by Ski Ingram

When I started the second grade, we had moved to a house on Curtis Ave.  I had to walk to school every day and I only knew one way to get there and then home again.  During the first week of school, I decided to go play at Larry Terrel’s house after school. His house was in the complete opposite direction from my house.  When it was time to go home, I didn’t really know where I was.  I figured if I could get back to the school, I’d know how to get home as I walked to school every day.  The school was only five blocks from my house, but I only knew one way to get there and then home again. 

I had a really hard time finding the school. It seemed as if I had walked for hours before I turned a corner and there it was.  When I got home, I don’t even remember if my mother asked where I had been all afternoon.  One thing for sure, I was very happy to be there.

I had known Larry since the first grade. It was a short time after our first day of school that our 1st grade class was marched down a hallway to receive Polio shots.  We were all lined up and one by one, we were given a Polio shot in the right arm. Most of us were pretty nervous if not really scared. This is the first time I can remember ever getting a shot in my arm.  I’m positive I had gotten one or two in my life; I just don’t remember them. One thing I do remember, Larry was the only kid in class to cry when they stuck that needle in his arm.

A few weeks later Larry and I were on the playground throwing rocks at the seagulls. Since we lived close to the ocean, there were seagulls everywhere.  They would fly all over the playground crapping on the playground equipment as they flew by.    They would land in the corner of the playground in large groups.  We would throw rocks causing them to fly away. We thought it was fun to see the flock fly away, especially if it was a large flock. 

On this day there was a group of us throwing rocks. Larry must have thrown his rock a bit later than the rest of us as he hit one of the birds in mid-flight. 

The bird fell to the ground dead.  Larry was very upset.  The rest of us were afraid we were going to get into trouble.  From then on, we were no longer allowed to throw rocks at the seagulls.  The school officials took that bird and had it stuffed.  The last time I saw it, in 1979 I think, it was still there sitting on the counter in the school’s library.

One block west of my house was a very large dip in the road.  Every time it rained the dip in the road would get a lot of water in it, maybe three or four feet deep.  The water was deep enough and large enough to play in.  We would make rafts and play pirates with the objective of knocking the other guys off their raft.  We would play like that every time there was a big rainstorm.  We’d come home wet and muddy, but I don’t ever remember my mother getting mad at us.  I feel sorry for the kids of today, we had a lot more fun when I was a kid.

Sometime later the city decided to fix the drainage problem by putting in a flood control system. They spent weeks digging up the streets and putting in very large concrete pipes that would move all the rainwater to the ocean.  Us kids had a blast running all around the neighborhood in the sewer pipes before they were buried under the street.

There was a vacant lot not far from my house that had two large trees on it.  They were fairly close together. Someone had hung a rope from a high branch which made it possible to swing from one tree to the other.  It was great fun. We’d climb up the tree to a thick branch, grab hold of the rope and swing from one tree to the next.  One day Streeter Hartsell fell while he was in mid swing.  I wasn’t there, but I sure heard about it. Streeter had broken his collar bone in the fall. After that the rope was removed and we were no longer allowed to swing from tree to tree.

One day I was playing in my front yard with Don Leesie. We were setting up Army men on the ground and then tossing large rocks at them knocking them over, pretending the rocks were bombs.  I was picking up a sharp rock as Don threw a rock at the Army men.  He missed and hit the rock I was picking up.  The rock hit the fore finger on my right hand, my trigger finger. I was eight years old and my finger wasn’t that big. The rock struck me at the joint of my finger cutting it almost all the way off. 

I ran into the house crying with my finger hanging by a small piece of skin. My mother had a group of women in the house at the time, I don’t remember why. I do remember that Larry Westover’s mother was there. Here I am crying with my finger almost severed from my hand when I walked into this meeting or whatever it was.  My mother cleaned my wound and taped it up with a popsicle stick to prevent me from bending my finger. She didn’t even take me to the doctor. 

Amazingly, my finger healed up and to this day it works just fine. Can you imagine how my life would have changed if I had lost that finger? I would have never been drafted, or become an Infantryman, a Paratrooper, a Green Beret, a Ranger, or a Police Officer.  When I was younger the scar looked pretty big.  Now that I’m older it doesn’t look so big, and it’s faded so you can barely see it today.

Don Leesie’s father was a Milkman.  I loved to go over to his house because every time I did his mother would give us ice cream. One time she gave us Egg Nogg flavored ice cream, I remember I didn’t like it very much.

Later that year my oldest sister, Ila Jean, went on a summer trip to Georgia with a girlfriend.  She never returned home.  I remember that her and mom never seemed to get along, I think that is why she stayed in Georgia.  She met a guy named Fred Laird, married him and had five kids.  I remember my parents had to give their permission in order for them to marry.  I think Mom and my sister, Sherry, flew to Georgia to attend the wedding.

For Christmas that year, 1958, I received a brand-new Bike. It was three speed English racer.  Once I learned how to use the three gears it was the fastest bike on the block. I was a free man. I could go anywhere I wanted to go, which was mostly to a little Mom and Pop store on the corner of Aviation Place and Aviation Blvd.  The store was at the top of a small hill maybe 15 feet high.  There was a wicked turn to the right as you left the store to head toward Plant Ave and home.

One day a few of us all rode our bikes to the store to buy penny candy.  It was always a race to see who could get on their bike first and fly towards home.  I say fly because you’d have to maneuver that sharp curve going downhill right when you left the store’s small parking lot.  One day I was the first one to leave the parking lot, as usual.  I hit that curve and lost control of my bike.  I plowed into a picket fence halfway down the little hill.  I didn’t get hurt very much, the fence wasn’t hurt at all, but my bike was a mess.  I walked it home as the front wheel was bent.  My dad got me a new wheel, but the frame was bent, and it was never the same after that.  I parked it and never rode it again.

We would go to Pollywog Park in Manhattan Beach, California. It was approximately a mile or so from our house.  In those days there was no park, it was a very large vacant lot with a large muddy lake in the middle.  It wasn’t made into a park until a few years later.  We’d go there and catch pollywogs and Crawdads.  We’d keep the Pollywogs until they turned into frogs.  The Crawdads always seemed to escape from wherever we put them and disappear.  We’d also make rafts out of whatever we found and play pirates in the lake.

We lived in a large house on a large lot.  After Ila Jean left, we moved into a smaller house behind our bigger house.  This house was on top of four garages behind the main house. We lived there for about a year then moved into the smaller two-bedroom house on Manhattan Beach Blvd where I had to share a bedroom with my older sister and my younger brother.