Thursday, September 29, 2011


When I  was growing up,  and   played in  my friends garages we  detoured  around yard tools , a model T , boxes  never unpacked from residency re locations for their dads corporate jobs, Christmas decorations, or an ancestors dresser.

My parents were in business in the barnstorm  industry for  40 years.Depending on the year and the  season my childhood garage had a landscape of its own. There was never enough room for all of the vehicles.  Depending on the season and the year that landscape changed to.Vehicles ranged from station wagons, sedans, vans and limousines .

In the early years there was one vehicle. When it was on the road October-May there was no household vehicle even in the late fifties, with children at home. Grocery shopping was available at the corner neighborhood mom and pop stores, doctors made house calls, and milk was delivered daily to our door step.

My dad replaced more transmissions, brakes, engines, and autos in a years time than most people do in a lifetime. Replacing vehicles was an extraordinary expense , Autos would have numerous repairs for body and mechanical work every year. The travel was immense. coast to coast 24- 7 sleet, snow, rain ,hail, mountains  could not be avoided traveling thousands and thousands of miles every month. Super highways were not connected  or simply did not exist. Gas stations were self serve, far between and did not offer 24 hour convienance service. My dad was notorious when on tour  for saying "we have to keep time we can make it to the petrol station in whatever city or town was ahead." This resulted in more than one occasion of gas depletion to vapors, flagging down a ride to find gas or pushing the car closer to a gas station and getting an attendant to come to the rescue with gas.

In the nineteen sixties he expanded to fleets a revolving rotation of vehicles to keep the mileage down and have extra vehicles available when one was destroyed, and he needed to have one driven to a location immediately.

My first home was shared with my great grandpa , my older brother, my older sister, my mom, my dad, aunt my mom's sister. We had no garage. I played on the sidewalk and hung out at Billy Coonrod's pigeon coops. My dad was away on the road coaching and managing his Texas Cowgirls basketball team, Chic's Basketball team, Satchel Paige, baseball teams, and halftime acts. Boarding houses  in our hometown were rented for residence when the teams were off the road or in training. Mrs. Springer's  house was one of those homes, her brother Dr Springer delivered me and  most of my siblings. Prior to that my dad stayed in Bismark N.D.  with his basketball players and my older brother. After marrying my mom on the road when she was playing pro basketball for him, he settled her and my brother in Beloit- his hometown to raise a family. My sister Julie was born at Great Grandpa Harley's house and so was I.  Great Grandpa Harley had raised my dad.  He passed away and my dad moved us over the border to a kid friendly neighborhood with a city park and sledding hill across the street.

My first garage of memory was at that small rented brick house. I was a pre schooler. My dad had a downtown office and an office in our basement. The basement held public relation materials, and bunk beds for 8 for the basketball players when they were in the area a TV room , shower and dressing room. They had a home to relax in eat home cooked meals. In the summer professional baseball players ( including Cuban exiles) would sleep in the bunk beds and stay with our family. That garage housed the custom World Famous Texas Cowgirls luggage rack, which on occasion was filled with sand for the kids enjoyment in the summer.  My oldest brother Dennis rode an ice cream cart with a bicycle on the back and an ice cream truck on the front. He would come home from work spark up my dad's public address system throw on his King -Elvis and dance to the albums singing with the microphone. I was awestruck and glued to my lawn chair , my sister Julie and I ready and waiting for the nightly pre- supper show. A Cadillac limo, a two seater powder blue Thunderbird ( my mom's) and a van  occupied the driveway for transportation for all of these people family and athletes alike.

The home I spent  the most years growing up in was purchased when I was in the third grade. We moved after we had a house fire. The athletes  were now  housed in hotels (never motels). That was a  huge expense for my parents. Our family grew to nine. My dad retained a downtown office in our new town and one at home. He had 800 numbers at both, built a basketball court in the backyard and still had the revolving door of athletes and entertainers in and out of our home.  A baseball field was behind our house . The street had a culdesac and over 60 kids in 20 homes. Our family and the White's who lived directly across the street made up 14 of us kids on the block.

This garage was my haven  for a period of time then heated and remodeled to a rec room. When it was the garage  the walls were lined with  crates of Converse shoes, western boots, Harlem Queens and Texas Cowgirls uniforms, basketballs,  annual basketball fan  program books, pageant tiaras,  crates of state and national final program books, sponsor banners, basketball team jackets, baseball program books, public address  sound systems,  a trunk carrier with goofy ball, lasso ropes pistols, cowgirl hats, boots, vests  and the custom team traveling racks.

The garage transformed into my showcase in the summers, where I draped curtains scenery, and lights  to produce and choreograph productions.  A makeshift ticket booth, in the driveway with benches and lawn chairs for spectator  seating required daily set up and take down. There was  no shortage of talent in my  6 siblings and large pool of neighbor kids.

My tenure as summer street entertainer ended when the garage was remodeled into a recreation family room.

The  wares of my dads trade moved to his downtown office.

I drove by my childhood home recently. the basketball court is still there. The recreation family room was reconstructed back to the garage it had been in my grade school summer  showcase days. A new 4 car garage was constructed at the end of a new long driveway. I sat a moment and thought "now that would be a garage to put shows on in"  but quickly felt nostalgic and would prefer the old garage any day over the new modern one. I might just knock on the door and ask the retired coach that lives there if  I could have a moment to stand in my old garage and reminisce .

No comments:

Post a Comment