Learning to Drive

Eric writes:

When my friends and I started turning 16 and getting our drivers licenses, a whole new world opened up for us.

When I look back on it, there were a few times that we could have been killed. One example is a night when Rick Barnes and I went out to a movie. He was already 16 and had his license. I was still 15. Rick had a friend that bought us each a bottle of booze. I remember it was blackberry brandy.

Drive In Theater (by Matt Wade)

Drive In Theater (by Matt Wade)

We went to a drive-in theater where we could drink while watching the movie. I don’t even remember the movie. Anyway, we each drank our bottle of brandy. As we sat there we realized that we were really getting drunk. I guess it got us spooked so we decided to go home before the movie was over.

We started driving up Federal Blvd. At about Hampton Avenue, Rick pulled over to puke. He just stopped, opened the door and puked out the door. He didn’t even get out of the car. I don’t remember anything after that. The next day, Rick called me and asked how we got home. I told him I didn’t remember a thing after he pulled over to puke. He said he couldn’t remember either. That scared us both pretty bad. So we made a pact to never drink and drive like that again.

My first year of High School was at Lincoln High School in Denver. I had a good circle of friends that year and enjoyed school. Tenth grade, I think I enjoyed gym class the most. I had a free period after lunch, so I joined in with the gym class that hour quite often. I was there so much the gym teacher thought I belonged in his class. In the spring we moved to Arvada a month before school was out. So Mom drove Chris and me to school every day so we wouldn’t have to switch schools. Chris was going to Kunsmiller and I was at Lincoln.

— Eric H

Photo credit:
By UpstateNYer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Kunsmiller Junior High

Eric writes:

I went to Kunsmiller Junior High School. That was before they started calling them Middle Schools. I was there from seventh through ninth grades. My favorite teacher was Jeff Guilford. He was my science teacher. I really loved science. I was a lab assistant for him in eighth and ninth grades in addition to my science classes. I also really enjoyed playing in the band. I was in the orchestra and the jazz band. I played the baritone and trumpet.

My worst experience at that school was on Martin Luther King Day. Back then the Denver Public School system was trying to integrate races at the schools. Since all the schools in Northeast Denver were Black and all the Southwest schools were white, there was a lot of bussing of students to try to equalize the numbers. I always thought it was a bunch of shit. I was lucky I never had to be bussed.

But one of my better fiends in school was bussed from across town. Anyway on MLK day, right after school there was a gang of black kids wandering the halls.

I had stayed after to help out in the science lab for a bit after class. As I was walking down the hall, I heard someone yell at me. When I turned around to see who it was, I saw about a dozen black kids running at me. So I took off running. I got to the third floor stairwell and started down. I made it to the second landing when they caught up with me.

I don’t think I was really hurt, but mostly shook up. I went to the Principal’s office to report the incident. He asked if I could identify any of the kids. Since my glasses were knocked off and broken with almost the first punch, I didn’t see who it was that hit me. So the Principal said nothing could be done about it and I should just go home.

It made me angry that I was beaten up in my school like that. It took me many years to get over the prejudice I learned that day.

— Eric H

Moving to Denver

Eric writes:

My mother was a pretty woman and I remember a few men dating her.

The man that she wound up with was Norris Torkelson. I remember going out on his boat with Mom and my brother to pick chokecherries and go on picnics.

Eric, Norris, Chris, Grace, Linn on their wedding day 1966

Eric, Norris, Chris, Grace, Linn on their wedding day 1966

In December of the fourth grade, we moved to Denver, Colorado. Mom and Norrie were married the evening of December 30 so they could get the income tax deduction for the year with us kids.

My oldest brother, Guy, elected to finish out his last year of High School in Jamestown living with Grandma. Linn, Chris and I started a new life in Denver.

We moved into a three-bedroom apartment at 5104 West Kentucky Avenue in Denver. My Mom found a job working at the dry cleaners at the end of the alley. Chris and I started school at Belmont Elementary School. The neighborhood we lived in was pretty bad. Linn was going to Kepner Junior High and kept getting beat-up by Mexican gang kids. Eventually, he couldn’t take it any more and ran away from home. He wouldn’t come back unless he could go to a different school.

So we moved to 1699 South Winona Court in Denver. It was a nice four-bedroom house in a better neighborhood. I went to Force Elementary School at the other end of the block.

As we were moving into the house on S. Winona Ct, Bruce Scott came over. He lived in the house next door and was the some age as me. We were fast friends for many years. One year, he even went with us on a fishing trip to Canada. Bruce caught one of the biggest fish of the trip. Bruce’s Dad would take us fishing in the mountains for rainbow trout almost every weekend all summer long. This was when I became friends with Bruce’s younger brother Tom. I would stick up for him when Bruce and his friend, Jack, would pick on Tom. We don’t see each other often, but we still keep in touch to this day. In fact, as I am sitting here writing this I just got off the phone with Tom. He is a great friend.

— Eric H

First Taste of Flying

Eric writes:

When I was in about the third grade I got my first taste of flying.

Pat and Grant Knowlen at Fanny's, 1980.

Pat and Grant Knowlen at Fanny’s, 1980.

It was over the Fourth of July week when Jamestown had the Stutsman County Fair. Out at the airport, the Fixed Base Operator gave airplane rides for a penny per pound. Since I weighed about 40 to 50 pounds, my fare was under fifty cents.

I remember taking off and flying around the city and over the fair grounds. It was beautiful. All I can remember was that I wanted to fly again.

My second taste of flying came when my Cousin Grant Knowlen came to town. He flew in with his very own Cessna 1132. He took us for a ride in his plane and once again it hooked me. I knew that some day I would have to learn to fly.

— Eric H

Lincoln School Neighborhood

Eric, Guy, Chris and Linn at the 319 house

Eric, Guy, Chris and Linn at the 319 house

Eric writes:

My first friends were Lori and Shelly Sucy, who lived just across the street from our house on 4th Avenue. Next door to them was Bonnie Schmidt. These were my playmates until I started the first grade. I still remember getting my first kiss from Bonnie while we were sitting on Grandma’s front porch. I was only in the first or second grade.

I started first grade at Lincoln Elementary just a block away from our house. The first day at school I met Mike Koushkouski. We have been fast friends ever since. Some of the other kids I remember are Mike’s younger brother and sister, David and Jeannie, and his older sister Peggy. There was Donna Rehak who lived behind and across the alley from Mike’s house. Continue reading

Earliest Memories

Eric Havelick, 1959, probably in New Mexico

Eric at the apartment in New Mexico

Eric writes:

What have I done with my life since August of 1957 …. my birthday.

I was born in Jamestown, North Dakota. I had a Mom, Dad, and two older brothers, Guy and Linn. When I was really young, we moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico where my Dad was stationed in the Army.

I don’t remember a thing about it.

All I know is my parents got a divorce and we moved back to Jamestown into my Grandma Fanny’s house. My mother was pregnant when they divorced and my younger brother Chris was born when we moved back to Jamestown. One of my first memories is of my mother changing Chris’ diaper.

From the pink house we moved to a bigger brown stucco house at 319 4th Avenue NE, in Jamestown. That is the first childhood home I remember.

— Eric H

Introduction to Eric’s Letters

Eric writes:

Christmas 2011

Dear Erin,

Eric

Eric

When I was growing up, we lived with my Grandma Fanny for several years. She always talked and talked. She had several wonderful stories from the farm about Grandpa selling barbed wire for fences, Grandpa winning a car, or her trading chickens for a car, and so many more. After Grandma died, we all looked at each other and asked, “Did anybody write down any of those stories?”

I am sorry to say that many of those stories are lost forever. After that happened, Guy decided that this should not happen again. So he asked your Grandma Grace, Grandpa Louie, Uncle Jim, and Grandma Lucy to write their stories. After they finished, Guy made copies and distributed them to the kids. They are wonderfully cherished books.

For the past several years, I have worked on writing my stories for you. I think it is time that you have them. So, please enjoy these stories of my life. If I think of more, I may send you some from time to time that you can add to the notebook.

These letters are yours, written especially for you.

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and I love you.

— Eric H