Ninth Grade 1958-1959 the Richard Jackson saga
The cab dropped me off at my new home a week before school was to start. My parents had moved while I was on my summer trip but at least they left word where we had moved to. I knew right away that it was the right house. My two younger brothers were shooting hoops on the basket attached to the two car garage.
Denny the oldest yelled, "Mum, he's home!" Younger brother Eddie took the opportunity to steal the ball from Denny. This set off one of their typical yelling matches. Yep I was home.
To say my arrival home was tumultuous would be putting it mildly. I had been gone all summer and had enough adventures for a lifetime. On top of that I had raised our families standard of living by providing a new paid for home, a new car along with money in the bank.
Mum came running out the door and swept me into a hug. Dad was right behind and started to shake my hand but instead swept me into his own hug. At first it was a continuous babble about the new house, new car, me being home, the adventures I had. No order for anyone of us. The words just flowed. I was home!
Things finally settled down and Mum gave me a tour of our new home. I was shown my new bedroom. Each of us had our own bedroom in the five bed room home. There was an eat in kitchen, dining room, living room with fireplace, family room, a mud room between the kitchen and garage. The master bedroom suite was downstairs. The upstairs had a junior suite with a small bathroom which was mine.
The other kids shared a bathroom. I suspected that one day my four year old sister Mary and I would be switching rooms, but that was in the future.
There was also a full basement with a recreation room. The rec room had a full size pool table and a table tennis top which would go on top of the pool table. There was also a fireplace and a wet bar. The laundry room was big and airy; there was a laundry chute on each floor so you could drop dirty clothes all the way to the laundry room!
The lot was about one acre in size which meant I would have a lot of mowing to do. Fortunately the neighborhood was new enough that the trees were not full grown so I would not have to rake many leaves. I would miss burning them though. There was a fireplace out back for grilling and I could still burn the trash in it so my inner fire bug would be satisfied.
The house had a gas furnace which meant I would not have to shovel coal and clean out ashes like the last house. That I wouldn't miss at all. There was nothing worse than getting out of bed with the coal fire banked and having to go to the basement and get it going, then have to wait for the house to warm up. There would be five of us standing on the main warm air register on cold days.
I didn't know if we would have a garden here like we did at the old place, as there weren't any in our new neighborhood. There was no clothes line strung but there was one of those whirly things that always seemed to need restringing.
After my tour of our new house the family settled into the family room. Things had settled enough we could have a real conversation. There were a hundred questions about my trip. My rodeo and ribbons were brought out, and I showed off the belt buckles I had won. After showing off my Colt 45's Mum insisted that I keep them locked up in the gun cabinet in the basement.
My brother Denny pontifically stated, "You told us you camped in a dell. Dell is a proper name, like Mum's sister Aunt Dell."
"Denny, Dell can be a proper name like Aunt Dell, but when it is not capitalized it refers to a small secluded valley, similar to a dale. However, a dale is just a small valley, it is not necessarily secluded," I told our budding young grammar Nazi.
"I was even given a ride by a Mr. Michael Dell out in Texas so Dell can be a first and last name."
My now pouting brother was told to quit interrupting or go to his room by Mum. I started to tell about the bank robbery but Dad broke in, "We will talk about that later."
John Wayne had sent the autographed copy of Variety that told about how Elvis Presley, Tab Hunter and I had got in a fight in Mexico and I had to bail them out of jail. The Mexican Police had sold pictures of us all together with the Police so I couldn't deny it. Actually Mum and Dad were okay about it. I think Mr. Wayne writing; "Wish I was there", helped.
They wanted to hear all about the movies I was in; even Denny and Eddie were impressed that they would see me on an upcoming Mickey Mouse Club TV show. They both thought it a shame that I hadn't a chance to get to know Annette. Denny even wanted to know if I kissed her. As if I could get past those chaperons!
Mum and Dad wanted to know all about John Wayne. They also let me know that Elvis had been drafted and was now in the Army! They also liked the way I had worked my way across the country and not just hitchhiked.
The story about the Texas Rangers and the Rustlers had everyone on the edge of their seats. Mum made a point that I was lucky not to get killed. She seemed to forget I was the one with the guns.
My singing career was amazing to the whole family because we weren't noted for our ability to keep a tune other than in a bushel basket. None of the family had seen my appearance on American Bandstand. They were all interested in how I was treated in Philadelphia.
When I told them about my promise to the Leukemia Society Dad about had a cow. When I told him about Paul Anka's and Brian Wilson's comments on taxes his words were unprintable. He hates taxes. He blames all of those on President Eisenhower. When he calmed down he reached the conclusion we would have to talk to an accountant. Luckily I had kept all the paperwork from my trip. This included the record contract, reward notices, rodeo winnings, movie and TV pay, plus my roughneck pay. Mr. Easterly had paid me out of pocket and it was only twenty dollars a week for three weeks.
My brothers and sister left us alone after they established I had not brought them any presents. I wish I had thought of that, especially for Mum and Dad. When I mentioned that I was sorry about no gifts, Mum laughed at me. "Ricky you just gave this family this wonderful new house and you have not even seen the 1958 Buick Roadmaster we have in the garage!"
This led us into a financial discussion. I had sent home twenty-five thousand dollars from the bank reward. There was probably going to be another eighty-five thousand dollar reward within six months but we wouldn't count that till it happened.
I also had nine hundred dollars left over from my trip but I intended to keep that separate for my use.
The house had cost sixteen thousand dollars and the car twenty four hundred. After the new furniture, electric washer and dryer we had a little over six thousand dollars left. My parents asked me what I wanted to do with that. I turned the question around to them, "You know more of what the family needs than I do; what do you think?"
Mum and Dad exchanged looks and Dad started. "Rick work has not been good. You know I am only on the extra board on the railroad. I only get called for work after all the regular full time employees have been scheduled for their forty hour work weeks. Many weeks there is not forty hours work available to me."
"I thought you have been working there since you came back from the war. Don't you have seniority?" All railroad kids knew about seniority. Dad's time book where he kept track of his hours even had a list of employees and their starting years. When he started in 1946 the most senior person had been there since 1898.
"I have but the railroad has been declining faster than my seniority has been building. Trucks, buses and the new jet planes are taking over the freight and passenger business. I am afraid the railroads days are numbered for me. We own some stock in the New York Central and it keeps going down. I don't think the government will let it shut down but it will be much smaller and consolidated with fewer employees than ever."
"What are you going to do?"
"Mum and I have an idea; we have been talking about this ever since you sent the reward money. We still own the house on North Detroit Street. We would like to fix it up and rent it out. If that works we would like to buy others and do the same thing."
"How will the money work?"
"The Detroit Street house is worth eleven thousand dollars. We put twenty percent down and started with an eighty eight hundred dollar mortgage. At two percent interest for thirty years that works out to a thirty two dollars a month house payment. We have checked with two local realtors and they both suggested we ask for seventy five dollars a month for the house. We would put away twenty dollars a month for repairs, insurance and it sitting empty. That would give us twenty three dollars a month for the family budget. Our thinking is to get that house into shape, rent it out, and then buy others."
"Duplexes seem to be the best bet as the cost would not be that much more and you could rent each side out for sixty dollars a month. That would be one hundred and twenty dollars a month income with a set aside of forty dollars or eighty dollars to the family for every duplex we own."
Mum stepped in, "If we owned five units like that we would be making four hundred dollars a month which would more than replace Jacks railroad income in a good year. Seven units would allow for units sitting empty. Ten and we would be rich."
"Let's go for rich," I replied. "Dad I am big enough I now could help with home repairs and keep lawns mowed and things like that. We have enough left over that we could buy two units right now with twenty percent down."
"Rick we can do better than that, the North Detroit house has seven thousand dollars in equity," said Dad.
The difference between what the house is worth and the amount we owe on it. We can take out a new loan up to eighty percent of the amount of equity we have. If we are careful on what we buy and how much money we need for repairs we can start out with five duplexes."
"What do we have to do to start?"
"We have identified three units we would like to buy if the price and building conditions are right."
"I am all for it!"
"Okay son, your mother and I feel that the ownership should be set up that the houses go to you if anything should happen to us. We are going to talk to a lawyer about how to make that happen."
And that was the beginning of Jackson Housing.
My parents had one last question, "What is in that shipping box that is marked; Do Not Open?"
I told them about finding the gold and what the gold miners told me about gold being deregulated. Dad remembered everyone having to turn in their gold during the Great Depression. He remembered because it was a bitter joke in his house, they had no gold to turn in.
They agreed that we should look into that possibility because it could end up as a small fortune. In the meantime Dad would look into a safe deposit box to store it.
They also had some information for me. Dad said, "George Weaver of the Bellefontaine Examiner will be contacting you. He was called for information on you by a James Olsen out in Colorado after the bank robbery. George did not know much other than you weren't known as a juvenile delinquent and had been a paperboy."
While not a loner I did not have any close friends in my middle school years. Those friends from my grade school days had moved away. I knew most of the kids from my grade school but did not get invited to their birthday parties. That was how you knew your social status in those days. The fact was; I had no social status. I was not an outcast; I just was not in any of the groups.
The first thing I did the next day was go to J.C. Pennies and buy new school clothes. All that I had that would fit me were my cowboy outfits. Those would do for the rodeo circuit and my singing appearances but would get me teased to death in Bellefontaine.
Even if I must say so myself I looked good with my Ivy League pants (a buckle in the back) and a Cardigan. I also splurged on a pair of dirty bucks, a brown suede shoe. I thought about blue suede shoes but Elvis had not worn them when we went out together so I figured they must just be from the song.
I had mixed feelings about the start of the school year. I could not wait to try out the idea of reading ahead and working the problems in advance of the class. I did hate the idea of going back to school because I was fourteen years old, and all fourteen year olds disliked going back to school, I think it was a rule or something. I did like the idea of being in High School instead of Middle School. This meant I would be meeting new people (girls).
I didn't know how I would be treated once word came out on my summer vacation. I wanted to tell everyone my story but I did not want to be a braggart. Getting the story out was taken care of before school started. George Weaver of the Bellefontaine Examiner rang the doorbell of our new home and asked for me.
He knew I was due home about now and wanted to talk to me before they printed anything. When Mum and Dad told me about the interview we agreed that I should tell him about the whole summer and share all the evidence that I had that it was true.
Dad was downtown talking to a lawyer about how to set up a business so Mum sat in on the interview. Mr. Weaver asked me to tell my story. I prepared him with, "The story is more than you know, and I hope you have some time." I then launched into my summer trip.
The run up to the bank robbery I covered quickly. I shared the news article written in Colorado, the reward posters for John and Ernest Johnson. I also had a carbon copy of the FBI report and deposit slip for the rewards.
I then moved onto the bull riding and winning rodeos up to the National Championship. For that I had trophies, ribbons, silver belt buckles and prize monies receipts.
I then showed him my Screen Actors Guild card and the deposit receipts for my Mickey Mouse Club appearances. They had also given me the viewing dates which were still a month in the future. At this point I think Mr. Weaver was going to have a fit. He was bouncing around in his chair.
When I got to the John Wayne and Elvis parts he could not sit anymore. He kept notes while walking around the room. I showed my pay receipts for "It Never Happened" and "Hell Fighters" along with my John Wayne autographed copy of Variety.
There was also my Oil Workers union card and pay for being a roughneck.
I thought he was going to have a heart attack when he leaned about the rustling episode and my Texas Ranger badge.
We actually had to stop the interview for a while in fear of Mr. Weaver's health. Apparently this was the biggest story he ever had. Mum offered him tea but he declined saying he had an ulcer. She then brought him a glass of milk for which he was grateful.
The last news I had to tell him was about, "Rock and Roll Cowboy" and being on bandstand. By now I think he was numb because he just kept taking notes. When I finally finished he asked if he could use the phone. He called his office and had them send a photographer out. He then proceeded to spend the next three hours going over my story for the fine details. He was professional and I didn't feel pressured.
After the pictures were taken of trophies, ribbons, badge etc. he told us that the story was long enough that it would be spread out several days next week or even the week after. He wanted to get this one right as he thought it might go national.
The first school week was a short week as Labor Day fell on a Monday. So on Tuesday September 2, 1958 I started my High School career. The previous Friday I had gone to the school office and picked up my class schedule, and paid my school fees. These were for Biology and some poor frog I would have to cut up, a Biology workbook and two locks. The locks were for my coat locker and gym locker. I also took the time to check out where my class rooms and home room were. Since my Middle School was attached to the High School I knew the building fairly well.
After that I walked downtown to G.C. Murphy Five and Dime and bought a three ring binder for my homework, pencils, paper and a ball point pen. I splurged on the paper; they now had it in a green tint and with narrow lines instead of the boring white paper with wide lines. I soon regretted that purchase the first time my assignment was, "Write one full page on..."
The first day was taking attendance, getting seating assignments straight. Some teachers didn't care where you sat. Others wanted you in alphabetical order. Books were handed out and we wrote our names on the pasted in book slip on the inside cover. I also got the soon to be famous, "What did you do on your summer vacation," English assignment.
I ran into several kids I knew at lunch time and it was amazing how much some of them had grown over the summer. The boys up, and the girls out. Well many of the girls were taller but that is not what I noticed. I was surprised when my growth got the most comments. Not only my growing taller but by being in shape. My friend Tom Pew wanted to know what I had been doing. I went all mysterious on him and told him he would have to read about it in the newspaper like everyone else.
He laughed and moved on with a, "See you later alligator."
I brilliantly rejoined with, "After while crocodile."
He came back with, "Don't get wise beady eyes."
Then I gave the conversation topper, "Understand Rubber Band." We were such wits.
My growth was really brought home to me in gym class. Coach Crowley gave us the rules of the road. We were told what type of shorts, shirts and shoes we had to buy. It was made clear we had to shower after class, and to bring a clean towel from home. We might even want to buy a gym bag!
He then went around and talked to some of the freshman. I knew this was to talk to the kids going out for sports. I was surprised when he came up to me and asked if I was going to try out for football. The regular varsity team had been practicing for two weeks but they had freshman try outs after the school year had started. They did this because of the growth spurts that teenagers had between the eighth and ninth grade.
"I never thought about it."
"Did you grow a lot this summer?"
"I did, Coach."
"I thought so, or I would have noticed you before. You are of a size you could be a running back or even a quarterback if you have the arm."
"When are tryouts?'
"After school this Thursday, come on out to the football field if you are interested. We could really use some new players this year. We lost most of our first string Varsity to graduation last year."
"I will give it serious thought, I never thought I would be big enough to play so haven't given it any thought."
Coach laughed, "You know I teach one of the English classes. You might want to think about how many times you used "thought" in that sentence."
"After I said it, I thought it might be a problem."
Coach gave me a swat on the arm and moved on.
When I got home that afternoon about 3:45 I had brought all my school books with me, a first. My first duty was to wrap all my school books in book covers. I used the ones sold by the band club. They were expensive at fifteen cents each but they were in the red and black school colors and had BHS with a bell on the front.
I then proceeded to get ahead. I read the first chapter in the English book. It was the start of diagraming sentences. It took about half an hour to read the lesson and diagram the practice sentences at the end of the chapter. I found that the correct answers were at the back of the book and that I had them all right. I could see where this would work out well. I was going to English class tomorrow and would understand what Miss Bales was talking about. She was known as a tough grader and I needed every break I could get to make an A in her class.
Algebra was easy after I got it through my head that subtracting a negative number turns that number to a positive. Does that mean two wrongs make a right? Anyway it only took about twenty minutes to get the problems worked. The correct answers being in the back of the book sure helped.
Latin was easy but tedious; I wrote out each vocabulary word ten times while saying it out loud along with its meaning. Then I had to translate the simple sentences in the back of the chapter. Again the back of the book helped a lot.
Biology took a while because I had to read the first chapter; then do the first chapter in the workbook. The workbook questions were filling in the blank so I just did them as I went. I had no correct answers for those so I would have to wait and see.
World history was not so easy, after reading the chapter the questions at the end required writing a paragraph about each event covered in the book. It also referred to other references that I did not have. We did have an Encyclopedia Americana so I used that as my basic reference. It took about ten minutes to write about each question. I wrote each out on a separate sheet of paper so I could turn in what was requested.
I got everything done in time to watch the Mickey Mouse Club with my two brothers. After that I helped Mum by setting the table for dinner. After dinner I told her I would wash the dishes. She wanted to know who I was and what had I done with her son! This did not stop her from letting me do the dishes. When I was done Dad asked to speak with me. We went down to the basement and he closed the door behind us after telling Mum to keep the children up stairs.
I was beginning to wonder what was going on! It came out quickly.
"Rick, let's talk about that bank robbery. You killed two men. How do you feel about that?"
"Dad I really don't know how I feel. It all happened so fast it did not feel like I did anything. All of a sudden they were dead."
"How did you react after the shooting was finished?"
I proceeded to tell him how I just stood there almost in shock and felt numb for several hours.
"Have you had dreams or intense memories of what has happened?"
"How intense of memories are you talking about because I do think about it at times?"
"Do you all of a sudden feel like you are there again and it is happening all over again?"
"Good let me tell you why I am asking. I saw some fighting during the War but not like some people. You know Bill Samson who always set on the wall down by the court house?"
"Yes, he would be there every day, if he was not on his front porch drinking a beer."
"Well Bill and I got drunk one night and he told me about his war. He was on the second wave of landings that hit Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was with the 29th Division a group from Virginia. He told me how he could hear the bullets rattle off the front of their landing craft and knowing that when the front was lowered to let them out that most of them would die.
He was lucky; he was one of the last off. He had to climb over his dead friends to get out. They had landed in the wrong spot because of the wind and tide. With very little cover they had to scale a cliff rather than the smooth beach they were supposed to be at. All day long his friends were killed and he had to keep going."
"Today almost fifteen years later he still can't sleep a complete night. He wakes up screaming not wanting that landing door to open. That is why he never was able to hold a job"
"Was? What happened?"
"He committed suicide last month. He stuck his pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He left a note saying he was leaving to visit some old friends."
"Anytime death is involved it can affect people, especially if it is by violence. Your mother and I were concerned about how you were handling this."
"Dad I have not felt anything like you are describing."
"I am so glad to hear that, I think that it was so fast that it did not really register with you. If you do start to have flashbacks about the shootings; please let us know."
Dad then changed the subject. "I had a talk with Tom Alderman an attorney. He suggested that we form a corporation. It will be expensive, two hundred dollars but will protect the family from general lawsuits from the business and split everything between your Mother, you and me.
"That sounds like it sets us up like you talked about. Do I have to do anything?"
"No as a minor we sign for you. The corporation will be split three ways with a third for each of us."
"Sounds like a plan."
That night in bed I thought about Bill Samson. We kids had joked about the town drunk for years. If only we had known. Another thought that kept running around my mind was that I thought I was a tough guy after the bank shootings. The thought of sitting in that boat waiting for the door to drop and let in all those bullets was frightening beyond belief. I was not a tough guy.
The next morning after going through my exercise routine I had pretty well shaken off the dark thoughts of the night before and was looking forward to the school day. It only took about ten minutes to walk to school. When I came out the front door there were several kids going towards school so it was natural to join them. We kept picking up kids along the way till about ten or twelve of us arrived at school.
We had casual conversation on the way to school. After we went through the front door of the school house I couldn't tell you about anything we discussed.
School on Wednesday proved interesting in several ways. First of all I have never felt so on top of things as in my classwork. I quickly learned that I only had to pay half attention to the lecture as they were going over material that I had studied the night before and felt comfortable with. I started reading the next chapter ahead. That worked very well.
At the end of Algebra class I realized there was something I did not understand in the next chapter. Mr. Buckley our teacher gave out that night's assignment in the last fifteen minutes of our forty five minute class session and told us to get to work. If we had any questions we were to raise our hands. Since it was every other problem at the back of the chapter I had those done and correctly.
I raised my hand and Mr. Buckley came to my desk. I showed him what I did not understand. He started to get a little huffy about working the problems at the end of today's chapter. I quickly showed him that I had worked ALL of the problems. He got a great big smile and invited me up to his desk and showed me what I was missing on tomorrow's homework.
I was not able to finish all of tomorrow's Algebra problems but it would not take that long at home or study hall. I had two study halls on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursday only had one because of gym class.
World History was a revelation. Mr. McMillian told us we could pick any one question at the back of the chapter to write an essay on. All the references quoted in the book were either in the school library or the study hall library. Since I was on a high about school work I decided to do every question that was at the end of the chapter. Fortunately we were doing one chapter a week so I only had to do one essay a day. Mr. McMillian then really made my day by saying we would get extra credit for every essay we turned in over and above the one required.
One interesting thing other than school work was girls. They noticed me! It was nothing exciting (other than to me) or sexual. Just that the girls that sat next to me in every class would say, "Hello" and make inquiries about my summer or the fact that I had grown so much. I gave nothing away about my summer and made polite conversation for the one or two minutes before the teacher started.
Thursday is when it all started. The beginning was when I got my English paper back. It had the comment, "Well written but I did not ask for a work of fiction." The grade was an "F". I was totally crushed and I did not know what to do so I did nothing. Well I guess I flushed very red because Miss Bales glared at me like she was waiting for me to open my mouth. She was well known for assigning detention. I kept my mouth shut.
After thinking very evil thoughts for a while I realized that the Bellefontaine Examiner article would make it clear that I was telling the truth. I would approach her with a copy of the paper and ask her to revise my grade.
The rest of the day went by quickly. I had to hustle to keep ahead in my reading and answering all of the questions. I was doing about twice as much as most students. I say most students because I realized that other kids were in the libraries every day and working diligently in study hall. Until I had stumbled into that orientation session at Berkley I had never known that this level of schooling existed.
I had no planned goals in life but it did not take much to figure out this would keep a lot of options open.
After school were football tryouts. I would like to report that I was a natural and the Coaches wanted me to play on the Varsity first team for Friday's week first game. What the reality was that I was strong, I could catch the ball; I could pass the ball fairly well but couldn't run worth a darn. I didn't have the stamina needed.
My discouragement must have showed because Coach Crowley took me aside and explained that stamina could be earned. I just had to run every day. I had to run long distances to build my wind and sprints to work on speed. As he pointed out I had grown a lot growth recently and my body had not had a chance to catch up.
"What time do you get up in the morning Rick" he asked.
"Seven o'clock to be at school at 8:30."
"Try getting up at Six o'clock and see how far you can run. Don't push it, just get a comfortable speed and keep at it as long as you can. At first you will be doing good to go for five minutes before you have to walk for a while. Keep that up for several weeks and I guarantee that you will be able to run for the whole hour. Not real fast but your stamina will have increased that much."
"In the meantime we will carry you on the squad and let you practice. We aren't really limited on how many we can carry for the first month."
I decided that I would get up early and run. I am not certain to this day what was driving me but I was taking control of my life and making good things happen.
When I got home that night Mr. Weaver had dropped off a copy of the story that was going to run in the paper for three days starting Monday. It was all correct but it made me look like some sort of super kid. All the high points were there, but none of the low points like camping in the desert because of no ride or that first lonely night on the road or how falling off of a horse got me in a John Wayne movie. I wondered if this was how most hero stories really went.
On Friday I set the alarm for 6:00 o'clock and crawled out of bed. I did wonder how anyone could jump out of bed. I ran and walked till 7:00 o'clock. Okay I walked more than I ran. When I came into the house; Mum said, "PU, up to the bath with you boy." The bath in my room also had a shower with it. I tried it for my first shower ever. I don't think I have taken a bath since.
My hair was still wet when I left for school. I wished I had one of those industrial dryers I saw at the gold mine.
At school before I went to my home room I stopped into Miss Bales room and asked her if she had a minute. She did. I handed her a copy of Mr. Weaver's story and explained that it would be published in the Examiner starting next Monday. She took the papers absently and laid it on her desk. I didn't get any reaction from her.
When I went to English class late in the day I did get that reaction. She started out with a statement. "There is a student whom I owe an apology. Mr. Jackson turned in his paper on his summer vacation and I gave him an F. I had asked for a factual report on your summer. He turned in a well written piece of fiction, or so I thought. His grade has been changed to an A and I urge all of you to read the Bellefontaine newspaper Monday evening.
This of course had the school speculating for the rest of the day on what would be in the paper. More kids came up to me and asked what was going on; more than I usually talked to in a month.
I told everyone, "Just read the paper, it is too long to tell here."