As we grew older, my parents decided it would be best for the family to leave New Haven and move to Louisville. Daddy had been commuting daily to his job there with the U.S. Customs Service and didn’t have much time with the family except on weekends. They felt that education opportunities would be better there too.
But leaving New Haven meant a real cost to our parents in terms of social life. Daddy had spent his entire life there and knew everybody in town. Mama had been there long enough to have made numerous friends also. She was involved in her bridge club and had other connections. Moving away from New Haven meant giving this up for them and I think it was a price heavier than they expected it to be. As for me, I experienced some of the same effect initially.
I was 17 and it was a bit of a shock for me as it was my senior year. I was playing on the varsity
basketball team and was looking to be graduated from St. Catherine’s High School in only a few
months. So leaving this and fitting into a new school in the middle of the year was pretty awkward. Flaget High School was a Catholic all boys high school taught by Brothers with a few lay teachers. I didn’t know anyone and no one was particularly friendly. Recess and lunch were mainly standing around in the cold outside on the sidewalk in small groups smoking until time to return to classes. I didn’t smoke, didn’t wear the leather jackets the others had or mix much with them; I felt pretty left out.
There were no girls in the school and when prom time came around, I don’t know who those guys took as dates. I didn’t go myself; girls weren’t a part of my life then anyway. I’m sure my brothers and sisters faced adjustment issues with the move too but all in all, everyone seemed to survive the change to big city life.
The new house was larger with both an upstairs and a basement. The upstairs provided more
sleeping spaces and the basement between floodings, provided more storage. A central furnace
meant the end of coal stoves. So it was a step up for us all and my parents’ decision clearly was
the right one.
We soon learned how to entertain ourselves. A typical approach was found by Butch and me.
Our telephone service was on a two party line. Frequently, when you picked up the phone to make a call the other party was already using the line and you had to wait until they were finished. It just happened that the other party on our line was a black family. Butch and I got the bright idea of hooking up the tape recorder and rigged the line with a small neon lamp. When the neon lamp flashed, we knew the other party would be on the line. So we would start the recorder and capture the conversation of the other party unbeknownst to them.
Some of the conversations were totally hilarious. One night, a black man was arguing with his
friend who had taken him out the previous night on a drunk. They carried on and on until we split our sides laughing. It was like the Jeffersons. The dialogue was so hilarious that we played the tape over and over until we both had memorized it. Butch and I would mimic the two men’s conversation to each other and anyone else who would listen.