Pressed between the pages of my mind…

7 12 2008

This past week Dad and I drove by one of our old neighborhoods near Lackland Air Force Base. He likes to drive by to see how the house changes through the years. The last time we drove by it sported a rather bright coat of bright blue paint. This time around, the present owners have done a nice job of bricking the front of the house and part of the sides, and we were surprised at how much better it looked. We slowed down so I could get some shots with my point-n-shoot and one of the neighbors popped out her door and asked, “May I help you?” When I told her we used to live in that house many, many years ago, and that the current owners sure were spiffing up the place, her face softened. We told her we last lived there in 1972 and like to see it from time to time.

farrelldrive-1

The house was just two years old when we moved in. Mom told me they paid $12,000 for the property in 1964. Actually, they paid the owner $250 down and agreed to take over his payments, which were about $80 a month. My younger sister Kelley had just been born and I was just over three years old. My older sister Debbie was starting junior high and went to school just at the end of our street—Sam Rayburn Junior High. We lived at 155 Farrel Drive until I turned 12. We rented the house out for a year when I was in 5th grade (Dad got stationed in Alexandria, Louisiana), then returned to spend 6th grade back in San Antonio. Then he retired from the Air Force and got a job with U.S. Customs in the Rio Grande Valley. We joined him in June of 1972 after each of us finished out the school year. I went to Lackland City Elementary School, which was within walking distance at the end of our street in the cul-de-sac and across the alley.

dadkellsmileLeft: Dad with my younger sister Kelley. My memories of that time, that place, those years—in no particular order and off the top of my head—are:

• organizing a pool party for kids in the neighborhood with my sister Kelley as co-hostess. For us a pool party meant BYOP—Bring Your Own Pool! Our friends brought their own plastic wading pools to our backyard. We provided the water hose and voila—a pool party was born! It is my earliest recollection of playing hostess.

• I remember I didn’t learn to ride a bike (without training wheels) until I was eight. Talk about a late-starter. That’s me in the photo below—such a fashionably dressed little cyclist I was!

ridingbike

• The long brick and concrete planter that ran across the front porch was still intact when we drove by yesterday—it’s in the middle of the photo above, to the left of the concrete birdbath…I remember it was filled with Purple Heart plants (Tradescantia pallida—although I didn’t know the name of the plants at the time)…Darren, a boy my age who lived a few streets away, had a crush on me. On Valentine’s Day, he dropped a yellow heart-shaped Whitman’s Sampler chocolate box on the planter, rang the doorbell and ran away. I have never liked those samplers because I’m a chocolate purist and I could never tell if one might have nuts (nuts on a plane are fine; but not in my chocolate, please), or coconut (blechh!), or some oozing gel-like substance. Mom and her friend Dot were only too happy to indulge in the sampler on my behalf. I was in fourth grade at the time.

sharontharplorez• My sister Debbie’s best friend during those years was Sharon (that’s her, at left, standing on our front porch), who has a beautiful singing voice. She sang occasionally at a local country and western place in San Antonio and she even appeared with Wolfman Jack on stage. Remember him? She convinced her parents to let her go to Nashville and record a 2-sided 45rpm record. Johnny Paycheck’s band was the backup band. I was thrilled to be able to say I knew a  potential country singing sensation! To this day, I still recall the words to one of the songs. “I’m a thousand miles from Dallas, in a small California town. Trying to forget you and the love I thought I’d found. I sold all of my possessions, for money just to buy some time. Cause I know my leaving you will never mean goodbye. Leaving you will never mean goodbye…” And I can still sing the melody and the verse to that song. I wonder if Sharon can remember it and would she be impressed that it is imprinted on my brain?

• One of my best friends was Melanie Stewart, who lived at the end of the cul-de-sac on our street. I don’t remember her mother’s name, but I remember that she was madly, madly, madly in love with Elvis Presley. When Elvis died in 1977, five years after we moved from that street, I immediately thought of Melanie’s mother and wondered how she was handling his demise. Another thing I remember about Melanie was her parents let her buy a dyed Easter duckling from the pet store at Valley-Hi Mall. Kelley and I desperately wanted a duckling or a chick (plain or dyed, we didn’t care—although as an adult I’m well aware that dyeing an animal is cruel (and even illegal in most states) and that most Easter-inspired pets end up released in the wild, abandoned, or turned over to an animal rescue group—not to mention the risk of Salmonella poisoning), but mom said, “Ducklings grow up to be big messy ducks, so NO!” Mother Knows Best—Melanie’s duckling grew up to be a large (aggressive) duck who delighted in tormenting the family’s German Shepherd. (Mom also vetoed the idea of a dyed baby chick, too. Grown-up baby chick would have probably ended up in a frying pan or a pot of dumplings when we weren’t looking.)

cindykindergarten• Directly across the street lived “Aunt Opal.” I’m not sure why we called her “Aunt,” because she wasn’t a relative. She operated a kindergarten out of her home and had 11 kids enrolled when I attended. She, along with my father, were the first two people to encourage me to draw when they saw my creative potential. At left is our class graduation photo. I’m in the front row, second from the left, with my mouth hanging open. I certainly don’t look like the brightest of her students, but I’d truly like to believe I was. (Girls in front—as it should be!) I remember that she wore June Cleaver-like starched flowered dresses and a single strand of pearls, had perfectly coiffed hair and sparkling blue eyes, looked a bit like the TV character Hazel, and drank Tab after school was out. I know this because I shared it with her on occasion. Ah, my first diet cola—let’s blame Aunt Opal for our affinity for them now, shall we?

• Another good friend lived a few doors down at the end of the street. Her name was Lisa Meffert. My father loves to tell me how I couldn’t pronounce her name and when I saw her I would holler, “Yeeta! Yeeta!” I recall her babysitting our pet turtle Jerry while we had to go out of town for some reason. She or her younger sister (who had dark hair, blue blue eyes, and fair skin—a little mini-Liz Taylor) took it to school for show and tell, left it in the classroom, and Jerry perished. At least this is how I remember his demise. Mom says Lisa is a biology professor now. Perhaps she became a biology professor out of guilt? It was an especially sad ending since earlier he had escaped from the bathroom while we were cleaning out his plastic enclosure. A week later we found him on a stack of Nancy Drew books in our closet, still alive. He lived for awhile longer until we went away and left him in the care of the Mefferts. That was one awfully hardy turtle. We named him Jerry after my sister Debbie’s boyfriend-at-the-time. Debbie reminded me that Jerry died years later in a local San Antonio bar—killed by a knife-wielding woman.

• Speaking of childhood pets…I had one of those cheap round glass goldfish bowls with a few beautiful Angelfish. I was away one afternoon and my then 4-year-old sister saw fit to feed the fish saltines because she had heard someone say that fish like saltwater. She thought the closest thing would be crackers. I knowing I’m stating the obvious—Angelfish and saltines don’t mix too well. I came home and both the fish and the saltines were floating on the surface of the bowl. I’d like to think that I organized a befitting burial—I wasn’t much for the “just flush ’em down the toilet, they’re fish!” route. Dad also used to bring us leftover minnows from his fishing trips, which means we were never without fish for long.

• For Christmas one year I asked for a telescope. (Remember Sear’s Wish Book?) Santa brought me a Crissy doll instead. Crissy was an 18″ redhead with dark eyes. She had a knob on her back that you could turn and her ponytail would magically grow out of the top of a hole in her head. Qué fun! The next year, I asked for a telescope. Santa brought me a microscope instead. (Doesn’t he know the difference? One is for viewing things really, really far away. The other is for closeup. Do your research, dude.) I enjoyed it despite the mix-up. The next year I asked for a parakeet and got two of them, one blue and one green. I named them Anthony and Cleopatra, although I can’t honestly say what sex either were. Santa finally got the order correct that year!

• I found a horned toad on our back porch one day and kept him as a pet for just a day. He wouldn’t eat the lettuce we gave him (duh—they normally eat ants, grasshoppers, beetles and spiders), so we released him. They’re called horny toads, but they’re really lizards. I haven’t seen one since and recently, my dad told me why. The primary cause for their decline is loss of habitat and they are listed as protected in Texas. It is illegal for anyone to take, possess, transport, or sell them without a permit. And there’s even a Horned Lizard Conservation Society (of course).

• Dad reminded me of the time he bought back freezer pops from Mexico (he had retired, then got a job with U.S. Customs in the Rio Grande Valley, and was working down there for seven months before we could join him). I started a freezer pop stand out of an ice chest in the front yard with Kelley as my cohort again. He said when we ran out of freezer pops to sell, I grabbed a box of Oreos and started selling those. Kelley remembers us pricing the pops at 10 cents each and the Oreos at 2 for 25 cents (which she now says seems like highway robbery). See there? I had the makings of an entrepreneur as far back as that!

kelleywithball• Whenever Kelley and I got home from school, a neighborhood girl babysat us until our older sister Debbie got home from junior high. One afternoon I came home and found out our beloved Chihuahua, Bimbo, had climbed the fence (yes, he knew how to climb fences!) and ran away! I was so upset that I remember flinging myself on the driveway and bawling my head off. Although I do remember we found him two streets away, Mom reminded me that it was three months later that we found him. She said we were driving down the street and she recognized him with a little girl. She called him and he came running over to her. Right: “Kelley Pelé” kicking the ball in the backyard.

• I remember it was very difficult to buy Christmas presents for my father. He didn’t wear cologne or ties, but despite that fact, I remember buying him a large bottle of Hi Karate and putting in a handful of ballpoint pens in the box (as a nifty bonus gift!). That box of Hi Karate traveled with us from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley when we moved. I know he used the pens, but the Hi Karate remained unopened. It could still be in that cabinet over the washer in Donna, Texas. It’s vintage by now, I’ll bet!

kelleydenise• For several years we had an aluminum Christmas tree with cobalt blue balls hanging on it. It was illuminated by a rotating multi-colored floodlight (called a color wheel). Later, for a science project at my elementary school, my father disassembled the wheel and we used the motor to create my mock solar system. He made the stand out of wood, adding a flat white metal curtain rod (to string the cord through), then added a yellow bug light bulb to the top to serve as the sun. Radiating out from below the sun was a series of coat hangers to which each end was affixed a painted styrofoam ball to represent each planet. When you turned the motor on, the sun lit up and the planets revolved around it! I was so giddy about the project that I checked it to make sure it worked several times a day leading up to the Lackland Elementary Science Fair Day. My father told me repeatedly that if I kept doing that, the motor might give out. Come Science Fair Day, I stood proudly next to my high-tech solar system. I was extremely confident that my project would win first prize. When the judge came by, I turned on the switch. Nothing. Off, on. Nothing. I told them that it had worked that very morning. Although I didn’t win first place, I did get an A on the project. Father Knows Best—but hardheaded Cindy didn’t listen. If I had, I might have won the Science Fair and been destined for a future with NASA. Wait…you need to be good at math for that career, right? Scratch that, then. The photo above shows Kelley with her best friend Denise on our back patio. Take a look at the background—our metal kitchen playset—we loved playing with that setup. Why is it that I don’t find a kitchen as fun now? Oh, and I made many a tiny cake in my Easy-Bake Oven but I don’t spend much time near the real thing these days! A few years later my father enclosed that patio and carport and created our first den (that’s the den on the far left in the top photo). Kelley told me that one day she went home with Denise and Denise’s grandmother asked her, “Honey, who’s your little boyfriend?” Kelley was so embarrassed that she didn’t correct her.

While we’re on the subject of aluminum trees, check out the ATOM—“Aluminum Tree and Ornament Museum” website!

• I remember the last 4 digits of our phone number were “1952.” I remember that not just for my uncanny penchant for recalling many phone numbers but because that was the year Mom and Dad got married.

• On Sunday afternoons Mom washed our hair in the kitchen sink and afterward we watched the Wonderful World of Disney.

• After school we watched shows like Gumby & Pokey, Lassie, Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched (still can’t wiggle my nose), Family Affair (I can still hear the theme song in my head), and Gilligan’s Island.

momwork• When I was in the 6th grade (girls matured much slower in those days!), I was in line to get shots from the school nurse. A chubby girl preceded me and before giving her the shot, the nurse asked her, “Have you started administrating yet?” The girl mumbled something, got the shot, and moved ahead. I waited for the nurse to ask me the same thing, but she never did. I was a tiny thing and underdeveloped for my age. When I came home that afternoon, Debbie was in her bedroom studying, Mom was at work, and Dad happened to be home. He was in the living room reading the newspaper. I asked him, “Dad, what does administrating mean?” He put down the paper and asked, “Where did you hear that?” I told him what happened. He realized what the nurse had really asked the girl. I remember so clearly him saying, “Oh, jeez. DEBBIE, come here!” Debbie came running in and he asked her, “Has your mother talked to her about you know what yet?” When Debbie said, “I don’t think so,” he asked her to do it. She told him no and ran out of the room. I stood there patiently awaiting an answer. He grimaced and began telling me this horrible, horrible, horrible tale about what happens when a young girl matures into a young woman. I remember thinking, “Well, that may happen to some girls, but that won’t be happening to me!” I wasn’t embarrassed…I was mortified at the prospect. Couldn’t I just opt out of that program? That’s Mom in the photo above, wearing her fancy wig, ready to go to work at the Lackland Base Exchange. Lots of women wore wigs in the 60s and when I did a search online about that very subject, I found this funny article here.

off2church Every Christmas eve, Mom and Dad would give us one present and one year we got orange-dayglo-colored sleeping bags with tiny yellow daisies on the outside, and soft yellow fabric on the inside. We slept in them that night. I still have mine and it’s in perfect shape. In the photo at right: the women-folk in their church finery, standing next to a ’67 Chevy Biscayne.

• One Christmas Santa brought us a giant see-through box with Barbie and Ken, their marriage frocks, dating and beach clothes, and little plastic shoes. This will surely show my age, but this was in the day where Barbie was very hard plastic and definitely not bendable. She had a molded up-do hairstyle, cat-shaped eyes with heavy eyeliner and blue eyeshadow, and she stood on tippy-toe so you could slip on her plastic pumps when she and Ken went out on the town. I did a search online and I think it might have been this boxed set.

backyard1• We loved playing in our backyard. When you stepped out the sliding patio doors, there was a huge fig tree (which bore ripe figs steadily through the years) on the right. This is where we held our BYOP (Bring Your Own Pool) party. This is where Bimbo climbed the fence and ran away from home for three months. From the back fence, I could wave to my friend Andrea, who lived on the street behind us. We had a swing set and in the summer we had great fun (hoping to avoid a concussion) when we turned on the hose with the Wham-O Water Wiggle attachment to it. Apparently it took some time for the Consumer Products Safety Commission to notice that it wasn’t the safest toy around. Wham-O Manufacturing Co. voluntarily recalled the product in 1978. Photo above, left: Bathing beauties in the backyard…I’m the tall gal second from left (and I was not a tall kid, so that gives you an idea how short my friends were). On the right: how the backyard looks today.

• The wall between the living and dining room didn’t go all the way to the ceiling (a decorative detail). Mom put a glass vase or two up there. Kelley said she and I tossed the couch throw pillows back and forth to each other over that tall wall and eventually broke a vase. We weren’t too bright, were we?

• I also remember that on December 31, 1971, we were taking down the tree, packing away ornaments, and Debbie had the radio on. They announced that one of her favorite actors, Pete Duel of the tv western series Alias Smith & Jones had committed suicide. If you were also a big Peter Duel fan, check out the youtube video here. I watched the video and had forgotten just how handsome he was!

• Last night I talked to my sister for several hours and she reminded me of the time she and I tried to hatch an egg from the refrigerator by passing it back and forth between our little cupped hands. We didn’t know how long it would take, so we could have been there for a very, very long time. I think our thought process was that if our mother wouldn’t buy us a baby chick at Easter, we would hatch one for free, and do some explaining later. That is, until we dropped it on the floor!

• And finally, I remember when I was about eight years old, I wanted to give our Chihuahua, Bimbo, a piece of bologna (his favorite treat). I had to cut it up but didn’t want to a) pull out a cutting board and b) mess up the counter by cutting it up there…so I held it in my left hand and used the knife with my right. I’m sure you can see where this is heading—I sliced through my index finger on my left hand. It was a pretty deep cut, but didn’t require an ER visit. You can still see the 1/4 inch scar on that finger!


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3 responses

9 12 2008
Hershel Dyer

Thanks for the trip down memory lane — it brought back a flood of memories for me. However, when I realized how many years had passed since we left Farrel Drive, I felt very tired and had to lie down and rest for awhile.

4 01 2010
Flowers

Thanks for great post and memories!!!

7 02 2014
William Lee

I loved reading this. It is written with the allure of a master painting. It really took me into my own childhood memories that I couldn’t recall until now. I would read this book, if it were a book. Great job, Cindy. I love the photos.

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