Brian’s Column: Additional Notes on the Running Start

5. More on our family’s preschool setup for bro and me in the Overland Park years
Brian R. Wright

[Link to Episode 4]

Note: These columns are a series, I will make into a volume of my memoirs. You may follow the links at top and bottom of page to go to preceding or succeeding episodes. The series starts here. {If the [Link to Episode <next>] at the  bottom of the column does not show an active hyperlink, then the <next> column has yet to be written.}

This column dedicated to my brother, Forrest Steven Wright (1951-2007), in commem-oration of the 10th  anniversary of his death, May 7. RIP

From the previous episode’s closing, you can see I feel betrayed by my parents, to some extent, but mostly shanghaied by these strange adults who seem to have some unstated power over my parents. They are the ones filing me into this wretched regimented Romper Room setting called kindergarten.

But before proceeding with my personal seminal story of this maiden forced-schooling voyage, here’s a little more info on the family context and setup.

First instead of hitting you over the head with yet another of the cute pictures of my brother and me being bundled up to go to the house of God on Sunday, let me show off my mom on one of those occasions. As most women, she liked to dress and get out of the house once in a while. When else would she get the chance? [In those early years, my parents did not go out much at all, but they did have friends—Jim and Jean Clark, and Bob and Virginia Love—who lived within a few miles and the couples would visit one another’s homes, in sequence, on Friday nights for food, drink, and cards.]

Yes, as early as I can remember we were a churchgoing family. I’m sure it was a joint decision. Dad’s mother came from a large Chicago family, the Elliotts, who had roots harking back to the War for Independence…  I believe the Elliott clan had a staid upper-middle-class Presbyterian preference. Even if Dad had personal misgivings about the church’s teachings or, if on his own, he might have not attended at all, he was not one to take a stand against the social conventions of his significant others.

It wouldn’t do socially, and it would be more than my folks could handle in the moral education department, NOT to enroll us kids, and themselves, into a proper Christian church. Plus my dad’s mom, Grandma Hubler, would have a heart attack thinking her precious only son had been swayed by [under her breath: “that Jezebel he married”] to have his family abandon regular assembly for God. Thus, the folks settled on the con- venient, simply structured Overland Park Lutheran Church (of the American Lutheran Church organization), where one of the very early services is shown above—September 1950, two years before ‘da Wrights’ arrived.

Details are fuzzy, but I definitely remember learning about God and Jesus by going to Sunday School there. My impression was that God, left to his own devices, would be skewering my brother and me in an eternal fondue pot… unless I ‘repented’—made a general ongoing apology for being a inevitable, constant eff-up in all areas of my tiny life—to Jesus (who the teachers made out to be rather benign, full of good deeds and miracles); then I could stay at Jesus’ place instead. Seemed like a good deal, so I decided to go along with what these adults surely knew (wink, wink) was bananas. 🙂 [1]

Back at My Highly Cherished Children’s Reality Land

Preschool reality, home life, was better than any make believe world. As stated in the previous episode, brother Forrest and I got to play, discover things, make friends, collect lightning bugs, be with our dog Suzy, eat nourishing food, drink wholesome cow milk, take baths, sleep, hit and throw baseballs, dig for worms, watch wildlife, figure things out…. I remember, at the age of four, I first decided, after weeks of frustration, that I WOULD tie my own shoes! And I did. Right there in the living room. On the educational front, I learned to read, as well. I wanted to, so I did.

Mom even began to teach me music. We had a piano downstairs, and she would play by herself, often singing. I told her she had the most beautiful voice in the world. What did I know? She filled in at the church for the organist, also sang in the choir. I was even starting to learn piano and voice through her. To top it all off, as I said before, some days if I was halfway not a pain in the butt during the day, she would sing me a lullaby before sleep. [Forrest, too, but he had his days and nights mixed up, so it didn’t seem appropriate for her to sing bedtime songs to him at her morning coffee break.]

Toora, loora, loora.
Toora, loora, li.
Toora, loora, loora.
Hush, now, don’t you cry.
Ah, Toora, loora, loora.
Toora, loora, li.
Toora, loora, loora.
It’s an Irish lullaby.

Mom would tell me later that Dad wasn’t all that enthusiastic about musical training. Reading, sure. But piano playing and lullaby singing could lead to dancing, then prancing, then ‘dogs and cats sleeping together,’ and he sure didn’t want his prize Son #1 turning into a “fairy.” Forrest and I were too young for sports—which in those days, sports meant baseball—but could certainly do manual labor.

Here it looks like he’s training us to trim the lawn with a pair of pruning shears.(!) Actually whenever Dad was home, usually by Thursday night, then on the weekends, we were thrilled to be part of whatever project he had in mind. You can see above that our part of the project was mostly playing in the dirt per usual, except with Dad by our sides doing useful work. It would be another three years before we’d be pressed into service building his homemade patio. Now that was real effort.

Amazing what’s coming back to me: one day in the car, with the four of us all together, we’re heading back to the neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, where we had rented the flat. The mission was to pick up discarded bricks from construction sites and put them in the trunk to take back to our patio project. Mom and Dad, for some reason, were telling me how one day I’d be on my own and would really look forward to the day. I insisted that I’d always love them and would never want to leave—like, where was I going to get a better deal than this?

Our health was good. Thankfully, Mom was an early practitioner of educated, natural child birth… of the Grantly Dick-Read variety. She even wrote a column about it and submitted it to Ladies Home Journal, in 1950. Moreover, my mother, three times a day, conscientiously tried to feed us nutritional meals, doing her best to keep the snack trolls at bay. Speaking of health, we had a family doctor who made house calls! That’s right you heard me: Dr. Good was his name, believe it or not, and if one of us boys was particularly in distress, we’d see him at our door a few minutes after Mom dialed his office.

In the outside world, Dwight Eisenhower (Ike) became president in 1952, before that it was Harry Truman. [We’re pretty sure now that Ike did some very bad things in occupied Germany; also that Truman’s decision to drop A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was NOT to end the war; the media was well up the ol’ wazoo of the national security state by then, and people’s inherent grand juries had been neutered, so SCAMs (State Crimes against the Masses) were just routine federal and global-mob business. Best to look the other way.]

The so-called Good War was done and the American economy was finally recovering after the huge dislocation. Returning servicemen wanted nothing more than to take their FHA housing loans, VA schooling benefits, and with their families follow the Holy Bulldozer Shrine of Eminent Domain, urban ‘removal,’ and perpetual sprawl into suburban fantasy… AND NOT ASK QUESTIONS.  Robert Moses epitomized the post war gods of middle-class culture… at least the infrastructure premises.

It was a conformist universe, accompanied by the soothing baritones of Perry Como and other crooners, not to mention the fresh, feminine presence of Dinah Shore seeing ‘the USA in her Chevrolet.’ Still in the early 1950s, “keeping up with the Joneses” and all, hope and optimism yet sprang eternal. To a determined, self-conscious, playful boy of five our family had a firm hand on the brass ring if not the golden chalice. Next step: the unnatural application of government kindergarten would try to drone me away from such high hopes.

Location, Location

As transition to the next episode about kindergarten and its alien role in my Overland Park neighborhood proper, let me present the 35-thousand-ft view and then the 10-thousand-ft view of just where our household, 8715 Craig, fell into the grand scheme of the cosmos. [Note: I realize that geography knowledge has fallen by the wayside over the years, but I’m assuming most readers can find the state of Kansas in the United States, and the United States in the world. Ask a friend.]

Overland Park is South-south-east of Kansas City, the 35K-feet View

The 10K-Feet View—We Lived ~8-10 Miles from the City

[Link to Episode 6]

[Coffee Coaster Column link]

[1] As I became into adulthood, I had become a passionate advocate of the heroic individualism of Ayn Rand—The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, We the Living. Rand named her nonfictional philosophy Objectivism, which was basically the apotheosis of reason. I laugh about it now, but even though intellectually I came to know that faith and force (church and state) were slicing and dicing my young consciousness into a hail of contradictions, it’s only upon current reflection that I realize what enormous damage these logical flaws cause to human children en masse. Me, too, but I managed to finesse the most antihuman spikes via the respect and love that came from Mom, Dad, and my bro.

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3 thoughts on “Brian’s Column: Additional Notes on the Running Start

  1. Hi Brian, I’m in South Caroliner at present. I’ll be in Northville on Sunday & I’ll give u a call. Pls email your phone nmbr. Cheers

  2. What a tour of an American childhood; magnificent in it’s own sweet way! As with join Brian on his great voyage a slight sense of foreboding begins to emerge –School and as John Taylor Gatto says the absolute authority ‘of strangers.’ Up till then it is pure wonder, Brian, wonderful!

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