SEL-MONT, SUNDOWN, & SUNDOWNER

“All went well until intermission. At this point, some young people took it upon themselves to light their own fireworks. Our windows were down and a bottle rocket went zipping through just missing mom’s head. It sailed out the passenger window striking another car.”

Photo taken by me – July 1974

I was initially going to write this piece solely about Sel-Mont Drive-In Theatre in Selma, Alabama. I have enough material, including a complete history of its opening and closing to work with.

With memories of two other drive-in theaters my family visited over the years, and stories to go with, it seems appropriate to include everything in one composition. Theater history on its own would undoubtedly be boring to many people.

Selma, Alabama 1958 – 1963

The first movie I recall watching at Sel-Mont Drive-In Theatre was Bambi. This was the original 1942 version where Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter. It left mental scars on me, including nightmares for thousands of other kids. The ending was eventually revised to be less traumatic. Even so, I hear that children and adults still cry after viewing it.

Original 1947 Bambi poster

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, and Vera Miles was released in 1962. We watched that movie at Sel-Mont. This might’ve been the time dad was in a hurry to leave at the end of the show. He wanted to beat the rush.

My father drove off with a movie speaker still attached to his window. There was such an onslaught of cars rolling out of the place, that my dad heaved speaker and wires to the asphalt like a hot potato. Much akin to the ending of Bambi, it’s a sight that never left my mind.

Often we’d stop at Jet Drive-In before a movie and pick up their burger special. There was a sign out front advertising 10 burgers for a specific price. I no longer recall the exact amount, but my brother Jim believes it was $1.00. That seems a bit unbelievable. Mom would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at times. We had our own popcorn. She always had a cooler for soda. Jim said I spent a good portion of my time during a movie, swinging at the drive-in playground.

During New Years or Fourth of July, Sel-Mont had an early movie and then a fireworks display. One year the whole family went and I do not recall any problems. My brother echoes the same. The following year was a bit different.

Dad was sent to Korea for a one-year tour, leaving mom with me and my brother. I believe it was fourth of July, but at this point can’t be exactly sure? She decided we’d go to a movie and catch their firework’s extravaganza.

All went well until intermission. At this point, some young people took it upon themselves to light their own fireworks. Our windows were down and a bottle rocket went zipping through just missing mom’s head. It sailed out the passenger window striking another car.

With windows hastily rolled up, rockets began hitting our Ford like crazy. It was intentional. Within seconds mother decided it was time to go. We never saw the big fireworks display nor completed the second half of our movie. The next morning, Jim found burnt paint on the car door from direct hits. Mom told me much later in life, that people were heavily drinking that night. She was scared to death.

Lubbock, Texas 1963 – 1967

After moving to Lubbock, Texas in 1963, the Sundown Drive-In on Brownfield Highway replaced Sel-Mont where cheap Friday night entertainment was concerned. Sundown was originally called 5 Point Drive-In. I found an old 1947 ad for their grand opening. Of all things, they advertised a bottle warming service for babies.

Name was changed to Sundown

I don’t recall any spectacular events happening at Sundown like Sel-Mont. We came late one evening, finding there were only few parking spots left. Dad picked a vacant one and quickly discovered our speaker wasn’t working. We moved to the other side and all was good.

Throughout the first movie, latecomers would roll up to the spot we’d vacated, and then drive away. This went on the whole first show. Watching people’s faces and hearing some of what they had to say became more entertaining than the film. I don’t believe my father made that mistake again.

The old man ran out of gas late one evening after a movie ended. The car had just enough speed to wheel into a closed service station. I learned a trick that night which came in handy years later. Dad took empty pop bottles, and using outstretched pump hoses, filled the containers with what was left inside. Each hose contained a small amount of residual fuel. We ended up with enough gas to make it to another station.

Anchorage, Alaska 1967 –

After moving to Anchorage, Alaska in 1967, I figured my drive-in days were over. Lo and behold, the Sundowner Drive-In Theater was a popular haunt for locals, especially teenagers from East and West.

An unusual part of this drive-in was that each parking spot had an electric heater unlike Sel-Mont and Sundown. The heater fans were noisy and often times put out fumes smelling like burnt rubber. I believe mischievous teens placed rubber bands inside know what the outcome would be.

On one drizzly cold night, dad reached for a heater and was shocked. The water soaked unit had a short in it. After talking with a theater employee, my father found out this wasn’t unusual at Sundowner.

“You best touch them gently to see!“, the fellow advised dad. On one of our next visits it happened again.

This go-around, dad was shocked and lit at the same time. I’m talking enraged. Instead of moving our car to another spot, he deliberately ripped the heater off its mount and tossed it to the ground. I’m sure he was shocked time and time again during his rage.

Score one speaker plus one heater for the old man. All he needed for a triple was to back over a speaker pole. That happened quite often at Sundowner. Poles were bent every which direction. Thankfully dad never hit one.

During my junior high and high school years I attended movies at Sundowner on more than ever. This was the first time I saw people popping out of trunks after parking. Generally it was teens trying to avoid paying . On one instance a car in front wasn’t let through. An employee wanted the vehicle trunk opened. Reluctantly, the driver did so and three high-school age students crawled out. They were all asked to leave.

The last movie I remember watching at Sundowner was actually not intended to be one movie, but three Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns played back to back. Fistful of Dollars, The Man with no Name, and, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The reason I remember this, is because Eastwood only starred in three such Italian made movies.

I believe this might’ve been in April when it was still chilly at night. Jim, Jeff, and I took my 1954 Chevrolet. That was a big mistake because the vintage-car-heater barely put out at idle.

When the first movie began playing there were perhaps 50-cars total. We noticed right away that the actor’s words did not go with their lips. This made for an agonizing 90-minutes. We’d actually came that night to see, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Of course, theater management made sure that was the last movie to be shown.

When the second movie started, Sundowner’s parking lot was down to perhaps 15-cars and trucks. A few of them had steamed up windows. Most likely these folks hadn’t come for the movies, because no effort was made to clean glass.

I had a police spotlight on the driver’s side of my car. A friend helped me install a powerful aircraft-landing-lightbulb inside the housing. This was hooked to a 12-volt battery along with my 8-track tape player. The old Chevy was 6-volt at this time. Shining it on a couple of the fogged up cars got no response. A theater employee walked over asking us to knock it off.

My ’54 on the left. Spotlight is visible on left side.

Our little electric heater could barely keep up. The thick curly cord for this device poked through a window. Door glass could not be rolled up tight enough to keep the cold out. We tried stuffing napkins in the crack to no avail.

When our windows became fogged from nothing more than breathing, Jeff said it was time to go. He joked that perhaps someone we knew might see my distinctive car, and remember it as being full of guys that night.

“This could ruin our reputation!”, he said.

I knew what he meant. Years previous, we were sitting in Bob’s Big Boy restaurant on C Street with another friend, Tim Amundsen. Tim got up to use the restroom leaving Jeff and I on the same side of the table. Two girls started looking and smirking so Jeff quickly moved to the other side.

It’s fitting that the last outdoor movie I watched was at the Sundowner. The theater name seems appropriate. Sundowner permanently closed a few years after the Clint Eastwood series. I believe it was in 1979 or 1980. For a while after closing they used the grounds for special events. The complex was finally bulldozed.

It’s rare these days that I’ll attend a movie. Hearing the F-Bomb dropped every 10-seconds by an actor or actress doesn’t turn my crank.

A friend recently remarked after reading where someone was reopening an old drive-in in California,

“Perhaps some day these old theaters will make a comeback. With advances in speaker technology, it’d be a totally different experience.”

Jerry was right about speaker technology. The clarity of old vs new speakers would be 100 times better. Will a comeback ever come to pass?

I wouldn’t bet on it, at least not in Anchorage, Alaska!

1967 photo of Sundowner Drive-In Theatre – Anchorage, Alaska – looking southeast away from the screen.

McCLEARY BEAR FESTIVAL OR BUST

“We laughed all the way to Astoria, knowing that we’d just made history in McCleary, as being the two biggest idiots to ever hit town.”

Begging for coffee – Saturday – March 22, 1997

Most of the time when I take pictures my camera date stamp is turned off. Thankfully, several photos my wife stumbled across have March 23, 1997 printed in the lower right corner. If this date wasn’t recorded, I wouldn’t have remembered specifics to this story.

March 22 and March 23, 1997 were two of those days when a person should’ve been arrested for having too much fun. I told my friend some 24-years ago, that somewhere in the future I’d write this article for posterity sake. He ordered me to make sure he was retired when I did so. The time’s now ripe before all trip memories turn to fog.

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Dee Linton and I arrived in Seattle on Friday, March 21, 1997. We were there to attend a five-day automotive technology seminar starting on Monday. Checking in early Saturday morning with the seminar receptionist, we had the rest of that day free along with Sunday to sight see.

Having a rental car with unlimited mileage, sky was the limit as to where we could go. Stopping at a local Starbucks before leaving town, Dee snapped a couple of photos of me posing with a sign made out of cardboard.

Leaving Seattle an hour later, our ultimate destination was Astoria, Oregon, normally a four-hour trip. We turned it into 13, having to snooze in the car Saturday night. Someone told Dee there were beautiful beaches close to Astoria. I brought swim trunks just in case we had time for a swim.

The scenery was spectacular. Anchorage was dingy-brown from melting snow when we departed. Lush green trees and bushes captivated our eyes all along the route. We eventually came to a town called McCleary, Washington early Sunday morning. A large sign advertised it as being home of the Bear Festival. Dee had me stand in front of the weathered boards holding out my hand.

Welcome to McCleary!

Stopping at a small convenience store, two teenage girls asked if they could help us. The youngsters appeared to be sisters.

“We’re here for the McCleary Bear Festival.”, Dee said with straight face. “We came down from Alaska.”

The girls started laughing but then quickly stopped, believing at this point my pal was dead serious.

“The Bear Festival isn’t until July!”, one of them apologetically replied.

Both Dee and I acted stunned.

“You’re not serious?”, I gasped.

About this time an older fellow stepped out from behind a food counter. He’d evidently been listening, and wanted to see what stupid looked like. Undoubtedly it was their father.

Dee looked at the man and asked in serious tone, “Is there anything else in town worth seeing?”

“There’s our county museum.”, the gentleman replied. “But it’s closed today.”

“I guess we’ll have to come back in July!”, I remarked, paying for drinks and snacks. I needed out of there pronto or I’d bust a gut.

“It’ll be worth it!”, one gal added as we exited the place. All three people stared out a front store window as we drove off.

We laughed all the way to Astoria, Oregon, knowing that we’d just made history in McCleary, as being the two biggest idiots to ever hit town.

Our first stop in the city was a McDonald’s restaurant. The place was jammed with customers. Walking up to the counter and glancing at his watch, Dee informed the young clerk,

“We’re from corporate. Doing a food turnaround inspection!”

Word traveled fast. Before long, employees were bumping into each other trying to hurry. I had to bite my cheeks to keep from laughing.

The manager quickly came out of her office asking Dee what he needed.

“An Egg McMuffin and coffee please! What do you want Mike?”

I could see the woman didn’t think our stunt was funny, yet she didn’t say anything, most likely still not totally sure that we weren’t from corporate.

Dee and I grabbed our food and scurried out. Employees and customers watched as we exited. Evidently word leaked out to them that professional pranksters were in their midst. I found it hard to eat my sandwich while laughing at the same time.

Our stop at a beach near Astoria was relatively uneventful. For whatever reason no one was there but us. Slight rain was in the air, so perhaps that kept the crowds away? A little precipitation didn’t bother us.

I found the water teeth-chattering cold. A jacket was needed and even that didn’t help. My legs and feet quickly went numb. It wasn’t until time to dry off that I discovered no towels had been packed. My shirt had to suffice. By then, Mr. Hypothermia was knocking at the door.

Our car heater quickly righted the situation. A cup of steaming coffee was just down the road. All was now good in Astoria.

The beach was empty?

Arriving back in Seattle late Sunday evening, Dee and I found a restaurant that served steaks. Being on the road for nearly 36-hours had wiped us out. Our eyes were bloodshot from little sleep. We were famished as well.

The next five days were spent hitting the books and listening to many guest speakers. I came back to Anchorage not only educated, but having memories that most likely will never be topped.

Where having fun with a friend is concerned, this trip was a barrel of hoots!

Too much fun!

Note: Some day I hope to attend the McCleary Bear Festival. It’s on my bucket list. The country around that part of Washington is beautiful!

AT THE FLIP OF A SWITCH

“The other day I let someone get under my skin which is rare.”

Change your way of thinking!

I’ve had numerous people over the years disagree with my line of thinking. It’s human nature and nothing wrong with it.

Whenever I disagreed with a friend, I’d tell them we’ll have to agree to disagree and leave it at that. There was never any problem.

Social media came along and all that changed. In the beginning, I didn’t mind putting all beliefs on the clothes line. After getting my head bit off by perfect strangers I began not being so open. This was a new experience.

There was no agreeing to disagree with these people. You either had to change your point of view, or out came their machete.

I had a good friend for many years. He was a co-worker. We never discussed politics as far as I remember. I could’ve cared less what side of the coin he was own. I’ve been a conservative Republican from the beginning of time. I’ve never hidden such.

On Facebook, whenever you like something for whatever reason it sometimes shares your like with others. I didn’t know this at the beginning.

On occasion this guy would pop up out of nowhere scolding me for liking things that he didn’t like. I laughed it off. Eventually he defriended me because I didn’t think exactly like him.

On my blog site I lay it all on the line so to speak. It’s my workplace for sorting out story ideas. I’ll put them on there incomplete and unedited. It’s easier for me to see how things should go after a week of rereading.

I’ve had several people that I don’t know from Adam criticize my mindset regarding political and religious viewpoints. I won’t argue either subject because it’s a waste of my time. Dad and mom taught me that. I have my viewpoints on both and I’m sticking with them.

The other day I let someone get under my skin which is rare. This person didn’t agree with my philosophy regarding public education. There’s an ongoing effort by NEA and progressive activists to change this country’s history via censorship in books. I think it stinks. This individual wanted to do nothing more, than tell me their point of view was the right one.

I wanted to counterattack but didn’t. They eventually went away taking their blog subscription with them. No biggie to me as anyone is welcome to come and go on that site as they please.

Before letting them off the hook I should’ve done one thing .

From the initial reading of their message, I wish I’d come back saying this:

“I hate it that you disagree with my way of thinking but hold on one minute, that switch is somewhere. Found it. Let me flip it.”

Of course they would’ve asked what was I talking about?

“Opinion switch!” I would’ve typed.

“At the flip of a switch I can change my way of thinking to yours. We should be good to go now!”

Good to go!

DON’T MESS WITH DICK & JANE

“I can only imagine a Jane & Dick book series designed by progressives for the developing first grader.”

I learned to read using the Dick & Jane series of books 60-years go. Their sentence structure started out easy, and got a bit harder in second and third grades. They were great books to learn by. Of course, Spot and Puff were my favorites.

Today, some education experts claim that the series focused on white privileged children. In first grade, I would’ve never noticed that. I doubt any kid back then did.

Some progressives would now call for a black child to be Dick & Jane’s best friend, along with a Native Indian. Another progressive demands an Asian girl needs to be in the book. A Spanish progressive echoing the same.

Of course the LGBTQ community would want a lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, and questionable represented. Women’s rights advocates would scream that Jane’s name go in front of Dick’s.

Educationally challenged folks would voice their opinion including different religious sects. Homeless lobbyists would rally for a downtrodden man or woman to be pictured on the book cover. The list goes on and on.

I was blessed, learning to read about Dick & Jane early on. Thank you, Mrs. Harris, my first grade teacher. I feel sorry for children in public schools today being bombarded with political correctness while struggling to learn.

We didn’t have to put up with that in 1960. This was in Selma, Alabama of all places, the civil rights capitol of the United States. Black and white kids alike learned to read from the same books.

I can only imagine a Jane & Dick book series designed by progressives for the developing first grader. The pictures alone would be totally confusing, especially new, unpronounceable character names.

Whereas back in time these books were designed as tools to help students learn to read, the new version would do just the opposite. If I had anything to say to Dick & Jane, it would be this,

“Run, children, run!

READING LEVEL

“Will the 8th grade reading level of 2021 be equivalent to 4th grade in 2054?”

According to statistics, the average reading level for an American citizen is 8th grade. That might’ve been acceptable in 1954. Today, 8th grade reading level is equivalent to 6th grade back then. Using the word statistics in a piece of literature should now be avoided at all cost. This will eliminate confusion for the modern day student. My opening line to this statement should’ve read, “According to some numbers,

It’s sad that this generation has pushed books aside for other venues. Education experts tell us a majority of students now do their reading online. Yea, I believe that like a hole in my head.

I’m not sure what reading level I’m at? Most likely 8th grade based upon 1964 guidelines. Along the way, I’ve picked up books where a writer tried to impress me by using big words. I believe some authors do that to show their superior intelligence.

Whenever I come across a book chocked full of complex words I shove it aside. There’s no way I’m about to read something while having to thumb through Webster’s at the same time.

According to another study, newspapers are written at an 11th grade level. I have no problem reading our local paper. Of course, 11th grade reading level now is equivalent to 8th grade back in the day. Our newspaper articles fit my reading comprehension level to perfection.

As a writer, I deliberately add typos, misspelled words, and archaic sentence structure to make today’s reader feel more at home. There’s nothing more belittling in my opinion, than to struggle through an article perfect in English composition.

Misspelled words can be a blessing to some folks. I substitute flim in place of phlegm when writing about medical issues.

Wednesday should be replaced by Winsday. That’s a no brainer.

Leave the l out of salmon for goodness sake. It doesn’t belong there!

Lingerie should be spelled lawngiray. We aren’t from France.

Suttle is definitely more understandable than subtle.

Kernel and colonel sound exactly the same. Let’s just go with the k version. Kernel Sanders sounds perfectly fine.

My list of such words is a mile long.

I don’t like using the word, composition, in describing literary structure, as it can be confusing to some. Putting stuff together is much more simplistic to understand.

Other examples of changes I make are:

Instead of inferior quality, I like to say Jerry-rigged. This is most likely an insult to the Jerry’s of this world. I’m not politically correct. I’ll continue using the slur. Someone undoubtedly down the road will have this statement labeled as hate.

Where will the average U.S. reading level be in another 33 years?

Will the 8th grade reading level of 2021 be equivalent to 4th grade in 2054?

Hopefully things don’t go that low but you never know. Should that happen, fifth graders would just be finishing about the exploits of Dick & Jane. That’s a scary thought!

“Help! Help! Run, Spot, Run!”

He better run as fast as he can if he knows what’s good for him. Puff too!

NO HOMER HIPPY

“The politically incorrect definition for a lifer hippy is bum.”

Grainy photo of me standing on a bluff overlooking Anchor Point – 1973

The last time I seriously touched on this subject (Homer hippies) was in the early 1980’s. I wrote an editorial for our local newspaper in Anchorage, asking what did unemployed residents do for a living in Homer, Alaska. The piece went viral if you can call it that. Viral back then was a bad cold.

Media as they often do, took my column and twisted it like red licorice to make it appear that I was insultingly asking,

“What do all residents do for a living in Homer?”

That wasn’t the only time the Anchorage Daily News changed wording to one of my editorials. The editor knew I was a conservative. I suppose it was fun for him to do the word twisting.

He was savvy enough to know they’d get more response by spinning my question to include employed, rather than just unemployed citizens. The jobless in Homer back then spent precious welfare dollars on rolling papers instead of newspapers. They could’ve cared less about my inquiry. These folks had more important things to tend to like their crops.

An acquaintance of mine worked for the State of Alaska – as a welfare fraud investigator. I was able to obtain all the numbers I needed regarding unemployment in Homer, along with data on certain cases. This person knew my lips were sealed and still are.

It wasn’t uncommon when this individual checked on a welfare recipient, to find them gone. Poking around and asking neighbors, the state worker discovered they were on a kayak or hiking trip. Recreational gear of all type was usually sitting outside a welfare recipient’s doors. The smell of pot often greeted them after entering. I’m sure it was due to necessary medicinal use. Uh huh.

I incorporated this data into my investigative newspaper editorial, saying that these folks were basically on a never ending vacation, paid for by working stiffs like me. Evidently with help from our left-slanting newspaper in Anchorage, my unlisted phone number was quickly leaked. Before long, I was getting hate calls from Homer residents having jobs. My letter had nothing to do with them. After listening to rants for several minutes, I told one angry lady to bug off and then hung up. This was not before she’d filled my ear with choice obscenities.

A radio DJ from Homer went on the air saying that Michael Hankins had it in for Homer residents. When he called me asking for a live, on-the-air radio interview I could only laugh. I knew he was simply looking for an audience that he didn’t have. Having infamous me on his show would’ve provided such. I politely declined.

Various folks in Homer immediately became lit. Most likely some had never read my whole article. That quick triggered response holds true today. I see it all the time on Facebook and in political forums. After hearing or reading three or four words of someone’s statement, they’re ready to declare war on the message purveyor.

One fellow wrote a response editorial saying that he’d like to take me fishing. It was a veiled threat. I chuckled at that remark as well. I’m sure I did more fishing back then than this guy ever did. I should’ve been taking him.

I had no problem with working-class-residents of Homer. I did though with the hippy generation moving there, and to other Alaska locales, with no intention of ever seeking jobs. There were two groups of hippies back then. A good majority were in it for the “fad” effect. They dressed the part but also held down jobs or were retired. Lifers, as I like to call them are another story.

Lifers like to use the word “hippy” in describing themselves, believing that civilization is more acceptable to this label. The politically incorrect definition for a lifer hippy is bum.

A lifer hippy never intended to work, and is perfectly happy being unemployed. They have no problem letting you and me pay for their lifestyle. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, lifer hippies were everywhere in Alaska. I’m sure they still exist.

These human locusts claimed they were living off the land, but in reality were existing off the government tit. Songs were popular in the 1970’s praising such. We have a new generation of these people. They’re called entitlement freaks by one of my friends.

I hear someone’s doing a documentary on hippies coming to the Kenai Peninsula during the 60’s and 70’s. It should be interesting and I wish him the best. As long as the guy doesn’t bring to light anything negative he’ll be okay. I’ll definitely want to see the finished project.

In the 1970’s, I had moderate long hair and was erroneously called a hippy. This was generally by my parent’s friends, plus out of state relatives. They were well off the mark! On my numerous camping trips to Homer and Seward, the local hippy crowd thought I was one of them. Never a pot smoker, I didn’t fit in and never wanted to. Life was good being an ordinary, average, kind of guy.

I could go on and on yet believe I’ve made my point. I’m sure some working class Homerite will come out of the woodwork, saying I’m talking negatively about them. It’ll probably be that lady I hung up on. Call me whatever you like mam, but please don’t ask me to go fishing.

My freezer is full!

I took this photo early 1970’s. Homer Spit area.

WHERE WAS HONEY?

“Where were these missing students when photographs were taken? Did the school district send investigators to find out? Does anyone even care?”

Where was Honey?

I’ve been working with vintage school yearbooks the past several weeks on a writing project. One thing I noticed in many was an abundance of NO PHOTO AVAILABLE boxes. Where were these missing students when photographs were taken? Did the school district send investigators to find out? Does anyone even care?

The class photo in this yearbook (see above) is from 1965. It shows Mrs. McWilliams’ eighth grade class at Frenship Junior High School in Wolfforth, Texas. Yes, Frenship is spelled that way. I picked this class at random to use as an example.

Where was Honey Flowers? For purposes of this hypothetical story, we’ll refer to her as Honey Ann Flowers. Keep that in mind. I believe it’s legitimate to assume Honey Ann had valid reason not to be there. Why didn’t the yearbook company tell us her whereabouts? It would’ve been easy for them to write boldly in her block: HONEY ANN FLOWERS WAS SICK.

Of course she could’ve been visiting relatives with her parents in Austin and didn’t make it back in time for photo day. That’s plausible.

Honey Ann might’ve been on a rafting trip in Colorado. Quite simply, the yearbook publisher should’ve printed for all to see: HONEY ANN FLOWERS WAS ON A RAFTING TRIP.

Miss Flowers might have developed a pimple that she couldn’t cover with Clearasil. There’s nothing more upsetting to a young person, especially girls, than having to view a photo of themselves with blemish on nose, cheek, or forehead. Back then photoshop wasn’t available. The yearbook company had no right to disclose that because it’s borderline personal.

Gut feeling tells me that Honey Ann stayed home that day in 1965 to take care of her brother. Loving parents, Todd and Margaret Flowers both had jobs. Mr. Flowers even worked two. Their babysitter called at the last moment saying she had mumps. With Honey Ann maintaining a straight A average, it was no problem for her to miss school. The unfortunate part being it was photo day.

Honey Ann was upset, but knew taking care of little Richard was the right thing to do. She had plenty of photographs in other yearbooks, so missing this one was not the end of the world. She was raised to help out that way.

The block with her missing picture should have read, HONEY ANN FLOWERS WAS BEING RESPONSIBLE ON THIS DAY.

Let’s jump ahead to 2021. We’ll use the same group of kids as an example. You’ll have to imagine them wearing modern glasses and contacts, because to me, that’s all that changed fashion wise. These 1965 students in the yearbook look very similar to kids today.

So where was Honey Lynn Flowers on photo day in 2021? The possibilities are endless with this new age flower.

Honey Lynn might’ve been out protesting some movement. It’s hard to say just which movement as there are multiple choices.

Perhaps she protested the opening of yet another big box store in her town. Many young people don’t like big box stores, but they love to shop there.

Honey Lynn very well could’ve joined a movement. The constant use by late-night comedians of the term, Ugly Red-Headed Step Child, enraged her including others. The degrading statement was considered a hate crime by several people Honey knew. They advocated the creation of a law making it such. A grassroots movement was begun.

She was possibly at a party celebrating the creation of a new freedom statue in City Park. Never mind the fact that she helped tear the old one down.

Honey Lynn might be missing from the photo because her smartphone was obsolete, and she needed to buy a smarter one at Wal-Mart. iPhones take precedence over most everything with the entitlement generation. The government helps pay for a good many.

My gut feeling being: Honey’s Lynn’s dad, Wild Flowers, convinced the sixteen-year-old that school photos are used by the government and police for conspiracy reasons. He advised her not to go on photo day and she obliged.

Of course some will wonder what a 16-year-old is doing in 8th grade? Well, the answer to that is quite complex.

Dad and mom took Honey Lynn out of school so many times for protests, sit-ins, smoke-ins, rallies, marches, and conspiracy theory seminars, that the youngster became comfortable with being educationally challenged. With her folks being career California hippies from Grass Valley, it’s no wonder that Honey Lynn missed school and her grades suffered.

According to historians, Honey Lynn Flowers’ parents were the first hippies in Northern California. Actually they were beatniks. The elder Flowers started wearing tie-dye shirts and colorful beads in 1954.

Each time Honey Lynn flunked school, parents viewed it as cause for celebration. The peace-loving family saw it as a bonus to them and their carefree girl. It meant free lunches for another four years. Free anything was good, especially herbs, grub, and money; in that order.

Sun Flowers went so far as to inform her teenage child that grades are highly overrated, except of course for eggs. Mom and dad both felt the same way about jobs.

Wild Flowers believes heavily in a conspiracy theories revolving around work, so he avoids the stuff like a plague. Wild seems to be THE role model for this new generation!

Wild Flowers with his old lady, Sun. Honey was an unplanned late child.

REESE ELEMENTARY

“For three years this school was a big part of my life. The red and white brick building had to be for others as well.”

I decided to write this mainly out of finding nobody else seems to have composed anything about Reese Elementary School. If they did – I never found it. For three years this school was a big part of my life. The red and white brick building had to be for others as well.

This project will constantly be revised. What information I have took several days to compile. I own yearbooks from 4th and 5th grade, lacking a 6th grade book because we left school early that year. They were supposed to mail it but somehow the photo album never arrived in Alaska.

I’ll go ahead and publish unedited with flaws and typos on WordPress, as it might be several months before I get back to updating. Hopefully someone out there having attended Reese will find it useful.

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My family moved from Selma, Alabama to a small trailer park located on Reese Air Force Base, the spring of 1963. Mom told friends and family back south that we were in Lubbock, but actually Reese A.F.B. was a part of Wolfforth, Texas. Most of that summer was spent getting acquainted with things before school began. I entered fourth grade that fall.

Located just across from our trailer was a section of asphalt used for aircraft. Some nights and early mornings, airplane mechanics would bring the T-33 trainers out to that area to test engines. The on and off roar of jet engines would last for hours. I never got used to it. I’m sure not sleeping some nights because of this noise, along with staying up late at night reading The Hardy Boys mystery series didn’t help in my studies.

One day I came home from school finding a big ragged tear in our trailer’s sheet metal. It was just above my brother and I’s bedroom window. Base personnel came over to inspect. They pulled out a chunk of jet engine compressor. When the engine disintegrated during testing it sent shrapnel everywhere. Our home became a pin cushion for pieces of hot metal.

Mrs. Hagan was my fourth grade teacher. I vaguely remember her as having dark hair with glasses. A photo of her kept this planted in my mind. I have nothing but good memories of this lady. She must’ve been patient working with me because I wasn’t the sharpest tack in class.

During recess I played marbles with a group of similar Marblehead’s. Keepsies was my favorite marble game. I ended up with a large bag, being quite adept at hitting the other kid’s marble. One of our younger players died during a routine tonsil removal. That was the first death I encountered of a friend.

We bailed out of swings and did the usual playground routine including merry-go-round and slide. There was a time I brought some tin foil to school. During recess, I took small pieces and wound it around cotton stalks in a field next to our playground. Later that afternoon when the sun hit it just right, there appeared to be fireflies in the day time. It got the attention of Mrs. Hagan and students. She finally put two and two together, after remembering seeing me out there that morning.

1963 – 1964 school year

1963 was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. I still remember Mrs. Hagan wheeling a portable television into our room. Students from other classes came in to watch. I didn’t know what was happening, but sensed it was serious by the tears from teacher’s faces. After perhaps thirty minutes, arrangements were made for us to go home early. I rode my bike to school so that was no problem.

For three years I rode a bicycle to Reese. It was perhaps a half-mile drive so no biggie. Through rain, snow, sleet, and heat I pedaled. There were some rare occasions when mom was not working that she’d take me. I walked the route many times as well.

Just as you came to the base entrance was a silver B-25 bomber perched on a pedestal. There was a gate located close by that WWII airplane that I used to exit the military installation and reenter. On occasion during base lockdown I’d have to enter by the guard shack. The MP’s never asked to search me. That wouldn’t happen these days.

Because there was no air-conditioning in the school, on hot days I would get sleepy and have a hard time staying awake. Other students incurred the same. Mrs. Hagan had a large fan that she used to try and cool things down. The constant drone of fan motor only made things worse.

Larelia Sadler was in my class. I took a liking to her right away as did George Roberts. There was some jealousy between us boys, but Larelia picked no favorite. She treated us both equally.

In a school Christmas play I was Joseph and Larelia was Mary, so ultimately I came out on top, at least in my mind I did.

Other kids in my class that I’ve always remembered names to are: Michelle Barnes, Larry Grady, Todd Mold, Steven Maybe, Nicki McClure, and Thomas English. Of course I could always refresh my brain bo looking at the yearbooks.

A cotton field mentioned earlier sat next to our playground. I’d walk over some days to see how far the cotton had grown. A crop dusting airplane sprayed it one time when we were in class. We weren’t allowed outside. Students watched him from behind classroom windows. This same plane crashed after school was let out. I was told the pilot was uninjured. The plane was still sitting there the following day.

Mrs. Drake was my fifth grade teacher. I recall her having blond hair. Most of my classmates from the previous year were the same, as we were basically all military brats. There were a few new names and some of our former friends were gone. That’s the way it was being in a military family. Ninety percent of the students at Reese had military parents. In our group photo, I was savvy enough to make sure I stood next to Larelia Sadler. That is special to me because she like other kids, didn’t return for 6th grade. That was the sad part on being a military brat.

Mrs. Drake and my 5th grade class

Mrs. Turner was my sixth grade teacher. I really liked her. If I can ever say I was a teacher’s pet, it was in her class. Because I always got to school early she let me clean the chalk board. Sometimes I had help from another fellow who rode his bike.

Mrs. Turner and my 6th grade class.

At the end of the school year dad was transferred to Alaska. We had to leave nine days before school let out. Mom picked me up early that last day and told me that Mrs. Turner had tears in her eyes. I did too because I was leaving kids that I’d been close to for three years. That’s one of the reasons I decided a military career wasn’t for me.

Mr. Harper was principal of Reese. He’d come into the classroom quite often to see how things were going. Thankfully, I never had to visit him in his office.

I’m in both of these photos. Most likely I’m holding a “Hardy Boys” book in the library.

Where special activities were concerned, I belonged to children’s choir. It’s not that I liked to sing. Larelia Sadler was also in there and prodded me into joining. That push on her part helped get me the role of Joseph in a Christmas play. Larelia was Mary. I have a grainy photo that mom took of us on stage.

Sadly, Reese Elementary is no longer. The building is being used as an adult training center. Something tells me that air-conditioning was one of the first upgrades made.

Two out of three of my teachers have passed away. Mr. Harper the principal is gone as well. It’s logical that many former students have joined them. I’m no spring chicken.

I’ll never forget Reese, my teachers, Mr. Harper, and the majority of students. Something tells me that kids attending public elementary schools these days aren’t experiencing quite the same!

B-25 that formerly sat at the gate to Reese Air Force Base

ALL PHOTOS FROM HERE ON TAKEN FROM MY TWO YEARBOOKS PLUS MISCELLANEOUS NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS

I remember this – November 8, 1965 Lubbock paper
I don’t remember this but I was probably there. That was my Cub Scout Pack. – 1965
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
I’m in this choir picture – 1963 – 1964 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook

A GOOD PUPIL?

“The word pupil is hardly used these days unless of course we’re talking about those dark spots in your eyes. Ophthalmologists like to mess with pupils during eye checkups. They dilate them to make sure you can’t see clearly. The procedure is intended to test a patient’s driving skills on the way home.”

Michael Hankins – “Pupil”

I was a “pupil” at one time in my life. Several 1960’s school report cards indicate such. Was I a good pupil? I like to think so.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines pupil as: A young person who is being taught under the supervision of a tutor or teacher, as in school.

I had several outstanding teachers including a couple of imaginary tutors. More on that later.

The word pupil is hardly used these days unless of course we’re talking about those dark spots in your eyes. Ophthalmologists like to mess with pupils during eye checkups. They dilate them to make sure you can’t see clearly. The procedure is intended to test a patient’s driving skills on the way home.

I have all my report cards except 1st grade. Pupil is mentioned on several coffee-stained survivors. I suppose mom and dad inspected them at breakfast, accidentally spilling a few drops of precious Maxwell House while reading.

Gazing at these relics is like cruising back in time. Some of my teacher’s remarks were quite interesting, especially the ones of high praise.

Some of my “pupil” report cards.

Fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hagan wrote:

Michael fails to listen and follow instructions.

Nothing has really changed in that area. What guy does listen and follow instructions? It’s inherent to the species.

Mrs. Drake, my 5th grade teacher was especially observant of my efforts. She wrote the most uplifting critiques of all.

The first 6 weeks:

Mike could do better with a little more effort.

The third 6 weeks:

Mike just doesn’t pay attention.

The fourth 6 weeks:

Mike seems to be improving some.

On the final 6 weeks Mrs. Drake didn’t hold back:

Mike could sure do much better. I just haven’t found the way to get him to put out!

Fifth grade was the year I discovered The Hardy Boys mystery series. I’d stay up into the wee hours of morning reading these intriguing books. Frank and Joe Hardy tutored me on things that I’d never learn at school. Dad and mom didn’t have to pay these guys for private lessons.

A few important tips picked up from Frank and Joe were:

In high school it pays to have a car if you’re going to date.

Hot rods are an acceptable form of transportation.

Hanging with the in crowd is overrated.

It’s okay to be cool and still be friends with squares and introverts.

Adventure comes before homework.

When mom discovered what was going on, she, along with Mrs. Drake thought they’d put a stop to my educational slump by declaring: Lights off at nine. That lasted a good portion of the fourth 6 weeks. Little did they know a small flashlight used the final 6 weeks worked great for reading under covers.

If I ever was a teacher’s pet, it was in Mrs. Turner’s 6th grade class. I believe my quirky sense of humor matched hers. She wasn’t so amused when me and another kid placed Greenie Stick’em Caps on the bottom of desk legs. They popped when a desk chair was sat in, leaving black marks on classroom floor. We were instructed to clean them up under a janitor’s supervision.

In spite of that prank gone awry, Mrs. Turner wrote on back of my last report card for me to visit her that summer. We left for Alaska nine days before school let out. Mom picked me up early that last day. My mother said Mrs. Turner had tears in her eyes. My brother said it was tears of happiness on finally getting rid of me.

Mrs. Turner’s 6th grade class.

I’m not sure where my fictional tutor’s Frank and Joe Hardy are these days? I like to believe they married high-school sweethearts, Callie Shaw and Iola Morton. Author, Franklin W. Dixon never made that clear.

The foursome would now own high-powered metal detectors, poking around golden beaches for treasure chests laden to the gills with gold doubloons and jewels. Of course, their kids and grandchildren would be digging in the sand as well on their own treasure hunting expeditions. Adventure runs thick in Hardy blood.

Age wise, Frank and Joe would be in their mid 90’s. With The Hardy Boys being exercise and health nuts, all of the above is entirely possible where this fictional series is concerned.

I’m so glad they were a part of my life!

Frank and Joe Hardy

LIGHT MY FIRE

“While living in Texas, I learned how to burn ants with a magnifying glass. Just recently, I read an article by a child psychologist, claiming that kids doing such were prone to becoming psychopaths. I’d venture to say that this intellectual wizard never had boys of her own.”

Psychopath?

I can’t say that I dislike all ants. Some of them are fun to watch as long as they aren’t climbing up my leg. I’ve had certain species enter my pants more than once.

The things are amazingly strong. Larger ones can hoist a Cheerio. I’m talking Big O here as in the popular oat cereal. Ants even buddy up and work together to haul food back to their cave. This work ethic should be taught to children in school.

As a child I wanted an ant farm. Some of my friends owned them. Mom was always afraid the plastic ant container would break. What difference did it make when we had them as uninvited guests anyway?

Sugar ants are the first variety I recall. That’s probably not their scientific name, yet it works fine for my reading level. One day there was a line of sugar ants stretched a mile-long across our table to a sugar bowl. It was actually 10-feet, yet to the teeny-legged ants it was definitely a mile.

My brother and I followed the insects down a table leg, across linoleum tile, to a crack in the bathroom floor of our small trailer. The small insects were marching like trained soldiers up a copper water pipe from the ground below. Dad took care of them with a can of DDT bug spray. This stuff came in a green, military issue aerosol can. The Air Force gave it out like candy back then to servicemen, in hopes it’d help keep the mosquito population down. The experiment failed.

As a child, I made the mistake of sitting on grass at our school playground. Unbeknownst to me, the soil underneath was teeming with thousands of Alabama fire ants. All I could do was take off running. Mom used plenty of Calamine Lotion later that afternoon to ease the pain.

Texas red ants were something else. These large creatures were hard to kill. There was a large anthill in front of our home in Lubbock, Texas. My father and another man tossed lit firecrackers onto their lively commune. When fire hit gunpowder, the forthcoming explosion blew ants onto me. I was stupid enough to be standing too close. All the concussion did was make them mad. They took their anger out on soft flesh.

Dad eliminated that colony along with some of his hair, using plenty of gasoline poured on top of the anthill. It was hot that day, and before he struck a match, highly combustible fumes quickly spread several feet. It was like an atomic bomb going off.

This time I was far enough away to not incur injury, but dad and the other fellow got singed. An ensuing fire turned a good majority of the colony into crispy critters. By the following day they were back. It took several more fires to make them move on down the road.

While living in Texas, I learned how to fry ants with a magnifying glass. Just recently, I read an article written by a child psychologist, claiming that kids doing such were prone to becoming psychopaths. I’d venture to say this intellectual wizard never had boys of her own.

Most all of my friends used magnifying glasses for entertainment. We initially started out burning leaves and paper, but quickly advanced to hunting for moving targets. It took skill to keep the pinpoint of light from a magnifying glass trained on a speedy ant. Did any of us turn into psychopaths? I guess that depends on who you ask.

I started to show my son how magnifying glasses worked when he was around 11 years old. A buddy of his had already tutored him. Gunnar demonstrated how to ignite a match with a magnifying glass inside a clear bottle. The snap-on lid blew off from combustion. An elementary teacher taught me that trick around sixth grade. I suppose Mr. Harper would be arrested these days for endangerment.

Black Carpenter ants are abundant in Alaska. They were destructive around our place. A portion of the lower siding around our house had holes made from these pests. They set up shop in the moisture laden plywood. A man at Lowe’s in Anchorage told me the only way to eliminate them is keep wood away from your home. I didn’t say anything at the time, but thought to myself,

“Aren’t houses made mostly of wood?”

I eventually found some granular ant-killer that did them in. The damage to our house? Good ole’ automotive Bondo took care of patching them, along with fixing a few woodpecker holes.

Here in Arizona we have humongous fire ants. These are evidently kin to the Alabama and Texas fire ants, only tougher where outer shell is concerned. I think somehow they got wind that I’m a serial ant killer. I see more and more on our driveway each year.

They’re so resilient, that I’ve stomped a few and the impact didn’t kill them. I’ve missed and had them run towards me as if to attack. They are vicious but I have the ultimate weapon to fight back.

If these guys want to play with fire, I have plenty of it myself. Forget the magnifying glass. I purchased a large weed burner complete with 20-pound bottle of propane. It’s like a WWII flame thrower to me. I’ve used it many times on ants, grasshoppers, and scorpions. Believe me, this thing gets the job done like right now. I named it, “The Antcinerator” for good reason.

It’s unfortunate I didn’t have this tool in Alabama and Texas. It makes dad’s ‘gasoline in the hole’ trick look primitive. Besides, my torch is much safer.

Alaska is another story. Had I ignorantly blasted those pesky Carpenter ants with flame, logic tells me our house would’ve been burnt toast. Even Bondo can’t fix that kind of stupid!

“The Antcinerator”