Touching all The Bases.

I think every once in a while I need to go back to the beginning and tell you a little about myself.  I grew up on the east side of Wichita, KS.  Lets make it clear that it was not Forest Hill, or Eastboro, but the area just east of Webb road called Travel Air City.  It grew to be called "Dog Patch" because of all the Oakies and Arkies that moved there because of the fine accommodations.  There was a neighborhood they tore down called Beechwood and they moved most of the apartment buildings to my neighborhood.  It improved both neighborhoods.  If it was not for the Military Barracks looking apartments, we would have been more of a trailer community.  Oh well, I didn't know we were poor until it was too late to do anything about it.

The one thing that was really good about the whole thing was the school district had a darned good tax base and we had a very well supported school.  We had music and an art teacher and they provided band instruments if you would play the Sousaphone.  (I did)  To keep up with the growing population they built several new buildings until the baby boom slowed to a whimper.  By the time my brother who is five years younger got to Junior High, they were swallowed up by the Wichita School system and now Minneha is a magnet school, what ever that means.   

My dad worked for Walter Beech both before WWII and after.  I think he worked 40 years or so for them.  He could walk right down the street and into the plant where he worked.  In fact he could walk home for lunch.   He would walk into the front door, put a can of oyster stew in a pan and start it heating.  He would go into the bathroom and after washing his hands, the stew would be warm enough.  Half a package of crackers and a good dose of Catchup and he would eat that disgusting looking mess. He would also dose it with hot sauce until his ulcer made him stop. I think oyster stew is the one thing none of the kids would eat so mom could safely buy five cans when she shopped and Dad's lunch would be safe when he wanted it.  

Mom worked at one of the hospitals and about the time I left home she became an LPN.  She had been playing doctor to the neighbors for years and with a little training didn't kill anyone.  One of these days I will talk to my brother to see what the difference was in growing up when mom didn't work and when she did.  I think when the older kids left and mom went to work it must have been a lot different.  At least he got a letter sweater for his participation in sports.  I never did.  Heck, I'm not sure I ever qualified but I should have.

About the time I entered High School, Wichita was mad at Beech Aircraft so the kids out east had to go downtown to East High.  It was really in the middle of town and is shocked a lot of us when we found that instead of the Lilly white school we had attended, there were about 60% of the students were black.  I did struggle with the fact that the N word was used a lot in my neighborhood and would get you killed at East High.  Oh well, I lived.

Probably the first thing that saved me in life was my love of music.  My family sang a lot and at Minneha we had  Mrs Holloway who's love of music kept her singing until the day she died.  I still sing and love every minute of it.  The second thing that was good in my life was my love of reading. I read everything I could and loved almost every minute of it.  The last thing that was really good for me was the fact that we played games all day.  From basketball to baseball we stayed busy.  All you had to do was come up with a baseball and you could draw a crowd on one of the local empty lots.  

Because we didn't have a lot of money, I went to work darn near full time in High School.  One things I was not afraid of was hard work.  I think it started out to support my car and a girl friend but work was the name of the game for me.  The best thing that happened to me was that my girlfriend's father got transferred to Seattle before we managed to make a baby.  Then she went into the Navy and married some poor sailor.  I think his name was Lucky but I was the real lucky one. 

After a year of playing like I was going to school at WSU, I learned to play 10 point pitch.  The draft got me that next summer and I went into the Army.  How I ever qualified to go to OCS was a miracle but I went to Fort Sill and on the 3rd of July 1967 I was made an Officer and a Gentleman and put on orders for Vietnam.  There was a short stay at Fort Irwin, CA where I met the real love of my life Barbara and she agreed to marry me before I went to Vietnam.  

When I cam home from Vietnam we went back to school and she graduated from WSU and I graduated from KU.  Two full careers later, and one son, here I am just outside of Topeka and retired. If I had known how much fun we could have, I would have done this earlier.  Oh yes, Barbara was a teacher and I was a Career Civil Member and a National Guard member.  I retired as a Colonel and it still qualifies me to gather up a shovel and to be the head laborer for the Mater Gardener.  What a life.


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