Miss Goble Dies
By early spring of 1962, my friend Miss Goble was dying in a nursing home, where she had been put by her family. She never came home again.
A few months earlier, Miss Goble was found walking around the neighborhood on a cold day, barefoot and dressed only in a light nightgown. She kept calling out to her beloved dog Brownie. When stopped by the police, she refused to get in the car without her dog, forgetting that Brownie was already dead and buried. The police got Miss Goble into their car and drove her to the hospital. Her cousin and neighbor, Mrs. Smith, who was almost ninety, sent her to a nursing home to recover, where she stayed for five weeks.
When she got home, I went over to her little cottage to see her with my friend Eloise. Miss Goble seemed fine. She told us how much she hated the awful nursing home and that she would rather die than go back. She said she had been very lonely since Brownie died.
“I'd love to get another dog,” she said, “but I know I’m too old and sick to take care of a dog now.”
“Dogs are a lot of work,” I said, “but what about a kitten? My cat Rosalee has five kittens and you can have one, if you’d like.”
“Yes,” Miss Goble said, “I would love to have a sweet little kitten to love and keep me company.”
The next day, I went back to her cottage with two kittens for her to pick from. When I went home, I had no kittens, because Miss Goble wanted them both.
Miss Goble seemed happy and to be getting better, and I talked to her almost every day. Then one day, I went over to her cottage and she wasn’t there. I was worried, so I walked over to Mrs. Smith’s house. Mrs. Smith told me that Miss Goble was back at the nursing home, after falling and breaking her hip while getting the mail.
I wanted to visit Miss Goble at the nursing home, but never got a chance. My sweet friend died within a week of arriving there. I think she was tired and hated being there, so she gave up.
Not long after Miss Goble died, people in town started going through her cottage and taking things. They ransacked the cottage, looking for money, and made a huge mess. Mrs. Moody went over to Mrs. Smith’s house to complain about the mess people were making of the yard. A few days later, the little cottage was torn down.
I felt sad and like all I had left of one of my only friends was a pile of rubble. But I did find the two little kittens hiding in the cottage, just before it was destroyed. I ended up keeping one and giving the other to Eloise.
The Wild Boys in Town
On a hot summer day, I was walking to the Laundromat with Eloise. I had a huge baby buggy full of dirty clothes to wash and Eloise had her brother’s wagon full of dirty clothes. As we walked past the graveyard, the Miller boys jumped out from behind a grave, scaring us. Then all five of them came running toward Eloise and me. The oldest, who was about sixteen, came up to the buggy full of clothes and soap powder and kicked it over. He then grabbed one of my mother’s bras and yelled, “O'Neill has a bra!”
His little brother grabbed the bra and picked up a rock and said, “I have a slingshot.” He slung the rock, hitting Eloise in the back.
“Cut it out,” I yelled. “Get out of here!”
The boys continued to throw our clothes all over the graveyard. Eloise tried to keep the boys away from her wagon, when one of them picked it up and threw it, hitting some poor soul’s grave and chipping it. Seeing the broken gravestone, the Miller boys ran off, leaving the mess for Eloise and me to clean up.
A few weeks later, my mother and Kathleen were walking home from shopping. My mother saw three of the Miller boys and Billy Stevens, another preteen boy who ran wild, writing swear words on the side of our house. Cathy told Kathleen to be very quiet and they snuck in the back door. As soon as they got in the house, my mother told Kathleen to go upstairs and get one of Ted's water pistols. When Kathleen came down with the water gun, my mother filled it with black India ink. Then my mother went outside and hid behind a large bush, while she squirted ink all over the Miller boys and their friend. The boys ran off and never set foot on our property again.
LBJ for USA
By late summer of 1964, Eloise and her family had moved to Borden Avenue, just a few blocks away. Their house was in the middle of the woods, a great place for us to play. Allen made a Tarzan swing in a huge old oak tree, and we all climbed the tree and swung out into the woods.
Eloise, Kathy, Kathleen and I made a haunted house trail through the woods that we called the Twilight Zone. The long trail led up to a backyard with a chain link fence and a huge, growling bulldog. It was the perfect end to a scary walk.
After the Moody family moved away from their old house in back of ours, Mrs. Smith rented it out only in the summer, since it cost too much to heat in winter. So college kids ended up renting it from her each summer, and they made even more noise than Shane did, with their music and partying all night long. I think between Shane and the college boys, we drive the other people in the neighborhood nuts, particularly Mr. Tats.
One Sunday morning, while Kathleen and I were getting ready for church, I looked out the side window and saw Mr. Tats bent over picking up a beer bottle that the college boys had thrown in his backyard the night before. As I watched him, he looked around and then heaved the bottle into our yard.
“The nerve of some people,” I said to Kathleen.
Later that afternoon, while the Tats were out, Kathleen and I gathered up all the beer bottles and beer cans we could find, and there were a lot of them in the yards where the college kids partied. After we had fifty or so, we piled them up by the swing and then Kathleen and I took turns swinging over the fence and throwing the bottles and cans into Mr. Tats’ yard. I guess he got the message, as he never threw beer bottles into our yard again.
In October, I got together with Eloise, who was a Republican, and we made yard signs out of old boxes and markers that said “LBJ for USA” or “ALL the Way with LBJ.” We went out late at night and put the signs all over the neighborhood.
A few days later, Eloise and I got bars of soap, and after dark we wrote in soap on the streets, “LBJ 1964” and “LBJ for USA” and “Anti Goldwater” and “If you vote for Barry Goldwater we will have a War.”
Eloise and I even had our own telephone campaign. I called the mother of a boy I liked at school and asked her who she wanted for president. When she said Goldwater, I told her I liked Johnson and that he was going to win by a landslide. She yelled, “Cut it out, you stupid kids, or I’ll call the cops,” and then hung up on me. A few weeks after the election, I called her back and told her I was sorry.
On Halloween night, a few days before the election, Eloise and I walked up and down the streets yelling “LBJ for the USA” and “All the Way with LBJ,” as Kathy and Kathleen went trick-or-treating. It was more fun getting people mad and watching their reaction than anything else.
A Very Good Year
By the early summer of 1965, things were the best they had been in years. My mother received some money from my grandmother’s estate, and we were living very well.
Maura was working at the boardwalk at a burger stand. Maura loved her job. She made a little money and saved most of it so she could buy some nice clothes when she went back to school. Maura was happy because she was on her own and away from Shane much of the time. Maura sometimes worked at the cotton candy machine. After working all day, she'd come home with the sticky cotton candy all over her body.
Kathleen and I went to the boardwalk almost every week, where we played games and had fun on the rides. Maura liked showing Kathleen off to the new friends she met at work. Some of the boys called Kathleen the little terror of the boardwalk because ten year old Kathleen kept winning the spin wheel games.
One reason we were all happy that year was because Shane was in a good mood much of the time. He bought us a professional trampoline that was built into the ground like an in ground swimming pool. Kids came over to our house and told us they wanted to be our friends, but all they really wanted was to jump on our trampoline. Kathleen could do all kinds of jumps and flips. I had fun on the trampoline, even though I couldn't do flips like Kathleen. Unfortunately, by the next spring, the bands that held the trampoline together started snapping and needed to be replaced. We had no more money to fix them, so our wonderful trampoline lasted only one summer.
We went out to eat a lot that year. Our favorite place was Vancarto's, a little Italian restaurant a block from our home. I remember eating dinner there one day with my mother, Kathleen, Ted and one of Ted’s friends. Suddenly, Kathleen yelled out that there was a rubber band in her lasagna. She lifted it off her plate and held it up, as Ted and his friend laughed. My mother told us to stop making so much noise and that we were embarrassing the owners. That night we all got free dinners.
It was a very good year. But by winter, we were broke again and back to our old ways.
© Copyright 2008 Sheila O’Neill. All rights reserved.
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