I was born July 19, 1941 in Franklin, NJ, a pre-war baby by six months. Franklin is home to some of the richest zinc ore in the world, but it is pretty much mined out by now. There is also the Franklin Mineral Museum where they have local minerals such as Franklinite and Hardystonite not found anywhere else in the world. Hardyston is the township Franklin is located in. My parents were both teachers at Franklin High School; that's where they met. One day my Dad asked a student to deliver a note to Miss Clark which asked her if she wanted to have turkey with him and his parents. If it weren't for Franklin HS and an old dead turkey, I wouldn't be here today.
Shortly after I was born, we moved to Highland Park, NJ where my Dad taught at Highland Park HS. Many of his students left directly out of high school for World War II. My Dad was voted most popular teacher at Highland Park HS and he taught Problems of American Democracy. I guess at that time the main problem was World War II.
I remember one time when I was two my parents were having an outdoor party. I remember being bored and, anxious to see what was outside the confines of my little domain, took off down the sidewalk. I guess nobody noticed I was missing for a long time because I got pretty far away. I remember crossing city streets. Finally, my mother drove up in a police car and took me back into custody. I guess she was so relieved that she couldn't even punish me. My restless nature and quest for adventure were coming out at age two. Running away from home at age two is my first memory.
I think we lived in a duplex and next door lived my first girlfriend, Betty Jane Hughes. Our parents were friends. I remember visiting Betty Jane and her family when I was 10 or 11 when they lived in Phoenixville, PA. We used to walk to a soda fountain and get cherry sundaes. Our parents kept in touch for many years.
My Dad was an amateur photographer. He took all the pictures of me when I was little. He even did his own darkroom work. Here is a picture of me in a soldier suit that was given to me by one of Dad's students. It looks like I have a gun and everything ready to defend the Stars and Stripes. I don't remember much about Highland Park except running away from home, Betty Jane Hughes and the fact that it was close to New Brunswick.
Below is a picture of me and Betty Jane.
When I was two we moved from Highland Park to Wantage Township, NJ where my Dad took his first job as principal of Wantage Consolidated School. We rented a house on a dirt road in an area known as Possum Glen. Dirt roads weren't uncommon in those days. I remember Possum Glen was pretty boring as there were no kids to play with so one day I ran away from home again. This wasn't so scary since at least there were no city streets to cross. I ended up at a neighbor's house eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until my mother came and got me.
One winter we had such a severe snow storm that the road was impassable for a long time. My Dad had to park his car in a near-by field, and we had to walk to the house. I had a little swing my Dad made for me hanging from a tree at the edge of the yard. One day I was swinging and then got the impulse to get out of the swing and run and jump up on a soda box that was sitting by the house. When I got up there and looked down, there was a snake lying there perfectly still and staring up at me. I was afraid to get off the box so I yelled for my Dad and he came and killed the snake with a shovel. I couldn't figure why that snake would just lie there like he was guarding me and would bite me if I came down off the box.
I remember once at Possum Glen my parents had a party and they were playing softball out in the yard. I was just getting over some childhood disease like the chicken pox or something and I wanted to go outside and be with all the people. My Mom, however, wouldn't let me go out. She thought I might still be contagious and give whatever I had to one of the guests. I threw a tantrum. I felt I was well and wanted to go out and be with the people the worst way. My Mom was adamant. Maybe she thought I would run away again. I was totally distraught! My Mom didn't have too much sympathy for me, but my Grandma Lawrence did. She comforted me. I remember that. She knew my feelings had been hurt. My Grandma played a big role in my life. She was much more the nurturing, comforting type than my Mom, much as I loved her, and as my life went on, for various reasons, I found myself being emotionally much closer to my Grandma than my Mom. She played a big role in caring for me!
I was close to my cousin Peggy who lived in Hainesville where my mother grew up and was a few months older than me. Peggy was a great person who, unfortunately, died from hepatitus when she was 16. I lost a true friend. Peggy and I used to play together a lot. We went blackberrying together and our Grandma Clark used to read us stories together when we spent time with her in Newton, NJ.
When I was four we moved from Possum Glen to Lewisburg Road where my parents lived the rest of their lives. My sister, Jeanne, was born either shortly before or shortly after we moved. Now commenced several family tragedies starting with my Mom getting TB. I was 4 and my sister was only 9 months when my Mom had to go to a sanitarium. She would be gone for almost 4 years during which time my Dad was essentially a single parent, and my Grandma Lawrence took over many of the aspects of raising us. I remember the scene when my Mom left. She was very stoic and told me to be strong. She didn't like emotional scenes ever. My Grandpa Clark came to get her and drive her to Glen Gardner where the sanitarium was, and I remember standing in the living room saying our goodbyes when suddenly I grabbed her and didn't want to let her go. It was too much to bear the thought of losing my Mom.
I remember having to worry about whether or not we were going to win the Second World War, and now I had to worry about my Mom and wonder if she would ever be back. It was not a foregone conclusion in those days. Many died of TB.
The next thing that happened is that my sister didn't develop normally. She didn't learn to walk. She didn't learn to talk. I remember their trying to teach her to walk on a thing they rigged up with pipes she could hold on over in Vernon at my grandparents house. It was no use. She looked normal, but she would never learn to talk and she walked haltingly for only a few years. She had had massive brain damage at birth due, undoubtedly, to lack of oxygen. I remember hearing the story about how the doctor wasnt' there, a Dr. Scott, I believe, the same doctor who had delivered me at Franklin Hospital. The nurses kept telling my Mom to hold the baby back till the doctor got there. My Mom dutifully did as she was told with disastrous results. As a kid I remember babysitting for my sister a lot. Maybe that is where my nurturing side came from. If so, it served me well when later I found myself in the role of a single parent raising my daughter from the age of 3. I never had any of the normal sibling rivalry that most famillies with normal children experience. Instead, I was thrust into the role of caregiver.
There was a lot of sickness in our family during that period. Everyone got sick from the water which came from a cistern. Some dead animal had fallen in. Then my Dad had a well drilled. My Dad came down with rheumatic fever and almost died. It weakened his heart, and later in life he had two heart attacks, the last one fatal. It was a difficult period for my parents and me. I remember seeing my Mom only once in the 4 years she was at "the san." They were afraid of her infecting me. That time I saw her she was up on a balcony, and I was down on the lawn. It was hard; it wasn't emotional, it was sort of cold. My Mom didn't like emotional displays. I wanted my Mom to love me. She couldn't do that in her condition. I think she gave me a wallet or something.
When I was 4, I spent the year sitting in the back of a kindergarten class. I couldn't participate. It was the only way my Dad had of babysitting me. I wasn't old enough to be in that class. It was frustrating. The next year I got to start kindergarten again with my own class. Summers we spent with Grandma and Grandpa Lawrence. Dad hired a few housekeepers from time to time whom I detested.
Finally, in second grade my Mom came home, and we got to try to have a normal family again. Shortly before, they had invented streptomycin and that was all that saved my Mom's life. It cost my Dad $180. a month for my Mom's streptomycin shots, and that was at a time when he only made $225. Dad had to declare medical indigency although he never told me about that till years later. During that era he bonded with a lot of the local townspeople who cut him a lot of slack at a time when he needed a few friends. He dedicated his life to serving those people who had been so good to him in his time of need.
California Free Press