When I was a kid, which was many years ago, we did not have all this concern about food having trans-fats or how much nutrition was in it. You pretty much ate whatever mom gave you. If you did not die or end up in the hospital, the food was fine.
If it tasted good it was a bonus.
We did not have any of those fancy jeans that they have today. When we got our jeans they were made out of real, original rock hard denim. When you put them on, the first thing that you noticed was that the legs did not bend. You had to walk around stiff legged for at least a month before you could loosen them up enough to walk normal again.
It was really bad when you were at school during recess time playing kick ball. Whenever you came up, all the kids on the other team would start shouting out: "Its new jeans! Its new jeans! Everybody come in close for the easy out!"
You were always an easy out because, if you actually managed to kick the ball when it was rolled to you, you would never make it to first base in time to beat out the throw. It's really hard to run when your legs are stiff.
We, also, had the 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM flu, which, usually occurred on a Monday morning. Actually, we did not call it the flu, we called it the plague. You knew that you were going to have the plague on a Sunday night when you weren't going to get your homework done. Since you weren't working on your homework, you would start working on having the plague.
The first thing that you would do is to start coughing. You might want to try this in a place where no one can hear you, at least until you get it down and perfected. Then you would start groaning around bed time and start telling your mom that you didn't feel so well. This is what is known as foreshadowing. You want to give your mom a heads up so she won't be too surprised in the morning when you tell her you have the plague.
The plague would only last until the school bell rang at 3:30 PM the next day. You were suddenly cured. I do believe the sound of the school bell, late in the afternoon, had some kind of curing affect on the plague. You were now ready to go out and play.
Our mom's never could quite grasp that concept and would always keep us inside. I bet if they had the internet back then and browsed the 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM plague, they would have understood what the plague was and let us out to play.
Today's kids are so lucky.
It was during a particular Monday that I was home with the plague and was romping around in my bedroom having a good time, but, always keeping an ear out for my mom. I had to always be ready to go into a hysterical coughing fit, followed by loud groaning if she ever came by my bedroom door. You always had to be prepared to keep yourself from being exposed when you had the plague. If you got caught, it could blow it for every other kid in the entire school. This could cause you to drop on the popularity meter to just below zero.
My house was side to side with our neighbors the Casey's. The Casey's had a son named Chris, who like myself, was in the first grade. Chris was my best friend, back then. Chris was, also, the smartest person in the world, at least as far as I could tell.
Our houses were those big split level houses that were on small plots of land and had about 30 feet between them on either side. My bedroom happened to be on the second level of our house on the side that faced the Casey's house. Fortunately, Chris's bedroom was on the second level of his house, facing ours.
Chris and I would often communicate with each other across the Great Divide, as the distance between our bedrooms was named, using Morse code so that no one knew what we were talking about. This usually consisted of using a flashlight at night, a reflecting mirror on a sunny day, and the yelling out of a combination of beeps and dashes on a cloudy day.
One of the drawbacks of this method was our shallow understanding of Morse code which caused us to end up shouting out the secret words that we were trying to Morse code to each other. We actually had dreams of becoming a telegrapher back then, if we could only get good at Morse coding, until my dad gruffly told us that there weren't any telegraphers left any more.
I guess the telegraphers weren't so good at Morse coding either.
While I was hanging out in my room reading an article on how to make a live bear trap in a copy of Boy's Life magazine on my bed, I suddenly heard some shouting underneath my window. When I looked out my window I saw Chris, dressed in full winter gear, waving and shouting at me. When I opened the window and asked Chris what he was doing, he yelled:
"I have been trying to contact you with our secret Morse code and you weren't answering".
"How did you know I was home?" I asked Chris.
"My mom said you had the plague", he answered. "She found out this morning when she told your mom that I had the plague too".
"Cool", I answered. "Did you do Mrs. O'Leary's homework assignment, the one where we have to describe how to make something useful in the home?"
"Nah", Chris answered. "I couldn't think of anything useful, leastways not in my house. My mom already has everything useful here".
"Well I did, but by the time I found it, it was way too late to start working on it"
"What is it?"
"A live black bear trap. I got the idea from an article in Boy's Life. It tells you how to make one all the way through. I figure something like that could come in real useful to get rid of the bears around your house without hurting them".
"So, how come you're outside?" I asked.
"My mom is taking a nap so I got dressed and snuck out through the utility room door so she wouldn't hear me. She usually sleeps for a few hours. She says that she gets tired from what she calls a Chris headache".
"What is a Chris headache?"
"I'm not sure, but they usually start happening when I'm home and she starts moaning: 'Chris! Chris! Chris! I'm going crazy, I have a Chris headache. I'm going to take a nap'".
"Wow!" I exclaimed. "My mom gets headaches too, but when she gets hers she just says: 'you have no idea how much of a headache I have right now, do you?' I bet those are Chris headaches too".
"What is that blue thing in your hand?" I asked Chris.
"This is what I came over for. This is a fuse"
"What is a fuse?"
"They are things that you screw into a box and they have something to do with having living rooms and washers and dryers and stuff", Chris began. "My dad says that every house has a fuse box and last night he said that all of our fuses were bad".
"My dad only removed one of the bad fuses and has to get a new one today. I want to help my dad by taking out the rest bad fuses for him when he gets home, but I need some help".
"I'll get dressed and be right down. My mom just lay down to take a nap. I think she has a Chris headache", I happily replied.
The temperature that day was about 18 degrees Fahrenheit, which, if converted to Celsius comes out to cold as hell.
I met Chris outside my utility room door and we proceeded to go to his house. Once inside his utility room, Chris pointed to a square grey box that was over four feet high at its bottom. Chris had put a step ladder underneath the box and had opened it. In the box where a bunch of colored, round, things, that had scribbles next to each of them.
Back in the day, houses, unlike those of today, mostly had fuse boxes in them and not circuit breakers. Now a-days, when there is an overload of electricity on a particular circuit, the breaker trips. To fix the breaker, one needs only to reset it. Back then, the electrical overload caused the fuse to blow, which meant that a new fuse had to replace the old fuse.
Chris pointed out an empty slot in the fuse box and said: "See, the fuse from Mister Bedroom is bad. My dad found out it was bad by unscrewing it and putting is up to his ear and shaking it and saying: "&*&@ this fuse is bad".
When I looked at the fuse box, I did see some scribbling next to the empty slot that said Master bedroom, but why question a genius who is at work?
Chris then got up on the step ladder and unscrewed another fuse and put it up to his ear, shook it and said: "&*&@ this fuse is bad!"
So just like that, with Chris' brilliance, we discovered another bad fuse.
As Chris went through the fuse box, unscrewing the rest of the fuses and performing the same test on each one, it was soon discovered that all of the fuses in his fuse box were bad.
We collected all the bad fuses and put them in a small paper bag. After which I said: "Hey Chris, maybe some of the fuses in our house are bad. Why don't we go over to my house and find out". To which he readily agreed.
What was odd, when I was growing up is that whenever the kids in school saw Chris and I together they would all start saying: "Uh no, it's double trouble". To this day, I'm still not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing.
At my house, it did not take long for the smartest person in the world, Chris, to deduce that all of our fuses in our fuse box were bad. We took out all of the fuses in our fuse box and put them in another paper bag.
Afterwards, we pretty much hung out in my utility room talking about how proud our fathers would be to find out just how smart we were, by not only identifying the bad fuses in our fuse boxes, but by removing them all for them.
Now back in the day, pretty much all of the appliances in the house ran on electricity, even the gas heaters, which had electrical indicators which controlled when they should be on or off, depending on the temperature that was set on the house thermostat.
Back then, in the late sixties, houses were not built to be energy efficient. Roofing insulation was thin and the windows even thinner. With an outside temperature of eighteen degrees Fahrenheit, a warm house would get cold rather fast without a running heater.
Somehow, this was something that Chris, the genius had overlooked.
Our back patting was suddenly interrupted by my mom, who had just awakened from her nap, calling out "Michael! Michael! Where are you?"
This was an immediate clue for Chris to quickly disperse and head back across the Great divide to the safety and comfort of his own house. If the two of us were found together, seeing that both of us had the plague, problems could occur.
I quickly ran upstairs and found my mom fiddling with the thermostat to no avail. When she saw me dressed in outdoor clothing that was fit to fend off the cold winds of the arctic she exclaimed: "My goodness, its freezing in here and now you're all bundled up! Why didn't you wake me up if you were so cold?"
Being quite an expert, I sensed that something Chris and I did may warrant us to be declared to be 'in trouble'. I chose to speak the answer that was a sure guarantee to deflect any blame on me and responded: "I don't know".
After several minutes of fiddling with the thermostat, a knock came from the front door.
My mom no sooner opened the door, then in stepped Mrs. Casey herself. Mrs. Casey was obviously shivering and from her apparent exposure to the cold in her house, had actually turned a light color of blue.
I was starting to wonder if she might have concocted the plague too.
As both women conferred, I gathered that neither of our houses had any electricity at all. Mrs. Casey mentioned that their house was so cold that Chris had to dress up in his outdoor jacket and clothing just to keep warm. They both decided to go to the house of another neighbor, Mrs. Harvey, to find out if the electricity in their house was working.
As soon as they left, I quickly ran to Chris's house to tell him of my discovery from my expert spying. It did not take long before Chris deduced that, maybe all of the fuses were not bad and we should probably put them back in. That way, no one would be the wiser and everything would be fine again.
It may have worked, until Chris suddenly remembered something his dad had told him, which was, that every fuse went to a particular place. The scribble in the fuse box that said kitchen had to have the kitchen fuse, the scribble that said washer and dryer had to have the washer and dryer fuse. This caused much confusion between us because all the fuses in Chris' bag looked the same. They were all blue and had no names such as kitchen, living room, etc. on them. They just had numbers and the word amps on them, which Chris took as meaning ants.
What ants had to do with a fuse box was totally beyond both of us.
Somehow, the bag of fuses that I had, differed from the ones that Chris had in the sense that mine contained blue and green fuses, while Chris's contained only blue fuses. We figured it would be easier to replace mine first and then we could use the knowledge gained from the experience to properly replace his.
The problem we quickly ran into was neither one of us could remember where all the blue fuses and green fuses came from in my house's fuse box. As we stood arguing over which fuse went where, my mom had returned to our house unbeknown to us and overheard the commotion in her utility room.
My mom, suddenly burst into the utility room and upon seeing us shouted out: "Oh my God! What have you done? Mrs. Casey and I have just called the county to have them come out and find out what happened to the electricity! You are going to get the strap young man. You are going to be grounded for life!"
I always loved the way my mom showed her loving support whenever I did a good deed to help her and my dad out.
Needless to say, the county electrician rectified the situation at both of our houses and while we both got the strap, we only got a week's worth of being grounded.
Getting the strap is nothing, but getting grounded for a week is still akin to being put on a rack and whipped. At least it was, as far as I could tell.
The following Tuesday evening, the grounded Chris and I found ourselves talking across the Great Divide about our situations. We gave up on the Morse code stuff, since telegraphers weren't good at it either, otherwise, they would still have jobs.
We realized that on the Wednesday following our grounding is the day that we would be going on a class trip to the zoo.
"I've never been to the zoo". I told Chris.
"I have", he responded, "about a million times. I know everything there is to know about the zoo. I'll show you when we get there".
"Cool", I thought to myself. "Chris is the smartest guy in the world. He knows everything. I cannot wait to go to the zoo". Some day he is going to be the greatest scientist of all time, even better that Stein