High School Days
I graduated from the 8th grade in 1940 and the next fall started as a freshman in high school. My biggest problem there was to learn to stop calling the teacher Sister! The principle of the school was Miss Eskola, and she ran a tight ship. Her office was right off the large study hall, and anyone making noise during the study period was in danger of being herded into her office.
Of course we were all maturing sexually during this time, and I learned to be enthralled by looking at a girl as a girl, not just as a person. That was rather intriguing to me as I found girls were pretty good to watch. At least amongst the boys some small green books circulated with ‘dirty’ pictures and stories in them. They were always carefully hidden. There was a practice among the senior high students to pass around ‘slam’ books. People would write rather vicious comments about someone in it and of course not sign them. I honestly don’t remember in all detail about what was in them, perhaps because I was not picked on.
I remember trying out for the basketball team, but didn’t make it. So I became what was referred to as the manager. This meant at each break in the game I would run out to the team with a box of towels for them to wipe off the sweat. It also meant I had to wash those towels after each game. I would go to all the games, including the out of town. I remember one year when the game was in Baraga, and we were in the midst of a snow storm. I had the use of my dad’s car and drove to the game with a carload of friends. On the way back we could see in the snow ahead that a car had skidded off the road and was in the ditch, perpendicular to the road. I stopped a little way down the road and went back to see if they needed any help. I was standing in the road looking at the hood of the car when someone yelled “Look out!” The next thing I remember I was standing on the hood of the car and another car just careened past the point where I had been standing in the road. I also tried out for the football team, and made it to the third or fourth team. This meant I played every day there was practice, but never on Saturday. Except for the last game of my senior year. That game was played in Lake Linden, and the field was wet and frozen in parts. I was only too glad to be bundled up warmly on the sideline, but two minutes before the end of the game the coach decided to send me in. That was the last thing I wanted. Fortunately I was playing the end position and I didn’t have to hunker down to the ground. I was very successful in not being blocked down to the ground, or having to make a tackle, so I went home on the bus in pristine condition! I really enjoyed school, especially the math and science courses. But we also had a woodshop course and I made a nice sewing box for my mother. I also enjoyed some of the craft work we did. One involved making a mat out of rug yarn and had enough design work to it to make it interesting. Of course I had some girl friends while in High School, but was mostly afraid of girls. But I had curly dark hair and was not without female friends. I remember that as a sophomore I was invited by a junior to go to the junior prom with her, and I was petrified of dancing too close to her. I was certain that I would not be able to control my sexuality if our bodies touched while dancing. I am not sure who I went to my Junior prom with, but by my Senior year I decided that I would not go to the prom. One of my classmates was Joyce Verville and she had taken the unacceptable step of dating a student from Michigan Tech. We guys didn’t approve of that since it meant that the girl doing that was just showing off. It seems that for some reason he couldn’t go to our senior prom so a bevy of Joyce’s friends worked on me to force me to take her to the prom. Which I did. It’s possible that she had a good time, but I sure didn’t. The irony of all this is that she eventually married her Tech student, and they lived in an apartment in Hancock at 309 Franklin St. The very first apartment that Sally and I had was in that same building. We were on the top floor and Joyce was on the floor below.
Another little incident involving proms was developed by my mother and her good friend Anne Goodreau. The Goodreau’s had twin daughters who were not quite the best looking kids. They lived in Chassell, a few miles down Route 41. Well our mother and Mrs. Goodreau talked things over and decided that Warren and I would be the twin’s escorts at their Senior Prom. So being the obedient sons we are that is what happened and we were all pleased with the result. The Williams family lived a few houses up Ryan Street, and Warren and I spent various amounts of time with them. They had several children, including George who was about my age, Mary Kathleen about a year younger, an older sister Helen and a younger brother. The Williams’ really wanted Warren to date Helen but he had no interest in that situation. As I remember he had a pretty steady date for a while with Eileen McMahon. However, Mary Kathleen, aka Gootsie and I sort of hit it off. The Williams family liked to gather in the evening and sing together while Mrs. Williams played the piano. They invited me to join them and I often did. As time went on it developed that Gootsie and I decided to go on a date. We wanted to see an evening movie at the Lode Theater in Houghton, about 1½ mile away, across the bridge. I had access to my dad’s car but Mr. Williams absolutely vetoed my using it on the date. We must walk there even though I had spent a number of evenings at their home. So, walk we did. We were supposed to be back to the Williams house by 9:30 at the latest, but we tried explaining to him that the movie ended at 9:15 and we had to walk home. He refused to accept any change in his orders, so when we walked in to the house about 9:45 he was furious and really read the riot act to me.
The Lake Street Boys
One of my strongest memories arises from the group of boys that hung out as a gang. There were seven or eight of us that stuck together, with always one or more temporary place holders. Most of the things we did were in and around Lake Avenue, and involved sports, water, and a shack that was put up by the City on a vacant lot. Lake Avenue ran east and west just north of the ship canal. A steep hill down from Lake Avenue led to a good sized peninsula that was devoid of trees and ended at the water’s edge. This was perfect for baseball and football and we played many pick-up games there. We referred to this area as ‘the Point.’ John Turk’s house was the focal point for our gang. We would always check with John to see what was going on, and his mother was very pleased to take care of us. John had an older brother, Judson, but we never saw him. Also, it was rumored that his father had ended up in jail because of some financial deals, but we never paid any attention to that. Of course most of our game time was spent arguing over technicalities of the game we were playing at the time. Rule interpretations are always subject to revision. And as the day grew on and we became somewhat more exhausted we spent even more time arguing. One time the older boys decided to build a diving helmet.
The water at the end of the Point dipped down quite steeply and it was decided that it would be great to go down there and explore it a little. So someone found an old hot water tank, and took it to a garage that had a metal cutting torch. They cut it to the desired length then fashioned a face plate and a couple of holes for valves – one to accept air and the other to exhaust. They connected a tire pump to the input valve and the idea was that someone up above would be pumping air into the tank while the diver roamed around underwater. Well this seemed to work quite well. One diver went down far enough to see a sunken boat and that aroused more desire to dive. Of course it was quite tricky to keep the proper balance of the amount of air being pumped in and the amount exhausted. Too much input would mean that the tank would become light and tend to rise. Too little input would mean that the water in the tank would rise and cut off breathing. Finally when most everyone was finished diving Warren said I could try it. So I put the tank over my head and walked into the water. I would say that all went well for about 30 seconds. The tank started to rise, so I bent over to let out a bubble of air and overdid it so that the water surged into the tank and covered my nose. I should have just held my breath until the water level receded, but I didn’t. In panic I pushed the tank off my shoulders letting it fall to the bottom. It got entangled in some trash or something and they had a terrible time recovering the tank. That was my only diving experience with that tank.
About the Shack
But the really big deal was the shack. We didn’t use it in the summer, but it was our winter headquarters. It was right at the edge of a hockey rink sized field, had a wooden stove in it, and water was available at the side of the field. So it was natural to construct a skating rink there where we could play hockey. The winters in Hancock are long, cold, and loads of snow is dropped in that season. When the weather was cold enough we would level out the snow, tromp it down, and then water it to build up a thick ice cover. This would mean that we would have to water it at least a dozen times if not more. So when the real cold weather arrived – down to at most single digits – we would spend the night in the shack to do continuous watering. This was a high point of the winter season for us. The shack had plenty of floor space, a wood burning heater and an ample supply of wood. Then the gang would gather there after dinner on a Friday night and spend the weekend in the shack. Going home for meals, of course. It would take the better part of an hour to water the rink area, and not long after that was done it would be ready for the next coat. So all night long we would continue this layering of the rink. We did the icing in turns and when not watering we would play cards, talk, tell stories and perhaps sleep a little. One year a rather sad thing happened. Bobby Wills’s father was very rough on him and seemed to be always punishing him for something. Well, one year his father forbad him to participate in the icing detail. We all felt sorry for him, of course. Well, Bobby decided to come to the shack anyway in defiance of his father’s order. All seemed to be OK for a while, but his father showed up about 10:00 p.m. or so and dragged him off home. Bobby was crushed and it took him a long time to get over that scene.
I was often trying to find some ways to make some money – I don’t remember that I bought very much but I had many different jobs. One was being the local representative for the Milwaukee Journal. This newspaper came to Hancock by train so it was necessary to each day go to the train station to pick up the bundles of papers that were dropped off when the train stopped in Hancock. The train line was referred to as the Milwaukee Road. Each day the train would drop off the Milwaukee Journal for that day and also some of the inserts for the Sunday newspaper. I would pick up the Sunday inserts and the daily paper and bring the copies of the daily paper to the homes of the several newspaper carriers I had hired. Then on Saturday the final set of inserts were dropped off and I would stuff them all together in preparation for Sunday’s delivery after the final sections arrived. By Sunday morning when the news section arrived and was stuffed with the other sections the newspaper became quite a heavy bundle.
Keeping a working group of paper boys and girls was quite a chore. While each person wanted to deliver the papers they didn’t necessarily put that action at the top of their agenda. Also, the carriers had to collect the money from the subscribers and the young folk weren’t terribly reliable at this. Also their collection activity was complicated because each customer had the option to buy some form of insurance and this had to be factored in. I had to pay the Milwaukee Journal for the papers that arrived so I had to get the money from the carriers. This plus filling out the associated paper work made for an extensive job time. I did this for a couple of years then had enough of that.
Elsewhere in these writings I refer to my jobs as a stock boy with F.W. Woolworth and to my stint as a shoeshine boy on a shoe stand that my dad built for me.