The Sonderman Constellation
…now Zeus had abandoned him
to humiliation in his own homeland.
My relations with Sonderman were interrupted after the Door Monitor incident for about a year. I don’t remember having anything to do with him at all until the tenth grade. Even then we didn’t get along and had little to do with each other.
The failure of the three attempts on my life during those furious months of summer and fall had a devastating effect on Sonderman’s personality. Whereas before he had been merely withdrawn because of his father’s fixation he now became withdrawn and troubled. The effect on his physiognomy was quite pronounced. The conflict of reconciling the immoral demands placed on him by his people with his religious training caused great stress.
The efforts of the Hirshes to injure me never ceased but remained intense all through high school. They were unrelenting. Their efforts continued to be intertwined with Sonderman.
The effects of those months in the ninth grade on my own personality were equally devastating. I lost all confidence; I became morbid. I had no affinity for friendship. I carried as much baggage as any Dr. Petiot, Richard Speck, Charlie Whitman or many another serial killer. I was in fact trained to become a serial killer. I had been fused and was waiting to happen. It isn’t that nobody pulled the trigger that would set me off; had that been my intent there was no one to stop me.
The result of indulging my resentment would have been to gratify my enemies wishes. Other people can try and may succeed in making you look bad but all that does is prove to everyone they don’t like you. There is no real discredit to you. But if you can be tricked into discrediting yourself then you have been well and truly smeared. I was resolved to never give them that satisfaction. I resolved to excel them. I didn’t know how but that was what I resolved.
Thus I finished Junior High in a totally despondent frame of mind. Procrastination was my middle name. My face had broken out in pimples in seventh grade; their severity increased every year. This was an additional affliction I just didn’t need. I was just coming up on five feet tall at the end of the ninth so I had already accepted the fact that I would be abnormally short and slight for the rest of my life. In combination with my other woes these two things nearly separated me from my mind. Plus I didn’t have any money.
I don’t know who suggested caddying to me; I would never have thought of it myself. As I showed up at the country club the day after classes I must have made my decision at least a month before. It took me at least that long to get going to do anything. A result of my tormenting was that I became a master proctrastinator.
My experience was to show me that caddying was a task for the lowest stratum of society so I can only believe the guy who recommended it was one of the Hirshes. As Hirsh was a member of the country club and could watch me discreetly this must have been so.
Then again, as I was always complaining about not having any money some well meaning kid, who didn’t show up to caddy himself, could have suggested it as good enough for the likes of me. None of them did it because I had never met any of the young things who did caddy before. Perhaps as caddying placed me securely out of contact with Sonderman for the summer Mr. Sonderman got the suggestion through to me. They must have been terrified that I would be hanging around.
At any rate for the first time in my life I had money to spend. I made a lot of money. Fifteen dollars a day in 1953. Even then that was soured by the insistence of Tuistad and my mother that I turn every penny I made over to them. Every penny! I was supposed to work all summer yet not be allowed to keep one penny as my own to spend as I pleased.
Do you really believe that we are not the result of other people’s machnations and not our own? Why did they hate me? Why wouldn’t they leave me the simplest of pleasures?
True they opened a savings account for me but it was beyond my control. You know, I wasn’t stupid. I would have been happy to save most of my earnings as with my limited wants, lack of friends and long working hours the money was more than I could possible spend.
I had to resort to a despicable thing. I was forced to lie. I refused to give them everything. I under reported my earnings, spending some and secreting more for use in the tenth grade. They were going to try to make me go through school without a dime while I had hundreds in the bank. Literally, they would not let me have a dime– ten cents. Thus Tuistad and my mother made me steal from myself. This is a crime of such magnitude that no number of murders could compensate it; not if I killed the whole Valley. Heck, pimples, Sonderman, the Hirshes, Tuistad and my mother, a world full of crazy people, and they had the audacity to call me– nuts. Who wouldn’t want to kill them?
The Bard said the fault lies within ourselves and not in the stars. Having been conditioned to Respond to Challenges like one of Pavlov’s dogs there is some truth in the former part of the Bard’s opinion but no, the Stars, or The Field, is much more important an influence than the Bard thought. No, as I have turned out decently there was no other explanation- I was a miracle.
So, as I was single mindedly laboring away with a golf bag on each shoulder great changes were taking place. My consciousness shifted from childhood to young manhood. Caddying was a very bad environment for the change to take place as I was actually among criminal types. I made the change without any loss of integrity, morals or character but it was a very close call. It wouldn’t have taken much for it to have gone the other way.
Perhaps the most remarkable change was that while I was lamenting that I would be forever short I grew six inches. I began the summer as one of the shortest caddies and ended among the tallest. It was something to see; you could almost watch me grow. By August several of the shorter caddies were looking up to me in open mouthed wonder. They had to tell me I had grown because I wasn’t aware of it even though the golf bags no longer dragged on the ground. I thought I was just getting better at hefting them.
Mentally I never adapted but found myself awkward and gangly. I still thought like I was short but my spine and knees hurt all the time.
Beginning the tenth grade was not so easy. While my intent is to tell only the Sonderman Constellation I will have to preface this chapter with a rather remarkable machination of the Hirshes so that my mental condition stays in perspective for you.
When we left ninth grade we had to elect between the high school and Trade School. I elected to go to high school. However the Hirshes overruled my own choice unbeknownst to me and had me enrolled in Trade School. You see how many responsible people had to be involved to remove the form I filled out and replace it with theirs. The Field; watch the Field. Then, when I showed up for the first day of high school I was told they had no place for me.
After thinking things out they told me I must be enrolled at Trade School. They told me to take a hike over there. I told them to take a hike back into records and enroll me there. They flatly refused telling me to leave. Whether true or not we believed that only dumb kids went to Trade School so I wasn’t about to go there. In point of fact I hated all that manual arts stuff so much I would have flunked out.
I couldn’t count on Tuistad or my mother to do anything for me so I stubbornly sat around the office telling them the law required them to give me an education whether they liked it or not. The conspiracy against me was quite large. Grown men I didn’t know stopped me on the street to tell me there was no shame attached to going to Trade School. Whether there was or not I was going to high school where I knew honor was attached.
After three days they capitulated. Heck, the Black kids in Little Rock didn’t have as much trouble getting into Central High as I had getting into high school. I didn’t have the U.S. Army to help me out either. Nor were my trials over yet. I signed up for the college prep curriculum. As all the Hirses were in college prep that meant they would still have to sit in class with me. Hirsh didn’t want to allow that.
The administrators tried to talk me into the Business Curriculum on the basis that I would never go to college. This argument took a whole morning but I finally prevailed. They were not finished; Hirsh was determined that if I wasn’t going to Trade School that I was going to be enrolled in the Business curriculum.
As a final ploy I was assigned to the premier teacher of English, Mrs. Hicks. She had been instructing the elite of the Valley since 1938. Only those who had been instructed by her had the key to move about town freely. The education she gave was the education that ruled town. The class I was assigned to contained all my worst enemies.
By the time I was given my permit to attend Mrs. Hicks class was half over. I walked up to the second floor right wing to enter her class. The Hirshes were waiting for me. They ran in a body, boys and girls together, this was about fifteen people, to physically drive me back out into the hall where I stood as they all screamed at me that they didn’t want me in their class. They directed me across the hall to the open door of the Business English class telling me I should go there as I would never go to college. How everyone knew I would never go to college was beyond me. In any event they were wrong.
Startled and mystified I was standing in the hall when a girl came out from the Business English class to seize my hand and pull me toward the opposite door. Believe it or not she even promised sex if I came over. Her argument was that they knew how to have fun in the Business Curriculum. I didn’t know anything about sex but I didn’t think anyone had a monopoly on it besides sex is nothing to base your decisions on; it is relatively unimportant except as a drive. It’s like water; if you’re thirsty you’ll seek some out.
I disdained the young woman to fight my way back into the College Prep class. I was assigned and I meant to stay. Mrs. Hicks was finally able to restore order and I was allowed to take a seat. Thus I was instructed in the tradition of the elite through a miscalculation of Hirsh.
Everything has its consequences, so while I was not welcome among the elite my ‘rejection’ of the business types was taken badly by them. They too vented their resentment on me. The split between College Prep and Business was quite pronounced. The Valley was a class social structure.
Once seated the first thing the Hirshes took cognizance of was my growth. I had left ninth a virtual midget and entered tenth at or above the meridian. They told Sonderman to check me out. The effect of my growth on Sonderman was electric. He hadn’t seen me all summer and now I was taller than he by four inches and still growing. As a defensive measure Sonderman chose to call attention to my pimples. Those damn things were to plague me until I was twenty-three and receded only slowly then.
Perhaps as bad was that my mother made me wear the same pants I wore in the ninth grade. I mean, the cuffs were midcalf, my gonads hung out like golf balls. It was devastating. My mother not only refused to buy me a new pair of pants she expressly forbade me to use my own money for a pair. There I was in front of all the girls, a virtual buffoon.
Hey wait, that’s not all. Now fifteen, the peach fuzz was getting really obvious. Plus there were several long thick hairs that stuck way out. Now, you tell me why. Tuistad not only refused to let me shave he refused to let me cut off the long hairs. I looked stupid. I tried to smooth the long hairs down with spit continually but that didn’t work for more than a second. You don’t think I’ve baffled my enemies by growing straight and strong? Think again. The best revenge is to live well. Here I am.
Don’t think I’ve exhausted the catalog it’s just tht I don’t think you’d believe much more. The effect may lie within but the cause lies without.
At first, envy caused Sonderman to associate with me again. But to compensate for my height he devised way after way to humiliate me and bring me down. Once again he used a scientific argument to start the fight. There was a corner on the way home where a path cut across an empty field. Sonderman made the remark that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I knew this obvious fact but as the path was bumpy I chose to include the up and down measurements in the calculation. We were supposed to walk in measured steps, I taking the right angle around the corner and he the diagonal across the lot to prove the point. We came out even but it started a big argument about how I walked faster than him. After a month of this unpleasantness I broke off the relationship although I didn’t know the cause of his attitude.
As the year began there were social changes for me. High school blended the student bodies of two Junior Highs. I began to make a few friends from the other Junior High so my dependence on Sonderman lessened. In fact all my friends in high school would be from the other Junior High with the exception of Larry Dubcek.
Dubcek was the guy the Hirshes had bullied into a fight in Metal class in the seventh grade. He was still taking the injustice pretty hard. The Hirshes had really defamed Dubcek to himself over that one. The guy was a walking scar. It was a bond between us.
The interesting thing about my battering was that I never lost faith in my destiny; I continued to live in the mansion of my mind. Dubcek was just the opposite. As his name indicates he was of South Slavic origins, both sides. Although his parents were actual immigrants Larry was born in the US. There was still a lot of fairly strong feeling against Eastern and Southern European immigrants as Dubcek was growing up. He had reacted to slurs against his origins unfavorably. Instead of turning back the evil he had ingested it. He hadn’t learned to feel superior to his detractors as I had. He felt resentful and inferior.
We didn’t talk about such things but perhaps his origins may have been part of the reason he had been attacked by the Hirshes in the seventh grade. If you remember the Hirshes had struggled for supremacy in the shop classes in seventh. The harassment had been very intense in the first semester in metal. They went to great lengths to establish their positiion, discrediting anyone they couldn’t intimidate.
Dubcek was one of those people who stood up for his rights. The Hirshes provoked him into an actual fistfight in class. That is to say that they looked like they intended to fight him as a feint to get him to commit himself first, much as Sonderman had done in our fight as Door Monitors. When Larry put up his dukes in preparation to defind himself he looked like the aggressor when the L&O Hirshes called the ‘cops’ or metal teacher to witness his aggression. They appeared as the innocents.
After have framed him they came around to each of us to ask for our support of their version. If you gave it you had submitted to their authority, if you didn’t you hadn’t. They had so little discretion they even asked me. I wasn’t OK in their eyes to start with. I just laughed at them. Larry was expelled from school for a week. What a joke! I don’t remember him coming back and I hadn’t seen him since then.
One morning as I was waiting for the bus to school Larry came hitchhiking up the street. I was waiting for the a public bus because in those days only rural kids rode school buses. Larry was backing along in hitchhiking fashion with his thumb out. He was absolutely declasse. Hitchhiking was only for hoodlums; he was dressed in hood style too. He was almost perfect for the times. They could have modeled Fonzi from Happy Days on him. He wore black denim trousers with motorcycle boots, a black leather jacket with a million zippers all over it and a really terrific ducktail flattop. As Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook might say: Aww, bootiful, man.
Larry’s Response to the Challenge in the seventh grade had been to abandon all hopes of social status placing himself outside ‘polite society’. He had been defeated in the Law and Order trap.
I recognized him and began talking to him. I discovered he was really a great guy. I liked him, and don’t forget he was dressed as a hood. I brought up metal class which was still a very, very sore subject but I reassured him by agreeing that he was absolutely innocent and the Hirshes were completely at fault as well as being jerks. I mean, he thought everybody thought ill of him because he resisted those jerks.
My bus came but I let it pass as I continued talking to Larry. I hd plenty of time to walk to school. A car stopped to give him a ride. The driver offered me a lift too but I would have declassed myself by accepting so I bid Larry adieu and hoofed it to school.
We became very good friends after that. In fact, of all my high school acquaintances I would say that he is the only one who never betrayed my friendship. It helped that soon after due to my encouragement he gave up his hoodlum attire and dressed normally.
At about the same time my Anima, Ange, came into and out of my life. She was to have as profound an effect on my life as Sonderman. More, since she was a force for good rather than evil. I have dealt with the Angeline Constellation in full elsewhere so I will only mention the main details here as they coincide with the Sonderman Constellation.
The Bard should really have rethought his attitude. His opinion is so complete in its simplicity that average minds find it so satisfying they don’t have to think it over. It just seems obvious. Of course since the Bard put the words in Hamlet’s mouth it is not necessary that it be his or his complete opinion. After all, sprinkled throughout the plays are many, many astrological references. The Bard was a very knowledgeable guy.
Once again the Field was my controlling factor. I did a truly horrible thing to Ange but as I was controlled by an attitude from my subconscious I do not feel truly responsible. I’m sure Ange could never see it that way and I can understand that but the result might have been predicted if one were able to read the writing in the stars. I have never written about the Mother Constellation but the answer to the tragedy likes there.
There is no way Ange could have known; if she had she might have been able to avert the consequences of her action. Listen now, because you might have to stretch your mind a little. Most people don’t like psychology because it comes too close to home but if you can deal with it life will be much more satisfactory to you.
As a little child I had been placed in two successive foster homes by my mother. I was now fifteen, these things happed to me ten, nine and eight years before. Bear in mind it took me thirty years with an adult brain to unravel this so all that experience on an immature mind compressed into ten years or less was like a tube of paint that had never known brush or canvas.
In the second foster home the incident with the Hirshes on the second grade playing field occurred. I had no support, no refuge, no one to turn to.
I was alone.
It was bad enough to go into the foster homes but my understanding with my mother had always been that it was somehow necessary and temporary.
Then my mother delivered me the terrible blow of putting me in the orphanage. I had feared this for some time. This removed me far to the outside of the pale of humanity. It was clear to me then that it wasn’t temporary. I felt abandoned. Now, this next point is crucial. It is true that my mother asked for, demanded the permission of my seven year old existence, but, and I understood this, you might as well have the court ask the conemned man whether he want to be hanged or shot. The prisoner would have no real choice but the judge would be off the hook. He would be able to say: Well we asked him and he wanted to be shot. The pressure of circumstances did force the prisoner to make the choice but it was hardly permission. I had been abandoned and I knew it. The woman ceased to be my mother right there. When I felt Ange abandoned me she ceased to be my girl friend right there.
The effect of my abandonment by my mother entered my mind below the subconscious level. How shall I put it; it shot through both my conscious and subconscious mind into the brain stem like a lightening bolt. It left invisible scar tissue in its wake. There was no fixation per se, the abandonment was just a searing fact of life. I don’t know how I recovered it.
Without being aware of it my mother on evey level had conditioned my attitude toward women from that moment. The fear of abandonment became the overriding fear in my relationships with them. That I was ever able to make conscious the effect on me of my abandonment can be viewed only as some kind of miracle.
Now Ange, poor child, repeated my mother’s crime. Had Ange the prescience to time things differently the result would have been much happier for both of us. How could the little girl know?
She appeared to me in November. She had selected me as her only beau. After our first date she announced that she wanted me to be her only boyfriend. No, she wanted more than that. She wanted me for her ‘husband.’ She considered us as already married.
For decades I had no idea where she had come from before the party at which I met her. I had no recollection of having seen her before although she obviously was very familiar with me. Through auto-suggestion I was able to call up that first meeting thus allowing me to reconstruct the entire Angeline Constellation.
While I was a Door Monitor in the ninth grade a girl asked me to open the door so she could speak to me. I was reluctant to do so because it might have been another ruse by the Hirshes to get the door open so they could rush in to my discredit. But, with perhaps insufferable self-importance, I did so. she informed me that she knew someone who liked me. I asked who and she mentioned Ange’s name and pointed to where she stood with eager hopefulness.
She looked young. I asked what grade she was in; the reply was the seventh. I was at the apex of my ninth grade career; what use had I for a seventh grader. I snapped that she was too young and slammed the door shut.
I had only said she was too young. I hadn’t given any other reason for rejecting her. She nursed her love for a whole year then, being a year older, she could wait no longer. She made her move.
I had no friends. I was invited to no parties. Thus when someone who I knew didn’t like me invited me to a hayride party I thought it was just a trick and almost didn’t go. Ange had asked the girl to invite me and it was there she got my attention.
Sometime just after Thanksgiving she asked me for my love. Not quite right. She wanted my heart and soul. This was a pretty heavy commitment for a young boy of fifteen who had just been on his first date to make but I made it. According to the conventions of the time we were ‘going steady’ or ‘married.’
Poor Ange had been too anxious to obtain her heart’s desire. One cannot blame a thirteen year old girl for lacking the prescience that few have at any age. But if she had waited till after Christmas the result would have been more durable and happy.
Ange was a revelation to me. I had always been unloved so the adoration of this divine child was balm to my wounded soul. I began to have idyllic dreams about what Christmas vacation would be like when we could be with each other all day every day.
Then she told me she forgot to tell me that she would be out of town for Christmas vacation.
What a bomb, what a blockbuster, what a nuclear device! I was more than crushed; I was vaporised. My conscious mind dived below my subconscious like a screaming Stuka divebomber to reanimate my abandonment by my mother. I was being told that I was to be abandoned again. First my mother, now this marvelous creature who had demanded the essence of my existence and received it. It appeared that she had done so only to abandon me too.
The mother I had counted on had done so and now the love that I counted on was doing the same. The Same! Same Again! What were these demons and furies who pursued me? I had to take measures to protect myself.
When Ange returned neither she nor I realized what she had done but I could no longer trust her.
She came back and we resumed our romance. Ah, but the fear of abandonment was with me. After walking her home from a dance on Valentine’s Day I kissed her goodnight and stepped out of her life without a word. I enshrined her in my heart where she could never leave me.
The effect on both of us was terrible. As sweet as she was in loving she now became terrible as a woman scorned. She told everyone what a rotten guy I was. I became known as the ‘Heart Of Stone.’ Girls wouldn’t have anything to do with me. So I had to bear that through high school too. Ange became my Anima.
Still fighting off the Hirshes, out of this period of intense emotional turmoil, I began to make some friends at school. As my Tom Sawyer fantasies of a romantic childhood had been denied by the Hirshes and Sondermans I now began a sort of Andy Hardy stab at High School.
My efforts to obtain good grades were blocked by the Hirshes and my own inculcated procrastination. Grades became less important to me than having friends. Always go for the grades. I went all out to develop a strong social life.
The Hirshes were determined to prevent me from obtaining any honors, achievements or distinctions. They were even successful in preventing me from getting the automatic A in Gym. I was the only guy in class, probably in the history of the school, who got a B.
I know I could have gotten an easy 2.5 by simply doing my homework. Much more than that would have been impossible because I would have been prevented from getting any As. I know, because I wrote several A papers for other students but never received one for myself. The Hirshes, Louis Schriver, even followed me to the public library while I researched trying to have me thrown out as a noisemaker.
I’m not making this stuff up. While I don’t want to appear to make excuses for myself, after a first good academic year, the Hirshes increased the pressure on me. Seeing a futility in trying, even having a fear of doing well, I ceased doing any homework. My grades fell steadily until I barely graduated with an accumulted 1.2. Without my decent first year and some gracious last minute aid from my teachers I wouldn’t have graduated.
Thus I threw over school work to concentrate on the social aspects of high school. Somewhere along the line I heard of eating clubs. These were Round Robin affairs where the members ate at each other’s houses once a month. I thought the idea terrific, a perfect example of comaraderie. A great feeling, camaraderie; I know people who would die for it. I am no longer capable of it.
Unfortunately I didn’t know enough people to make it happen; but where there’s a will there’s a way. As Poimander said: show me what you want and I will show you how to get it. I set about finding a way; I kept my eyes open for the main chance.
The beginning of the club I found in French class. I sat behind this guy by the name of Denny Demwitter. Denny was one of those torpid types who spend their lives waiting for catalysts. I was the catalyst he was waiting for. He was everything I was not. He was tall and not unhandsome. He was athletic; he made the basketball team. He had a good presence; he never lost his cool. He was also vacuous; nothing ever went on inside his head. Really, he was almost stupid but he could be made to appear to be something he was not. He was the nucleus my club was built around.
While I was the brains, the driver, the ability, I could never have been able to get anyone to rally around me. I could get them to rally round Demwitter; people like leaders who think slower than they do; that way they don’t have to spend a lot of time catching up or feeling inferior.
With Denny as my nucleus I was able to ally two others. Selection was crucial. Everyone had to fall within certain parameters of social acceptance; yet they all had to be wary of Hirsh influence. I would dearly have loved to include Larry Dubcek who was a better man than any in the group but he had allowed the Hirshes to declass him. None of the others would go for him. While Larry had abandoned the hood image he had assumed in self-defense he would never be able to shake it; he had been perfect of the kind.
In tenth grade we were just a loose knit group of guys. Then in the summer of tenth grade I formed a sandlot baseball team. Little League was brand new in those days, only the littlest kids were regimented into their father’s fantasies.
Baseball had been one of my consuming interests since I don’t know when. Ranked a lot higher than stamp collecting in my mind. No one was going to ask me to be on their team so I had to form my own team. I had to command all my resources to field nine guys.
Even though Sonderman and I were reduced to snarling terms, I had been permanently refused entry to his house, I had to swallow my pride to ask him to join. I didn’t expect him to say yes and I wasn’t going to beg him but much to my surprise he readily but disdainfully consented. Good enough. Little the Inseparable tagged along. Maybe he wanted to be a cheerleader. Looking back on it you couldn’t pry those two guys apart. Talk about Damon and Pythias.
Thus I was able to field a team that I gave the unfortunate name of the Lemons. Oh, yeah, I knew what a lemon was. Why Lemons then? I was a Cleveland Indians fan. They had fielded the greatest team that ever walked onto a diamond. They won 111 games out of 154. Never been done before or since. They had four, count ’em, four, twenty game winners in that fabulous year- Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Ray Garcia and Early Wynn.
Then they went into the World Series with the New York Giants and lost four straight. The series was probably as fixed as the 1919 Black Sox series although the fix was never made public. I was never quite the same about baseball ever after.
I fancied myself a pitcher. I had a great sinker or fork ball. I couldn’t throw hard enough to get the ball all the way over the plate so it just dropped in the middle of the plate. But nobody could hit it and they were all strikes.
We could hardly be the Fellers or Early Wins although I did consider the latter. The Garcias didn’t sound right besides nobody in town could pronounce Spanish so we would have been called the Garshas. Marcia=Marsha; Garcia=Garsha. Got it? Tradition was in the townspeoples favor. So. Who was left? Bob Lemon. My favorite anyway. So we became the Lemons. Had white T-shirts with yellow iron on letters that said Lemons and everything.
That was back before Bob Lemon became a hide bound conservative when he coached Spokane. Of course, if you’re in Spokane you’d better be a hide bound conservative in order to survive. Later Lemon became a real disappointment. He became a buffoon on a TV ad advertising lemon flavored tea. That one hurt me a lot.
Our team wasn’t bad considering Sonderman tried to sabotage me. You know, but even then, when we went up against the Hirsh team I was really wary that he might throw it and warned him against it but we beat those guys soundly and then Sonderman turned to me in a fury and asked if I was satisfied. I sure was.
We ended up even, five wins, five losses. I don’t remember what position I played but Sonderman wouldn’t allow me to pitch. He demanded the position or he wouldn’t play so I had to let him or field eight guys.
I suppose the Hirshes thought I would be caddying again and out of their sight. I found caddying too demeaning a job, not to mention the company you had to keep so I had rather be without money than do it again.
My appearance on the diamond shocked the Hirshes and beating them drove them insane. They quickly found ways to demean the team, removing us from their sight. Our first couple games were scheduled with the rest of the teams. There were about five diamonds grouped together in Reuchlin Park. With five games going on simultaneously it was quite exciting. I like it. Then David Hirsh interfered, he got busy rescheduling and we were set on off days by ourselves. We were denied the camaraderie.
You think Hirsh was small and petty? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
After the season a really nice awards ceremony was held. All the teams showed up. My presence there drove the Hirshes wild. They remembered how I had beaten them. The Lemons were given some kind of honorable mention. We were called up on the stage to receive it. One the way up the Hirshes threw things at me while one stuck his foot out to trip me.
I was pretty quick on things like that. I stepped on his ankle and darn near broke it. He gave out a howl while the other Hirshes stood up and reviled me. I buckled under the animosity as I had in the second grade. I’m afraid I embarrassed my team mates. I was unable to stand up to the hatred and contempt of the Hirshes. I withered completely before their vituperation. My body slumped into complete dejection and I played the buffoon and goof for them.
But now that I have the mental image conjured into my forebrain it seems that I was demeaned further. It was my team, I had put it together and kept it together but now I see myself standing at the end of the line while Sonderman was accepting the award on our behalf. You see how the Hirshes worked; Sonderman must have been party to it because he walked right up as though it had been his team. They’d filched that from me.
Nevertheless they considered the season an achievement for me which it was. As Sonderman was our pitcher he was credited for our success by them. Hirsh severely reprimanded Old S for letting his son play on my team. Hirsh wanted me punished for my ‘presumption.’ To Mr. Sonderman’s credit he wasn’t going to involve his son in any more murder attempts so between them they divised an odd but effective punishment.
I certainly would have satisfied Hirsh by caddying another year but, man, it was just such a demeaning task. My character would really have been affected. An alternative form of making money, respectable enough, was delivering papers. There were three different papers in our medium sized city, the local paper and two papers from the metropolis downstate, the News and the Free Press. The local paper was a closed corporation. Everyone in town subscribed so the routes were compact and easily walked but they were passed down from brother to brother. Although very desirable the routes were unobtainable.
In those days before papers became social institutions rather than disseminators of news it was a mark of education to subscribe to a daily paper. You’d rather be dead than not get one. If you didn’t it was a sure sign you were an ignoramus. So everyone took at least one paper, some two, and not a few, all three.
The News and Free Press routes were always available. The News went begging; a lot of people had to buy it from news stands if they wanted it. The turnover in paper boys on the Free Press was terrific but they could usually find kids. Routes for both newspapers covered immense areas as only one in ten or fifteen houses subsribed to the papers. I had to ride two miles to pick up my papers then pedal two square miles to deliver only forty-eight papers, one for every state in the Union. Nearly covered that much ground too.
Sonderman approached the job with great enthusiasm. For myself I was less keen on delivering papers than I was on stamp collecting. Besides I couldn’t figure out what Sonderman was up to. There was no longer any reason for him to be friendly to me unless he had a trick up his sleeve.
Suddenly I was the center of his and that idiot Little’s attention. Sonderman should have picked that clone off his back and chucked him aside. Augh! Sonderman got one of the best Free Press routes then began pressuring me to take a route.
Sonderman’s route included our neighborhood so he didn’t have to go far to pick up his papers. He had a more compact route than I eventually got plus he had about sixty subscribers. That was a Free Press route. It was worth eighteen dollars a month but still below minimum wage. the minimum wage was seventy-five cents at that time. A paper boy worked for ten or fifteen cents an hour. But as the master capitalists of the press told us we were independent businessmen. You can read that: suckers. I can tell you this, Colonel McCormick of the Chicago Tribune didn’t build that mansion on ten cents an hour. He built it on the backs of teenage suckers.
But then a funny thing happened. We took the Free Press. The first time Tuistad opened the door to find Sonderman waiting to collect he became very angry. I’d never really seen him so livid. He immediately canceled the paper. I mean he walked right over and picked up the phone and canceled, fuming about Old S for days. He never told me the particulars but his hatred of Mr. Sonderman was something I had never suspected.
I don’t know what Mr. Sonderman had done or when but he had done it to a lot of people. Just as the Hirshes were visiting the ‘sins’ of my father on me all those people punished Sonderman for what his father had done. Within a matter of a couple weeks Sonderman’s route had shrunk to twenty papers. He gave it up pretty quickly. He used some ph0ny excuse concocted by his father. I tried to find out what Old S had done but it was a secret of his generation which they were in no mood to divulge to a kid like me.
The first route I was offered was a real joke which I disdainfully refused. This was a News route which was way out on Golfside just beside the country club. I’d already been thrown out of that neighborhood just for walking through it so I couldn’t see myself delivering papers there.
I didn’t know where Hirsh lived at that time but that was where he lived. Other than any laughs he might have gotten from seeing me pedal around the neighborhood the only advantage I can see is that he or one of his cronies could run me down. Of course it’s possible that he and his friends would have canceled their subscriptions to avenge Sonderman on me.
It’s not so unlikely they would have run me down. The Valley was a mean vicious town in any circumstances. They would not give an inch and they always tried to take the mile. One time in high school I was walking to church. I had just passed my old paper drop on Court. The corner was rounded to facilitate high speed turns. Boy, you’d better look left and right because those people would have run down a woman and a baby buggy.
I was halfway across the lane when this guy coming down Court saw he would have had to slow down for me to make his turn. Instead when he saw me entering the lane while half a block away he sped up careening around the corner. If I hadn’t been looking back I wouldn’t be here. I saw him coming with an actual murderous look in his eye as though I were committing some crime by being where he wanted to go. I did a quick two step and arched my back to avoid the car. Even then the car ran over the heels of my shoes pulling both laced shoes off my feet.
And all the time this guy was shaking his fist at me screaming insanely for me to get out of his way. Now that was the true character of the Valley.
When I was in fifth grade I saw this guy run an intersection in a school zone with kids crossing! He picked one kid up on his bumper and carried him a hundred yards. He was allowed to go in his way.
If I had only one image to show their character, that would be it. Why anyone thought I was weird I just can’t understand. Today I am reliably informed that the Valley is the murder capital of the State. I can well believe it.
After I refused the News route I was offerd a Free Press route. That was inconvenient too but I succumbed to the Sondermans’ pressure. Old S gave me a big lecture about not being a quitter. I didn’t see how I could be a quitter since I had never started. Anyway right after I took the route Sonderman quit. Mr. Sonderman spread the story around about how successful his son had been in adding new customers. That was my introduction to the rule of politics. Tell it like it ain’t.
Rather than be a quitter I stuck it out for my whole Junior year. The Free Press was a morning paper so I had to get up at five-thirty to have the paper on front porches on time for eggs and bacon. Very often I pedaled in sub-zero weather and a thirty mile an hour North wind that blew papers back in your face. I’m sure old Colonel McCormick never did that for a dime an hour.
Following the instructions of Hirsh and Mr. Sonderman the dispatcher was always rude to me; if I hadn’t been afraid of being called a quitter I would have told him to stuff it from the very beginning.
I was bone tired my entire Junior year. It was worse than when I went in the Navy when I once had to stand four on and four off watches for weeks. Beyond wearing me out I don’t know what the joke was. I can assure you that if that form of childhood American entrepreneurship builds character I’m not so sure Colonel McCormick is such a good example.
My club developed apace in eleventh grade. The Lemons had been good for bonding the members of the club. As the eleventh grade progressed we added members from among the friends of other members. They weren’t my choices but they were all good fits so that after Christmas we had seven solid members. All were good guys you could be proud of, no clinkers. Like me they didn’t come from elite homes but as Hirsh was to say: As the sum is greater than the parts we assumed a role in the school’s social structure that was first rate.
Our success brought me once again to the attention of the Hirshes. As by dint of my own efforts I had raised myself to the same level as themselves they began searching for a way to destroy my club.
Unaware of their concern I was happy. We began our rounds of eating at each other’s houses. Strange to say the families of our members took more pride in our club than we did. The mothers seemed to be genuinely delighted to cook for us. Even my mother who I had not consulted before I formed the club was delighted to cook for us.
In addition we had get togethers for cards and gambling that were a great success. Our reputation spread. I can say with satisfaction that that sincerest form of flattery, imitation, spread. Our greatest days lay just ahead.
Still obsessed with baseball I tried to form a team in the summer between eleventh and twelfth. I named this one the Conquistadores. Had I been ahead of my time I would have called it the Chivalry but I wasn’t ahead of my time. This year I lacked the element of surprise that I had with the Lemons. The Hirshes were waiting for me. Sonderman and a couple others had been warned off while I had been blackballed to the extent that I couldn’t replace them with anyone else. Prudence forbade me to field a team of seven men but I was so desperate to play I enrolled it anyway hoping to pick a couple spectators to round us out. You know, Casey was a walk on twenty years after.
There weren’t any spectators. We were not allowed to play with the rest of the league. They scheduled us only when the entire Reuchlin Park was empty. I kid you not. There was no one else in the park when we played. We didn’t have a chance. We lost every game. We weren’t advised of any awards ceremony, nor were we invited. I want to give those six other guys my undying thanks for sticking it out for the whole season.
Now the Hirshes were really angry. They wanted to hurt me real bad. What they came up with was a decent plan too. As our Senior year began Sonderman did something that was completely out of character for him: he showed initiative. Or at least it appeared he did. He organized a city league touch football team. He had refused to join the Conquistadores so I thought their was no hope of being on his team.
I was unaware of what was happening in the Field. Sonderman didn’t have any initiative he was put up to it by David Hirsh. This was an attempt to injure me and break up my club. Breaking up the club may have been an afterthought; their primary purpose was to cripple me.
To my surprise not only was I on the team but so was every member of my club. The Hirsh plan sort of backfired; you’ve got to be able to control those variables.
I had been busy through the summer too. I was aware that our club had made a strong impression in the eleventh grade. What we needed now was something to put us over solid.
That summer I discovered an outstanding shirt. It had both flash and tradition going for it. The pattern had been around for decades I’m sure. They still make the same shirt today fifty years later. The shirt was a pullover with a blue collar and plaque and thin blue and red horizontal stripes. I thought if we all wore it one day a week the effect on the school would be electric. We would be over solid and so we were.
Thus even though I had barely passing grades I was achieving my social goal. Except for science and math courses which I didn’t take anyway the rest of the education was irrelevant. While I did no school work I read voraciously otherwise so it’s not like I wasn’t learning anything. Besides, and this is important, I looked up every word I didn’t know in the dictionary.
I was now the social equal of my enemies. I had defeated their plans. At least, temporarily.
The shirts did trigger a response from the administration. The elements of post-war changes were everywhere gaining momentum. Unsettling influences were in the air but little understood if at all. While the elimination of Black segregation may have been just and right it nevertheless undermined the whole basis of society with devastating consequences. The fight against Communism was raging. The recognition of organized crime as a permanent and accepted part of society was having terrible effects. On top of all this was something invented by the media called the revolt of youth.
We were supposed to be discontented. We weren’t. I saw no rebellion or discontent around me but it was a hot topic among Hollywood movie makers. They saw it everywhere. One might almost say they invented it. It really caught on. Time Magazine along with Life ran huge picture essays showing the youth of various cities in their states of ‘rebellion.’ Teen life was captured as an enduring ongoing entity rather than a mere snapshop of a period of growing up. Teenagerism took on a life of its own even though a teen passed through the years faster than he could become accustomed to them.
Rebelling teenagers became a meaningless social institution. Now after fifty-five years of teenage rebellion things are pretty much the same; you’ve got roughly four years to enjoy what used to be known as the best years of your life. Why waste them in meaningless ‘rebellion?’
We unwittingly adopted our shirts in the wake of a movie called ‘The Blackboard Jungle.’ It was a good how to flick. Much of subsequent history can be traced back to it. We weren’t rebelling or discontented before the movie hit, we were enjoying the best years of our lives, but a lot us became so afterwards. ‘Blackboard Jungle’ had a tremendous effect on schools across America. The movie was a watershed in developing the terrible tension in schools since. The move has been from fists in our town to switchblades in New York to machine pistols nowadays. There was a definite before and after ‘Blackboard Jungle.’ The question is how did the movie makers think they would benefit from the change.
The movie dealt with gang fighting in New York City schools. None of the conditions existing in New York applied to us but as the movie was a piece of pure education emulators sprang up anyway. When challenged about the films socially destructive influence movie makers coyly claimed that a movie has no effect on the psychology of the viewers; nor is a movie intended to be anything but simple and pure entertainment; to the contrary all story telling has an instructive and psychological goal.
None of our big brains in society could come up with an effective argument to disabuse the movie makers of their error in logic. Strangely while critics allowed the movie makers to prevail they assumed that books and recorded music had a deleterious effect on youth. Censorship of printed material and recorded music was actively pursued. Thus, as kids, we were supposedly unaffected by movies while little 45 rpm records with a big hole and comic books were supposed to be driving us wild in the streets.
Neither attitude seems very sound psychologically. I’m sure that Prof. Timmy Leary would agree with that. The power of movies and TV to condition thought processes is immense. Who’s kidding who? TV was in the infancy of its influence when my class of ’56 was growing up. Only a few families had TVs before 1950 when it was a novelty. By 1954 most families had one or were thinking of getting one. Tuistad bought ours in time for the McCarthy-Army hearings. Still the classes of ’54, ’55 and ’56 were largely unaffected by TV viewing. However, with the difference of only one year, the class of ’57 became the first year of the TV generation. They were different.
We of ’56 were neither of the earlier generation nor of the later; we were stuck in the middle.
As movies made up the major part of the programming of TV I think we can analyze both media as a single influence.
The power of movies to condition attitudes is immense. The movie makers know that, selecting their material to achieve definite results. People do emulate what they see. They may not apply the information in the the exact same way as shown them but once in their minds it will find its way out.
The power of suggestion of movies is immense. More immense than any conspiracy Joe McCarthy ever dreamed of. The screen is much bigger than life filling the entire consciousness to the exclusion of any peripheral distractions. Aurically one is overwhelmed as the sound is louder than you can think. The action moves faster and is filled with more detail than you can consciously sort out or comprehend. The subliminal feed into the mind is incalculable.
The efficacy of the subliminal feed was proven by an experiment in 1955 in which a message to go buy popcorn was flashed on the screen faster than the eye could apprehend. I was in the audience. I remember saying to myself over and over that I didn’t want any popcorn. During intermission the friend I was with insistently demanded that we go get popcorn. Snapping more at the screen than him I sternly said that I didn’t want popcorn. He went and got his.
As Christ said: As ye think so shall ye do. You can only get out of a mind what you put into it. In our society very little is going in anyone’s mind that doesn’t come from movies and television. That’s you one the screen.
In point of fact while movie makers deny the influence of picture images and sound they use the medium to decondition minds and recondition them on social issues. Most movies are preaching to you on one issue and level or another. Preaching is not simple and pure entertainment no matter what the movie makers may tell us.
While critics deplore the sex and violence of movies, sex and violence are not really the issues. The issue is what sex and violence are supposed to achieve for the viewer. Movie makers are heavily influenced by the teaching of Freud. Most of their sexual attitudes derive from that source.
Now, Freud actually believed and stated that extreme frequency of sexual intercourse makes you a better person. Except for Freud’s great scientific reputation I would have to call him either a fool or a knave. He had to know better. The most sexually active members of society are libertines and homosexuals. Neither can make any claim to virtue. However it is exactly their sexual ideals that the movies illustrate.
So as with violence. Freud advised against ‘repression.’ To repress a violent emotion was to incur psychic damage according to Freud. The movie makers believe that violence is an effective solution to any problem. All difficulties can be solved by blowing people away, destroying property or thumbing your nose at authority. No one in the movies ever reasons a problem through.
The depiction of sex and violence is not really the problem. The problem is the misguided attempt to portray them as solutions. That notion goes back to our old friend Sigmund Freud,or is it Sigmund Fiend?
Prior to ’56 we had enough training to resist the de- and reconditioning ourselves. From the class of ’57 onwards they had no such ability. By the sixties the minds of youth were receiving their training and conditioning directly from the screen, big or little. There was no longer any need to decondition them they had been reconditioned.
The ability to think a problem through had been destroyed. Youth merely received their opinions and accepted them as fact. This was no more apparent than on the over riding issue of the century- the relations between Blacks and Whites which was then reaching a critical point. The goal of the movie makers was not only to overturn prejudice but to create prejudice against Whites.
There may have been those who had an unreasoning hatred of Blacks in town but they were nowhere apparent. It was generally accepted in theory that Blacks were entitled to equality in opportunity. The problem was how to put the notion into practice without disrupting society. In other words: How best to bring Blacks up to White educational standards.
This feat couldn’t be achieved in the matter of a few years or even in a single generation. But the Blacks were impatient. The only way to close the gap was to bring Whites down to the level of Blacks. It is always easier and faster to bring the higher down than to raise the lower. It was thought to be better to sacrifice the quality of life of White youth than that the gap should exist.
The first move for the movies was to show sex between the two races. The target was always the White woman. Woman is the weak link in the chain. Thus the movie makers showed White women throwing themselves at Black men. The White woman became the whore of the world. This tended to reinforce the myth that Black men were sexually superior to White men which subtly undermined the sexual confidence of the White male lowering him in his own and his women’s estimation.
However older people are generally more set in their ways so that by the end of the century few White women voluntarily aligned themselves with Black males and even fewer White men with Black women.
So the proper way to influence attitudes was to try to influence the young. Now, equality of the races was never the issue in movie maker’s minds. Like the Northern Puritans in the Civil War their goal was to make Whites inferior just as the North tried to establish the Negroes over the Southern Whites.
Thus in one TV show aired on Saturday morning to young children Black kids are shown to be uniformly superior to Whites. The show takes place in a high school where all the authority figures are Black. The student body appears to be more than half Black. All the best students are Black. They are wise beyond their years, more intelligent and better disciplined than the Whites. More trustworthy too. The Whites are reversals of the Rastus caricature. Their hair is dirty and styled as unattractively as possible. They are more or less white pickaninnies. They are all dumb; I mean really dumb. The brightest is not as bright as the dumbest Black.
The complexions of the Whites are dulled while those of the Black kids are brightened. The overall intent seems to be a reversal of the roles the races played in the first half of the century projecting the Whites as inherently inferior.
The show has no entertainment value, the intent is merely propaganda. So the argument that movies are intended purely as entertainment is pure bushwa.
People believe what they see. On the social level they are not being shown ‘equality’ they are being shown a Black racist viewpoint whether written by Whites or not. The notion behind the sex and violence they are being shown can only work to their detriment as the spate of high school shootouts demonstrates. Blame on the movies.
Suggestion in the form of sound and pictures which require no imagination or intelligence to construe as would be the case with books is very insinuating. Movies are passive; books are active. Books do furnish a mind but movies condition it especially under the influence of Dr. Leary’s mind altering re-conditioning drugs.
‘Blackboard Jungle’ showed the discontented the way as it was meant to do. The Law and Order group in our school had had a monopoly on terror since the seventh grade. They had successfully imposed their hegemony. The way was now shown the oppressed how they might turn the tables on their oppressors or, at least, grab a share of the power. As the apparatus of Law and Order had already been appropriated by other criminals and as Southern Willfulness was beyond their reach all they could do was to resort to Mafioso Lawlessness which was already all to evident in town: Open naked terror.
So, emulating the movie, a group of ‘Jungle’ toughs set up in the South front stairwell to exact tribute from passers by. As there were about eight of them they were able to intimidate individual boys. They were actually grabbing and groping girls. The girls were terrified. Under the right conditions, it could easily be seen how they might gang rape a girl right on the stairwell. They threatened to do so. The South end began to be avoided.
Complaints were made to the administration but the officials were reluctant to deal with the less tractable cases. They only want to demonstrate their power to decent types where there is no danger of retaliation. They let the stairwell situation build. That’s just like the cops to let the Mafiosi ride but they play hell with jaywalkers.
After having been asked by one of the Hirsh girls to escort her up the stairwell which I did to my eternal shame I suggested to the Law and Order faction that they clean the group out. Heck, we’d known the guys for years; the hadn’t seemed so tough before. Law and Order guys with the expert training of the Hirshes should have known how.
You wouldn’t even have to confront them all together in the stairwell. You could just catch each one alone before or after school, six on one. The Hirshes knew that gig. If they wouldn’t respond to persuasion, beat them up. They find guys in the alley all the time; this is pragmatic America.
Anyway, if the administration had acted in the beginning the thing could have been broken up with a few well chosen words. The administration let it drag on until it got real messy with the cops being called in and everything.
Now, when the administration saw our shirts they saw more ‘Blackboard Jungle.’ Hirsh even went into some hysterical thing with them about how Fascism started over shirts. He said that ‘shirtism’ was one of the causes of the Second World War. He mentioned something about black shirts, brown shirts, red shirts even some guy in the United States who no one had ever heard of by the name of William Dudley Pelley who had Silver Shirts. The only shirts he didn’t mention were the sky blue shirts. I guess he thought we were neo-Nazi storm troopers in blue and red striped pullovers.
We proved to be more tractable than the boys in the stairwell. The administrators saw me as the leader of the ‘shirtists’ so they came to talk to me. I was really less the leader than the prime mover, but, then, what do they ever know?
You have to stop ‘shirtism’ before it gets started. When I agreed to discontinue wearing the shirt if it came to that they said that it was OK so long as we weren’t a gang and backed down. Shirtists rule.
So just as Sonderman used my club to form his football team we were achieving the pinnacle of our success. That success was aided by the football team which in turn drove Hirsh to fresh excesses because we were the champions. Sonderman called the team the Blockbusters. The word was the name of a big bomb used in World War II. Block=box. Busting his way out of the box, I suppose, as breaking up the pinball machine hadn’t done the job for him.
I was afraid I wouldn’t be asked to join so I approached him to see if I would be included. To my surprise he not only already had me on the team but he had assigned me the position of center.
I was astonished at the position because usually centers are big heavy guys. I mentioned this point which drove Sonderman into one of his foaming rages. It was as though he took my formation of the baseball team as a personal insult, rather, even an injury. He became very abusive of me, reviling me as his imitator. Perhaps this was the genesis of his belief that I copied him. As I said before, Sonderman was a very intelligent guy; an A student. But when emotions gain the ascendant they most certainly submerge the intelligence, reason and logic not to mention one’s sense of justice.
Sonderman went so far as to say I formed the Lemons in imitation of the Blockbusters. I was incredulous. What could I say? I was dumbfounded, at a loss for words. How could something that happened two summers before be imitative? Even so, every fool knows that baseball season comes before football season. Even the Conquistadores came before the Blockbusters. Who did he think he was kidding? Nevertheless he stoutly maintained his position, turning aside all my scoffing. I argued hotly sneering at his absurdity. Copied him indeed.
Sonderman must have had a lot at stake because unable to refute obvious reality he went blind swinging out at me. I suppose his attitude went back to the murder attempts. The Hirshes and Sonderman had convinced themselves that I was subhuman, lower than the Blacks they made sit on the edge of the sandbox. Consequently any arguments of mine, no matter how conclusive, were inadmissable. No matter how wrong they were they attempted to ignore me and stonewall it through. Sonderman had placed himslf in an untenable position just like in placing the gunmount which resulted in his dismissal from the Army. Rather than admit he was wrong to someone he considered beneath him he attempted to resolve the argument by force. Real superior type of guy.
I danced away. I couldn’t explain it. I was just happy to be on the team.
I never did figure out why I was chosen to be center at the time so what I say here is mere conjecture, reasoning backward from the result. The position of center is vulnerable. As the center of the line you’re going to get knocked about a bit. It isn’t unusual for centers to get injured especially about the head, neck and shoulders. With careful planning and the compliance of the officials a center, I, could easily be cripped or perhaps even killed.
There were two key games. One against a team of ex-orphanage guys and one against a Black team from the First Ward. These games were crucial for me.
The Blockbusters started out winning and actually posted an undefeated season. In the first couple games I did surprisingly well. The other side lined up on the other side of the ball thus I was able to offset the bigness of the opposing center with fancy footwork and clever moves.
In the third game we played the veterans of the orphanage. I didn’t like them in the orphanage and they hadn’t liked me. By then they were all out in foster homes. I have no idea how they managed to form a team. They had a real grudge against ‘rich’ West Side kids so they didn’t come to play so much as to fight. This game was my first real challange because they didn’t line up on the other side of the ball. When Ihunkered down to hike their center crossed the line to stand directly over my neck. I can tell you it doesn’t feel good when someone slams his forearms down on the back of your neck repeatedly.
Hirsh who was standing back off to the side of the other team’s bench had set the thing up. Not only did none of my team members call foul but the officials never called the other team offsides. It therefore follows that my club members were in on it as well as the officials. I even overheard observers discussing the situation loudly while I was on the field. That game was the toughest game I ever played but I came through it and we won.
The Hirshes and Sonderman were watching sullenly. My classmates were favorably impressed by my performance. My stock was rising. Efforts had to be coming from within the club to debase me. The most perfect way to destroy or subordinate a man, to reduce him to a state of contemptability, is to sodomize him. In his emasculated ‘queer’ form he is not only a laughing stock but has to implore you for sexual favors. It would have done the hearts of my enemies good to see me mincing down the street.
They had been making efforts to sodomize me for some time. Sonderman from this time directed his chief efforts to either sodomize me himself or have me sodomized. Perhaps he thought to transfer his terrified feelings of guilt to me in this manner. He began to work on Demwitter.
Denny was our quarterback. A pretty dumb one, too. Although he should have taken the hike ten yards back in touch, he insisted on the pro style crouch over center and fall back. The first couple games there was no problem but then as I had survived the game with the orphans without injury his attitude changed. At Sonderman’s instigation he began to practically fondle my gonads and rectum while he called the signals.
I considered Denny my creature, or alter ego, so I calmly admonished him expecting him to respect my wishes. He would for a while until Sonderman instigated him to begin again.
I didn’t think we played that sharp but we won our first six games on the way to our perfect season. After we won our sixth game and were certain for a tie for the championship the Hirshes suddenly realized that they would have to see me as a champion on the podium. Wormwood and bitter gall for them.
They went into a panic as they realized that their work of over a decade to keep me down would be undone in less than a month and this as a result of their own folly. The pain would have been too much to bear.
Remember that because of my defense of the Black kids in kindergarten they had placed me below the Blacks in status. Now, regardless of how benevolently the Southeners thought they administered slavery they thought the Negroes were subhuman, separated from themselves by more than color. The Southener thought of the Negro as a talking ape of whom it was constitutionally impossible to educate as a man.
Thus, when the War Between The States ended the North in a crazy act of hatred elevated the Negro over the White, virtually enslaving the Southern Whites. Many egregious acts were committed to humiliate Southern White pride. They were placed under actual civil disabilities. Southern resentment flared when an illiterate bare-footed Negro was made head of the Greek department of a Carolina University. The insult was not just making the Negro the head of the Greek department; it was that they thought that this ‘animal’ could ever learn to read and write English. In their minds the Negro was not only inherently inferior but not human.
It was in this state of mind that Sonderman and the Hirshes contemplated seeing me as a champion before them. It would be the same as that barefoot ‘baboon’ being head of the Greek department. They simply could not allow that to happen. Because of kindergarten they had planned from the beginning of the season to have the Black team beat me up but those Black guys were a set of variables over which Hirsh had no control.
East Side versus West Side was always tough but now the issue of color was added. The hatred of the Blacks for the Whites was the paramount issue. The game was less important for the Blacks than the opportunity to legitimately beat up Whites. In this game they could have thrown away the football, armed everybody with baseball bats and body armor and seen who was left standing at the whistle. Football destruction derby time.
These Black guys, playing as the Diamond Dogs, already had a reputation for being mean and violent. The game promised to be a brawl. I wasn’t so worried as I should have been but it’s not like I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I was still alive. I was still in one piece. I wasn’t worried.
Gossip is always a major item in any town. Word of Hirsh’s intentions got around. My mother was alerted by a close friend of hers. She didn’t take me into her confidence and explain anything to me as usual but she just forbade me to play that game. A higher duty called to which I would have responded but it chanced to pour on that cold November night. Coupled with the horrendous reputation of the Diamond Dogs and the fact that I didn’t feel like having my balls fondled in the cold rainy dark by Demwitter I took advantage of my mother’s injunction and said I wasn’t allowed to play in the rain.
Now, Hirsh had gotten the Black guys up to cripple or kill a player. He forgot to get the word to them that the hit was off. The Dogs were eager to fulfill the contract so since they didn’t know how to identify the player they just began banging up player after player. They were having fun, the time of their life. The game was rougher than rough. We won but all the guys got thoroughly beaten up. I mean, they were all hurting the next day. They were all limping with severe bruises. Sonderman’s right arm was so hurt it hung uselessly by his side for a week until he regained control of it. There were in a completely unhappy frame of mind. I can’t imagine what the Diamond Dogs would have done to me at center way over the line.
With that game we clinched the championship. I was unhurt. I would be able to play the last two games. The Hirshes could not bear the thought of seeing me up on the podium to receive championship honors. There was no longer any room for decorum. Sonderman just walked up to me in the hall and told me I was no longer on the team. They thought, to hell with Law and Order; rules are only for the weak. Neither Demwitter nor any other member protested. I was denied the dignity I had earned.
The Blockbusters along with our shirts really established the club. By that time we were nearly halfway through our Senior year. A little thought would have shown me that for all practical purposes School was over. Preparation for graduation would break us up. For some reason I had my heart set on increasing the membership from seven to ten.
We were already as successful as we could be. Hirsh even had adults going around slandering us. They were using the line that the sum was greater than the parts. Maybe they thought that seven zeros could add up to more than one zero. Not likely; if the sum was great then all the parts must have had significant value. I guess what Hirsh was trying to say was that even though he thought I was nothing I had created something. I wish I knew then what I know now.
Now he wanted to either have me ejected by my clubmates or to destroy the club. As the former he enlisted Meggy Malone to work to try to shame certain clubmembers into kicking me out. Meggy was one of the people who surrounded me in second grade; a key Hirsh. She was one of the three or four most influential girls in school. She had convinced everyone that she was most likely to succeed, she was actually given that honor at graduation.
She went to work on the guys. She was able to convince Lebaron Briscoe and Buzz Barrett and oddly enough Denny Demwitter but the other three remained loyal to me.
As to the latter point of destroying the club, Hirsh tried and succeeded in insinuating two of his own choices. The most likely candidate to join our club was Sonderman. Sonderman either from inertia or whatever had never had any friends. He wasn’t friends with the Hirshes he merely served as their tool because of his father’s relationship with Hirsh.
Even in school he was always a loner until I was forced to let him into my club. Perhaps he identified with me in a back handed way assuming that since I ‘imitated’ him my friends were really his and not mine. At any rate the Blockbusters ingratiated him with them especially after the swell honors dinner and ceremony to which I was not invited. He directed his efforts to suborning Demwitter as he was my closest friend and alter ego.
The Blockbusters had definitely given the club added luster so I was compelled reluctantly to ask Sonderman to join. As Demwitter insisted that I ask him I suppose there was some humiliation involved in it for me. Our relations hadn’t improved. I knew that he undermined me everywhere I went and would do so in the club. I held out as long as I could but I had to give in. Sonderman accepted my invitation as coldly as he could doing his best to look down on me despite his small stature.
My last chance was that his mother wouldn’t cook for us. I stressed this requirement but he said that she would. Damn that woman! It was the only meal she had cooked for him in his life.
Thursday Sonderman showed up in our shirt. He had bought the last one in August in anticipation of joining our club. The shirt was way too small for him but he wore it proudly anyway. He was no sooner in than he put forward the name of Dirk Klutz for admission.
Klutz had also been one of those who surrounded me in the second grade. Had I known then the humiliation would have been unbearable as it was intended to be.
I didn’t look beyond obvious motivations, indeed, it was impossible for me to realize what was really going on but I knew that Klutz was not a good fit and was potentially disruptive. I didn’t know that his purpose was to destroy the club but as he came from much more affluent parents than the rest of us it was clear that problems lay ahead.
I was unable to prevent his entry. We still needed the ninth member. I considered Klutz the tenth. Denny suggested someone who now makes me suspect his sexual orientation. The notion just occurred to me as I write. Actually the guy he suggested was an OK guy and I might have suggested him myself except that I knew he was queer.
Ed Phlatoe and I went back to the fifth grade just after I got out of the orphanage. He used to hang around with a guy named Bumme Slider. Ed introduced me to Bumme. Slider was the dominant partner in their relationship. After I hung around with them a while Bumme clued me in. Once again I didn’t know what homosexuality was but as we all do I got the drift that I was expected to do something I didn’t want to do. I cut Ed loose. He and Bumme remained lovers. However, I was in possession of their dangerous secret.
I had trouble with Bumme ever after that. He was in typing class in the hour ahead of me in eighth. I was assigned the same typewriter after him. He remembered me better than I remembered him. Maybe he was afraid I would spread the word he was queer. You know, in those days you wanted to keep that a deep dark secret. He used to set all the stops in weird positions so I had to clear the machine when I came in. One time he scratched dandruff an inch thick all over the machine. OK, an inch is a lot but he was not sparing.
I saw him at the reunion but he wasn’t too glad to see me. He was a doctor now deep in the closet in Minneapolis and didn’t pronounce his name Bummy anymore; now he pronounced it Bjoomay, Scandanavian fashion.
Anyway Demwitter and Phlatoe were better friends than I knew. I scotched Ed without giving Demwitter the real reason. About a week or two later Phlatoe compromised himself somehow and it became generally known that he was queer.
When I told Denny that the was the reason I didn’t think Ed was appropriate Denny just looked at me kind of funny. I did nominate the ninth guy who fortunately proved loyal to me.
Meggy Malone contrived to exert her influence while the male Hirshes intrigued to denigrate me to the other members. Hirsh was so confident that I would be ejected that he selected Jerry Kramer as my replacement. All of a sudden Jerry was hanging around us virtually as a member. I never realized why until decades later. Actually a couple weeks ago when I heard Jerry died.
End of Part IV-1. Go to Part IV-2.