Oh calamity of all calamities! A fifty-cent-piece dropped down a brick wall, with no way I could get an arm down between the two matching red-brick surfaces, that together formed the impervious wall. Wet cement had been poured to fill most of the emptiness between the two sections of wall, but had stopped short of the top by thirty inches, give or take.
The year was 1958.
Not only could I not get my arm down far enough to retrieve the small fortune, but my older brothers could not as well. That is when matters began to get really desperate. Why had I brought that half-dollar outside in the first place, instead of just leaving it in my piggy bank, where it would have been safe and sound?
This seemingly innocuous event was huge in my six-year-old life, for the simple fact that fifty cents was half of what remained from my fortune I had received on my birthday, three months earlier. I had gotten a card and two quarters from my Uncle Karl and Aunt Phil; a dollar from Becky and Stevie Rawson; and fifty cents from Mrs. Downen, amidst a nice pile of wrapped gifts.
Of that two dollars, I still had one, half of which I had just dropped down the brick wall. The funny thing is that in thinking back on this disaster, I had always assumed it took place in the summer, when we had to spend long afternoons outside entertaining ourselves, or face the prospect of being put to work doing chores. Instead, it was Thanksgiving weekend.
It all seemed so reasonable back then. You mean that if we can play Monopoly or cards in the back yard, we don’t have to pull weeds or clean our rooms? What’s to not like about that? We had a backyard that was spacious, well-shaded and comfortable. We had unlimited water if we wanted to do water-play when it was hot, and we had plenty of books.
What I want to know is what was that stupid section of wall doing there in the first place? It was way higher than I was at six years old, so probably six feet or so, but it was only ten or twelve feet long, just enough of an attraction for me to get up on, but not serving any useful function. I had obviously been showing off my swag, those two half-dollars infinitely preferable to one dollar bill.
But how was I going to get that coin out from that dumb wall?
|This was 1967, the year I painted the house |
so the poplar trees would not have been there
in 1958, nor the back part of the house.
Thanksgiving Day, 1958, was on the late side, falling on the 27th of November. That meant that Friday would have been a non-school day, and all of us would have been at home, working off the majestic meal that would have been served on the big day.
Who did I turn to in desperate times, when I needed brain power? I turned to older brother Brian, a tad more than four years older, but light years ahead of me in terms of his noggin. After all, it seemed no coincidence that Brian and brain were awfully close in spelling.
Help was provided and though I remembered well how he did it, I will let Mama say it in her own words; it is a sad tale:
November 30th, 1958: “Mark has been having trouble with his money lately. He still has a dollar left from his birthday and one day he put the bill in his bank, and then spent half the day getting it back out. Apparently he wanted to make sure it was still in there. “I can’t hear my dollar bill!” Then two days ago he changed the bill for two halves, and then took them outside, and proceeded to drop one half-dollar down the brick wall in back. They had quite a time getting it out, finally working the old trick of putting bubble gum on the end of a stick, and getting the half-dollar out in that way. He is very anxious to earn money around the house, only he has an exaggerated idea of what his services are worth.” *
Though Mama seems nonchalant about the whole thing in her passage, as if it were no big deal, at the time I was not only scared that I might lose that fifty-cent-piece, I was afraid I would be scolded for being so inept, as funny as that sounds.
It’s all in the context of the times, and in remembering that Mama had been placed in charge of her own siblings at age nineteen, when her mother passed, and had to run a household on a tight, Depression Era budget.
|Fifty cents! My kingdom for fifty cents...|
Fifty cents was worth making a fuss over and Brian had come through with a piece of ABC gum, the most useless item on the face of the planet, unless you need to retrieve something dropped down a brick wall.
I treasure those three spiral notebooks I received in the mail from JT because they allow me to compare and contrast the things that were important back in my childhood, with those things that are important today. Though money is not one of them today, lending a helping hand is.
Thanks, Brian, for helping hand-I have always remembered it fondly.
* In response to the comment about my exaggerated idea of what my services were worth, I might remark that the going rate in 1958 was five cents an hour for weeding in the berry garden, so I will let the reader determine how far off my notions were.