Shoe Column: Growing up in Point
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
It was a quiet time growing up in the 50s in Stevens Point. A simple time. The Age of Innocence.
Crime? WHAT crime? Nobody locked the doors. The only crime was what you saw watching Jack Webb on “Dragnet”. Crime was for the big cities.
In grade school, a fun thing to do was to put a few coupons into an envelope, stick a quarter into it, and mail it with a 4 cent stamp. The Planter’s Company would send back a beautiful plastic Mr. Peanut. I think it was a bank,but after I mailed out the quarter, I didn’t have anything left to put into Mr. Peanut.
We did the usual things in the neighborhood like get into pea-shooter fights, play marbles, or build forts. Turns out my buddy John Schmidt, before he became a cop, also built several forts around his neighborhood on Soo Marie.
Another thing we liked to do was the “hidden rope” trick. Two kids would stand on one corner and two others would stand across the street. We would pretend to be pulling a rope across the street. Exciting, right? Sometimes a car would drive up, see us, and come to a screeching halt. We would laugh like crazy and run away.
Except a nice cop caught us one time. He gathered us together, didn’t yell at all, and politely said: “You know, that’s really a neat trick. Some kids actually did that last week. An old gentleman slammed on his brakes, went up the curb, and crashed into a pole.
He was in the hospital for a month.”
That was the last time we pulled the hidden rope trick.
Then we’d have outdoor sleepovers. We’d put a tent up in a kid’s backyard. After meeting at the tent, we’d walk around shooting off firecrackers or “permanently borrow” watermelons from the outside of the A&P.
As kids, playing sports was a big thing in our neighborhood. Many basketball games were played on the outdoor court at Lincoln School. And we used the huge backyard of the Stroiks and Meroneks for our summer daily softball games.
What a great field! Bases and everything. The only problem was left field. The ball would get past the outfielder and roll into Old Lady Orville’s garden. We hated going into that. And the home run fence was the Water Tower fence. But it was so far away from home plate. Nobody ever hit one over it.
Just the opposite in right field. The wooden fence in right field, right behind Nick Meronek’s worm garden, was not very far at all from first base. Just about anything hit in the air over that fence in right was a home run. The field was like a reverse Fenway Park, and a lot of the right handed batters learned to hit to the opposite field.
Then it was on to high school at Pacelli. You could go to Robby’s and get a burger for 17 cents.
As a senior in high school, for some reason I hated the sight of pizza. Guess I didn’t like the way they looked. Then one day my buddy Roger Buckner from the Northside IGA and I were in the Mint Bar on the Square. He offered me a slice of a Portesi pizza. I didn’t want it. Roger said: “Listen. Do you like sausage? And cheese? And tomatoes? And crust?”
I said “Yes”. Roger said: “Well, that’s what this is!” I took a bite and was hooked.
Months later, in the winter, I had a sprained ankle, and I wanted a frozen Portesi pizza. And Point had a blizzard. Took me about an hour, but I walked all the way to Dan’s Ice Cream Parlor on the Northside and bought one. My first whole pizza! Put it in the oven.
Baked it. Then I took it out. It was real rubbery. Nobody told me you had to take the plastic wrapper off first. However, from then on, they were great.
My highlight at Pacelli probably was in some boring class taught by I believe Brother Cletus. The Brother was up front giving a lecture. I was half asleep. Then suddenly, I heard something. Like a bird call. A chirp.
I looked around. Didn’t see any bird like a sparrow. Five minutes later, same thing. Heard it again. So did a few others. Some heads turned. But no bird in sight.
This was getting good. Ten minutes later, there’s that sound again, only louder! Now the whole class was looking around. Even the brother heard it.
Dead silence for a few minutes. Then it suddenly made sense. I glanced to my right. Kenny K., the 5’2” shortest kid in our class, looked straight ahead and chirped! Saw him do it!
I laughed like hell. The Brother wasn’t amused. Everyone was laughing. The Brother said: “Mr. Sullivan, what’s so funny?”
I said: “Well, I think there’s a bird in here. It’s coming from way over there in the front row.”
The Brother said: “Well, I better not hear it again!”
Then Kenny did it again, and class was dismissed. He never got caught.
I walked up to him in the hallway and smiled. He chirped and walked away with a big grin on his face. Someone later on blamed John Belke.