My Grandfather’s story continues with his high school years and a very memorable moment for him.
One day I acquired from our washerwoman a little half breed Fox terrier pup which I named Spot. He was a bright little fellow and I taught him many tricks; rollover, play dead, chase his tail, not touch the most tempting morsel held in front of him until I gave permission, bag, shake hands, speak, come to heal, stay put until I called, etc. He was quite a show off and one day I dressed him up a little jacket and pants like a monkey, with a little hat, got out an old hand organ of my father’s that played music roles, and with myself dressed as an organ grinder, called on several neighbors who did not recognize us at first and seemed to derive much amusement from the performance until Spot’s pants fell down and we were recognized.
I now attended high school which was a long walk from our house and sometimes when I started late I would have to run part of the way to get there on time. (They didn’t take children to school on buses in those days). Possibly it was this occasional spurt of running that gave me the idea, furthered by reading of the marathon runners in Greek history. Possibly the metals I had won for distance running at Sunday school picnics had encouraged the idea.
However, I was never very active in athletics and reticent about pushing myself forward, so it wasn’t until our high school talent scout, spurred by the upcoming intercity high school athletic meet to which all of the surrounding towns sent their best contestants, persuaded me to train for a mile race. From then on I ran back and forth from high school until I felt in top condition. The great day came – the biggest event of the school year – and while nervous and none to confident,
I lined up with the contestants from eight other schools in the county. BANG! went the starting gun and we were off. I don’t recall how many laps it took to equal a mile, but my strategy for the first few was to merely keep up with the majority and save my reserve powers for the final laps. This I did and finally found only one runner ahead of me. I put all I had into it but my utmost brought me in second. However there seemed to be some controversy among the judges until it was officially announced that I was the winner, the other fellow having cut a corner on one of the laps.
This caused a bitter argument between the two top schools involved, Mt. Vernon running about neck and neck in total points with its nearest competitor and on the decision of this race hung the balance and my role therefore assumed undue import. Anyway my schoolmates in their enthusiasm hoisted me on their shoulders and, being the hero of the day, escorted me all the way home.
I was understandably quite proud of the gold medal awarded me and was bitterly disappointed when wearing it as a watch fob to a dance a few days later, it was either lost or stolen. I suspected the latter because some of the folks from the rrival school were also present and in spite of the thorough search of the dance Hall that night and subsequent ads in the local paper offering a reward for its return, nothing came of it. I don’t think my name have yet been engraved on it.
Later a vague rumor reached me that the boy who had lost out was seen wearing the medal but this was never verified. To have achieved success in a field of which I never expected either by temperament or ability to shine and have nothing to prove that it wasn’t just a fantasy was deeply disappointing and to some extent illogically disgusted me with high school and everything connected with it.
Then too, I did not get top marks in all my subjects, and this hurt my pride. I was very good in English, history and German; so-so in math; and terrible in drawing; fair in biology. Also I became more and more obsessed with the idea that my duty and responsibility was to get out and earn my own keep instead of continuing to be a burden financially to my mother; thus I would sooner be able to feel I was really helping to support my mother as it was my duty to do.
Grandpa’s story will continue next weekend.
Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters that were written in the summer of 1942. Lad is training at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland and Dan is at Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Ced is still in Alaska, continuing to get deferments for his work on a Military Air Field, Dick and Dave are still in Trumbull with Grandpa.
Why not share this historical “Slice of Life” with a friend or family member. They might appreciate it.