When I Was Young Yesterday

Lew Goddard

Photos courtesy of the author.

© Copyright 202 by Lew Goddard

Age 17, high school photo.
Lew's high school photo, age 17
                   Lew's most recent photo, age 86

My wife and I are the elderly that people refer to on TV, in books and on the telephone. Numerous memories quite often come to mind and this story is meant to tell you readers some of these in our much younger days.

I will tell you about my experiences since my spouse has her own.  But this is my story for your enjoyment. At least, I hope that you enjoy it.

Memories are not hard to carry. Sometimes you have to search for them. This is the case. Shortly before I was five with my older sisters we moved from one farm site to another with our parents. My Dad hooked up the horse drawn buggy and tied our cow behind. From the north of town to the south of town, a distance of perhaps ten miles and it took the better part of the afternoon. I thought we had travelled over the entire province. Instead of an old dilapidated wooden house with an earthen floor in the living room and dining room, the new house was a huge two-story rock and mortar edifice. The horse was placed in the pasture and my Dad struggled to lay the cow unto its side. He took his pocket knife out of his pocket and stabbed into the cows belly. Why did we bring the cow all this way and then my Dad killed it? It was quite some time before I learned that the cow was saved. In the pasture, it was able to move quite well and began to consume the green grass. If a cow could eat green grass, how was it able to produce white milk?

My Dad was at work, sisters were at school and my mother was busy in the kitchen. It was time to venture further. The barn was vacant, no one there, nothing there. With my little white-haired terrier, Prudence, and a stick in my hand, I wandered into the barn. It was located about fifty yards south of the house. It was huge. It smelled like hay and manure and another odor that I couldn’t recognize. The quietness forced me to take a good look to see if there was any living form. Slight rustle could be heard at close to my feet. Prudence sniffed a hole in the debris and wagged her tail. I poked the stick into the hole and there was some visible movement there so I pushed hard to make the hole larger. A sleek grey animal moved rapidly but my dog was quicker. She jumped on to it and grabbed the back of its neck in her teeth and not more than thirty seconds later, she dropped it, looked at me with a satisfied smile. The animal jerked a bit but obviously from the blood, it was dead. I patted Prudie’s head pushed the animal with my stick and moved on. Sometime later I was told that it was a Norway rat and could eat just about anything including eggs and chickens.

It was time that I move farther afield.

There was a slough west of the house down the hill. Poplar trees and willows next to the water. Of course, Prudence always came with me and we went exploring. In the willows there was plenty of old leaves and general debris from the trees. But, Prudence with her gift of smelling started to dig at one spot. I stopped her to see what she had found and it was a field mice nest and the cutest little pink nosed light grey babies. My first thought was that the mother wouldn’t come back now that we had virtually destroyed their home. So, I picked them up and headed back to the house.

My mother and sisters were there and one was upstairs. I called her and said that I had something for her. A little later she padded down to where I was sitting. She looked over my shoulder when I opened my hands and showed her. She gave a short shriek and collapsed. Her eyes were closed as she lay there on the floor. What happened? She looked like she was asleep. Oh my God did I kill her? Suddenly she jumped and yelled at me to get those damn things away from her and she ran back up the stairs.

Shortly thereafter, we moved into town and rented what was originally a commercial store of some kind. I guess we didn’t pay much rent and it wasn’t long until we moved into a small two-bedroom house right next to what was the Trans Canada highway that went through town at that time. It was gravel. No pavement, It was muddy when it rained. How far have we progressed? Since I was less than six years old I played with the few toys I had and ones that were make-believe on the lawn in front of the house. Suddenly, I felt something in one ear and moving around. I probably screamed for my mother. She came and looked. There was an ant part way into my ear channel. She ran back in the house and used a small clamp used to pull a sliver out and finally the ant was pulled out. I never forget the weird feeling.

School started for me when I was six years old. I don’t recall if I was excited. There were positive thoughts racing through my mind. I was growing up. I was in school. I would become friends with other kids and learn how to survive new relationships. It was all about learning about life.

Two or three days after attending school on that occasion, my bladder told me that it needed draining. Now, I was in a panic. I didn’t know where the washroom was located and I didn’t know what I had to do to get there. In any event, it was too late and my new jeans showed a streak down the left leg to my boot. In those days, I didn’t have a pair of shoes, just boots. The puddle on the floor was evidence that I was in trouble and one of the other students raised the red flag. Indeed, my face was as red as the flag. The teacher came to my area near the back of the room and spoke to me.

At this late date, I do not recall what she said. I was instructed to follow her out of the room and was introduced to the boys washroom, then sent home.

Home wasn’t much better except my mother consoled me.

School became more familiar and there were swings with wooden seats and long ropes. I thought they were fifty feet tall. I learned how to stand up and pump my body to move the swing until I was nearly as high as the big wooden posts that held them. Conversing with fellow students some as old as teenagers, I was told that if I wanted to swing, I would pump high enough to see over the top horizontal board that held the swings. Obligingly, I tried my best, but I couldn’t reach high enough at first. Then, one day with extra effort, I succeeded. However, the downward trip threw the swing out of control whereby, I fell several feet. That hurt.

Seven years crept up on me the following March. At the end of May, I developed a severe stomach ache where one morning, I just couldn’t seem to wake up. My mother made arrangements to take me to the Doctor in the next town west of us. At that time, there was no 911 to call and have an ambulance transport a patient to the hospital. I became resident in the hospital and without further measures, my appendix was removed. My stay was a week. After a couple of days, I felt energetic and visited male patients on both floors. The memory that stayed with me was one man in the same room with me showed me what had happened when he accidentally shot himself in the leg when manipulating his rifle. His leg was swollen twice it’s normal size due to infection. He had a lot of pain and we became friends. During the rest of May and all of June, I did not attend school with the knowledge that I would pass into grade two in the fall. Whoopie do! More holidays.

After school was over for the day or weekend, there were other adventures to explore. A bunch of us played “kick the can.” There was no limit to the number of participants. I really don’t remember why another person wanted to gain the position as guarding the can. But, it was fun.

Toys were not routinely purchased from a store except at Christmas and seldom on my birthday. I usually received a new shirt and possibly new jeans. New boots showed up at the beginning of each school year. They were either worn out or my feet were too large for the old ones.

Instead of manufactured toys, we made our own. I somehow managed to obtain a wood piece an inch or two wide and long enough to be ably touch the ground. One piece was cut off about five inches long. This was nailed to the bottom of the bottom of the handle stick so that it formed a cross. This was not completed until a metal ring that often originated from a broken child’s wagon or off one of the wheels from a baby buggy that needed a new wheel. The idea was to practice pushing the ring ahead of the fashioned cross until you could run hard and keep the ring in balance. This “toy” could be pushed over the whole town and brag about your ability and compete with your buddies in races and other competitions.

One of the next “toys” when you had reached your tenth birthday at least was to propel a worn-out car tire by hand to keep in motion and balance to “skitter” all over town. It was the pride of ownership when you had a tire to rotate the streets. “Skitter” was the usual word at the time.

Before I move on to upper grades and I don’t forget, I received some vital knowledge from another experienced student in my room.

Please keep in mind that that there were three grades, one, two and three in this room where I went to school.

The teacher had a leather strap in her desk. And yes, this was a form of punishment allowed when a student did something wrong in class. My advice was to cry when my hand was strapped. It hurt, but it was difficult to bring tears to my eyes. My benefactor suggested that I became aware of the rhythm the teacher completed and just as she swung the strap pull your hand back and she would hit herself on the shin. Of course, that just prolonged the procedure.

I recall a situation that took place when I was in grade two. Same room but, my desk was in the centre of the room not far from the back row. Along the way I and many others had learned how to create what we called a plane made in a certain way that if you gave it the proper forward, it would fly for quite a distance. It was made of paper. One of my buddies, Robert Balfour sat in his desk two steps from the front. We had often fashioned a paper plane and threw it back and forth. I spotted him picking the plane on the floor where it landed from my throw.

He turned and returned it but it landed on the girl in front of me. She jumped, turned back to me and crushed the plane, saying that we should stop messing around. She twisted the plane and tore part of the paper. It was irreparable. Did she think she was a teacher?

Undaunted, I ripped the back cover from one of my scribblers. I carefully cut the perforations from the ring binder and commenced fashioning a new plane. This was thicker and stiffer than plain paper but it folded together quite well. The heft was very good and I lifted it and sent it to Robert. It was a magnificent flight but past him. It resembled slow motion as it dropped toward Mrs. Demashanko, the teacher and gently pointed down into her low-slung blouse right into her cleavage. She jumped and quickly moved back. “Who did this?” was her response. Several classmates named Not Me. Apparently, he had left the room

Grade three wasn’t much different except that I sat in a double desk and my partner was the teacher’s son. Again, I was at the rear of the room. His name was Ronald and he was quite adept at disturbing the class and being a nuisance, particularly to me. Most of the responsibility for problems ended up in my lap. He was very good drawing attention to me and it made me angry.

One day, as it happened, we were together at the rear of the school. I don’t believe he ever told his mother how he got a bloody nose at recess.

Sunday morning, my job was to walk to the dairy’s owner home in town. The trek was through our main street, there and back. We lived on the southern edge of town and the milk was obtained three or four days past the commercial street to the north. I always had the correct change and would leave it in a jar and take two-quart bottles of milk. It was very seldom that I met the owner but he trusted all who collected milk on Sundays. I had no knowledge of pasteurized milk at that time but now believe that it wasn’t protected.

In addition to the trip, I searched both sides of main street for coins that people would sometimes lose. A penny was a “find.” Anything larger was a bonus. A quarter provided “sublime agony” of ownership. My parents instructed me to place my finds in a rectangular metal box in a kitchen drawer. I used to count what I had saved when I placed more coin in the bank. I remember having more than a dollar at one time.

My Dad had two horses for his Draying business at the time that I became interested in animals. We had two extra lots in town and one was used as a pasture when the grass provided a food for the horses and where they often ran around. Dad said that I could help keep the gophers out of this area. He taught ne how to fashion a snare wire. It was a tin golden wire that could be fashioned as a noose at the top of a gopher hole. When the ever-curious gopher raised his head you could pull the wire and catch the gopher’s neck. They would struggle to become loose and it was not a nice thing to do or watch. My Dad suggested I drown them out and close the hole with soil so they would go elsewhere. That worked for a while. When I was older I purchased an old 22 rifle to kill them immediately and it seemed more humane. This was when no one complained about shooting in the towns boundary.

Grade four was in the next room that housed four, five and six grades. I must have become quite familiar with school because I really don’t recall much of anything out of ordinary.

I became very acquainted with softball and I played as often as I could. The rudiments of soccer was absorbed but I did not pursue the game.’

One callous incident has always been remembered. Heinze was a student in grade five when he was observed stretching a wire around a smaller student’s neck. This took place in the furnace room. The door was never locked. We had just returned from the afternoon recess. Our teacher attempted to lead Heinze out to report this to the principal. However, Heinze refused and he and the teacher became involved in a physical confrontation. With some difficulty our male teacher ushered his student out to resolve the issue. Heinze was not in school for some time and when he returned, caution by the teacher and all classmates, was the key to deal with him.

Later, we learned that Heinze’s parents advised that he would cooperate. His older brother, an RCMP officer visited Heinze one day and we all thought that he paid more attention to his brother than he did his parents. If I remember properly, Heinze was moved to another school in another town and not heard of again.

During this time, my Dad attended surgery to remove “Piles” as they called the condition then. My mother and I visited him when he was recovering from the effects of Ether. Ether has a very distinct undesirable odor. When my Dad opened his eyes, he gradually asked a question. “What is it, a boy or a girl?”

I knew he was going to be all right.

Those incidents are the only major happenings during my trip in the second room that I can recall. I enjoyed learning about small creatures and some that were invisible. Bacteria, Viruses and Mold were most interesting and little did I know that they would become major members in my later occupation.

Another thing I was not aware of at that time, that hormones would be dominant in the rest of my life starting within a few short years. Much like reawakening. That is another story.

Recently, some eighty years later, I chose to read a magazine my spouse had purchased. It was addressed solely to Women.

On one page headed ”You Are More Than Enough,” a number two sub-heading advised “Love yourself just as you are now.”

Now, and for a long time, I don’t believe that a person should love themselves. This feeling of being more important than anyone else is not natural. It borders on being narcistic. Now, you should only decide if you are as how you have become as a person.

After making mistakes throughout the years, as most humans do, I feel comfortable with my parents, my occupation, my income, my spouse and family all close to me. The feelings of love and companionship are strong and helpful to me. I trust that those most important to me feel the same closeness that I do.

In addition, I look back at growing up with a desire to learn that started in early life and mostly at school where I began to recognize the need and the joy of other people. I have met hundreds of humans that increased my knowledge of life. My life is already long and I feel happy with it.

I accept what I am.

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