One day I was in study hall half asleep or dreaming of being at my grandfather's farm, when someone appointed me to go to a residence where food was cooked for lunch at school. I went with another student. We had to carry a large, handled pot full of macaroni and tomatoes to the school. I had attached to the heel of my shoes metal plates and I regretted it. When we approached the school in view of the girl's sewing class, I stepped to cut a corner, the metal hit the concrete and I fell, unloading the macaroni and tomatoes on the sidewalk. I could never win, it seemed.
But I had one victory. I played sandlot football with intensity. It came to pass that I, on a team of sandlot players, was to practice with Coach Donahue's junior high team. I had no uniform, as was the case with most sandlot players. So Coach furnished me with a helmet. On a kickoff, the bully got the ball and steamed like a freight train down the middle. I chanced my life and hit him head-on. My helmet ended up far from the play. But I walked away. Even the coach commended my play.
As I have recounted many times, it got so bad with my family that I decided I had to get to the farm with my grandparents, my dog, my horse and the world of chestnut trees and nature. So, I went to Virgil Flynn with my sad story. He credited me with six weeks of passing grades even though it was six weeks until the end of the school year. I got the money for a ticket to Hinton on the C&O and left behind Roosevelt and 1520 Jackson. I did return and graduated from Roosevelt.
While my father sought employment, the family cooperated. My mother was a great cook. She baked banana cream pies for my sisters to peddle. I got work at a Kroger store that was located next to the corner of Washington and Ruffner. I was paid in produce. I remember taking home a carton of slightly cracked eggs. Also, I remember mixing with my hands a large container of ground meat into sausage. Thus, I am aware of the meaning of metaphor.
From my days at 1520 Jackson and Roosevelt Junior High came many memories and many events that shaped my future. I learned to take a stand quietly but with earnestness. I learned to live frugally and independently. I had the opportunity to spend years with my grandparents on a farm. During those years I became one with nature, an education of incalculable worth. I enjoyed a family companionship that is rare today.
The bullies are gone. My father died at age 66. My mother at age 75. My sisters, in their 70s. My grandparents died in the spring of 1945 while I was overseas. And Charley Bill, my schoolmate from the seventh grade through high school and my lifelong friend and companion and publisher of The Nicholas Chronicle, to which I have submitted my thoughts and opinions for 20 years, died in 2001. I spoke at a celebration of his life.
Mann is a lawyer in Hinton.