It's summertime! In 1950 those words heralded the onset of a season of adventure. We (my mother, my two sisters and I) were living with my mother's mother (Granny) and her husband (Mr. Mac) in Charleston, SC, near the navy base, 3538 Admiral Drive to be exact, while my father was serving as a naval officer in the Pacific during the Korean War.
In my mind's eye I can still see that little four room house with its white asbestos siding and matching picket fence. Behind it stood a dirt-floored tin-roofed garage which was home to a multitude of as yet unexplored treasures; the structure leaned precariously to the right and might well have collapsed had it not been for the adjacent chicken coop blocking its fall. A pair of T-shaped iron posts made by my great uncle Harry (a welder of some renown, he confided) supported five rope lines which always seemed to be adorned with washing and two cloth bags bulging with wooden clothespins. When he wasn't at work, Mr. Mac parked his old blue Nash to the left of the house - he loved that car too much to risk parking it in the garage; but alas years of sitting in the sun had taken a toll on its finish, just as it had on the fence and the asbestos siding . . . in fact I remember having to turn sideways to navigate between the Nash and the house so that my clothes and body wouldn't get smeared with blue on the left and white on the right or white on the left and blue on the right if I tried to walk between the fence and the Nash - all things considered, to get from the front yard to the back yard it was easier to run the gauntlet between the hydrangeas and the gardenias on the right side of the house; I say "run" because bees were an ever-present hazard in that area.
My wardrobe was pared to a minimum that summer: shorts with no shoes or shirt. Why? Because it was hot . . . so hot that Mr. Mac purchased a big fan and installed it in the kitchen window - it didn't help much during the day but it was a blessing of sorts at night as I lay in bed listening to "The Lone Ranger" and "The Shadow" on my little Philco radio. The heat also spurred Granny to pester Mr. Mac until he finally had a porch built onto the front of the house - he had been talking about that porch for years and it was a glorious sight to behold when it was finished . . . red cement floor, white awning adorned with big red initials "McC" (his last name was McCue), black wrought iron railing, brick steps and a narrow cement sidewalk that traversed the twenty or so feet to the front gate. Mr. Mac and I would sit out there in the evening and talk man talk, me in my shorts and him in a sleeveless undershirt with his long pants rolled up to his knees. He would tell me about his days in the merchant marines and the stories behind each of his tattoos and he would share his worldly wisdom. That summer he taught me not to fret about the things I didn't have but to make do with what was around me and that drinking a glass of milk filled with crumbled graham crackers was a great way to end a day. He also taught me that real men work for a living (he was a locomotive engineer in the SCE&G power plant nearby) and encouraged me to go to work picking up discarded glass bottles so I could redeem them at the corner store for two cents each. Much to his chagrin, the Baby Ruth folks had just come out with a giant bar for a dime and I quickly figured out that if I could find just five bottles a day I would really be living!
It was also a summer of stitches - twice mother had to rush me to the Navy Hospital: once to have my right foot sewed up after stepping on a Spam can in a neighbor's yard while riding a stick horse at dusk; once after I stumbled while chasing one of Mr. Mac's chickens and a piece of rusty wire somehow became lodged deep inside my left knee. Those scars remain as reminders of a summer long ago when radio and relatives sparked a young fellow's imagination and adventure could be found in the real world close at hand . . . sadly, a summer the likes of which my grandchildren will probably never know.
In His Power and for His Glory,