Category: Memory Lane
Lawrence, Kansas has several parks and one of them is Holcom Park. It’s the nearest park to our house. We got acquainted with it shortly after taking up residence in Lawrence in 1983. It’s weird, when I see “1983” it doesn’t strike me as very long ago. Yet, it’s long enough for the kids to grow up and become older now than I was when we moved to Lawrence. Anyway, as the kids were growing up we went to Holcom often. Sometimes it would be a picnic, sometimes tennis, soccer, frisbees, kites. There were baseball games outside and occasional indoor activites in the recreation center.
This evening on the TV news it was reported that Lawrence police had made arrests in connection with the shooting of two Lawrence teenagers outside the recreation center at Holcom Park. That got me thinking about years past. If one of the kids would have said, “I’m going over to Holcom to play tennis” or, “I’m meeting some friends to play basketball at the Holcom rec center”, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. It certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me to say, “Okay, don’t forget to take your gun for self-defense!”
While authoring a family email it came to my attention I hadn’t posted anything here for over a year. The post a year ago wasn’t much, either. It and the few preceding it were just status reports about the website re-design project whose goal was to provide a “mobile friendly” experience for the few, the very few, visitors to the family website. It was a project of virtually no value to the internet at large, and very little more than that to any other audience. It really came down to a matter of satisfying myself, which I would have to admit has been pretty much the only motivation for it since shortly after it made its appearance around two decades ago. The Whois service reports it was created on November 5, 2004, but that’s just the date I registered our domain. As I recall, the website was up by the late ’90’s, with the URL being a subdirectory of whatever ISP I had at the time. I could be wrong. Time starts getting fuzzy for me starting around 1994, a year that hosted multiple seminal events in my life.
It turns out this blog kind of makes up for failing to keep a diary. Many, possibly most, of my postings to it don’t yield particularly useful or valuable information to anybody other than me, though I must have thought at the time they would interest others. Now that I find myself overcoming the crest of the last slope on the roller coaster of life, accelerating at a stage when I wish to hell there was a brake, I seem to find some comfort glancing randomly at entries herein, seeing things I thought worthwhile to record, and recalling additional associated memories. One could assert that a record such as this was done for posterity, but it’s presumptuous to believe posterity would find the tale engaging or useful. So, I’ll admit it’s for my benefit, revisiting earlier times and finding in them some events, even accomplishments, that raise a smile.
For those motivated to look there are footprints to be found evidencing my tenure in the world. There are a few recorded judicial decisions to my credit, a few people whose lives I was instrumental in making better, a few wrongs I was key in turning right, some justice I was able to call forth, and so on. Of course, there are a couple of fine offspring that totally make the case for having done something worthwhile during my time on the planet. I may have contributed more carbon monoxide to the atmosphere than was absolutely necessary, enjoying the internal combustion engine as I did, but I won’t apologize. After all, I generally kept it to four cylinders. But, with the end of the ride now in sight without the aid of much imagination, I’m glad to be able to click through the missives found here and re-visit little details that are also part of the fabric I wove along the way.
For quite some time I tried unsuccessfully to remember the name of the little country store up the road from our house on Mo. Bottom Rd. It was there before the subdivision. Sometimes mom would stop there for something, sometimes send me to get a quart of milk or loaf of bread. Mostly, I remember the candy counter with all the great stuff a kid could want. Jaw breakers, gum, bubble gum, candy bars if you had enough money. Sometimes I had enough to buy one of those Hostess cherry pies. Back then they had more filling than crust. When you pulled in the driveway there’d be chickens running around to get out of the way of the car. There was a teenage girl named Sherry who worked there that even prepubescent boys fell in love with. Her brother, Steve Gunkel, would come roaring in with his car raising a cloud of dust and gravel flying. You didn’t mess with Steve. He worked all day throwing hay bales and had muscles like, well, impressive. My buddy Tommy Manker and I honked his horn one time and he came running and chased us down Mo. Bottom Rd. and I was sure I was going to die. Tommy and I jumped the fence into the woods and split up in different directions and I guess Steve couldn’t decide which of us to kill so he stopped and went back to the store. Another time at the store he was sitting in the chair behind the counter and Sherry was standing there and he said to her, “Hey, why don’t you set on my lap and we’ll talk about whatever comes up.” I don’t know why that stuck in my head. At the time, I was too young to get it but, years later, it dawned on me. Maybe she wasn’t really his sister. The place didn’t look like much. As I picture it in my head now, if I saw a place like that today I’d be disinclined to buy anything like milk or eggs there; or even stop there in the first place. But, for a long time, I couldn’t remember the name of it. I remembered our babysitter, Mrs. DeHater, who lived next door to it. A couple days ago, “Butler’s Market” simply surfaced without fanfare from the ancient history section of my memory cells. As did the name “Burke’s Market” (pronounced berk-eez) which was farther away, on Lindbergh Blvd., right next to what some people called “Niggertown”. I didn’t know why at the time. It was where the Negroes lived, I thought maybe they meant Negro Town. Mom bought meat there. I remember the meat counter in the back with the butcher who had the blackest slicked back hair I think I ever saw until Elvis came along, with a butcher’s hat on top. If my brother and I were good, we got popsicles (root beer was my favorite) there, maybe even soda pop (orange was my favorite) which was just outside the entrance of the store in one of those old coolers that you raised up the entire lid, and slid the bottle down the rails to the end where you pulled it out. There was a bottle cap remover on the side, when the cap popped off it was caught in the container below. When there were a lot of groceries to buy, we went to the Schnuck’s store. I don’t remember where it was, but I remember the trip in the 1951 (1952?) Ford Ranch Wagon, returning home with sacks of groceries in the back. I don’t remember ever going in Schnuck’s; seems like mom generally left us in the car while she shopped there. Heh, I reckon these days she’d get arrested for that. I don’t remember which of those stores the packets of Kool-Aid came from, but it seems like in the summer there was always a pitcher of Kool-Aid in the fridge.
After they built the subdivision across the street from our house, they built another one (Villa Marie) a little farther up Mo. Bottom, with a 7-ll, and that was pretty much the end of Butler’s.
Now trying to remember last name of Ernie, the farmer up the way who plowed his land with mules and you could hear him cussing them damned beasts clear down to our house where I’d sit outside on the porch in wonderment of such language. Wanting to say Sheaffer, but that doesn’t seem quite right. On Halloween I’d go up to their house dressed as a cowboy and for my “trick” I’d perform my “fast draw” with my shiny silver six-gun. In those days, a kid had to perform a “trick” in order to get a “treat”. I remember another time reciting a joke, or maybe a poem. For treats we’d get either a popcorn ball or caramel apple that Ernie’s wife made herself. I’d be disappointed. I wanted candy bars. Especially Butterfingers.