Step two in the life of MUD
First of all, let me start this tales of tales with the fact I grew up poor. No, I don't want a pity party for Petty. It was just a fact that I grew up in the Shadow of the Beech Aircraft Plant in east Wichita in a part of town called Travel Air City. Because of all the Oakies and Arkies that lived there, it was soon called "Dog Patch" after Al Capps community we saw in the newspaper. It wasn't that we were so poor, as the difference between us and the kids we went to school with was so great. Most of the Doctors, Lawyers and professional people in the 50's and 60's lived either in Forrest Hills or East Borough. They all went to our school Minneha and it was there I saw the difference.
That difference was pointed out almost every day and we went to Minneha from Kindergarten to the ninth grade in those days. As the first set of kids called the baby boomers, our class size was large and there were three classes in each grade for a couple of years. Minneha started out at Central and Webb road in Wichita and grew into a large School just north up Webb road and by the time we got there they had built a new Elementary school.
Being one of the many kids in our neighborhood, I grew up playing games with the other kids by the hours. I threw myself into our games and adventures and as the first boy in the family, was pretty much left to do what I wanted, a lot. The girls got most of the attention from Mom and I did my thing a lot. If I spent the next 100 pages, there is no way I could do justice to the life I lived growing up in Dog Patch. There were fights, car wrecks , an almost endless base ball games to be had every day. As far as I was concerned, it was as nearly perfect way to grow up as I could imagine. I wasn't stupid and didn't notice, I just didn't care.
Back in my school days, I was a very active kid and hated most of what happened there. I would probably have ADD or ADHD attached to my name today and be prescribed Ritalin. Somewhere in that endless times I spent in school, a teacher found out that I loved to read. In fact I could read the text books at the first of the year and generally pass tests without reviewing the material later on. l also could absorb information from the teachers and read a book at the same time. It would only take the teachers a short time to realize that I could answer their questions and read at the same time. It also kept me out of a lot of trouble. I made numerous trips to the library to keep a new book in front of me. I don't have a clue if it was the excellent teachers that taught me so much or the fact that I read dang near everything in the Library as a student at Minneha. Whatever it was, I always tested near the top of my grade in intelligence and was listed near the low end in grades. I'm sure that several teachers gave me D's to pass me on and were glad to not have me again. I thought D was for Denny. That's Me!
Most of the working class adults in our neighborhood were associated with Minneha or Beech Aircraft. The partly working group were roofers, semi-skilled and some illiterate workers or as they would be called today, day laborers. There were a couple of Mexican families there but no self respecting black family would live in the middle of a neighborhood where the common term was nigger for blacks. I didn't know any better as I don't remember there being any blacks in our school.
Did I mention that I attended school at Minneha for 10 years? I swear there was a frog that followed me around and when a Teacher would ask, "Who Did it?' that damned frog would jump out and say, "Petty Did It, Petty Did it." The truth of the matter was that he told the truth more often than I would like to admit. For someone that was not a trouble maker on purpose, I was in trouble, a lot. I guess I did mention that there were two pretty distinct classes that went to Minneha. The "Have A lots" and the "Have a little's". In spite of the differences, I really didn't realize the differences as much. I could out fight, out spit, out cuss and out the ones that I couldn't beat the other ways I could outrun.
In case you didn't read the earlier foreword, this is my life and like I said, it is subject to the facts as I remember them. Now, filter that with all the years from then to now and throw in the retelling factor of truth in stories you get what I write. Every story told more than once has an element of embellishment. I'm sure that all those fights didn't hurt much and that the other guy's eye always got blacker than mine.
I had two friends that for different reasons got set back into my grade in school. My first and best friend Harvey fell or was pushed out of a swing and broke his wrist. He also broke his collar bone in one of the earlier grades. He missed several weeks and was soon set back into the dynamic baby boomer class. My other friend Dennis L. was helping his dad clean rabbits and got rabbit fever. It put him on the disable list for enough days to cause him to be in my class. They both told me that they really noticed the difference in money and the fact they were not with their class the rest of the way through Minneha. I was just a kid and had more fun that I thought possible. I loved having Harvey and Dennis L in my class.
My backyard ended where the Beech Aircraft parking lot started. At 3:30 every day there was a mad dash by the aircraft plant workers to their cars and a mass exodus to get as far away from the plant as soon as possible. Minneha let us kids go at 3:15 and we did our best to get home to avoid the traffic. There were no old stupid dogs in our neighborhood. If they weren't smart enough to stay out of the road, they died young. Most of the roads there were just sand and gravel and the cars in those days were big and fast. I really don't remember any kids getting hit and killed by a car but I'm sure there were a lot of near misses and I just didn't notice.
The street names in our neighborhood were from early aviation pioneers. Byrd, Chamberlain, Von Thayden, Beech and a couple of more. Now a days, there is little left of my end of Byrd street and the north end has changed little. You would think that in 40 years it would have changed a lot but it really hasn't. I don't get down to Wichita much anymore as most of my family and friends have moved away. We graduated from Minneha in 1961 and were ready to whip the world. Or, at least go to High School wherever they would let us.
My oldest sister, Myrna, started her High School at East High and moved to South East High her Junior Year. My sister, Carol, was in the first class to go all three years there. The joke I told was her class bought a Golden Buffalo to put out by the flag pole and my class kept it painted blue. For reasons unknown, my class was not allowed to go to South East. We were told we could drive to Wichita Heights, Andover or East High in the middle of Wichita. For some crazy reason the guys I ran around with all wanted to go to East and the girls went to Wichita Heights.
Wichita as a pretty segregated city in the 50 and 60's if you looked at it on paper. If you really looked at the city, there was a black section and the rest was white. If a block near the black section had one black move in , the whole block moved shortly. I think that is DE facto segregation if I remember it correctly. There wasn't overt efforts to segregate but by their actions it was pretty segregated. I think I mentioned that Minneha was pretty much Lilly White. Well, little did that dumb bunch of guys I ran around with know that East was about 65% black. I learned that there was a big difference very early in my first year there.
On the first day it rained in gym class, we were not sent out to one of the fields to play whatever game the coach had for us. We pretty much stayed in the gym and played half court basketball on one of the many goals around the gym. That first day, I was tossed a basketball and as I turned to run, I stepped right in the middle of the biggest black guy I had ever met. He stood up and was three inches taller than I was and had me by at least 50 lbs. Oh shit, Oh dear, Dennis going to get killed or at least get his butt whipped right here in the East High Gym. As he got up, I saw a size 12 footprint on the front of his shirt. It was all I could do to keep from laughing my way into a butt whipping. I brushed off his shirt and apologized in my best manner. He told me to pull my head out of my ass and be more careful. My initial thought was what the hell was he doing there on the floor, but discretion overcame my mouth and I escaped un pounded. One of the few times that I was scared smart instead of stupid.
I mentioned that the girls in our neighborhood went to Wichita Heights didn't I. Well at that time my love of mammarys just attracted me to my high school sweetheart. She was cute, sweet, looked great in and out of a sweater but was not very bright in the opinion of my sisters. I was thrilled with the alignment of our stars but blessed that in the long run she went her way and I went mine. This the one place that I will admit that discretion is the reason for the omission of her name not memory. I haven't heard a word from her since 1967 and plan on keeping it that way. It is only by the grace of god that we didn't make any little Dennis's with me winding up working in one of the Aircraft Plants there in Wichita.
I graduated from east High School in 1965 in one of the biggest classes in any school in Kansas. We started out with over 1300 and actually graduated with over 900. I think counting the Vocational School there with East High there were almost 4000 students. Times were good in 1965 and most of us got a job and spent a lot of time drinking beer and working. Most of my friends went on to college with different degrees of success. I made straight C's my first semester and dropped out to play cards in the Campus Activity Center the Second semester. I had a friend that had a system and we could beat about anybody. If our strong suit was black we held our cards in our right hand. Spades were folded up and clubs were spread out. Left hand was red and Hearts spread out and diamonds closed up. A simple nod and the second strongest suit was shown. 10 point pitch at a penny a point was a blast even if it was the downfall of our education. I am just lucky they didn't serve beer there. Did I say beer?
What story about Wichita would be complete without the telling of our favorite watering hole. Just across the bridge on West Douglas was Scotties Uptown recreation and the place for a bunch of guys to drink beer and play pool. He even served bologna sandwiches cheap and between 25 cent draws and cheap pool we could have a blast for a couple of bucks. A lot of time was spent there right up to the time the first of the draft notices went out. My friend Harvey went to Kansas City for his pre-induction physical the same day as I went for my induction physical. He followed me to Fort Lost in the Woods a month later. But I digress and I'll tell you more of that story later.( OR EARLIER DEPENDING ON WHAT ORDER YOU READ THIS CRAP)
I worked construction the summer of 1966 and the girl friend had given up on me and joined the Navy. It was what I would call lost time now. I didn't have a goal or a destination and the Draft Board settled it for me in September 1966.