Growing Up in Small Town America

I grew up  in small town America in the 1950s…a village so tiny, it says “come again” on the back of the “welcome” sign.

In the fifties, forget your i-pads and cell phones. Nobody had them. Only the news media sent texts over the telex network to a bulky machine called a teleprinter.  If you had a TV, there was only one, and it was black & white. No blue-ray,VHS, DVD, or Beta machines. No Fox or CW Network…no cable TV, and that includes HBO, MTV, or ESPN. No sir, if you wanted porn, you had to send away for a grainy super 8 copy of a naked guy in black socks & a mask pretending to be the plumber. If wanted to watch it you had to hold it up to a bright light, or find somebody with a super 8 projector. Playboy’s first issue wasn’t until 1953.  Nobody talked about sex back then, so we learned what we needed from looking through the steamed up windows of the cars parked in the last row of the drive-in theater.

Everybody went to the same high school and there were only a handful of  people in my senior class. If only two more students had moved away, I could have been valedictorian by default.  When you wanted to start dating in high school, (and only heterosexual couplings were allowed), it had to be within your social circle. An honor student could not hang out with a hood, and a cheerleader could only date an athlete. Then there were the rest of us, a huddle mass in the middle, muddling about, knuckles dragging on the ground, hoping one day to get to second base…and I’m not talking baseball. I was luckier than most because I met my sweetheart in high school, Miss Smith, the English teacher…and tried to marry her right after she was released from prison.

Thanks to Miss Smith, I became sexually active fairly young and would amuse my classmates with stories of our carnal adventures. I remember when she whispered, “Let’s try a new sexual position tonight.” I said, “What did you have in mind,” and she said, “I’d like to be in the same room.” I was skeptical, but agreed to give it a try. Turns out my father lied to me, and it is not necessary to involve barnyard animals. I know the sheep were disappointed.

There is not much to do growing up in a small Ohio farm town, especially when it’s “dry.” The town did not allow alcohol to be sold within the city limits — no bars, no night clubs, and no beer keg drive-thru. We did have a grocery store (with one aisle), a Baskin Robbins that carried only one flavor…vanilla, and a bank, where once a week, you visited the teller and gave him fifty cents for your Christmas savings account. One summer, we all got excited when the mayor announced a planned village swimming pool…until it turned out to be a blow-up with four different animal heads that squeaked.

We did what we could to amuse ourselves…like moving a “for sale” sign to a different house, tipping over outhouses, or watching Mr. Bergman change the clothes on the general store mannequin.  At Halloween, we used soft soap on the windows, threw raw corn on the tin roofs, and stuck stink bombs between the storm and regular door…then rang the doorbell and ran. We did have a Christmas parade one year. It lasted five minutes, and consisted of the high school marching band, the mayor in his Cadillac, Moose Lodge #23 and the wife auxiliary, and the town children carrying balloons, walking from one end of the downtown block to the other. Nobody watched the parade or took any pictures, because the whole town was in it.

Now I live in crowded Los Angeles in the modern 21st century…but I do think about that time in my life, and truthfully miss squeezing the giraffe head on that silly little pool.

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Richard Allan Jones is a writer and author of the novel, “Drafted,” available at amazon.com. In his spare time he is working on a new novel “Party Favors;” plays bass & sings in Revolution Road, a 60s classic rock band; and occasionally does some acting.

 

 

 

 

 

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