Submitted by John Lincicome.
The old man was a lifer in the US Army and stationed at Ft Lewis, as such when it was time to get groceries we always went to the Commissary. Mom always did the deed when I was in school, but in the summertime, she drag me with her unless she stopped on the way home from her job at the PX the night before her day off. I’m sposin’ she felt better about knowing where I was at and what I was doin’ as opposed to the alternative.
“Come Liebchen” she’d say in the way a German mom does, ”go wash we’re goin’ to the commissary!”
Oh yay, be still my heart. Franky I wasn’t a fan of the commissary, don’t know why cepin’ it wasn’t a lot of fun for this, petulant, noobradoodle kid.
Back then mom had a 1963 Ford Falcon Futura, it replaced a 1962 Oldsmobile F-85 that the old man had bought her, then wrecked it the year before when he hit a big rock that had fallen upon the roadway in the mountains near Cheyenne Wyoming.
I was with him that day. We were headed for Zanesville Ohio to meet up with his folks, my grandparents on his side of the family, but as luck would have it that pesky rock delayed us a few weeks and essentially changed our plans. After the car was fixed up good enough to go back home, that’s just what we did. When we got there it wasn’t long before he traded theF-85 in at Mallon Motors for 1963 Ford Falcon Futura.
Now, the od man himself preferred larger cars. In fact his daily driver back then was a 1956 Buick 4-Holer. It was a two tone 4-door with an automatic. The thing was as big as a barge, and floated down the road like a barge, too. The old man wasn’t a fan of small cars. He always said he didn’t want no half a car, he wanted a whole car, and big ole Buick 4-Holers was by his definition a “whole” ar. That meant that the Olds F-85 and the Falcon where half cars, I spose.
Now mom liked her half car(s), they fit her 5’-0”, 105lb frame nicely. It fit the old man’s 5-6” 185lb frame pretty good, too, but for some reason he preferred the land yachts.
“I’m ready, mom”. I said.
Mom and I got into the Falcon and she fired it up. She slammed it in reverse and backed out of the driveway onto Washington Blvd. She hated backing out of the driveway into the passing traffic, can’t say I blamed her.
We usually went to the commissary via North Fort instead of the freeway. Mom didn’t like the freeway, she much preferred the slower pace and lack of traffic afforded by the back way through North Fort. I didn’t care much one way or t’other.
Back then the route through North Fort took us past the SS Beach and deposited us by the main gate. Sometimes we ended up goin’ into Ft Lewis via the Dupont entry, but not sure the why or when of those times. For now suffice it to say we went in the main gate. The car had Ft Lewis tags on it so we were always waived through.
We drove past the entrance to Hilllside and thenParkway, passed the gas station that had a zillion pumps, then on up the road a bit where we took a right turn, and the another right into the parking lot of the commissary.
I always looked over at Parkway when we passed it because there was a time when we lived in there. 1816 B if memory serves me right. Went to Parkway Elementary back then too. Had a crush on a girl named Suzy. She was in my 1st grade class. Wonder what ever became of her, eh? Yes. But it’s not for me to know. Fair enough.
Mom pulled in the parking lot and picked a spot as close to the front doors of the place that she could find, and made it her own. She shut down the ar grabbed her pure and said;
“I don’t want to” I said. Not sure why. I spose I was asserting something akin to dumb kid authority.
“I don’t want to, can’t I just stay in the car and wait for ya?”
She must-a-said yes because in a short minute I watched walk away and disappear into the building.
For the next while I watched the comin’s and goin’s of shoppers with full buggies being pushed by kids a few years older than I. Watched as the kids loaded the groceries into the cars then get a “tip” and then take the buggy back inside. I remember thinkin’ Id like to have a job there doin’t that stuff.
Wasn’t long before I started snoopin’ around the car. Openin’ the glove box to see what there was to see in there. Sliding over behind the steering wheel and thinkin’ fancy stuff about what it was like to actually “drive”. It was then I noticed something on the dashboard that I’d never paid much attention to. It was smallish knob. I tried to pull it out but it resisted, so I pushed it back in. Then…
It popped back out again. I couldn’t figure out why it would do such a thing. So I reached for it again and this time it pulled right out. Wholly crap!
The other end of it seemed to be glowing. I looked at it kind-a-close and hard with my good eye. It was red with some sort of spiral affair goin’ on. I sensed heat. And to confirm my senses I decided to test the heat theory with my left thumb…
The thing sure was hot, really hot! When I looked at my thumb it was tattooed with a black spiral affair that turned out to be dead, burnt skin. For criminy sakes. I put that thing back where I’d found it quik fast like with my good hand, and nursed my burnt thumb until mom came back accompanied by one of those young fellas that unload the buggy and get a tip. When the stuff was in the back seat and mom I the front she asked if I’d behaved myself. I didn’t think it wise to tell her I’d been messin’ around and burnt my thumb from that “thing” on the dashboard. She might get angry and stuff like that so I just said;
“Ya mom, ‘ve been good.”
She looked me a look that seemed to say she wasn’t convinced, but without any evidence she’d just let the notion slide to where ever notions like that go, when they slide away.
The drive home seemed long, and my thumb was killin’ me, but I tried not to give my burnt digit any attention on the drive home lest mom would get some of that evidence stuff and I’d be busted. When we got home I had to help unload the groceries and I toughed it out like a good soldier. But as soon as that task was done I hightailed it to the bathroom and shut the door to take a good look and my thumb and run cold water over it.
Kid life is filled with curiosity. Sometimes the reward for all that kid curiosity ain’t what a kid was hopin’ for. But, it is what it is, and ain’t what it ain’t,eh? Yeppers.
As an anecdote, 6 years later (1970) that thumb got cut off in an accident at my first job at Staley Locker & Ice on South Tacoma Way at about 64th or 65th, across the street from Bitterling’s Chevron. I’d inadvertently stuck it in a machine at the wrong time. Anyway, the thumb and evidence are long gone now. So is mom.
Such is kid life…
John L. Lincicome lives in Tacoma and you can read more Kid Life stories on the You Know Your From Lakewood, WA If… Facebook Page. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.