1956

Our house in Norwalk was almost back-to-back to the Stone family house with an alley and two concrete-block walls between them.  My grandmother (Marian Margaret Pfister Booth 1902-1971) lived with us and she would sometimes babysit the three Stone boys (Cameron [1946-2012], Bruce & Ian).  She knew the boys before I did.  They lived with their father, James G. (Jim) Stone (1921-2011) and their first step-mother, Ellen.  She was a pretty woman and a left-handed bowler.  Ellen put Cameron the oldest in the Norwalk Bowl Bantam League (ages 9-12) on Saturday mornings and she was looking for other kids in the neighborhood to join.  So, we started bowling together.  I remember that we would run into the bowling alley and look for our favorite house balls.  My favorite was #242.  My first two games were 35 and 63.  Bantams just bowled two games.  I finished the league with a fabulous average of 73.  One day Ellen left Jim and never came back.  Cameron quit bowling in league after a while but I never did.  The Stone boys joined Cub Scouts and Little League Baseball but I did not because so many of the activities were on Saturdays.  I was just as good at baseball as them but I preferred bowling.  I used to go to as many of the the baseball games as I could.  I remember that Cameron played in the minor league and in one game he made a good catch in the outfield to save a no-hitter for his team's pitcher (John Cadena).  Bruce was a left-handed pitcher and the only one of the Stone boys to play in the Little League majors.

Cameron was the leader of the neighborhood kids.  I was his sidekick and technical advisor.  The core group also included Cameron's brothers and another friend, Danny (Schulenburg) .  We would gather other minions as needed.  On summer days, we would meet at the Stone house and decide what to do for the day.  It was an ideal location because there was almost no adult supervision.  Jim had hired a live-in housekeeper who had a young son (Stevie) but she paid little attention to the boys and vice versa.  Sometimes we would go down the street to see a girl named Robbie (Roberta Jackson).  She could have probably beaten any of us if she wanted.  Cameron had a thing for Robbie but the rest of us kept our distance. 

Summer was for outdoor activities and we had something going every day.  We had the run of the neighborhood and the local elementary school (Anna M. Glazier) kept the playground open all summer.  Sometimes we would organize a football game against another neighborhood.  Or maybe we would play baseball in the street or just play catch for hours and hours.  One of us would be Willie Mays and the other would be Duke Snider and we would practice making game-saving catches.  We might use the whole neighborhood for a game of ringolevio (capture the flag) with as many as 10-15 members on a team.  We would also have huge games of Red Rover (that we called "Barnyard") at the schoolyard with everyone in a giant line trying to get from one side of the field and back.

We flew kites, organized boxing matches, hunted for lizards in the river bed, traded baseball cards & comic books, and would have elaborate marble-shooting tournaments.  One year, Cameron and I invented a machine to collect our marbles from those who missed our boulder marble on the sidewalk.  We automated marbles in 1957 (could have been 1958).  We liked to camp out overnight in one of the backyards.  We were self-sufficient using our camping kits to cook breakfast in the morning.

We all had bicycles and yo-yos.  We would practice our yo-yo tricks and ride to other schools for contests.  Cameron was the best at yo-yo tricks.  He finished in first place in one of the tournaments.  We also decided to build go-carts one summer.  We used wooden boxes and old roller skates to make our own designs and then painted them.  I remember that I took an old can of green paint from my dad's garage.  The paint had evaporated somewhat but I used it anyway.  Who knew about paint thinner?  That paint never did dry for the whole summer.  I must have had green stains all over my clothes.

We were the neighborhood entertainers organizing carnival games, shuffleboard tournaments, croquet tournaments and pogo-stick contests.  We had wild imaginations and way too much energy.

The parents of our friend Danny had a cabin in Lake Arrowhead and we got the wild idea (in 1959 I think) that we would like to go stay at the cabin by ourselves (Cameron, Danny & me) for a week.  To our great surprise, all of our parents agreed to it.  It had been a mild winter so there was no snow but I remember that Danny found a big piece of ice and hit me on the back of the neck with it.  It hurt like the devil. 

We cooked all of our own meals and played games at night.  There was no television.  During the days, we hiked all over the place.  I remember that we had the worst plate of spaghetti that you could imagine.  None of us knew that you were supposed to rinse the pasta after cooking it.  We were also very disappointed that we could not get Jiffy Pop to pop at 5,000 feet elevation.  Danny's dad picked us up on Friday but he was not impressed with our housekeeping skills.

One summer day in Norwalk, Danny, Cameron & I decided to become "blood brothers."  I think this was Danny's idea.  We did this in the Stone family kitchen.  We all cut a finger and merged our blood.  Then we dripped blood on a stick and buried it in the backyard.  Peer pressure is a powerful force.

After junior high school, Jim Stone remarried and the Stone family moved from Norwalk to Downey.  That summer I rode my bicycle to Downey on many of the summer week days to play with them and continue the adventures since there was still no adult supervision during the day.  We had a great childhood. [JAM 8/29/2010]