Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Memories, part 10: My Mother has her first child.... ME!

Eugene & Mary Spear, newly weds in Japan
I think here is where I need to ask you to cover the birth and early years of your children, including me of course. You can do it any order you prefer.

You, Phil, of course were my first born.  The pregnancy was very normal. We were at Johnson Air Base, Irumagawa Japan.  My due date was June 23 and that is when everything started happening. We were living in the trailer on base right next to the fence on the edge of the base. Outside the fence were some off base houses and also some Japanese homes. 
The base hospital where I was born in Japan
My labor was shorter than some of my friends who were also expecting. I don't remember just how many hours. My tolerance for pain is quite high, so I didn't let it worry me.   (My experience working in Labor and delivery as a student helped as I knew just what was going on). 
New born Phil w proud poppa
Late in the afternoon you arrived and everyone was excited that it was a boy. I think I have already mentioned that Aunt Ruth was there also and she drove all over the base telling all our friends and the choir members that you had arrived. We had no phones in those days even on base. I think we did later on in base housing. 
Zonked out baby Phil w momma Mary

I was in the hospital just 3 days and went home nursing you until I developed an infection and had to stop nursing. Hospital staff infection had just started then. I ended up having to have a small surgery to open up the infection site and the doctor had to debride the site so that it would heal properly. After that no more nursing of the following babies as I couldn't produce any milk.
In front of base housing cottage

I just remembered some thoughts about your early schooling. When you went to kindergarten in rural Maine you rode the bus from the trailer park. I guess to save gas your class lasted all day. I remember when you came home you wanted to spend as much time outdoors as you could, and I’m sure that was because at five you had been cooped up all day in school.   Then when you transferred to the base it was only a 1/2 day and you were much happier and not so on edge when you came home. 

Then the next year you transferred to Saint Mary's in Bangor, which you seemed to like a lot.  There was the second grade nun also at Saint Mary’s (I've forgotten her name) who  recognized your artistic ability and encouraged you with art classes. (The sister set me up with a private tutor once a week, an older student).  

Saint Mary's, Bangor Maine
Sister Irene, Phil's 1st Grade teacher
Kevin, about 2 yrs old
Her name was Sister Irene. I found her going through the old childhood photos of me. There she is with Kevin and I in 1963. Seeing her face brings back a lot of memories. See Spot run!  She’s the one who taught me to read.  

First Communion Phil
Standing on front porch
K-Park Dow AFB Base Housing 
Saint Mary’s is where you made your First Communion,  along with our two God daughters, the Davis sisters.  Laurie is the younger one and I hear from her every Christmas. I can't think of the older one's name.   I never hear from her.  

By the way you might want to enter this little note back in the time before you were born. I taught 5th grade CCD for that school year at the chapel on base.

Phil & a Davis girl
\1st Communion Day K-Park Housing
(I remember the Davis’ from the trailer court that we lived in out on Mud Lake. Their dad’s name was Paul Davis. He had a bad back that caused him to stoop and hobble along like a very old man.) 

St Mary's was an interesting school.  I have a lot of memories of that place, even more so than all my other elementary schools put together. That nun sticks in my mind big time. She put me under the wing of an older boy and he and I spent some alone time up in one of the unused rooms way up in an attic class room. He did a lot to show me the tricks sketching and drawing. 

One of the coolest things about that place was that at noon while we were also out in the large school square for recess they rang the church bells. The tradition for us kids was to FREEZE in the exact position we were in when the bells started until the final peel. 

In November '63 I was in class when JFK was shot and the nuns came in to the class room in full blown sobbing tears mode telling us little kids that the president had been shot.  We weren't so much stunned by the news as we were by the reaction of those nuns. 
Amazing the things that I remember of that time in that school:  Going to Mass every day; the clickers the nuns used to signal to us to stand, sit and kneel; learning how to read, and on and on...  

But there WAS another school called Holy Angels that I attended AFTER Saint Mary’s. In fact, that was the very next school I went to after we left Maine for San Angelo Texas where Dad got stationed at Good Fellow Air Force Base for advanced cryptological equipment maintenance training on his way to Karamürsel Air Base Turkey. It was also a private Catholic School, but for me, it was hell on earth.  

Phil 7 in Holy Angels Uniform
I remember we had to wear khaki uniforms. For some reason I got branded as a trouble maker there and it stayed with me the entire time I went to school at that hellish place. So weird, since I was never considered a "bad boy" before or any time after.  What really upset me at the time is they called you in and had you in tears over what a horrible little boy I was. Oh!  It’s coming back to me. After they called you in to fill your head with all those trumped up charges on me you were so upset that when we came home you showed me a football that you had bought for me, telling me that I was not going to get it until I straightened up and did right.  It was all very confusing for me because I really had no idea what I was doing so wrong.  

If I remember correctly they told me that you would walk down the sidewalk and strip the leaves from the hedges that lined the walk. You had just come from Bangor where vegetation grew like crazy and in Texas it didn't and had to be nurtured and took a lot of care. You didn't know this and were just having fun. I didn't realize that I was so hard on you and thought I had explained it all to you that you were in danger of being expelled from school.   They were overly strict, I agree.   Some private schools were like that.   Sorry!

Please Mom, don't take any of this ancient history personal. We are simply reminiscing. I wasn't blaming you for anything. I was recalling how irked I was at them for making you so sad, not to mention I definitely felt impugned at their overly harsh assessment of me. Can you believe it all happened 50 years ago?! Of course you HAD to go with their bogus claims that I was some kind of juvenile delinquent, but I knew better.  Although, thinking back, I think I began to believe that maybe I WAS a bad boy! I remember “the hedge stripping incident” perfectly.  To say that I stripped off leaves was a complete exaggeration. All I did was drag my fingers along them while walking past. I might have plucked one tiny leaf though!  Death to the little boy! Goodness gracious, they were telling you that they were going to expel me! Holy crap! Are you kidding?  I never knew that.  No wonder you were in tears.

MK & Phil 1965
San Angelo Texas
Hey, do you remember what Mary Kay’s teacher did to me in that school?  I'm sitting at my desk in my own class minding my own business when suddenly MK and her old nun of a teacher suddenly burst through the door and makes a beeline right for me.  The nun has one hand on MK's shoulder and practically shoving the little girl that was her towards me. In the other hand of the old biddy is some paper that MK had just completed which must have been pretty good work because the nun slams it down on my desk top and practically screams at me with her nose right on mine, "LOOK at this paper young man!  WHY can't you do work like this…! "  After that, all I heard was ranting.  I really think that ONE nun for some reason had it out for me—ME—just a little boy!  I was just looking at a photo of me in my Holy Angel's uniform—I was a cute little kid.  Weird, right?  That dried up old woman certainly had some issues.

You’re right Phil, those ARE memories of SO long ago. Mary Kay, do you remember the mean OLD nun dragging you into Phil's class?   She sure should have been retired long before that year, don’t you think?

MK: Yes, I remember that particular incident very clearly. One teacher was a nun, the other was a lay person, Mrs. Cornflower is the name I remember. It was a spelling test I think. I got 100% on it and I remember the teacher telling me to get up and then pushed me into Philip's classroom. I was a first grader and remember thinking so clearly. ‘This is wrong. This is so wrong. Why would you do this and make my brother hate me? I'm only six and you are an adult. I know this is wrong why don't you know this is wrong?’ That was one of the worse days of my life, one I will never forget. I always felt the closeness I shared with Philip deteriorated after that day. A very sad day for me.  
Little Phil and his dad
Nope, for me it caused nothing of the sort. That incident barely had any effect on me at all. It’s amazing that you remember Mrs. Cornflower's name since she was MY teacher.  I always assumed that the old nun was YOUR teacher, but now I’m thinking she was in the office. I'll be damned, I mean danged.
Phil with his mom pregnant with MK
 I remember the look on MK's face quite well while I was being harangued by the crazy old flying nun—stunned horror—kind of funny.  It was quite obvious MK wanted no part of any it. Thinking back, I was too young to hate anyone, even that dried up old biddy and certainly not the other obvious victim, my little freckle faced little sister.  Little boys are a lot like dogs that get kicked a lot, they don't hate, they just want the kicking to stop and then they seek to stay AWAY from the kicker!  
The only thing about Holy Angel's is that I got gun shy in that place.  I was always looking over my shoulder that maybe I was pissing someone else off about something.  She was the first adult bully that I ever had to deal with and it completely puzzled me why she decided to make my young life so miserable. Even so, her notwithstanding, things that adults did to me or said to me never bothered me very much; but I do remember feeling awfully bad about what other kids might say or do—I was hypersensitive to that.  Stuff like that, being physically attacked by other kids or yelled at by adults, happened a lot to me over my early years, more than I've ever told people.  THAT is why I've repeatedly claimed that THE greatest thing that EVER happened to me is when we moved to Birch Run where suddenly I didn't have to worry about getting beaten up, or verbally attacked, or pushed around by black kids (which happened a LOT in the 60s), and there were no bullies of any color or age to worry about.  It was instant heaven.  
Mary writes: "Gene & Phil - look alike?"
September 3, 1957
I just remembered another horrifying incident that happened in San Angelo. This time "Little Phil" DEFINITELY showed bad judgment. What was that kid's name down the block?  I can't remember.  Anyway, he brought out a heavy old rusty throwing dart.  So, we started throwing it.  And then we had the idea of throwing at each other, like a game of dodge dart. We got far enough away that we could easily get out of the way but then I whipped it at him kind of low and fast and he ran right into it!  I remember it sticking right into his lower leg.  I was sick seeing what I had done.  Boy oh boy, if I deserved some kind of punishment for anything it was for THAT. Ha! Maybe the old nun WAS right!

My Cousin Brian had the following remarks below:


I just finished reading your latest article - Part 10 about your childhood. I had to chuckle about one area that brought back some memories.  I was just talking to someone at the VFW about these memories not so long ago.

You mentioned being bullied by black kids when young in the 60s.  When we lived on Harold Street in Saginaw in the early 70s, I attended Kindergarten ('71) and First Grade ('72) at Jesse Loomis Elementary School (just checked the school is still there).  I walked to school, about 4-5 blocks having to cross E. Gennessee, a major highway for us youngsters to cross twice daily.  Anyway, I can remember many of those days going to school or coming home changing my route in an effort to avoid the all too often beating I would get from this one black kid and his friends.  There were times when they would gang up on me.  They were always there to make my life a living hell. Dad would tell me to fight back but if I did, I always got the worst of it.  The kid would wrestle me to the ground and beat on me.  I can remember dad telling his parents that he was older and should leave me alone.  I remember dad saying on one occasion that his parents gave him a good beating for his bullying. Makes you wonder if the race issues of the 60s were some of the causes of us getting bullied as kids.
After that, it seems that bullies always seemed to find me. I even got into fights with bullies at Mackensen Elementary School when we moved to Bay City.  By then, it was my Irish-Red Head-Kennedy temper that got the best of me.  I now know that I got some of that temper from Mom.
Anyway - just thought you may be interested in hearing some of my experiences in the early '70s.


Brian, my cousin! Not surprisingly to me, your experiences were VERY similar to mine. I think the black kids of the 60s and early 70s became more aggressive as a direct result of the "burn baby burn" black militancy era of the 60s race riots.  I don't think you were aware of the riots at your younger age but I was VERY cognizant of them. In fact, that increased violence and criminality is why Grandma Haley and Uncle Bill finally gave up on Saginaw and moved out to the safety of Birch Run. I remember well black kids wearing single black gloves like the black US Olympic athletes did at Mexico City in '68. They would then find some white kid to punch with those gloved hands and a couple times it was me, until I learned to avoid them. It actually sounds like you had it even worse than I did though because other than a few inopportune or unavoidable times I was mostly able to keep out of their reach.  It was obvious they enjoyed the power that their violent aggressiveness and intimidation brought to them. It never occurred to us white kids that we could have simply formed our own racial protective association to keep ourselves safe from the constant threats of battering and bullying.  Like I said though, all that stress on me ended once my dad retired and we moved to Birch Run where everyone was friendly and where there were only one or two black families in town. They were all very nice people, and the few black kids from those families were amiable and well accepted in the community. As a matter of fact, they were treated great, like celebrities. Hey, can I include your comments in this email as a follow on commentary to the post, or would you prefer to keep it private?  I KNOW that OUR experiences with racial bullying by black kids was NOT a unique phenomenon.  I think that THAT is interesting, especially when you read what's going on in the country these days with all the APPARENT increase in racial enmity of blacks toward whites. In fact, I don’t think there is an increase at all; I think it’s simply the same status quo that has existed for as long as I can remember.

No comments: