We had only one car which Dad took to work at the University so I only remember being driven a few times when it rained pretty hard. I wore a yellow rain coat with a separate hat with a brim. The brim kept the rain out of my face and the hat hung down to my shoulders to keep the rain off my neck. We were met at the school grounds by the big kids who patrolled the corners as crossing guards. You don’t see too many kids today as crossing guards. It’s mostly teachers and mothers, dads, and grandparents who are the crossing guards. We carry signs and walk into the street to stop the traffic. When you see kids on patrol at the corners they never walk into the streets but signal when it’s safe to cross. In my day the patrol kids carried a large bamboo pole. I seem to remember a yellow flag attached to the pole which they held out to stop traffic so the kids could cross. They wore a reflective belt around their waist that was sewn onto a strap that ran over their shoulder. On the strap they pinned a badge that identified them as safety patrol. Their whole aura bespoke authority and I longed for the day when I would be old enough to be on the safety patrol.
As I said, I only saw the safety patrol on rainy mornings because most days, when I walked with my friend, we cut across the playground behind school and came to the school from the back. The playground was huge, at least to my young eyes. It covered a large area behind the school. There were swings, merry go rounds, teeter totters, a Jungle gym and behind them, was a large field. We played on the equipment some but mostly chased each other, the girls or the girls chased us. A loud bell sounded the time to line up and go into school.
One time my best friend and I went to see the principal. We were summoned from our class to her office. She was an older lady, short, and chubby with white hair. She was probably in her forties but she looked really old to us as a person in their sixties or seventies would look. A boy had accused us of bringing a dart to school. He was the neighborhood bully. He put some sugar in the gas tank of a caterpillar digging out a basement in a new house across the street from his house. He was sent to the reformatory. Before that, he bullied us all the time. Once, to get back at him and probably scare him away, my friend and I put a dart behind us. We changed it back and forth between our hands behind our backs to give the impression that there were several darts and we wouldn’t hesitate to use them if he didn’t go home. He left.
The dart was made of wood and had a long metal point on one end. The other end would have had feathers but they had worn off during the days it had been used by people, older than we were, to throw at a target. The episode played out just as we had hoped when he went home. However it backfired because he accused us of bringing the dart to school. According to him we threatened him with it on the playground. Of course we hadn’t brought it to school and with a tearful retelling of the story the principal believed us. It helped that he probably had been brought to the principal’s office many times for things no amount of tearful explaining could justify. She sent us back to our room with a stern warning which apparently worked because that was the only time I ever went to her office.
One time my friend and I were walking back from school. We walked down the tree lined boulevard and turned toward home. We walked past a girl’s house we both liked and suddenly a car appeared. His mom was driving it and my mom was sitting on the passenger’s side. They both looked worried and told us to get in the car. We did and we went to our respective homes. That’s all I knew at the time but my dad answered the phone that night and told a joke. He was apparently talking to my Doc Pop, Mom’s Dad. He said we were having some pretty stark weather in Lincoln that day in response to a question on the other end. Later I learned that Charles Starkweather had begun his murderous rampage that morning in Lincoln. He had killed his 14 year old girlfriend’s parents and left with her in the family car. My Mom could not have known where he was when we got out of school but feared he might be still in Lincoln. Her kids walking home from school were in danger. Her fear wasn’t unfounded because Starkweather had been our garbage man, also something I found out later. The days passed and he was stopped in a gun battle out west.
His girlfriend was sentenced to prison and that’s the last I heard of them until many years later. I had moved from Lincoln to Mankato, Minnesota and then to Cedar Falls, Iowa. I went to college at Morningside in Sioux City, Iowa where I met my wife. I graduated in 1970. We were married and after a time we lived in Denver, Colorado. My wife volunteered at Denver General Hospital as a rape counselor. That’s something she trained there for. I was never comfortable with the hours on weekends that she worked but that’s when the rapes occurred. One time she came home from work at the hospital and told me in hushed tones that she may be working with Charles Starkweather’s girlfriend. She had overheard a few nurses at the hospital talking about a woman who was training there to be a nurse. They said she was Carol Fugate but she used a different name and had recently gotten out of prison. Changing her name didn’t stop gossip and apparently her training at Denver General became common knowledge. Although my wife talked to the women several times she never asked her who she really was and the women never offered any information about the past but she would have been the right age. She probably was who they all thought she was. My wife said she was distant and had a stare that you find in prison.
Her boyfriend Charles Starkweather was long dead at that time but I have often wondered about her since those fateful days when our lives touched once again in Denver.