Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005
Subject: Family Tale
I was in Collinwood this week, on Saranac Road, and was reminded of an
occurrence from 1960.
Just out of high school at the age of 17, wheeless and jobless, I enrolled
with the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in the hopes of finding some
work. A position was open at a company on Saranac Rd. I informed my dad of
this opportunity, asking him what was the best way to get there by bus. He
told me to go ahead and make the appointment, he would see that I got there.
I made an appointment to fill out an application and take their written
test. Dad, indeed, was helpful getting me there. I rode over in the back
seat of his powder blue Cleveland Police detective car. It had black tires
and a shotgun fastened upright, just beneath the rear view mirror. His
detective partner rode along with us.
I was deposited at the company on Saranac Road and went inside to fill out
the application and take their written test. All the while this was going
on employees inside the office were going to the window, peering out to the
parking lot, and making remarks like, "What are they doing out there?" and
"Who do you think they're looking for?" Even though Dad and his partner
had "Detective" written all over them, the shotgun was definitely a
giveaway! I concentrated on what I was doing and didn't say anything to
anybody about my transportation arrangement.
After finishing with the test I left, got into the back seat of the vehicle
and we drove off.
I never heard back from that prospective employer......they probably
presumed I was being returned to a juvenile detention facility!
The Copper Mine
J C Sullivan, Ohio, USA
It was Mrs. Weekley's fault, not mine; I got the idea from her. My eight year old imagination had immediately been inspired.
And as a result I would be able to buy Mom the mink coat she always wanted but couldn't afford.
I was never aware our family didn't have some of life's affordable niceties until bicycle-riding age.
That's when I realized some in the neighborhood had nice Roadmaster bicycles and we didn't. I learned something else, too.
A million bucks would buy a lot of things. Like a woman's fur coat. That's why Mrs. Weekley's words were so inspiring.
My sister Mary Jo, eleven months younger than I, initially resisted my idea. My vision of the results of the endeavor, however,
finally convinced her that much good would come if she allowed me to proceed. I also convinced her that we would have
a lifetime supply of candy when the project was completed. She finally relented and agreed to go through with it.
We gathered the necessary tools of the trade and stealthily entered our parents' bedroom, carefully closing the door behind us.
We wanted to maintain top secrecy to insure the surprise was complete.
I carefully tied the corners of the bath towel around her neck, letting most of it cover the front of her clothes,
just like I'd seen it done before in barber shops. It was easier than I'd imagined. A snip here and there did the trick;
the copper curls fell noiselessly to the floor. I carefully scooped them up and deposited them in a brown paper bag.
When the task was completed, Mary Jo didn't look any worse for the wear, or so I reasoned.
I peeked out the bedroom door and, seeing the way clear, dashed for the outdoors, bag in hand, Mary Jo following.
Naturally, the first stop on our itinerary was Mrs. Weekley's house. The door opened in response to my knock.
Ah, 'twas our lucky day. Mrs. Weekley herself greeted us.
"Would you like to buy some of Mary Jo's curls?" I confidently inquired with my brightest smile.
"We're selling them for a million dollars." I knew she was a natural customer. After all, it was Mrs. Weekley who had admired
Mary Jo's red hair and curls so much that she had remarked to my mother, "Why, they're worth a million dollars.
" I know, 'cause I heard her say it. Something wasn't right. Mrs. Weekley looked as if she'd seen a ghost.
She stammered something and kept peering back and forth at Mary Jo's head and into the paper bag.
When it became apparent she wasn't going to buy the curls I began to feel a let down.
We left her porch and continued down Shelley Court, determined to sell someone our valuable product.
Our next stop was the Zaubi home. My sinking feeling about our chances of success increased when we received the
same bewildered look from Mrs. Zaubi. It was becoming obvious to me that this wasn't going to be as easy as I'd imagined.
As we turned to leave the porch I saw her .
It had never previously entered my mind that my mother could actually run but, here she was, in full gallop. Our surprise was ruined.
That was the moment I accepted the reality of the situation - there would be no million dollar sale and no fur coat .
I understood Henny Penny's terror when he believed the sky was falling.
Mary Jo hadn't yet looked at herself in a mirror so her own private horror hadn't set in yet. Mine, however, came swiftly.
Mom put scissors into Mary Jo's hands so she could take a swipe at my hair; the same pair of scissors I had so deftly used.
Conjuring up an 'evil eye' I stared at Mary Jo with my best if-you-do-you'll-live-to-regret-it look. It worked, she hesitated,
and told Mom she didn't want to. Unfortunately, Mom was to prevail. Mary Jo finally grabbed a sizable clump of my hair and,
despite my banshee cries and shrieks of injustice, cut.
I found myself imprisoned in my bedroom for the rest of the day. Looking in the mirror I thought that at least my cut
didn't look as bad as Mary Jo's. The solitary confinement gave me ample time to reflect on my budding sales career
and barbering initiative. I made a decision that day that I would stay out of the hair business. And I have.
“School Days, School Days, Good Old Fashioned Rule Days”
How I Became a Playground Lackey
by John J.C. Sullivan
My attention suddenly drifted away from the sales presentation I was making to the Warehouse Manager.
A figure had just emerged from inside the warehouse, headed over to the pop machine. “Excuse me,” I said to the Manager.
Is that guy’s name Rochford?” “Why, yes, do you know him?” “Rochford!” I shouted. He turned and we made eye contact.
A look of recognition didn't pass over his face. Rather, I got a Do I know you look. “You don’t remember me, do you?, “
I asked, lingering on those spoken words a bit longer for effect. He wasn’t hard to recognize; hadn’t’ grown much since I’d last seen him.
He was still about six feet two inches tall and about two hundred ten pounds. Then, before he could answer my question,
I answered it for him. “St. Mary’s, Berea, Ohio - third grade." His face took on a look of astonishment.“ You’ve got to be kidding,
” he said. We had been in recess line, waiting to go outdoors. Sister Scholastica, for some unknown reason, leaned over to me and said,
“John, I have to leave for a few minutes. When I return tell me if anyone talked while I was gone.” I dutifully replied, “Yes Sister,"
feeling as if I was the luckiest kid on earth. Imagine - ME in charge. As she left the hallway where we were queued up,
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.She wasn’t gone but a minute before everyone was chatting about one thing or another.
Being it was my first responsibility ever, I felt as if I was General McArthur surveying the troops to see who was fit for the rigors ahead.
As I mentally noted who was talking, a voice from behind whispered into my ear, as if God himself was speaking.
“You tell her I talked and your dead, Sullivan!” Or some other terrifying words to that effect. I turned around to see nothing
but a chest in front of me. Slowly my eyes rose directly upward, 12:00 o'clock high. Omigod - it was Rochford -
all six feet two of him, or so it seemed. He was glaring at me as if I was the devil himself. I immediately turned around and
said not a word.During those years we students could hear the good sisters coming back before they could hear or see you.
They wore large rosaries around their waste. These served as a belt for their nun's habit. It also served us too as we could
hear the clicking sound of the beads knocking against each other as they walked. When our class heard the tell-tale sound,
voices fell silent, becoming as quiet as a cemetery at the stroke of midnight. “Thank you, John,” Sister said. And added,
“Did anyone talk while was goneBeing the honest young man I was, I told her the absolute truth. “Yes Sister,” I managed to mutter.
“EVERYBODY talked while you were gone. Except John Rochford!” Well, I’m sure that story went around the dinner table at
the convent that evening and the Sisters of St. Joseph had a great laugh at my expense. Years later, at the warehouse parts counter,
Rochford let out a bellylaugh when I told him the story. “I’m not kidding you - THAT’S why I remember you, Rochford.
You terrorized me.” What I didn’t tell Rochford was my remembrance of his terror tactics in the St. Mary’s playground at recess time.
Back in those days, it seemed every school, public or private, had an outside stairwell that went down to the Boiler Room.
The door at the bottom was always locked, of course. Rochford, being bigger than anybody in Berea, Ohio in those days,
was the King of the Roost. During recess Rochford would round up as many of his classmates as he could and herd them into
“the Dungeon”, the stairwell to the Boiler Room. He appointed a couple of non-commissioned officers to insure his prisoners of war
didn’t get back onto the playground until the bell rang for us to return to class. One day he 'captured' me and I was banished to
‘the Dungeon.” I didn’t like it one bit and resolved to become one of his team members rather than be submitted to the humbling
experience again. And thereafter I captured the smaller guys and put them in “the Dungeon.” True to his formal bearing, Rochford
himself never did the dirty work himself, of course. Just like an Army General, he just stood at the top of the stairwell checking folks
in and making sure no one escaped. Until the bell rang, of course. That’s when he lost his power. A few years after I had seen him at
the parts warehouse I read in the newspaper about a driver that lost control of his car, went across a front lawn and crashed through the
living room of a house. The owner of the home was lucky, saying he hadn’t been in that part of the house when the accident happened.
He also said that he hadn’t gone to church in years but when that happened, he suddenly got religion. It was Rochford.
After reading about that crash I always wondered if the driver hadn’t really lost control at all. Maybe it was one of our classmates
who’d experienced being exiled in Rochford’s Dungeon and was finally trying to get even!
Sullivan is an inernationally published writer residing in northeast Ohio. He transfered from St. Mary’s School after the 3rd grade, in 1951.
The Motorcycle That Wouldn’t Start
by J.C. Sullivan
It was a hare-brained idea but I’d had a few beers in me and, well, you know…..
His motorcycle had been sitting in his garage for some time and it wouldn’t start. All it needed, he told me, was a bit of a tug.
That was to come in the form of pulling him with a chain hooked to my car bumper and the opposite end wrapped around his handlebar.
Then, when we got up enough speed, he would let go of the chain, it would unwrap and he would be going fast enough to be able to
start his motorcycle. Sounds simple enough, right? Believe me, it sounded simpler after the beers!
All went well as we zipped up Coventry Drive. As my speedometer slowly climbed I kept glancing in my rear view mirror,
looking for the thumbs up from him. That would mean he was letting go of the chain wrapped around his handlebar.
I glanced at the speedometer once more – thirty miles per hour. Good. That’s the speed at which he said his bike would start.
I glanced back in the rear view mirror ---HE WASN’T THERE. My first thought was, “Aha, his motorcycle started,
just as he said it would, and he’s probably passing me on the right or the left right now. I looked left and saw nothing.
I looked through the passenger side window and there he was, still on his bike – and riding at about a forty-five degree
angle to the ground - the hook on his end of the chain firmly snagged on his handlebar. Holy shit….
now what? I’m kind of glad to think he’s now an ex brother-in-law.
Oh, he didn’t get killed. He was just scraped up and bruised from the experience. Come to think of it, so was my ego.