Rubber Bones

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When did I grow up? To be honest, I really don’t think I have. Certain things have changed as I grow older, like not coming home with holes in the knees of my jeans. Remember when your mom would sew patches in the holes in your clothes? I do. Do you remember when they came out with “iron-on” patches and they didn’t seem to work as well? I do. Now we pay money for clothes with holes and tears in them and my mother just shakes her head. If by chance we do put those holes or tears in them we throw them away. Do you ever wonder where retailers get those clothes that are pre-abused? Is there a department somewhere with people of all sizes (s-xxl) that are just out playing for days on end like we did as kids to get the right look in the jeans we want? I want that job!

 Even grand-daddy long-leg spiders were huge back then! Now they seem more like distant-uncle long-legs.

I do remember a lot from growing up that doesn’t have much to do with the actual event, but are still good memories. Like the wooden screen door that made the “bang….bang, bang!” sound as you ran through it. Shortly followed by the sound of “don’t run in the house!”. And of course we were on our way outside to search and explore everywhere. To find a weird bug, toad or an ant hill to watch until we got bored with it. Or after a rain, to stand in the water running through the ditch, all the while throwing sticks and leaves or the occasional weird bug in the water to watch them go to wherever they would go. Nowadays, we watch The Discovery Channel to see the exact same thing. Even grand-daddy long-leg spiders were huge back then! Now they seem more like distant-uncle long-legs. Just not the same, right? As kids we could smell mud from a hundred yards away and as if in a trance, we would run to it like we were lost in the desert and just found water. If every crime scene included mud, a kid could solve the mystery. If nothing else, we could bring the crime scene home on our clothes. One thing is for sure, we didn’t leave one stone un-turned. In fact, we didn’t leave one stone where it was. We threw them as far and as hard as we could. All day.

Once in a while we would dig a hole just to dig. It would start out looking for worms and turn into some archeological find. A broken piece of glass or piece of metal that held all the answers to questions our young minds didn’t even know to ask. But it was history we held in our hands. Now we watch The History Channel…

When did we stop climbing trees? It was easy and fun and while you were up there you could see forever. Or as far as the leaves would let you. We would spend hours up in a tree just looking around and waiting for someone to come along looking for us. When we needed to get down you just swung on a branch and then jumped. I guess back then kids had rubber bones, because today would yield different results. And yelling! When did we stop yelling at the top of our lungs for no reason? We communicated with Todd or Alex and Evan who lived in Green Acres by yelling back and forth. Sadly, today you would be told to shut up.

Whatever happened to just coming home sweaty, tired and dirty all in the name of having fun? I can still see the cloud of dust when I took off my socks. Scrapes covered with a days worth of dirt and sweat would heal I know, but back then it took longer because we wouldn’t leave the scab alone. Blisters from riding a bike with no hand-grips or from swinging from the monkey bars at the grade school hurt for sure, but it didn’t slow us down. We were balls-to-the-wall, who could ride or run the fastest, drink from the hose kids. Now, as an adult I still do some of the things I did back then, like drinking from the hose and yelling. And I still find weird bugs pretty entertaining. Running fast? Oh, I could if I had to. Climbing trees? That would cause the neighbors to call the cops. But it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to, and deep down I think it’s something we all want to do. Just make sure you have a spotter when you jump out of the tree!

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White City, Ks. 66872

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Driving down the old brick main street of White City, it dawned on me how much everything has changed. As a kid growing up here there was so much going on in a town where not much goes on. The pace is slow and the town is small, but when you’re a kid in the 60’s and ’70’s all you had to do was ride your bike down the sidewalks past Anderson Lumber and Hardware where my mother worked part-time. You could walk in and buy a Daisy BB gun right off the wall behind the counter. I wish I would have paid a little more attention to my mother while she was working. Funny and graceful I’m sure, but I would like to go back in time and see her in action. She is still very funny, but age and health has taken the grace from her step.

On the same side of the street was the White City Register. The local and surrounding newspaper, where Lacey Mahon did it the old school way. I can’t imagine what it took to do a weekly paper but he and his son John did a great job. My sister Jan worked there part-time and I’m sure at a time in her life that carries a lot of memories, she will smile when reminded of this.  Next door to the newspaper office was the KP&L office and the Phelps Agency. Clarence Phelps sold insurance and it wasn’t a building I needed to walk into much as a young boy but I did on occasion. But mostly I remember the air conditioner that was above the door that dripped down outside on the sidewalk. Being a kid on a bicycle you tend to notice that kind of thing.

On the corner was Herb Funk’s Vicker’s Station. Herb had the air lines out across the driveway and we couldn’t resist every once in a while to ride across and make the bell ring. An old Pepsi chest vending machine and two old chairs inside for the regulars to sit on, the place was small enough that you had to step outside to change your mind.

On the next block was the laundry mat where many a day was wasted sitting outside on the steps. Not much to report here mostly because there never was much going on. It was a laundry mat for crying out loud! Next door was a church and Kohler T.V. and Appliance. John was a very public guy and was the Mayor for many years. I can remember riding by and looking in the windows at all the inventory. If memory serves me correctly, my folks bought our first color T.V. there. The RCA that changed the way we watched Gilligan’s Island and Big Valley. Amazing.

A little further down was a phone booth where a call could be made for ten cents. Or you could dial home and hang up when you needed a ride, without putting a dime in. You could hear the person who answered but they couldn’t hear you, so you would often hear from the other end of the line when calling from there or from the payphone at the high school “is this Jeff?” “If you need a ride home, hang up”. What a world we lived in back then…

The Jones’ had a clothing shop and there was a barber shop next door to it. Erichson had the pool hall and Perry Moore had one of the two grocery stores. I spent a lot of time in both the pool hall and the grocery store. Pool tables and pinball machines along with some locals playing dominos was a way to spend a few hours on a summer day between mowing yards. And Moore’s Market was a place to pick up a few things for my mother and have Perry “put it on the ticket”. Great to be a kid in a small town.

On the other side of the street was the Standard Gas Station and Spohn’s Repair Shop. Ash’s Repair shop was just a door or two down from Spohn’s and Buck’s Service station. Again not someplace a kid needed to go but it always seemed there was a lot going on there. The Post Office and Ken and Barb’s Cafe was next door to them. Ken and Barb’s was a neat place to go and how I wish we still had a Cafe or Diner like that. Ken and Barb did a great job. Vernon Rose had the other grocery store and it too was a cool place to walk into as a kid. Vernon’s Market was in the biggest building in White City and to this day is still a pretty neat old building. Like all of the business owners in town, Vernon was a good guy.

The White City Bank where Boone Scott took care of all my mowing money is on the corner across from Vernon’s Market. Can you remember a time when a bank didn’t have an ATM or drive-up window? I do. There was a Masonic Lodge, a bar called “Walt’s” and a farm implement dealer that was owned by Russell Brown. Did you blink? All of these and a few more business’s were located within the two blocks of main street. Since those days there have been many more people involved in the local business’s like Christlieb’s, Parker’s, Guimond’s, Fielder’s, Wood’s and Debbie Blythe. Bill Hickman and both Keith and Joann Kahnt, Rusty Rice and Ingmire’s to name a few. Lee’s Plumbing and Jamie Schmidt with Town and Country Beauty Shop and Alan Scott with The Katy Grill. I know I haven’t named them all and believe me there are more. Bill Calvin was a local welder, Bill Hare worked on small engines behind Vernon’s Grocery, the Mor-Kan Elevator, Barber and Son Construction, Junior Hultgren moving houses, Robert’s also owned a gas station, Keith Barber had the pool hall, Wayne Hultgren still has a repair shop and Frankie Nelson runs the library. Leo Hultgren sold Ohlde seed and Dale Scott with his NC+.

Life in the fast lane I know, but you had to be there to understand the impact all of these business’s and great people had on the community. They managed to provide and thrive in a small town and keep it all wrapped up in a town of about five hundred. You didn’t need to leave town for anything and I would give anything to have that back. But the amazing part of this is we still have the “small town” thing going on. That’s why in my mind, I can still drive down Main Street and see the drip from the air conditioner at Phelps Agency.

The Dip in the Road

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Ah, the small town life. Not too exciting but every once in a while, there will be something that happens and we all take note. Back when the Council Grove Drive-in was open it was not uncommon to go to the movies with six or more of your friends. It was cheaper that way as you could pay by the car load instead of by the head. Now I don’t know about you but it only made sense to do it that way. It was like the box store philosophy of the more you buy the more you save! But sometimes you just wanted to go with your date and it was worth a little more for that. In what day and age would it be acceptable to have bodies in the trunk of your car except to go to the drive-in? Today, you would go to jail…

 In what day and age would it be acceptable to have bodies in the trunk of your car except to go to the drive-in? Today, you would go to jail…

For those of you that grew up in similar communities, you also had those places you hung out at. In White City, we had the “Y”, which was just a mile North of town where there was a fork in the road at the rail road crossing. We would hang out here when you just needed to get away from all those “city lights”. All ten of them.  There was the church parking lot, right on Main Street, where you could sit and watch everyone cruising the four blocks of Main to the point of nauseum. We also had the “dip road” South of town about a mile which as you can imagine was a road with a dip in it. It was a dirt road, and a great place to go out and drink beer with you friends and not have to worry about much. The mixing strip, the Parkerville bridge, Effland’s hill, Blythe’s hill and the cemetery were some of the places you could just name and everyone knew where you were talking about. Burton’s grove, the “crooked bridge” and Maloney’s pond were a few more that should be mentioned for the record, and all were just a few minutes from the city limits.

Things were different back then as we didn’t have cell phones or cable TV. But some had CB radio’s and of course a  few calls to “Red Dog”  which would quickly be answered, and the evening would be off to a great start. We miss you Earl! It was a simple time with 8-tracks and vinyl seats, windows down and waving at the car coming down the road from the opposite direction. Making u-turns at the locker plant and then again at the old depot. Then a run out to the mixing strip, turn around and back to town. Repeat. That was a Saturday night in White City. Stop at the pool hall for something to drink and to show someone who didn’t know any better, how air was blowing up from the bar stool stands. Yep! Lift the stool off its stand, have them place their hand over the hole to feel the air, then slap the back of their hand down into the grease and leave a circle of grease in their palm. Good Times. Even a local guy like me has had the old grease trick done a time or two. You never knew, maybe the second time there WOULD be air coming out of it.  But we didn’t care, it was just a good time to be hanging out with friends in a small town.

I wouldn’t change a day of it. It is who I am and probably always will be. Kid’s don’t cruise much anymore and the pool hall and locker plant are closed. Those of us that remember, still refer to the landmarks by their old names. Mainly because Effland’s and the Blythe’s still live out there and the Parkerville bridge is still, well…how you get to Parkerville. So next time you pass through any old town that looks like it has seen it’s better days just remember, somethings you can’t see.

The Price We Paid in the ’70s

As a teenager in the ’70s I was completely distracted by girls and motorcycles. If I only knew then what I know now, I would be in better shape with both motorcycles and women in general. You see, some of the motorcycles I owned back then have become new again. Highly desirable and worth more money than originally priced. Examples include, Honda 305 Scrambler,  1975 Yamaha DT175, Harley-Davidson X90, 1976 Husky 175, a Yamaha TY250 Trials and the list goes on and on. Sometimes, even in the moment, we are aware we should hold on to something with everything we have knowing we may never get them back. I know now I was never thinking they would be worth more than what I had invested, but living in the moment has its price. And I paid that price in full.

I was a child of that era and it goes beyond just motorcycles and girls. Cars and trucks came and went just as easy. 1966 Plymouth Fury, 1970 Dodge Charger, 1972 Dodge Charger, 1956 Ford truck, 1961 Ford truck Uni-body, 1949 Chevy truck, 1967 Chevy short-wide bed truck…see the trend? What was I thinking? But you have to remember, to me, cars and bikes were just a moment in time. Girls on the other hand were different. Like hair styles and bell bottoms. High School and dating. Transportation and recreation. Buy and sell or trade. Some were great deals and others were, well… not so great.

Even the Levi’s I was wearing back then are worth money! Say what? Yes, and in high demand. I’m not sure the pea green or sky blue leisure suites my mom made for me with her McCall’s Patterns would be worth much now, but who knows? Stranger things are happening. Some people save things from their past with hopes of it being worth something, but when it comes time to actually sell said things, they can’t part with them. They have a name for that. Hoarding.

As much as I appreciate the beauty of the Honda 305 Scrambler or the ’70 Dodge Charger, I can truly say that I am so much happier having owned and enjoyed them without the worry of damaging them or decreasing their value in some way. We rode hard and drove hard back then because we were living life. 8-track music blaring through cheap speakers or our Levi’s bell bottom pant leg chewed up from the chain of our motorcycles. It didn’t matter because we had a date that night!

It’s Seasonal

As September hits I’m reminded of many things. Mostly, riding in the fall and how the summer days felt when it was unbearably hot. Looking back now those hot days seem like they were tolerable. School for everyone is in session, and growing up in a small town it’s classified as a big event. One particular hot day in August, on the first day of school, I wore a shirt that I was sure would be my favorite. A typical August day, in a school without air conditioning could suffocate a horse. But even your soon to be favorite shirt (that happens to be flannel) can become a sweat shirt in this heat. Really Mom? Sending your kid to school in a flannel shirt? I’m sure it was my decision and I fought her every step of the way until she caved in. Chalk it up to learning the hard way. To this day, every time I put on a flannel shirt I think about this. In the seventies there was no such thing as a “heat day” where kids got out of school because it was too hot. Instead, every day was “suck it up” day. So I did.

It’s a wonder how fast the seasons can change when we are lost in our day-to-day lives. Go to work, come home, ride a little and repeat. All the while trying to do the things required of me around the house. Before you know it the weather is changing and the days are getting shorter. I keep telling myself that it’s only a few short months until Spring and we’ll be fine. But hold on, I still have some riding to do and believe me the chores aren’t done. In any case I will ride this winter as I do every year, but as far as everything else…

Every season has its advantages and disadvantages and some seasons we like more than others. But when it comes to hot or cold or dry versus wet it’s all good. Just remember, it’s all temporary and it’s just a few short months until it all changes again. Apparently as a Freshman in high school on the first day of class, I lacked the depth and knowledge of both fashion and common sense. I made it through the day none the worse for wear and with a valuable lesson as my reward. After all, I was a Freshman and you can’t expect anything more from me. Just ask my mother!

The Search

We spend our days searching. Searching for answers and places. Whether at work or on our own time, the day is filled with searching. Something to eat? Where will we sit? What’s on TV? Where is my life going? And most of the time we muddle through the food part and what’s on TV with out too much trouble. But life? That’s when I’m stumped.

Can’t find your keys? They will show up later when you aren’t looking for them. Shoe’s? They never get lost in pairs, but they will surface I promise. Friends? When you need them, they’ll be there. Not always easily found, and usually not the person you think it will be, but someone will be there for you. You may not realize it at the time, but they are there. Some random stranger that asks a question, or someone you wouldn’t consider a friend that suddenly comes up to you. Don’t worry, their intentions are good.

More often than not we have more questions than answers when it comes to ourselves. But the answers to most questions lie in each and every one of us. But those answers are to other people’s questions. We are the friend when someone is in need. And the one who misplaced your keys…

Friends are Family

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This past week has brought back a lot of memories, as a close friend of mine lost his sister. We all grew up together in the sleepy little town of  White City and our two families were pretty close.  A town where we all know each other anyway, but this is different. Russ’s dad and my dad worked together and commuted to work in their old Chevy pickups, only back then they weren’t that old. In the seventies a ’67 wasn’t that old! Russ and I were in the same class and Leah was in my sister’s class. Growing up with the Sams’ was cool. Russ and I rode bicycles until motorcycles came along and then it was “game on”. Lot’s of dust and wheelies through the summers mixed in with trips to the Council Grove Lake. Where else but small town America can you ride twenty miles to the lake on the tailgate of a pickup? Right down the highway, tennis shoes touching the asphalt and facing cars as they came up behind you. Good times.

Our house or theirs, it didn’t matter. Ralph and Joyce and Jean and Sammy were our folks and as a kid I couldn’t ask for more. But as we grew older and our lives started to change, so did the connection we had. Years passing with a blink of an eye as our own families grew and Russ and his wife Kay moved away. On many occasions they would return and  a handshake and a hug got us caught up on what we’ve missed. Friends like this need no introduction. We all have them, but we don’t usually recognize them. They are there and we take them for granted. I over-heard Russ say after the amazing service celebrating Leah’s life “why does it take something like this to bring us all together?” He’s right.

Last night Russ and his son Jeremy and daughter Whitney came over to my house. We talked about White City, his property in Skiddy, dogs, senior pictures, owl tattoos and mutual friends.We talked about Leah and how her husband Jim was getting along, but mostly we just talked. In an hour of talking with my friend, we made up for several years of being away from each other. So much was said in the small talk, but you really had to listen to the conversation. As if reading between the lines I heard the words Life, Love, Friendship and God. Russ you are my friend. Truly. Leah, you will be missed until we meet again!