As a young impressionable child I was easily influenced by my immediate surroundings and environment. I was not influenced by television as we didn’t have one back in those days. If one family in the neighborhood had a TV they always had plenty of visitors to watch a snowy black and white screen. Radio was our only mass communication along with weekly trips to the movies, comic books and family stories around the dinner table.
And then there were my sister and a bunch of girls in the neighborhood. As I’ve written before I was all the time trying to run away to keep them from dressing me up like a girl. It was difficult holding on to my male station in life.
My sister and her friend, Katie Taggart who had a younger sister, Anna Ruth, decided they were going to have a neighborhood wedding with Anna Ruth and me as the lucky couple. As five-year-olds we didn’t even know what the word, marry, meant. Katie and my sister proceeded to dress us up and preform the ceremony. Anna Ruth and I were more interested in the freshly baked cookies waiting nearby.
Soon after that episode I decided to pursue my heroes like Roy Rogers, Tonto, Flash Gordon, Superman and others. You could listen to their radio shows every Saturday morning.
My first phase has followed me all through life, the cowboy phase. Dad put a toy gun in my hand at about four and took me to see numerous cowboy movies. Mom dressed me up like a miniature Roy Rogers. I rode around the yard on an old broomstick shooting at imaginary villains or our pet dog.
I still have a closet full of cowboy boots and even a few of my old gun and holster sets and still love to watch an occasional black and white cowboy movie.
After the cowboy phase I decided I would rather be an Indian when mom told me we had a little Cherokee blood in our way back family from my grandmother’s North Carolina heritage.
Tonto was my first Indian hero. I asked mom if I could use her old lipstick to use as war paint decoration. It was great but a bugger to get off. Tonto helped out the Lone Ranger numerous times and I liked the way he talked. It didn’t take as many words to communicate. He talked in the first person. “Kemosabe, Tonto like sleep under stars. Tonto put ear to ground, listen for horses.”
One evening at dinner I was still in my Tonto outfit with a headdress full of feathers. Mom had cooked a batch of green peas which I hated.
I said, “Tonto no like green peas!”
Mom said, “Tonto’s mother go get switch.”
I ate the green peas. As anyone knows over the age of 55 what a switch is and what it can do.
Soon, as my summers wore on running from my sister and her friends, I developed more knowledge and maturity in social interaction. What that means is, I learned how to trick my sister and friends, hide and disappear. They soon grew bored of chasing me. They started looking for older boys and I was more or less left alone.
Dad was all the time taking pictures of the family. It was still exciting to actually capture a family moment on drugstore developed film in black and white. Color film was still too expensive.
In those days school started after Labor Day and when that day neared I switched from wearing my Indian shorts, no shirt or shoes into a more civilized pair of blue jeans, shirt and shoes with socks.
Each year mom always took us to the Buster Brown store to get a pair of school shoes. My very favorite pair was a two-toned brown lace up design. They made me feel more sophisticated like only a new pair of shoes can make you feel.
And about that time a smart toy manufacturer came out with wax lips, wax teeth and my favorite, a wax mustache. And somebody told me good athletes were all a little pigeon-toed. Thus I went through my wax mustache and pigeon- toed era walking in my new shoes toed-in, tripping and slurping on wax lips.
Walking pigeon toed and wearing slimy wax lips and mustache disappeared the first day of school. Oh the memories.