1957 was a wonderful year. For any age. But for a ten year old, you talk about special…….
Now, for sure, we realized that most “older” folks didn’t think we knew our elbow from a hot rock. It had nothing to do with liking, or not liking you. Or trust, or worthiness, or the price of eggs in China. They just figured ten was a fairly young age to make much of a contribution. Me and Buddy, Ricky and Bobby didn’t hold that against them. Then…..or now.
1957 was the first time we were allowed to walk to the Park Theatre on our own. Can you imagine the freedom? No one was encumbered by a parent or tagging along with an older brother. It was like we owned the world! I’m telling you, the grass was greener, the sky bluer, the air more crisp…..passing cars were honking a friendly hello just to us!
The quarter for admission, plus popcorn and drink, was nestled safely in the bottom reaches of OUR right front pocket. We didn’t merely walk the mile or so to town, we high stepped along like kings on a knightly mission!
We didn’t need a chaperone, chauffeur, supervisor or watchful eye. Thomas Jefferson and the Adams’ boys could write about independence till the cows came home, but it didn’t mean diddley-squat until you were taking those first steps down Stonewall Street……unattended!
The self contained stroll to the Saturday afternoon matinee was just the beginning. You know Ricky, Buddy and Bobby! We’d never heard the term, “outside the box”—but those guys immediately began to test most every boundary erected in our little world in what could only be described as “unusual”, “innovative” and possibly, “hair brained” ways.
If we were old enough to walk to town by ourselves, surely we could bicycle over to the baseball field out past Kee’s Grocery. And if we could bicycle that kind of distance, we could hike the few miles to Clear Lake. And if we could trek out to the lake, we could easily climb the city water tower. And if we could make it up that monstrously high tower, we could hop the L&N freight train and ride that sucker down to Milan……
A million words on paper could never completely convey what that first measure of independence wrought in our little world!
And it went way past testing some kind of childhood limits. We actually took note of what was going on around us. We didn’t know what a Sputnik was. But all of a sudden we cared. If our parents were worried about it, for the first time in our lives, we were too!
We discussed the Cold War. And asked each other what would happen if Russia attacked us. If they dropped an atomic bomb on Memphis, how long would it take the fallout to reach us? We wondered why countries throughout the world couldn’t get along. And we weren’t in a classroom, we didn’t have a textbook and no one was going to grade us on anything!
We weren’t mature by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not saying that. And we hadn’t grown up “all of a sudden.” There was no flash of light. Nobody “Crossed the Rubicon.” We were still ten years old for goodness sakes! BUT we had some thoughts…... And everybody has got to start somewhere.
We might not have been ready to say it out loud, but we began to understand the world didn’t revolve around us. Everybody had feelings. Opinions. Ideas. Goals. Beliefs. Hurts. Wants. Needs. Life could be relentless if you tried to walk it by yourself.
And it dawned on me and Buddy, Ricky and Bobby that we might not grow up to be cowboys after all. We probably weren’t going to spend our lives together riding down outlaws, rustlers and bank robbers in the West Texas badlands.
Of course, our immediate future was the next grade in school. But junior high loomed on the horizon. And high school, with all its mysteries and trappings, wasn’t that far away. We sought each others thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams for the days that lay ahead of us. It was a practice we continued through graduation.
1957 was also the summer we pledged to be best buddies forever.
Life, as it turned out, was a bit more complicated than our little minds comprehended on that park bench across from the drugstore way back then. It sent us in different directions, to different states, different jobs and really, different worlds.
It never separated us…..