RSS

Tag Archives: song

19th Street South, Elmer, and a hamburger steak . . .

At some time in my preteen years, one of my sisters—the pretty one, the one named Lorene—married a man named Elmer, a tall slow-walking slow-talking quick-thinking fellow that would come to figure prominently in my life. The newly-weds lived for awhile in the city within walking distance from our house on Nineteenth Street South, then later went to live with his parent’s in south Mississippi. Elmer’s father was minister to a small church just a short walk from his home. I spent a summer vacation with them as a small boy, and another summer vacation with Elmer and Lorene after they bought a small farm, built a house on it and began farming. Those two vacations include thoughts and events that will be the subjects of numerous postings, each of which should be of vital interest to any viewer—honest—stay tuned!

This posting is all about me and Elmer and a hamburger steak—except for the lack of rhyming, that could be developed into a parody of Lobo’s song from the 1970s, Me and you and a dog named Boo. Maybe I should work on that—it could well be something for Ray Stevens to consider, similar to his songs about The streak—don’t look, Ethel—and Ahab, the Arab and others. I may work on the lyrics for a future posting—stay tuned!

Eating out was a rarity for me when I was a kid—we didn’t eat out because we couldn’t afford the cost—in fact, there were a few times that we didn’t eat in either, and many times that we ate sparingly—besides, the walk to a cafe would have been prohibitive. Although everything in Columbus, Mississippi in those days was within walking distance, we would have been hungry again by the time we returned home. There was no MacDonald’s, no Burger King, no Jack-in-the-Box, no Sonic and no Dairy Queen. In my town there were only two drive-in restaurants, only remotely related to those we have today. The two establishments had no drive-through services. People simply drove up and parked near the building and a carhop would come out, take the order and return with food and drinks.

Trust me when I say that my town had only two eat-outside-in-your-car restaurants—I should know, because I worked as a carhop at both of them for varying periods. Believe it or not, in those days Mississippi state law prohibited girls from working as carhops. I suppose our legislators felt that young girls would be subjected to harassment, up to and including suffering—shudder, shudder—a fate worse than death. You know, like loonies and flashers exposing themselves and showing pornographic photos through the window and committing various lewd acts and raping and beating carhops and similar untoward actions following arousal caused by a young girl in a low-cut blouse and French-cut shorts, leaning through an open car door window tempting men, usually dirty old men—-I think I’ll stop there—I’m becoming a bit excited just thinking about it.

In retrospect, I have decided that our legislators thought that young boys would never fall prey to such predators—either that or they considered it and discarded it—perhaps none of them had young sons, or perhaps they had sons but none needed or wanted to work. I am a living witness to the fact that young boys were and are far too often targeted by predators, even in the long ago of my preteen and teen years—I hasten to add that in my case they never were successful—they never hit the target. And yes, that’s a subject for a future posting if I ever manage to get around to it—stay tuned!

I have digressed from my subject, and I apologize—back to Elmer and my very first hamburger steak:

Elmer had business in town and invited me to go with him. Around noontime  he suggested that we have lunch at a local eatery. I remember the place clearly—it was located near the top of the river bluff on which Columbus is built, within sight of the bridge spanning the Tombigbee river. The restaurant was Garoffa’s Blue Front Cafe. The proprietor’s son, Johnny, was a senior in our high school, a first string football player that suffered a serious injury that left him crippled in one leg. He walked with a decided limp, but his deformity neither lessened the number of girls that seemed to always be around him nor his ability to make the most of their attentions—Johnny was, as was Wyatt Earp, a legend in his own time.

Kids in my day, at least in the circles in which I moved, were never asked what they wanted in a cafe. The adults pored over the menu and eventually selected the items that provided the most food at the lowest cost—in effect, they ordered from the price list rather than from the list of entrees. We kids were simply asked what we wanted on our burger. I didn’t care what they put on my burger, just so it had plenty of mayo slathered on, looking like ocean waves or rows of sand dunes.

Elmer was different—before that day I liked him—after that day I loved him. We entered the cafe and he said, Hey, Mikey, let’s belly up to the counter. We did, and he took a menu and handed me one, and following a brief glance at the menu he said Hey, that hamburger steak looks good–think you might want to try one?

My heart swelled, my pulse accelerated accordingly and when I finally found my voice I replied as nonchalantly as I could, and said something on the order of Yeah, why not, might as well. I had been spinning around on my stool soaking in my surroundings, and I purt near fell off when Elmer gave me the choice of a hamburger steak instead of asking me what I wanted on my burger.

The woman behind the counter smilingly placed a full-grown hamburger steak before me, served on a full-grown platter, covered with gravy and mushrooms and onions with a full-grown pile of french fries on the side. I tried mightily to transfer the entire load on that platter from outside me to inside me—I made a Herculean effort but try as I might I couldn’t handle that mountain of fries. I reluctantly left a few fries on the plate, but I walked out with every ounce of that huge hamburger steak—and none of it was in a doggy-bag.

That hamburger steak moment and that day qualify as one of the happiest days of my life. I was treated as an equal by Elmer, and in later years I received that same treatment throughout two summer vacations I spent with him and my sister.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What I did on my summer vacation, by . . .

Does anyone remember the return to their classroom on the first day of school following the summer hiatus, a return to the unwilling pursuit of an education under the tutelage of teachers toiling at the elementary level? On that first day at my beloved school, every child in every grade (first through sixth) was privileged—nay, ordered—to stand in front of the blackboard, facing the class and disclose some or all of whatever they did on their summer vacation.

Some of my classmates stood stiffly throughout the delivery with arms held rigidly at their side. Others stood with hands in pockets or clasped behind their back, and in some limited cases, especially for the boys but occasionally for one of the girls, with hands covering their crotch, concealing that area of their anatomy. Whether that pose was an effort to divert from, or perhaps attract attention to that area, the “hands covering crotch” was limited by the teacher to a very few seconds, with the remonstration being made before the speech began and sometimes repeated during the presentation.

The title to each speech—the preamble, so to speak—was given rote and was identical for each student except for the name. My speech to my classmates began with this:

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by (fill in first and last name)—as if the rest of the class didn’t know my name!

Everything that followed that ominous start was extemporaneous, a wandering recitation filled with numerous ands, uhs, thens, wells, ain’ts, mispronounced words, poor sentence constructions, conflicting subjects and objects, misuse of adverbs, long looks at one’s feet and even longer (and longing) stares through the classroom windows to the outside world.

Most errors were caught by the teacher, with the resultant corrections and reprimands. If anyone wonders how we got through the first day, just remember that we didn’t change classes during the day—our heinies were glued to our seats all day—we had more than enough time to finish.

A few of our What I Did speeches were mercifully terminated early by the teacher. A classic example of such action was the speech to which we all looked forward, that of a classmate known only by the initials W. A. It isn’t that I’ve forgotten his last name. I remember it well, but I must admit that, for some odd reason, I remember more names of girls than names of boys among my fellow students in elementary school—in fact, I am hard put to remember both given name and surname of any boy from those years (none other than W.A., of course).

W.A.—the boy and his name—is prominent in my memories of elementary school. A unique and very special person, I treasure his memory and could never forget him.

W.A. stuttered—not a slow, drawling stutter one would expect from a Mississippi stutterer but a staccato stutterer, a rapid-fire stutterer, one that soon had the entire class in tears, howling with laughter while our teacher faced away from the class with her gaze apparently fixed on something interesting outside the building.

Although she made no sounds while gazing, W.A.’s speech was apparently so effective that it made her tremble with pleasure—in fact it affected her composure so strongly that she invariably terminated his speech well before he finished. When she told him “That was very good, W.A., thank you,” W.A. always returned her thank you with his own, obviously heartfelt thank you, although it took awhile to return it. Once he got past the tee in thank, the you followed quickly and W.A. could then return to his seat.

We had ample opportunities to develop and perfect thespian skills in our elementary grades. In addition to individual performances in various holiday presentations such as Easter, Halloween, Independence Day and Christmas, we also appeared onstage as a group in the school auditorium, an area that daily doubled as our lunchroom. Each class went onstage en masse, and each student performed—each had a speech to give, a poem to recite, a song to sing, a story to tell, etc.

On a memorable day, perhaps the most memorable in the history of our school, the third grade students’ presentations began with a song by W.A., a heart-wrenching story  about a missing cat, one that was last seen running over hill and dale with a dog named Bowser in hot pursuit. Here is the first line of the song, a line that was repeated several times in the song’s chorus:

Has anybody seen my kitty, has anybody seen my cat?

Note the letters b, d, k and c (k sound) in the line—it should not be necessary for me to describe how difficult it was for W.A. to sing that song, but I will attempt to describe the audience’s reaction to the song, a reaction that included faculty, lunchroom employees, visiting friends and relatives and every enrolled student that was fortunate enough to have attended school on that day, including W.A.’s fellow classmates.

The laughter was thunderous, but the applause was even more thunderous, a standing ovation that began just before the conclusion of the song. And for those that may be disposed to criticize the reactions of the audience, we should remember that in those days, particularly in my part of the country, very few things were politically incorrect—actually, neither were there many things that were politically correct.

In order to wrap up this posting, I urge the viewer to understand that W.A. was, without question, one of the most popular students in our school. We mocked him but we also imitated him, not to belittle but to share with him even a small portion of the laughs he garnered and the popularity he enjoyed—because of  W.A. every kid in school could qualify as a stand-up comedian. And most important, W.A. was frequently surrounded by a bevy of cute girls. That’s a neat thing, regardless of their motives—like, who cares why?

I can never know whether he enjoyed his popularity or hated it, but in retrospect I suspect that W.A. tended to prolong his stuttering and perhaps even embellished and enhanced it—but I could be wrong.

W.A., if you happen to read this and you enjoyed your popularity, I’m happy for you. If you hated it, please accept my abject and heartfelt apologies. And if you are enrolled and performing in that brightly shining elementary school in the sky I say,

BREAK A LEG!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,