Edgbaston & Solihull, Autumn 1961: School is In
Summer ended, not literally, but essentially. It wasn’t really the fault of Gary US Bonds, although he had turned out another record jubilantly announcing School Is In – the fink. School would certainly have reconvened in any event, but it was hardly anything to be jubilant about – nor were we.
Weekends remained free, relatively speaking. But weekdays? Hello, East Berlin. Stan and I’d swot together in the afternoon; I’d practice piano and guitar alone in the evening.
Ian Tippins and Jenny Yao, our sporadic lunch chums from the term before, had become daily staples. Stan, Ian and I were all avid fans of the television series, Supercar. In the days before Winnebago-like motor homes were trendy anywhere, Stan pictured a giant one for our own version of Supercar, functioning, as needed, as yacht, submarine, pontoon plane, airplane, train and rocket ship – and, of course, off-road vehicle – always serving as our self-contained “bachelor pad.” As we’d wait for Jenny to join us, we visualized our future exciting adventures – those combinations of Jules Verne and Jack Kerouac that can only thrive in the minds of nine- and ten-year-olds.
Ian had timidly suggested including Jenny in our peripatetic group of bachelors.
Stan nixed it. “Nothen anent Jenny, her’s oroyt, s’birds goo,” he said. “But a wench? Liven with three blokes? Y’knoo wot peepl’ood soy.”
Jenny, meanwhile, thought that the whole idea of Supercar was stupid, that Stan’s idea of a Winnebago-like motor home was equally stupid and that the two together exponentially increased the idiocy almost beyond measure. She’d have endless debates with Ian and Stan on why the whole idea could never work in the first place, starting out with a variety of structural problems. When Ian pointed out there were prototypes for personal amphibious craft and mini- submarines, and say, “Why not put everything in one vehicle,” she’d reply, “When will they be publicly available?”
They’d move on to arguing about storage and cost of each fuel needed for each vehicle, what licenses would be involved and whether the Yanks or Soviets would blow it up if they caught it in their airspace.
I, alone, had the power to restore peace.
I’d set up Stan’s mini-editions of Monopoly or Scrabble, announcing it to the others. Prospects of a good board game, particularly at a time when none of us went outside much, were enough to suspend these silly, stupid arguments for another day. In doing so, I’d thus manage to avoid taking sides in their dispute, one that I’d found barely less inane than the “pressing” issue amongst our class generally that autumn: Could Wonder Woman beat up Val Venture – or vice versa? I found it a dispute that ignored the obvious question of why either would beat the other up in the first place.
Autumn and winter 1961 were far less sodden than they’d been the year before, but had compensated by being relentlessly, bitingly, beastly cold. We’d stopped wearing warm weather uniforms by early October, but the chill even pierced the overcoats we wore over our cold weather ones. Even the school’s stone walls could but mitigate, not repel, it.
Nor was cold the sole deterrent.
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
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G. H. McCallum
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