October 1, 2009

A SHORT LONG TRIP NORTH 2: July 2 – July 3, 1946

(This series is a little biography and a little imagination. The biography will detail a month long trip my dad took in the summer of 1946 when he and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, Minnesota. The motivation, names and details all come from my imagination though. For example, I don't know if Dad ever made it to the Lake Calhoun in the picture above...but I'll bet he did! I plan on interviewing Dad for more details as time goes on...Enjoy.)

“Nothin’s gonna happen if we go to Calhoun. Besides, your dad said he didn’t care if you went there, right?” asked Tommy Hastings.

Freddie Merrill shrugged, shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and kicked a rock on the sidewalk that ran alongside Loring Park.

“I thought you said that would be OK?” Tommy said.

“I didn’t say it was OK,” Freddie replied sullenly. “I said he wouldn’t say nothin’.”

“That’s practically like saying ‘yes’. Let’s get suits and towels.”

“I have to use yours. If Dad catches me, he’ll think of some reason for me to stay.”

Tommy shook his head, “Nothin’s gonna happen. Let’s go.”

It only took them a half hour to walk from Loring to Calhoun and they were both dripping in sweat. Dashing to the changing rooms, they shed their sweaty shirts and long pants and slid into cool pairs of bathing trunks and sleeveless, white T-shirts. Bundling their clothes, they raced out to the beach. “Last one in’s a rotten egg!” Tommy shouted, kicking sand on the backs and in the lunches of other swimmers and picknickers, he sprinted for the water and dove in.

Tommy was right behind him, though he stopped to apologize for his friend to a couple of red-headed, freckled girls who smiled and told him to not worry about it.

Tommy came up, water streaming from his water-dark hair. “What took you?”

“I had to tell some people you were a slob and to please excuse you,” Freddie said, shaking his head free of water. He waved at the girls on the beach who waved back enthusiastically.

Tommy’s angry come back changed into a leer as he saw the girls and looked at Freddie. He promptly dunked his friend and waved at the girls himself. His happy wave was cut short when he disappeared under water, his legs cut out from under him by a not-so-mysterious deep lake monster.

What followed was a free-for-all that pretty soon included all of the youngsters in Calhoun in a dunking spree that turned into two dozen chicken fights that eventually spilled everyone up on the beach panting, laughing, shrieking and exhausted to collapse on their towels and roll over in the sun.

When they finally plopped down, Freddie was pouting, “Why couldn’t we put our towels over by the girls?”

Tommy slugged him in the shoulder, “If you can find a square inch we could sit on, lead me to it! It figures you’d flirt with the prettiest girls on the beach!”

Freddie rolled over on to his belly, grinning. “Yeah, they are, aren’t they?”

An older boy strolling by in dark swim trunks and no shirt at all stopped nearby and said, “I know a better beach where there’s way better girls.”

Tommy shaded his eyes from the bright sun and looked up at the older boy – he looked like he was only a little younger than Earl. “Yeah? Even if there was a place, how’d we get there?”

The boy leaned over and held out his hand, “Leo Hartkopf, and I got a car.”

Tommy was on his feet, tugging at Freddie’s shirt. “What you got?”

“1938 Ford pick up,” Leo said proudly.

Freddie climbed to his feet, glanced at the redheads then back at Leo, saying, “That’s a piece a junk.”

Leo shrugged and said, “It runs. You game for a trip out to Minnetonka?”

Freddie exclaimed, “Minnetonka! That’s like a million miles away!”

Minnetonka!” Tommy exclaimed, “I’ve never been there before! That’s sounds great!”

Leo grinned and jerked his chin toward the parking lot, looking right at Tommy, “What say we leave your party pooper friend behind and head out to ‘Tonka?”

Tommy turned to Freddie, stricken. “You can’t stay here; we’ve never even been close to Minnetonka before! Dad said it’s huge and all the rich people run their boats out there and stuff. Wasn’t I just saying we should hitchhike out there?”

“But it’s a million miles away! My dad would kill me if I went that far!” Freddie said, bending over to scoop up his towel and clothes, letting Tommy’s things fall free. “I’m gonna go home. See ya.” He started off on the walk back to Loring Park.

Tommy ran after him and grabbed his arm, lowering his voice, “Come on, Freddie. Please? It’d been keen to go out there. Besides, with Leo, we could be out there in ten minutes and back in ten after we had a great time! Maybe even pick up some girls cuter than your redheads!”

Freddie looked doubtful, but he wasn’t walking yet. Finally he said, “You sure we’d be back at the same time?”

Tommy crossed his heart, “Cross my heart and hope to die!”

Freddie held his breath and finally let it out. “OK.” He offered Tommy a little smirk, “I bet I can get a date before you do.”

Tommy slapped Freddie on the back. “I’ll take that bet! Besides, what can happen between then and now?”

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