Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Not So Social Security

Social Security...

For some it (Social Security) is Facebook and maybe I have been guilty of going there also to see if what I am up to matters to anyone besides me but my reasons are more about marketing my books and my internet radio station than trolling for reassurance that I am still as handsome as I ever was. That would be a waste of time anyway because I never was that handsome and if someone were to say that I haven't changed much since some time ago then I would have to step back and wonder exactly what they were trying to say. For example; I have an older sister who I will call Patty who has been telling me I am ugly since I was four years old and maybe even longer than that. I don't remember much about her before I was four but I do know that she has never called me "handsome."  

Indeed no one besides an old fat guy who was twice my age has called me that since I was 21. That happened one afternoon when I wandered into a gay bar and he looked at me and asked..."What'll ya have Handsome?"

I didn't let it go to my head because I figured he probably said that to every guy who bellied up to the bar; probably his way of just being social or hoping I would leave him a decent tip. But this post isn't about any of that, it is a follow-up to a story I wrote in a book in the summer of 2014; in fact it was released on my 62nd birthday and for obvious reasons it was called "62". I began writing that one in May and in early June I talked about looking forward to filing for Social Security benefits but expecting a long and complicated process from the Social Security Administration. I mean, after all, it is a tentacle of the United States government and anything that has that stamp on it is bound to be a messy process. 

I had heard horror stories about what others have had to endure when it was their time to ask for a little bit of the money back that the feds had sucked from their paychecks through the years and I expected  a similar experience when I predicted in that book that I would need to have the patience of Job and that I would have to bring my own scissors to cut through miles of red tape when it was my turn to get in line. They didn't let me down; it was worse than I wrote that it might be. It all started in April when I contacted the SSA to inquire about applying for my benefits 90 days before I turned 62. I was told by a gal that I could do that but I would be better off if I waited until 30 days before and that it would be a very simple process that I could do on line and like a dummy I believed her. I know I should have remembered that I was talking to a paid employee of an agency run by the U.S. government but I let my guard down and hung up, looking forward to going to their website on June 26. 

What I found was an application there that looked simple enough but by the second page became something far from being easy to navigate. Before I was half-way through the third page their system logged me off and invited me to try again. I did two more times and after the third attempt to make it to the 4th page I was advised that applicants are only given three tries before being blocked for ninety days. That was explained in a phone call to them that it was set up that way to prevent fraud and that if I still wanted my money I could set up an appointment for someone from the SSA to call me back within 60 to 75 days.

As they say on Facebook...WTF?

So I made the appointment and on September 15th they did call me back. In the book I wrote that I expected to be hammered hard by them because I had read that if I was receiving another retirement that I also paid into than my expected SS benefits would be reduced, regardless of what they owed me, and even though I paid into their system for more than 30 years I would be penalized and probably receive less than half of what I would have received if I took any of the money that was owed to me from the other system I paid into. They kept their word; I was shocked at the amount more than I expected I would be when we finally worked it out.

Sometime within the next 45 days I will receive something from them but I have already lost what I hoped I would get thirty days past my 62nd birthday. Their reason: I waited too long to file to qualify for it. But still I am happy; elated actually, because that step of becoming a senior citizen is done and because pretty soon I will at least get a few dollars more than I was getting every month. 

But this post isn't as much an attempt to bitch about all of that as much as it is a public service announcement of sorts. One for anyone contemplating applying for and receiving what is owed to them by Uncle Sam when the time comes for notifying him that you want it. The law says you can start the process ninety days before your 62nd birthday, something to consider. The other reason I have written this piece is because if you have read my book it left you hanging on this topic. I finished it and released it before this nightmare ended. I just figured someone might want to know how my prediction turned out when I wrote that I expected another bumpy road enroute to old age. I found it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dog Of The Future

By 1965 cars will be flying. Such was just one of the predictions of a twelve year old neighbor kid in 1961. 

For me the next four years were light years away. I was nine and I had no reason to doubt that he knew what he was talking about. I mean after all, he was almost a teenager and nearly a foot taller than me... and he did say that he read it in a magazine.

The future, just four years away. Wow!

Fast forward fifty one years, decades past my own clumsy teen years, a few marriages, three sons a couple of careers and then waking up on this day in 2012. Not only were we supposed to be flying around in automobiles and dressing like the Jetsons now, we were supposed to have telephones that would fit in our pockets and did not need cords.  Okay, we have those but I'm still wearing blue jeans and my car does not fly.

So much has happened in my lifetime that I often wonder how I did actually make it this far. For example; there is no way that the thought of losing my parents ever crossed my mind then, and certainly not in 1961 when that kid down the street was telling me what the magazine knew of the future. But I did lose them, Mom was the first to pass away in 1997 and I lost my dad the following year.

I always believed that they would outlive me because I would live some life of danger and that I would never be alive when this century rolled around. But here I am and I really cannot say that I am happy to have made it this far. As a kid I imagined the future as being a much better place than where we were then. A world full of excitement filled with people much more interesting than those I took for granted back then. Boy was I wrong. Instead of that I am in a world that I really don't think I will understand, one that disappoints me daily.

In this one where we are held hostage by oil companies who delight in draining the wallets and bank accounts of Americans by constantly raising prices at the pump, and where we celebrate promises of a better America that is coming. You know, the one that will never rival the one us older people remember from decades ago. 

Back when anyone who wanted a job could find one if they looked. I mean one that would allow them to provide for a family instead of accepting some minimum wage job that offers little or no benefits.

Attitudes have changed in overwhelming ways that many would argue are for the best for all of us. That argument gets bagged and put out with the trash anytime someone wants to waste their time presenting it to me. Aside from advances in the medical field that fewer and fewer people can afford to benefit from, or safer cars that fewer and fewer people can afford to own or maintain, there isn't much that has changed to make my life, or for that matter the lives of too many others I know "better."

Changes in attitudes and community policies have made it much better for some, but not for me.  Somehow the years have passed too quickly and now I am the old guy on my block. I am surrounded by neighbors, most of them younger than my kids who dwell in expensive homes and drive expensive foreign made automobiles. They let me know every day that anything I might have to say, even a simple greeting like "hello" isn't important enough to respond to. I can say it but they usually pretend they don't hear it.

The people who used to occupy those homes who have long since passed away not only spoke often to each other they knew everyone's name. They drove American made cars and most of them worked blue collar jobs and raised kids in those houses. I don't know the first or last names of eight of ten of my neighbors. It isn't any of my business and I have grown to not care about that. I don't have to worry about their kids because none of them have any- and they all wear suits and ties when they leave for work...even most of the women. I haven't seen a neighbor in a dress or a skirt for years. It is as if we are now a unisex society.

I really do not like this future I am stuck in and sometimes I am not sure why I have lived for as long as I have, but I do know this, I miss where I was. At the end of every day when everything around me has settled down, and then again every morning when I wake up I wonder where it all went. The people, the landscape that surrounds me and even my own identity. 

However, this entry into my life's log is about that white dog shown in the photo above. The best friend I ever had or will probably ever have. You see, this is the one thing that has never changed, regardless of how hard we try to screw things up around us or how often we turn our backs on what made us a great people or on what should be important.  The pets who share our lives. Those creatures who have replaced the ones we have loved and lost through the years. 

I had a dog in 1961 and many others since. They have all been the one constant that I could always rely on to be there when I wanted them to be, but more importantly, when I needed them to be. Non judgemental beings that accept me and everyone around them and who expect little more than to be cared for and shown affection. None of my dogs have ever disappointed me except when they had to die. And now this white American Bulldog  whose name is Dee Jaye is the reminder in my life that a few things cannot be changed by anyone else's efforts to do so.

Had I gone into a coma fifty years ago and then woke up today as it sometimes seems, I would feel better about it knowing I have this dog. I cannot imagine how dismal life would be without her, especially now in the late autumn of my years on this planet.

When I took this picture I was thinking about that. I studied her as she relaxed on the back porch and I remembered the other dogs who used that as a favorite spot to snooze on warm afternoons. I was captured by a very strange feeling, one that really made me ponder my good fortune of finding this one here in the future, not the one I imagined, but like I said, the one I am stuck with. The one that if I had just woken to after a long, deep sleep would scare the Hell out of me. 

A place where the price of everything is ten-to-thirty fold of what they were then and where familiar neighborhoods close by have fallen into ghetto status with boarded up and burned out homes- and where dangerous people move about, ready to take what isn't theirs. And where most of the people I knew and cared about then are now gone.

Thank God that when this time came around and I was still in it, this dog was here,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Haunted House Next Door

The house next to mine has always intrigued me since the first time I saw it when I was five years old. The year was 1958 and our family was the new one on the block having moved in a few weeks before my sixth birthday in July. At the time there was an old Italian couple who lived in it and it was clear from the beginning that they were not fond of a family with three kids moving in next door to them.

As a matter of fact on our first night in the neighborhood the old woman next door snuck into our yard and stole some potted plants from our back porch that my mother had sat out, and within a few days I had my first scary encounter with the old man, one that would incite my dad to knock on his door and grab him by the collar and promise bodily harm to him if he ever spoke to me or anyone in our family the way he had to me.

What he said to me was that if I ever came into his yard he would throw me into his well and that no one would ever see me again. That well was barely visible beneath a creepy looking arbor heavily covered with grape vines. As the years would pass I would hear stories from other neighbors who believed that well was full of carcasses of neighborhood pets that wandered into his yard.

Aside from that early encounter I can still remember vividly when the huge stone stable that still stands behind that house still had a horse and wagon in it that the old man used to drive up and down the alleys looking for anything he thought was of value that he could either use himself or perhaps sell. One story told by a neighbor who lived behind us both was that sometime in the 1930s that horse raised up on its hind legs and kicked his  little girl in the head and left her comatose for several weeks  The rest of that story ended in a bloody fist fight between the two men.

In 1961 the old man died and his wife was taken away to live somewhere else and the house was sold twice before 1965. That year it was purchased by a woman who would pretty much keep to herself but who was not necessarily unfriendly. By the early 1970s I had gotten married and moved away but in 1997, following the passing of my parents I returned home and bought the house I grew up in.

And in all of that time the lady next door never married and her personality hadn't changed much. She still kept to herself most of the time but all-in-all I was happy she still lived there because most of the other neighbors who surrounded us in those early years had either passed on or moved away. I will admit that there was some comfort in knowing there was still a familiar being on my block. As a matter of fact she was only one of two still within sight or even walking distance of the people who were here in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s.

Because of that I began mowing her lawn each time I mowed my own. I wanted to be a good neighbor and  I also wanted to finally get a peek under that iron lid that covered the well in her backyard to satisfy a decades long curiosity. When I told her my reasons why and of the stories I had heard through the years she told me that if I lifted the lid I wouldn't see anything besides a bunch of bricks and busted up shards of concrete and rocks.  She went on to explain that the privious owners filled it up with them.

She was right. When I opened it I was disappointed but no less curious.

As the years ticked away I began to notice that she was becoming less and less friendly. I never knew why but it was okay, I still felt good that a connection to my own past was still residing in the house that had a strange complex about it to me for so many years. One that every time I look at it even to this day seems to hold some sort of mystery as if maybe something tragic had happened in it long ago, or maybe just something very sad.

It wasn't until late September of 2011 that I decided to search the records of the Franklin County Auditor's office in hopes of learning something about the house and those who lived in it since it was built sometime in the late 1800s. What I discovered was that the old man who had threatened to throw me in a well more than fifty years ago bought it from a man named Silvio Paini whose death record showed him as an artist.

As I began researching Mr. Paini I learned that he was an immigrant who had come to this country in 1869 from Austria. He and his pregnant wife Terista and their one and a half year old son Amerigo landed at Ellis Island in August of that year. The auditor's records did not state the year that Paini bought the house next door to me but it did record the transaction to sell it to Francesco Longo in 1921. Longo was the old man whose well I had feared as a child.

Through my research I found out that Silvio was a painter who used to roam the neighborhood selling his paintings and that he would be spotted often in nearby Schiller Park sketching landscapes and then bringing them home where they would be turned into beautiful art works that he created in a second story art studio that he had built on the back of his house.

This was information that I now wish I had bothered to learn years ago. That studio, built over the kitchen of the home was something that always attracted my attention anytime I was in my own backyard. Of course until recently I never knew what it was but I did often find myself looking up at it and remembering when the aluminum siding wasn't there and when there were more windows that wrapped around all three sides of it.

I guess we all suspected that it was just a sun porch or maybe an extra bedroom. But according to the other neighbor, a woman in her eighties whose family has lived in her house since the turn of the century, it was where Silvio Paini would sit at an easel and create beautiful art. To me that meant that one hundred years ago he would be up there and he would have a spectacular view of my entire backyard. He would have seen the people who lived in my house that was built in 1907 as they went about their business and he may have even painted a picture of what he saw below.

His children, when they were small may have played with the kids who lived in my house. I found all of these possibilities especially interesting as I began to learn more about the Paini's. His death certificate and other documents I found show that he is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery here on the south side, as is at least one of his children who died young. And as I learned these things I began to wonder if any of this might be the reason I have many times felt like someone was watching me anytime I was in my yard. I'll get to that in a moment.

Having never been one to hold much stock in ghost stories I will admit there were times I believed someone in that room was "spying" on me because I have seen the curtains move as if someone was many times. Until recently I just figured most of the time that it was my neighbor who lived alone all of these years watching me for whatever her reasons might have been. But there were times when I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me because I can swear I have seen the curtains move in the dead of winters when she was not home.

You see, every year she leaves Columbus around the holidays and goes to her other home in Florida and doesn't return until the spring. On those occasions when I thought I saw the curtains move I allowed for the possibility of it being a draft coming in through a crack or a seam and I never really dwelled on  any other possibilities. The whole ghost scenario never entered my mind but a few times I did find myself wondering if there might be a burglar up there. To my knowledge the house has never been burglarized.

In the photo that accompanies this story a light can be seen in the window adjacent to Paini's long ago art studio. Anytime my neighbor is gone she leaves that light on, I suspect to make it appear that someone is home, especially during the winter months when no one is there or should be there. I am used to seeing it and have never really thought much about it until tonight. I went into the yard for the sole purpose of photographing it for another story I was working on and for a moment the light went out and then came back on.

Over the years I wouldn't normally give that much thought but I know the woman isn't there. She left about two weeks ago. Not to go to Florida but to a hospital for a routine medical procedure that went very wrong and she died unexpectedly the following day. Before leaving for what would be the last time she turned on that light as she always has and it has been burning continuously since. That is until about an hour and a half ago when it flickered.

The last old neighbor still on the block now (besides me) told me recently that it is believed both of Paini's children died in that house but she never knew why. She also said that she remembered being told when she was very young that the Paini children died within a year of one another and it was upon the death of the second child that Paini sold the house. That led to years of speculation buy some in the neighborhood that it was indeed haunted. I have no reason to doubt what she told me and  I am not suggesting that I believe the house is haunted and I am hesitant to say that when the light went off and came on again I felt something. But I did.

Maybe it was just a sense of sadness that my neighbor who I have been so used to seeing come and go from there for so long is gone forever. Perhaps it is in the irony that she died a few weeks after I began researching the history of her home or maybe it was only the chill of the damp night air and its accompanying breeze. Or maybe my eyes were merely playing more tricks. But maybe there is another explanation.

What I am sure of is that the light that she turned on is still on even if it appeared not to be for a moment. It will be sad when someone does turn it off. And if it goes out again before someone does I will have to believe the bulb has finally burned out. I think I will believe that.

Social Networking, and staying disconnected.

I am not sure why I thought I needed a  "facebook"  page or even a couple of them, but I have them. And like hundreds of millions of others I sign on to at least two of them every day. I am still not sure why I do this because at the end of each day nothing of any importance has really been accomplished.

However I defend this activity by telling others that I find it a convenient method of keeping my finger on the pulse of what others are thinking and to stay in touch with people I would otherwise have no reason to. Like some I knew in past eras of my life such as high school and various workplaces throughout my careers.

But the reality is that most of those are people I really don't care about. I care about a few of them but my list of so-called facebook friends numbers in the thousands. Most of them I have never known and will never talk to verbally or see in the flesh. And most of them are people I have little to nothing at all in common with.

I am reminded of those facts anytime I read what so may of them are willing to post, often eager to share with a world I suspect is just like me in that no one really cares what they think or how they feel, what their mood is or even that they have a facebook page. In the beginning I joined the network for self serving purposes. That is, to sell myself to people who might be interested in reading the things I write. Not so much the silly facebook comments but things like my various blogs and the books I have published.

If that sounds selfish or narcissistic I would remind the readers of this post who have facebook pages of their own that we are all alike in that sense. Like other artists, be they actors, musicians, sculptors or painters who have something to sell or just want to announce to the world their latest accomplishments, I began my own facebook  journey for the purpose of hawking what I do.

That is not totally unlike very attractive people, especially very good looking women who never seem to run out of pictures of themselves in various poses or in circumstances they believe others will drool over. The network is heavily populated by people who refuse to go through life unnoticed. Almost as if it is a very basic necessity to capitalize on their appearance, their accomplishments or their talents, especially if they regard themselves as being a little more special than most others.

Among my many friends are cops, firefighters, military personnel and the the worst of the worst....politicians. Those running for political office or just campaigning daily to show everyone how devoted they are to their office, they are the ones who probably gain the most from their time spent on facebook, and who can blame them? It is a tremendous venue to talk about themselves and it is free.

However, even though my own workload throughout my lifetime has kept me in similar circles with those I have mentioned so far they are not the people that I find interesting. I purposely go out of my way to avoid as many of them as possible and rarely do I ever comment on someone's page besides my own. I learned a long time ago that no matter how many times you satisfy their urge to be complimented or patted on the back, very few of them reciprocate or even show any signs that they appreciate your efforts to stroke their egos.

It is as if many of them expect to be told how wonderful they are. And when it comes to such expectations I am not completely selfish, I mean I will throw them a treat every now and then if only to let them know that I understood what they hoped to receive. I won't go overboard to a level where it would appear that I am sucking up to them or even close enough to any point where they might think I am enamored by them or envious of who they are or what they do. In this regard I find that Television personalities seem to be the hungriest of the lot. Most of them are constantly trolling for approval and reassurances that they are special.

The politicians only want your vote while some of the cops and firefighters need to hear how appreciative others are of their services. On the subject of public safety forces I feel qualified to point out what I regard as the boring ones who wear uniforms to work every day. I am talking about those who constantly post photos and comments about how dangerous their job is, and even worse, those who cannot stop talking about their skills and qualifications to do what they are not only paid to do but what they chose to do for a living. Humble and unselfish as it may be.

Some of them talk only about their jobs and some only talk to others in their line of work. Fraternities and brotherhood is fine and I believe in the sanctity and merits of both, but 24/7?  I need more than one stream chains of communication. Having been a cop for a number of years myself I am well past that time when all I wanted out of life was the job. I reached a point somewhere along the way when telling war stories about work became mundane and mostly uninteresting.

So these are not the people I hope to exchange verbiage with on a daily basis, no more so than with women who are on the prowl to meet men regardless of what they look like, be they former friends or old classmates or just some who are only on facebook trolling for new adventures.

No, the ones I find most interesting are the few who are not selling something, those who are not bragging about what they have or where they have been and especially those whose only purpose to even be on facebook is stay connected somehow to an environment they might otherwise not have access to.

I can be quick to let them know that I see them and that regardless of how insignificant their facebook involvement might seem to others I recognize their need to be heard or only noticed. I will always be more generous with my comments to these people than I will be to those who have come to expect all of the accolades they receive constantly.

With all of this said, and after nearly four years of  "facebooking"  there really is no valid reason for me to even log on. But I do log on every day. Not because I expect to learn anything I don't already know, or even to see anything I haven't already seen day after day. I know that when I begin to peruse the shares of others I will see no shortage of other people's family photos that really mean nothing to me, I will learn about the aches and pains of total strangers and I will see the same people who cannot make it through the day without asking for or offering prayers. I will even find out what people ate or what they plan to eat and I will see the same folks who are in a constant state of lonliness and those who are just plain mad about something....every day!

Just as there is a lot of love or people who want you to believe they love every thing and every one, there are a lot of angry people on facebook. Those who have drawn imaginary lines in the political sand. The ones who are eager to strike up any kind of confrontation with anyone who doesn't share their political opinions...those who know what is best for everyone else. These are the people I refuse to banter with at all.

Like all of the "experts" who know every thing about every thing and the "philosophers" who have insatiable appetites to post all of those poems or quotes normally found on coffee cups and tapestries. And of course, the community of "comedians" who have never been paid to be be funny or who have never drawn their own cartoons but who have many examples of someone else's work to share as well as an endless repertoire of jokes to post.

If I didn't ignore these people I might just lose my mind. For every time I see opinions that clash with my own, or try to read something someone else thinks is humorous but isn't to me, or when someone shares their emotional feelings, be they good ones or bad ones, my head hurts.

So at the end of this story there is no valid reason for me to be on facebook at all, except to... as I stated earlier, keep my finger on the pulse of the world out there. The one I never bother to explore otherwise because I have no burning desire to. Thus the photo I have shared here; one that is not photo shopped or otherwise enhanced, nor one that would suggest that I am anyone I am not. I didn't dress up for it and I have no urgency for approval from anyone. Just a picture that closely resembles what the mirror sees when I stand before it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I was just wondering...

Did you ever build a scooter using discarded wood and old roller skates? A few things come to mind as the weather becomes warmer and the sun makes more frequent appearances. With winter going away and thoughts of ushering in springtime capturing my imagination I am again reflecting on how much more I used to anticipate the changing seasons.

As an aging man who regards the best of my life behind me now I have to revisit those times a little more often to insure they never completely fade from memory. So, much of my writing not only serves as documentation of what I think was a pretty good life I hope that it stands as a testament to that fact. Have you ever walked through alleys looking for discarded pop bottles to carry to a store and redeem them for extra spending money as a kid?

There was a time I not only did that as a mission but during that era of my own youth I rarely left an empty bottle on the ground. Even if I were busy playing with my friends or just riding my bicycle. So precious and valuable then I would go as far as to hide one that I may have found to retrieve it later, and I am sure I probably picked up a few and carried them to the store for the two cents they were worth even if that meant interrupting something else I was doing at the time.

And speaking of simple transportation, have you ever folded a piece of cardboard and attached it to your bike so it would rub the spokes and make sounds like a motor, or placed a balloon there to make it sound like a more powerful one? Have you ever decorated bicycle spokes with bottle caps? Ever ride a bike that had streamers in the handle grips or rear view mirrors or a bell to warn others that you were coming?

Did your bicycle ever have a metal basket on the handlebars or a pair of them straddling the rear wheel? What about a chrome headlight shaped like a rocket or a horn that sounded off-key when the batteries were going bad?

Have you ever ridden a bicycle through deep snow or on an icy road without worrying about having it slip out from beneath you and breaking a bone in the process, or on dry pavement and going as fast as you can and slamming on the breaks to lay rubber? Were you ever able to leave rubber from the rear tire on the ground by pedaling real hard going forward? Ever put decals or paint your name on your bike?

Have you ever painted a bike with a brush and if you did, did it look ridiculous? Have you ever tied a transistor radio to the handle bars? And before you learned to ride a bike did you ever ride a wagon by sitting in it on one knee while scooting your foot across the pavement of a sidewalk? Have you ever thought you could make it further than you did while hopping on a po-go stick or while walking on stilts? Have you ever had a pair of stilts that you or your father didn't make?

Have you ever had to end a game of bad-minton because the birdie went into a cranky neighbor's yard and you were afraid to ask them to return it, or stopped playing whiffle ball because the ball landed in a gutter on a roof? Ever tried to walk to school without stepping on a crack?

Ever heard the phrase "step on a crack...break your mother's back?" Have you ever worried that you would have a bad day or something horrible would happen if you walked under a ladder or stood under an umbrella when it wasn't raining? Did you ever wear a yellow raincoat that came with a matching hat or rubber boots with metal buckles? Ever purposely step in water puddles because you knew your shoes wouldn't get wet because you were wearing boots? Were you ever disappointed when the boot didn't do its job?

Have you ever wondered why the area in a classroom where you hung your coat and parked your boots was called a cloak room? Was there a time when you didn't know what the word cloak meant and never really pondered it? Did you ever think of the principal's office as a scary place? Did the inside of a school ever smell like crayons or modeling clay to you?

Have you ever felt special because the teacher asked you to erase a blackboard or did you ever get a face full of chalk by banging two erasers together? Did you ever feel like the school day was almost over the moment you smelled food cooking in a cafeteria?

Have you ever carried your lunch to school in a brown paper bag that had your name written on it in pencil?

Was part of that lunch ever a sandwich wrapped in wax paper? Did your mother ever give you a nickel for milk money and tell you not to lose it? Have you ever sat in a class room and stared a clock, especially before lunch time or near the end of the day? Or did you ever need to look at the alphabet above a blackboard because you forgot how to make a letter?

Did you ever feel silly or excited the night before Valentine’s Day because you had to print the names of all of your classmates on little greeting cards? Did you save the best ones for the kids you liked best and did it ever look odd to you or did you ever cringe when you had write someone’s name on one that you didn’t like at all? Ever feel like a mailman when you walked around the classroom and dropped them into little bags taped to the front of everyone’s desk?

Have you ever taken gum out of your mouth and stuck it beneath your seat or under a desk top? Have you ever written your name on a desk or the name of someone you had a crush on? Ever draw a heart around it with an arrow going through it? Have you ever drawn a mustache or blacked out someone’s teeth on a picture in a yearbook or class picture?

Has a teacher ever caught you doodling on a piece of paper or has one ever made you stand in a corner for some other insurrection? Did you ever feel like the entire class was staring at your back and laughing the whole time you stood there, even if you had to stand there for an hour or more?

Have you ever panicked while sitting in class because you had gas and had to struggle to hold it in? And speaking of anxious moments, was getting naked in front of classmates and taking showers together after gym class ever something you dreaded? Did you ever worry that the gym teacher would see you that way and think less of you, and if you did, did you ever keep a towel wrapped around you until the very last moment before stepping into the shower?

Have you ever played games at school called kick-ball, tether-ball or four square? Have you ever taken a plastic gun to school to share with the class or to aim at your classmates while playing army during recess?

Have you ever lied to your mother about being sick just to get out of going to school? Have you ever wished you could go to school instead of keeping a dentist appointment? Was a doctor ever someone who made regular visits to your home? Have you ever left your mark using something as harmless as a piece of chalk on the side of someone else's property? Today vandals use spray paint to that but in bygone years there was a sense of really getting away with something and in some cases even accomplishment to make your mark even though it could be removed with a water hose.

And speaking of water hoses...have you ever shared one with a friend on a hot day to quench a thirst? And if you did, did you worry about getting something called cooties if your mouth touched the end of the hose? Sort of like allowing a friend or a sibling to take a swig from your bottle of pop, if you did that did you wipe it off thoroughly before you took another drink?

Maybe going as far as to using your shirt tail to scrub it clean? Or maybe you asked for a drink from someone else's bottle and were offended when they did exactly what you would have done if it were the other way around?

The warmer weather has me thinking about pulling my bicycle out of the garage and taking a long ride around the neighborhood to again reflect on a time when doing that was how I got to every destination I wanted to be. Not just places I needed to go, but where I wanted to. Have you ever tried to ride a bike as far as you could go on just one wheel? And if you could do "wheelies " was there more of a sense of accomplishment if there were others watching you do it?

And speaking of such exhibitionism have you ever played basketball by yourself using someone else's rim without permission to do it? Like one nailed to some one's garage behind their house? And if you did that were you hoping someone saw you when you made a great shot? Were you a little embarrassed each time you missed, or did you hope that no one saw that one?

Regardless, did you usually win all of your games? Were some of those games ever played inside of your house using your mom's clothes hamper as a rim? Looking out at the ravages left behind from what has been a brutal winter I am not eager to tackle the yard work that needs done to transform my property from one of ugliness to something that shows that I care about what the neighbors might think.

In all honesty I don't care but I happen to be someone that feels a sense of pride when my yard looks good.

I do it for me, but have you ever mowed a lawn using a mower that had no motor? In recent years I would curse out loud if my mower ran out of gas before I finished the job but in the days when I had more energy than I could possibly burn up in a day I would walk the neighborhoods hiring myself out to make other lawns look great for about a dollar a yard using what was called a push mower. No cords to yank to get them started, no spark plugs to clean off or replace and best of all no gas can. And with the price of gasoline now soaring by the day... no grumbling that I would have to mow three yards just to buy a gallon of it if I were to charge that same dollar. With jobs as scarce as they are now I am thinking about it.

But speaking of that, have you ever raked a neighbors leaves for that same amount? And speaking of piles of leaves, have you ever burned them and if you did, did you savor the aroma that surrounded you? If you smell burning leaves now does it take you back to that time? Burning leaves was something that was very common around my neighborhood when I was a kid. I think everyone on my block did that and not just leaves...have you ever burned trash in a fifty gallon drum?

Was there ever a time in your life when taking out the trash would become an adventure? For me it was. Separating anything that would burn from everything that wouldn't and igniting it in a big can while imagining I was watching buildings on fire instead of milk cartons.

And speaking of such juvenile pyromania, have you ever placed firecrackers in a plastic model car and blown it up? Using the funds I would earn from my neighbors when I was small I would buy model car kits from a drug store called Sloan's Drugs a few blocks from my home for around a buck and a half and then spend hours lying across my bed gluing it all together, then painting it and eventually destroying it.

Have you ever poured lighter fluid on something and then lighting it just to watch it burn? Did lighter fluid ever smell good to you? What about pipe tobacco? Have you ever enjoyed being in the presence of someone when they lit there pipe to smoke it? My dad's favorite brand "Cherry Blend" comes to mind here. Have you ever called a store and asked if they had Prince Albert in a can? Do remember what you said to them if they did?

Did you ever buy a pack of cigarettes when you weren’t old enough that required nothing more than about thirty cents and a note from your father as an i.d.?

Of course that was in the days when lighting up indoors wasn't a criminal offense or when it wasn't regarded as child endangering if the kids were in the room. On the tobacco topic...have you ever asked an adult to save a cigar box for you? Or if you weren't shy about such things have you ever asked a store clerk behind a counter if he or she had any empty ones?

I don't remember exactly what I used them for but I seem to recall owning several empty cigar boxes as a kid. It would seem that I might have had a fascination for things that were either flammable or caused flames when I was a kid does it not?  I don't think that was the case, I think that I was just a kid in a time when doing some of the things I did wasn't always a cause for alarm or worries of how I might grow up.

But that reminds me, have you ever tried to burn something with a magnifying glass? Ever focused one on your own hand to see how long you could stand it? Ever tried to burn a bug with one?

Speaking of making fire, have you ever wasted a book of matches by lighting them all at once without pulling them from their cover? Do you remember when a book of matches cost around a penny or when individual pieces of candy did? Have you ever stood in front of a glass case and pointed to pieces of candy and said “I'll take a penny's worth of those?"

Have you ever picked up a penny off the ground and thought that someone else's misfortune was a windfall for you? Did anyone ever tell you that placing a penny in your shoe would bring you luck? Have you ever seen one on the ground and not picked it up because you were afraid someone would see you do it?

I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney! But have you ever gotten a dime for going to the store for your mother? Did she ever remind you..."don't forget my stamps?" Do you remember watching her lick trading stamps to place them into stamp books or perusing a catalogue to decide what you would get with those books if they were yours do what you wanted? Ever get a dime for a grade in school, I mean in addition to your regular allowance? Was your allowance ever withheld as part of a punishment for something you shouldn't have done?

Was missing your favorite television programs ever because there was only one television in the house? Was there ever a time when you pretended to hate the programs your parents watched but watched them anyway because you really did like them? Have you ever laid in front of a TV on your side with your head cradled in the palm of your hand while balancing yourself with your elbow resting on the floor? Have you ever wanted to stay up later to watch something only to have your mother remind you that it was a school night?

Do you remember when everything you watched was in black and white and there were just three channels and all of them signed off around midnight? Have you ever turned on a television in the morning and saw a test pattern instead of people? Have you ever put powdered Cool-Aid on your tongue and wondered why it tasted bitter? Ever eat a spoonful of instant chocolate and then looked at your tongue? What about Hershey's Cocoa? Ever done that and rinsed your mouth with water?

Do you remember when you needed a can opener to open pop cans or remember when they were made of metal that the average person couldn't squash with their hands? Do you remember when milk only came in glass bottles or paper cartons?

Have you ever heard the rattling of milk bottles early in the morning outside your window and looked out to see a man carrying them in metal baskets or watched him climb back into a truck that he drove while standing up? When you see or hear the words Battle Creek Michigan do you instantly think of cereal?

Have you ever cut off box tops and put them in an envelope to send away for a toy? Were you ever excited when the mailman brought it...only to be disappointed when you saw what it was? Have you ever been disappointed with the surprise that came in a box of Cracker Jacks?

Do you remember an animated kid with big ears shoving a giant spoon into his mouth after saying "I want my Maypo!" Can you finish this jingle..."You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush..."? Or this theme song from a super hero..."Here I come to save the..."?

Did you ever think that a couple of guys named Spin and Marty reminded you of someone you knew who was older than you? Do you even know who they were? Have you ever named a dog after one you watched on television...I mean besides Lassie? Have you ever pretended to be someone from a television show by dressing like them or acting like them on a playground or in your backyard?

Have you ever hosted a tea-party without serving tea or fed a doll baby with empty baby bottles? If your play-time required the use of weapons did you ever have a bean shooter in your arsenal?

Have you ever shot your own tonsils with a squirt gun? Have you ever destroyed glass bottles and jars with a BB gun or by just throwing rocks at them? Have you ever been yelled at for not putting your dad’s tools back where you found them or for getting in to your mother’s make-up case? Ever refused to let someone use your comb because you feared they would leave cooties in it?

Have you ever stood on a sidewalk and watched televisions left on in an appliance store?

Have you ever gotten on a bus and watched nickels and dimes drop into a glass box and wished you had a key for the box? Ever heard a bus driver call out the name of a street and know what he was going to say before he said it? Remember when they were all men and they wore hats? Do you remember when the mail man wore a uniform and his hat looked like a policeman's? Do you remember when the cops on the street or in police cars were all men?

With the warmer weather fast approaching I am also reminded of bugs. Have you ever tried to catch honey bees or flies with your hands or placed lightening bugs in a jar to make a lantern only to be disappointed that they didn’t put out enough light to see anything but them? Ever been afraid to get too close to a praying mantis? Have you ever lost a piece of candy and found it the next day covered with ants?

Have you ever felt victorious about swatting a fly with a fly swatter or slapping a mosquito on your arm but felt terrible if you accidentally killed a lady bug or a butterfly? Has your mother ever told you not to scratch a mosquito bite because it would get infected? Have you ever sprayed your lawn before dusk so you could catch night-crawlers when it got dark? Ever seen two of them seemingly glued together and covered in slime and decided to leave them alone and look for another one?

Has someone ever taken you fishing at night but instead of watching a fishing pole hoping to catch a fish you spent the night collecting wood for a campfire and then stoking it all night? Did a bologna sandwich or a can of soup ever taste better along a riverbank than it did at a dinner table?

Have you ever stared at the sky and looked for clouds that reminded you of someone or maybe a favorite pet? Have you ever looked at a wooden fence and seen the natural formation of a dog or a cat? Have you ever walked across the top of a chain link fence pretending it was part of your high wire act? Ever dig a hole for no earthly reason or one to replant a dead flower?

I think about things like that when I ponder the yard work ahead of me. I am reminded of the years when playing with dirt meant sliding my hands on it to making dirt roads for my toy cars or to draw lines to play marbles. Have you ever done that? Have you ever thought that kids who stay indoors playing video games year-round are missing all of the wonders that await outside?

When it is raining outside and you are stuck inside have you ever thought about how you used to occupy your time on such days? Was a doll house or little plastic soldiers ever necessary to fill up a few hours? Did you spend time on those days coloring in a book or playing with an electric train? And if you did that have you ever placed toy cars on the tracks so the train would crash into them or read comic books you’ve already read?

Have you ever lain in bed at night with a flashlight and read a comic book? If you shared a bedroom with a brother or sister did your parents ever shout at you late at night and tell you to knock it off and go to sleep if you were talking too loud? And if they did, did you continue to carry on a conversation in whispers?

Have you ever lived in a home with just one bathroom? Did you ever have to ask your parents to order a brother or sister to hurry up and get out of it because you couldn’t hold yourself any longer?

Have you ever turned on a faucet in a bathroom hoping it would drown out whatever you were doing in there?

Have you ever wished you were older? How about now? Probably not if you answered yes to most of the questions I have asked you so far. However, was there ever a time before you were ten that you wished you were younger than you were? How about on the first day of a new school year, did you ever wish you were too young to have to go at all?

Reflecting on the past is what I do best, or at least it would seem that way sometimes. I do enjoy remembering things from my own youth and sharing what I think I remember. But sometimes it takes something someone might say or even a certain aroma to bring back a memory. Has that ever happened to you? Has the smell of a pesticide or some other foul odor caused you to reflect on something that happened long ago?

For instance, have you ever followed behind a vehicle that fogged for mosquitoes in the summertime? Like riding a bicycle in a thick cloud of white smoke pouring out of the back of it and making it nearly impossible to see where you were going? Do you ever think of some of the things that you did that were dangerous back then, or things that because they were have long since been outlawed. I have already touched on smoking tobacco but to revisit that subject have you ever sat next to someone at a dinner table who was smoking while you were eating?

Have you ever lit a cigarette in a hospital or inside of a courthouse? Ever seen someone else do that? What about in the waiting room of a doctor’s office? Did you know that smoking in a teacher’s lounge during school hours was once a common practice? I can recall seeing signs on the walls of hospital rooms that warned against smoking only if oxygen was in use.

Did you ever purchase a bottle of beer in a bar and then drink it without violating any laws when you were still a teenager? Did you ever fear getting paddled in school by a teacher? Do you remember medicine bottles that didn’t have safety caps or food containers that didn’t have nutritional charts or the ingredients printed on labels?

Remember when they couldn’t say any four letter word on television and when none could be used in songs we heard on the radio? Remember when most radio stations played music and none of them carried talk-shows? Do you remember when most radios were only AM?

Have you ever made a trip to a store to purchase just one song on a 45 rpm record? Ever sit down at a lunch counter inside of a small drug store or have something delivered to your home from a neighborhood carry-out store? Have you ever visited a store that was called a Five and Dime Store?

Have you ever had your shoes resoled in a repair shop or had a repair man come to your home to fix your television set? Ever accompany your dad to a store to test television tubes? Have you ever held a flashlight for your dad while he tinkered in the back of a television set?

Ever had a knock at the door and heard a man shout, “gas man!” Or had one delivering baked goods?

Have you ever seen a street sweeper on your street before dawn? Have you ever paid seven cents for a newspaper or a nickel for a candy bar? Have you ever gotten change from a dollar after you paid for a meal? Ever leave a dime on a table as a tip?

Have you ever seen a commercial on television or heard one on the radio advertising cigarettes or cigars? Do you know what beverage was called the “Champaign of bottled beer?” Have you ever tried to light your way using something called a carbide light?

Have you ever seen a commercial for something called “Geritol?” Do you know what that was? Have you ever drunk 3-V Cola? Ever filled your gas tank with Sun Crest or Pure Oil Gasoline? What about Humble or Sohio gas? Have you ever bought a gallon of gas for less than thirty cents?

Have you ever washed your face with "Lava" soap, and if you did, did it feel eerie? Ever carve something out of a bar of Ivory Soap? Do you remember a time when shampoo bottles were mostly made of glass? Remember how amazing it seemed at the time when a plastic bottle of "Prell Shampoo" was shown falling on the floor and it didn't break? Do you remember soap on a rope or who coined the phrase "rope a dope?" Ever get drinking glasses out of a box of laundry detergent? What about bath towels?

Do you know who Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Howard K Smith were? Do you remember a game show called Concentration? What about one called Beat the Clock or how about a man named Bill Cullen? Do you know who he was? What about something called Midwestern Hayride?  Have you ever had to adjust rabbit ears on a television? Do you know what they are?

Do you know what products were called Herbert Tarreyton and Sir Walter Raliegh? Their names were on products that had something in common with something called Bel Air, Lark and Chesterfield. Have you ever rolled a package of "Luckies" up in a t-shirt sleeve? Do you know what LSMFT meant? Ever splash on a little Jade East? Do names like Durward Kirby and Clem Kadiddlehopper sound familiar to you? Have you ever ate something advertised as "two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun?" Do you remember what business had a jingle that sang "You deserve a break today?"

Think fast! Have you ever seen a television series about a car that talked? Did your mother ever remind you of a TV mom? Have you ever felt sorry for Clarence Rutherford? Probably not, but more to the point do you know who he was? Have you ever wished that Lucas McCain was your dad? Have you ever had a crush on a TV star who was about your age before you were twelve years old? Do you know who the TV character Linda Williams was? Hint-Her father played a nightclub singer. Do you remember Uncle Tonoose? What about Uncle Charlie, Uncle Miltie or the Man from Uncle?

 Ever tossed salt over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck? Ever said one, potato, two potato, three potato four? Do you remember why you said it? Have you ever heard of Boston Blackie or Joe Friday? Do you know what they had in common? Can you finish this jingle..."Wherever wheels are rolling, no matter what the load, the name that's known is....?"  Or this one... "What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound? A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it's ...?"

Have you ever snuck into a drive-in movie theatre in the trunk of a car? Just asking.

Have you ever built a house out of Lincoln Logs or played with Colorforms? Have you ever balanced a gyroscope on your fingertips or played Tiddlywinks? Do you remember when Mr. Potato Head sets were meant to be used with real potatoes? Have you ever loaned your sweater to a girl at school on a Friday or asked a boy if you could wear his? Ever wrap angora around a ring so it would fit your finger? Ever used a Band-Aid or a piece of tape to make one fit snugly? Have you ever worn a shirt with a Neru collar? What about a polka dotted one with a wide belt and tight jeans? Have you ever worn a Maltese Cross necklace? How about checkered dress pants? Ever worn a dickie?

Did you ever stick pennies in slots on a penny loafer? Ever pitch pennies? Do you remember Sky King? Do you remember his daughter's name?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Zach Scott, Franklin County Sheriff

On July 11, 2011, I stood in the auditorium of the Franklin County Court House watching an old friend taking the oath to become the 52nd Sheriff of Franklin County. As I stood and listened to a few brief speeches that followed the pomp and circumstance of an entry by the sheriff's honor guard and a salute by the fife and drum brigade  I was witnessing an historic day that I knew I some day would. I knew this several years ago actually, and now the moments that would make  Zach Scott the top law enforcement officer in the county was here.

Before the gallery and dignitaries filed into the room where Sheriff Scott would stand in perhaps his proudest moment as a cop I had been mingling and being reacquainted with a number of old friends and a few former foes that I had worked with or just been near to during my own tenure as a deputy sheriff. I was as happy to see some of them as I was bewildered about the attendance of others. Some who had shown up to witness the official changing of the guard were people I was sure were only there just to be seen. It is like that sometimes. 
It was as easy for me to pick out those who were as satisfied as I was that the right man had been chosen for the job as it was to recognize those with self-serving motives, or those who only came out of their own curiosity or on the behalf of someone else. One thing I have always believed I was good at is reading the faces of others.

Spotting a phony smile or chuckle is an easy craft to hone for anyone who has worked in political circles as long as I have. (More than 25 years.) And make no mistake about it... the sheriff's position may be the highest profile position of all elective offices on a local level because it it is often the most visible and often not without controversy. Sheriff Scott knew this long before this day and especially when it was first announced in the news media that he would succeed his former boss Sheriff Jim Karnes who had passed away just a few weeks previously.

Persons with old axes to grind came out of the dark crevices of anonymity to express outrage of Zach's selection to become the new sheriff. Responses to a story published in the Columbus Dispatch were filled with hatred and laced with pathetic insults aimed at him, his family, his supporters and even dead sheriff's personnel who had nothing to do with his appointment.  Old wounds were opened and picked at like scabs and unfair phony accusations and comparisons to former controversial Franklin County Sheriff earl O. Smith and his closet supporters were being written by one or two disgruntled people who didn't have the spirit of conviction to sign their real names to their vitriolic opinions.

These one or two letter writers wrote several op-ed pieces and used different pen names on each one to make it appear as though droves of other people were writing them. It wasn't difficult to realize that it was the same person in most instances because the same tired old complaints were only reworded with the same misspelled words.

And on this day I suspected that one or more of these people were on hand to witness what I know will be a long and successful run for our new sheriff. I know this because I know this lawman. He and I graduated together from the sheriff's training academy as new officers before two and a half decades got us to this moment, and all through those years we have stayed in touch as friends and have worked in harmony for the same goals.

 The obvious forced smiles and half hearted applause by a few inside that room were easy to distinguish between the heartfelt ones from those only doing it in the name of protocol. And sadly too many of those were from people I also knew and who unless zebras are sometimes spotted instead of striped were faking every emotion.

I have been following Sheriff Scott's dream of this day for a number of years and I know that he is acutely aware of the challenges that will come not just with the job, but from those he is surrounded by. Both the good guys, the bad guys and the bad good guys. The proverbial bandwagon is getting longer by the day because of the many who now know that it is probably a pretty good idea to get on it. Sheriff Scott will see a list of friends grow to a number that may boggle the mind. People who just six months prior to the reason we were all here today either didn't know his name or who did know it but wouldn't have bothered to greet him on the street.

That isn't just politics it is the way of people. We all celebrate someone else's success in our own way but some of us are a little more discrete in how we do so. Those of us who are truly happy for them usually don't have to tell them more than once while some who go over the top in their zeal to be reckoned with are only doing so to ensure they will not be forgotten.

Thankfully and to the benefit of all he serves Sheriff Scott will be a hard one to fool.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Crystal Swim Club

                                        These homes sit on the site of the old Crystal Swimming Pool

I am remembering a time when I counted down the days until the end of the school year...when I would have what seemed like a life-time away from chalk boards, hardwood floors and school bells.

Three whole months of sleeping in and spending most of my time outside instead of cooped up in some hot classroom feeling like some teacher was out to get me every day. It did seem that way to me during my early school years and at times I think I believed that every teacher I ever had chose to become one just to screw with me.

Being expected to learn new things every day didn't make a lot of sense to me then and because I found it all very difficult to understand I was sure of it. So every year in late May I could almost smell the chlorine wafting from the waters that would soon fill two giant swimming pools at the Crystal Swimming Pool. 

 In the early 1960s it was customary for kids like me to save money year round for the opportunity to purchase a season membership to the Crystal, a pool in South Columbus located on the corner of Champion Avenue and Markison Avenue. I remember saving change in a jar and occasionally dumping it across my bed and counting it and the euphoria I felt knowing that when the tickets went on sale I would have enough to buy one. That was probably the first lesson my parents taught me in working and saving for what was important.

If I remember  correctly the season "ticket" cost around ten dollars and a member could take along a pal who was a non member who would be allowed in for fifty cents provided that pal was a white person.   (I'll get to that in a moment.)

And even though the facility has long been gone I can still recall vividly the lay of the land within its fenced off boundaries. Upon arrival following a two mile walk from our home a member would enter on the Champion Avenue side of it and show their ticket to an employee who sat at a window just inside the main entrance. Then proceeding directly to a changing room where street clothing would be placed in metal baskets and handed to a guy at a counter who would give you a coin shaped object with a number on it to track your property for retrieval at the end of the day.

After changing into swimming trunks and exiting that room you saw what we called the big pool with depths ranging from around three feet at the shallow end to nine at the deep end where there were two diving boards. One just a few feet above the water and a second high dive for bolder swimmers.

Next to that was a smaller pool that we called the new pool and was one that was only five feet deep and usually used more by older members. Near the larger pool was a snack bar that sold potato chips, sodas and candy products and beside it was a small basketball court and a slab of concrete with one wall where some played handball. And scattered around the grassy areas were several multi-colored triangular wooden objects we called dog houses.

They were perfect for sun bathers to sit on a towel on the ground with their backs against it and they served as mini retreats, like camp-sites anytime the life guards would blow the whistles to signal rest periods, usually lasting ten minutes when all swimmers were required to get out of the larger pool. Adults were allowed to remain in the smaller pool during rest periods and I remember thinking during those times as I did often that I wished I were older.

It was a time in life when the idea of ever becoming an adult and having that and other privileges seemed hundreds of years in the future. A time when being a kid was something many of us thought would never end. A time when us boys were surrounded by barely clothed females young and old who probably looked great in their bathing suits but when some of us younger ones only noticed their tan lines if a strap or a string wasn't tight.

Those of us who remember swimming at the Crystal also remember that it was a private club that operated before there were laws forbidding discrimination based on a person's race. It was a cooling spot for white people only.

However, following the civil rights movement of the mid 1960s it became illegal for businesses and private clubs to exclude people because of their race and instead of changing with the times and permitting non-whites entry into the Crystal Swim Club the owners elected to shut it down. The pools were filled with ashes and discarded debris trucked in from nearby Buckeye Steel Castings Company... like filling them with the cremated remains of a disappearing era. 

For a number of years the location was operated by another organization as a private club but one without any sign of what it had been. The earth where those pools once were showed signs of discoloration from what was beneath it and the outlines of where they were was visible for several years but if one didn't know the history of the spot they probably wouldn't have known what it was. 

The old chain link fence with barbed wire topping it that kept people out still stood rusting and crumbling and the concrete slabs where people used to play basketball and handball were still there, cracked and deteriorating with weeds taking over them.

 But in recent years they too have disappeared and today there is no sign that any of it was ever there.

The deep end of the bigger pool where those diving boards were is now some one's backyard and the spot where the main entrance was is now some one's front door. On a recent visit there I could not help but see the irony... those homes are occupied by persons of color.  Living in and probably owning the land where they were once forbidden to visit.

For a better look go back and click on the picture to enlarge it. The taller home in the center of the picture stands where the entrance to the Crystal Swim Club was. Everything shown here sits on top of what was a great deal of my childhood from about 1961 until 1965.