In 1959, after returning from Japan, we were living at 71 Bennett Street, next to the Franklin School, in Battle Creek, Michigan. I attended Southeastern Junior High next to the Kellogg's cereal factory. I remember hopping trains to school. I was introduced to music here, playing the French Horn.
Life in Battle Creek was a turning point in my life. I went to school with a square black eye when I was hit with the wrong end of a belt at the table. My father left his family during our stay there. I vividly remember him standing in the door telling me "he had no use for me as a son." It was the beginning of several years of self doubt about my worthiness as an individual. It still haunts me today. It would be the last time I saw my father until 1965.
With the breakup of the marriage, my mother took my brother Mike and I back to Massachusetts where she remarried. My sister Candy went with my father.
The first place we lived was on East Main Street in Orange, Massachusetts next to the Donnellson's Supermarket. Life was not better by any means. My step-father would call us "Jap Lovers" when he was mad. He even used his son to enforce his kind of discipline. He was very hard on all of us. It was not until the later years I was told that his discipline also involve hitting Mom.
We shortly moved to 85 Brookside Road, where we lived until after I graduated from High School. This was an older two-story house with plenty of land out back to run and play in. In the fall of 1960 I was Baptized in the Central Congregational Church in Orange by Rev. Paul C. Clayton. I would be in and out of church in the years that followed.
I attended Mahar Regional High School in the seventh grade. I enjoyed band with Mr. Ellison, playing the Baritone Horn. I also played Bass Bugle in the American Legion Band for a short time.
Life on Brookside Road was full of adventure for a young man. There was plenty to do and places to visit. We had an old Army tent pitch in the back woods. Railroad track bordered the backside of the property. A train ride into Orange and back was not unusual. There were plenty of kids, boys and girls, and life was experienced. It was rough and tumble but also exciting while discovering why girls are different. Little did I know that my brother's friend William's sister Theresa would someday be the mother of my son. She lived a few streets over.
It was during this time that I developed a friendship with Marion Nail that continued for many years. He had a father who also was very strict and sometime downright cruel. He was more defiant than I and paid for it dearer than I ever did.
There are very strong memories of life with Arthur Whitcomb, my mothers second husband, and his son Jimmy. A neighbor had to pull Jimmy off me once. He was beating me over the head with his engineer boot while his father stood on the porch yelling "kill the Jap lover". During high school I came home late one evening and was struck across the face with a baseball bat that sent me flying off the porch. My curfew had pasted and this was my punishment for being late. I also begged him on more than one occasion to kill me, for the ultimate thrill, as he seems to enjoy beating on me. Having a bed wetting problem did not help matters either.
Because of the family life, I made decisions that would have a life long effect on me. I vowed someday to never have to live this way, no matter what.
In the fall of 1960 my first notion was to get as far away as I could. I chose to attend New Salem Academy and registered for the Vocational Agriculture program. I took a bus to Mahar and then boarded a second bus for the 10 mile trip to the academy. I did this to join with the "outsiders". We got away with a lot while changing buses at Mahar that brought us attention.
I was one of twenty students in my class. I enjoyed the close relationships that developed there with teachers like Stuart Gunn and William Morehouse, in the Aggie classes. I learned about farming, working with wood and best of all - driving. In my freshman year we had access to a tug. It is a vehicle the military used to move airplanes. As a class project we also rebuilt and repainted a Farmall Cub Tractor. Driving would give me the freedom I so desperately sought.
As part of the Vocational Agriculture program, you had to work the summer in a related field. I was fortunate in that the school understood my medical challenge and still managed to place me. My summers took me to Townsend and also to a small farm locally in Orange.
In Townsend I learned many lessons. Most important of all - Do not hay in a bathing suit. I also sharpened by driving skill on a Farmall three-wheeled tractor and when a Chevy Truck used for picking up shavings at a local sawmill and for hauling hay from the field back to the farm. I was able to drive on public road and learned much. I also learned plowing, harrowing, mowing and most important of all - spreading manure. Another of life's lesson came when jumping off the tractor to make a quick run to "water my horse." I learned the hard way to be aware of electric fences.
Life and death was a part of the lessons of farming. How life is created, how we can assist in the giving of life and the sadness of death. I watched cows spend time licking their dead calves to try to stimulate them into life. Then you took the wheelbarrow with the carcass to the field and buried it.
I had ingrained in me a work ethic that has lasted to this day. Up early, usually 4am, to start milking. Breakfast then clean the barn, repairs, field work, then lunch, more work and back to milking. Then you bed down the herd and finally get to sleep around 9:30pm.
I was a member of Future Farmers of American. I serve as secretary to our school chapter and spent one year on the Executive Committee of the State level. I won several public speaking awards through the FFA and a trip to a summer camp in Michigan.
I was a featured singer at graduation ceremonies (singing Exodus), bowled on a school league and participated in two class plays ( The Mouse That Roared and Oklahoma)
This Web page was last updated on Wednesday, 27-Mar-2002 15:03:18 MST .
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