Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reminiscing...part 3

David Crowder Band, Stars

Continuing with a series of posts I started this past week. This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 and part 2.

When our family moved to Bloomington in 1966 I'm not sure than any of us thought we'd be there very long. My dad had a history of moving us between Minnesota and Michigan every year or two. I suppose it was all a part of climbing in his position as a financial manager with Control Data. In Kindergarten and 1st grade I was in the same school. I was in a different school each year from 2nd grade through 5th grade. I'm not sure my parents even fully unpacked on some of our moves.

When we moved into our home on 102nd street there were no schools within walking distance but construction would begin on Hubert Olson Elementary/Jr. HS shortly after we arrived. Our little neighborhood was situated between Hubert Olson and the soon to be built Tomas Jefferson HS. Our days of moving from school to school were over even if we didn't yet know it. Stability is good.

Continuing with my walk through the schoolyards and my old neighborhood.

As I left the grounds of Hubert Olson I walked across the street to the southwest corner of Jefferson High School's property. I remember sitting on the hill in the photo to the left with Kurt Langer on the last day of 9th grade and talking about our plans for summer. Kurt's girlfriend, Colleen Morrison and my girlfriend, Sandie Jacobson, were best friends.

A few years earlier, before the highschool was built and before the hill was smoothed and sodded it was more of a cliff face. Mark Testin and I were there looking for skinks one day when we spotted one going down a hole in the dirt. When a skink is chased it will separate its body from its tail in hopes that the predator will go after the wiggling tail and not the body. We didn't let that fool us. We dug as fast as we could trying to get to the skink before it got too deep into the cliff face. In a matter of moments we were being swarmed by bees. The skink had gone down a yellowjacket nest similar to this one. We took off running up the street a quarter mile toward our homes all the while trying to slap and brush the stinging bees off of us. I was stung a dozen times or more but I had no adverse reaction. Mark had to spend the night in the hospital. I can remember seeing my mom drive by us in our station wagon while we were running home but I think she thought we were just having know...running and slapping ourselves at the same time. I can't ever remember having any nightmares about that incident.

Across from the hill and the track is a memorial for Tomas E. Burnett, Jr., class of 1981.

I can safely say there will never be any memorial for me at Jefferson no matter what heroic deed I may perform. I never left a mark; no legacy whatsoever. Pretty much all I've got to show for my time at Jefferson is an ability to type reasonably well and a damaged right knee.

The incident with my knee happened on the softball field which would be in the middle of this photo but the backstop and bases are gone now. I was batting when I hit the ball and ran for 1st base. There was loose gravel over hard-packed dirt and I slipped before I ever got out of the batter's box. I heard what sounded like somebody cracking their knuckles except that the noise came from my right knee and the pain was intense.

I'd torn ligaments and cartilage and would end up in a leg length cast for nearly a month to immobilize my knee. That was pretty much all they did back then or maybe that's all my insurance covered.

Anyway, I got out of the cast and I was doing well; even running a bit. Less than a month after having the cast removed I was walking down a grassy slope outside my apartment building with my hands full of stuff as I was in the process of moving. The grass was wet with dew and I slipped only to hear the familiar sound that cartilage and ligaments make when they're being damaged. I lay on the grass and I remember feeling nauseated because the pain was so bad. My leg would be put in another cast.

I'm still in recovery from that incident back in the summer of 1975. My knee will never be what it once was. Even with all the bicycling I do there's a noticeable difference in the size of my right and left quadriceps.

Just for the record. Never did the cast hinder me from getting behind the wheel of my Ford Maverick. My Maverick had a bench seat with a 3 on the tree transmission. I was able to stretch my right leg out over the bench seat and work the clutch, brake and gas with my left foot. Yes, I'm proud of that.

I walked along the south side of the school toward the balcony which overlooked what I think is supposed to be a courtyard. The facade on the balcony was crumbling; maybe from years of weather or maybe from kids picking at it. Below the balcony to the left was what we called 'the pit'. It was where kids could go light up. There would be a teacher stationed just inside the door but for what I'm not sure. It was no secret what the students were doing out there...even the pot smoking. A few from in the pit.

There wasn't much else to see of the school. I'd been inside it a few years ago when Rachel had a dance recital there. I wish I did but I don't have a lot of fond memories from highschool. I found it a complete waste of time; or so I thought. The opportunities were there but I was too immature to take advantage of them. I regret that.

The walk back to my truck parked in the culdesac took me past the tennis courts. I paused when I came to Mielke's backyard opposite the courts. I believe they still live there. I looked for activity around their house as I'd intended to stop and say hello but I never saw anyone. Their backyard was the scene for the one and only time I ever saw my dad threaten somebody.

My brother, Keith (the one on the left), was maybe 7 or 8 at the time and he did something for which Mr. Mielke wanted me to tell my parents about. I can't remember what it was but I didn't see Keith do it and I told Mr. Mielke that I wasn't going to tell on Keith or some such words. I was being a smart-ass more than anything. He grabbed the collar of my shirt and made it clear that I would convey his unhappiness with my brother to my parents. He was being heavy-handed.

When my dad got home I told him what had happened. Together we went over there and my dad walked into Mielke's backyard where Mr. Mielke was sitting on the back step. I can still hear my dad say, "If there's any shirt pulling to be done around here I'll be the one doing it", wanna piece of me? Mr. Mielke got up from the step and went inside and that was that. Somewhere along the way they made amends.

I got to my truck but decided that I wanted to see if it was possible to walk around the school's pond across the street from our home. I hopped the fence and got beyond the heavy growth to find a path. I used to love to spend time here as a kid. Tadpoles, snakes, frogs, turtles, anything that moved in there had my interest. I actually hatched a mosquito larva once in a fishbowl next to my bed. I came into my room to find the newly emerged mosquito stretching its wings on the rim of the bowl. I let it go.

One sad note for me...the shoreline of the pond is where I buried my pet rat, Topo; named after Topo Gigio from the Ed Sullivan Show. I actually stopped to see if I could find the approximate spot where I'd buried him. I could do an entire post on Topo. He wasn't just an ordinary lab rat. He was one of two rats in my 4th grade classroom and I got to keep him when the school year was done.

A few days ago I wrote a letter to the owners of our old home to ask if they could accommodate my mom and me on a tour of their home. I'm still hoping to arrange that but I'll understand if they decline.


Tim said...

Just curious, Kev. Did you hang out in the pit or just hear about it?

Kevin said...

What do you think?

Tim said...

Well, I don't recall you ever having said you smoked (cigarettes), but from some of your unpublished stories it seems like the sort of place and people you might have been inclined to hang around in at that time.

Kevin said...

Yes, after breaking up with Sandie during Christmas break in my junior year I stopped hanging with the group I'd been with and found a new home and friends in 'the pit'.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. It was great reading it and viewing the pics. I also grew up in this neighborhood but was about 15 years after you. I remember the Opstad family. Thanks for the memories.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Anon...thanks for your nice comments. Byron Opstad died a few years ago. His wife was still living there the last I checked. I did notice that the split rail fence my father put in around the lot was recently removed. As kids we'd see if we could walk all around the property on top of the fence rails. Did you live in one of the homes in the neighborhood?