Washington Junior High School

Memories of David Ullian Larson

Washington Junior High School, in Joliet, Illinois,  was a bus ride away for me. Children didn't have school busses then. We rode the regular city lines for a token or a nickel. I do not remember ever walking there from home but I probably did. Walking was big back then.

My memories of Washington Junior High School 7th and 8th grades are sketchy. Here are some random thoughts in no particular order:

The school was old with marble and hard wood floors. Many students had switch blade knives. For lunch I remember going around collecting pop bottles to turn in for spending money. Dolly Madison lunch cakes were a dime. Dutch Elm Disease was just starting, which dramatically affected the school grounds. The creek behind the school always smelled of sewage except when there was heavy rainfall and nature flushed it. The big song was Melody of Love. There was a kid who sat next to me that sang really great. Come Go With Me. He got in serious trouble one day by pulling a piece of his shirt through his fly. Those were certainly more innocent days.

My most memorable event:

At 13, I was in the 7th grade. And did I ever have a close call with personal injury. And it was due to electricity, no less. The two newspaper accounts tell it straight;

The Herald News

The Spectator

Now here I am an electrician. And back then I was almost killed by electricity. Go figure.

See, I had the afternoon off from band practice for some reason. I went up to the corner store for kite string. But the lady had none. So, enterprising kid that I was, I found a spool of cloth covered fine wire. I still have the spool, by the way.

I have no personal memory of what happened. All I know is what I was told. The kite dipped. The kite wire touched the high voltage wires in the alley behind my house. And zap. My brother Terry watched me fall to the ground. My hand which held the spool of wire was smoking. He kicked it out of my hand. I still have scars on that hand.

My dad got a new set of golf clubs with a check from the power company for pain and suffering. Me, I got my kite flying taken away.

As children, the neighborhood gang was always looking for stuff to do with electricity. That was the hobby area of choice. Things like the erector set with motor and lights, telegraph setups, radio repairs, lamps. Anything we could plug in. Oh, and there was the cannon effect when we loaded a Christmas tree socket with lead tinsel. It really blew out great. The good old days.

My brother and I used to walk out to the Woodruff Golf Course to walk through the fringes of the course to find golf balls. We did this as often as we could.

My dad used to take us out there when we were young. He taught us how to use our feet to feel for balls in the tall grass. And he showed us where to look. Often we found pockets full of balls. We'd wash them and put them out typically at tee for hole #5. That was the farthest we could get from the clubhouse. The reason for this hawking balls was not permitted. Well, we did it anyway. "Want to buy some balls, mister?" we'd ask.

Balls sold for a quarter or six for a dollar. Sometimes we found a great condition Maxfly or Titelist. They would sell for 50 cents back in 1955 or so. A ball called Podo was the worst. I think they were sold at Walgreens. They brought ten cents in very good condition. Balls with deep cuts were useless. So why did we call the gashes smiles?

Balls found in water were often discolored. So we used liquid white shoe polish to perk them up so they would sell better. But here's where my story gets interesting. Well, only to a kid. One day I went in to the store to buy liquid white shoe polish. I got clear by mistake. I used it on a golf ball. And was very pleased with the result. Just like the Fleming guy who left some orange peelings out and discovered penicillin, I made a mistake that turned out good. When we had a couple dollars, we walked into the club house like we owned the joint. We bought pop and hot dogs until the money was gone. The good old days.