Two Ronnies

Two Ronnies:

Meet Ronnie Hart and Ronnie Hart. It isn’t often, or ever as was my case, that you hear of cousins on the paternal side, within the same age range having the same given names. It never occurred to me to wonder. But I did find it curious at some point, even during my younger years. Does anyone ever think about how they acquired their names when they are very young… I don’t think so?

In my case Ronnie Hart the senior was (I’m guessing), three or four years older than me. So there was no doubt that name was already taken. Now, who is this little pip squeak that shows up bearing the same moniker? Well it turns out… an angel put me on the doorstep and left a name tag that said… “this is Ronald Arthur” and if you want to keep him you may. Just add your family name to his and he won’t know the difference. Little Ronnie promised us that he wouldn’t eat much and would try not to be a bother. If you should have problems with his behavior, there is a return label attached to his diaper pin. You can, if need be, reattach the label to his front pocket button hole and place him near the curb. The Sheeny Man comes by regularly on 32nd Street and will know where to take him.

Fortunately for me, the Hart’s decided they liked me and would give me a try. I was happy to become a Hart.

Even though he wasn’t my namesake, Ronnie Hart the older, was really a cool guy, he built model airplanes. His dad, my Uncle Bill, put together this huge model train set in their basement taking up the entirety of the room. It was a fun place to visit and I always looked forward to being there and seeing them.

Ronnie Hart (the older), let’s call him “good Ronnie”, was the ideal son. He was also the ideal grandson, cousin, and nephew. I think he surely loved animals as well and they loved him. As best I can recall not a bad word was ever spoken about good Ronnie. And, did I mention, I liked him a lot too.

Good Ronnie, very early in his life, decided he was going to be a Catholic Priest. It is extremely hard not to like someone who is going to be a priest. Especially those members of the family that might need some help one day gaining admittance, or getting a front row seat at one of those heavenly shows; I don’t think they are showing movies just yet, and I don’t think they have internet either. I believe it is mostly fireworks? At our celebrations, and family feasts, I’m also guessing Good Ronnie always got the biggest pieces of cake and the bigger drumstick, than did the rest of the smaller cousins group? I wish I had thought of becoming a Priest first.

My becoming a Priest, unfortunately, couldn’t happen. My mother was a protestant and my Dad of course was Catholic (there is a longer story here and not the intent of this missive). As for me, I wasn’t allowed to become a Catholic and go to the Catholic Church. So, I thought, I really hadn’t much chance of being as popular within the family hierarchy as my good cousin Ronnie? I remember it was painful for me, because all I really wanted was to feel I belonged, like the rest of my cousins.

Keep in mind the Harts were a huge Catholic family; a huge Catholic Polish family and its center was Grandma Hart, who was by then a widow. Having had thirteen children, as best as I can count, there were many Uncles, Aunts, and cousins about, and they were all strictly administered, in their Catholic ways, by the family matriarch. This put my mother at a huge popularity disadvantage within the purview of her mother-in-law. It was the source of one of her many frustrations with being a Hart… she had many of those.

The Good Ronnie did become a Priest and became a missionary in Africa. As for me, the not quite so good Ronnie, I did finally become a Catholic. That was shortly after leaving home to join the Air Force. I quite gleefully sent my mother a postcard to that effect.

Many years later, Ronnie “the Good” left the Priesthood, and my religious experience was short lived. My concern was all for naught, the Hart’s loved me and I still love being a Hart.

Gun Smoked

GUN SMOKED

Where was the NRA when I needed them? I believe, my second amendment rights were smoked… way back when.

My Uncle Bernie, recently married to my mother’s younger sister, came to live with us during my cowboy heyday. He was looking for work in the auto industry after giving up his job driving a Coca-Cola truck. He and my Aunt Mary wanted to migrate north from Loogootee, Indiana. Why, I thought then, would anyone want to give up driving a Coca Cola truck? My uncle had the most beautiful wavy hair I had ever seen. I asked him one day “how does your hair do that?” He told me it was all in his comb and if I liked he would get me one next time he went back to Loogootee. I assumed for a long time he didn’t go back… so unfortunately my hair remained very straight, and remains so today.

One Saturday afternoon I was all Cowboy’d up doing my thing. I sat astraddle a cushion in the middle of the living room listening to a cowboy radio show of some sort. When, out of nowhere, my dearest Uncle Bernie with his bountiful waves of hair, said to my Dad “I’m not going to let my kids grow up with double holstered guns strapped to their waist pretending to be something they’re not.” He went on to elaborate …it can’t be healthy for kids to play with toy guns. They should be taught to respect firearms and not pretend to be shooting bad guys. Ronnie will, if you are not careful, grow up to be… this is where it got sticky for uncle, because he couldn’t come up with what he thought I was going to be, or who I was going to shoot as soon as I was able.

I wish I could have then invoked my second amendment rights, right then and there. But, I am sorry to relate: my Dad told me to take off my guns and put them away.

It was about this time, within moments actually, a pot of chili came flying out of the kitchen bouncing off the floor and onto the dining room wall. My life changed from that moment in two ways: first, I don’t ever recall putting my guns back on again, second… and for certain this time, I became really afraid of my Mother.

My Dad remained calm as he lay on the couch. Uncle Bernie sat dumbfounded as I took to de-cowboying myself. My Dad did drink a lot and my mother lived a life of frustration with him. He was a kind man and was always a good provider. I don’t recall him ever missing a day’s work. My mother on the other hand was quick tempered and would lash out unexpectedly. I don’t remember her ever whispering a kind word to me about my Dad in my lifetime. He had a big heart but, he needed a beer for breakfast.

These things are hard to talk about now, after all the years… but it is cathartic to recall when you remember drastic changes in your life. The switch flips and at the time you aren’t even aware it has happened. It seems so easy to put together now.

It was perhaps a year or two before my cowboy fantasy was extinguished, when I was around seven, I recall coming home from school for lunchtime. I knocked on the back door, it was locked and no one answered, so I went to the front door and no one answered there either. The shades were all pulled down, so I went back to the rear door and tried it a second time. Still no answer; I went back to school. When I returned home after school, coming in through the back, my mother grabbed and started shaking me asking why I hadn’t come home for lunch. Of course I tried to explain… then out came the paddle.

Uncle Bernie, as best I can recall, didn’t stay long at our house. He did however get a job and moved with my Aunt Mary to an upstairs apartment just down the street on 32nd. His first child Larry, I made sure, inherited a very big part of my cowboy get up… including the doubled holstered guns, and later some model airplanes I had built. Cousin Larry grew up to be a well-rounded human being, even though he suffered the results of our coercing him into throwing rocks at the bee hives, down on the farm. My Aunt Mary never forgave me and Cousin Dan for that… sorry Larry!

Years later, well after I had raised a family, I recall asking my Mother “why, as a family custom, we never kissed each other goodnight?” Her reply was, “you were never an affectionate child.” Where had I gone wrong?

Real Cowboys

Real Cowboys

cowboyRonI knew what a real cowboy looked like from a very early age. I saw one once, in-person live, at the Olympia Stadium (home of the Red Wings) in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1940’s. My Aunt Inez took me to see him.

My Aunt Inez, my mother’s older sister, lived with us and she and I shared the upstairs attic in our house on 32nd Street. She lived with us for a very long time, and it was custom for other of our relatives to come and live with us for short periods of time, while looking for work in the auto industry. It was  boom time for auto makers after the war. The war products machines had come to a halt and factories went back to doing what they liked doing best… creating cars.

My Aunt InezBack then we had streetcars in our neighborhood and the lines were very close to where we lived so, we didn’t need a car ourselves. Except on special occasions, like when my dog Tippy bit me in the face. My dad somehow borrowed a car to take me to the doctor to get my series of rabies shots, lest I become rabid and unpleasant to play with. I still don’t take well to getting shots even today. That, was not a pleasant experience.

hopalong_cassidyMy Aunt rode the streetcars to and from work everyday, and on Fridays (her pay-day), she never failed to bring me home something of a cowboy nature. Comic books, little pairs of spurs, a neckerchief, guns and holsters, chaps, a cowboy hat! Now, “Cowboy Hats” are where I draw the line, I knew what kind of hat a real cowboy wore, because I had seen one live at the Olympia. Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and other Cowboy impersonators (even if they sang well), if they wore the so called ten gallon hats, they were not real cowboys in my mind. FYI: Ten Gallon is a corruption of a Spanish phrase “un sombrero tan galan,” meaning “Such a fine hat.” Real cowboys didn’t wear “Fine hats.”

royrogersSeeing the Roy Rogers show at the Olympia, when I was at such an impressionable age, really did it to me. I became an expert on how cowboys looked and dressed. I saw the whole shebang: Dale Evans,  Roy’s horse Trigger, and what I thought was a real rodeo. The magic of the cowboy show ended way to soon,  but I knew right then that I wanted to be a cowboy. Or at least look like one.

Passions for things of the old west, that stirred me as a young lad, still do so today. Roy Rogers was my real cowboy then and still my favorite, even though I had an affair with the Lone Ranger… when he first appeared on television in the late forties. I took great notice that he too didn’t wear a ten gallon hat.

Kids in the neighborhood were aware of my cowboy thing. Little Eddie, who lived next door, commented to me one day “you know Ronnie, you look like a real cowboy.” That turned out to be one of my best memories ever. After all these years, that I can recall those words is simply amazing to me today.

I learned later in life that Ken Curtiss, who played Festus on the Gunsmoke series, a TV Western from the fifties, sang with the group called “Sons of the Pioneers.” Roy Rogers also performed with them in several of his movies. Please enjoy listening to this old west standard. It still causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up straight. That in itself says something about one’s childhood passion running amuck and perhaps reason for my now living in a remote area of Montana. Click the image below and you will want to be a cowboy too.

kenCurtiss_tumbleweeds

First Flight

First Flight

patsyB-Ronnie-2_1944I need to make a retraction, as to my previous blog, where I referred to my very first flight being with my cousin Harold Colbert. Actually, as you can see in this photograph (which I resurrected only today), my first time in an airplane was with my kissing cousin Patsy. It is clear to me in this photo that she was in charge, even though I was in the left seat. It is generally assumed that the pilot in command of an airplane sits in the left seat, and is known as the captain. But, as I recall it, Patsy was always in charge no matter where she sat.

patsyB-Ronnie-1_1944I lost my friend Patsy recently. It has been many years since we went our separate ways after High School and I only remember her as Patsy Baron. I guess it comes with the territory, of now living into my mid-seventies, that separated by time and distance, I probably have lost many old friends that I am not aware of?

Patsy’s parents, John and Barbara, were the best of friends with my parents during a difficult period in our countries history. Beginning in the depression era with the Civilian Conservation Corp. and the Second World War which followed, they remained friends for as long as I can remember. We socialized so much during our younger years, I always thought of Patsy and her siblings as cousins. Encouraged by our parents… I think we would be what were then known as… kissing cousins. Patsy took charge of that as well. Keep in mind, in these pictures we were only three years old at the time. I think I was a little older but not by much.

I am sorry I wasn’t able to stay in touch with Patsy and her family during these past 50+ years. I would want her to know that she always had a place in my heart, along with the fond memories of the family friendship we shared.

War Chief

War Chief

The name Harold is a Norse baby name. In Norse the meaning of the name Harold is: War chief.

“People with this name tend to be orderly and dedicated to building their lives on a solid foundation of order and service. They value truth, justice, and discipline, and may be quick-tempered with those who do not. Their practical nature makes them good at managing and saving money, and at building things in the material world. Because of their focus on order and practicality, they may seem overly cautious and conservative at times.” (credit to sheknows.com)

Oddly, I would never have suspected how so many people named Harold would have or could have had such an affect on my life and future. There was Harold Kuhn, Harold Hart, and Harold Colbert. And, to the best of my knowledge, none of these three were War chiefs.

The Three Harolds:

haroldKuhn-2Harold Kuhn(1) – was responsible for my being, period. He was my biological father. As a marine, on his way to war in the pacific, sent a postcard to my 32nd Street address, where I fought the war as a toddler, not knowing of his existence(see “The Postcard” blog entry).

We did meet forty-five years later and I enjoyed our relationship and I was able to meet my two half sisters, Mary and Alyce. And, this is really weird, in fourth grade I was infatuated with a classmate named Mary Alice. But, I wasn’t into kissing girls just yet… until, along came Fran(I may get to that at a later date).

Harold Hart(2) – was the son of my father’s older brother Uncle Ted. That makes Harold Hart my cousin. He was a mystery to me chiefly because I never met him. He would stop by our house every now and then, but for some reason I was never there. He would leave things: a roll of pennies, a comic book, a model airplane.

My questions about this mystery cousin were never answered or, more than likely, they were unanswerable? Where does he live?, don’t know! What does he do?, don’t know! When is he coming back?, don’t know that either. And, to this day, I’m not sure what really ever happened to my cousin Harold Hart. I did find out recently, from his niece Nancy, that he was an Aeronautical Engineer and lived in Southern California. After growing up in Michigan… it’s strange that Southern California is where I lived and where I finally met up with my birth father, Harold the First. Not a War Chief either.

haroldColbert-1Harold Colbert(3) – was my mother’s Aunt’s son, which made him her cousin, which made me a second cousin… I think? Harold Colbert, unlike my other cousin, I managed to meet a couple of times. He was a pilot during the Second World War.

A few years after the war, he paid us a visit in Michigan and took Danny and Me for our first ever airplane ride. It was a Stinson. Stinson Aircraft were made in our area and it turns out my birth mother was working for the Stinson Aircraft Company just before I was born. I don’t know, “this Harold” might have had some War Chief in him?

Harold the first drops me of on 32nd Street. Harold the second leaves me a model airplane and I continue to build every model airplane I can get my hands on. Until, as a teen, I discover getting hands on girls is fun too. Harold the third takes me for an airplane ride and I am hooked and I spend the rest of my life in the pursuit of flying airplanes. I retired as a Captain at American Airlines, in December of 2000 at age 60, having flown all over the world. Oh my, what a career that was.

To conclude, I find it interesting how people can cycle through your life in short bursts of time and yet have a drastic impact on what direction your life takes. Not to mention the fact they all have the same name. Is there a Saint Harold that I don’t know about? I am sure I haven’t met him either, nor am I likely too.

Egghead & Mule-Ears

Egghead & Mule-Ears:

It isn’t easy, even after all these years, to put aside references made to your physical being as a young child. As children, we are all self conscious about so many things. All we want to do is belong and not be different. The world is so new your first few years, every day is like a new breath. Comments made, even in jest, linger in your mind’s eye of how you are being perceived by your adult superiors. They are so big and their bigness is all controlling. My cousin Danny and I idolized our cousin’s that were down on the farm. Way down there in Maysville, where we always looked forward to our summers.

I can’t recall what year it may have started, but I know who did it. I certainly never held it against him, but it was my oldest cousin Don that nicknamed us Egghead and Mule Ears. I was Egghead and cousin Dan was Mule-Ears. Don had this great laugh with an accompanying great sense of humor. He laughed easily and often. He died a little over twenty years ago and I miss him.

Of course the Egghead thing didn’t just die down on the farm. I recall my mother, now back in Michigan, taking me up the street on 32nd to the barber shop. Her strict instruction to the barber was always, please be careful so as to not trim the back of my head to closely, for fear my big head would be more noticeable. There are only one or two answers for this dilemma my mother put herself in: one is, she didn’t want anyone to tease me about my head shape: or two, she didn’t want to have people think she had produced this little creature. I learned much later in my life of her vanity, so I’m guessing it was the latter.

My cousin Danny and I eventually grew into our abnormally shaped appendages and no one today could ever expect that we were known as Egghead and Mule-Ears… way down on the farm.