Clubius Contained Part 24 – Burns Park (August 1964)

Looking down the length of Burns Park with the school at the far end

It was just a week ago that we moved here. Mom said we needed to move for her “mental health”, so “your dad and I can have more of the kind of life we imagined when we agreed to get married”, and so “I can continue to do all those things you need your mom to do for you”. Yeah, she said all that, and I guess it all made sense, but mom was always good at figuring out what to say so it at least sounded like it made sense, so I was never completely sure.

After mom said all that, dad said that he and mom were working on a plan to get furniture to put in our new living room, which was much bigger in our new house than in our old one. He said they figured out places they could go to buy old furniture for cheap and fix it up to make it look really nice. They would go to the big University warehouse on “North Campus” where they had and sold old tables and chairs that they didn’t need anymore in classrooms and offices. They would also go to “garage sales”, and this place called the “Treasure Mart”.

When we were getting ready to move, dad went to the A&P and got lots of empty boxes. Then mom and dad went all over the house and put everything in those boxes, “except the furniture, what little we have”, and then mom wrote on the side of each box with her “India ink” what was inside. David and I helped put stuff in the boxes that said “Kids Clothes” and “Kids Books” and back in the wood boxes we already had for our toys.

Then dad borrowed a “pickup truck” from the woman who ran the “frat house” where he still worked sometimes. I’d seen people driving them around, but never been in one. It had a front part like a regular car, but instead of backseats or a trunk it just had an open part with sides so stuff didn’t fall out. You could pile stuff in the back, like the mattresses and other parts of the beds, the dressers, and the tables and chairs, and then “tie them down” with rope. It was all pretty neat, and I watched how dad used the rope and tied special knots.

Dad got some of his friends, like Walter and Frank, and “hired” some of his students to help put all the furniture into the truck and take it to our new house. I even got to help take apart our toy shelves and dad’s book shelves, and carry all the boards and bricks up the basement stairs to the back of our station wagon. David helped too, but he couldn’t carry the boards and he could only carry one brick at a time up the stairs, while I could carry two.

Then when we got to the new house we had to take everything out of our car and the truck and put it inside. We had to do that three times to get everything from our old house to our new one.

Mom was in charge at the new house of telling everybody where boxes and furniture went. Since the bedrooms were all upstairs, like in Molly’s old houses, taking the mattresses and dressers up there on the staircase was really hard, because you had to go up, and the stairs near the top went around a corner that they said was really “tight”. Dad hurt his back helping one of the students carry his desk up the stairs to the “office” room, and had to take some aspirins. Mom got mad at him, and said he should have let the students do all the “heavy lifting”. I didn’t think that was fair, but I didn’t say anything. I took the boards and most of the bricks for our toy shelves down the stairs into the basement, while David just took a few bricks. Then he and I built our toy shelves, just like they had been before, and put all our toys back on the shelves. That was neat that we could do it ourselves.

When we finally got done after the third trip, dad went and got pizzas from Dominicks for all the “helpers” and that tasted really good. I liked being part of the “team” and being able to help and not just be a “kid” who couldn’t do anything and was just in the way.

Our new house was a lot bigger than our old house, even though we only lived in one half it, and these two older people, the Leonards, who owned the house lived in the other half. Our old house just had the regular part, and then a stairway that went down to the basement. This house had a regular part that had a downstairs and an upstairs, like the houses Molly had lived in. It also had a basement, and an attic, so we had three whole staircases, which was really neat. And it wasn’t like the attic in our other house where you had to climb up a ladder and open a hatch in the ceiling to get to it, and where you couldn’t really go in because it didn’t have a floor. This attic had a floor so you could walk around in it, and it even had little windows on either side. It was really hot up there, but that didn’t bother me, because it just made it different and more of an adventure to go up there.

David and my new bedroom was upstairs and it was the biggest one. It had two windows, a little one that looked down on our driveway and the garage, and a really big one where you could see across the street to the basketball court, and that “lodge” place in the park, and you could see more because we were up high. David and I decided not to have bunk beds, so mine was across from his. We also had our dresser and the rocking chair that mom or dad would sit in when they read stories or when dad sang songs with us, which he still did almost every night. I really liked being able to sit on my bed and see the park across the street out that big window. This was definitely a better bedroom than the one in our old house.

Our bedroom was so big, that mom said there was room for a big table, and she and dad would find one they could buy cheap and fix up. She said, “I’m not much for cheap stuff generally. It’s usually poorer quality and you often don’t get your money’s worth. But when it comes to furniture, your dad and I can spot a good piece of wood and we know how to refurbish it. A good bit of elbow grease, hard work, and a touch of artistry.” And then she would do a big smile. I liked seeing that big smile again.

Mom and dad’s bedroom was across the hall from ours. The door to their room was right next to the door to the stairway to the attic. They had their bed and other furniture like it had been in their other bedroom. They had two windows too, but theirs were smaller than the big one in our room. The third room upstairs was dad’s office, but mom said she would be using it too when dad wasn’t home. Dad put his desk and wood “swivel” chair in there and rebuilt all his bookcases with the bricks and boards. It only had one window but you could see the Burns Park school from it. The fourth room was the bathroom, which was a lot bigger than the one in our old house.

The hallway upstairs had one more really neat thing. It was a “laundry chute”, with a little door in the hallway wall you could open and drop clothes down into the basement. They made a whooshing sound as they went down. David and I had lots of fun playing with that, dropping clothes and other things down it like balls, paper gliders and even plastic soldiers with parachutes.

The downstairs part of the house had a really big living room and then the kitchen. So if you divided the downstairs into four quarters, three of them were the living room and the fourth was the kitchen. The living room part had three big windows, the biggest looked out on the driveway and the “hedge”, which was a bunch of bushes all in a line. The second one looked out at the front yard and the third one was around the corner, and looked out at the house next to ours, and you could kind of see the park too. The kitchen had two windows, kind of like our old house, but it was smaller than the one in our old house. So mom couldn’t fit our kitchen table with four chairs around it like we did at our old house. For now we had the kitchen table in the living part of the living room right by the kitchen.

It was the only furniture in the whole living room except for the “Windsor” chair and the “Herman Miller” chest. But mom said she and dad would find good “used” furniture they could fix up to make the living room look like a “real living room” and be able to have parties like mom always wanted.

And finally there was the basement. I thought it was the best part of our old house, and this basement was okay too, but not as good. You went down stairs from the kitchen, past the side door, and then down into the middle of the basement, kind of like in the other house. It had the same kind of gray “concrete” floor and those giant brick walls like the other house. And the basement had four quarters like the other house, but it only had two of those little windows that were up high, so it was darker. It did have four lightbulbs hanging down from the ceiling with a chain you could pull to turn them on and off.

At the bottom of the stairs was the furnace. To the left of it was the laundry area with the washing machine and those big gray sinks. It was more an “area”, not a “room” like in the other house, where it had the staircase and the furnace on two sides that made it separate from the rest of the basement. It wasn’t like in the old house where it felt like you were in the “engine room” or in a submarine.

To the right of the furnace was where we put the shelves with all our toys. We could have put them in the opposite quarter to the left of the stairs, but that part of the basement was the darkest, so David and I decided to have the toys in this part instead. We put the rug from the TV part of the old basement in this part of the new basement. Since the office upstairs already had carpet, mom and dad rolled up the rug from dad’s old basement office and put it up in the attic.

The fourth quarter of the basement was this little room with an old door that didn’t close right. Dad said it used to be a “coal room”, because it had a metal “chute” high up on one side, that if you opened, you could see the sidewalk by the driveway. He said in the “old days” people had furnaces that “burned coal” instead of “gas” like they did now. He said it was like those Western TV shows with old trains where there was that guy in the engine part that was always shoveling coal from the “coal car” attached to the engine into the “boiler” part that heated the water to make the steam that made the train’s engine turn. Dad said that once he had helped mom get and fix up cheap furniture, he would try to build shelves to put in this little room so it could be like the walk-in closet in our old basement. But for now he and mom just put boxes in it that had stuff in them from the old house but they hadn’t taken it out yet.

We had used our old basement so much that it felt fun to be down there, and each area felt kind of “cozy”. Our new basement didn’t feel cozy like that, maybe because we hadn’t done stuff down there yet.

Then there was the whole thing about where to put the TV. Since we got it five years ago when I was four, it had always been in the basement, in its own part, with a rug that David and I sat on to watch or with the white wood “project” table with the metal legs and wood chair that mom or dad sat at to work on stuff while they watched. Mom would also put the ironing board there and watch TV while she ironed. But our new basement didn’t have anywhere to hook the TV to the big “antennae” on top of the roof, and the little antennae on the top of the TV didn’t work very well in the basement.

So dad said we could put the TV on the white project table that they put by the window in the part of the living room by the kitchen. There was a cord there that you could hook the TV to the big antennae on the roof. Mom didn’t like that idea, but then she said okay, “but just for now”. She said it would be an “incentive” to keep buying and fixing up old but nicer furniture. An “incentive” was something that made you want to do something else that was really important.

Mom and dad had already started working on making nice furniture. They had bought an old dining room table that was kind of messed up, and a rocking chair where the cover part was ripped and had started to fix them up. Dad said they only paid five bucks for both of them at a “garage sale”.

They were both out in the front yard today working on them. Dad had already taken the broken “leaf” out of the middle part of the table and pushed the two half circle parts together and banged in nails so it would hold together and be just a circle table.

Mom was wearing rubber gloves and had the table out in the driveway on a bunch of old newspapers and was putting this yucky “goop” on it called “Stipeze” that melted all the paint off the wood. Then she was going to use “sandpaper” and “elbow grease” to make the wood “nice and smooth” before she painted all the bottom parts of the table white, and put this stuff on the top called “Linseed Oil” to give it a “beautiful soft patina that showed off the grain of the wood”. And even if it had a few “dings”, they would still look good and “just give the table more character”.

Dad had the rocking chair in the side yard by where mom was working. He had already used a hammer to rip off all the old “fabric” that had covered it and “batting” that had been inside to make it soft and puffy, and was now putting new fabric and batting that mom had picked out at the “linen” store.

I sat on the steps of our stoop and ate the baloney and American cheese sandwich with mustard that I made for myself, and watched the two of them, both working really hard, and looking happier than they’d been for a long time.

Just like our old house on Prescott, the park was right across the street. When mom and dad had told us after David’s birthday party that we were moving, they said that they had found a house right next to the park, because they always wanted us to live next to one, so we had a place to play with lots of other kids.

I had been to Burns Park several times when I’d spent Saturday afternoon over at Molly’s house, and we also played a Little League game here back in July. It was bigger than Allmendinger, mom said it was twice as big, and it even had a school, the one that David and I were going to go to next month. He would be in first grade and I would be in fifth. I even took David on a “tour” of the park because he had never been there before.

I had already met boys in the park who would be going to Burns Park school too, some of them in fifth grade too. The ones going into fifth grade who liked baseball, I asked if they had been on a ten-year-old Little League team last year. They said they had been on the “Yankees”, and I said I’d been on the “Orioles”, and we remembered when our teams played each other last summer. I figured I would probably be on their team next summer, and we probably would play against my old team. That would be strange, but maybe also kind of fun.

Burns Park had a lot of the same stuff as Allmendinger. It had lots of trees, but they were kind of all over the place and not all in one area like the old park. It had two baseball diamonds. It had that “lodge” place where Part 24 – Burns Park (August 1964) grownup “coach” guys would do the bases and the white chalk “foul lines” for regular baseball games. They also gave out balls, bats and catcher’s mitts and masks for pickup games, and stuff for the girls too. It had two basketball courts instead of one, but the second one was way over by the school. And instead of one tennis court it had five, and also a “backboard”, which mom really liked, and she had already gone over to hit tennis balls against it. She said it was great if you wanted to practice your “strokes” but didn’t have anyone else to play with. And it had a part under some trees with swings and a slide and stuff, but no monkey bars. It did have those giant tubes you could climb on or go inside and kind of hide, like the one that had been at the little playground at my old Bach school.

But there was a lot of other stuff that was different. It had a hill next to the tennis courts that kids called the “big hill” even though it wasn’t really that big. And next to it was another place they called the “little hill”, but that one wasn’t much of a hill at all. It looked like it used to be a hill but then most of the top part got cut off so it just went up a little bit and then was flat on top. There were two football fields next to each other that had those goalposts at each end. Near the swings was this big circular concrete thing with a fence around it, a gate to go in, and a part in the middle that kids said sometimes had water spraying out of it and got you all wet if you were in the circle, though I hadn’t seen any water come out of it yet. And there was a really neat different kind of merry-go-round where you could sit on either side and push and pull bars with your arms and legs to make it go round really fast, but it was way over on the other side of the park in the corner by the tennis courts and a parking place for cars, so kids didn’t go over there very much, because that’s where the grownups were playing tennis.

But if you REALLY wanted to hide and do secret meetings and other stuff, there were no bunches of lilac bushes like at Allmendinger, or any other good hiding places that I could find. I wondered if those other boys were still having their secret meeting in those lilac bushes on Sunday mornings and still getting naked with each other. That was really exciting and fun, but I figured most kids wouldn’t do that and I might not get the chance to ever do that again. At least I got to do it a couple times and mom and dad and nobody else I knew found out!

And then there was the school. It was on the other end of the park, beyond the giant concrete circle thing and the football fields. It looked older than Bach school, because it was all bricks and the windows were smaller. Bach school had an old brick part too, which had two floors, though the new part that my classrooms were always in, just had one floor. But the whole Burns Park school had three floors, which was really neat, and I wondered if my classroom would be on the third floor so I could look down on the park. I didn’t really want to start going to school again, but at least I would get to see all its inside parts, which would be fun.

Mom and dad said they were “concerned”, that’s what grownups sometimes said instead of “worried”, that David and I would be sad about moving “across town”, and not going to school with or seeing our friends in the “neighborhood”. So they would try to help us “make plans” and take us over to see our old friends, or have them come over to our new house. They said that at least our phone number was the same, so our friends, or our friends’ mom or dad could still call us. Mom had even made a list of all David and my friends’ phone numbers and taped it to the wall by our phone, which was on the wall in our new kitchen, just like it had been on the wall of our old one. Herbie had already come over once, when dad and I drove over to his house and brought him here and he stayed all Saturday afternoon, but was sad when he had to go home. He liked me, but he also liked dad a lot, because I guess he didn’t like HIS dad very much.

Dad had also taken David over to Marybeth and Hannah’s house so David and Hannah could ride their bikes together and play in the park. Dad said that he spent some time talking to their “Bobchos”, that’s their grandmother, Mrs Bukowski, who was Polish like dad was. He said he could speak to her a little in that language, which he said she “got a kick out of”. He also said that she was a “hoot”, which meant that she said funny stuff.

David was kind of sad about moving, but at least David’s best friend, Eddie, had also moved to Burns Park and lived around the block from us. David was over at Eddie’s house right now.

But I wasn’t sad. I liked things changing. Living in a new house, exploring a new “neighborhood”, and meeting new kids. It was an “adventure”, like when dad took David and I in the car somewhere we’d never gone to before, and I had always liked adventures. And I was “sick and tired”, that’s what mom always said, of her being unhappy all the time and always arguing with dad. And I also liked our new house because it just took me a couple minutes to get from our front door to the front door of the school, so I wouldn’t have to do all that extra walking to school and home all the time, specially in the winter when it got really cold and windy outside.

My best friend Molly, who had lived on the other side of Burns Park for the last four years, had moved in June to a different part of Ann Arbor. Dad said it was “ironic” that when we finally moved to Burns Park, Molly and her mom and stepdad had just moved away, to a different part of Ann Arbor. I think grownups said “ironic” instead of “weird”, because “weird” was more of a kid word. All summer long mom had called Molly’s mom to set up a time when Molly and I could play, but said that Molly was always busy with her “new friends”. That made sense to me. She probably liked things changing too, and maybe she liked playing with other girls now instead of boys. Just because you WERE a “Tomboy”, doesn’t mean you have to be one forever!

I had that new Supremes song playing in my head. I’d probably heard it on CKLW or at Miller’s on the jukebox a hundred times. And even when I didn’t, it just kept playing in my head like right now. It was about this older girl who really “loves” this older boy, and I guess he used to love her too, but it hurt her really bad when he didn’t anymore…

Baby, baby, baby don’t leave me
Ooh, please don’t leave me all by myself
I’ve got this burning, burning, yearning feeling inside me
Ooh, deep inside me, and it hurts so bad
You came into my heart, so tenderly
With a burning love
That stings like a bee

“Liking” somebody, like I liked Molly and my other friends, and “loving” somebody, like the girl singing the song, seemed like two very different things. “Love” I guess, wasn’t really really liking somebody, like I had thought it was. It was different, it was all wanting them so bad that it hurt, specially when they didn’t love you anymore.

I wondered about me and Molly. Some kids would ask me if she was my girlfriend, and if someone was your girlfriend, then I think you were supposed to be in love with her. When we were little, Molly and I wanted to be the same, to think and feel the same things, but that seemed completely different than this “love” stuff. Because even now, when maybe we didn’t want to be the same anymore, it didn’t hurt or burn or sting.

And then there was this other part in the song…

Baby, baby, where did our love go?
And all your promises, of a love forevermore!
I’ve got this burning, burning, yearning feeling inside me
Ooh, deep inside me, and it hurts so bad

Before you won my heart
You were a perfect guy
But now that you got me
You wanna leave me behind

So I guess that was really bad for an older boy to do, to get some older girl to really love him, and want to be with him, but then not want to be with her anymore. In other songs they called that “breaking your heart”. Like in that other “She’s a Queen” song on the other side of the “Hey Little Cobra” record that I got from Gabe for my birthday. In that song it was the older girl who did the bad stuff…

Jackie thinks that she’s a queen
So she treats everybody mean
But I’m gonna knock her off her throne
She’ll try to break your heart
Tear it all apart

A lot of the songs I heard on the radio or on records were about “love”, or about “hearts”, which I guess meant they were about love too. The grownups sang about it, like that Frank Sinatra guy, but also the older kids too, like the Motown ones or the rock and roll ones. The older boys and men were supposed to find a “good girl” and watch out for “bad girls”, and when they found a “good girl” they were supposed to “win her heart”, something like that. And the older girls and women were supposed to watch out for bad guys who would “steal their heart”, and “give their heart” to a good guy instead.

But being “in love” seemed so complicated and dangerous, like you had to take something really important away from the person you loved, and then give them something completely different that was also really important. But if you didn’t do it all just right, then it got messed up, and one or both of you would get hurt bad. It just didn’t seem anything like just liking someone and being good friends, or even best friends, like Molly and I had been.

I guess I felt a LITTLE bit sad that Molly and I couldn’t play together, but I wasn’t mad at her and I couldn’t imagine she was mad at me either. I would never try to “take her heart”, and I don’t think she’d want me to if I tried. I mean we did kiss each other on the cheek that one time in the back of her station wagon under the blanket when we went to Saugatuck, but that was just a fun thing to do when we were in a secret place when nobody else could see us. And then when we were alone in that “cottage” in Saugatuck, we even tried to kiss each other on the lips, but that was just weird and not very fun. I wonder if grownups would say that was “ironic”. That was that kissyface stuff that older kids did with each other when they thought they were “in love”, and that moms and dads did sometimes too because they were also supposed to be “in love”. Molly and I also got naked with each other when we were five, but we were just little kids and didn’t know anything. We just thought it would be fun to do, and also to see if our “private parts” were the same or different.

So as I ate my baloney and cheese sandwich and watched mom and dad work on fixing up old furniture I thought about them maybe being in love, but it was always getting messed up. Mom was alway getting mad at dad for something he did, like buying the cheap grapefruit juice instead of the good kind she liked, or even something he DIDN’T do, like not telling her when his back was bothering him. And then dad would try to tell her why and they would have an argument. But after the argument dad would usually still be mad, but mom would feel better, and she would tell David and I, even though they had a “fight”, that they still “loved” each other.

I wondered if they just said that because they were supposed to, but it really wasn’t true. Maybe if they didn’t worry about that love stuff and just tried to like each other, like right now, it would be better!

2 replies on “Clubius Contained Part 24 – Burns Park (August 1964)”

  1. Thanks Pat… some memory yes, but mostly making things up that fit the memories I have! I do tend to remember physical spaces, either the interior of homes and other structures, or the landscapes of parks and the city around me!

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