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Picture #2 Dad entertaining the neighborhood

If you’re a baby boomer, especially if you’re a baby boomer, remembering the days of your youth is becoming more of a challenge with each passing day. But now is the time you want to remember those days more than ever. Those were the days of playing with siblings and friends; running around the neighborhood and knowing whose backyard was off-limits and which neighbor would squeal to your parents if they saw you doing anything just a little mischievous. Do you remember the day your dad set up the wading pool in your backyard and all the neighbor kids stood in line for their turn to be thrown into the two foot deep water? You want to remember those days because the memories are pleasant and they make you laugh out loud. I’m not one to recommend living in the past, but an occasional visit there can be medicinal. Because you have a hard time remembering and because a little self indulgence never hurt anyone, I would recommend my two memoirs: Little Heathens and Always a Little Heathen. For some reason I was blessed with a great memory and because of that, I was inspired to write down these stories from my youth. And from the feedback I’ve received, stories from your youth as well. When I talk to someone, usually my age, who has read the books, and I ask them if they laughed, they immediately smile and begin laughing as they recall some of the stories from the book and how the stories related to their own childhood. Life is stressful and dark enough, why not let a little sunshine in. Here’s what one person had to say after reading Little Heathens:

“I read the bulk of your book while vacationing at the shore … it was a fun book to read and your memories sparked many in my household (little sister, included … she was the one who was always picked on and would do ANYTHING we asked of her !!!  Bless her heart !! 🙂  ).You reminded me much of a brother who was 11/2 years older than I, a wrestler, and a real dickens for our folks !!  My favorite which my husband and I still chuckle about comes everytime we hear the ice cream fella drive through our neighborhood … you hanging on for dear life  ….  STOP … I WANT ICE CREAM !!!!!  Arriving home to find your war wounds were for naught, as your little brother munched down on his ice cream !!!  Some things just aren’t fair in this life – ha !!”

The ice cream truck story she can’t get out of her head? Here is the excerpt:

In another chapter, I mentioned that the Good Humor ice
cream truck made regular runs through the neighborhood. I also
mentioned that it was a rare occasion when we were behaved
enough that Mom would give us money for an ice cream bar.
Well, this particular day, the stars were aligned perfectly. I
heard the Good Humor truck from a few blocks away. The tune
that came out of the truck, alerting the kids that he was soon
approaching, was a melody that not only stirred up excitement,
but was one of those melodies that stuck with you long after you
heard it. It was as if the Pied Piper of Hamelin was wandering
through the neighborhood, luring kids to their eventual doom at
the hands of the Good Humor man. I can still whistle the tune
today.

Anyway, I got excited as the truck got closer and closer to
our street. I knew that I had been pretty good lately, that morning
to be specific, and there was a slight possibility that Mom would
come up with enough change to allow us to buy the coveted ice
cream of our choice. The truck was now on our street and had
stopped. Kids came running from near and far with dollar bills
clinched between their grubby little fingers. I turned to Kathy
and instructed her, “Kathy, run home and see if Mommy has
any money, and if she does, if she’ll let us have any for some ice
cream. Hurry!” Kathy, obstinate as usual answered, “No, you go.”
Kathy was indeed an independent little cuss. I turned to Timmy
next, “Timmy, run home to Mommy and get some money for
ice cream. Hurry! I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the truck.”
Timmy, eager for some ice cream, responded, “Okay. I’uh be back.
Don’t wet the twuck weave.”

So the kids, one after another, picked out their favorite ice
cream bar (on the inside of the door, there were pictures of all
the favorite bars, so even the little kids could pick one without
knowing the name), gave the driver their money, stuck the change
in their other hands, and walked by those still in line, licking
their ice cream with a triumphant grin on their faces. I was at
this point getting a little nervous; Timmy still hadn’t come back
with the money, and the line was dwindling. I couldn’t leave to
go find Timmy. What if the truck drove away? I was getting very
agitated and panicky. Finally, the last kid paid their money, and
as they walked by me with ice cream in hand, stuck out their
tongue. The driver looked at me and said: “Hey, kid, you want to
buy some ice cream or not?” I blurted out in a panic, “I don’t have
any money, but don’t leave; someone’s coming with some money.”
“Sorry kid, I’ve got a big day in front of me and this stop’s taken
longer than I planned. Gotta go.” I couldn’t let him go and cried
out, “Noooo! I want some ice cream. Wait!”

As the truck started driving away, with the wonderful,
melodious tune beginning to warn the next street that the ice
cream truck was on the way, I made a decision; one that in
retrospect wasn’t too bright. I ran after the truck, shouting for
the driver to stop, but the truck kept going, slowly driving down
the street. The truck was going so slow that I finally caught up
with it and then I did it. I grabbed hold of the bumper with
both hands, planning to do what, I’m not sure (I think I had just
watched a Mighty Mouse cartoon and thought that I could grab
the truck, pick it up, and shake it so that ice cream bars would fall
all over the neighborhood and all the kids would love me), but I
planted both feet on the ground and amazingly enough the truck
didn’t stop. It kept right on going, and I kept right on holding,
and eventually, the truck dragged me down the street with me
yelling, “Stop. Stop. I want some ice cream. Timmy’s coming with
some money!”

The driver must have finally realized there was something
wrong at the rear of the truck, and he stopped and got out to
see what was going on. As he stepped around to the back of
the truck, he found me, still hanging on to the bumper, tears
streaming down my face, knees ripped raw from the asphalt. I
don’t remember his exact words (something like, “Hey kid, get
out of here”), but I immediately let go of the bumper and ran
home crying all the way. When I came into the house and got to
the kitchen where Mom was, I glanced over at the kitchen table,
and there was Timmy, eating a bowl of ice cream. I was expecting
some sympathy from Mom, what with the torn-up knees and
other scrapes and bruises, but got nothing of the kind. “Ronnie,
where have you been and why are your knees scraped up?” was all
she could say to me. I replied indignantly, “The ice cream truck
was driving away and I tried to stop it.” Not surprised in the
least, Mom replied, “Ronnie, go to the bathroom and grab the
Merthiolate. I’ll be right in.”

I went to the bathroom (along with little sympathy), and when
Mom got there, she applied her usual remedy for all cuts and
scrapes: Merthiolate! Rather than apply a salve or ointment that
made the sore feel better, Mom applied a substance that burned
like fire! I believe Merthiolate was invented by the same man who
invented the rack, crucifixion, and burning at the stake.
Merthiolate came in a glass bottle with a glass applicator,
and once this bright reddish-orange substance was applied to
the wound (it would stain the skin and remain for days, long
after the wound had healed), no matter how much the injury
originally hurt, it would now hurt worse and the pain would be
almost unbearable. The pain was so intense that the skin would
shiver at the application.

Dad, especially, was fond of using Merthiolate (there were
other less painful remedies such as tincture of iodine, but none
of those would do. Apparently, if it didn’t cause extreme pain, it
wasn’t effective) and usually had a smile on his face while doing
so. Little did we know it at the time, but Merthiolate contained
a poisonous substance called thimerosal, and in the late 1990s,
the FDA banned Merthiolate in all over-the-counter products. I
suppose we did our part for science. With us around, who needed
guinea pigs?

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