|The LifeStory Institute
The writer's workshop for memoirists, autobiographers and family historians.
LifeStory was founded in 1991 as a how-to newsletter/magazine and also as an over-the-road workshop
travelling North America teaching and coaching new and longtime writers of all ages how to write about
their lives and the lives of their ancestors. The premise is that everyone can, and probably should, write
their life story to pass on to their family,friends,and others interested, including and perhaps especially,
All material on this website unless otherwise indicated is Copyright 2015 by The LifeStory Institute.
WELCOME TO THE LIFESTORY JOURNALONG! We will run for a few more days (ending on August 28).
The idea is that if you write every day for 28 days you will be habituated and will joyously do it forever after!
If you have been here all along, by all means go on writing each and every day. You'll come to love it as I
have these past fifty years. I am Charley Kempthorne and this is our LifeStory website, my means of reaching out to you and all
the wide world. I am a writer and a writing coach. Mainly I try to help people by encouraging and enabling them to write regularly--daily if
at all possible.
Please join me in writing 500+ words this morning about whatever is on your mind. You do yours at home and I'll do mine right here. We
support one another by writing together. If you'd like to share some or all of what you've written, send it to me via email,
Look for the LifeStory Online Workshop coming soon and other new stuff now
under imagination and construction.
BAKED FRESH THIS MORNING!
Fr., September 4, 2015
Today is my granddaughter Violet’s 9th birthday. I can remember being 9…almost. But more
and more when I remember my past it seems like the past of another person, not me. I don’t
know how to explain that. It’s just a feeling. Actually, though I’m now 77, I don’t really remember
being 76. A friend who is now 78 was asked if she was 77. Well, I was, she said.
I was born in Minot, North Dakota. I lived in Merkel,Texas; in the country near Poland, Indiana;
then in Rewey, Wisconsin; then in Manhattan, Kansas, then Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Great
Lakes, Illinois, then in Bainbridge, Maryland; Norman, Oklahoma; Brooklyn, New York;
Manhattan, Kansas, again; then Madison, Wisconsin; DeForest, Wisconsin; Manhattan, Kansas
again; then Topeka,Kansas; Lawrence, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; then Lawrence again;
then Tlaxcala, Mexico; then Stevens Point, Wisconsin; Iowa City, Iowa; back to Stevens Point,
Wisconsin; then Mosinee, Wisconsin;then (whew!) once again back to Manhattan until now I
am moving to Olympia, Washington. Chances are, Olympia is the last place I’ll live.
But you never know.
After a lifetime, nearly, spent in the Middle West, I will be a Northwesterner. I will be a West
Coastian. In four days we leave to live forty miles from Mount Rainier. How weird can things
Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.
A man, a plan, a canal…Panama!
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
An anagram for Seattle is LET’S EAT.
My name is Jan Jansen
I come from Wisconsin.
I work in the lumberyard there.
I go down the street
The people I meet
They ask me my name
And I tells ‘em…
My name is Jan Jansen, etc.
Algy saw a bear. The bear saw Algy. The Bear was bulgy. The bulge was Algy.
As I was looking back to see if he was looking back, he was looking back to see if I was looking
This is what happens when you don’t know what you don’t know.
My father was born in Platteville, Wisconsin. My mother was born in West Point, Kentucky. My
brother was born in Indianapolis, Indiana; my sister in Manhattan, Kansas. My oldest son was
born in Manhattan, Kansas; my oldest daughter was born in Topeka, Kansas; my next son was
born in Iowa City, Iowa; next oldest daughter was born in Madison, Wisconsin; and my two
youngest sons were both born in Manhattan, Kansas.
Ugga ugga boo ugga boo boo ugga.
Around the rock the ragged rascal ran.
It’s going to be a hot one today.
When I was a little boy, we did about anything we could to say something forbidden. We’d say
at table, Pass the cat’s erp (erp being a kid word for throw up) or pass the mouseturd. This was
considered quite witty.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
Rosebud. 505 words.
Thu., September 3, 2015
At Pillsbury Crossing where we had gone to sit in the car and read or nap for an hour while a
realtor took a client interested in our place through it, we parked in the shade of a big old oak
tree. June read a mystery novel and I watched some college kids swimming, swinging out on a
rope and dropping into the water. There was only one boy and three or four girls--all pretty
girls in bikinis--and the boy was taking advantage of being the only male, climbing up the tree
to get the long rope that hung over the water and swinging it back to get the next girl to take it,
swing out, let go and drop into the water maybe fifteen feet below. I watched, remembering
how I loved doing this at this very place sixty-five years or more ago.
School has started, of course, and I remembered too those happy days when school has
started but doesn’t yet have to be taken all that seriously: no tests yet, no papers due, nothing
really except getting to know one another. The town was crowded now--where once the cars
had been there, of course, but nothing like the bumper to bumper traffic we were having now.
And football season was starting with the kickoff against Oklahoma or whomever, just next
Swimming was the one sport I dearly loved. We swam in this creek, upstream a mile or two--
Deep Creek came out of a springs and ran across our place and thence to Pillsbury Crossing
and then picking up some speed and rolling into the Kansas River four or five miles east. When
we moved to town I swam in the city pool, going just after lunch, aware that we had to wait an
hour or so because if we went in the water too soon and got a cramp, something bad would
happen--I forget just what. We waited impatiently for the pool to open, showed our suit with the
metal tag our mothers had sewn on for us, went inside and took a cool shower by walking
through the bath of water squirting us up and down, stepped into the footbath and then went
merrily diving into the pool. Sometimes we’d stay till almost suppertime--or even longer.
As we got older some of us boys went in again after the pool had closed and under cover of
darkness, easily climbing the chain link fence and slipping into the water quietly, no suits now,
just quietly paddling along a few laps with the delicious knowledge that this was illegal and if
we were caught our parents would tan our hides for us. Once a bunch of us were caught and
hauled into the police station and given a lecture by the night Chief of Police and a notice to
show up with our parents the following Sunday afternoon to be given a talking to. Our parents
were furious, of course, at having their Sunday afternoon leisurely nap being taken from them,
and the embarrassment of the police car coming to our home to get all of us--all for the
neighbors to see. 538 words.
Sun., August 30, 2015
Thick fog this morning here in Manhattan, Kansas, 66502. And chilly. We aren’t leaving for
Puget Sound for a week and already we have their weather. All we need is to walk through the
woods to Bad Pond and find a ship docked there. I remember now when I was in the Navy we
called crossing the Atlantic “crossing the pond.” But Bad Pond is less than 150 feet across
where the Atlantic was two or three thousand miles.
I was enchanted by the sea and ships that first day I went aboard the USNS General Maurice
Rose in mid-summer of 1958 lying at (let’s see if I can remember or simulate remembering all
this) Pier 16, south inner, Brooklyn Army Terminal, 58th Street and 2nd Avenue, Brooklyn 50,
New York. (No zip codes back then, but large cities did have zone numbers.)
I explored the ship from top to bottom and stem to stern. The Rose was a P-2 type vessel,
whatever that meant. She had two stacks. She was 600 feet long and 75 feet abeam, and
weighed 16,000 tons. The Rose was a USNS ship, not a USS one. USNS stood for United
States Naval Ship, meaning that she was of course owned by the United States but operated by
a crew of civil service mariners (the crew and officers were about 200; the military department,
of which I was a part of, was about 20). The purpose of the ship was to carry personnel to and
from duty stations abroad. (There I go lapsing into government speak: I sound like the way a
bulletin board in a given passageway reads.)
Most of all I loved all the words associated with ships and going to sea…pardon me, “and
putting to sea.” There were no floors, only decks; no walls, just bulkheads; no ceilings, just
overheads; no stairways, just ladders. Oh, it was glorious to live aboard a ship!
We did not have a captain for our ship, we had a master. He was addressed as Captain, but
usually referred to as “the master.” If you had addressed him as in Yes, master, he would have
thought you were straight out of a Frankenstein movie. Our master on the Rose was Captain
Joseph J. Powers, a diminutive Irish-American whose mere bearing commanded respect, a
man who had been to sea something like fifty years but of whom it was said became seasick in
heavy weather. He went to his cabin just aft of the bridge and strapped himself in his bunk,
turning everything over to the Mate. (The Mate always meant “First Mate,” kind of like Vice
I was briefly seasick an hour out to sea. I was very busy typing and doing all the administrative
stuff we had to do and so I didn’t even know we were underway until someone said so. Then,
suggestion took its toll when someone said,Oh, we’re underway, and I felt the motion of the
ship, very slight, and for a minute I thought, Oh, oh, I’m going to be sick—because I was afraid I
would be—and then some superior (everyone was my superior then) said, Kempthorne, type
this up right now! And I forgot all about being seasick after that for the rest of the time I was in
the Navy. 555 words.
Sat., August 29, 2015
God, I promise that if I am allowed to live long enough to move to Olympia, Washington, and
together with my wife, live with our son and his wife and daughter in their wonderful place on
Boston Harbor Road--God, I promise that I will never buy another thing I don’t need just to take
the next breath. I will never again be a junker, a collector, a holder of books or other items that
do not pass the needs test.
We are having our 8th (or is it the umpteenth?) yard sale today. People aren’t buying it, or even
carrying it away, fast enough. A week from today we are leaving for Olympia. Time is running
out of all this junk.
Moreover, there is a touch of autumn in the air. Leaves are falling from the trees. I am wearing
long-sleeved shirts and socks.
It is 4 am. In three hours our LAST YARDSALE EVER begins. It will run until 2 this afternoon.
I can’t think of a single thing that would be any fun that does not begin with “If I were thirty
years younger…” EXCEPT sitting and watching my grandchildren (and children) play and
cavort on the living room floor.
In the old days, if I remember, coffee was coffee. Oh, there were different brands and each
claimed to be more aromatic or somehow better to the last drop than the other--Folger’s,
Maxwell House…whatever. But everyone knew they were all the same. When you went to a
diner or whatever you asked for a cup of coffee, that’s all, and by the way it cost a nickel. And
you got all the refills you wanted. “More coffee?” the waitress said, and topped you up, free.
In the Navy the leftover coffee was used to clean the decks in the galley. Seriously. They
poured it out and swabbed the decks down. I watched them do it. They didn’t add anything.
Just coffee. Maxwell House, whatever. That’s what they did.
Fifty years ago--that would be August 29, 1965, I was about three weeks into my second
marriage and I was a happy man just returning from our honeymoon in Quebec, settling in to
our little cabin on Lone Star Lake fifteen miles south of Lawrence, Kansas where I was a
graduate student and a young instructor at the University of Kansas. My new bride would get
up in the morning and dance around our large living room. Yes, dance! She was in fact a
serious dancer, a member of the Corps de ballet at Lone Star Lake. The only member. I was
the audience, and I loved it, sitting there with my cup of coffee and watching her dance
something from Swan Lake. Earlier that summer she had tried with very limited success to
teach me how to do a double plie and to pas de duex with her around and around. Maybe I
weighed 160 pounds soaking wet. I was all of 27 years old, a puppy, a mere lad. 507 words.
Fri., August 28, 2015
Take eight? the man asked, holding up my four foot level I’d paid more than $20 for 20 years
ago. Sure, I said. Eight it is. He handed me a five and three ones and happily walked away with
my level. Well, I wasn’t going to do any carpentry anymore. I couldn’t drive a nail, I couldn’t
bend over, and I sure wasn’t going to load it in my car and drive two thousand miles with it.
And it was barely past seven o’clock. Take four? Take twenty? Throw in the come-along and I’
ll give you an even ten?
What? I said in mock horror? The come-along by itself is worth thirty! But the man persisted,
smiling, taunting: But do you need it anymore? No, I said h, but I need that twenty dollar bill
At two in the afternoon, sitting around drinking iced tea, I counted out the money. Nearly 800
dollars, I said. Great, June said, looking at the wad of cash I held up. And that woman with the
pile of books paid with a debit card, she said.. How much? I asked. Forty-something, June
said. Alright! I said. Do you remember--fortywhat?
And so it went. Happy and exhausted, we closed up the house and fell into bed for a nice long
nap. I’ve been up since three, I said, but when I looked over at June her eyes were closed.
I still have almost two thousand books. I wasn’t taking them to Olympia, either. Actually I was
now telling people we weren’t taking anything to Olympia, that we were going to sell or give
away everything but our underpants and a t-shirt. We’ll get some new clothes when we get
there, or maybe after all this--I waved my hand around at all our stuff--maybe we’ll become
Having six yard sales six Saturdays in a row will make an ascetic out of anyone.
When I left the clutches of US Navy on January 16, 1959, I gave all my uniforms away. On that
fateful, memorable morning, I ostentatiously went around to the other guys in the barracks on
the 4th floor of the Brooklyn Army Terminal and offered socks, even skivvies, my blues, my
whites, my white hats and my flat hat and even my peacoat to a surprised shipmate who offered
to pay me something. I don’t want any money, I said. I’m a civilian, I’m going to live off the fat of
the land. I dressed in a brown gabardine suit I’d bought in Bremerhaven, a plaid tie, new
civilian shoes I’d bought in New York at a store under the El four blocks up the street, even my
socks and underwear were civilian. I wear nothing that is Navy issue, I said to a couple of guys
in the chow line, as I was having my last government breakfast and last government cup of
coffee. I smiled happily. My real life begins today, I said. 502 words.
., August 27, 2015
We took a nap till 445. Then we dressed hurriedly and left the house so the real estate agent
could come with people to look at the place. Our place. We jumped in the car and drove down
the dusty road. On the way we passed a lone woman in a late model white car. That’s the
agent, June said. I looked. I’ll bet, I said.
At least I got a little of the mowing done, I thought to myself, driving along. We drove to
Pillsbury Crossing, drove through the shallow water looking at the people standing around or
wading. Three people had set up a card table with chairs around it and were talking and
enjoying themselves with their feet in the water. It looked like fun. Want to park right here? I
said to June as we sloshed along. I was joking but June didn’t notice that. Just pull up in the
parking area where it’s shady, she said.
And so I did. I shut off the motor, leaned my seat back full tilt, and June took her novel from the
dashboard and began to read. I wasn’t quite asleep (continuing my nap) when a pickup truck
pulled alongside and a park ranger got out. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him coming over
to where I was with my window half down. Oh, boy, I thought, here we go again.
Everything all right? He asked politely. I sat up and explained that our realtor wanted us to
leave while she showed our house. We’re just here to continue our nap. He grinned, waved,
and picked up a couple of pieces of picnic trash and waved and went off.
Nice guy, I said to June.
Mmm, June said, nodding and continuing her reading. I leaned back. I must have slept a little.
When I woke I got out of the car and walked over to sit on a huge rock by the bank of Deep
Creek. I made a phone call to a friend. Then I went back to the car and asked June if we could
go home now. Sure can, she said. It was 620 and our realtor and her client were supposed to
be gone by 615. And when we pulled in our drive no one was there but the cats and the
This is a weird life. In about two weeks we’re moving, house sold or no, all our trinkets and
junk sold or no. It’s a reality. After nearly 44 years here we are moving to the state of
Washington. Everyone says it’s beautiful out there and I have no doubt that’s true. We spent
most of last winter there, and it is--when you can see it for all the fog and rain. Now they are in a
drought. East of there a hundred or so miles there are forest fires, the worst in many a year. If
Rainier the volcano goes off maybe a tsunami will come and put out the fires. I liked it better in
Kansas but all our kids and grandchildren are out there. And we want to be around them. Our
children, old Freud said, are our hostages to destiny. 538 words.
Wed.,August 26, 2015
After supper we’d gather somewhere, sometimes we’d go by one another’s home or we’d meet
at the Hole-in-One Club in Aggieville. The Hole was one of the most unsavory places in town
and therefore I loved it. It was basically a pool hall and a bar. I wasn’t 18 of course so we could
not frequent the bar part at the front of the long building but I could walk through it and enter
the pool hall past the doorway with the sign on it that said NO ONE UNDER 18 IS ALLOWED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THEIR PARENTS. On the sign someone--no one seemed to
know who--with the nickname of Muggs--Muggs, of course, but who was he? Anyhow, old
Muggs had scrawled his name on the sign and thus he was enshrined in history. We all had
long since secured a signed card from our parents allowing that we had their permission to
hang out there. Our parents agreed that even if the Hole wasn’t the best place is town we’d like
their kids to be, they knew where we were.
And indeed we were there, playing pool, snooker, billiards, or most often just hanging out and
sitting along the walls in the camp chairs BS’ing and plotting our next move. The owner was
Glenn Sitterly, who generally stood in front of the bar part, one foot on a stool and leaning
against the wall looking out onto the busy street and smoking his pipe. Shorty, a round headed
bald man of uncertain age and origin, was the barman and he stood leaning against the back of
the bar. His real name was Earl Green but everyone called him Shorty. Gordon Weckerling was
the rack man who kept the 7 snooker tables and the three or four pool and one billard table
going. Gordon was the youngest, a man in his 40s. He responded to the calls of RACK! Took
the players’ money and re-racked the balls and rang up the money in the noisy little cash
register. He was the busiest man in the place, sometimes literally running from table to table. In
the afternoon on a weekday the place was quiet, maybe only a table or two going, and the click
of the balls contacting and the plop! Into the pockets and the occasional soft curse could be
heard. On the wall above was a large painted sign: NO PROFANTY. NO DRINKS ON THE
TABLE. NO MASSE SHOTS. A masse shot most of us couldn’t have made if we’d wanted to--a
short where the cue tip was placed almost 90 degrees above the ball in order to apply
extraordinary English so that the ball would go around, theoretically, a ball in front of it. They
were prohibited because such a shot often resulted in damage to the felt and the eventual
ruining of the table. There were small blackboards at each table for keeping score. Cues were
stored in tall racks nearby; running above all the tables were long wires with small wooden
peas on them that could be manipulated by the tip of a cue. Being in the Hole, or being in my
car (I bought my first car when I was barely 15, a 1934 Chevy sedan), or walking on foot in the
middle of the night to or from Aggieville or from swimming naked and of course illegally in the
City Pool…this was what I remembered--and loved-- from High School. 571 words.
u., August 25, 2015
Of course after work I still ran around with high schools pals, and mostly with my best bud,
Larry. Larry didn’t have a job and I suggested he apply at Earl’s and we could have a lot of fun
working together.And so he did, and Earl hired him. Larry and I did the same shift, noon to 8
pm, clean up afterwards, and then we’d horse around half the night getting home. My parents
were lenient and/or didn’t know where I was and, mostly, didn’t want to know. Larry and I had a
rebellious streak and a fervid imagination and so we did all kinds of stuff. I developed a habit of
coming home at 10 pm and talking to my folks for an hour or so, reading the papers and
magazines on the coffee table with them, then yawning and going to bed about the same time
But I only pretended to go to bed. Lights out I’d sneak out the back door and Larry and I would
meet up and we’d fool around till sometimes dawn, when I’d sneak back in and sleep the
morning away. Trouble is, I’d oversleep my NOON be at work time and I’d be an hour or more
late to work. Earl didn’t like this one bit but he tolerated it because he needed kitchen help.
Same way with Larry. Eventually the two of us got so fed up with the job, the working free at
clean-up, all that, that one day when Earl wasn’t there we let all the lunch dishes pile up and
until there was hardly a clean plate in the cabinets. We made ourselves a big roast beef
sandwich from the steam table and took a handful of eggs and went out the back door. We
threw the eggs at the back door from outside, ate the roast beef sandwiches as we went up the
street to the Wareham Theater and went to a matinee. It was great fun and we laughed our way
through “The Sire de Maltroit’s Door” and then went home to supper. Of course Earl gave us
the boot when we showed up a couple day’s later to get our pay. He had to pay us, but he gave
us an earful and then fired us.
I wouldn’t have had the brass to do this but with Larry, I did.
I got back on at the job I much preferred for the printer, Mr.Graham. I don’t know what Larry did
the rest of the summer, but whenever we got together, it seemed like we got in trouble. Our
favorite thing was to skinny dip in the city swimming pool after hours way late at night. We and
a lot of other boys that summer were headed for trouble with our parents as well as, sometimes,
with the police. But we just laughed it off, led on by Larry’s malign leadership and our own
moral craven cowardice. If school hadn’t started I don’t know what would have happened. 508
Mon., August 24, 2015 posted 758 am
That summer of 1952 when I was 14 I got a job as a dishwasher at Earl’s Café for fifty cents an
hour. My regular job at Graham Printers wasn’t going because business was slow. I don’t
know who put me on to the job at Earl’s and I don’t think I was all that excited about being a
“pearl diver” in a “greasy spoon” like Earl’s but if I wanted any pocket money I had to have a
job. The words greasy spoon and pearl diver wouldn’t have been put in quotation marks then—
they were common, if slangey, terms back then. A pearl diver was B-movie parlance for a
dishwasher, as was greasy spoon, meaning a kind of dumpy and dirty workingman’s café
where the coffee was strong and the bacon and eggs smell was overpowering…the food was
plentiful for the money but not gourmet, for sure. The clientele were railroadmen from the
Baltimore hotel across the street, workingmen from all the building trades and mechanics from
the garages downtown, bums who had panhandled their way into enough for a short stack and
all the coffee they could drink, old people… There was a table in back for Negroes and
Mexicans but they had a sign up (as did most such places then) saying We reserve the right to
refuse service to anyone.
Earl was a red-headed guy with piercing blue eyes and a snarl that made me want to stay away
from him and just do the job. Although they opened early in the morning I didn’t come on till
noon and I worked through till closing at 8pm. I was paid $4.00 per shift but at 8 pm when we
closed we had clean up—all the dishes, pots and pans and the steam table, even sometimes
the walls and windows and everything in the place—and for clean up I did not get paid. Often it
took two hours or more and it was very intense. Everyone turned to: cooks, waitresses, the
dishwasher, even Earl and his wife, Nadine, a short brown-haired woman with a strange laugh
that went hoy-yoy-yoy-yoy.
The waitresses filled a big steel tub with dishes that I took and scraped clean, then put in the
dishwater tub and I washed by hand, rinsed by hand and then put in a rack that went into a
steaming thing with a lid and the dishes came out the other end more or less spotless. I was a
good dishwasher from long experience at home and so there weren’t any greasy spoons when
I did them. I by chance something got by me Earl let me know quickly, snarling and thrusting
the spoon or plate or whatever under my nose and telling me he was going to give me the boot
if this happened again. Everyone was afraid of him and that was the way he wanted it. Every
Friday afternoon we all gathered, ten or fifteen of us, and were paid in cash and, often, a
lecture. Earl was the kind of boss who never said anything nice to anybody and after a while
you were grateful just to get paid with only one or two cutting remarks about getting the boot.
Even his wife, Nadine,was afraid of him. 550 words.
Sun., August 23, 2015
An old man now by any standard, I look back on my high school days and think if only I knew
then what I know now…I wouldn’t have listened to me. In fact plenty of older people told me
things I should know that, in my teenagerie, I did not know… and did not want to know!
Even so here’s a short list just off the cuff of stuff I wish I’d known then:
I started writing to myself (aka journaling) when I was about 10, still in grade school. I wrote
resolutions, oddly enough, but that probably came about because I was violating them even
before I knew what they were. I remember making a very serious list, and one thing on that list
was that I would not “curse.” I wrote, pretentiously enough, that I would not curse but that if
others cursed in my presence (!), I would be tolerant. This from a ten year old! I blush to
Anyhow, I wish I’d written to myself oftener. I wish I’d started journaling regularly then rather
than waiting until I was 24. I did write a lot of letters to others but unless you made by hand a
copy or used carbon paper, you lost the letter just as soon as you mailed it. But of course
children who are on the right path probably don’t need to do a lot of ratiocination. But probably
I knew then even if I couldn’t verbalize it, that I was taking a turn onto the wrong path. I took the
corrective measures, or started to, even as I subconsciously realized I was starting to veer into
the Wrong that has plagued my life. I became interested in music, in art, reading…all this
reflective stuff, instead of playing ball with the other kids, running footraces, socializing in a
constructive way…all that other kids were doing.
I found sports boring. The less I did them, the more boring they became. Other kids went
outside with their bat and ball when they were bored, throwing the ball in the air and hitting it if
no one was around to play with them. I joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniature
Masterpiece club (or group or ring or whatever), and purchased through the mail big stamps of
pictures from the Old Masters and pasted them in a book provided. I collected other kinds of
stamps too, like postage stamps. I collected other things too…old matchbooks, pennants,
maps, letters…and I should have been running through the woods collecting snakes and
lizards and birds’ eggs.
I certainly always wrote something. I’ve recounted here many times that I bought a typewriter
with my share of the wheat money and painted the keys with luminous paint so that I could
write in the dark after lights out. It didn’t work, of course, but that’s the kind of nutty stuff I did.
(It didn’t work because (1) luminous paint has to be frequently held up to the light in order to
remain glowing, and (2) I could see the keys to write in the dark but I didn’t know which key was
which and, anyway, the clickety-clackety of the keys made a lot of noise, which of course could
be heard by my parents. 549 words.
Sat., August 22, 2015
High school in Manhattan in the 1950s was divided into Junior High, meaning grades 7,8, and
9; and then Senior High in an adjoining building, grades 10, 11, and 12. So you weren’t really in
high school until you got to the 10th grade, your sophomore year. For me that was 1952, Fall,
1952. I was 14 years and 7 months old. I was the youngest kid in my class. My teachers that
year 1952-53…who were they? I have to squint to remember. Miss Anna Marley was my
English teacher. Mr. John Buller was my geometry teacher. And Miss Lucille --- was my World
History teacher, a nice and pretty lady with reddish hair, but just now I can’t remember her last
name. Gym was probably Mr. Al Hargrave, though possibly it was Mr. Ed Dissinger. I don’t
think I took art or music anymore. Miss Gerard was the music teacher for the whole school
system, I think…a very busy lady, so to the extent that I had any music instruction, she was
probably it. Oh, Mr. Fly! Elbert Fly. He taught boy’s chorus, “glee club” they called it, and
maybe that was a sophomore course.
Probably my favorite course was World History, a lot of which was current events. At our
house we took maybe ten or twenty magazines (Time, Life, Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post…)
and four daily newspapers: The Manhattan Mercury-Chronicle, The Topeka Daily Capital, The
Kansas City Times (mornings) and The Kansas City Star (afternoons). I read them all. There
was no significant radio or tv news in those days. I read everything on the huge long kayak
shaped coffee table, even the medical mags: Medical Economics, The AMA Journal, even some
of the Annals of Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology. I read Ford Times, a publication of
the Ford Motor Company that came to us because somewhere in there we had bought a FORD
or two, though our next door neighbor was the Buick dealer and we must have gotten a mag
from them too.
So I knew my currents events, I loved maps and pored over them, and history, whether
contemporary or ancient, was interesting to me. Had they had a television program like College
Bowl then (it came along just a few years later) I am sure I would have been part of that…a team,
Yet another yardsale today, our fifth or sixth. We still have beaucoup stuff to get rid of, many
books, knick-knacks, kitchen stuff, tools…the list goes on and on. There is something for
everyone, probably ten things for everyone. I’d like to go back to bed and sleep for a week.
I didn’t sleep well. I realized at some point I had poison ivy. Where could I have gotten that? I
hadn’t been out in the woods for days…! But then I realized I’d been cleaning out the grass
from the underside of the mower deck. Dumb! When I came here so many years ago I was
young and strong and I could walk through poison ivy and even roll in it, but in the last few
years…! 518 words.
Fri., August 21, 2015
It’s hard to remember what you don’t remember. I know that I don’t remember (just for instance)
a lot of stuff about my high school years from 1951 to 1955. They weren’t my happiest years,
for one thing,so I just don’t go back there a lot and rummage around. I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t
on any teams, I didn’t date until my senior year and then only a little (I was terrified of girls) I was
by then a poor and rebellious student, and honestly the happiest time of day was when I went
to my job after school in the print shop downtown. I didn’t like the teachers, either, and I
“thought” them all idiots. I put the word thought in quotations marks to indicate that my
thoughts weren’t really thoughts, just visceral reactions. The God’s honest truth is that I was a
mess emotionally and would have done well to have run away and joined the Navy three years
I was told again and again by teachers that I wasn’t working up to anything like my potential.
The more they told me that, the less I worked up to my potential.
The red ink came out when teachers made out my report cards, and most often my parents
were told, “Charles disturbs others.” And I did. I was, or attempted to be, the class clown. Out
of something like 200 students in my class, in deportment I was at or very near the bottom.
High school was a nightmare from which I was trying to wake. But I didn’t, not until I
graduated—believe it or not—in late May, 1955. Then I went to college in my hometown for
about a month, and then I joined the Navy on July 20, 1955—just about sixty years ago.
But high school was low school for me. In my senior year I was asked along with my
colleagues to write a paper of several pages length about what we wanted to do as an
occupation. I wrote one called “My Life in Crime,” and received an F, mostly, the teacher said,
because the paper was late. Today such a student would be sent to cool his heels in the school
counselor’s office, but we did not have such a thing in those days.
We had Mr.Rogers, a sort of grade advisor/vice prinicipal, and I saw him once or twice. I was no
doubt admonished about my conduct, which admonitions I listened to with one ear while
staring at my watch. Mr.Rogers combed his hair straight back, and his head had about a 6/12
pitch. We called him The Zephyr and made railroad sounds when we saw him walking along.
Beebeep Zoooom! We would say in all our cleverness.
Yet—to come back to the matter of not remembering—things will come back to me if I work at it.
It might take a few sessions. When I used to farm the land here on this rocky hillside farm, after
ploughing and before disking I’d go through the fields picking up rocks. My neighbor,Henry
Daniels, helped me once and in complaint he said, “You pick up one rock and you find two
underneath that one.”
And so it was, so it is today with my memory of my high school years. I remember the Zephyr,
Mr.Rogers, and I remember how he looked at his desktop while he talked to me, and when I
remember that, I remember…well, you get the idea.###
586 words, 21minutes.
Thu., August 20, 2015
I’m starting in again with the Journalong. I couldn’t stand not doing it these past three weeks, nearly. I missed the
writing, I missed the contact with you--even when you didn’t write to me though I wish you would now and then, at
least--and I wasn’t getting as much writing done as I like to, need to. Some days I was only writing all told just a
thousand words a day. That’s not enough for a fanatic like me. I can’t live without writing. Now, doing it, my cup is
running over and my soul is being restored. I am so glad to be here.
Part of the reason for not writing much was my laptop space bar is broken and so I was running words together. I
was spending so much time spacing the words by going back after the words had been written that it was slowing
down the speed of my writing. And I don’t like that. Like Macbeth’s murders, I believe that writing for me is a matter
of “t’were done well, t’were done quickly.” (Smile.)
So here I am, writing this Thursday morning, and gratefully.
Of course the big thing is this move to Puget Sound…to Olympia, Washington, to live with our son and his family.
June said last night, I’ll just be glad when we’re there, and all this is over. By “all this” she meant the selling of our
stuff--the junk that surrounds us, the accumulation of more than forty years--books, fabrics, file cabinets, furniture,
lumber, tools, clothes, paper…pitchforks and dinner forks, ink, toner, glassware and dinner plates and…it is
unbelievable how much we have amassed. Everywhere things are stacked and waiting to be sold, stored and…I
don’t know. I don’t want to think about it either I just want it all to be over and we’re pulling out of the driveway and
leaving it all behind.
I have little bites on my thighs and rear end and one on my upper shoulder that itches like crazy. I put some
cortisone cream on that one and it does nothing. I wonder what kind of bugs they have in Washington?
Sometimes I wake up depressed. That was never that way in the old days. But now I wake up depressed and I
know if I start thinking I’ll go back to bed and then I’ll wake up even more depressed. So I have to move, stand up,
don’t think don’t think don’t think and go into the kitchen and put the dishes away, turn on the teevee, listen to the
news of the latest mass murder or some guy jumped off a bridge (don’t linger over that) or Senator This said blah-
blah to Senator That, or Donald Trump wore his red hat TRUMP and opened his very large mouth and said: don’t
think don’t think don’t think.
I will spend the entire morning going through my IN basket and wadding up papers with lists of things to do on
them. I will do PT, I will order some pills, I will brush my teeth.