In front next to the curb was a huge maple tree, was about three feet in diameter with three main trunks angling up, what seemed to us, unbelievable distances into the sky. We managed to scrounge enough material to build a platform nailed to the three trunks about 12 feet off the ground. We robbed pieces of kindling wood from our winter wood supply and nailed 'steps' up to the platform and then on up into the upper reaches of each of those trunks.
With so much war news of naval action in the Pacific at this time (1943) it was only natural that this huge maple tree became our 'ship' with the platform serving as the bridge. We tied a piece of rope at the side of the bridge so that if we were sinking we could 'abandon ship' by sliding down the rope. At the upper reaches of the steps up the three trunks we fashioned machine guns and manned them with neighbor kids during our naval battles.
After the big battles we held award ceremonies and pinned medals on deserving crew members who had distinguished themselves during the battle. The 'medals' were traced from pictures in the National Geographic, colored and pasted on a piece of cardboard cut out the shape of the medal.
The closest we ever came to an accident was when I was on the bridge by myself and decided to shimmy down the rope. The bottom of my levis were ripped and one of my pant legs caught on a nail leaving me halfway down the rope - upside down. Fortunately Mom heard my cries for help, rushed out, bravely climbed to the platform and got my pant leg loose. Without that emergency, Mom would never have considered the thought of climbing those rickety steps on the old maple tree.
We moved into a white, two-story house with no central heating. But it did have some excellent features from the standpoint of young boys. There was a huge maple tree in the front yard and there were bedroom windows on the second floor from which things such as model airplanes could be launched.
This was during the early years of WWII when dry cereal like Wheaties was hard to get. Instead they had a substitute called 'Pep' which tasted like cardboard. But they were smart enough to put a piece of thin, 4x6-inch balsa wood in each package on which the outline and markings of American fighter planes were stamped in blue ink. After cutting out the body, wings etc with an exacto knife you could glue the parts together to end up with a small model plane that could be launched with a rubber band or simply thrown.
There were 15-20 different models of fighter planes and soon one had collected and built most of them but, whether by design or not, there were always a couple which were very hard to come by. This meant that we had to eat lots of Pep so we could justify buying more packages hoping to get that elusive Curtiss P-40 or whatever. It was getting harder and harder to get the tasteless cereal down when we hit on an idea. We found that my dog, Rex, would readily eat the Pep with or without milk so we secretly started plying him with all the cereal he could eat. This is how we finally completed our collection of warplanes.
But we did end up with many duplicates. This is where the second floor windows came in. We would squeeze a liberal amount of glue onto the nose of one of the extras, light it on fire and launch it on it's final, flaming dive into our backyard 'victory' garden.
The other great feature at 1018 2nd Ave N was the giant maple tree.
If you want to see the names of the kids (or the names that Mary Lou and I recall) -
press the 'key button'.
If you know other names or have corrections please email me.
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