Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (2)

Here we go for episode two of my personal "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."  I want to get this down while I'm in the mood and the memories are still fresh in my head.  

The funny thing is that I've forgotten much about my early childhood but certain indelible memories have stayed with me.  God forbid, I hope I don't end my days with some form of dementia but if I do, I'm sure my very earliest memories of going to elementary school will stay with me until I take my last breath.

So folks, are you ready?  Hop aboard the Ron Memory Train and let's revisit my own personal wimpy kid memories:

About a year after we moved into second floor apartment on Washington Avenue which we shared with about 50,000 roaches (give or take a 1,000 or so), it was time for Little Ronnie to go to school.

120 Washington Avenue today - not much has changed since we lived in the second floor apartment front in the late Forties and early Fifties - this is still the White Trash section of Downingtown - probably the same cockroaches too

Since I was the oldest of the three Tipton Terrors (me and my brothers), I was the first to LEAVE HOME.  And yes, I was SCARED TO DEATH.

Mom and Pop Tipton with the Three Tipton Terrors (me in the middle. . . as usual)

The school where my Mother enrolled me was the East Ward Elementary School.  The school looked like a penitentiary.  It WAS a penitentiary.  

The East Ward Penitentiary Elementary School Downingtown, PA 

We lived on the 100 block of Washington Avenue, the East Ward school was on the 400 block, a three block walk for my five year old little legs.

Washington Avenue today - beautiful now and probably even more beautiful back in 1948 - one thing though that I noticed - Washington Avenue has shrunk because those three block were a LOT shorter when I took this picture than they were when I was a five year old wimpy kid.  That was a LONG walk back then.

I remember well walking those tree lined streets, looking at the houses where my classmates lived and wishing I lived in a house like they did and not our $22.50 a month roach hotel apartment that we had to share with my school age uncles.  Oh how I wanted my own backyard to play in.

Walking those three blocks by myself was a scary experience.  Two danger zones was a classmate of mine (whose name I will not mention here because he claims he doesn't remember doing what I'm about to tell you and he said if he did he apologizes) who would often be waiting for me right before I entered the blacktop that was at the back of the school (sorry for the long sentence).  

There I was, within sight of the school and "Pudgy" (he was bigger than me, quite a bit bigger than me)would be waiting for me, barring my last few steps to the safety of the school.

Guess who "Pudgy" is?  Yes!  You're right, he is the big kid in the back row on the left.  This photo from our sixth grade operetta play.  Don't ask me the title of the operetta, I only know I was dressed as a scarecrow (a portend of my future?)

There he was, standing on the embankment, with a smirk on his face, knowing that he was going to scare the crap out of me.

He said "Where do you think you're going?"  He knew very well where I was going but I think he liked to hear me stammer and stutter (which I did at this time - how I was cured is another story to be told later)


I said "Uh, uh, uh, . . . I'm, I'm going to, to school."  

He said "You're not going anywhere until you get past me" and then he would shove me to the ground. Then he would laugh, loud.  Others could hear! 

Tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled to get up, only to be pushed down again.  "Please Pudgy, let me go." 

I think that's what Pudgy wanted to hear because every time I begged to be left alone, he usually stopped.  Sometimes he didn't and would push me down on the wet, grassy ground until my bib pants were stained green with grass.  Maybe he wanted to show our other classmates his conquest.

I don't remember exactly when Pudgy grew bored with pushing me down on the wet grass (this is the first time I found out that grass is always wet early in the morning, even today!) but eventually he did stop.  Maybe he found someone else to bully.  All I knew was to avoid him whenever I saw him.

"Pudgy" today - ironically we're good friends today and he has no memory of those first days of school for us in 1948
"Pudgy", Larry (my best friend during elementary school - a subject I will cover in future "Wimpy Kid" posts and me at a class reunion about ten years ago - do you see the irony?  I am BIGGER than Pudgy now - better looking too :)
"Lar", my fellow "Wimpy Kid" friend during elementary school and to this day

I realize this isn't a particularly funny story, and in fact it's a sad story.  But I only tell it because this actually happened to me.  I guess this was part of my "initiation" into the Big World Outside of our Roach Motel apartment. I have a couple of other bullying stories that I will tell in future blog posts but this is the first time I was bullied in my life if I don't count my father's bullying.

My father Ike Tipton, this is the man who I wish would have stood up for me but never did. . . . not once. Maybe it was just as well because I learned to stand up for myself.  A Boy Named Sue.

Which reminds me, the first thing I did after I was bullied by Pudgy on that first day was to tell my Mother and father.  I fully expected my father to confront Pudgy's parents.  Nothing.  They did nothing.  They just looked at me and then turned around and went about whatever they were doing.  My Mother washing dishes and my father eating his biscuits and gravy.  My father, who almost always wore a wife beater T-shirt around the house (no smoking jacket for him) and was a truck driver and welder. . . . nothing. I learned my first lesson in my young life, which, in retrospect was probably one of the best lessons I ever learned, stand up for yourself.  No one else is going to do it, do it yourself. 

My Uncle Dude (with his wife beater T-Shirt), my Mom and my grandmother (my father's mother) at her suburban ranch home with the washing machine on the porch (advertising to the world her hillbilly roots) - by the way, I'm in the picture too - my Mom is pregnant with me in this photo - 1941

To this day I remember how disappointed I was that my father wouldn't stand up for me.  I wasn't' angry, just sad and I felt so lonely. So very lonely.  I knew I was on my own.

Me, in third grade (1951), the wimp with the big mop of hair standing behind my ramrod standing straight friend Stuart. This is where I learned to keep a low profile. Notice that the tall kids always had to stand in the back.  Next to me is my friend Peggy West.  She had it worse than I did because he was actually taller than me which was a big No!No! in the Fifties.  We quickly bonded.  I lost track of her after sixth grade.  I've always wondered what happened to her.  I liked Peggy. Notice that she had pigtails which were a target for putting in inkwells and pulling.  Poor Peggy.

Interestingly, I don't remember why Pudgy stopped with his Troll Under the Bridge game with me but he did stop.  I would like to think I punched him in the nose and got him to stop but I think what happened was that he grew bored with me and went on to someone else who was easier to bully.  I think what I did was avoid him, I tried to make myself less of an easy target. 

Troll Under the Bridge story - used to scare the bejesus out of me

It's a funny thing with memories, somethings I remember very clearly and other things, not so much.  One thing that I do remember clearly was another Danger Zone on my daily three block walk to school. . . and that was the Butcher Gang.  That I will tell you about in my next "Wimpy Kid" blog posting. Which, by the way, I'm taking a few days hiatus from posting because folks, dredging up these memories I'm finding is proving to be somewhat exhausting.  Both mentally and physically exhausting.  

But I do have many good memories of those early times.  The innocent and pristine Fifties, which we thought at the time was so boring.  Hey folks, I am so glad I grew up in the Fifties.  Couldn't have been a better time for me to form my personality and skill at how to survive in this sometimes hostile but mostly friendly world.

Our Fifth Grade class at East Ward Elementary school - 1952 - that's me in the back row again with the mop of hair and my head slightly tilted - staying out of everyone's way - my tall friend Margaret "Peggy" West is also in the back to my right without pigtails now - guess she got tired of having them pulled on and dipped into inkwells by classmates who sat behind her in class (each desk had an inkwell - that's how OLD I am) - by the way, notice some of the really younger kids in our "CLASS PICTURE"?  They weren't in our class, they were outside during recess and photo bombed out class picture. 



  1. Hi Ron,

    I think you could kick ol' Pudgy's butt now...for old times!

    Your buddy Stuart looks like he's ready to enlist.

    BTW, my hillbilly Grandpa wore those wife-beater T-shirts all the time, although I think we has a real softy (I never even saw him get mad, even when me and my carsick sis puked in the back seat of his car! And I'm pretty sure Grandma wore the pants! She had a wringer washer too.)



    1. Andy,
      "Pudgy" is really a nice guy . . . . now. When I told him about this incident, he truly didn't remember and was very apologetic and I believe him. But I did tell him that at that time, when I was first going to school, I dreaded running into him because I knew he would push me to the ground. And that's all he did, he never hit me or harassed me during school days. Thinking about it now, the pushing probably only happened a few times but it has been branded in my memory as the first incidence of standing up for myself. As I said in my blog posting, I've had several other bullying incidences in my life but they all turned out different because I did punch back. That's all it took to stop the bullying.

      Stuart is quite a character. He lives in Florida (Ft. Lauderdale) and we're still in touch.

      One thing I will say about my hillbilly relatives, I never knew of a one who actually were wife beaters although I knew families who did have real wife beaters in their families. None in my thank goodness. My Mother definitely wore the pants in our family, my father would never dare cross her. There was never any shouting or foul words exchanged, when she was displeased, just THE LOOK. My father didn't want THE LOOK. I'm not a violent person nor or my brothers. To me violence, especially against family members, is never an answer to a domestic dispute or arguments. Now I've had some doozies of arguments in which I've raised my voice and Bill too but never violence. If there was we wouldn't be together because I would stand for it.

  2. Ron,

    Again a great post. Funny thing about "leaving home". I was just the opposite in the fact that I was always leaving home. I would wander as far as I felt comfortable, then would dare to go a little further. I remember going to school which was within walking distance to home and in second grade would go to my friend Olga Floyd's house instead of home. I suppose that would have been ok except that Olga was a latch key child (something unusual back in the early fifties) so we were two second graders unsupervised. Much as my parents tried, I would manage to find my way to her house. They tried, the school tried but to no avail. Somehow I got tired of being "suppressed" or I got tired of Olga but that became history in my short life. Wanderlust did not. I confessed to my mom not too long before she died that I used to go into her purse and take two dimes, go to the local trolley stop and ride to the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, then ride back to our trolley stop. I thought she would find that amusing that I confessed something that happened over 60 years ago. NOT. Instead I got the "look" (all mother's had it) and she told me she was upset that I would take (steal) money from her. Not the reaction I was expecting but mothers will be mothers no matter how old the child is. Of course she forgave me and told me to never do it again. On another subject, my grandmother also had a wringer washer in the basement. It was made by Thor so of course we called it "Thor".

    I'll email you shortly with some entries in my Mom's ledger.


    1. Jack,
      Sounds like you have some interesting stories to tell too! I never had your wanderlust but I am familiar with the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby. I used to use it many times back in the day when I would go into Philly from the West Chester bus (took the subway) or our bowling league (in the Sixties) from center city Philly. All fond memories. I assume the 69th Street Terminal is still there?

    2. Ron,

      Yes the 69th Street Terminal is still there although I don't think I would want to venture there these days. The area is now pretty much taken over by West Philly even though it is still in Delaware County. In fact most of Upper Darby has become an extension of West Philly. What can I say? We all gotta live somewhere.


    3. Jack,
      That's what I feared, that the 69th Street Terminal isn't a safe place now. It's a shame because it was a bustling, happening place back in the day (Sixties). But you're right, "we all gotta live somewhere."

  3. Hey Ron - love the cool penitentiary where you attended school. And, wow, did they ever like to get into the makeup with that operetta. White trash cockroaches - too much. Cockroaches in a caste system. Actually the building which housed your apartment looks quite elegant in the photo. Maybe it did look better back then than it's state now - which I'm aware of as we visited some of your old haunts on our trip to Philly.

    All I can say is Jeff Kinney (author or a Wimpy Kid) look out.


    1. Hey Pat!
      You're much too generous with your complimentary comments. But I'll take them. Believe me, the apartment we lived in was a dump. It may look good in the photo but it WAS.A.DUMP.

  4. I'm really enjoying these posts! I found some old pictures from the family the other day, I intend to go through them as soon as I can. Maybe I'll do a Wimpy Kid post, too!

    Peace <3

    1. Jay,
      That's a great idea! I would LOVE to read your "Wimpy Kid" stories as I'm sure a lot of other people would also. Isn't it interesting that most of us considered ourselves "Wimpy Kids" when we were in high school? Do it Jay, DO IT!

  5. Another great post, Ron. It's wonderful that you're still in touch with some of the kids you knew in grade school. My family moved around so damn much when I was small that I never had time to keep friends. My question: do bullies REALLY forget the things that they did, or do they just conveniently erase the incidents from their memories? That undoubtedly sounds harsh - - but being bullied was a truly traumatic experience for timid kids like you and me.

    I was only five years old when we first moved to California but I was already in the second grade. At that time, I was bullied by a GIRL. Her name was Patty. She was twice as big as me and uglier than hell, with incredibly thick glasses and bizarre curly hair. She would harrass me relentlessly every day when I was walking to and from school. I finally told my Mom. My Mom called the school, and the school (I don't remember exactly who) put a stop to it.

    My grandmother had a wringer washing machine but she kept it in the laundry room. When I was a tiny tyke they used to give me baths in the sink in that laundry room. I can still remember the round brown-colored cake of soap.

    1. Jon,
      "Do bullies REALLY forget the things that they did, or do they just conveniently erase the incidents from their memories?" That is a GOOD question Jon. I don't know how "Pudgy" could forget such an incident that has been forever seared into my memory bank. But I do believe he really forgot it. I am convinced now that he is sincere in regretting that he did bully me. He's actually quite a nice guy, much to my surprise.
      How about those wringer washing machines? I remember my Mother putting the wash through the wringer. Then I also remember Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell warning Martha Graham of the Washington Post that she "would get her tit caught in a wringer" if her newspaper published stories about the Watergate/Nixon Administration coverup. I bet a lot of people today wouldn't get the reference.

      My Mom used to use Fels Naptha soap to wash us in the sink. I will never forget that smell. Ah memories, huh Jon?



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