Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Column Is A Stretch...

The story you are about to read is true. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. You see, we all were guilty. I am referring to the Pipkin Street Gang in 1946. But I should start at the beginning.

Most Saturday afternoons during the 1940s found the Pipkin Street Gang walking eight blocks to the Lamar Theater. I’ll not reintroduce the PSG except to mention that we were playmates growing up in the 1300 block of Pipkin Street in the South Park area of Beaumont.

One Saturday, all of the other PSG members were elsewhere with their families so I decided to walk to the theater alone. As I passed by a vacant lot at the intersection of Pipkin and Chaison Streets I saw what appeared to be a rusty iron box. The box was at least 75 feet from the road and nearly hidden by tall weeds in the field. Curiosity kept asking me what that rusty “thing” was. And really, I did not want to go to the Lamar by myself so I ventured out into the vacant lot.

The rusty object turned out to be the lower portion of an old wood burning heater or stove. There were several little doors. There was the main opening where you insert the wood to burn. Then there were two little doors off to one side. This looked like great fun for an eleven year old boy so I sat down and began opening and closing the doors.

When I opened one of the smaller side doors I noticed a little orange cardboard box. I retrieved the box and read the print on back. It said something about “prophylactics.” I didn’t know what that was so I opened the box. There was a row of little white things. Pulling one out I discovered that it could unroll. This really was weird. It looked like a white balloon but not quite like any balloon I had ever seen. I decided to inflate it. This procedure made the thing inflate to a nice-sized balloon. Then I released it. The escaping air propelled the balloon up in the air. It performed several circles and loops in the process. Wow, that was fun. It dawned on me that there were enough balloons in the box to furnish one to every kid in the PSG. So I pocketed my find and went home.

Later that afternoon most of my playmates were home and they were milling around the neighborhood. I took my box of balloons outside and gave one to each kid. We had great fun blowing up the balloons and letting them go. There was quite a little breeze that helped the balloons go through some neat aerobatics.

Jackie got the great idea to inflate his balloon and tie off the end. He batted the balloon up in the air and the strong breeze took it from there. We never saw it again.

Mr. Heartfield, my next door neighbor came over and asked me if I knew what those things were. I replied, “No, but they make great balloons.” Mr. Heartfield told me to go ask my dad about them. And so I did just that. Dad sat me down and told me some impressive stuff. Also, he told me not to tell the other kids.

I announced to the PSG that my dad told me a big secret about our balloons. I said, “Dad told me that I should not tell you what these are. So go home and ask your mom and dad and let them tell you the secret.”
And so they did just that.

Most probably those parents wished that all of us kids had just gone to the movie.

Winston Hamby


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