“Life is an Adventure”

by Bill Owens SM3/c

The Interlude

In my sixteenth year and before entry to the Navy I quit school “much to the horror of my parents”. 

My first full time job in this capacity was as an apprentice greens keeper at an exclusive golf club located within a five mile radius of my home and frequented by a number of persons who were acquainted with my parents. (all the more embarrassing to them).

In a short time not really highly pleased with my status in this uplifting environment I answered an ad in a local newspaper and found myself promoted to “chauffeur” for a well to do retired couple who lived in an exclusive apartment hotel. The gentleman had among other endeavors owned an “Indian Motorcycle distributorship and had close ties to the Chicago hierarchy particularly, to the police department where I believe the brother had been police commissioner.

In order to disguise my position as a school drop-out I told these folks I attended a Catholic school (now out for summer vacation). And thus started my next phase of findings and observations in the workaday world.  

Looking back with warm feelings on my part for the kindness I was shown by these warm hearted people and yet feeling degraded to a degree as in effect a servant I leaped to accept an invitation to work at a Wisconsin resort for the remainder of the season along with a school friend who worked there each summer.  In retrospect I still feel badly about the short notice given to my former employers but at sixteen my guilt was not strong enough to prevent my departure.

I remember looking at a picture of the resort prior to my travels there and perhaps (as many have found to be true) the picture bore little resemblance to what I was confronted with when I saw it first hand.  I could only presume the photo was about twenty years old. The quarters provided were with meager electric service, an ice box rather than a refrigerator (as were all rooms at the resort) in an eight by nine room with a double bed to be shared with my friend.

The bright side of my job was that my friend and I were the sole managers and operators of a little beer joint, dance hall, juke box, piano and slot machine equipped  establishment built out over the bay adjacent to the resort appropriately named the “Moorings”.

While there was a drudgery side to our positions of additional duties such as retrieving ice from the ice house cutting the ten foot slabs into pieces small enough to handle and servicing guest’s ice boxes along with trips for obtaining provisions for the resort including unpastuerized milk from a dilapidated farm we nevertheless had found a “birds nest on the ground” for ourselves.

Visualize two sixteen year old boys in charge of a beer joint with all its amenities and a resort who’s waitresses consisted of near same age girls AND no parental supervision.

Needless to say we made the most of our opportunities and by and large it was a period of fun and frolic never to be duplicated to this day.

As you might suspect the word was passed near and far among the surrounding countryside containing our peers that the lid was off at the Moorings that if one could manage to say their name the beer flowed. Business of course flourished with the hours of operation continuous from eleven AM until the proprietors (us) became too exhausted to uncap another beer.

Occasionally a group attending the nearby music conservatory would drop in forego their renditions of the classics and give forth with the latest versions of popular music until as they say the “joint rocked”. Unfortunately for all one day the music professor dropped in and put our little rendezvous location off limits to his students  cutting off a pleasant part of the entertainment at our now infamous place of business considered perhaps by mothers as one of considerable ill repute.

I was once told by my father (the policeman) that everyone has a streak of larceny in them an subsequently exercises this characteristic  (sometime using a different definition and justification for the act). I guess my friend and I were doing exactly that when we found out in opening the back of the juke box (with the key furnished to us) that there existed a space between the slot where the money was deposited in the front of the machine and the area just below the device that the money dropped and tripped the switch to activate the playing of records.

Without too much gray matter being used to accomplish our mission we fastened a piece of cardboard that deflected the coin from entering the locked coin box and the money dropped into a cigar box placed in position to receive such booty while at the same time allowing the juke box to perform normally.

I guess if there was any justification for our act it was that the money did not go into our pockets but was used to feed the slot machines that returned all but the winnings from the machines to the owner. Our personal haul of course was the coin we received when we hit the right combination however, captured as we were by the gambling bug it too was shortly returned to the machines as well.

While romances flourished in our “ideal” setting it seemed as though (at least on my part) that I was missing something “perhaps sophistication or boldness” that prevented me somehow from attaining my goal of bedding down “fair maiden” even though coming quite close on occasion.

I was sure my luck was about to change on day the daughter of a college professor and his wife arrived on the scene and I was invited by the daughter that same day to apply sun screen to all the visible parts of her body (little was left to the imagination) along with her promise that she would sneak out of her cabin and go for a midnight sail with my friend and myself.

True to her word she appeared on the dock a little after midnight and the three of us set sail (my friend and I at least with high expectations of what was to come) into the darkness of green bay. I was lucky enough to be seated (actually lying next to  this luscious  female) experiencing all the sensations a young person of my age might expect to feel.  Unfortunately for us we had wandered into the main channel of Green Bay without any lights whatsoever and suddenly found a cargo steamer bearing down on us (unaware of our presence) at a high rate of speed. To make matters worse we were becalmed and had to rely on paddles to hopefully get us out of the path of approaching disaster. Needless to say we made it or I wouldn’t be typing this account. You have probably guessed by now we were totally freaked out and all thought of any further romantic activity were dead and total effort was employed to get us back to home port in one piece. 

In tying up to the dock the mainsail line became jammed at the top of the mast and when my friend climbed the mast to clear it the boat capsized dumping us into the water. This did not happen in total silence of course and probably alerted the parents of the girl as to where their daughter might be and they arrived at the dock admonished us took the daughter in tow and disappeared.

The next day the professor his wife and daughter packed their gear in the early AM and took leave of our Garden of Eden thus ending what might have been an early conquest for one or both of us.

There are some things that just never leave ones mind, even fifty six years later. One such incident related to my friends mother (who had a summer cabin in the area but worked and slept at the lodge). It seemed Fred (my friend) had made arrangements for a sleep over with one of the gals (working as a waitress) using his mothers cabin fore the tryst. For some reason or other I found out the mother was going to her cabin that morning and I raced over to warn Fred in advance to clear out. Well as it worked out Fred had already left but the girl was still there and as I explained the situation to her Fred’s mother arrived to find both the girl and I in her house. I was severely admonished for my apparent actions and threatened with exposure of my dastardly deed to my parents. Having seen a myriad of movies with James Cagney and other gangster actors it had become ingrained in me not to “Rat” on anyone let alone ones friends and I kept my mouth shut. I was later distressed that Fred had not fessed up and cleared me but I remained silent regardless.

I left the resort late that summer for home along with Fred with many pleasant memories about the fun as well as shudders about the physical dangers we had subjected ourselves to in wild drinking and carousing activities. Life was great !