"I" Was The First Latchkey Kid
The Introduction, as I see it,
is arguably "the" most-important area of the hub. Of course the headline pretty much sets the tone of the hub by sometimes having the writer put a catchy string of words to further compel the reader to hold on, fasten their seat-belts, because they are about to take one humdinger-of-a-ride. About the only thing near this being a humdinger would be . . .
Did you enjoy those "Home Alone" films? The first two installments starred Macaulay Culkin , John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci, (with a cast of hundreds) and the entire nation of America loved this film ensemble. The scriptwriters couldn't do any wrong. Culkin grew up in the first "Home Alone" and with the release of his second film, he somehow disappeared from the public. Oh, he had a ton of other roles in other films, but the "Home Alone" series made him a household word.
The plot was perfect. A metro power couple, Heard and O'Hara--wealthy, powerful, but very humble, decide to take "the" vacation of a lifetime: visiting Rome and other iconic tourist locations. And this couple are so giving that they also take a truckload of relatives with them leaving "Kevin," Macaulay Culkin, who was left at home by his parents and relatives. There he was. Home Alone.
And like most children, he took time to survey his situation. He had control of every electrical appliance in the house--even the big plasma TV in his parents' bedroom. He could run as fast as he pleased with no one to scold him. He could eat sweets every day as free as the wind. What a jam to be stuck in. As I watched the first Home Alone, I was secretly fantasizing about my times when my parents both worked and when school was out for the summer, I would have the overwhelming pleasure of having our home all to myself. I could sleep as late as I wanted. Watch anything that I wanted on TV and eat whatever I wanted. I confess. I would start dreading school to start in mid-June because school started during the first week of August. I really loved being at home all by myself.
I Would Wager
$450,000.00 in small denomination, tax-free moolah that I have never shared any of the adventures that I had during one of my summer school vacation. And friends, I would win going away. The reason why that I've never shared any of "this" time in my life, no one, including you, would dare to believe any of it.
These "adventures" are from the years 1967 and '68, the first horrific years of Junior High. I didn't start liking school (and the pretty girls) until 1971, my 10th grade year. That's enough of my personal biography, so I am taking you to the rented home (that still stands) on some hill on highway 43 north of Hamilton, Ala., and when my wife and I pass this "Shanty Shack" I tell her that this is the house where my dad paid a greedy land-lord $15.00 a month for rent to a junk storage house, more or less. Truth is truth. My bedroom was not finished. There was no insulation or paneling on the wall and when it was winter, I slept under three quilts and one regulation size Army blanket.
My Monday mornings were always the best part of the week. Mom and dad would be off at work and I would have the house to myself. But my mom did say for me to keep the house as clean as possible, and that was easy because I didn't stay inside that much. So far. So good.
When I would get tired of throwing my football on the roof and challenging myself to catch it, I would head to the inside where our telephone sat. Note: even in 1967, when you have a mischievous boy, age 11, and no parents, trouble is not far away.
The following "games" are only a small sample of the things that I did along with my friends who were in the same class I was in the year, 1967. These are, in fact, pranks. Played by foolish kids without any thinking things through. Kids are just that. Kids.
Telephone Games -- were great fun for my few friends who were also "Children of Working Parents" and were stuck at home like me. One of us would design a fool-proof phone prank and then call the other friends who would pick out people from the phone book and let go some of the most outlandish questions ever to leave our mouths. Sure, some of the older citizens who were short-tempered would tell us where to go and in a few minutes, I (or someone else) would call the same old man and tell him that "I" was the Prince of Darkness and laugh an evil laugh that I had worked on for a year. My voice was more of a bass tone than a shrill boy's voice made by puberty, so my deep voice helped me when it was time for Phone Pranks. We never called our own relatives because we had sense enough to know that these relatives could identify our voices, so we stayed clear of them.
A.) I would call what pretty girls we had in our class and talk to them like I was a grown-up guy. At first, the girls loved it. Some stopped talking and kept insisting that I tell them my real name. Once I thought that the pretty girl (that I secretly liked) talking to me really went for my low-tone voice and when she whined for me to sing something . . .that was it. I sang two or three words from "Hanky, Panky," by Tommy James and The Shondells and the girl squealed like a hog being loaded for the sale. She knew it was me all along and I could never talk to her anymore due to my shame.
B.) Some of us would pick one person from the telephone book and then call them and quickly tell the person who answered that "we" were from hip radio station far away from Hamilton, Ala., and if they knew our Signal Letters, they would win $30 or so dollars. This prank fell right on our face. One girl who answered my call and let me do my spill laughed and said, "Kenny, aren't you a bit young to work in Muscle Shoals and you, the same age as me, 11?"
C.) The best and easiest way to prank adults was to act adult on the phone and pick out some random names to call and tell them that we were doing surveys and wanted them to answer a few questions. The all-time question that we asked was: "Do you have Prince Albert in the can?" Of course, if the person smoked, they would answer yes. Then we'd burst out and say, "you best go and let him out for I bet that he is about to suffocate."
Mud Ball Mortar -- is what my male buddies like to play when their parents would bring them to my home to spend the day and nigh with me. The game was simple. We would get water and get a coffee can full of dirt and mix the two and roll out some nice "Mud Mortars" and hide in the woods on a high bank nearing the highway that ran adjacent to me. When a truck was coming, one of us would yell, a German Troop Truck is coming! Another fella who had rolled out a few mud balls would let them fly and my buddies were very accurate. No trucks were ever stopped. Thank God.
Girl Talk -- was not really a game per se, but part of the Rites of Passage for us guys who were going through puberty and when there is no one to tell you about girls and other facts of life, well, guys somehow have "that" built-in sense and we would sit in the shade of this tree in my yard and talk about which girl would look the best this coming fall and other things. And just as we were talking, we could feel ourselves growing up and some of us (me included) were scared of adult life, working, making a living, and even getting married. Me? I wanted to stay as young as possible for I was not ready for adulthood. Even today, I am not fully-convinced that I have grown up.
Solo Versus -- whatever "beast" that happened to try and invade my yard. You remember "Han Harrison Ford Solo?" Well, friends, "I" was the first Solo in 1967. Summer to be exact. But to tell the truth, I was using the term "solo" because I was all alone. Not one of my buddies could come to my home. The elderly man who raised hogs near the "Shanty Shack" that we rented, had his barn, corn crib, and hog pen that was adjacent to a dirt road and that is all I need to tell you. One afternoon, I had just finished reading another spine-chilling saga with "The Fantastic Four," by Marvel Comics. That worked well because I let my imagination take over. I was playing as the best friend of "Reed Richards," the husband of 'Sue Storm," the gorgeous sister of "Johnny Storm," aka/ "The Human Torch." "Ben Grimm," aka/"The Thing," was out of town working on another adventure, and "Richards" and "Sue Storm" were gone to Rome for a romantic holiday, so that left me all alone to fight these Evil Swine Beasts that would growl at me in their pen and in my game, I would have the power to understand their language which didn't set well with me, for they were all laughing at me and my size. I would always say, "that's some talk you got there! Me, this small guy and you, the 400-pound hog!" I would say this and somehow these swine would start charging at me. They would reach the strong hog wire and stop. I would laugh and toss small gravel at them and play like the small pebbles were Plasma Bombs, able to take out a couple of city blocks. And even when I would hit one of the hogs, they still lived. So what else could I do but crawl into the hog pen with them.
The pigs ran into a protective circle and snarled at me. I stared into their eyes and laughed at them while talking in a low bass tone of voice and slowly walking toward them little by little. Then at once, the leader of the hogs, started charging at me and the rest of his friends ran behind him. At first, I was frozen, but the hog wire fence was only five foot to safety, so I ran in the best "Fantastic Four Fashion," and smoothly jumped over the fence leaving the herd of swine gasping for breath and growling at me.
Oh, please. No hogs were injured or killed during the aforementioned game that I played with them.
But Then, Just as
fast as School Summer Vacation started, August was in sight and in the latter part of Summer 1967, I was headed for the eighth-grade in the fall and I knew that my leisure time was slowly being siphoned away from a worse beast than the Evil Hogs. A "beast" called Responsibility and he had his nose on my trail and on the trail of all of my buddies.
When school started in August 1967, eighth grade was pretty much the same as the seventh grade. In January, 1967, would fade away to Fall 1968 and my friends and I knew that Responsibility was coming on fast. When we would meet and hang out to talk, most of the things that we talked about was now talk of dating, where to take a date, jobs, whether to go to college or not and when we could get our driver's license.
Life can be an awful beast like he was when 1968 rolled around and still, I had not really began to grasp all that my friends wanted to do--work, move to another state, and one of my buddies in a higher grade wanted to hitch-hike with him from Alabama to California just him and me and let us live on the land and work at odd jobs and make out living by our wits.
My much older and cooler friend was more laid back than my other male buddies. My older guy friend was in the 10th grade. His main goal was for us to make that trek to California just for us to have something of our own--something that we accomplished without any help from our parents or loans from banks. Just us on the asphalt.
It was during these last few years of Junior High and the final three years of my "High School Experience," that I started talking more and more to my much older and wiser friend and I hardly said anything to those buddies who were in my class. This guy was much more mature than my pals. I like that. We even liked the same style of Rock Music--bands, guitarists and radio stations. Mine was WLS, Chicago and his was WMPS, Memphis.
Today, it is June 1, 2018, and my friend who is still much-older and wiser is in the upper management of our local Walmart. He, unlike me, is still single, but he lives in the house that his parents built and paid for. And me? I am under a Heart Specialist' care, two Nurse Practitioners, and a Surgeon in Long Town Pain Clinc, Tupelo, Miss., who gives me shots in my back for the pain.
I am 63. And many times I wonder. I really wonder what would have happened if . . .when 1972 rolled around and I graduated, why didn't I just tell my folks that "this" trip with my buddy is all that I really want to do for right now. And since I am already 18 and ready to be drafted for the Vietnam Conflict, so I want to do this.
I have to stop right there. Even now, I can hear all of the negativity and shaky reasons that would be told from my folks to me telling me why I was making the biggest mistake anyone could ever make.
So why am I still unhappy inside?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Kenneth Avery