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Three score and ten or more

Monday, October 17, 2005


STUPID ACTS OF TEENAGERS (or, I hope the statute of limitations has expired.)

For a couple of years, probably during the eighth grade (1949-50) and my freshman year in high school, I set pins in a bowling alley. It is an experience that no longer exists. Bowling pins are now set automatically. At this time, pin setters sat at the end of the alley on a bench that was behind a machine we called the “rack”. Between balls the pinsetter would jump down, clear any pins that had been knocked down and place them in the rack. If he was facing an inexperienced bowler, there was a good chance that he would jump down to face a ball coming at his head. If so, an effort was made to get out of the way, and if the effort were unsuccessful one would get hit by a flying pin or even the bowling ball itself. Most pin setters had a few bruises to show for their efforts and my brother got his nose broken. It was the type of job that OSHA would frown upon in these days, and child labor fanatics would go absolutely bonkers, but it was generally a good experience. I learned to bowl, earned some money and it usually kept me out of trouble. There were some exceptions.

One evening, a group of the pinsetters (most of the names I don’t remember, and those I do I will never tell) were walking home from the bowling alley and were walking down Center Street. (this was in Pocatello, Idaho) I am not sure why we didn’t take a bus, but we were walking along, talking about nothing in particular till we came to the Rialto Theatre. The Rialto was the movie house that showed second run pictures and where admission to matinees was nine cents. We noted that the final feature must have started because we could hear sound from the theatre but the box office was empty. We looked around at the coming attractions and debated the wisdom of trying to sneak in, but decided that it was too late, we would have missed most of the show. We turned back to the street, and, parked in front of the theatre, was a really small foreign car. About that time, a number of little cars from Europe and Japan were showing up in the U.S. I have no memory at all of what kind of car this was except that it was not a Volkswagen (part of me wants to say it was an IFA, though I am not sure there ever was a car by that name). It was a little bitty, rectangular, station wagon resembling an expanded orange crate. Someone made the comment that he bet that the six of us could pick it up. We put three in front and three in back, took hold of the bumpers and lifted. It came right up off the ground, so, staggering a bit, we moved it backward a few feet and set it down. Someone noted that he thought that the car would fit behind the box office, in front of the main doors. As if on cue, we surrounded the car again and lifted it up on the sidewalk. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to us that any police cars roaming the area would notice a car on the sidewalk of the main drag, but it didn’t (until later) and none came. We then stood the car up on its back bumper and slid it into the theatre entryway. We carefully lowered the front of the car and it did fit. It blocked all of the front doors exiting the theatre, and scraped its side a little on the back of the box office, but it fit. We stood there debating about removing it an putting it back out on either the sidewalk or the street but, after trying a little we decided that the fit was too tight and we could never stand it up again, so we just walked on down center to fourth or fifth, turned left and went on home. I looked in the paper the next day to see if there was a story about the car that mystically blocked the doors of the theatre but nothing showed up. There was a lot of talk about it at school the next week (This happened on Friday or Saturday), and I was relieved that no one was dumb enough to brag about it. I still have a feeling that the Police would like to have known how that car got there, and who put it there. If there are still any people alive who got locked in the Rialto that day, and if this ever gets read by anyone but my children and my brothers and sisters, now those folks will know how it happened.


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