Tag Archives: Charboneau

Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke #AtoZChallenge

K is for Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke. Eleventh of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

In the summer when school was out, I spent much more time on my block. And by the early 1960s, many of the Baby Boom kids on the street were now teens like me — trying to model adult behaviors and figure out where we fit in.

At some point in our early teens, one of the cool, grown-up things we all tried was smoking cigarettes down by the creek at the end of our street. And this opened up a whole new world of deception and subterfuge to outwit our unsuspecting parents.

https://pixabay.com/photos/cigarette-smoke-burning-cigarette-110849/
Cigarette. Photo: Pixabay

Where to get cigarettes?

On the block, we were already veterans of cooperative endeavors from our childhood Halloween Mayhem campaigns. To try smoking as teens, we also had to put our heads together to figure out where and how to get cigarettes.

A few of the parents were smokers, so it was easy enough for some of the neighborhood teens to pilfer one or two cigarettes from a pack here and there — which we would pass around, each of us taking a puff (but nobody inhaling).

My dad, who was a Kent smoker, was trying to quit — so all he had was one reserve “temptation” pack in the house. I pilfered one or two cigarettes from that — but then I had to stop or he’d figure it out.

Drafting a younger sibling

None of this pilfering resulted in an adequate supply — so a new plan was hatched. One of the younger siblings would be drafted to make a trip to the store for a whole pack — someone old enough to walk up to Main Street alone, but young enough that the local store owner could see they were clearly not going to smoke.

Next was forging a note from the kid’s mother saying the cigarettes were for her — then pooling our allowance and babysitting money to pay for the smokes. Amazingly, this plan worked! And more than once, if I remember correctly.

Avoiding the parents

The creek was an ideal, secluded place for smoking. It was surrounded by woods at the end of the street — and our parents never went there. But we still lived in fear of being caught.

To protect my teen co-conspirators and avoid my parents’ prying eyes, I even invented a secret symbol in my diary to indicate when I had smoked — so they wouldn’t catch on if they happened to read it.

Visiting Brixius Creek with my brother Mark on a trip to Endwell, N.Y. (2007). I have fond memories of going down to the creek — where we teens could get away from our folks, try something new and exercise a bit of independence as we grew toward adulthood. Photo by Mark Charboneau

One teen got caught

But not everyone was good at subterfuge — and one of the funniest smoking episodes involved a teen girl up the block.

One winter — when it was too cold for the creek — she was periodically smoking in secret up in her room, then dropping the butts out the window into the snow.

Then spring came, the snow melted and her dad went berserk when he found the pile of butts under her window. Yikes! That was the talk of the street for weeks.

The creek: our teen refuge

Fortunately, although I enjoyed the intrigue of sneaking around, I wasn’t too crazy about smoking and never took it up.

But I still have fond memories of going down to the creek — where we teens could get away from our folks, try something new and exercise a bit of independence as we grew toward adulthood.

Up next,  L is for Line dancing and Long distance friendships. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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IBM Country Club and the great divide #AtoZChallenge

I is for IBM Country Club and the great divide. Ninth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

During my elementary years in the late 1950s, there was a sense of egalitarian camaraderie among my Endwell, N.Y., classmates. We were all just one, great mob of youngsters crowded together in grade school trying to learn — and having a bit of fun after school and on the playground.

But as I entered my teens in the early 1960s, new divisions began to emerge — between the jocks and the nerds, or the River Rats (who, like me, lived down near the Susquehanna) and the Snob Knob crowd (who lived up on the hill by the high school), or the popular kids and the rest of us.

IBM Country Club and Recreation Center, Johnson City, N.Y. Photo: Pinterest

Yet the great divide that trumped them all was between the kids whose parents worked at IBM — and those like me, whose parents did not. And in the summers, that divide was epitomized by the IBM Country Club and Recreation Center.

A country club is born

IBM was founded in the 1920s in Endicott, N.Y. —  know as overtown to us Endwell teens, who went there on weekends to shop, see a movie, buy records and hang out.

By the 1960s, IBM was the biggest company in the area with thousands of employees — and one of the perks of working there was admission for employees and their families to the IBM Country Club, with its pools and recreation center and even a bowling alley!

https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2019/06/20/developers-wanted-ibm-country-club/1509049001/
IBM Country Club rec center (c. 1945). Photo: Broome County Historical Society/ pressconnects.com

A dawning awareness

At the start of my teens, I was not too aware of the IBM Country Club. My family went to our lakeside camp most weekends in the warmer months, or on vacation to Cape Cod when my dad’s General Electric plant shut down in the summer, or on car trips to visit family members — so we were pretty busy with our own activities.

But as my teens progressed — especially right before school ended — I’d hear my IBM classmates tell one another, “See you at the country club this summer.” Or in the fall, some teen girls would talk about guys they had met “at the country club.” And gradually, I started to feel left out.

Guest passes

https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2019/06/20/developers-wanted-ibm-country-club/1509049001/
IBM Country Club pool. Photo: Broome County Historical Society/ pressconnects.com

Sure, there was the GE picnic we went to every year — with a big cookout, raffle prizes and Bingo (where I once won a set of six tumblers in their own wire carrying case!). But this was nothing like the stories I heard coming out of the exclusive IBM Country Club when summer ended — and I longed to go there.

Finally, I heard that IBM teens who had access to the club could bring someone along with a guest pass — so I managed to wrangle an invitation from one of my female classmates.

The grass is always greener

I was totally excited to finally be getting in — and looked forward to swimming and sunning myself on the pool deck with my friend and checking out the boys. Yet after hanging around the pool for a few hours, I found myself wondering what the big deal was — it was not much different from En-Joie pool in Endicott, where I swam as a kid.

And that’s how I learned that my teen envy was just a classic case of the grass always seeming greener (and the pool water pristiner) on the other side of the fence — in this case, on the manicured grounds of the IBM Country Club.

Up next, J is for Junior High the Junior Prom. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Halloween Hijinks: Teen Version #AtoZChallenge

H is for Halloween Hijinks: Teen Version. Eighth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

When I wrote about my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y., I described Halloween Mayhem — when the 50-odd kids on my street tormented the adults with endless bell ringing and window soaping in the weeks before Halloween.

By the time I reached my teens, though, the mayhem was more subdued as many of us were now adolescents and beyond such Halloween hijinks. Instead, we concentrated on a new kind of teen fun —getting our costumes together, then devising a street-by-street plan to maximize our candy haul. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/halloween-holidays-mystery-72939/
Grounded for going down to the creek

Yet the best Halloween ever during my teens was the year my parents grounded me and I couldn’t go trick-or-treating at all. The reason: I had gone down to the creek at the end of our block after school and was hanging around (innocently, I might add) with some of my neighborhood girlfriends’ older brothers.

To compound my crime, Mom may have expressly told me “don’t go down to the creek after school” — practically an engraved invitation to do just that.

https://pixabay.com/photos/nature-creek-landscape-flowing-4579049/I might have gotten away with it, too — if, when she called down from the street above, I had sneaked home the back way and appeared magically in our back yard. But I lacked street smarts then, so I foolishly yelled back, “Yes?” And that was it, Mom was hopping mad.

My punishment: No Halloween!

There were some hot words exchanged — followed by a sentencing meeting when Dad got home from work. The punishment: I could not go trick-or-treating on Halloween AND I would have to stay at the house and dole out candy when the kids rang the bell.

Ugh, what a humiliation! Still, what could I do? So I decided to stoically make the best of it and act like this was absolutely no big deal — even though I was privately green with envy at missing the Halloween fun with my teen friends.

Halloween night arrives

When Halloween night arrived, I took up my post in the living room by the big dish of candy. When the doorbell rang, I’d let the little kids in, try to guess who they were — then plop candy in each of their bags before doing it all over again with the next batch of youngsters.It didn’t help that the kids on the block, unaware of my grounding, kept asking, “What are you doing home? How come you’re not out trick or treating?” How embarrassing!

Still, everything went smoothly until a tall kid, dressed as a ghost with a sheet over his head, rang the bell and came in alone. I figured it was one of the older brothers — so I guessed one name, then another. But the ghost just stood there silently.

A silent and scary ghost

“Who are you?” I demanded finally, getting a little nervous. The ghost did not reply. Mom was escorting my younger siblings on their Halloween rounds — so it was just me at home with Dad, who was in shower. So I inched around the corner and banged on the bathroom door.

”Dad, can you come out? There’s a big kid here and he won’t say who he is,” I yelled through the door. Any disturbance in his routine could set my Dad off — and interrupting his shower was enough to do it. To top it off, all he had in there with him was a towel.

Pretty soon the door opened, and out stomped my unhappy dad. His hair wet and a towel around his hips, he confronted the ghost.

”You tell us who you are right now or get out of this house!” he bellowed. I looked over at the ghost and saw the sheet was shaking — then the ghost started laughing.

“Tell us who you are right this minute!” Dad yelled, but the ghost just laughed harder. Finally, the ghost pulled off his sheet, and it was Porch Sitting Dad from up the street — the one who sat out front to keep us from soaping his windows during Halloween Mayhem.

That year, Porch Dad apparently decided to create some mayhem of his own by fake trick-or-treating. But my dad was not amused.

Best Halloween ever

”What the hell is wrong with you?” Dad bellowed, when he saw who it was. But Porch Dad laughed even harder — and pretty soon my dad was laughing, too. And so was I.

Here I was, supposedly on punishment. But the sight of Dad dripping wet in his towel trying to unmask an “intruder” — who turned out to be his practical-joking neighbor — was too funny for words.

What a story this would make when I got to tell it! And to think, I might have missed it all if I hadn’t been grounded!

Like I said, best Halloween ever.

Up next, IBM Country Club and the great divide. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin