It’s always funny how we see things from our past. Whether it’s actually true or not, is irrelevant. We wouldn’t want truth to interfere with the romance of the past.
Back in the olden days of my youth, a bicycle was usually the first thing I was attached to each morning, and the last thing I put away each night. Back then, we wouldn’t dream of asking a parent to drive us somewhere. Maybe it’s because we knew the answer we’d get, but I seem to remember relishing in the freedoms of a simpler time, when a kid could be a kid without fear of today’s risks.
This story reflects on some of my fonder memories of growing up in Cole Camp, MO…and as I am thinking of a bike ride as I type…my first story of memories will begin with a ride downtown.
This morning, I’ll stop at the site of the present day firehouse. I can still taste the strawberry Nehi soda from the machine outside Bob Balke’s MFA Station that sat there in the days of my youth. Since it came from a returnable bottle, I usually drank it there, while seeing if Bob was changing someone’s oil in the outdoor grease rack. It not, maybe there’d be a “new” addition to the pile of junk tires. There was always something interesting there. I might even get to watch him fix a flat. Some of my earliest memories there, were after mowing Grandpa Fred’s lawn. He would send me with a quarter and a gallon jug to get gas for the mower. It’s hard to imagine now, but he always told me to get a bottle of soda, too. Until a few years later, I always gave him back a couple pennies change from those visits. Gas wars would, at times, bring the price of gasoline down to 12 cents. At the same time, you could still buy that strawberry Nehi for a nickel.
Before I stay too long at Bob’s MFA, I better ride up to Ervin & Nadine Bohling’s “Black & White Market”. They should have the new issue of “The Sporting News” in today. Since I also mowed their lawn at home, where Lowell Barnes currently lives, I usually talked to Ervin as he cut meat at his table. There was always something fascinating about that. A special thrill came in later days for me, when I bought this building to house my gift shop, “Olde Towne Treasures”.
Before the morning slipped away, I had to check to see if the bear was still safely contained behind glass at “Boatwright’s Store”, more recently the home of “Der Essen Platz”. Mr. Boatwright was apparently quite the hunter, as he also had a tiger pelt hung from the bannister upstairs. Kind of spooky, but we kids couldn’t resist checking them out.
Next door, Lyle & Marie Webb’s “Variety Store” was also on my agenda. They carried some pretty interesting pocket knives, and G.I. Joe accessories. Lyle always had a funny story to tell, and Marie always put up with my visits so kindly.
My mom had a strict rule that I be home for lunch at 11:30, so my stops to check for any new Tonka toys, across the street, at Leroy Hagston’s “Western Auto” (current home of “Handel Haus”), and Raymond & Arlene Schlesselman’s “Cole Camp Hardware” would have to be quick.
A trait I acquired at an early age, was the gift to gab. This always made it tough to abide by any real schedule, and many times the sound of the Noon Whistle send me tearing home at top speed, knowing I was late again. Mom knew I was out visiting, so she never could act mad at me very convincingly. She also knew I had to get lunch over with, so I could get back out on my bike.
On any given summer afternoon, game time for the neighborhood baseball game was generally 1:00, so I headed across the street to Jess Metcalf’s vacant field. The neighborhood kids all pitched in to keep it mowed, and we even had real bases that had been worn out at the school ball field. I can still see Dennis Brockman finishing his ever present peanut butter & jelly sandwich, as we picked up sides for the game. The field was complete with outfield fence, which ran along the alley. Wrigley Field had nothing on us, as the back of Ervin & Nadine Bohling’s yard had an ivy that bordered our right field foul line. The third base line presented an unusual hazard, seen in few big league parks across the country. There was a small pond right beside third base. We all talked about filling it in someday. But then, where would a group of kids get that much dirt? So, we occasionally would take a dive while chasing a foul ball. Some of the drier summers would address that issue, however, as the pond dried up. These games usually would up being called by darkness….or supper time.
In those days, before the current “Good Samaritan Care Center” stood on its present day site, the circus came to that spot once a year. Of course, games were understandably cancelled for those days. Baseball even takes a back seat to seeing live elephants in Cole Camp. Well, as it was back in that day, I’ve only touched on a bit of what I’d hoped. But I’m only allowed so much space, so my boyhood journey will have to resume in some other story. I’ll leave my bike at home next time.