can’t remember.
On that walk through town I do remember a startling, dark skinned woman with long black hair, dressed in black, sitting on the front steps of a row house. As we walked by, she offered me a piece of chocolate. I was shocked at the gesture. I knew I had stared at her. I refused the candy. Had I taken it, I would not have eaten it. My ever skeptical mother instilled that in me. Later I learned she was a gypsy and quite common in the area.
I stayed several weeks at the Bohemian camp. Distinct experiences come to mind.
One of the great-rooms we spent time to play in was covered with ceramic tile. The floors, the walls, and the window sills, all were covered in light green tile. Nothing earth shattering took place in that hall except we, at six, learned to annoy the girls.
Up to the time of the Bohemian Camp, my group of friends, all boys, had stayed away from girls. Girls were weird. They did not carry spears and pocketknives.
In an unfamiliar environment and among new and strange kids, we soon learned who was easily irritated, and who dished it out. We, the young snaps, soon found out that girls were different; and agitate them we did. It turned out the girls shrieked and covered their ears when we, the boys, scratched the tile with a spoon or other metal object. What fun!
The camp insisted that all the children take afternoon naps. This daily routine took place in a large hall with tall ceilings and many windows. Each boy and girl had their own little iron framed bed, and all napped in the same hall. The boys’ beds were lined up along the inner wall and faced the windows. The girls’ beds faced toward the boys and were lined up along the window wall. During nap time we were not allowed to talk, only rest. However, the boys were restless. Girls! The world was too alive, too interesting, and offered too much to experience.
The ever curious boys found that each of the four chimneys along our wall had a small soot and ash clean-out-box near the floor. Apparently during the winter months several coal stoves heated that big room.
Investigating what was behind those little iron doors became a mission of high interest. We found those clean-outs to be full of fine soot. The stuff was pitch black, kind of oily, and hard to wipe off the skin. Remember, all this discovery took place while we “napped.”
Now, there were as many girls in that hall as were boys. Since talking was not allowed, the girls all resigned themselves to truly rest. Some, I’m sure, went to sleep.
We, the boys, on the opposite side along the inner wall whispered, conspired and devised a plan. A plan to agitate the opposite sex. It took a day or so to work out the details. Each boy was assigned a girl strategically located opposite his bed. One girl for each boy. The older boys decided that on the appointed day, each boy would kiss and smooch his designated girl. Soot was part of the plan.
On the chosen day, all the chaps and girls settled in to take their nap. The bright sun lit up the room. Some thirty minutes into the rest period most girls dozed in the warm, sun filled room. We, the men, faked likewise.
When the chaperone finally was convinced a restful afternoon was in the making, he walked out of the room. The boys went to work. Carefully, not making the slightest noise, we opened the chimney trap doors which were spaced about one every three beds. We dipped our hands in and brought forth a good dab of soot. The soot was passed to left and right so every boy had some between their fingers. As previously planned, we took the soot and carefully smeared it around our mouth. . . .The girls rested peacefully.
All quiet, . . . waiting for the signal. Our hearts pounded. We hardly contained our giggles. The prank leader coughed! In one accord we bounded out of our beds, darted across the center aisle, and pounced on the girls. Not along side of the girls, but fully leaped on top of them.
Smooch we did! Good, long smooches. Shrieks and squeals resonated throughout the hall. As quickly as the boys came, so they also retreated to their respective beds.
When the chaperone came to check on the commotion, all the girls were sitting up and really didn’t know what had happened. The boys grinned. Who me? I didn’t do a thing!
I will never forget the sight. The young ladies had black smudges around their lips and face proving that none of the young boys had chickened out. The boys acted very sheepishly. None of us were caught in the act. All of us were obviously guilty. No reprimand was ever issued. The conquest was a success. Thank God for boys and girls.