Louie is on the left. After throwing a left.
Louie was big into sports, especially football. Somewhere along the line he took a short detour into boxing. This letter takes a two sentence trip into the Golden Gloves experience, and there is one photo in his collection that shows him boxing. It’s not clear just where the match took place, but there were almost fifty people watching in just the corner we can see. There must have been hundreds cheering from ringside.
Later in life Louie would still watch boxing on television. He also enjoyed football, which was his true passion in high school and earned him a scholarship to Jamestown College. I knew very well that football was his game. I knew his coach, too. Ernie Gates. Mr Gates coached my dad and taught PE in the forties, and he did the same in the sixties when I came through high school. Though he never actually said the words, I could feel his disappointment when this budding football star couldn’t even do a push-up. Let’s just say that there’s not enough money or glory in the world to put me in a place like Louie’s in the picture to the right.
I think that I have mentioned the Kist family before, but the one that sticks in my mind is the boy named Leon.
In grade school, at the Franklin school, Leon and I were in the same grade. He loved to catch me on the way home after school and as the old saying goes “beat the living be-Jesus out of me.”
Jamestown, ND in the fifties was something special for me. I lived close to a great city park and just a couple of blocks from school. Only two blocks east of school was the Star Theater. There are some good stories that center on that movie house.
First grade was a big deal for me. It was the start of my independence. We were living with my grandmother, and she was an experienced mother. Even when I was in first grade, she knew enough to let me do some things that other, younger parents would never allow. Later on her permissiveness allowed me to have a wonderful high school experience, and she set the stage with what I believed I could do during the first year at college. Continue reading
About a half mile away from the Pink House, down fourth street, across the Pipestem Creek, in a cow pasture, was Cardboard Hill. Cardboard Hill is where we spent most of our time in the winter. Every kid in the neighborhood would make the rounds of Sears, Montgomery Wards, and Dodgson Appliance, looking for refrigerator or stove boxes. Lacking those, we’d accept just about any box large enough to break down and sit on. We’d haul those pieces of cardboard to the top of the snowy hill, pile on as many kids as would fit, then slide down the hill at top speed. No adults were anywhere near. The top of Cardboard Hill was about 70 feet above the flood plain. There was a short flat spot just before the huge (to a seven year old) drop-off into the river. That last steep part was probably only eight or ten feet, but that’s enough to get the heart racing. In summer the hill was just another cow pasture, but in winter after school or on a weekend afternoon it was alive with kids.
Rail cars on the second street bridge, just downstream from the Pink House.
Another of my favorite places to visit was the railroad. It was only a couple of blocks from our house. I’m told that even as a little boy (maybe four years old) Mom and Dad would occasionally find me sitting on the tracks in the rail yard, watching the switch engine build a train.
Those were the steam days, so there was a water tower and a coal loading station across the street from the “Beanery.” That’s where the crews had breakfast while waiting for the engines to be fired up and the trains to be assembled. It was always buzzing with working men and great smells. Continue reading
Ms Fairless’ class, 1956, Guy’s in the second row, second from the right.
Most of my grade school years were spent at Franklin Grade School in southwest Jamestown, ND. The school and playground took up three-quarters of a block. Almost all the block was gravel, except some stray crabgrass on the ball fields. A couple of ramshackle houses took up the remaining quarter of the block. Across the street to the north was Northern Pacific Railroad, a subject of a lifelong enchantment that you will read more about later. The playground was very barren. The only equipment that I recall of the entire playground was the slide. That was the place for one of my infamous escapades in the spring of first grade.
The first day of first grade was quite memorable. My friend Raymond, who lived in the cabins just to the south of us, was not one to want to leave his mother’s apron strings. That first day his mother had to sit in the cloak room (a door-less closet) at the back of the class room so that Raymond would consent to staying without crying. None of us thought anything less of him, as we were all a little intimidated by being away from home for the first time.
There were several farm kids assigned to our school. Since I was a town kid, those kids always seemed pretty strange to me. They rode the bus. They always wore overalls and even talked funny. We never saw them after school and they seemed to smell different. The boys were always the biggest and strongest of all the kids, but they never were in for fighting as some of the bullies from town seemed to be. Looking back on it they probably had to do chores every night and smelled of cattle.