Friday, April 10, 2009

Jenny Mueller Remembers

My [Jenny's] world, the area that I was allowed to roam freely, included the areas bordered by Columbia Avenue on the west, College Avenue on the south, Plum Creek on the east, and Schlueter’s farm and Hillcrest on the north. We could, with permission (which consisted of just telling an adult where we were headed) go beyond these borders, and hung out regularly on the playground and in the “draw” behind St. John school (the church wasn’t there yet).

We rode bikes and played hide and seek or army all over the campus, hit the candy machines in the snack bar in the basement of Founders on a regular schedule (for me, that was right after I got my allowance of 5 cents for church, 5 cents for savings, and 5 cents for spending—my nickel for spending went immediately into the vending machine in the snack bar every week), and hid out in the Weller fire escapes.

Two memorable Weller fire escape activities were smoking cigarettes swiped from our dad’s supplies and starting fires in paper cups. I remember how brave I thought Jody Schwich was for stomping out an out-of-control paper cup fire with only her light tennis shoes to protect her feet.

We also played drop the headband from the top of the fire escapes. In this game, one person would be at the top of the fire escape and would drop one of the plastic, sharp-toothed headbands we used to wear out of the fire escape to the sidewalk below. The other person would be waiting below with her eyes closed and the person above would guide the “blind” person to the headband via oral directions. I’m not sure what was so amusing about that game, but we seemed to find it entertaining. We also climbed over the iron railings on the fire escapes and would demonstrate our bravery by hanging on with only one hand. Only a person familiar with those fire escapes could appreciate how really stupid that was—given how high those fire escapes are, how small we were, and how hard the concrete below is, this strikes me today as one of the dumbest things we did as children, but probably far from the dumbest or most dangerous.

At the end of the academic year, we would rummage through the garbage cans around the college women’s dorms—Strieter and Schuelke and the old white houses that used to house college co-eds. We would find unbelievable treasures that we would cart home: bottles of nail polish with usable polish still in them, lipsticks and rouges (there was no “blush” then), and delightful perfumes. Once I found a bottle of Evening in Paris that was still at least a fourth full! Sometimes we would roam as far as the maintenance junk yard located about where the tennis courts behind Timothy and Philip are now, or all the way to Schlueter’s far pasture.

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