A couple of years before my family moved from Peoria to Minnesota, my father decided to put a skating rink in the back yard. It was there, while in the character of Adolph Hitler, that I broke my sister's arm. Let me explain...
One day in early winter of 1964 or 1965, my old man decided it would be a great idea if my sister and I learned how to ice skate while he recorded it all with his super 8mm home movie camera. So, he went out to a garage sale and scrounged up a pair of second or third hand ice skates for each of us, mine looked like they might have been new right around 1925 or so.
I wasn't too hot on the idea myself, I've always had small feet, weak ankles and a high center of balance. The thought of all that rock hard ice sliding around beneath me waiting to break my face if I took a nose dive into it didn't thrill me at all, but dad insisted. He took us out to a local pond that had frozen over and had us put on the skates. My sister Janet took to it right away, she looked like a big pink penguin out there on the ice in her pink winter coat and she was having a great old time. I however didn't have any use for this shit at all, and spent my time on those damn skates hugging a chain link fence at the edge of the pond, and looking like a gut-shot hunter trying to drag himself to safety along the fence while my old man completed my humiliation by filming the whole thing on his Super 8 movie camera.
For years afterwards, my asshole old man would drag out his damn projector and show that film to friends and relatives and narrate for everybody, in case the painfully obvious wasn't perfectly clear to everybody watching.
That fucking film had all the charm for me of the Super 8 film of President Kennedy getting his head blown off and to this day I've never forgiven my old man for that. As time went by however, I got relatively good at handling myself on those skates and Janet was a natural at it. Eventually, my old man read an article in Popular Mechanics on how to build a cheap ice skating rink in your own back yard and he decided to try it. Got himself these big rolls of plastic sheeting and used lumber for the skirting of the rink and went right to it. And to his credit, he did a damn good job. Afterwards, when the construction was completed, he turned on the garden hose for a couple of hours, let everything freeze over for a day or so, and whaddaya know, we had an honest to God skating rink in our back yard that was the marvel of the neighborhood!
That skating rink was quite the draw for kids in our neighborhood. I suppose we could have made some serious money had we started charging admission, but dad left it open to the public and we almost always had a crowd of neighbor kids back there just skating their little hearts out. On occasion, some big kids would bring their girlfriends to skate and would start shoving the little kids around.
Well, one day, my sister Janet, her little friend Judy and I came up with an absolutely wonderful idea; “Let’s put on our ice skates and play World War II!”
What a seriously brilliant idea! World War II on ice, the people at Ice Capades couldn't have done it any better, let me tell you. My sister Janet decided she wanted to be FDR, her little friend Judy settled on being Winston Churchill and I'll give you three guesses (and the first two don't count) who wound up being cast as Adolph Hitler.
I wound up becoming the art department for this little venture. I drew up a little British flag, a tiny American flag, and a small Nazi flag and taped them onto some pencils that we could carry around while we were skating and yelling “bang bang, boom” at each other. I even put a toothbrush mustache under my nose with shoe polish for effect.
I had some natural talent as a mimic when I was a kid, and was especially good at imitating Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove. I sounded just like him screaming “Mine Fuhrer, I can valk!” at the top of my lungs. I could also do John Banner as Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes and I also did a pretty mean Col. Klink as well. I'm su re I had most of the neighbors wondering what the fuck was going on in our back yard.
Well one Saturday afternoon, we were going at it really hot and heavy on that rink. We were skating round and round in circles with my sister and little Judy whooping and screeching and me screaming “Mine Feurher” and “I know nothink” back there and waving our little pencil flags when I decided to “get” my sister Janet. I homed right in on her and chased her at top speed to the boards at the edge of the rink, and when she hit the boards, she went straight into the air and did a full turn in mid air before hitting the ground and landing on her arm.
At first Judy and I thought Janet was laughing hysterically there on the ground, until she started yelling “I broke my arm! I broke my arm!” over and over again.
Judy was looking after my sister, who was still yelling her head off while I went in the house to tell my mom what had happened. Mom had just woke up from a nap, when I told her what happened...standing there with a hang dog look on my face and my little shoe polish Hitler mustache and my Nazi pencil flag still in my hand. She didn't have much to say to me, the look on her face pretty much said it all: “Nice going you fascist little shit,” and she went to the phone to call dad to come drive Janet to the hospital. When dad came home and heard the full story, he turned to me with a bright malignant smile on his face and said out loud what my mom only said with her eyes, “Way to go Adolph” and then he clouted me upside my head.
After we got home from the hospital, my sister with her arm in a cast and a sling, it was nothing but dirty looks for me from just about everybody...mom, dad, Janet, Judy, even my dog Cleo got into the act with her own dirty look. Janet's fracture wasn't as serious as it could have been, a spiral fracture of her upper right arm, but for all intents and purposes I might as well have slept out in the doghouse with Cleo that night. I was on everybody's shit list for the next couple of days.
For the next couple of months the skating rink continued to be a big hit with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, (even though I didn't have much use for it myself) until springtime came and turned it into a great big puddle with plastic on the bottom of it. In the springtime of 1965, in our back yard...in Peoria.
Every now and again I get an email from someone who's enjoying this blog and it really makes me feel good. Yesterday I got one and I thought from time to time I'd post these up for your reading pleasure. This is from MBIP reader Tom Rafferty and I really thought it was cool the connections he has with what I've put up on my blog so far. Great to hear from you Tom and thanks for tuning in to MBIP! Here's his email:
I grew up in P-Town, graduated from Spalding in '71, went to WIU, and never really lived in PIA full time after that. Although my daughter went to Bradley, we didn't get to see anywhere near what I'm finding on Meanwhile. Seems like the only time I get back now is for a funeral. Saw the article about you on PJ Star website, and now have read every blog. Having been away for so long, I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed it. Meanwhile has helped me to reconnect with many people & places.
Random Meantime connections:
• I went to high school with Lynn Dempsey. I think we dated a couple of times!
• I went to grade school with Mike & Jesse Flores
• My Mom was Lebanese, as was Lou of the drive-in. She actually worked there for a time. We knew Lou well. My sister is still a good friend of his daughter, Peggy
• The Chuck Acri Creature Feature was very popular in Macomb.
• Captain Jinks & Salty Sam. WOW. Every afternoon.
• Got served in Mike's Tavern way before 21. Back then, no women. No barstools either.
• Didn't know Vic Burnett, but went to Spalding with Marc. Too bad about his passing.
Also went to Spalding with Joe Spears, Jimmy's brother. I played football. Joe was our manager.
• Love the features on the local bars and unique stores.
• My Uncle Mike Maroon owned a gas station where the Casey's on Farmington Rd is today.
• Davis Bros pizza was the best in the area back then
• Enjoyed the story about George's Shoe Shine. I think my dad went there.
• Avanti's gondolas - gotta love em
• My Uncles Si & Smokey Maroon owned The Hitching Post a/k/a Si's (then became Rocky's). Smokey tended bar at The Lariat later in life.
• Good to hear about Grandpa John's. John's BBQ was the best. Went to Spalding with his son Barry. Saw Barry the last time back.
• Patio Inn. Loved the cheese & crackers.
• You mentioned a Beach Boys concert at the fieldhouse in the 60's. That was my first one. Keith/Left Banke/Electric Prunes
• Hunt's. Don't think I've seen a tenderloin anywhere since.
• Aggatucci's is still among the best pizza anywhere.
That's it. Hope I didn't bore you to death, but I wanted to tell you how cool it has been to revisit. Keep up the good work!
Thanks, Tom, great to hear from you and your email made my day!