Where Were You Dec 7, 1941?

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

I was just short of a year old,having been born the day after Christmas,1940. I was still in three cornered pants but no longer taking meals on the other side of blouse buttons.There is an old silver cereal dish with one helluva load of dents in it and my name on it, proving that my table manners didn't improve a whole lot between my high chair days and my REQUIN messdeck days... Except that early on, folks didn't try to stick a fork through your hand on the way to a second helping of mashed potatoes.

I don't actually remember a whole lot about the bombing of Pearl Harbor... I don't think the noise reached Rome, Georgia. If it did, the noise from the Anchor Duck Mill covered it up.

I never really understood that my old man went off to war. I just remember that he turned up again in 1946, started bossing everybody around, started spending way too much time with my mother and #1 pal (Actually getting into bed with her at night).

He also stopped my mom from taking me in the ladies room. In the 1940, moms hauled their little boys into ladies rooms... They also licked handkerchiefs to wipe dirt off your face. I never really figured out the distinction between your mom licking a hanky and wiping stuff off of you or spitting on somebody... Except the latter could get your nose punched in.

Going into men's rooms with the 'bossy man back from overseas' was neat. He threw Camel cigarette butts in the urinal and you could chase them back and forth with your pee streams... Or if he wasn't smoking, you could have pee-pee stream sword fights. Most women probably fail to see the importance of this in the life of a kid getting to know his dad.. .It was a big thing because it was really neat and something I had never done with my mom for reasons that should be self-explanatory.

He taught me all kinds of neat things, like how to blow the paper off a soda straw and how to poke a hole in a tincan,stick a firecracker fuse through it, pack it with mud,set it up in the street... Light the fuse with a lit cigarette and watch the sonuvabitch go damn near a mile in the air and come down on some poor unexpecting bastard's roof. He taught me that belching and putting salted peanuts in your Coke at a baseball game were okay if there were no ladies present... He said the same applied to the words "hell","gahdammit", "bastard" and "sonuvabitch", which seemed to have definite restrictions attached to the locations where appropriate. Experimentation showed beyond any reasonable doubt that Mrs. Temple's first grade class, Sunday school and anywhere within two miles of my mother and grandmother, were not included on the list of appropriate places.

He also explained that whatever I needed to know about buck nekkit ladies would be a subject of a several year downline discussion... Kids in East Tennessee usually got around to buck nekkit lady research way before the subject ever came up in conversation with their dads.

Cokes were 5 cents... A phone call was 5 cents... A newspaper was 5 cents... Sunday school collection plate took 5 cents... A pack of NABs was 5 cents... A box of Black Crows, Ludens Cough Drops, a Baby Ruth, Good and Plentys, and a ride to town on the St. Elmo bus were all 5 cents. All you needed in life were bare feet, a big stupid grin and a pocket full of nickles.