... early Gary
It's been a long trip from my boyhood home in Western Pennsylvania to this small town in Iowa. For the first 18 years, 5 Old Ox Road in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania marked the beginning followed by four years in Bowling Green, Ohio at Bowling Green University with summers in Dayton, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio. Then the journey began: Columbia, Missouri; Whitewater, Wisconsin; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; Bedford (Dallas-Fort Worth area), Texas; Paducah, Kentucky; Sioux City, Iowa; and - finally - Lamoni, Iowa. No matter the time since or the miles between - the roots are still in Pittsburgh!
Everyone starts out as a baby ... honest - even if our kids can't believe we were once young and did stuff. That's probably the only baby picture of me in existence. And it probably was taken when the camera fell on the ground and accidentally clicked off an exposure. Or ... it's my brother, and they (my parents) told me it was me so I wouldn't feel bad. See - Im the youngest of three boys - my bothers were born five and seven years before me. MISTAKE! Never denied - even acknowledged. But this isn't a whine - life wasn't about pictures then. Or birth control. I mean cameras were just boxes - film had to be developed. No instamatics even - certainly no digital. No Facebook. We didn't care about yesterday - just today.
5 Old Ox Road
Anyway ... once upon a time ... in a city far ... far away - in a strange time and era - the beginning. 5 Old Ox Road - Bethel Park - Pennsylvania. During the late 40's, 50's, and early 60's, America was a country of regions. Pittsburgh was in a region known as the Tri-State region covering parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Regions had their own culture and language. I was born in a suburb of Pittsburgh in the Tri-State region in a town called Bethel Park. Almost 34,000 people now live there. Eighteen percent are over 65. The racial make-up was/is predominately white.
Bethel Park's claim to fame is that the first armored car robbery in the U.S. occurred there on March 11, 1927 when a Brinks truck, heading towards the Coverdale Mine about a mile away was attacked. Paul Jaworski and his Flatheads gang destroyed the road with dynamite to steal the mining payroll.
Bethel Park is described as being affluent. I don't remember ever feeling affluent. Heck ... we only had a one car garage because we only had one car, one tv for the longest time - black and white ... my brother remembers when we didn't have any tv - when there was only one tv in the neighborhood & that neighbor invited the neighborhood kids over to watch cartoons on Saturday morning. (Today we'd worry that he was a pedophile.) Three tv channels (CBS, NBC, ABC) - and sometimes Johnston and Wheeling would come in. Then PBS. Absolute deprivation - how could anyone consider that affluent?
It didn't cost a lot in those days, though. McDonalds: Pure Beef Hamburger - 15 ¢ Tempting Cheeseburger - 19 ¢ Triple-Thick Shakes - 20 ¢ Golden French Fries - 10 ¢. 25 ¢ a gallon gas. 10 ¢ for a loaf of bread. Postage stamp 4 ¢. At the end of the 50's, the Federal minimum wage was $1.00. The average American worker earned $91.53 a week in 1959.
Back Row: Mum & Dad
Front Row; Don, Me, & Dave
This is who we were - probably in the early 50's - just an average family with three boys. We called my mother Mum. Now, the only time someone calls his/her mother Mum is on PBS. It comes from our family's English background - we also had a lot of Irish, Welsh, and Scottish. Methodist. I guess that makes me a WASP. Dave was born in June 1940 and Don in September 1942. Because they were five and seven years older than me, it was almost like having two families. In fact, I was the first of the Baby Boomer generation - they were the last of theirs.
Most of the time, we got along, but sometimes I got picked on - usually ... and mercilessly ... when playing ping pong or badminton. My nickname which was Nick came from my temper outburst during the competitions. It seemed like I acted like Nikita Khrushchev when he banged his shoes on the table at the UN. So ... first Nikita - then Nick.
Dave is the only member of my immediately family living today. I always feel bad for anyone who doesn't have a big brother. But then I I feel bad for those who do because they don't have a big brother like mine.
Family was a big part of growing up. ... especially grandparents and cousins. Here, Creed cousins (Back Row: Jeff Creed, Don Rees, Dave Rees, Grandma, Gramps, Doug Creed, & Don Creed - Bottom Row: Leah Creed, Me with Michael Creed on my lap, & Cathy Creed) surround the Creed grandparents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We called them Grandma and Gramps - sometimes he was Ampie. He didn't care what we called him - he just loved all his grandchildren and let us get away with murder. Grandma Creed was the cake grandma. My grandmother Rees was the pie and cookie grandmother. She made the best blue berry and lemon meringue pies. When she died, those recipes died with her. I remember when my Uncle Don and Aunt Nancy moved to Warren, PA. I couldn't believe it - I mean didn't we all live in Pittsburgh ... near each other? Family stayed close - they didn't move far away! Now, everyone moves far away.
Remembering growing up as a baby boomer - anyone born between 1946 and 1964 ... . The Wonderful World of Disney was a Sunday evening ritual. I remember Davy Crockett - King of the Wild Frontier. We all played Davy Crockett through the yards of our neighborhood. Jeff Gilfillan, my best friend, had a coonskin cap. That's Jeff (standing) and me - he's wearing that darned cap! & I was so envious of him. I still don't let him live it down. Every once in a while I send him this picture wearing the cap with a few still jealous words. After mum died, Jeff's mom & my dad married. That made Jeff my brother - which was probable fitting. Jeff moved to NC recently, & I haven't seen him in a while. But I think of him often.
Sometimes I wonder, though - if I would have had a coonskin cap, how different would I have truned out - how different would my life have been?
Can't forget Howdy Doody show with Buffalo Bob and the Peanut Gallery - I was so mad when the Republican Nation Convention pre-empted it. & the Mickey Mouse Club. Father Knows Best. Dobie Gillis. I Love Lucy. The Three Stooges. Lassie! Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. The Twilight Zone. Buster Brown shoes I'm Buster Brown, I live in a shoe and here's my dog, Tige, he lives there too. Johnny Carson. Bob Dylan walking off the Ed Sullivan Show. We watched them all on a console TV set with no remote.
Camping outside in the back yard. Playing hide and seek. Trampoline pits. Baseball cards on bicycle spokes. The drug store with the soda fountain in it. 4 square in the driveway. In the summer, you got up, did your chores, and took off. Home for lunch (maybe) - back for supper. Then right back out the door until dark - or later. Those were such wonderful, carefree days.
In high school we had a gang. & I remember the one of the worst things I did was put gold fish in the baptismal font with one of my gang members, Tom Panner. We later confessed to our minister. He didn't seem to care - he was just glad we went to church. We had fun and did crazy things - like dressing up like cheer leaders. I remember 45's - that's records - to go along with record hops. Dick Clark & American Bandstand. Shindig and Hullabaloo featuring the biggest acts in rock-n-roll performing their latest hits. Double Features. Drive In Movies. Parking and necking. Penny Loafers & being cool ... or at least trying to be.
Mimi ~ 1965
Gary ~ 1965
At the first senior party, early summer, right after our junior year in high school, Bill Rennekamp, one of my best friends, told me he had fixed me up with Mimi to go to the demolition derby the next weekend. There was a code, though - there was always a code. I was to ask her if I could get her some French Fries, and she would say yes. Mimi was cool, & I was afraid I wasn't cool enough. I needed a date. So ... I walked over to her - not exuding confidence, asked her if she wanted some French Fries. & she said no - she already had had enough to eat. Sh** - I thought, sh**, that b****** Rennekamp has set me up again. (I mean what were friends in high school for if that couldn't embarrass their buddy?) But with a small smile, she said she would be happy to go over with me to get some. I didn't want any fries, either ... but I thought I had a date. Demolition Derby the next week ... together all through that summer, our senior year and the summer before college. So, Mimi, the first love of my life, said it best when she signed my yearbook with this quote: Time takes all but the memories.
It was an exciting and wonderful time that ended all too soon ... probably when Bob Dylan walked off Ed Sullivan ... or the arrival of The Beatles & the British music invasion ... or the Viet Nam War ... or growing up.
& it was good-bye to innocence. But, thank goodness, time does take all but the memories.