• After Many a Summer

    Summer came in last week, on June 21st, and the MontereyPeninsula welcomed her in proper form. The days were halcyon, the evenings clear and comfortable.  We know better to become accustomed to this gift from Mother Nature, today it is chilly and breezy.  Tomorrow there is a thirty percent chance of rain and we will don warm jackets.

    When I was in school and the vacation time arrived, I, as were my classmates, was excited to welcome the freedom from drudgery, in the very early days it was coloring, as I aged, math became my nemesis.  I was happy to escape for a few months.  Life was so different then, it is hard to understand how things have changed so much. There was no terror associated with children being “off the reservation”.  Youngsters could play outside without fear.  Each person has his/her own theories as to what has happened, but this is not a political column so I won’t tell you mine.

    While we were stationed at Governors Island and lived in a beautiful old house on the sea wall, my best friends were Olaf Andersen, Howard Eichelsdoerfer, and Michael Collins. Olaf was my age, a curly haired tot, Howard a few years years older and Michael (who later circled the moon), I loved with the intensity of my five year old heart.

    There was a bachelor colonel, Joe Dalton, who lived across the street, a long steep lawn stretched down to the side walk from his house.  Uncle Joe, as we called him, loved to have us play in his yard.  We would roll down the hill with delight.  Sadly when I was six, we left our home and traveled to Arizona and Ft.Huachuca in the mountains near the Mexican border, just a few miles from Bisbee, and south of Tucson by 100 miles.  Huachuca was seasonal, blizzards in the winter, heat in the summer, but it was beautiful.  During the summers we would climb the mountains behind the post, hide in the caves, swim in the wonderful pool and drive our mothers crazy.  Not many places to go, nor much to do.  It was the days of intense segregation, the infantry enlisted men were African Americans and were housed in barracks, no families permitted; although some lived off base and some in the maid’s quarters in the homes of the officers (all Caucasian) for whom they worked.  My father was post adjutant and was on the eve of becoming a colonel when he was hit by the flu which developed into pneumonia.  There being no hospital on the base the army, in its infinite wisdom, shipped him by train from Bisbee to El PasoTexas, a journey of two days to the hospital at Ft Bliss from which he would not return.

    We moved to Tucson, my mother and I, into a small apartment, as she was given a week to clear out the huge house, move her furniture and leave.  To her credit she pulled herself together and accomplished all that was necessary, ultimately purchasing a home near the university which would accommodate most of her belongings, her child, whom she was getting to know, and enable her to have animals, which joined us in abundance.  Most of the summers in Tucson were brutally hot.  After a few years we moved to the country, next door to our best friends, the Porters (their home is now Tucson’s botanical gardens), a family of three daughters, my age or close. There was a swimming pool where I spent many days working on a tan.

    We also visited our family (my mother’s older brother and my cousins) in PebbleBeach.  Until I was old enough to enjoy night life (permitted, I should say), I didn’t much enjoy those visits.  Children were not welcome in adult gatherings, they had no friends with young offspring and my cousins were much older.  Mary and I are now very close, but she was either away or certainly not interested in a little girl.  However, it was beautiful and my thirst for reading paid off.

    Some summers were spent in San Jacinto where there were other relatives, Mothers sister and another brother (much older than she).  Mother was the youngest of eight, six of whom remained, her older sister was twenty-two years her senior.  Uncle Sam was the closest and, even he being eight years older was away at school during most of her childhood.  None the less they bonded and remained devoted until his death on Mother’s Day, 1969.

    The summers which meant the most to me and which I remember with clarity were in Shelbyville, Indiana.  I mentioned Howard Eichelsdoerfer early in this column.   His mother, Mary was my God Mother.  She had grown up in the little Midwestern town and, when Ike (her husband) retired, they moved into her childhood home.  Howard was in college and then the military.  I saw little of him until later in my life.  Shelbyville is a story into itself; it is an example of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. Although Booth Tarkington, whose Penrod series were once as well known as Mark Twain’s boys, was born in Indianapolis, Shelbyville claimed him as a resident at one time.  My next column will be devoted to summers in Indiana and some of the more interesting trips involving the visits.

    In the meantime enjoy the good weather every minute because in an hour it will have changed.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 28, 2013

    Topics: Animal Tales and Other Random Thoughts


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