Thursday, March 31, 2005

Boldt Castle Posted by Hello

Riverside Drive Posted by Hello

Some views of Clayton, and Boldt Castle Posted by Hello

Chapter 1, P.K.: continued

....He also disapproved of his sons partaking of the fruit of the vine or hops. My two oldest brothers, Jack and Jim, went away to join the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. It was called that, for those who don’t recall: a conflict, not a war. They probably didn’t drink much before they left. But the service being the service, they sure learned how after leaving home. My brother Dick was the same, except he started before leaving home for college. It caused Dad some small difficulty, I’m sure, to know this, and to hear about it from the locals. I don’t know this, but I can guess, as I was there at the time. So, his way of handling it was to extract a promise from me to abstain from demon rum until after I graduated. I did. Unfortunately I became somewhat of a prig about it, and that led to further complications as a result of my becoming the angelic side of the PK. You know, I have always wanted to use the word prig in a sentence!

Once I started Kindergarten, the P.K. aspect of my life took on new dimensions. Dad had large expectations for all of us, but larger still for me. He wanted me to be a doctor. I don’t know if he felt that way the day I was born, and I don’t know when it actually started, but he expected a lot from me, and I often disappointed him. Oh, not because I didn’t get good grades or good comments from teachers on report cards, but because I didn’t go quite as well as I could do. I once told my third grade teacher that I did not need to memorize fractions or the multiplication tables, thank you very much, because I would never be using them. Of course, this got back to Dad (she had her job to consider, after all, and she was a good teacher) and he very patiently explained to me that this was, well, lazy. He knew, he said, that I could do the work, and would not allow any of that. I forget what the stick was that caused me to reconsider (not a real one), but I did learn the required tables and how to work with fractions.

One bright fall day, I don’t recall what grade I was in at the time, we were given pencils and answer sheets and booklets for a test. It was different than most of the exams we had taken at the time, and I recall Dad explaining that today was an important test day for everyone in my grade, all over the state. I still can’t recall if it was the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) or the Stanford-Binet, but it was probably the latter. I promptly forgot about the test after I took it, but Dad sure didn’t. Some years later, after an argument about what I should do with my schooling (I hated homework, especially math!) Dad took me to school with him. It was high summer and a bright, sunny day. He led me to the book storage room on the second floor, and unlocked the door. Inside were stacks of text books, piles of boxes, file cabinets, mysterious audio-visual equipment and an old mimeo machine smelling of duplicator fluid. Dust motes, disturbed by the opening door, flew about the room on the rays of the sun streaming past the half open window shade. Remember those rules I mentioned that Dad liked? Well, one good one was to have all of the shades in all rooms of the school at half mast. They looked much better that way, he felt, and they did! Whenever I go past a school now and see the shades every which way, I want to go in and change them.

He went to a file drawer and opened it, pulling out a folder. He said something like “you must promise me you will never tell anyone I showed you this!” and I did so promise. As a result, I have mentioned what follows to very few people, with good reason. He showed me a score sheet, only mine, no one else’s, and explained to me what it meant. “You have a high degree of intelligence,” he said, “and you owe it to yourself to take advantage of it.” I knew nothing, at the time, of I.Q. tests and how they were scored, but he explained it well. I did, in fact, register in the upper brackets of “normal” intelligence set by the standards of the test at that time, except, unfortunately, in math which was just above average. “You could be anything you want to be,” he told me, and explained at length about Valedictorians and scholarships and such. It was then that I understood what he expected of me.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Chapter 1, P.K.

The following is part of chapter 1, the part that fits on a Blog post

Chapter 1

School means something much different to me than most. Therein lies the key to the title of this book. We lived real close to it, and Dad was, as my kids used to say, “the head guy” there. I used to visit the school as a little kid, not in kindergarten yet, with my dad. When I got old enough to sneak off by myself, I went over there without permission one day, and spent a little time with the custodians (we used to call them janitors) as they worked through getting the school ready for the next school year. It was a hot summer, and the inside of the brick and concrete school was more comfortable than the outside air. It also had a pleasant smell: gym sealer, duplicating fluid, soap and the cooled mown grass scented summer air flowing through the terrazzo corridors. I must have been about five, and only barely remember how it happened, but I somehow sat in one of those big mop buckets with the wringer on it, and got stuck. After they saw I was OK, (with a wet seat, but OK) some fun was had by all at my expense, and of course, my brothers never let me forget it!

I always had a good relationship with janitors, and never knew until adulthood that some custodians are child molesters. I was fortunate both in not meeting one of those, and not knowing about it until later. I’m sure none of those guys were in that category. I can still remember their faces, if not names. And I can still remember the scent of school in the summer.

What's the title about? Maybe you’ve heard that a preacher’s kid or a principal’s kid is either full of hell or an angel. Well, there are some good reasons for that, but no psychology here, I promise. My Dad was a stickler for rules. He occasionally broke some, but not many, and wanted us to know that they were not to be broken lightly. His dad, Dr. Oscar Charles, my granddad, was a strict non smoking teetotaler and a serious church going Protestant. He came from a big Welsh immigrant family, and they were strict Calvinists. My Dad used to say (and as an adult having been to Wales and read about the developments in the 18th and 19th centuries there I know now what he meant) “the only good Protestant is one who goes out and founds his own church!” I don’t know if it was original with him, probably not, but it still gets a laugh when I repeat it in some circles. You see, in Wales, his great great great...grandfather was an itinerant preacher who founded his own church...

Dad was a Methodist, in Clayton anyway, and I never knew him to be anything else. His Dad did not drink. Not only that, he was very opposed to anyone drinking, period. When Grandpa and Grandma came to visit, we had to be sure all Dad’s favorite, Red Cap Ale cans or bottles were gone, both full and empty. Dad was also aware that it was frowned on in some circles, if one hung around bars for even a social drink, or had any alcohol in your home, particularly if you were a teacher or a school principal. We made lots of trips to Watertown, NY, to buy groceries. Sometimes we would come back with a six pack or two of Red Cap. Dad’s and Mom’s friends, Sam and Betty, would come over to the house to play bridge. Sometimes they would go over to Sam and Betty’s. It usually involved the consumption of a couple of Red Caps. No scandal there, by today’s standards. But he was sure that he needed to be circumspect about it, and he was. He never went into any of the local bars, not even to talk to someone while he had a coke or a glass of water. He just did not think it was proper for a school principal to do so. Now, I’m pretty sure the folks in town knew he would have a beer or two now and then, particularly since one of the school songs about MoMo (Dad’s unofficial nickname with the students for years) had a line about “MoMo” having a beer. But you would not see him hoisting one at McCormick’s, and he disapproved when those who worked for him did. . . . . .

Interested? Stay tuned. Maybe I'll put more of the next few chapters (I have 10 finished) on.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Introduction... (it's OK if you don't like it...)

It all started in a little town in upstate New York called Mooers. Actually it started more recently than that, with my brother Jack’s mailing of an account he wrote about his early life there. I know, the idea is not a new one, writing about your life experience and all of the things you want to share with the world at large. We have both thrown the concept around a few times, but he beat me to it. And I have many examples to follow, also: I just enjoyed reading The Lobster Chronicles, by Linda Greenlaw, for example, and thought “why don’t I ....”

Now I’m sitting at a keyboard, trying to articulate all that might be interesting about Clayton, New York, where I grew up, and where I first became aware of the world around me. I didn’t do that in Mooers, because I was only 2 when our family left, but you may find a few references to Mooers in this book, because that’s where it all started...

I hope to give the reader a feeling for “the North Country” as I experienced it, and many readers will find that it is not the same North Country, nor the same St. Lawrence River, nor the same Clayton that they experienced. You can visit the area as a tourist, you can live there a few years, but unless you have been there a while, or grew up there, you can never know it in the same way. Even if you grew up there between 1944 and 1960, you still can't know it the same way, anymore than I can know the way you experienced it.

Names have been changed, not to protect anyone living or dead from what I might say, but to protect them from unwanted and unwonted inquiry about things read in this book. As stated, the experiences are my experiences, and seen from my point of view. That point of view may often have been clouded by my own upbringing, ignorance of actual events, or a human failure to understand what was motivating the people and events I interacted with. Our memories are flawed, and my “hard drive” has crashed a few times since my childhood. Please keep in mind that I love the St. Lawrence, and that my wife, Carol and I have decided to return there nearly every year for many years. We now have a summer home there.

I should mention my wife Carol’s influence on this book. I recently retired, and have been moping about ways of keeping busy and supplementing my income. She said something like “why don’t you write that book you’re always talking about?” Well, how can I argue with logic like that? Maybe, with her help, and the love and assistance of family, I have created something that you’d like to read. I hope that you enjoy it.


Well, I'll try It can't hurt more than being cut open...

The word "Blog" sounds like something one would say on arising with a bad taste in one's mouth. Since everyone seems to be designing and publishing Blogs these days, I am a lot late in putting this out. I have so many other projects going (a photo directory for our Retirement Community, a start on a non-fiction account of growing up in a small resort town, recovering from 5 heart attacks and a quadruple bypass, paying for the latter...) so starting a new one is daunting. Ah, I'm now daunted. Doesn't take much to daunt me, does it? Is it the project or the prospect of having people read my thoughts and finding them wanting I find daunting? Don't know.
Stay tuned for the intro to my (as yet unpublished, alas) book.