His name was Larry. Born at the end of the Second World War, he was the middle child, only son of an unhappy couple. Sandwiched between my older sister Mona who was 3 years older than him, 7-1/2 years older than me. We lived in a small town in northwest Iowa called Rock Valley. Predominately Dutch, safe, isolated, sheltered. Larry was all boy, who at 5, jumped off an old shed behind our house on a dare, hit his face pretty good, and had to have his first school picture taken of his “good” profile that year.
He played marbles, cats eyes, steelie and shooters. Went pigeon hunting at night, him and the pigeons flitting among the high rafters in barns with Dad. Never showing any fear. He had a slight speech impediment, problems with his r’s, which sounded something like, “moth-tha, can I have a qua-ta?” While he was in grade school, Larry was quietly slipped out of class regularly for speech therapy. He was well liked, and had many friends. Plus me, his little sister, who worshiped the ground he walked on. Once when I was a toddler, Larry caught me sitting underneath his rabbit hutch in back of the house, munching on what I thought were raisins. He protected me and kept me on the straight and narrow after that little incident.
|Larry 8 and me about 4…|
We got along well, Larry and I. My nickname was Neese. We each had their own friends, but in our early childhoods, lived on the fringe of town. If Larry was playing with Glen, I was probably playing with his little sister. So much of the play was inter-mingled. Outside was the place to be unless it was dinner time (noon meal) or supper. Couldn’t get enough of outside. Hot, humid, blacktop that shimmered in the summer, neither of us wore shoes, but could high-tail it across those streets by mid-June, feet toughened by scrub yards, empty lots and that hot, hot pavement.
|Me, Glen, Larry, Pam. Anthony in front, 1954…|
The year was 1955. The folks had saved some money, (good savers, both) and plunked a down-payment on a house in TOWN. One of the oldest houses in town, it boasted a huge yard (or so it seemed to this 8 and 4 year old at the time), was 2 blocks from school, and ONE block from Main Street. Who could believe our luck? Now we had close neighbors, homes with lots of kids, all ages. AND ALL THE STORES WERE A BLOCK AWAY.
|Spitzy, Larry 10, me 5-1/2 on 15th St, 1956…|
The house was–primitive. Dad was handy, and started remodeling, a long-standing endeavor that would entail a mere 50 years of his life. That house ended up with more add-ons than pizza toppings choices. Ugh, the kitchen first. It had NO cupboards, so dad built, painted and installed them, and moved the sink. Dad and some helpers were glueing the linoleum, wrong side up, all ready to flip, when I came flying in from outside. Slid like a major-leaguer across that black tarry glue. No one got mad though, everyone laughed. Mom took me outside to hose off the goo.
|Larry, 2nd grade…|
The dining room was huge, but was rarely used for meals. We all crowded around a kitchen table, legs hitting each other, elbows bumping. Supper was a daily occurrence. Mom was unbelievably young when she got married. Don’t know how she learned to cook, but there was never a time when there wasn’t a decent meal on the table.
|Dad after we moved to 15th St, 1956…|
Dad worked for the Iowa State Highway Commission. Road work which consisted of basically 2 seasons. Summers mowing shoulders and ditches, or hi way blow-ups. Blow-ups were when highway 18 or 75 would get so hot, the road would buckle, and soon someone would call it in. These often occurred at the peak heat of the day, about the time dad got off work, cleaned up, and was sitting down for supper. Never heard him complain because it was OVERTIME.
|1952, Larry 6, me, 18 mo. Dad 35, Mona 9…|
Iowa’s other season was winter, which meant snow, lots and lots of snow, really wicked winters. Then he would be on one of the state plows, slithering down 18 to Sheldon, nasty bridge between Boyden and Sheldon, but he never flew off of it, or slinking his way to the South Dakota border, near Canton. People often said you knew right where the state line was, cause Iowa took such good care of their highways in BOTH seasons. South Dakota, not so much. Dad always swelled with pride when someone said this.
|Mom, Dad, Mona and Larry, 1949..|
Larry had a very tiny bedroom on the main floor of our 2 story house. I would have never dared to sleep down there by myself but he was not scared, and took pride of having a room to himself. The rest of us slept upstairs, stairs so steep, it was more like a ladder than stairs. Mom and dad’s room was a sharp right as you topped the stairs, Mona’s and mine to the left. I had to walk through her door to get to my room. My room was as tiny as Larry’s, no closet. The ceiling had this opening to the attic, not plaster, but white boards that could be lifted easily.
Soon after we moved in, I woke up one night from a nightmare and swear I had seen a man in the attic. Ready to climb down a rope ladder to get me. It was so real, the knife gleaming in his teeth. I still believe he might live up there, makes me shiver even now. Wouldn’t be going into that room anytime soon to sleep, no siree. Thus began an unhappy relationship sharing the other bedroom with Mona. In her defense she probably wasn’t thrilled to share her space with a little shit either. Mona listened to country music all night long, and thought and talked about boys just as long. She hogged the bed, wrote in her diary constantly. We had little in common. I would lay in the far corner of the double bed, kicking her with my little feet, trying to get her to turn off the light, radio, and let me go to sleep…
|Larry in front of our playhouse, 1952…|