Fun and Games
VERSE AND CHAPTER can I quote on this one-but I've given my word I'd disguise the identities to protect the innocent!
This is a real family-mother, father, four children and dog. Father is a professional man-and they live in our circulation area.
They're remodeling their house this year and the confusion is monumental. While the second floor is undergoing changes, the family's been sleeping on mattresses on their dining room floor and in sleeping bags in the living room. Their clothes are hanging in the hall, and their bathroom arrangements are indoors but border on the primitive.
The bathtub, for instance, is in the middle of the garage. It is filled by two hoses attached to the hot and cold water faucets in the stationary washtubs and emptied by pulling the plug which lets the water run down the garage floor drain.
Recently, after a particularly hot and grueling day, father came home and announced he was taking a bath before he did anything else. He ran the water in the tub, undressed, stepped in the tub and got comfortable.
That's when his five-year-old son pushed the button. The button that activates the automatic garage door. In full view of the neighbors working in their yard and strangers walking and driving by the house, the garage door opened up and out-and there was father in his birthday suit sitting in a bathtub in the middle of an empty garage. He was an instant star of the performance. Every eye was on him.
Father bellowed and roared with rage, thereby attracting more attention. He shouted his son's name in a manner which the child interpreted to be threatening. Screaming, the boy ran up the stairs to the living quarters, bawling for his mother.
Without benefit of towel-which he couldn't reach, anyway-father scrambled out of the tub, dripping soapy water with every step. He sprinted for the stairs.
Mother, attracted by the commotion, met her son as he raced pell mell up the stairs. The child hid himself behind her, screaming, "He's going to kill me! He's going to kill me!"
Father had fire in his eye-but soap on his feet. He hit the first step going 90 miles an hour, slipped and sprawled.
Mother calmly pushed the button and the automatic garage door settled in place like a second act curtain. The audience drifted away for the intermission. Father lay breathless on the garage floor and his son, eyes wide, stopped his screeching for a second.
In that lovely silence, mother said to father: "Is there something I can help you with, dear?"
Father's reply cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
July 16, 1966
A FOUR-YEAR-OLD named Doug was being tucked into bed by his mother, Mrs. Daniel Arnold of Greenville, during a severe thunderstorm. Doug was a mite fearful and, in order to delay his mother's leaving his room, the child became extremely inquisitive about the thunder and lightning.
His mother answered each question as scientifically as she could from a child's viewpoint and Doug went to sleep thinking of the thunder as "angels bowling."
No comparison was made for the lightning as chuckling about the "angels bowling" seemed to be enough to allay his fears.
When he awoke the next morning, the storm was over and he said to his mother, "Mom, has God stopped taking flash pictures?"
Up and Down and ...
WHEN Herbert and Clara Weisenborn finished a visit to a patient in a hospital, they entered an elevator signaling "down" and expected to go down to the first floor.
The elevator went up. To the top floor. The door opened auromarically-and girls screamed.
This was the nurses' quarters and the elevator wasn't supposed to go up THAT far. The girls were ironing and mending and sitting around talking and drinking coffee-most of them in their bras and panties. When the elevator door opened in their midst, they screamed and ran for cover. Herbert was much embarrassed.
He called out an apology, pushed buttons like mad, the elevator door closed, and the elevator started down.
Clara and Herbert sighed in relief. At the first floor, however, the elevator door did not open. Instead the elevator went right back to the top floor-and the door opened again. On the same scene-girls in panties and bras, at the ironing board, the table, standing around talking.
More screams, more indignant this time. More scurrying around to get cover. Herbert was twice as embarrassed.
A vetting his eyes as a gentleman does in such a situation, Herbert muttered some kind of apology, all the while mashing the buttons to try to get that elevator started in the right direction--down.
After an eon, the door closed. The elevator went straight down to the first floor, as ordered. The door did not open. The elevator went straight up to the top floor again. The door opened, again, on a scene of slightly hysterical agitation.
To say that Herbert was embarrassed is to say that Niagara Falls is a farm pond. He had no words at all this time. He looked like a man about to be lynched.
While Herbert attacked the elevator control panel like a man beset with trouble, Clara called out to the screaming girls: "Oh, don't worry, girls, he's a grandfather."
This may have quieted the girls a bit, but it did nothing to calm Herbert. After what seemed like two weeks, the elevator door closed and the elevator went down.
Before it reached the first floor, it stopped in response to some signal given outside the elevator. The door opened and a supervisor of nurses entered and pushed the button marked for the first floor. When the elevator started up instead, she immediately turned on the control panel with furious determination, punched a new sequence of buttons, and the elevator returned to normal.
Clara and Herbert tried to explain what had happened to them, but the supervisor brushed aside their chagrin and embarrassment, explaining that the elevator had taken notions like that before-and might, again.
Not to Herbert and Clara, it won't. Next time, they'll send flowers.
THE DAY after the opening of the Sears Mall, I went out to see the new store. I entered the building at the entrance nearest my parking spot, the door by the coffee house. So when I was ready to leave, it was handy to have a cup of coffee and watch all the other shoppers.
That's when I saw this little slice of life, which has made me smile later every time I thought of it.
An older woman, obviously tired from going through the whole store, was waiting at this door. She looked around for someplace to sit but changed her mind about going in the coffee corner. Then she looked around for someplace to lean-bur discarded the popcorn stand for reasons of her own.
Then she saw the bathroom displays where the store has assembled a series of model bathrooms to show off the new towels and accessories along with every item of bathroom plumbing.
The weary shopper walked into the nearest display bathroom and sat down. Yes, right where everybody sits down in a bathroom. She was so unconcerned, I still wonder if she realized what she was doing.
A lot of people going in and out saw that particular bathroom display and smiled at her. She smiled back. I wonder how long it took her to get the picture, or if she ever did ...
Aug. 23, 1966
SPEAKING of merry mix-ups, I do believe Jim Melampy has the grandest old mix-up story of them all.
He says it happened to the late Charlie Johnson who drove a onehorse milk wagon during the days of rationing when sugar and butter and shoes and suchlike were in short supply.
Charlie's route ended on Webster street near White's bakery. It was Charlie's routine to stop at a small restaurant out there for breakfast and to bring his book-work up-to-date while he ate.
The restaurant owner liked Charlie's business but he did have one complaint. Charlie's horse and wagon stayed so long out in front at the curb that the street got a little messy which made it unpleasant for pedestrians to cross the street at that point. And the smell was a bit much, particularly in front of an eating place.
Charlie realized the problem it presented and began to carry with him a broom and shovel to clean the curb before he went on his way.
One day there was no handy container nearby, so Charlie improvised.
He had a used, empty, l O-pound butter carton in his wagon. He was carrying it back to the dairy where it would be discarded.
Charlie filled the carton with the curb debris, replaced the lid good as new, and put the carton on the back step of his wagon so he could get rid of it at the first suitable refuse container.
As the story goes, Charlie's horse and wagon were clip-clopping along with Charlie at the reins and the l G-pound used butter carton on the rear platform step when they turned a corner. The carton fell off the step and rolled in the street, finally coming to rest in the gutter.
Before Charlie could "whoa," set the brakes and climb out of the wagon, up the cross street came a big expensive-looking car with a Michigan license. The driver was a woman wearing a fur coat. She took in the whole situation at a glance.
Charlie still had the reins in his hands when the woman stopped the car quickly, stepped out, scooped up the lO-pound butter carton, put it in her car and drove away as fast as she could. The whole maneuver took less than 30 seconds.
Charlie didn't bother to whip his horse into a lather chasing after the automobile. Charlie sat there, chuckling to himself. In fact, the more time went by the more Charlie laughed.
He regaled his cronies for years with that story and much was the speculation regarding the look on the lady's face when she got safely away with her prize.
And what must have happened when she opened her butter carton!
July 9, 1966
ONE RECENT DAY, a certain young Dayton man awoke to what he considered a beautiful morning. It was-until he started getting dressed. His underwear drawer was empty. There wasn't one clean pair of underwear in the whole house.
He hit the ceiling! He informed his wife in no uncertain terms. He spoke at length about the kind of a household where the laundry was not properly planned. He elaborated on the kind of schedules that should be followed so that when he opened his underwear drawer, he could always put his hands on a clean pair!
At the end of his monologue, our hero shouted that there was nothing to do but go down to the basement, root through the laundry basket and find the least crumpled pair of underwear. THAT'S what he'd have to wear to work that day!
He started down the basement.
His wife had been quiet during his performance. She'd started to explain how the household schedule had been disrupted that week and that she was sorry there was no clean underwear and she was SURE he still had one clean pair remaining or she never would have permitted such a thing to happen ...
But how can you interrupt Niagara Falls? She remained quiet. Until our hero made his mad dash for the laundry basket.
"No, you won't wear dirty underwear," she stated flatly. "You'll wear
CLEAN underwear. You can wear a pair of mine. Here, put them on."
He refused. She insisted.
So he put on a pair of white nylon briefs that belonged to his wife.
He went to work feeling like a martyr.
But the briefs were so comfortable, he forgot all about what he was wearing.
Until he went to the YMCA for his weekly session of handball with the boys.
He was in the locker room, starting to undress, when he suddenly remembered.
He "remembered" that instant a sudden appointment that he'd made at the very same time of his regular handball game. He buttoned his shirt, grabbed his coat, called out apologies all around and ran ...
March 13, 1965
How To Neighbor
DO YOU ever indulge in a day that turns out to be so ridiculous that it sounds like one of mine?
Mrs. William Harding, 805 Rockhill avenue, Kettering, had a day like that last Sunday-and right off she shared it with me. Now I can't keep it quiet, so you all enjoy it with us ...
"Our neighbor-across-the-street, Roger Miller, moved here last fall with Huffman Manufacturing and has been setting up a few home improvement plans on his new home to carry out this spring and summer in his leisure time," says Mrs. H.
One of our hero's prime projects is to create a patio behind his home-a patio to be composed of individually poured cement squares arranged in an attractive pattern.
In order to get the work done and still have a relaxing weekend, our hero has devised the following work plan: Each weekend, he drags out the cement form, mixes a batch of cement and pours just one square. Then he smooths it VERY professionally, with a neat edge, and forgets his patio project until the next weekend when the process is repeated.
This past weekend, he was putting the final professional smooth touches to his wet cement square when Shannon, nine-year-old Harding daughter who had been supervising from a lawn chair, leaned over for a closer look. She tipped full length-hands, elbows, stomach, knees and feet-into the full depth of Mr. Miller's very smooth but very wet cement square.
Mr. Miller fished Shannon Out very carefully, called for his finishing stick and laboriously smoothed the wet cement until it was perfect. He stood back and admired it with a great sigh of relief.
Around the corner, pell mell, came Brady, the five-year-old Harding son-right through the wet cement.
Our hero was calm. He helped Brady out of the cement, accepted apologies, and once again called for his finishing stick. Carefully, carefully, he smoothed the cement until, for the third time, it was perfect. Then he set his lawn chair beside the wet cement square and kept watch over it all afternoon.
In a false sense of security, our hero went in the house for dinner.
When he returned to his vigil, there was one slim, deep footprint right in the middle of his wet cement square--and all the children present were frantically denying that they had had anything to do with it.
Our hero took a deep breath, held his tongue, attempted no overt act. Instead, he called Out, "GET ME MY STICK!"
At this, Brady puckered up to cry, bawling, "It's an awful little footprint, Mr. Miller. You wouldn't hit me with a stick for that, would you?"
Says Mrs. Harding now: "The last we saw of Roger Miller he was laughing sort of hysterically and trying to sell his excess bags of cement cheap.
"J do feel the only way he'll make a sale of them after this past weekend is to do it out of the neighborhood. Wonder if he would like to re-do his patio like Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood? .. "
But, first, somebody put a cool cloth on Roger's head. It's the least you can do ...
May 26, 1966
CHRISTINE, 2, was a ringlet-topped confection whose parents were trying to teach her to say her own name, her parents' names and her address in case she ever wandered away from the yard and got lost. They wanted her to be able to give more help to the policeman so he wouldn't have to go out looking for someone named "daddy."
Christine was willing but she found her own name a mouthful to pronounce. Every day her mother clearly pronounced "Chris-teen" and every day Christine came up with a variation that was not understandable. After much effort, she finally made it. She said Chris-teen very well.
Her mother was so proud. She took her next door to a neighbor and said to the child: "Tell her what your name is, dear."
Christine took a deep breath and said, "Frank."
SHARE this-with the Dayton mother who starred in the incident ...
When her daughter, Nancy, was small, this heroine did everything the books told her to do to be a good mother. She even joined a record-of-the-month club, and bought a record-player. Each month when the new record came, she'd listen to it with Nancy, and they'd read together the little booklet that came with the record.
One month the record and story was all about an Indian chief and his little son, Red Fox, and how Indians used drums to talk to each other over distances. Mother and daughter listened to the record, read the story and looked at the pictures.
When mother and daughter were visiting in Chicago in December of that year, they went through Marshall Field's toy department which takes up a whole city block and includes every kind of toy, large and small, that you can imagine.
There, in the musical toys department, was a section given over to drums of all sizes. Mother exclaimed happily to her daughter, "Oh, look, Nancy, here are the same kind of drums that the Indian chief and little Red Fox use when they talk to each other. Here's the great big drum with the deep voice-and here's the little bitty drum with the high voice."
So saying, our heroine picked up the drumsticks that belonged to the big bass drum and, suiting her voice to the drum, she intoned in a simulated deep bass voice: "Where is Red Fox? Where is Red Fox?" all the while beating rhythmically on the bass drum.
Then she picked up the sticks belonging to the little bitry drum and, beating in time to her voice which she pitched in a very high tone, she intoned: "Here I am. Here I am."
It was so invigorating to her to be able to actually show her daughter what the book and record about the drums had been talking about that she went through the whole routine again with greater vigor.
Deep bass voice to go with beats on the bass drum: "Where is Red Fox? Where is Red Fox?"
High little voice to go with beats on the little drum: "Here I am.
Here I am."
Suddenly she looked up and saw a half circle of some 20 or 25 people standing around, watching and listening. She was so embarrassed, she felt rooted to the spot. She couldn't move. She couldn't let go of the drumsticks. She wanted to disappear into thin air. The spectators wouldn't go away-they stood waiting for more of the demonstration.
"Oh, I'm not demonstrating," she said, lamely, though no one had asked. "I just wanted to show my little daughter here how the Indian chief talked to his son, Red Fox ... ," she said in a pitiful voice, reaching around to locate her daughter to prove her point.
No daughter. Nancy had skipped away and was happily looking at dolls. Our heroine could have sold herself for a cent. In full view of a lot of people who still thought she was going on with the demonstration, our heroine tried to back away. Then she remembered the drumsticks in her hand. She dropped them as if they were hot coals. She picked up her coat, and dropped it. She grabbed her handbag and backed away, stumbling into displays and generally making a spectacle of herself.
The floorwalker, seeing an unscheduled crowd in his department, came up at this moment and said to a clerk who had been standing there watching: "What's going on here? \'\!ho is that?" he said, pointing to our heroine.
"I don't know for sure," said the weary clerk. "It's either Red Fox or his mother!"
Sept. 18, 1965
WHEN BRENDA, 4, went through a phase of saying "bad words," her family tried to cure her by simply ignoring her whenever she did it.
One day her aunt took Brenda on a bus ride and Brenda was being as sweet as a little angel. She asked if God were on the bus. Yes, said her aunt. Brenda said, "Can He see me?" And her aunt answered, "Yes, He is all around you."
A woman in the seat ahead of them turned around and commented that she thought it was just wonderful that such a small child would take such an interest in God.
Brenda fixed her eye on the lady and said, "The hell you say!"
Her aunt turned her head away, took a deep breath and finished the ride staring out the window all the way.
NOW AND AGAIN, we all come to a place where our hackles rise, when we are fed up with all the little rules and regulations of our social strata.
Like: close cover before striking, walk and don't walk, no parking, keep refrigerated, no admittance, standing room only, detour, stop here on red light, step to the back, face the front, put curtain inside tub, post no bills, pay this amount, no substitutions, have correct change, this way out, one moment please, shake before using, do nor fold, spindle or mutilate ...
At a time like this, it is comforting to recall an incident that happened a number of years ago in this area.
A businessman with a substantial bank balance received a phone call one day at his office from the cleaning woman at his residence.
"The electric's been turned off," she reported, "and I can't run the sweeper."
With a start, the businessman remembered that his wife, who was out of town visiting with a sick relative, paid all the household accounts. Since her absence had been prolonged because of the length of the illness, he realized he had forgotten to check into the household bills. The utility bill obviously was one of those that had not been paid as usual.
He immediately telephoned the utility, explained the situation and said he would mail a check, so would they please turn on "the electric" at his residence.
A spokesman said that could not be done. He would have to come to the office first and pay the bill.
"I'll mail the check immediately," he said.
No, that would not do. He was informed he had to call in person with the money before anything could be done.
"Very well," said our hero. If rules and regulations bound the utility, he would follow them. He went to his bank and got a one thousand dollar bill.
Timing his arrival at the utility office to be a few minutes after the banks closed, our hero said he had come, as instructed, in person with money to pay his utility bill which was in the neighborhood of $20 or a little more.
He presented the thousand dollar bill.
They had no change, they protested. They already had sent their deposits to the bank and couldn't make change.
"I am presenting cash money in person, as you directed," said our hero, "and I will wait here until you make change."
"We will give you our check," soothed a spokesman.
"No," said our hero. "You could not accept my check. I cannot accept your check. I will sit here until I get the correct change."
Well-they got it for him. They had consultations and runnings to and fro and much consternation, but they finally put together in cash $975 or some figure close to that, the correct change required. It took a while, but our hero was patient.
When the utility spokesman counted out the change, the man said thank you, now turn on the electric, and they did. And our hero has been comforted by the memory of this exchange ever since ...
And so should we all be comforted, as we take a deep breath and go about our daily living bounded on all sides by no trespassing, one lane only, keep tightly closed, no loitering, keep off grass, open here, this end up, no smoking, use dimes only, tear on dotted line ...
Aug. 7, 1965
DAVID, 5, and his grandma spent the day after Thanksgiving "doing the town." There was lunch and Christmas shopping and, as they went from counter to counter, the two of them began to amass an armload of packages.
It put them in quite a holiday mood. Then from the store's loudspeakers came the merry sound of "jingle Bells."
David stopped right in his tracks and said with great five-year-old excitement: "Grandma, listen! They're playing OUR SONG!"
Dial "0" for Fish
IT WAS so quiet in Gettysburg at mid-morning one day this week that I thought a magic spell had been cast over everything-that the whole town was waiting for a handsome prince to come by with a kiss ...
It was that nice kind of quiet that abides in small towns some days -when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, when ladies are hanging clothes on the line in the backyards, when somebody's sweeping a walk and somebody else is poking in the ground around the flower beds.
Business was going on, I know, because I saw men at the service station, and standing in the doorway of the hardware store talking, and the Gettysburg branch of the Greenville national bank was open.
The youngsters were in school. The dishes were being washed and beds made, and the men in stores and offices already had had their coffee breaks and were getting in a few licks of work before lunch ...
I don't know what made me turn off Route 36 and drive through Gettysburg. The new road bypasses the town and it's become habit to whisk on by without slackening speed. Town and road are parallel for only a few city-type blocks and then the highway carries the traveler away.
Obeying an impulse, I turned off Route 36 at the curve and drove slowly around the streets, turning this way and that, recognizing that particular quality that belongs only to a small town.
All kinds of things, good and bad, might have been going on out of sight, I didn't know. What I saw on the surface was calm and easy-going and, like the big old dog stretched out on a sunny sidewalk, a little sleepy.
There was space to park at the curb in front of the Hi-Way restaurant (home cooking) even though the highway's moved. You could tell by looking that this was a place full of hustle and bustle at mealtimes and after school, a kind of gathering place for young and old. But now it was empty except for a man behind the counter and sounds of cooking beyond the wall.
I walked by the public phone booth at the curb in front of the store and couldn't help but glance in. Hanging on the door, inside, was the biggest deadest fish you ever saw-well, maybe the biggest I've seen for a while, 15 inches long or longer. It hadn't been there long. Looked as if some mischievous culprits had hung it there after dark and nobody yet had to make a phone call in the morning.
When I went inside the restaurant to get a Coke, I asked the man behind the counter who put the fish in the phone booth?
He looked at me.
He finally spoke. "A fish in the phone booth."
It wasn't a question. It was a statement of fact. He was repeating my statement of fact. He didn't believe it, but he repeated it.
A fish in the phone booth, I agreed, drinking Coke and accepting change.
He looked out at the phone booth, shook his head, went over to the door and looked out. Then he came back in and felt under the counter for a paper sack. "Kids!" he said, almost to himself. "We got 'em."
He went out, opening the sack as he walked. He opened the phone booth, unhooked the biggest deadest fish I've seen in a long time-a granddaddy of a carp--and put it tail down in the paper sack. Half the fish stuck out at the top.
With the sun shining and the birds singing in this small town bypassed by the big highway, the man strolled down the sidewalk with a big fish in a small sack. I heard him call to somebody I couldn't see.
"Interested in a carp?" he said, conversationally.
I don't know what made me turn off the highway to stop in Gettysburg, but I'm glad I did.
April 28, 1966
A SMALL girl accompanied her mother to the formal dress department. Her tiny hands fanned all the skirts of the long dresses as she waited.
Suddenly she said, "Oh, mother, look at this one. I hope they don't sell Out of these before I grow up!"
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