Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Well Spent Youth

(What I was riding, circa 1967.)

The brightest part of my youth was spent on a residential street in Decatur, Georgia called Mead Road. The entire street ran from Oakview Road on the south and Howard Avenue on the north end. Each end of the street was a terminus for Mead Road, for it did not continue on the opposite side of the streets with which it intersected. The entire street was only a few blocks long, and composed completely of single-family homes (one duplex of which I was aware), a doctor's office (Dr. Levin, my own doctor), and the elementary school which I attended and which was directly next door to where I lived.

I loved that place. I lived there for just a few years--from the time I entered the third grade until I graduated from the sixth grade. I had friends all up and down the street and some from the streets on one side or the other. We spent our days playing in the school fields, in the many patches of woods scattered throughout the area, and exploring up and down vast streams and creeks filled with fish and reptiles and amphibians, many of which we caught and released. I was lucky to have lived in an area that was filled with so many types of salamanders, which we kids were always thrilled to catch and examine and then put back into the creeks from which we'd kidnapped them.

We lived in a rambling house of wood and Stone Mountain granite. The foundation was granite and the fireplace was granite. It was a pretty darned cool place to live. We had a big living room which was more often than not piled to the ceiling with boxes of comic books from my dad's used bookshops. I don't think there was a comic book published between 1956 and 1968 that I hadn't at least looked at, and most of which I'd read.
For a kid between the ages of eight and eleven, it was a pretty goddamned cool place.

Don't get me wrong--it wasn't all fun and giggles. But for the most part I had a really good time being a little boy. My parents bought me most of the toys I asked for, but I never was a greedy kid. I had model rockets and dinosaurs and books-a-jillion. There just wasn't a whole hell of a lot that I wanted and didn't have.
But here, condensed into just a few items, are the things which seemed to me to have been the most important bits of silliness to the child I was then:

I had access to every comic book imaginable. None fascinated me more than Steve Ditko's creation, The Amazing Spider-Man.

I had quite a number of the Aurora Model Kits. Probably about twenty of them. The Superman model was a classic.

You can say what you want about Forry Ackerman and Jim Warren, but the fact remains that they influenced many of the children of the 60s who went on to become creators in comics, prose, TV, and film. Forry's vision was, and still is, seminal.

Yes, TV was a huge influence on me. One of my favorite shows was, of course, The Munsters.

I had several of the Weird Ohs model kits, also. Influenced by Big Daddy Roth, these were all the rage in my neighborhood (and neighborhoods nationwide) when I was in the third and fourth grades.

When I was eight years old my mom handed me this book. I sat down to read it and was scared shitless, amazed, stunned, fascinated, dazzled. I put aside Hugh Lofting and devoted myself to weird fiction for many years.


dogboy443 said...

A banana seat, swept-backed handle bars and the post mounted shifter! You were definately styling my Man! We also extended the forks out, raised the handle bars straight up going for the chopper style and don't forget the high sissy bars off of the banana seat...and baseball cards in the spokes. Got to have that. We didn't have the shifter, my gonads protested when I was thinking about installing that nut-cruncher

HemlockMan said...

My first stingray was stolen. From my front yard at the bottom of the front porch steps. My parents promptly bought me a second one to replace it, so I started lugging it up the steps to place it on the front porch by the door. It, too, was stolen. I told them not to bother getting me another one.

In fact, I didn't get another bike until I was in the 8th grade when, by then, we were living in Macon. Having learned my lesson, I was keeping my bike in the foyer, just inside the front door of our house. One day my mom hired two youngsters to mow the yard. She heard the lawn mower cut off followed by silence, so she went to see what was going on. What was going on was that the two shithooks had come into the house, nabbed my bike, so that when she looked outside she saw one kid hauling ass down the street with the lawn mower and the other one darting through a neighbor's yard with my bike.