December 31, 2009


(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 and back. The motivation, names and details all come from my imagination though. For example, I don't know if Dad ever made it to Anoka’s amphitheater, but you never know! I’ve started interviewing Dad and finding out more details which I’ll add as needed. To read earlier SHORT LONG posts, click on the link right. July 2, 1946 is on the bottom as you scroll down. Enjoy!)

“We gotta get you outta town,” Tommy Hastings said. “But I still gotta tell somebody.”

“No!” Freddie Merrill exclaimed. His shout echoed off the dark walls of apartments and row houses surrounding Loring Park. Tommy was sure he heard bushes rustling in the park – Nazi spies or Minneapolis gangsters, he was sure – as they came to the corner of West 15th and Hennepin.

Tommy shushed him and whispered, “You want Officer Lars to rap on your head some more with his night stick?”

Freddie cringed and turned to look in the park. Whispering, he said, “Who you gonna tell?”

“May. She’ll know when to let Mom and Dad know we left for Duluth. And Dad’ll know if he can say anything to your dad.”

Freddie nodded as they turned right on to West 15th and ran lightly down the sidewalk to the walk up where the Hastings lived. Crouching like they were thieves, the boys opened the front door and slipped in, tip-toeing down the hall to Tommy’s room in the back of the house. They went into his room, pushed the door closed silently and collapsed on the bed laying crosswise, both pairs of feet dangling almost to the floor.

Neither one woke until early afternoon. They’d curled face-to-face with their feet pulled up on the bed and woke with a start when a string of black cat firecrackers rattled away outside the little bedroom window. Tommy ‘bout fell out of bed then peeked out into the hallway and whispered back to Freddie, “Dad’s sleeping in the living room. I think Mom’s out housecleaning.” With his dad retired on an Army pension, his mom still had to work outside the home. She’d been a domestic when she’d met Guy Hastings in Duluth in 1919 and did the same thing still.

“We gotta go,” Tommy said. He went to his dresser drawers and pulled out socks, underwear, T-shirts and another pair of pants. He grabbed his swimsuit and pillowcase, stuffing everything into it. “I’m ready.”

“What am I supposed to take? All my stuff’s at home!” Freddie said.

Tommy looked at him and rolled his eyes, “We’re the same size, dummy! We can wear the same stuff,” he said, going to the dresser and throwing more things on the bed. He stripped the pillowcase from his pillow and stuffed the things into it. “OK, we should get going if we’re gonna get there before sundown.” He held out the case.

Freddie stared at it for a while before he finally took it. “Can I have the other one? That’s gonna stink like you,” he said, “I’ve never been away from home for more than a couple nights.”

Tommy shrugged. “We have to go.” He slung the dirty pillowcase over his shoulder, opened the door again, peeked out and said, “Come on.”

They left by the front door. May was just coming up the steps, wearily plodding. She worked in the office at General Mills on the Mississippi. “Freddie and me are going up to Duluth,” he said to her.

“Have a nice trip. Write when you get a chance,” she replied. She was in the house and shutting the door an instant later.

“‘Have a nice day’ to you, too,” Tommy said. He looked at Freddie then turned away quickly when he saw the look on his face. “Let’s go.” They went back to Hennepin Avenue and hiked along until they reached University and turned north. “Here we go,” said Tommy as he turned to face Minneapolis and stuck out his thumb. “You better get behind me. ‘s a better chance of us gettin’ a ride if I’m in front.”


“Shut out and stick out your thumb.”

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