Who Do You Think You Are?



In Waco - the first time - we lived in Gorman Avenue and I walked to school every morning. Crestview Elementary was only about a ten-minute walk from my house. I was enrolled in Mrs Nichol's second grade class, and stayed at Crestview for the grades 3 and 4, after which the family moved to Randolph Field near San Antonio, Texas, where he attended the base school for grades 5 and 6 and half of grade 7. Then we moved back to Waco where I completed 7th grade and all of 8th before my father's retirement and our eventual journey to California.

You're OLD WACO If....  


The Elite Cafe was the first place we stopped when we pulled into Waco late one-night. The restaurant was across "The Circle" from the Tam O'Shanter Inn, which was where we ended up getting a room for a week while my parents looked for a house to rent.

The Elite will be eternally associated in my mind with peanut butter - This was the place where my mother bought my peanut butter sandwiches for school lunch. Why my mother didn't buy bread and peanut butter and make them herself I don't know. Maybe there wasn't a fridge in the motel room. Or maybe it was yet another manifestation of her loathing for "cooking". We stayed in the motel and ate at the Elite until we found a house to rent, on Gorman Avenue.

My Dad had received a duty posting in Waco, Texas, after returning from Korea, so shortly before New Years Eve, we packed up the green Oldsmobile and left San Mateo, California, headed south and then east across Arizona and New Mexico to our new home in "the heart o' Texas - which was what Waco called itself. 

My father had a habit of driving on and on and on into the night and I remember arriving in Waco very late and getting a motel room in one of the few motels that still had a VACANCY sign flashing. The Tam O'Shanter Inn (right) was one of a number of motels and cafes located on Waco's infamous "Circle", which is now bypassed by the Interstate.  There's a story about a Some people can’t handle the Circle, but I love it. Back in high school, a girl who had just gotten her license and got stuck on the traffic circle. She drove around it several times before she finally called her pastor, panicked, and asking for advice. She didn’t call her father because he might have laughed at her or, worse, been angry since she probably wasn’t supposed to be driving in that area.  


The 25th Street Theatre was a favorite hangout of mine between the ages of 7 and 9. Located near my parents' house on Gorman Avenue, the theatre featured Saturday morning "kiddie" matinees, screening Little Rascals and Three Stooges shorts, and serials before the main feature. In the 1956 Presidential election the theatre ran a kiddie straw poll where we got a chance ti cast our votes (ticket stubs) for the candidate of iour choice. In the contest between Eisenhower and Stevenson, Eisenhower won easliy. This is memoralised in my poem, "Learning America". 

BELOW: Interior of the 25th St Theare.



ABOVE: The Imperial Theatre in down town Waco was opened in the mid-1950s and was arguably the coldest movie theatre in Texas. The air-conditioning was so extreme you never turned up in shorts, even on the hottest of summer days.  The Imperial also holds the rather dubious distinction of being the location where one of the most horrific urban legends originated. I first heard about it - or perhaps I should say "overheard about it" - when I was nine or ten. My mother and older sister, Barbara,  were discussing something they'd heard in rather hushed tones, a story about a nine-year-old boy whose mother had dropped him off at the Imperial Theatre one Saturday morning while she did some shopping. During the film, he had to use the toilet. Alone in the gent's room, he was accosted by a stranger whp cut off his penis. It scared the hell out of me, and for many years a I avoided going to using restrooms unless in the company of an adult. The cold cold Lobby of the Imperial is shown below.




ABOVE and BELOW: Crestview Elementary School in Waco Texas, where I attended the last half of second graade (Mrs Nichols), 3rd grade (Miss Hynes) and 4th grade (Miss Holman).

BELOW: Crestview Elementary School cafeteria and my first stage. I played the part of the Ugly Duckling in the play of the same name. The teacher chose me because I wasn't afraid to get up in front of an audience and because I was the largest kid in the class.  

The cafeteria was also the venue for a visit by two, star football players from Baylor in 1955, the legendary Bill Glass and Del Shafner, who entertained the whole school with jokes and various stories. The one I rememberd involved a boy that disrespected his grandmother's wishes that he not play with her knitting needles. When he continued to do so, the grandmother was so angry she decided to make an example for him. Picking up one of her heedles in one hand and grabbing hold of his hand with her other, she raised the needle high over her head. As she brought the needle, she released the boy's hand and drove the needle through her open palm, Midst the blood and horror she said calmly: "And that's why you don't play with these things."  Talk about making a point! Needless to say, the story made a lasting impression on me, which I s'pose was why Bill told it. I wonder how such a story would go down today?  


Me in 1957


              SAN  ANTONIO           

SAN ANTONIO was my next home in Texas - well, actually Randolph Air Force Base outside of San Antonio. We moved there in 1957. My first memory was arriving in town early one morning and having breakfest at the Longhorn Restaurant, which looked the same as it does in the postcard (ABOVE).  You could say my family was never so happy as they were with a emnu in their hands, but then most American families I knew were like this... and we had more than our fair share of menus given the fact that we moved interstate every few years and in between times were visiting the relatives in West Virginia. I must've spent weeks if not months of my childhood in the backseats of automobiles or in motel rooms. 

Randolph Field from the air. Our house was located at 27 Inner Octagon. You can find it in the photo by following the diagonal street that is pointing towards the bottom right of the postcard. Go up the single diagonal street, moving towards the center (which is the Officers' Club. At the "inner octagon" turn right - our house is second on the right. The blueish coloured rectangle across the street from us is the roof of a communal parking lot, which my friends and I used to use as a pretend fort, a kind of imitation Alamo, where we kept the neighbourhood safe from the Mexicans and Indians.


Our house looked much like this except for the pots and flowers along the entrance walk. When I lived there - between the ages of 10 and 12 - I thought it rather huge and grand - a virtual manison. Facing the house. the living room was on the left, the dining room on the right, with adjoining kitchen, and three bedrooms and two baths upstairs. My bedroom was at the back. We also used the fireplace in the winter. Some great Christmases were had in this house.




(Left)  Favorite eating establishment, with restaurants in both Waco and San Antonio, was YOUNGBLOOD'S FRIED CHICKEN.




(Above) Traffic on the road between Waco and James Connelly Air Force Base, where I lived in 1956 and again in 1960-61.


(Above) Popular kids' television show, which I watched in the 1950s in Waco, Texas, was the Uncle Elihu Show. Uncle Elihu - holding a guitar in the photo above - was made-up to look like an old codger, but was really a young guy in his 20s. It ran five days a week, after school, in front of a "live" kiddie audience.

(Above) The first record album I ever owned was this Decca soundtrack disc. I had seen the movie at a theatre in Waco, and loved it. I remember playing this over and over again in my bedroom when I was eight. I had most of the songs memorised and would some times tilt the shade back on my lamp to make a spotlight and sing along with the record. I think this was when I first developed a taste for public performance. My only audience at the time was my mother, who told my third grade teacher that I did "a marvellous show in my bedroom". Later my teacher told me she had heard about "the Bill Marshall Show" and wondered if I might perform it in front of the class. What did I know?  Here was a chance to see what it would be like to perform before an audience of more than one. Course, there really was no show, just me singing along to Ethyl Merman and Johnny Ray. The looks on the faces of my classmates said it all.                                        


My first girlfriend,  taken  during the time we were  both  students at James Connally High School, Waco Texas, and going steady...

I remember being round at Sharon's place one afternoon, and listening to a recording of her father's, which she like a lot. It was on a 45rpm record. We sat on the porch and listened to Andy Griffth's legendary football monologue, "What it was was football".