While growing up in Klamath, I played in the dirt and mud, got my ass whipped with a belt, razor-strop or a switch that I had to select, started my school day at MKS with the ‘Pledge of Allegiance,’ used paper bags to cover my school books, had an enforced bedtime, and rode in the bed of Dad’s pick-up truck. I played in Hunter and High Prairie Creek and the Klamath River, swam in the Pacific ocean at DeMartin’s Beach, rode my bicycle, skated and skateboarded without a helmet or knee and elbow pads up and down Redwood Drive and around Azalea Drive, hung out in the sun without protection, returned glass milk and soda bottles, so they could be sent back to the plant to be washed, sterilized, refilled, and used again.
As a kid, I watched ‘M*A*S*H,’ ‘The Walton’s,’ ‘All in the Family,’ ‘Hee Haw,’ ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ and the first few years of ‘SNL,’ had a crush on Twiggy, Marie Osmond and Kate Jackson, and only watched cartoons, like ‘The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour,’ ‘Johnny Quest,’ ‘Flintstones,’ and ‘The Rocky-Bullwinkle Show,’ on Saturday mornings, and we had only one TV with only three TV channels (KEET, KIEM, and KVIQ,) and no remote.
I also recorded my favorite music onto cassettes, from KPOD and KRED during the day, KRAK and KEX at night, and a record player with 33-1/3, 45 and 78 rpm on it.
Often my parents sent me to Woodland Villa to buy their cigarettes, which means I lived in a home with second-hand smoke, and by age nine I was washing my sister’s diaper because we didn’t have the throw-away kind, hanging them on the line outside to dry. I was also given the chore of washing and folding all my families clothing.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Mom taught me to blend and stir stuff by hand, using a manual hand-mixer, how to cook dinner and how to set a proper table by her standards. Later she taught me how to sew and iron.
Back in the day, we packaged fragile items to mail by wadding up old newspapers to cushion it. I also had to use a push mower to cut the lawn, I drank from the garden hose, and later played Hide-and-Seek, Freeze-Tag, Kick-the-Can, Red Rover, Hop Scotch, Simon Says, Jacks, ‘Jarts,’ ( those large metal yard darts,) while staying outside all day long, only having to be home by the time the sun went down and the vapor street lamps buzzed on.
I didn’t go to summer camp every year and we made ice cream, using rock salt, every summer.
No one wore seat belts in the back seat and I sat in the middle of the front seat of the car and truck, in Dad’s lap as a little boy, while manning the steering wheel. I also played on metal slides, hung upside down on the jungle gym and bailed out of the swings, scaled fences, climbed trees, played in the woods, jumped off the roof and owned a B-B gun (and never put my eye out.)
Adam and I also jumped on our bunk bed until it collapsed; we ate unwrapped candy given to us by people at the bank, the insurance office or some stores in Crescent City and left to wait in the car for what felt like hours while our parents shopped for groceries at Kacy’s, Jerricks or Pacific Market. I also made and drank stove-top percolated coffee before I was nine, was a latch-key kid before it became a concern, and remember pull-tabs (ever cut your foot after stepping on one down by the river in the Klamath Glen?) and beer and soda steel cans.
As gross, stupid, silly or nostalgic as it sounds, I picked my nose, flicked my boogers, tried cutting my hair when no one was looking, and shaved my face without permission, then thought I had committed suicide when I splashed on a handful of Old Spice on my freshly nicked face. I sang into my toothbrush, used a pay-phone, paying a dime for that call, bought my comic books at Woodland Villa, searched the Squeeze Boxes record bin for bargains, paid a penny at the bubble-gum machine in the Ben Franklin 5 & Dime, ate all the Halloween candy I collected, dreamed of being an astronaut, policeman, fireman, and a hero, wrote in cursive, used a No. 2 pencil and filled in the bubbles on a Scranton test and thought I was special when I was given a hand calculator for Christmas.
There was a time when I played table football with a folded paper triangle, avoided stepping on sidewalk cracks, blew milk bubbles, shot rubber bands at my brother and sisters, let the dog lick my face, used sticks as swords, rocks and pine-cones as hand-grenades and fingers as guns, played combat fighting the Germans, built forts in the woods, the backyard and in the house and climbed trees to the top. I also wrote on my skin, my jeans and my tennis-shoes, worked on my bicycle with Dad’s tools, used a paper map and a compass and our home had a dictionary, a set of encyclopedias, an atlas and a family bible.
I didn’t have a personal computer, a cell phone, or 24-hour TV and I have to say — my childhood was frickin’ fantastic!