Monday, September 19, 2016

7. Gangs, cigarettes, booze, fast girls and Detention

This chapter is dedicated to my Uncle Vernon who died 2004 resulting from complications of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Viet Nam.

My dad hailed from a family of eight brothers and one sister. Uncle Harold was the eldest of the Bowers Brothers. Harold, Howard, Jerry, Leonard, Carol, Charlie, Vernon and Eddie summed up the living brothers although there was one who died shortly after birth. Aunt Nancy is the only sister in the bunch and she places between Carol and Charlie in age.

(Aunt Nancy 2007)

My uncle Charlie was a real character he passed on in 2012! I recall when he was released from prison in 1966 he was only about 23 years old. My dad who was much older let him live with us until he could get situated and find a place of his own. I had no idea what Uncle Charlie was imprisoned for until later and I had to find out the hard way. I think that letting him live with us was one of the mistakes my parents made that helped create the stage for deviant outlooks that where part of my childhood development, and I know I still have some of that stuff lingering in my character to date.

(Uncle Charlie 1975)

He came off like a real friend and an understanding figure because he knew just how to say the things you needed to hear. He was jovial and fun loving got into cars, girls, (or so it seemed), and was instantly popular with all the young teens due to his entertaining manner. I was first introduced to pot (marijuana) by good old Unc! He then taught me how to fight, lie and cheat like a pro.

Theft was not in his forte although BS was his prime MO! He was for lack of better words a Con man groomed and polished in his field, and he had one other queer aspect of character unmentioned but in essence when it came to rolling people Uncle Charlie was the best that ever did it!

Old uncle tried to make a move on me about 3 months after he came to live with us. It didn’t go so well for him though because he had already showed his hand in the confidence scenario and I was pretty quick to pick up on the spin game even at age 12. Yeah I flipped the script so to speak and blackmailed him into being compliant to my request after I had alerted my parents. Now I was beginning to think like a criminal as well.

I learned how to drive his cars, and dress the part of a little gigolo at a very early age. I had a girlfriend that was 3 years older giving me money and other things I should not have had at such a tender age. I went to parties, and became known to my peers as a flighty sort of character who had access to things well beyond his age group. I guess I became a part-time miniature con man of sorts but back then in the 1960’s everyone fancied the notion of being called a pimp!

 As I mentioned previously I had the bad luck of living smack dead center of being sent to Westmoor or Hilltonia where all my friends were. They call it Middle School now but back then we called it Jr. High! I was sent to Westmoor which housed predominantly white students, there were only 30 black students in the whole school of 1500 or more. The weird thing is that the black students there actually ran the school by a fear factor! (Militant mindsets) where the norm among the black students during the civil rghts movement and even then I fell somewhere in the middle! In fact I was dead center as I had friends on both sides of the culture clash.


I met a guy name Van Rosselle who was one of the blacks that was more the loner hippie type who kicked it with the white students too. He was into getting high on just about anything that would do the trick, booze, pot, acid, even sniffing glue! The strange thing was to me then and even now he was one of the most genuine human beings I’ve ever met! So at age 12 and 13 I was into all these things including sexual encounters with girls who were just about on my same level of thinking. That’s how I met yet 2 other good friends and running buddies; Daniel Ragland and Bobby Shelby.

Daniel played guitars but was willing to play bass behind me and Bobby had a talent for showmanship that really got people up on the floor dancing. Daniel was one bazaar cat that got into the music thing like nobody’s business but his own. We then landed an exceptional drummer named William Porter that had the biggest afro in the territory and played like a pro. We called ourselves UTOPIA and we were on a mission! All of them knew Uncle Charlie and by this time uncle would take a back seat in our mix which his ego simply would not allow so he moved on to fresher uncharted ground and only showed up every now and then to try to capitalize on our set.

William Porter 2010
Daniel Ragland 1972

We opened school gyms and played Coffee houses on the O.S.U. campus, did drugs, chased the girlies and partied heartily for nearly two years in-between my minor incarcerations in juvenile detention. I even spent 9 months in Fairfield School for boys for Auto theft. Fairfield used to be called B.I.S. back in the old days. Bob Hope was among some of the people B.I.S. housed. I was in the same cottage as Mr. Hope, it was called Highland Cottage. There were many others there who later went on to make a mark in society both good and not so good, I guess! (hint) Mr. Converse used to call out "Hall" and then he's say, "Arsenio...boy where'd you get a name like that!!

My friend Daniel turned out to be a lifer in the Coast Guard, made high rank, got married had kids, but somehow died in 2010 at age 55. But we shared time together in a really unique time.
This was an age that had the strongest impact on my development; it was an age of promiscuity, and experimentation/rebellion and associations of all sorts. All in all it was life in the late 60’s and early 70's and I was in it!

There’s so much about this time that took place I’ve yet to put into words, but I think many of you can just about imagine because after all some of you were there too, only under your own unique set of circumstances. Nevertheless, you were there, or you've heard stories from your parents or friends that may resemble or sound like what I’m telling you now.

The Viet Nam conflict was an ongoing endeavor for the States and things were getting to the point that they were actually taking 17 year old kids, thugs and dropouts to mold into soldiers to fight a battle that was unwinnable and for what? I would soon find myself in the ranks of the un-knowledgeable youth caught up in the political crossfire that truly was deeper than the common eye could see, or even begin to comprehend.

Uncle Vernon knew what I was up against the whole time. He just kept his cool and would always say "you’ll make it one way or another"! Then he would say; (YOU’RE A BOWERS) with that big smile revealing his polished teeth.

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