Series Part 17 – Extracts from Dickeyville Days Memoirs
By Ralph Lloyd
Memories from Ralph Lloyd
It wouldn’t seem right not having at least one of the Lloyd boys contribute some stories, and I doubt that any of my brothers will. I’ve been thinking about (and procrastinating) this evolution since Anne suggested we have the reunion and include some transcribed memories. I expected, since virtually all of my childhood memories are of Dickeyville, that this thing would write itself. The problem is trying to figure out some way to keep it to a manageable length. I’ve decided to write a few memories with detail and then just list keywords or short ticklers that will be meaningful to those who shared those times.
I am fond of telling folks who ask about my upbringing that Norman Rockwell had nothing on our experiences growing up. It was in so many ways truly idyllic. I raised three daughters and one of my lingering regrets in life is that I was unable to offer them the kind of community environment that I was lucky enough to have enjoyed.
My parents, Bob and Betty, bought and moved into 2304 Forest Park Ave in 1946 coincident with my oldest brother Bob’s birth. At some point in childhood I counted the rooms- I came up with 21. I was born in 1947, Steve in 1949 and finally John in 1952. Dad had just gotten out of the Navy in WWII and had yet to finish college. He went back to school evenings and earned a little money as a substitute teacher. My mom inherited a pile of money allowing them to buy, rehab and maintain that house. It took them about 13 years to blow through it all. We had to move to a smaller house in Howard Park in 1959, but my association with Dickeyville went on as if I never left.
Two Canadian couples lived with us while I was an infant- the men were graduate engineering students at Hopkins where my dad was in school. Multiple other kids were born in that house in those years to those couples as well (at least four). The Canadians finished school and left in the early 50’s.
My earliest memories of the people in Dickeyville would be of the Williams. That’s when they lived across from the Catholic Church on Forest Park Ave. I think Boo was Mom’s best friend and we spent a lot of time together. Anne and I are just a few months apart in age.
The trolley that came out of the village and went up to the corner was a ubiquitous presence. Seems like there are few of us who took it to Windsor Hills Elementary School don’t have fond memories of Ernie- the driver- and how we chronically “lost” our carfare during school and got free rides home promising to pay him back. I know I never did. The money of course went to the Popsicle man behind the school at lunchtime. I particularly remember the hard wicker seats and the fact that the trolley cars were drivable from either end- it never actually turned around. I was fond of standing in the ‘back’ and pretending to be the driver (backing up).
My best friends in early childhood were B Leonard and Donnie Gillespie. The three of us played mostly around my house and in the woods endlessly. As we got older sports overtook climbing trees and playing cowboys and Indians and our front yard was a perfect ball field for our age for both baseball and football. This was in an age before all sports were organized and supervised and officiated. The major players as I recall were my brothers Bob and Steve, Bob and B Leonard, and Pen Smith. My dad commented more than once that we seemed to argue more than we played since all calls were very subjective (getting to first base ahead of the throw or crossing the goal line before getting tackled). I sometimes wonder how kids today learn to problem solve when they always seem to have an adult around to mediate disagreements….
We attended Dickey Memorial. I suspect both my parents grew up in fairly strict Christian households, and not being associated with a church was not an option, but we were certainly not there every week. I always marveled at the perfect attendance pins with all the annual stripes that went with them that so many had. I never got one. Miss Grace had the longest chain by my recollection.
The real fun of church was the youth groups: Pioneers and then Gamma Pi. For those who were part of that experience no words are necessary, for those who weren’t none can really capture it. Everyone has their own rite of passage saga, and that was an integral part of mine, I think Tom Little was my first hero. He seemed erudite, thoughtful, competent and confident. I wanted to know as many words as he did.
I’ll always remember the Christmas services. At least one year a group went caroling around the Village. Rev Little called the tunes. We all had 6” candles held below a slit in a piece of paper to keep the wax from dripping on our hands. Door to door. You can’t make this stuff up.
And then, of course, there was Camp Glenkirk: Summer camps and annual fall weekend retreats for just our church. A.T. was the camp director and I remember him as a wonderful story teller (anybody else remember Old Roany?). And- he knew how to build awesome bonfires. My first kiss was on the last day of camp one summer when I was 12 with Laverne Zepp who went to a Presbyterian church in Sykesville. We walked the perimeter trail that last day to say good bye after hanging out all week and we probably walked 2 miles hand in hand before I got the nerve to stop and face her and see if a kiss might be something she’d go for. It was. Oh, my.
I last saw the camp about 10 years ago. Karen Hudson and I found each other on Facebook and agreed to get together during a trip she was making to DC from her home in SC. We had no agenda and I suggested we drive out to Glenkirk. I’m really glad we did. It was very much the same driving in. Parking area on the left and then the four cabins before getting to the pool. The main lodge was unchanged. That’s where things changed. The field beyond the lodge was mostly a big lake that stretched a hundred yards across. On the other side were big housing developments and a golf course. The old stream had been dammed. What had been campsites B and C were now underwater (with their four hogans each). We had left the car at the parking area because the main road beyond that was chained off. A fellow approached us and identified himself as the current director. We spoke awhile and then he told us that the camp had been sold and was closing down the next year. A sadness.
Like so many others I have vivid memories of the 1958 blizzard. The storm had not been forecast and the first day started sunny and then changed to a drizzling rain followed by huge wet snowflakes. Like many who lost power and were without heat my whole family moved to the Parish Hall. It must have been a nightmare for the parents but it was wonderful for us kids. How many remember exploring the subterranean dirt floor basement accessed from the kitchen under the stage? There was at least one morning when a bunch of us kids were sent out to forage food from the neighbors so that we could have breakfast. Hard to imagine how folks who were likely running short themselves could give up their staples but we came back with armloads, and I remember my mom cooking what appeared to be 5 pounds of bacon in a roasting pan on the big old gas stove in addition to all the eggs and toast. I was still a bed wetter at that age- a fact of which I was bitterly ashamed and kept as a closely guarded secret (thinking I was the only one and always at my brothers’ mercy lest they rat me out to my friends). One night during that week in the Parish hall I wet the bed and the clothes I was wearing- the only ones I had. I woke up around 4 in the morning with this horrible state of affairs and decided I needed dry clothes. I walked (the roads were still completely impassable) home. I remember going up the hill in front of the house and the wet snow surface had frozen and I walked on top of the snow rather than in it. The house was cold and dark and a little scary- but I accomplished my mission and got back, and as far as I know no one was the wiser. I don’t think I have ever told anyone about that incident before. Please keep it to yourself.
That brings up ice skating at the dam. I have several anecdotes about that:
The circumstances are vague and seem unreasonable but I remember when I was 4 or 5 being at the dam with my brother Bob who was a year older. Some may remember that the ice on the dam was perfectly good for skating on even if it was only frozen half way across- the current was always on the far side and froze over last. There was a sizable crowd of skaters. Bob and I walked out onto the ice to where it got thin and we could see the water gliding by below it. Bob started stamping his feet- to test the strength of the ice? I knew this was a bad idea but then we fell through. We had big heavy winter coats and were holding ourselves up with our arms on the ice. I think I managed to crawl out on my own and one of the Sieck brothers (David or Phil- they were both there as I recall) pulled Bob out. I remember being bundled up in a blanket over my wet clothes and taken home where I was dried and put to bed. I have no idea how we got there or who was supposed to be watching us but they were different times then.
Also on the hazy border of my memory is the system for getting skates. The Moos house backed up to the dam. They had an unlocked screened in back porch. On that porch was a big cardboard box full of used ice skates. I remember at least two years when- the first time the dam froze over that winter- going to that porch with last year’s now-too-small skates- and trying on ‘new’ ones until you found a pair that fit- and you were set for that season. One year hockey skates, the next year figure skates. It all depended on what you could find.
But aside from all the crack-the-whip and hockey games and bon fires and watching Mr. Cox do his perfect figure eights and stuff that skating rinks don’t allow- my favorite memory is when my brothers and I would get up on school days at 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the morning- demolish the kitchen making ourselves breakfast and then, taking our skates and book bags, would walk down to the dam and skate in the hour before school. It was very different from skating with crowds on the weekends in that it was so quiet and frequently the ice was mirror smooth. We’d get our skates on and step onto the ice and- with our weight and the silence- you could hear the ice cracking down its entire length. That was really scary but it didn’t stop us. The winner was the one who had the nerve to skate all the way across to the far bank first. Eventually Mom would pull up in the car on the bridge over the stream. She’d honk the horn and we’d all scramble out and go to school.
Windsor Hills and May Mart. Hopefully I can convert some of the home movies I have of that to something we can see at the reunion.
Piano lessons at Mrs. Stinchcomb’s. 25 cents. Elinor’s lesson always followed mine. Top octave of the keyboard- CDEDEC C. Remember?
Then there are the July 4h weekends. My favorite parades were the ones that included the Dickeyville Silver Cornet Long Distance Marching Band. Regulars were my brother Steve on sax, Bob on bass drum, Bunny Taylor on clarinet, Luke Schallinger on trumpet, and me and Dad on trombones. The ‘real’ Mrs. Bob Jones (on Pickwick above the Crosbys- not the TV personality on Wetheredsville) took great pains to get us in uniform shape before the parade- we had painted round old ice cream container hats and matching sashes. We had a huge repertoire of I think four marches: Notre Dame Fight Song, Anchors Aweigh, On Wisconsin, and Halls of Montezuma. If anybody has any pictures of that band I’d love to get a copy.
That gets us into my teen years. There’s just too much to cover. Suffice it to say that many of us virtually lived at Wayne’s house and partied and played there endlessly.
I am sometimes guilty of almost toxic nostalgia, and Bob Dylan’s Dream is a stark reality in my world.
I had thought that more of the memories I wrote would include the multitude of kids I grew up with. I will content myself with listing them fondly here and those of us who were there can fill in the blanks-
In no particular order- the Williams kids: Anne, Irving and Lucy; Bob and B Leonard, Pen and Page Smith (Pen was really my earliest hero- and Page was the first girl I became aware of as a girl), Dudley Lewis, the Turners and then the Morrills in the house next to the nursery school, Wayne and Joy, Elinor, Nelson Crosby and Susan and Ramsey) , Eric Howard, Mike Gibbons and his little sisters, The Meeks twins, Tommy and Emily Parrott, Karen Hudson (the one that got away), Mark Brady, Althea Loveless, George Choksy a musical prodigy (who died last December), Bucky Stissel, Allen Naylor, Walter Roemer and his brothers, Beverly Railey, Wendy Gilliss, the Weber kids, Bobby McDorman, the Moritz twins in that tiny house at the top of the triangle, the Gelston girls (Barbara and Joann didn’t approve of us when we went on with a party at Wayne’s the Friday night JFK was assassinated, Tommy and Timmy Conry (Mrs. Conry had been a den mother of mine), Jimmy Hamilton, Luke Schallinger, Karen Kramme, Ross Uhlfelder, Bob Knudson, Ricky Spranklin, the Gibson kids: Tommy, David, Philip and Andrea, Gretta Kleis, Victoria Bannister, the Gillespie’s Donny, Rosy, Isobelle and Mikey. That will do for now. What a way to grow up.
By Ralph Lloyd
Editor’s note: Please check back each Sunday to the Dickeyville Village blog to read extracts from the Dickeyville Days memoirs – a compilation of memories from previous Dickeyville denizens reflecting on a childhood spent growing up in the village during the 1940s, 50s, & 60s. We hope you enjoy their stroll down memory lane.