I celebrated the last day of school, 1963, by stealing a Snickers candy
bar. I dont know why, I just stuck it in my pocket and walked out of the Sparkle
I was shocked and excited. I had never stolen before. And I only had to
make it the 40 yards down and across the parking lot to the safety of my house.
As I hit the steps the wrapper was gone and the first delicious bite
was being chewed. I walked into the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator and gulped
straight from the milk carton. Two sins in two minutes, I was exhilarated.
Then I looked out the kitchen window, and milk and candy bar came
spewing disgustingly from my mouth and nose. Mr. Morris, the Sparkle Supermarket manager
was entering the ABC Barber Shop.
ABC, Alex, Bill & Chuck. Clever I always thought. Alex was my dad.
And he had two rules, never steal and never lie.
I think those were the first words I ever uttered, no lies, no theft.
And there I stood, school shirt splattered with half eaten nuts and chocolate, which I had
My heart was racing, and I watched Mr. Morris, Mo to his friends,
emerge from the barber shop wearing a smirk.
The phone rang, I almost peed my pants. It was my dad.
"Son," he said, "come over to the shop, right now."
He didnt wait for a response, there was a click.
I ran into my room and quickly changed shirts, went to the bathroom and
in one single motion I flushed the remains of the evidence down the toilet and rubbed
toothpaste from my finger across the front of my teeth. Like some drunk driver, trying to
avoid detection from a sniffing cop, I didnt want to smell of crime.
The barber shop was busy, a guy in each chair, a couple of more
waiting. My dad was a quiet man, few words, so he always made each one count, never sugar
coating or mincing those seldom but precious utterances.
"Son, Mr. Morris says you stole a candy bar, that so?"
I should have recognized the trap, but committing my third crime in
just a few minutes(although drinking straight from the milk carton was a minor misdemeanor
charge) I said, "No sir."
He snapped off the clippers, and said, "Well either you or Mr.
Morris is a liar, so lets go up and you can call him one and then Ill take care of
I began to tremble. I had no idea what he meant by taking care of Mr.
Morris, but I knew deep within my being that if we left that barber shop and did indeed
confront Mo, that I would probably never be heard from again. So I proffered an immediate
"No Dad, I took the candy bar."
"So, you are a thief and a liar. Go home, sit in a chair and come
back over at 5:15." he said.
With the possible exception of sitting silently on the bottom of
Haiphong Harbor, aboard a "sitting duck" submarine; during the late days of the
Vietnam war, this waiting period was the most excruciating of my life.
Seventy five minutes of tortuous silence, as I sat in a chair staring
at the clock.
Then it was time. I walked slowly across the parking lot, Bill &
Chuck were leaving, both looked at me sympathetically, shaking their heads. That only
added to my nervousness.
As soon as I walked through the door, my father was getting ready, he
was taking the leather straps off the side of his chair.
In those days the barbers kept these long leather straps attached to
the chair to keep the straight razors sharpened. I had heard about getting
"strapped" from my older brother, who was always in trouble. I was the goody
My father spoke: "Son, it is my job to punish you for the crimes,
for stealing the candy bar and then for lying to me about doing it. Today I am going to
strap you for the theft. But first you are going to go up and pay for the candy bar,
apologize to Mr. Morris, and tell him you are going to sweep out the store every morning
before it opens, and you are going to sweep the parking lot every evening after the store
On the way to the apology, I momentarily considered flight, but
instantly realized that was not an option. I also understood that my father had
effectively grounded me.
I wouldnt be able to stay at the baseball field at night, and I
would have to get up just as early as I did for school. Some summer break this was going
to be, stealing the candy bar was a bad idea.
I paid Mr. Morris the dime, gave my apology in front of several people
and headed back to the barber shop. And it was only after I left the store that I realized
what was ahead. Did my dad say strap?
The sharpening straps were about 3" wide and about 30" long.
He made me drop my trousers and grab onto the barber chair and then he
said those words that kids can never understand until they actually become parents:
"Son this hurts me more than it is going to hurt you."
I didnt feel anything after the third whack, I dont know
how many times he laid the strap onto my bottom. But he drew blood, and raised many a
When he was done, he told me to pull up my pants, and to sit down in
"It is a fathers duty to punish his children when they have
committed a sin (crime and sin were the same to dad).
It will make you stop the next time, at the moment your mind tells you
to go ahead and do it, you know, right before you took that candy bar, a little voice in
your mind told you to do it."
He was right, I remember having a short debate whether or not to pocket
the candy, the devil won the debate this day I thought. Telling dad the devil made me do
it would only be redundant, he already knew that.
"Now this was for the theft, I owe you for the lie. Ill make
sure you get that before too much of the summer goes by. Now go home, wash your underwear
by hand and put some salve on your butt."
I dont need to tell you that there were of course, tears
streaming down my cheeks, and blood on my butt. I could barely walk. Getting strapped was
everything my brother said it was and more.
I couldnt sit down for about a week, and even then I used a
pillow. But I started my summer routine, up at 6:00 and in the store at 6:30 when Ray the
butcher showed up to begin his day of carving beef.
It took me all the way to 9 when it opened to sweep and mop that store.
The floor was wood slats and held dirt like a white shag carpet.
I had to be back at 7 PM to sweep up the parking lot, that only took
about an hour. Although I had plenty of free time to play ball, it just wasnt the
About a month went by and my father called me over to the shop at
closing, I knew it was time to pay the price for lying, I knew because my butt was almost
healed, and could probably withstand another assault from the strap.
"Son," he began, strap in hand, "its time".
I dropped my pants, grabbed tightly onto the barber chair arm rests,
and began to shake like a leaf. It seemed like minutes went by and the expectation was
unbearable as I began to tear.
"Son, pull your pants up and sit down." I obeyed.
"Just as it is a fathers right and duty to punish his
children, it is also a right to show mercy."
"Have you learned your lesson?"
I assumed he was talking about stealing and lying and how if I ever got
caught again, there would be no such mercy, and with that thought in mind, I replied,
I was never strapped again. That summer began with the first and only
time my father ever laid a hand on me, and indeed it took me many years later to
understand his lament,
after I had children of my own, "this hurts me more than it is
going to hurt you."
And long after the sting of the strap faded, and the welts went away, I
still can feel the fathers forgiveness
and remember his mercy. Although he could have, he didnt .
That is how the summer of 1963 began. I stole a Snickers candy bar, and
I was punished for it.
I switched to Milky Way, and began the summer at the center of the
BARNEYS BUSY CORNERS
THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
It was called Barneys Busy Corners, an intersection where the
cities of Akron, Tallmadge, and Cuyahoga Falls all met. And in those remnant happy days of
the early sixties, it was the center of my universe.
Within an easy mile of the corners was everything a 13 year old kid
South down Tallmadge road, about a half a mile, were the swimming
holes, Bakers Acres and Tallmadge Springs. They were right across the street from
each other. Tallmadge Springs also had a miniature golf course and trampolines. And both
swimming holes attracted their share of 15-16 year old bathing beauties.
North up Tallmadge road, about a half a mile, was Preston school, where
new tennis courts, and baseball diamonds, and basketball courts and a playground with
swings where the 15 year old girls used to hang out when they werent swimming.
East up Howe Road, about a half a mile, was my friend Carls
house. And through his back yard I gained access to Breathnach Country Club, emerging on
the third tee, which enabled me to play golfer free, although somewhat hurried. It was
also where I made ball traps for stray golf shots. I made some nice change selling used
West down Howe Road, which was dirt and pot holed, was the pond. Howe
road was probably the worst road in the county at that time and it got very little
traffic. We fished the pond in the summer, and it was our hockey rink in winter. The
neighborhood boys built a tree house on the north side of the pond that summer. Even then,
it was awesome.
Across from the pond was an abandoned farm house and barn. It was also
a way to sneak into Bakers Acres and go swimming for free. The long and tree covered
drive to the old farmhouse was the favorite parking spot for the older teens.
And we youngins would occasionally sneak up for a peak or to flash a
light into the steam covered windows.
A mile up Brittain Road, a brick covered road, was Midway Plaza, a
strip shopping center.
And a quarter of a mile up Bailey Road, was Indian Mountain, where new
basketball courts went in across the street from Arnolds farm, which was next to
I spent a lot of time sneaking onto the golf courses and perfecting my
Less than a half mile from Indian Mountain was Stutzmans market,
a bakery, a pharmacy with soda fountain,
shoe repair, Laundromat, and other stores. I considered this an
And then there was the corner itself. Barneys Busy Corners.
The Sparkle Supermarket building(a glorified mom & pop grocery
store that boasted a butcher shop) was also home to a gas station, the ABC Barber Shop, an
insurance agent and a bike store.
Across Tallmadge Road was a doctor, a beauty shop, Joes Barber
shop, and Papa Felices Pizza shop.
On the Akron corner was a frozen custard stand, and across the street
from that, on the Tallmadge side was a dry cleaners.
My house, dubbed the Alexander Mansion, because it was thought to be
the smallest house in the Falls with that many people living in it (6-Mom & Dad, an
older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister), sat facing Bailey road, with
parking lot surrounding it. Within a few minutes of my home was everything a 13 year old
boy could possibly want. Did I mention the new housing allotments that were teeming with
kids, and loaded with 15 year old girls? Like I said, everything a 13 year old boy could
That was the Center of the Universe. At least geographically. I knew
almost everyone that lived within that square mile. I was already known for my
entrepreneurial spirit, having started selling seeds door to door when I was 8. I also
sold Grit magazine, greeting cards, and magazines. I loved selling door to door, you never
knew when you might get lucky and have one of those older girls answer.
I remember 13 as a time of changing focuses. Hmm.
It was a different time, kids could safely ride their bikes up and down
the streets, and most would at some time of the day or another make a pit stop at
Barneys. It was indeed a very busy corners.
It is this kind of a neighborhood that many of my fellow Baby Boomers
recall with affection and sorrow when they talk about the good old days. The Summer of
63 was the beginning of the end of the good old days. Before Thanksgiving, our
President would be killed, and the whole world turned upside down. But these memories are
what was happening, way back then.
Mr. Morris, the manager of the Sparkle store, did not agree with my
fathers punishment, but did not intervene. He did however offer me a job, trimming
the fruits and vegetables in the morning, and packing and bagging in the busy evening
hours. He paid well, in cash, and allowed me to sit and read as many comic books as I
could. That was a perk.
I also got the job of cleaning the ABC Barber Shop, in exchange for an
account. The barber shop had a pop machine, and a rack of chips and pretzels. Many men
would sit and munch on a snack and have a drink while pretending not to look at the
pictures in the Playboy magazine they were reading.
I would sweep and mop and once a week even wax the floor, clean the
mirrors, fill up the shaving cream machines, clean the bathrooms, etc. For this I got 50
cents. Pop was a dime and bags of chips were a dime. So I accumulated an account, which
permitted me to invite friends over for the evening.
That was the summer my friend Dan and I would spend gulping chocolas
and watching Alfred Hitchcock while pumping ourselves up in the barber chairs and talking
about all the cute girls in the universe we were soon going to be dating.