We left Colorado and moved to Marlow, Oklahoma. Marlow is in Stephens County between Rush Springs, to the north and Duncan, to the south. Its population was around 4,000 or so. As I remember, the people were friendly, down to earth, with a mainly agricultural background. Good people.
We found a rent house that was at Highway 81 and W. Chickasaw. Highway 81 is a state highway that runs north and south. Our house was on the east side of the highway with a grocery store next door. Directly across the street was a Sunray DX gas station. Just north of the DX, was a house with a rock porch. In front of the porch sat a 1959 greyish blue Buick. The car was huge. The back of the car had some chrome trim going all the way across the width of the car. The trim always reminded me of the horns of a Texas Longhorn bovine. From our front yard, we could see a lot of activity from the highway, the gas station, and the grocery store, but almost none from the house were the Buick sat.
Dad was working in Lawton. I don’t recall where Mom was working at the time, but I’m sure she was working. Larry was coming back from the Navy. I was in the eighth grade and Brenda would have been in the sixth grade. Our time in Marlow must have been fairly short. I don’t remember much about school except for being in band and taking a Spanish class. Knowing what I know now, I should have paid more attention to learning that language, but I was struggling with English.
My Uncle Loy was pastoring a small church located a few blocks from our house. During the week, he was a crane operator on a bridge crew. On the weekends, he would preach. He told me Aunt Lois was the pastor and he was the preacher. She knew about all the families in the church and their needs. Their mobile home was located between the church house and the parsonage. The ladies of the church would come together, in the parsonage, to make quilts. They had a quilt frame suspended from the ceiling. They sat around the perimeter of the frame, each working their own area, making quilts, building friendships.
Mom and Dad went shopping one afternoon. Brenda and I were left alone at home. We would normally horse around and “rough house”. On this day, the horsing around was in the form of chasing one another. So that you might better understand what happened, let me give you the layout of the house. The front door opened into the living room. The kitchen was beyond the living room. Immediately to the right was a front bedroom. From that bedroom, a doorway opened into a hallway that ran parallel to the living room. From the hallway, you could enter the bathroom and a back bedroom and the front bedroom. I was chasing Brenda, when she started for the hallway. I pushed her and she hit the inside of the hall wall. As she stepped away from the wall, her outline remained in the form of broken sheet rock. We picked up the pieces and cleaned up the best we could, but you can’t really hide the outline of your sister on a broken wall. Our parents would be home soon. We wondered what they would say and what would they do. We would soon find out. We tried to act normal, but what was normal when you knew a storm was coming. About ten or fifteen minutes after they got home, Mom went into the bathroom. She saw Brenda’s outline and began screaming, asking “What is this!!” Just typing those words are not adequate to indicate her displeasure. I would have to add volume control for typing with instructions to turn it all the way up. Well, that outburst caused Dad to take a look, and then he wanted us to look. Of course, we had already seen it. There seems to be a black hole, in my memory, concerning the discipline we received, but I think that I am technically, still grounded.
We did have some friends in Marlow, beside our cousins, the Fowlers. Harold and Barbara were brother and sister. Harold owned a Vespa scooter. Vespa’s were made in Italy. They were not really powerful, but they were a blast to ride. It was just a delight to ride through the uncrowded streets of Marlow at maybe thirty miles an hour. I loved it and wanted to have one. I would walk downtown to Main and 2nd street. There was an ice cream shop at the corner. Their fudge ripple was very good. Just west of the ice cream shop was a place that sold Mopeds. Mopeds were somewhat like a hybrid of a bicycle and a motorcycle. You would have to pedal it to get the motor started. It had a very small engine and I’m sure I would have been disappointed with it, had I bought one. But that did not keep me from going into the shop, just to smell the machine. There was and is something about the smell of a motorcycle shop that was like catnip to me. I would go into the showroom and imagine myself riding the iron horse to freedom. But no, it would not happen. Leaving my sister’s outline in the sheet rock ended that dream.
We left Marlow and moved into a house on N. Muellar Ave. in Bethany. It was a two story house with a detached garage. My brother and his new wife were living with us for a while. I stated attending Central Elementary in Warr Acres. In the Putnam City School system, elementary went up to the eighth grade. High school was ninth through twelve grades. This place was very different than Marlow. I guess there were as many students at Central, than there were in the entire school system of Marlow. One thing that I noticed pretty quickly was I did not have the same type of clothes the other kids had that rode our bus. I had a pair of non-descript shoes, a pair of jeans, and a shirt. The other boys had a pair of burgundy penny loafers, jeans, matching belts and a light yellow or light blue oxford button down shirt and an HIS navy colored light weight jacket. They were very stylish for the time. The times, they were achangin’. I was becoming more aware of popular music. The James Bond films were influencing the young. And my family was falling apart.
I was still struggling with English. My dad and brother were working in Texas. They would come home on the weekends. Mom was working as a nurse’s aide, if I remember correctly. When Dad would come home, he was usually glassy eyed from drinking. He always had a box of peppermint flavored Chicklets in his front shirt pocket, to try to cover the beer on his breath. As you can imagine, weekends were not a lot of fun with my parents arguing for most of the weekend.
A short time later, I came home one Friday and found my Dad had brought me a gift. This was highly unusual. In the drive way, was a new Yamaha 80 motorcycle. It was black and grey and chrome and it was mine. I thought back to my dream of having a motorcycle and here it was. But it came with a big price tag. My dad told me a friend of his gave it to me. Still being naïve, I thought how very nice it was for someone to want to give me a motorcycle. I didn’t even know them! Brenda and I drove it around the house and occasionally on the street, but I wasn’t supposed to because I didn’t have a driver’s license. After four or five weeks, I came home from school and the motorcycle was gone. I asked about it and was told they took it back because “we” didn’t make the payments. I said I thought it was a gift. I was told it’s gone and that’s the end of it. I then found out my Dad’s friend was his girlfriend. And because Mom found out about his girlfriend, my motorcycle was gone. After I found out about where it came from I didn’t want it either. I later learned, Mom thought because I enjoyed the motorcycle, that I condoned my Dad’s girlfriend. But as I said, I never knew he had a girlfriend. Mom thought I was being disloyal to her and it hurt her. I was guilty of being naïve, but I was not disloyal. I hold loyalty very high on my scale of characteristics/virtues. I want to be loyal and I expect others to be loyal to me. I cannot read a story or watch a movie, if there is unfaithfulness going on. It sickens me. Perhaps, this is the source of that feeling. On the other side, I admire and appreciate, very much, that the Bible tells us that our God is faithful and true. As a side note, I was discussing this with my brother, a couple of weeks ago. He told me what he knew of the situation. He said the motorcycle was supposed to be his, if he just agreed to say whatever Dad said. He could not or would not do that, so the motorcycle was giving to me.
We had to move again. The new house was on NW 53rd, off Portland, near Deaconess Hospital. The house had a large picture window in the living room. My dad decided I needed a haircut. He dropped the sheet that was covering the window. Placed a dining room chair on top of the coffee table and instructed me to sit in front of the whole world – to see me get a haircut from my dad. I was really embarrassed. I knew we didn’t have the money to go to the barber, I would have preferred to have it done on the back porch, were it was more private.
An empty field was just east of our house. The next house was a lot nicer than ours. They had a teenager closer to our age. He was really into The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and building model airplanes. There was a small lake and an abandoned sports club immediately behind our houses. We would occasionally swim in the lake, until the day I cut my foot on a broken whiskey bottle. The guy next door talked Brenda and me into climbing through an open window of the sports club. Left behind was broken furniture, announcement papers, but nothing of value. At least once while we were trespassing, this guy would make some noise and yell out the cops were there. We would escape through the small open window, nearly missing the imaginary police.
I did not want to write this story. It was a time of uncertainty and sorrow in my family’s history. There were great changes in how I viewed my parents, life, and myself. Changes would have to be made. But what? What could heal my parents’ marriage? What would hold us together? My relationship with my dad was not very strong to begin with, but now it was even weaker. It was an end of a time…a time of trust.