I finished my shift at the beach, changed into street clothes, and hopped into my ‘64 candy-apple red Corvette convertible—the one with the white scoops on the side. Gunning the 425 engine a few times, I peel out, spewing gravel everywhere. With the car radio blasting the Beatle’s Paperback Writer, I head for home to grab some supper before going to my second summer job at WBLY-FM.
My parent’s house is located a mile past New Carlisle’s westernmost welcome/come again sign. My hometown, a typical Ohio village, features a part-time mayor, two gas stations, five churches, and a few locally-owned stores, like Strome’s barbershop. On the state map, it barely earns a small dot with an official population figure of less than 5,000. Most of the dads who live here drive to nearby Dayton or Springfield for work, while the moms stay home to keep house and raise the kids. There is one elementary, one junior high, and one senior high in town and the school board has to bus students in from five miles away in every direction to fill up the classrooms.
Besides Silver Lake and the outdoor movie theater, there aren’t a lot of things for a young man to do in New Carlisle, unless you count cruising the Melody—a local drive-in restaurant with the best foot-long hot dogs in a four-county area, especially when smothered with mustard, relish, and onions, and accompanied by a foam-topped root beer in a frosty mug. Guys also like to watch the female carhops, in their short red skirts, roller-skating back and forth to the rock and roll beat of the many car radios.
There are no nightclubs in New Carlisle because the town is “dry.” The closest drinking establishment, the “Boom-Boom Room,” is located in the Midway bowling lanes, about two miles south of town. This tiny watering hole became famous in November of 1965, when a local high school English teacher, Miss French, became intoxicated one evening, and then atop one of the lounge tables proceeded to do a very effective striptease to the loud applause of the Thursday night men’s league.
Nothing remains a secret long in a small town, so when the students found out about Miss French’s impromptu performance, they nicknamed her Boom-Boom. Needless to say, once the teasing starts, kids never let up, so Miss French left town soon after the incident and moved to Las Vegas. (We found out later she kept Boom-Boom as her professional name and had a very successful career).
Every fall New Carlisle has a big affair called the “Potato Festival” to celebrate the town’s largest local crop. There’s a parade lead by the high school band, a few small floats pulled by tractors, and the Shriners marching in funny hats. We also elect a queen and her court, although I’m not sure if winning the “Miss Spud” title is an honor or not.
They close down three blocks of Main Street for the festival, so vendors can erect their canvas and wood framed booths to sell curly, deep-fried potatoes, or amazing kitchen tools that slice and dice, or offer games of chance to win a whistle, yo-yo, or stuffed animal. Personally, I like the Jaycees’ dunking booth best. There’s no prize, but if you hit the big red bullseye with a three-for-a-dollar softball, then your favorite cheerleader, teacher or coach gets dropped into a big tub of cold water.
Main Street, by the way, is also State Route 69. The Ohio Highway Department doesn’t realize the significant secondary market value of the large signs they place every two to three miles along this famous road. After a little midnight requisition with a flashlight and a pair of pliers, I can sell these signs at $25 each to my fellow OSU students for their dorm and fraternity walls. And the best thing about this moneymaking endeavor is…no matter how many signs I acquire, the state keeps replacing them. Technically, this could be considered stealing, but I try not to think about it too much.
I stay at home in the summer because of the free room, board, and laundry service, plus it’s close to my job at Silver Lake. The downside is sharing a bedroom with my pesky kid brother, and trying to sleep without air conditioning—because Ohio gets really hot and humid, especially in August.
Pulling into the driveway, I grab the mail and leap up the steps to our white, one-story ranch house that sits on a big corner lot just down the highway from Charlie’s Carryout. Our door is never locked because there’s no real crime in New Carlisle—just the occasional youth mischief, as Policeman Sam likes to call it.
“I’m home.” I holler to no one in particular and toss the mail on the kitchen table. Mom appears in the hallway arch, “You’re just in time for supper. I made your favorite—homemade chicken and noodles.”
I sit down, and like magic, my brother and sister appear, drawn no doubt by the good kitchen smells. In unison, they say, “Let’s eat.” Mother replies, “Not until your father gets home.” We didn’t have long to wait before dad pulled into the driveway at exactly 5:30 p.m.—the same time he gets home from work every day. He is so consistent; you can set your watch by his arrival time.
My mother is five-foot-one with dark hair, a round face, and a constant smile. You can tell from her profile that she enjoys her own cooking. My father on the other hand is just the opposite, skinny as a rail and well over six-feet. Mother says he looks a little like Jimmy Stewart, but I can’t see it.
My brother and sister are younger than me. We were born exactly seven years apart, so we tease mother about having the seven-year itch—you know, like the movie with Marilyn Monroe? She always gets embarrassed and then scurries into the kitchen to make another pie.
Sitting down around the big wooden table, we start stuffing our faces with thick slabs of noodles, in heavy brown gravy, with big chunks of white chicken. Mom makes all of the noodles by hand, usually the day before, rolling out the dough and cutting it into twelve-inch long, quarter-inch wide strips that she hangs on a rack to dry until she is ready to cook.
Deep into our second helping, dad picks up the mail and starts sorting through it. “Bill, bill, advertisement, bill…wait, Eli, there’s something here for you.” He pauses, then hands me the letter, “It’s from the U.S. Selective Service.”
“Probably just a confirmation of my student status for fall…I hope.” My voice cracks and I let slip a nervous laugh. Palms sweaty, I fumble with the envelope, finally giving up neatness and ripping off the end. I pull out the letter and read, “Greetings from Uncle Sam.” My heart stops. Never very good at poker, mom sees my concern and asks. “What is it?”
Dropping the letter into my plate of homemade chicken and noodles, I announce. “I’ve been drafted.”
“DRAFTED” by Rich Allan http://www.amazon.com/Drafted-ebook/dp/B004LGTRSK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0