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My Life's Stories and Adventures

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christinej78:
Summer 1958

This is a true story about some of my adventures during the subject summer.

During the summer of 1958 I went to work at Phil's Gulf Service at 2808 Front Street. It was at the northwest corner of Front and Vincent Streets. On the opposite corner stood the Atlas Mold and Die Company. At that time it had closed its doors due to bankruptcy. Phil's Gulf was a new station that had not yet opened for business when I was hired. We were supposed to open in early July, close to the 4th if I remember correctly. Normally I'd still have an old pay stub to look back on for reference, but my pay was so meager they didn't have stubs that small.

When we opened we did like most all Service Stations during that era, we had a grand opening. We gave away lots of mundane items like cheap dishes that broke if you looked at them cross-eyed, other items that didn't leave an imprint on my memory, and drinking glasses with various antique cars embossed on them. Now those were nice glasses. I liked them so well I bought a whole case of them, which cost me $5.00 (Probably $50.00 in today's worthless bucks). I think there were 48 glasses to a case. Believe it or not, fifty years later, I still have some of those glasses in mint condition.

The gentleman that owned the station lived just a couple doors north on Kent Road. His was the first house in Silver Lake on the northwest corner of Landon Drive and Kent Road. When you sat at the traffic light while exiting the River Estates you couldn't help but see his house.

The night before the grand opening I was home working on my car. I had had some trouble with it, of my own making, which is another story for later. I had it towed to Summit Buick on Exchange Street for repairs. It was now home and I was installing one of those gizmo's that promised to improve your gas mileage by some astronomical amount. If wanting your car to run like it had 400,000 miles on it, along with an astronomical drop in mileage, it could be considered an improvement. While I was working on it my Uncle Jerry stopped by for a visit. When he arrived I had the engine running, the hood was up and I was standing there counting how many times the fan belt went around the generator (this was pre-alternator days) in one hour.

My Dad came out of the house so we just stood at the front of the car and shot the bull. Eventually the subject switched to the car. My Uncle Jerry asked: "What are you doing to your car?" I explained that someone in the family, who shall remain nameless, thought it would be a great idea to install that wonder of modern technology. I also explained the work that Summit Buick had done on the car. As I was "splaining" away I pointed to the new fuel pump they had installed. It was right down close to where the lower part of the fan belt passed close to it and where the belt ran up over the generator pulley. I managed to get my hand close enough to the pump I could almost touch it. Not satisfied with defying the basic rules of safety while working on a running motor (engine if you prefer), I decided to test the tension on the fan belt by allowing my left index finger to go between the belt and the generator pulley. When my finger emerged at the top of the pulley it looked a bit different than it did when it went in. It was now in two pieces with the end piece hanging by what was left of a tendon, or some other piece of unrecognizable tissue.

As I pulled my now red stained greasy hand from the engine compartment, I said to my Dad and Uncle: " I think I need to go to a hospital." Here I am, calm, cool and collected with my index finger dangling from what looked like a piece of frayed string, and two grown adults in panic mode. Actually my Uncle Jerry wasn't in a panic, I just thought I'd throw that in for effect. Uncle Jerry was a WW II vet that saw a lot of action in Africa. A stinking index finger wasn't going to bother him.

Uncle Jerry offered to drive us to St. Thomas Hospital, which was a nice gesture being as how I was bleeding and he had a new set of wheels. My dad ran in the house and grabbed an old towel to place over my hand, just so he wouldn't have to look at it. On the way I kept removing the towel to have a better look at the damage. Have you ever seen what a chopped off finger looks like? Well let me explain; on second thought let's skip that part for now and get back to the rest of the story.

We arrived at the Emergency room and walked in. The first thing they had me do was sit in a wheel chair. I didn't cut my foot off, just a finger so why the wheel chair? Hospital policy I was told. OK, so I have to sit in a wheel chair. I'm sure most folks have had an occasion to visit an emergency room for one reason or another. They have their ways of doing things that seem to defy logic. But, it's their ballpark so you play by their rules no matter how ridiculous.

I forgot to mention my hand was covered with black dirty grease when the finger was testing the belt tension. Oh yeah, the belt was adjusted perfectly. The nice nurses made a vain attempt to wash all the grime off my hand. They managed to get some of it off after about an hour of scrubbing. Once that was done the Akron Police arrived to give me the third degree for their Police Report. All the while on a five minute rotation someone new would walk into the room, unwrap my hand and look at the two piece finger. They'd shake their heads, re-wrap it and walk out. This went on for what seemed an eternity.

Now it was time for an X-Ray. I climbed off the table and started to walk out of the room when the nurse ordered me to get in the wheelchair. I protested but she insisted that she had to wheel me to X-Ray as it was the High-priest's policy; patients are not allowed to walk. Off we went to the photo studio where she parked the chair with me in it. A few minutes later the X-Ray tech appeared and took me inside the Atom Bomb room. He took a few pictures of my hand in various poses then told me to go back to the emergency room. I said: "Who is going to push the wheel chair back?" He said: "You are." Off I went pushing the chair with one hand. Try it sometime, it doesn't go as straight as it does when you use two hands. Seeing as how the "Wheelchair Policy" only covered one way trips I was glad I hadn't used my foot to test the belt.

During the sign in process they asked who my doctor was. Since I didn't have one my Dad volunteered the company doctor. They put in a call to him and after about an hour located him at a party. Eventually he (shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) showed up three sheets to the wind. They poured a few cups of black coffee into him, splashed lots of cold water on his face then sent him to the operating room. After wandering around the parking lot for about thirty minutes the security guard retrieved him and guided him to where I had been waiting, in the operating room.

This paragraph Hollywood style

When I woke up I found a huge cast on my left foot and my finger was missing. I called the nurse and told her someone made a huge mistake. They got the doctor back and sent us both back to the operating room, but this time he was pushing the wheelchair. Round two, this was getting to be fun, the going under part. Woke up again and now that large cast was on my left hand with a great big pointer where my index finger was hopefully ensconced. Went home and went to bed as it was late and I had to get up early as the next morning was "Grand Opening Day."

When I showed up for work I could see the boss was real pleased to have a cripple on the payroll. I showed him I could do with one hand anything anyone else could do with two. Over the next month I managed to change the look of that big white pointer to a big greasy black pointer. When I went to my first post op visit, the doctor asked me who I was and what was I doing in his office. It's amazing how alcohol clears ones mind. He gave me hell for getting grease inside the cast and for using my index finger to pry the lids off 55 gallon drums. He took out some of the stitches but left a few in to make sure the end didn't fall into someones bowl of soup. Back I went to work with a brand new cast white as snow. One day later it looked as seasoned as the previous version.

And now to the point of this whole story: One of our best customers was a gentleman named "Frankie" who just happened to own "Frankie's Tavern", which was down the street a short walk from the station. It also just happened that my boss was "Frankie's" best customer. Well I got to know Frankie pretty well mainly from working on his car and filling his tank with Gulf Crest, known to the hotrodder's as "Grapette" due to its color. Eventually I got up enough courage and wandered into Frankie's Tavern one night and ordered a Six Pack to go, beer mind you. At that moment in time I was eighteen years old. Frankie's did not sell 3.2 beer and I was not of legal age for the 7% stuff. Frankie was the one waiting on me and low and behold he gave it to me without asking for ID. Off I went with our beer (our being my buddies and me). During the ensuing years I was a regular visitor to Frankie's Tavern, always ordering beer to go. In 1961 on a very special day I went into Frankie's for a Six Pack. Frankie set it on the bar then did something he had never done before; he asked to see my ID. I pulled out my Driver License (sorry, it is not "drivers" license) and gave it to him. He looked at it and then looked up at me with a look of astonishment. That day was 05 Aug 1961, my 21st birthday, the very first day I could legally buy beer there. I smiled, said thanks, retrieved my license, picked up my six pack and walked out. I bet that turned out to be one of Frankie's most unforgettable moments. Over the years I still frequented Frankie's though I did go in and have a few inside instead of always on-the-go. By the way, Frankie was a darn nice guy who helped a lot of folks without ever asking for anything in return.

Copyright © 25 October 2008
Copyright © 03 November 2018
C Headley
All rights reserved

christinej78:
Friday 17 October 2008
Sometimes one is fortunate to have had an extraordinary person intervene in their life. This is a true story about one such person:

Part One:

Mr. Howard D. Saurer - Dean of Boys, Cuyahoga Falls High School

My first year of high school, 1954 - 1955 was at St. Mary's High School in Akron, Ohio. When the fall registration started for the next school year I took myself to Falls High to register, unbeknownst to my parents of course. Back in those days you weren't required to have your parents with you when you made such a momentous decision. All of a sudden I was now a student at the high school I had longed to attend since the first time I laid eyes on it.

Prior to moving to the Falls we lived at 1143 Murray Avenue in Akron. Our house was about one and a half blocks north of Cuyahoga Falls Avenue. During the school year of 1945 - 1946 I attended kindergarten at Jackson School. My teacher for most of the year was Ms. Parrot whom I liked a lot. Late in the school year she took leave due to illness so I never saw her again. Just before the end of the school year we moved to 2529 Whitelaw Street in the Falls. When it came time to register for grade school my parents decided they would enroll me at Saint Joseph's. This was something I was against because I wanted to go to Crawford where most of my new-found friends were going. As an aside, at that time our street was the dividing line between Crawford and Broad Street Schools. Those on the north side went to Crawford and those on the south side went to Broad, and young little oddball me got to go to Saint Joseph's. Quite frankly I was devastated.

So, from the fall of 1946 through the spring of 1954, I reluctantly attended Saint Joseph's School. During most of that time I usually walked to school, passing by Falls High almost every day. I thought it was the most magnificent school building I had ever laid my young eyes on. For eight long years my dream was to attend High School there. What impressed me the most about Falls High in those early years was the stately beauty of the building and the beautiful campus. The front yard was, for lack of a better word,  spacious, and was populated by huge trees that provided many shady areas where students could gather. It just looked like a place I wanted to be a part of.

As luck would have it my parents made another decision for me that didn't sit too well with this now fourteen-year-old. I was going to attend a Catholic high school whether I liked it or not. That left me with three choices: Hoban, which was out of the question because it was all boys, Saint Vincent's, and Saint Mary's. Since my best friend Tom was going to Saint Mary's, I decided that's where I'd go. My freshman year at Saint Mary's was unremarkable in that I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed Saint Joseph's. It was a long trolley bus ride all the way out South Main Street to Thornton and Coburn Streets. And it was just as long going home, which made for a really long day.

When the summer of 1955 rolled around I made my plans, which were to go to Falls High come hell or high water. No one, not even my parents, was going to make me go back to Saint Mary's. Please don't assume I am disparaging Saint Mary's or Saint Joe's. I just happened to not want to attend either one of them and when you are forced to be where you don't want to be for nine long years, you don't have much of a soft spot for them.

So we're now at the 1955 - 1956 Falls High registration day. I went around and talked to various teachers and Mr Saurer. He was the person who had the final say as to your course selections. He approved all of my selections with one exception, Home Economics. He saw through me like a laser. I then selected Metal Shop in its place. Oh well - I tried.

After school started in September of 1955 I heard many tales of what and whom to avoid. The word was to avoid Mr. Saurer as he was strict and meaner than a junkyard dog. It didn't take long before I had my first invitation to visit his office. I was scared. When my turn came I went in and to my surprise he was really nice to me. I found this to be quite confusing. Everyone had said he was mean and strict, which was only partly true. Yes he was strict, but that's to be expected and isn't the same as mean. Believe me, I was dumbfounded.

As time went on I kept hearing these same horror stories about Mr. Saurer and how mean he was. If you knew me back then you'd know I was a regular visitor to Mr. Saurer's office.  Never ever was he mean to me and believe what I'm telling you, I deserved mean; he was always nice and always tried to help me. At the time, due to my youthful stupidity, I didn't fully appreciate what he was doing for me; I had never encountered anyone like him before. Somehow though, down deep in my soul, I knew he was trying to help me and that everything he was telling me was right on the mark. I didn't follow his advice but, for some unknown reason I filed it away in memory. The last time I saw and  talked with Mr. Saurer at school was sometime late in the spring of 1958.

Part Two:

Mr. Howard D. Saurer - Dean of Boys, Cuyahoga Falls High School

After high school I worked a few dead end jobs until the US Government injected itself into my life. Since I didn't have too many options when they came a-knockin, I went into the service voluntarily. I was fortunate when I made the decision to join the US Navy. They sent me to so many schools I almost spent half my four-year enlistment in school. It was while attending these schools that I started to understand what Mr. Saurer had been trying to tell me and  I began to apply his counsel. Then when I received orders to my first permanent duty station I could see how following his advice was paying dividends. I had been selected for a special Navy program run by the "Office of  Special Projects." At that time it was super secret and top priority.

My first permanent duty station was with Oceanographic Detachment Three embarked aboard the USNS Michelson T-AGS 23.  I found myself working with civilian engineers and scientists from high-tech companies and government agencies. It was here that I came to fully understand and appreciate what Mr. Saurer had been trying to do for me. It was finally bubbling up into my consciousness. Fortunately I had remembered most all the advice he had bestowed upon me during our counseling sessions. Now it was working big time.

After I was out of the service and had finished working for the Navy as a consultant, I returned to the Falls. Over the years I wanted to visit with Mr. Saurer to thank him for everything he had done for me and to let him know that he succeeded. For some reason I had this fear of meeting him. Not because I thought he was mean, because I knew he wasn't. It was probably because I was too ashamed of how I had acted while at Falls High. I had acted like a jerk. I knew where he lived and would drive by his house on occasion hoping to see him in his yard working on his flower beds or something. But, I just didn't have the guts to pull into the driveway and knock on his door.

Eventually I moved to Texas and only got back to the Falls for brief visits, mostly while on business trips. In 1988 I made a trip to the Falls to see a friend. At the conclusion of that visit I went through my usual ritual of driving around the Falls for a last visit with my friends and to have another look at all the places that meant the most to me. As I was heading down Portage Trail towards the expressway I passed by Mr. Saurer's street and thought to myself that one of these days I have to stop and visit with him and to apologize for how I had acted in school, and to also thank him for all the help he had given me. As I proceeded down the street I kept thinking of him. I had remembered he was in his fifties when I was at Falls High and it was now thirty years since I had last seen him. All these thoughts kept racing through my head. Eventually I reached the expressway entrance ramp at Broad Blvd. I turned south on the ramp towards Akron Canton Airport. As I proceeded down the ramp a little voice inside me told me to go back and see him. One thing I have learned the hard way is to NEVER go againgt that little voice. It has never been wrong, only I have been wrong when I didn't heed its advice. I quickly drove to the nearest exit then headed in the opposite direction back to the Portage Trail exit. I then turned left and headed west up Portage Trail to 14th Street,  made a left turn and drove down the street with some trepidation, as I did not know what to expect.

When I approached his house I slowed to a crawl then pulled into the driveway. I got out of the car with my heart jumping around in my throat and headed for the front door. I climbed the steps to the porch then knocked. Now I'm scared again. After a short wait a very nice lady came to the door and asked if she could help me. I said: "Yes, is Mr. Saurer home?" She responded: "Yes, I'll get him for you" and then went to find him. A few moments later Mr. Saurer came to the door, "Can I help you?" he said.  I replied: "I don't know if you remember me..." at which point he interrupted me and said: "I don't see so well any more but I remember the voice." He invited me into his home and had me sit down after he introduced me to his wife and stepdaughter.

We sat and talked for a couple of hours. It was the best conversation I have had in my life. I realized then that this man was the greatest person I have been privileged to have in my life. As we talked he told me about all the things he knew that I had been doing over the previous thirty years. In fact he knew more about what I had been doing and where I had been than my own family, parents included. He then went on to tell me about many of my fellow students and what they had been doing all these years. I now understood him better than I could have had someone written his biography; they would not have known him like I was comming to know him. This was deeply personal and was penetrating to the deepest core of my soul.  He had no children of his own; we, his students were his children and he loved and cared for us as if we were his own. The fact that he kept track of us over the years was a testament to his love, kindness, goodness and selflessness. Unfortunately my time was running short as I had a plane to catch. We said our goodbyes with a promise that I would come back to see him in the summer when I returned for our 30th High School Reunion, which was only a few short months away.

As I headed for home I got a bit mad at myself for waiting so long to do what I should have done many years prior. I had missed so much by not having gone to see him early on. The consolation was that I finally did do it and could now make peace with myself.

Not too long before our 30th reunion I received word that Mr. Saurer had suffered a mild stroke. This was not a happy day. Turning my car around that day and going to see him had to have been the best decision I have ever made, thanks to the "little voice." I realized then the importance of not putting things off until tomorrow, for there may not be a tomorrow.

As soon as I got back to the Falls for the Reunion, I went to visit with Mr. Saurer and his family. The stroke had taken a toll though we were still able to have a fine conversation. I saw him again before I left, which was the last time I would ever see him. I miss him dearly and thank him for rescuing me from myself. I owe him a debt that I'll never be able to repay and even though He's gone now I'll never forget him and all that he did for us, His Children.

Copyright ©17 October 2008
Chet Headley
Copyright © 05 November 2018
Chet Headley, Christine Jessica Headley

christinej78:
Monday 08 December 2008

My Baseball Collection
I'm assuming that most folks think of a "Baseball Collection" as a collection of baseballs retrieved from major league games. My collection was slightly different, it consisted of balls from the teams that played baseball at the field that was on the opposite side of the B & O Railroad tracks that ran behind our house at 1200 Ruth Avenue in the River Estates.

Around 1954 a ball field was constructed in a field that was accessible from Munroe Falls Avenue near where Reuther Mold is located. Basically it was behind the State Highway Departments maintenance facility, which was on the northeast corner of Bailey Road and the B & O railroad tracks. Right across from it on the southeast corner was the "Dead Fish Factory" (Manufacturer of Latex products). That place had a stench that could drain your sinuses.

A large embankment (remnant of the old Ohio Canal) separated the ball field from the tracks, which was a plus. On the ball field side of the embankment there were numerous trees that provided fairly dense cover. The backstop was placed so that the playing field was away from the embankment. My buddy Tom and I used to cross the tracks to watch the games; for us that meant climbing the steep embankment to get to the field.

While watching the games we couldn't help but notice that a fair number of foul balls went over the backstop and landed on the embankment. Along with quite a few trees there was plenty of other vegetation making for a fairly dense ground cover. Since the ball teams didn't have time to look for the "lost" balls some of us volunteered to search for them. Eventually most of the balls were recovered though on occasion one or two would not be found during the game.

Since games were not played every day, Tom and I would go over on the "open" days to look for lost balls. It didn't take too long before we each found a ball. These balls were in nice shape, much better than the balls we had been accustomed to playing with. Most of what we had didn't have covers on them, instead they had "friction tape" in its place. It was kind of nice having a baseball that looked and felt like a baseball rather than a sticky wad of taped string. Besides the lousy feel they didn't sound like much when you managed to get a hit. Nothing like the crack of a bat when it hits a real ball.

It didn't take long for our devious minds to come up with a plan to acquire a few more baseballs. We began by positioning ourselves so that we could better see where the foul balls landed when they went over the backstop and up onto the embankment. We were almost always the first ones up the bank to look for them. The first thing we did was create a diversion by looking for the ball where we knew it wasn't. Others that decided to join the fun would look where we were looking. Eventually everyone would grow tired of the futile search and would return to watch the game. The next day Tom and I would cross the tracks and retrieve the balls. This was a slow and tedious method because we could only manage to divert one or two balls per game. Sometimes the diversion didn't work as someone would go where the ball actually went and would find it. We were up to about four balls each when the season was about half over.

We needed to rethink our current methodology and come up with a better plan. While we wandered around the embankment looking for balls we noticed numerous clumpy bushes growing on the railroad side of the embankment. We decided we needed a place to "stash" the balls before anyone else could find them. We dug holes under a couple of bushes then put a couple of stacks of flat rocks in the hole that would support the section of sod that we placed over the hole. It was perfect, our ball stashes were invisible. We did such a good job we had a hard time finding them the first time we went to use them. It didn't take long before we had their locations memorized. It also didn't take long before we had twenty plus balls each.

One afternoon we were over watching the game. Since we had so many balls we no longer bothered chasing after the fouls. It just so happened that one of our neighbors, who was several years older was on one of the teams. The game was going along fine, we were sitting there watching when the batter fouled a ball. We sat and waited while the other folks scurried around looking for it. Something unusual happened this time, the coaches and team members went looking for the ball. We couldn't figure out what the big deal was until our neighbor Jim pipes up in a loud voice: "Why don't you guys bring back some of the balls you've taken so we can finish our game?" As luck would have it neither team had another ball. The game came to an abrupt halt. We kind of slunk, or maybe slithered, our way out of there. We decided to teach them a lesson by never returning to chase foul balls. I'm sure they regretted it.

Of all the balls I had in my "collection" I have exactly one left. As I mentioned in my post about my Red Ryder B-B Gun, my Mom gave them all away. I think the only reason that this one survived is because it was in the pocket of my baseball mitt, the one that my Dad gave me for my tenth birthday. (In a previous post I mentioned that he gave it to me for my eighth or ninth birthday but I have reason to believe it was the tenth. I'll go back and correct my earlier post.) The glove was not kept with my other treasures so either my Mom missed it (glove with ball) or my Dad stopped her from giving the glove away. That glove is one of the very few treasures I have from my youth that my Father gave me. I think if she had given it away I would have been devastated as that glove meant a lot to me then; it means even more today.

Parents, please save your children's treasures for them. When they have children of their own they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Copyright © 08 December 2008
Chet Headley
Copyright © 06 November 2018
Chet Headley, Christine Jessica Headley

christinej78:
My Daisy B-B Gun

Saturday 18 October 2008

Best that I can remember B-B guns were synonymous with American boyhood. Just about all of the boys in my neighborhood had one. Mine was a Daisy Red Ryder Carbine meaning that it had a lever action similar to the rifles used in most western movies. Santa brought mine Christmas-eve 1947. I was pretty excited when I saw a long slim box neatly wrapped and under the tree with my name on it.

Christmas at our house was different than most. About a week or so before Christmas my Dad would go out and drive around town looking for the prefect tree, which was a Scotch Pine or something similar. After he brought it home he'd put it in the garage until it was time to put it up in the living room. Usually two days before Christmas the trunk was trimmed and placed in the tree stand. We'd then struggle to get it though the back door and up the steps into the kitchen. From there it was a fairly easy task to move it into the living room. We usually found a nice corner reasonably close to the fireplace so Santa wouldn't have any trouble finding it. My Dad would than make sure the tree was secure and had lots of water to drink.

So now the anticipation began. The tree was up and that was it. No decorations, nothing; just a tree sitting there as bare as it had been when it was living in the forest with all of its friends. Every day the trees limbs would droop a little further, which my Dad explained was due to the way the tree had been handled during shipment. Made sense to me cause my Dad knew most everything. Christmas-eve was quite exciting, my Mom would bake lots of cookies and other pastries that evening so they'd be ready for Christmas Day. The best part was the special cookies she baked for Santa, Chocolate-Chip, which were my favorite (and still are though I have never found any quite as good as the ones she used to make).

After Santa's cookies were finished baking we got to sample a few of the extras while they were still warm. I can still remember the wonderful smell of all the goodies in the oven and how wonderful those cookies tasted when I finally got to sit down with my glass of cold milk. I would eat them slowly sometimes dunking them. I guess back then if I would have been asked what I thought Heaven was like I'd have said: "It's just like this."

Once we were through with the cookies it was time for a bath and off to bed. I remember it always seemed strange that we had to go to bed earlier on Christmas-eve than at any other time of the year. Once in bed I found it impossible to fall asleep. I'd listen for the sound of hoofs on the roof, the jingling of bells and the sound of Santa sliding down the chimney. Somehow I must have fallen asleep at some point though I never remember it happening. Around four or five in the morning I'd awaken and lie there listening. It was as quiet as an empty church. I'd then get up and sneak down stairs to see if Santa had arrived yet. As I quietly crept down the stairs, my heart pounding like a base drum, I was suddenly confronted by the most glorious sight I had ever seen. Santa had decorated the tree and trimmed the whole house. It was absolutely beautiful. I turned around and ran back upstairs and woke my sister and told her Santa had been here. I then ran to Mom and Dad's room to give them the good news. For some reason it was very difficult to wake them up. You'd have thought they had been working all night or something.

Eventually they'd crawl out of bed and take us downstairs with them. What a magnificent sight it was to see everything Santa had done during his visit to our house. We knew for sure he had been there because he ate most of his cookies and drank the milk we left out for him. He even left us a note thanking us. We were allowed to open one present then it was back to bed. My folks explained that us kids being so young we needed our rest. So off we went, back to slumber-land, though I don't think my sister and I got much sleep. Eventually the family got up and then it was back to the bounty that Santa had left. Once we had the packages sorted it was time to let it rip, literally ripping the paper off the packages and tossing it to one side. I found the long slim box and ripped the paper off in anticipation of what could possibly be inside. The label on the box said it all; Daisy Red Ryder B-B Gun. I was in seventh heaven. Somehow I knew Santa wouldn't let me down. I had visited him at O'Neil's in downtown Akron and had even sat on his lap and had my picture taken with him. I still have that picture.

I couldn't wait to try it out so Dad and I went out in the back yard and used the side of the garage as a backstop. Now here I am, a scrawny seven year old with a B-B gun that weighed almost as much as I did, or so it seemed at the time. He showed me how to put the B-B's in and how to <penis> the gun so it would fire. Then I'd have to hold it up to aim it. That was almost as difficult as it was to <penis> the thing. For someone a bit older the cocking procedure was a no brain-er and didn't require much effort, hardly more than what the movie cowboys had to exert when they loaded their trusty Winchester Carbines. Little old me had to devise my own procedure. It went something like this: Point the barrel down and place the business end on my toe. Hold the shoulder stock with my left hand and then with my right hand push down on the lever action with all my might until I felt and heard the click. At that point the lever was no longer difficult to move. Return the lever to its closed position, lift the gun and aim it at the target. Then pull the trigger. Believe me I never realized how much work it was just to shoot a gun. It also made me realize Gene Autry, Roy and all the other cowboys had to be really strong and tough to shoot those guns as fast as they did.

Later on I came up with a better method of loading my B-B Gun. I put the stock on my toe then leaned over the barrel and pulled up on the lever. Got more leverage that way. Of course my Dad didn't see my new method and it's probably a good thing he didn't. (Later on, much later, I finally realized just how dangerous my new procedure had been. By then I had grown enough that I had the strength to do it properly and safely. It was just that in between period.)

Once I got the hang of things in those early days I became a pretty good shot. One day I was practicing something I saw during a Saturday Matinee western movie at the Falls Theater. It was shooting from the hip. I was using a garbage can lid as a target leaning up against one of the garage doors. I'd load the gun, hold it in my right hand pointed down. I'd turn my back to the target and walk towards the house. I'd then spin around, bring the gun up grabbing the for-end with my left hand and then firing it as I pointed it at the target. Mind you, I was not using the sights. All was going well, every time I fired I could hear the B-B hit the lid. I was having a ball and getting faster on the "draw" with each shot. I thought I was as good as Gene or Roy or any of the other sharpshooters I saw on Saturday's.

As I continued with my routine something strange happened. I didn't hear the familiar "ping" of the B-B hitting the lid, I heard a delayed ping that sounded much further away. At first I thought I was out of ammo but a quick shake of the gun dispelled that notion. It must have been a malfunction where a B-B didn't load properly. So I continued my little cowboy sharpshooter routine until the time I spun around and there was a stranger standing there. I think I about peed my pants. I asked him what he wanted. He said in a not so friendly voice: "I want to talk to you Mother or Father, you just shot a hole in my window." Well, at least I now knew where that B-B went and what that distant ping was. I also knew that my trusty Red Ryder Carbine hadn't let me down, it didn't malfunction, I did. Got my Dad so the "mean" man who lived behind us could talk to him. Long story short my shooting sessions were immediately curtailed for the foreseeable future and my Dad agreed to pay for a new window. My Red Ryder was put away for a long time. I think the next time I got to use it was when a friend of the family took me hunting with him down along Akron Peninsula Road the next year.

Since all this happened on Whitelaw Street I don't think I used it much there. Once we moved to 1200 Ruth Avenue in the River Estates I made good use of it as there were a lot of wide open areas back then. We owned the ball field next door and there was a lot of undeveloped land next to the field. This was the pre-Heslop era in the River Estates. There was also a woods up the street I had to go through to get to grandma's house. There were no more B-B gun incidents until one occurred at home. When I would come in from outside and I had my gun with me I would usually stand it in a corner of the kitchen next to the basement door. Every time my Mom would see it there she would say: "One of these days I'm going to throw that gun down the basement stairway." I just took it as an innocent threat. It was something that I did and she said on a regular basis, until one day my younger sister was standing there close to the basement stairway. My Mom went through her usual oration when all of a sudden my little sister grabbed the gun and threw it down the basement stairway. I didn't like the sound I heard so I ran down to get my gun. What I found was a gun with a stock that was now a bunch of splinters. Of course my Mom asked my sister why she did that. My sister said: " You said you were going to throw it down the stairway so I decided to do it for you." Thanks sis, you sure made my day.

Now my Red Ryder was out of action for the foreseeable future. My Dad being a resourceful man took the pieces of the old stock and made a pattern. He then enlarged it as I was now twelve and had grown a tad since I first got it. Once he made the new stock and installed it on the gun it was actually better than new. The new stock was made from a sturdy piece of Oak that he put a nice finish on. The only thing it didn't have was the Red Ryder brand on the stock. Small price to pay for the nice repair job he did. Over the remainder of my pre-legal driving years I hauled that gun around almost everywhere I went. I used to spend many of of my weekends at a friends house on Turkeyfoot Lake. Most of the time I'd hop on an ATC (Akron Transportation Company) bus and ride all the way out to Manchester Road where my buddy's Dad would pick me up. We'd spend the weekend prowling around in the woods and just having a great time. I have often wondered what some of my fellow passengers thought when they saw me board the bus with that old B-B gun. No one ever said anything back then. I can imagine what would happen today if someone tried that.

Where is that gun today? I think I know what may have happened to it. When I left for the service in 1963 it was at my folks house. I was gone for four years except for my occasional leave periods. By then B-B guns were not high priority as I had other things on my mind. After I got out of the service I went to work for a company in New York as an engineer. They contracted me out to the US Navy so I found myself back aboard my first ship as a civilian. At that time the ship was in Japan and my contract was for one year. I stayed for 13 months returning in April of 1968. I was now almost 28 and B-B guns were about as far from my mind as Japan was from me. One day I started looking for the youthful treasures I had saved. I couldn't find them. My train set was gone, my collection of baseballs gone, bats, comic book collection, games, and MY B-B GUN, all GONE. I asked my folks what happened to all my stuff. My Mom said: "Oh, I gave it all to a friend of mines children." "Holy cow, you gave it to whom?" Well there wasn't any point in continuing that conversation, what was done was done. I kind of had the feeling that they never expected me to return, like I was supposed to get killed in action or maybe fall overboard and drown. I guess we all had our disappointments.

Copyright © 18 October 2008
Chet Headley
Copyright © 06 November 2018
Chet Headley, Christine Jessica Headley

Sonja:
I have just this minute come back to see if there's an update and WOW! BANG! here it is....
If I'm being honest - I am terrified - It looks like a long read - SO I'm gonna go and make a BIG lunch and drink and get stuck in. (maybe some popcorn too)....OOhhh I do hope there are some sizzling gypsies in the tales...back in a tick.
Sonja.

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