Random Thoughts

Oh brother!

 ... recollections of a scamp

by Jerry Norton

Jerry Norton heads the SilverStringer contingent, nowadays, in the far-flung state of Washington. Once a Navy master chief, he spends much of his time writing for this hometown electronic rag.

I suppose every family has a sibling who, for lack of a better description, is more "lively" than the rest. My dear older brother Edward falls nicely into that category. Over his youthful years he had a proclivity for mischief which far exceeded that of his contemporaries. I reflect back on this now that I'm at an age when fond memories belie the nature of the deeds. May I catalogue a few of them? (not necessarily in chronological order)

Old-time Melrosians may recall the day when at a Saturday afternoon Melrose High football game (around 1938) the school band suddenly went sour. This unfortunate circumstance was occasioned by Ed standing in front of it while sucking on a lemon and making facial contortions. This caper resulted in his appearance the following Monday before principal, William D. Sprague, and he was awarded a two-day school "vacation" for his efforts. Ed also confesses to having inserted a malodorous substance (stink bomb) into the high school ventilation system causing mild mayhem in several classrooms. His guilt in this little prank was never established.

And then there was the rainy Halloween when he and several other teen-age confederates lifted up a little Ford coupe from a Melrose driveway and deposited it on the sheltered back porch of the home. It was explained that the boys thought the coupe should have been kept out of the rain.

Possibly his most nefarious outing involved the railroad gate keeper at the Melrose Highlands crossing. In those days a little hut adjacent to the tracks housed an old gentleman whose job it was to manually crank down the gates just prior to a steam train's arrival. Over a period of several months Ed and his pals on returning from an evening boy scout meeting at Roosevelt school would bang on the side of the hut as they passed...boy scouts no less! This, of course, would be most annoying to the old gate keeper sitting inside in the dark awaiting the next train. My sibling states that on at least one occasion the keeper chased after the boys and hurled the contents of his liquid chamber pot at the fleeing miscreants. This series of taunts culminated on the night that Ed happened to have a ripe tomato on his person and before running threw it and struck the gate tender on the shoulder. My brother soon realized that it was the wrong evening for tomato tossing as who should be walking his beat nearby and witnessed the incident but one of Melrose's finest, officer Earl Martin. My wayward brother was collared by the good officer who presented him to my parents at our home on Sargent street. After the usual admonishments officer Martin departed and left it to my folks to take punitive action.

This, then, is a brief summary of a few adventures of an old-time Melrose boy who has long since mended the ways of his misspent youth. There are a few more stories which could be related... unless, of course, readers feel this is enough Tom Sawyer for awhile.

October 1, 2004

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