My parents bought their first and only house in nineteen fifty-nine in the then developing subdivision section of Skokie. A freshly constructed Mid-Century ranch style that required landscaping and all other amenities including a brand new concrete driveway. The Old Orchard shopping center was still under construction with many of its stores that would become mainstays still half built. I was enrolled into Sharp Corners Elementary School for the fourth grade on with one Mrs. Tatoules as my homeroom teacher. There were two boys that lived int he house next to us that went to Catholic school. My relations with the two boys next door waxed and waned according to the amount of pernicious mischievousness that they felt inclined to enact. Sometimes I was treated as one of the gang. And other times I was the target of their playful wrath. My family having been moved about to seven different communities all over the Midwest due to my father’s career as a sales manager. And at ten years old, I was not unused to the rotten of being singled out as the ‘new kid’; and thus subject to the inevitable routine of random hazing that in today’s Politically Correct interpretation would be considered as unconscionable bullying. My parents were not too keen on the destructive nature of pranks that my current childhood buddies felt inclined to indulge in and I was encouraged to find other friends as well.
After a number of years of fraternizing with the ups and downs of being associated with these next-door ruffians at a point when I had just entered junior high I met Curtiz. He was someone that was both my own age and seemingly of similar interests in building scale plastic models of airplanes from ready made kits. Something that I had grown to devote all my time to excelling in since the family’s last move from the city’s North Shore. My pride and joy of that day was a 1/24th scale Monogram models P51 Mustang plane with a crank driven retractable landing gear that I worked meticulously on for weeks on to flawlessly built it without the usual excess of cement splashes or visible divots from hastily removed spurs. It sat there carefully placed in my room upon my redwood dresser so all who entered would notice it. Curtiz, though somewhat aloof in class, had agreed to come over one afternoon after school to visit. I was looking forward to his admiring my skills in model making and my mother ever the enabler had lunch ready and prepared for the two of us in our kitchen. My so-called friend Curtis arrived and seeing the plane roughly snatched it off the dresser and in his haste broke off one of the landing gear. To say I was on the edge of apoplexy as a child would have been an understatement. Though my mother did her best to play diplomat to both his indifference to my seething volcanic outrage our seance was needfully brief and wholly disappointing. I could never fix the model and eventually smashed it in a fit of frustration at its incurable fall from perfection. My luck with making new friends beyond that same destructive pair of those all too familiar delinquent’s next door had met with disastrous results. The relations with my friend Curtiz were subsequently icy in school.
Fall had come around once again and the holiday of Halloween now loomed large upon the calendar. Aside from my love of models, I harbored an interest in collecting latex masks and associated ghoulish paraphernalia at a novelty shop in Chicago’s theater district on Randolph street. My inventory included a pair of oversized ghastly rubber hands that I had acquired earlier in the year after saving up a month or two worth of my weekly allowance. Over these last few years I had spent my Halloween ‘trick and treat’s’ in tow to my next door neighbor’s two sons. These excisions usually degenerating into opportunities to exercise their play of nasty tricks upon the local residents by soaping windows, ringing doorbells, and throwing rotten eggs at the porches. No longer wanting to have my reputation in the neighborhood sullied as being considered as part of their crowd, I had asked around my class if I might find someone to make my rounds with. Unfortunately, without any success! Curtiss being the only one to agree to go out together with me. We made a date to do so two weeks before the holiday and I set about devising the set of my costume from scratch. I secured further personal loans against my allowance compliment a Dr. Jekyll-Hyde cum Phantom of the Opera theme by additionally purchasing a top hat and mask. I convinced my mother to sew up a black cape to complete the look. I was convinced caught up in my own childish sense of egoism that this brilliantly conceived costume would further my reputation so much at school so that I would be the talk of all my classes the next week. Maybe even become popular and get some new friends.
On that fateful day of October 31st, I waiting dressed to the nines within my costume looking forward to approach of afternoon. My friend had said he would arrive by three-thirty and we would venture out together till early evening. I waited, and waited, and waited still longer till darkness fell upon all the smaller bands of brightly costumed groups that passed merrily before our abode’s picture windows. No sign of Curtiss showing up, nor word by telephone so some unavoidable delay of same. I found myself stood up! All my plans dashed! And caught between a feeling of utter dejection and raging anger. My mother seeing my distress in her ever ready sympathetic mode offered to accompany me. But in my mind, and in the sensibilities of that day would have cast the situation as being even more embarrassing to show up at the various doorways around my neighborhood at the advanced age of eleven with her as my chaperon. It being crushing if it got out at schooled that I had to take my mother along to go begging candy. I felt bad about being forgotten but I felt even worse about possibly having her feel that, after all that she had done for me to make me be happy, I might have made her feel rejected. My subsequent desire to make new friends at school waned significantly from that point on. The hard lesson learned even at the dawning of adolescence being even then, “Pride cometh before a fall!” Something that unfortunately took many more such lessons to appreciate. Even up to this very day!