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The Great Battery Caper

Posted by djingodjango on Wednesday, February 15, 2012


As I have mentioned, many of my earlier years were spent in Concord NH in the late 1940’s. I recall first living on Monroe St. in a duplex that was a better place then the tiny apartment on South Main St. where I was first brought after my birth.  Of that place I remember nothing.

Down the block from my home on Monroe St was the Rumford Elementary School; a brick block-house with many windows and the smell of freshly waxed floors and the aroma of the noon meal cooking down in the cafeteria. 

Because I lived just a block or so away and on the same side of the street, the cafeteria had become a wistful item on my “things to do” list – for I could run home for a lunch my mother had prepared for me. What did they eat down those stairs? ( I did eventually visit that place some 60 years later when I had a gig entertaining the kids in the cafeteria of that school.)

The second place we lived was also a duplex, but closer to my mothers work place. She was an RN and had duty at the Margaret Pillsbury Hospital. The street where lay this sprawling complex, for it was also a nursing school, was named Pillsbury street.

And two houses down from me on Pillsbury St. lived Larry.


I think we all have run into a Larry or two in our lives.

Larry was like one of  the "Jets" from "West Side Story" when they sang "Officer Krupke.  Larry would probably turn out to be the 21 year old hoodlum/senior in high school who wore engineer boots and a black jacket. The troglodyte who sat at the back of the class room and hit you in the back of the head so hard with a well placed shot from a pea shooter that your glasses fell off producing gales of laughter from your less-then-sympathetic class mates.

If ever a boy was destined to end up in prison some day – it would have been Larry.

Now to be perfectly honest, I don’t know whatever happened to Larry. Perhaps he went to a seminary later on and became a morally upright and decent priest. Or maybe he got into politics and worked hard for the civil rights movement which was slumbering uneasily up the tracks until it awoke with a roar in the 1960

I don’t really know. All I know is, at this time, Larry was not the best influence in my life.

Larry was several years older then me and introduced me to smoking at seven. Dirty jokes. Sly remarks about women’s bodies (of which I had the usual curiosity but didn’t dwell on it like Larry did) and thievery. It was this last topic he talked about most of all and bragged constantly about how much easy money could be made if a fellow knew how to got out and get it.

Larry was a walking demon hotel with every room harboring issues. Trust me. Some things we did together I have difficulty talking about to this very day.

It was a lazy summer’s afternoon in 1949 when Larry proposed a caper to me. Quick money, simple snatch-and-grab. I was seven. What did I know?  Sure, I said, picking my nose and staring stupidly at the end of my finger.

“Good.” He said - and then he pointed to my little red wagon which for some reason or other I had dragged down the street.  I was to be the look-out and getaway driver. He said to meet him across the street at a junk-yard a quarter mile or so from the hospital sometime after supper, when it began to get dark. "And don't forget your wagon!" barked the boss.

I said something to the effect I would have to ask my parents if I could go out and play after supper.  He said, “No. No. Don’t say anything. Just bring that cart to the junk yard.” His eyes flicked about in his elongated head.

“OK”, I said. And as I went home to supper with the empty red wagon rattling behind me I thought this would be a jolly adventure.

As it turned out, I easily skipped out after supper because my parents were busy with my new-born little sister and if they asked later where I was, I could say, “Oh. I was outside the house playing with Larry. You said it was ok.” They probably wouldn’t remember, I figured, if they had said anything.

Off Larry and I trundled to the junk yard, entering it from the back way across a field and through a rickety wooden fence. In the cart, Larry had brought a few tiny rags. “To hide the stuff we steal.” They wouldn’t have hidden a mosquito’s man-hood much less the automobile batteries we stole.

Yes. I said automobile batteries. Delco with six chambers. The big old-fashioned heavy kind, filled with acid and other stuff which would have probably erupted with a spectacular explosion and fire had they been introduced to even the tiniest of spark

And I said the plural. Batteries. Two of them.

Larry crept up to the newly deposited junk cars. He had cased the joint earlier in the day. And with a great deal of sweating and cursing on his part – I was no help – I was busy looking at a cricket crawling on the dirt in front of me; Larry loaded the two very heavy auto batteries in his little red cart, covered them with the two hankies and off we went.

He asked me to meet him the next day and we would go and sell them to someone and split the money.

As usual, I said – “Sure.”

Well, the next day we did go someplace and try to sell them.

To the owner of the aforementioned junk yard.

Yes, friends; Larry had the incredible nerve and overwhelming stupidity to try and sell stuff we stole from a guy back to him the next day.

Police were called. We were driven down to the police station. Larry was separated from me and I sat out in the main office, swinging my little scabby-kneed legs back and forth on the bench. I was whistling and picking my nose (an accomplishment I had learned after many months of practice.)

My poor father showed up from work in an hour or so and the police captain, who had asked me a few questions, grinned at him and said “Were lettin’ Georgie go. It’s the other kid that’s in trouble. He just tagged along.” 

I smiled and thought the whole thing was sort of exciting and fun – except for the part where I was put in the back-seat of a police car.

I got car sick real easy back then.

Plus they kept my little red wagon for a week or so.  I still think of my little red wagon with fondness, sort of the way George "Baby Face" Nelson looked at his 1936 Chevy Standard with the V-6 engine.

My father just shook his head as he gathered me up and took me home where he had to explain the whole thing to my mother, who was the sort of person who always tried to avoid controversy and conflict.

She was not amused.

And Larry. Well. I was asked not to play with Larry anymore.

The next month, we moved to Vermont. And I found another Larry there. 

Or, perhaps, he found me.

© 2012 George Locke




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