I don’t do them. Never have. Here I am. Front and center. We are at the 50th reunion of the class I would have graduated had my family stayed in the community. Instead I am an honorary member embraced by all the folks who knew me way back when. Notice there is no mention of the time or year? Look at all the folks who got old and grey? Ha! To be honest there were a lot of people who came and shook my hand. I would not have recognized a single one. How’d they know me? …by the nametag on my shirt, of course.
When John F Kennedy was elected, he was JFK. Later it was LBJ. No one else is really known by their initials. I was in a salvage shop and on the counter, was a stack of my hometown newspapers. Yellowed dog eared, there sat a stack of three on top. Stunned, I looked at each. The third one down carried the fateful headline that rocked my childhood. Yup! The woman at the counter was a kid. For her it was 9/11. We all have our moment. I had just gotten done with track practice. The ‘chief executive’ was dead. Denial. They didn’t say ‘President.” Maybe it was not so. It was one of the few times I ever saw my mother cry, as she watched the funeral on our Philco black and white TV. Years later, from a fellow neurosurgeon, I heard the tale of that day in Parkland Hospital ER. JFK was brought in by ambulance. It did not take the neurosurgeon more than a moment to glance over and pronounce him a “goner.” He related that he was next looking at a .45 pistol as the Secret Service told him divert his attention back and to attend the case “now.” It was only then he realized who the gunshot victim was. Gunshot injuries to the head never cease to make the ER staff breathlessly call you. But the secret is that the bullet settled the argument on the street. You arrive in the ER dead or alive. The role of neurosurgery is limited.
I will quickly recall a phone call I received at 3AM when I was chief resident at Bellevue. “We’re getting a gunshot to the head from Columbia.” my junior resident related. At 3AM it’s a rule. Make sure I am speaking in sentences before you give me information. Columbia? The South American country.
No! Columbia University – Neurological Institute of New York, the pre-eminent “Ivory Tower” uptown. Why? “…because they are not taking gunshots tonight.”
It turned out that my counterpart chief resident at Columbia was too lazy to get his ass out of bed in the middle of the night so he turned the case down and sloughed it off downtown.
Happy ending! The bullet was lodged under the scalp and had never penetrated the skull. My junior resident removed the bullet at the bedside in the ER slot and in an act of cheekiness sent the bullet fragment with our complements to Columbia. Our respective departmental chairmen had some choice words to share in the morning. Life goes on in the big city….
That reminds me of when the orthopedic surgery resident put a patient in traction by driving a Steinman pin through and through the skull….
Images are little memories. The graphic is like Le Petite Madeleine, Proust. Memories. A time past and but forgotten except for the image to call forth a memory forgotten till that moment you see the image again. Photographic memory? By my age I have so many images collected that they all seem new again. But…this image was taken in the 60’s at 15 Southgate Road. It was a brick house my mom had built. Three little pigs – remember? Not us silly….brick is stronger and lasts. The house is still there. Only two owners have lived there since mom built it. So it did last and has been cherished. The neighborhood is way different. It’s still suburban middle class. But it looks so tiny and small now. Well, the three boys grew up. I’m the oldest. John has the other bowtie. And Eric is the infant who nowadays has a ponytail. Happy birthday John. I don’t know. There are very few pictures from this time. I actually got this copy from my cousin. On the other hand I have thousands of images of my kids. They are archived and passed along to them. Better?
I am not an early riser. And I am pretty lazy. I shoot images when they conveniently present which is to say that I will not get up, travel, and brave the elements to get a spectacular sunrise. However, I can readily appreciate one when I look out the window to check the weather. I usually have a camera close by. So there! Yes, yes, it would be a much better shot without all the distracting branches. Did I say lazy?
The new part in the front was not there when I went to learn to swim. I took swim lessons. I had a semester of ballet and tap. (Mother again) And I learned ballroom dance. Oh, and the library was right there on the right front. I played chess too. Tom Swift, Chip Hilton, Dave Dawson and the RAF, Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew – series and books all there to be discovered. The Nancy Drews were scary enough that I did not read too many. My daughter grew up devouring them. She has the Happy Hollisters that I read and later collected. Old and new, there is something bittersweet about change. It happens all the time. When did I get so sentimental?
I’m sorry I can’t be more specific about a name. It still is and it’s still there. Others in town are no longer churches. Another progressive idea of my mother was to send me to Sunday school with the little girl next door, Anne. It was Sunday and it was another opportunity to be in school. We were not religious. But we could car pool with Anne. So I learned about the bible. And in the last few minutes before school let out, the teacher had us count and estimate how long a minute lasted. I got close – 58, 59 seconds – often.
The entrance to the left and behind the church was where we had meetings of our boy scout troop in the basement. Troop 86, we regularly won competitions for best troop. We had a good scoutmaster. But camping could be very cold. Once we camped and I went swimming. I got a sunburn where the sun don’t shine. It was humiliating for my mother to take care of it. Never skinny dip unless you are prepared for the consequences. Gee, it was bad enough to go without a suit!
Davis and Elkins College. It’s not everyday you meet the college president while you’re eating lunch. Jean introduced us. And we saw him again later. Small world small town. It’s a pretty campus on the hill. Big, I mean big kids went there (relative to a grade school junior high kid). The kids got smaller this visit. Yes, just kids….
This place is where I took typing lessons as a junior high kid. My mother was pretty progressive in her thinking. My keyboard skills never got much past – the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Yup count ‘em – all 26 letters.
We got to wander around. The college kids have shrunk and look so small now. And I believe the chapel is new. Anyway I have a soft spot for stained glass.
Well that is the name that surfaced in my memory. There were two theaters and one drive in when I lived there. One movie house closed. This is not a theater anymore either. But my youth was spent here on Saturdays. 25 cents for the movie and a cardboard box of 15 cents pop corn: you were set till mom came by in the car to get you. As soon as the lights went down all the flattened boxes were tossed like Frisbees. There were the old serial rocket man movies. You always missed too many episodes so it was more tease than fun. My dad took me to see “The Summer Place” here. I’m still puzzled to this day why he did. And once I found a Bulova watch that had smashed when it fell from a car. Only the internal workings survived. I dropped that watch all day wondering how the timepiece was still ticking. And then, right outside the theater it stopped working. Duh?
Like most places downtown anywhere just isn’t much. The mall model has moved most commerce to other places out of town. Dollar General is misleading. The stuff is all more than a dollar. This site and side of the street had a Murphy’s. The store across the street was a Grant’s. Both were five and dime stores.
I could get a real model airplane for 49 cents. It was great. In those days you got the model glue and no one worried that you were sniffing it to get high. And there were no bagels. At least I never heard of a bagel till I lived in NY again.
I don’t think so. It’s just the train station in Elkins. I don’t remember this station at all. It was there and has always been there. I forgot to ask if it is still functional. We were from NY and every once in a while my mother would order Chinese ingredients from Chinatown. Then, I knew the package was delivered railway express. So I suppose this is the station. But the image and the station are new to me. I mean i guess we passed it but it was never on my radar.
When I lived there, we had a phone number with four digits, no exchange and no area codes yet. And an operator connected all your calls. This was a house on a steep hill where we rented until the Southgate Road house was built. Let me tell you, it was steep hill!
It had a coal furnace. It was in much more rundown condition then. Another kid jumped from the porch to the driveway below. It hurt! A robin built a nest in the evergreen on the left one year. I burned ants with a magnifying glass on the front walk. And the family doc would finish his office hours and come around in the evening to give you a shot in the ass. Imagine being ill all day and dreading the visit and that shot!
Colleen admired and remembered a teapot that Jean owned. Jean in turn had received it as a gift from another friend. Not so much a gift as it was given to her when the friend’s mother passed away. I could be wrong. But this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway the nice thing is that there is a place to put a candle in order to keep your tea warm. Ok. There are people who are passionate about their tea. Colleen asked about the maker in order to try to find another. Jean gave it to Colleen. It’s one of life’s moments, an act of friendship followed by an act of kindness.
Jean moved to the top of the hill overlooking Elkins. It was Danny’s old house. I remember him and I don’t. This is a view worth having. That tall building is the courthouse. If you have to move this is the place you’d want to be.
The guest bedroom overlooks this view. I must make it a point to come and stay. But it might be fifty more years before I go back.
Jean was another childhood friend. She spent time as a correspondent in London before returning to West Virginia. London turned her hair white. Her uncle removed my tonsils a second time and for my brother John the first. Tonsils stay in nowadays. Her house was this brick place I remember well. It was one of the first venues in 7th grade where I discovered it was so lovely to hold a girl and slow dance. Jean swears she remembers I asked her to dance.
She was my neighbor at the end of the block where the stockyard cornfield used to be. Her dad was a florist. The other gal is Colleen. Lorraine, Ricky, Anne and I were known as the Southgate Road gang and we were invited to all the parties in the 7th and 8th grade together. We car-pooled. She was on my short list of people to see when I returned. We tried to remember old times, which is always fun as your memory fades. Well, I certain none of us had grey hair last we met.
The side yard. And that window to the rear. That was my window. And the yard was where I lay by the side of the house in the shade and imagined what shapes the clouds made. And I searched for four leaf clovers. And I lay there looking at the sky and thinking how old my parents must be. And where babies came from. And ….
This was the house I remember fondly from my childhood. I lived in a lot of places. By my count we lived in nine places by the time I was eighteen. So the story I told was that my father was a bank robber and we had to move a lot. Actually, my mom liked to live in a nice house and my father liked to change jobs. But the bank robber thing stopped people from asking too many questions. They just knew I was not giving straight answers.
Three bedrooms, and a large mud room behind the garage, the house was small but well laid out. It was a brick house with a hip roof. Not cool, it’s just what the style is called. It’s special different because it’s more labor intensive to construct. We had one car garage because my father was holding down cost. My mother never let him forget his error. The green door was white and original until about a year ago. I’m surprised that the trees are not more mature. The windows are the same. And the electric meter on the right side – I used to race it around the house to see if I could go round before it spun once.
The night shot is the first view I had of the house as we got to Elkins. Fifty years plus later, I found out you can go back. It was so similar and so not.
It doesn’t look forlorn. Maybe it’s been rebuilt. I played here as a kid. On the right there was cliff to climb. I almost inadvertently touched a diamondback rattle snake there. The bridge seemed higher then. There were rocks below and we once found a dead dog. My brother John fished for blue gill and spent many an afternoon alone here.
To the left was a cornfield. The houses are new. And along the bank was a rope swing that hung out over the water. I was a kid. We were forbidden to swim in the river. But that rope swing was so tempting. So I was the first of my cohort to grab that rope and have a swing. I landed back on the shore. I remember I was the brave bold one to try it first. We spent a lot of time and never got wet. The houses look like they have been there forever now. Water view, everyone wants one.
It’s been here forever. Well, at least it’s been around since I was a kid many many decades ago. If you look closely there’s a fourteen year old mowing the lawn. I don’t know how old she is but fourteen was the number that popped in my head when I shot this image. No one lives here? It is an event venue. So you can have your next party. I like the house but an event does not appeal.
The formative years were grade school. At least they are the long school years with the same kids year after year. Third to the sixth grade in the same building, you remember a lot. Across the street lived Colleen. I played dodge ball, crossover, red rover red rover in the yard. There was no fence. The school was heated by coal. I learned to folk dance with my class for three years. I had the same teacher in fourth and fifth grade. My fourth grade class was a split class with fifth graders in one half the room. The school principal was our sixth grade teacher and his daughter was in my class. I could name my teachers. It doesn’t matter. And the kids, well, a few stick out. Mostly I don’t remember exactly who was in my class.
It’s an apartment house! After more than fifty years I returned to Elkins for the first time. It’s an apartment house. This is the building. I can see it as a school but not as a rental apartment. Shocked. Yes I am. Surprised, no not really. And the elementary school, it’s at the end of the block where my old house was located. The new school is new but doesn’t have the character. Whoa! The neighborhood changed.
Colleen grew up here when I knew her in grade school. The house is still there. It is across from our grade school Elkins First Ward. It’s pretty nice to cross the street to school. I remember visiting her once. I received an invitation to play with her. And what I can recall is that I was impressed by her older brother’s three speed English racer. I ride a 24 speed Specialized tricross bike now. But the three speed bike was so exotic when I saw it back then. As for the invitation, that part is murky. We did not get together again. Girls and boys kind of stayed apart. I regret that it was the bike I remember most.
For the next month or so I am going back to old photos. Jean sent me this photo. It is a group shot of my fourth grade folk dance group. We were named the A Cappers after our teacher Mrs Cappidoni seen at right. And to her right is Colleen. And at her shoulder is Anne. Both girls are married and maiden names are changed. This leads me to long story short. I searched for Anne on the internet many years after we were all adults. In the course of my search Colleen chanced to leave her maiden name on the high school website. We connected.
The costumes were as you see them. The boys wore vests and sash with a string tie. And the girls wore skirts and tops with a white blouse. My partner was Beverly center girl front row. In all these years I have been in touch with only Colleen. Well I corresponded with Anne by email once. She had nothing more to say. I can safely assume she will not chance across this comment. She was my neighbor growing up.
My search for Anne was merely a wish to know whether she was happy and her life had turned out well. You may surmise that of this group many of our lives turned out much differently than you might tell from this grade school picture.
And Colleen has told me she intentionally stood in front of Anne those many years ago. But I recognized her eyes. Yes, I am being intentionally obtuse. Who’s eyes?
We moved to Elkins, West Virginia when I was six and left when I was about fourteen. I haven’t returned and all connections to my childhood there were severed when we moved away. I can google the place and look at google earth now. What I saw was that the neighborhood expanded and is now all developed with new/old homes for as far as the eye can see. My mother eventually had this custom house built on a brand new block. It was two years after we arrived. Custom designed by her, it was a three bedroom brick house with one car garage and a hip roof. In retrospect it should have had a two car garage. Otherwise it was in a new development area with all new families that had young kids. It was a pretty good place to grow up. And it wasn’t. I fondly remember a girl who lived next door named Anne. She ‘doesn’t do reunions.’ So, when I finally was able to track her down in the internet/google age, she emailed me once and went silent everafter. Here are the three boys, Victor, John, Eric, about 10, 5, and 1.