Friday, April 9, 2010


Back at the dawn of time when I was in 5th grade, (That's elementary school, my dear Watson) I had my first male teacher. Everyone at my school in 5th grade had a male teacher. There were only two 5th grade instructors and they were both men. They both were also German; Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Moore. They made the German language part of the 5th grade curriculum. World War II was a mere 18 years earlier and to this day I do not know which side they were on.

It was in Mr. Moore's class while learning to count in German that the news of President Kennedy death was announced. Ach, du lieber!

It was also in Mr. Moore's class that I first heard of that new rock and roll band called the Beatles. The kids seemed to like them. I thought they were okay, but it wasn't until the Rolling Stones emerged that I went crazy for rock'n roll. All my friends were either a Stones fan or a Beatlemaniac. You were allowed to like them both but you always would favor one over the other. The majority was for the Beatles. This was how I ended becoming best friends with Joe. We bonded over our devotion to the Rolling Stones.

During my 5th grade school year, a new kid moved into the neighborhood. Naturally I was suspiscious of him, there were Commies everywhere. Several months earlier, Nikita Krushchev tried to point missiles at us from Cuba. Kennedy wouldn't stand for it, and the U.S. and Russia had a showdown. Nikita flinched first and had to pull his missiles out. So it was only logical to think that Nikita would try something else, like planting one of his spies in my classroom.

This new kid, Joe, was seated next to me in German class. I kept my eye on him. After a while, since he did not carve a hammer and sickle in his desk, I began to talk with him and found that we had a lot in common. When the Rolling Stones released "Not Fade Away," in March of 1964, Joe and I rode our bikes to Miracle Mart where we purchased the 45 release. While others were playing "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There," Joe and I were listening to "Tell Me" and "Time Is On My Side." The Beatles were called the Fab Four. Our Stones were referred to as the Rolling Uglies. But that did not matter to us, we were in it for the music, not the band's good looks.

1964 radio was staggered by Beatle/Stones songs. A Beatle song was released in one month and the following month a Stones tune hit the airways. In 1964, there was 6 singles at the top of the charts by the Rolling Stones. There were 10 by the Beatles. The Beatles had several "double-sided" hit singles; i.e. side-A "All My Loving" and side-B "This Boy."

I'm not trying to down grade the Beatles. I cannot think of a single Beatle song that I do not like. I am saying that as I remember 1964, the Rolling Stones was the band for me. They introduced raunchiness into my life. They made it okay to be different. I was able to see that sometimes bad can be good. The Shangrilas sang "He's good bad, but he's not evil." They could have been singing about Mick Jagger.

So Joe and I became best friends because of the Rolling Stones. I think of Joe at least twice a year. On April 2nd, which was the day he was born. And on June 6th, the die he died. But I don't want to talk about that right now. I'm reliving 1964. That was the year of Boy Scouts, paper routes, and the Rolling Stones.

It was Joe's step-father that started a Boy Scout troop at our school. The reason Joe was new in the neighborhood is as follows. His parents had divorced several years earlier and when his mother remarried, the new dad had bought a home in Center Line. He moved his bride and her children into the home. He adopted Joe and his two sisters. He was what every father should be; devoted to his family. He went above and beyond the call of fatherhood. When he found that Center Line did not have a local chapter of the Boy Scouts, he started one. At first there were maybe five or six of us kids, but by the next year there were a few dozen. Joe's father was the Scout Master, and his uncle was the assistant Scout Master. Most of us original scouts were either Joe's cousins or friends. Being a boy scout was corny and cool at the same time.

In the summer of 1964 I got my first paper route. It covered one street and had 28 customers. I still recall the number. Twenty-eight customers is a very small route. You had to buy paper routes from retiring newsboys. Each newsboy had a certain area assigned to him, and he could only develop new customers in that area. I was pretty maxed out customer-wise, so I looked for a bigger route. I found one after Christmas of 64. No boy likes to sell his route before Christmas. That is when he gets the biggest tips. So in January of 65, I gave my smaller route to Joe and I took on the bigger location. My new route was a townhouse complex behind Miracle Mart, a local department store. The people in the townhouses were haphazardly moving in and out, so the size of my route was in constant flux. I could have as few as 65 customers or as many as 100. Imagine 100 copies of the Sunday Detroit News jammed into bags being hauled on the bicycle of a twelve year old through streets covered by snow. Remember, this is before global warming and Michigan's winters would snow three or four feet every day.

For Christmas of 1964, I was given a present by Joe. It was the album "12 x 5" by the Rolling Stones. He wanted to show his appreciation for the the paper route I was giving him. Great album, but I did not understand the title right away. Joe explained "'12 x 5' means 12 songs by the 5 Rolling Stones." This was the first of many "Duh" moments in my life.

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