2. Stream of consciousness II

Politics is in a bit of a lull right now and the house is slowly coming together so I thought I would continue my last post. However, I have changed it to a page, not a post.

My roommates convinced me to take these two courses. One was Biology I taught by an interesting little character whose whole life was wrapped up in the study of Paramecium. His name, as I recall, was T.C.Chen. He left most of his teaching to assistants who were students themselves. One of them was the older brother of a fellow named Bob Harris who was later a medical school classmate and fellow surgical resident. The course was fun and I enjoyed it, a good sign. In those days, pre-med consisted of mostly zoology since molecular biology did not exist. The correct number of human chromosomes had only just been discovered.

The Comparative Anatomy class was a real challenge. The first week we were introduced to the lab by learning to dissect a shark. I had never dissected anything and had no idea what a muscle looked like. Comparative anatomy studies the analogous organs of different species. It is a sort of introduction to embryology as the human fetus looks pretty much like other vertebrate fetuses during its development, including the presence of gills. I managed a C in that class and an A in the other so I decided this was to be my career.

Now, I was faced with a problem. I was 21 and not a full time student so I was likely to be drafted. All the Reserve units in California were full. I went home to Chicago to think things over. I now knew I wanted to be a doctor, everyone who knew me said a surgeon, and the problem was how to go about it with no funds. I actually made an appointment with the Dean of Northwestern Medical School in Chicago, a very nice man, and told him my story. He encouraged me but had no specific solution to my problem. About that time, two things happened that greatly affected my decisions. I had a big blowup with my father over nothing much but it was obvious that any plan of staying in Chicago and going to school was out. He and I could not live under the same roof. I never quite figured out why.

The second event was a call from my college roommate who had enlisted in the Washington State Air National Guard and wanted me to do the same so he would have a buddy in basic training. It took me one day to make up my mind. In those days, there were car transport companies that would allow people to drive a car from one city to another for free. You paid your own expenses but it was otherwise free. I picked up a two year old Cadillac with a Midlothian Country Club sticker on the windshield and left the next morning.

I drove across South Dakota stopping at an aunt and uncle’s home in Milbank for the night. He was a GP and well loved in the town but nearing retirement. They retired early and I left early the next morning. About 50 miles west of Milbank, while driving 100 miles per hour at 5 AM, I hit a pheasant. There are more pheasants killed by autos in South Dakota than by hunters. This one almost evened the score as he hit just in front of my face but high enough that he didn’t come through the windshield. Had he done so, my story would have ended there.

It did make a mess of the windshield and I spent a half day in Aberdeen getting it replaced. Those Cadillacs had a curved windshield that formed corners at each side. They were expensive to replace. It cost $100. I set out again and followed Interstate 90 although it was just under construction then. In places it was great; in others, it was gravel. One of those places caused me to commit the most serious social faux pas possible in Cour d’ Alene Idaho. More of that later. Eventually, I made it to Hayden lake, the location of my friend’s family’s summer home. Hayden Lake was similar to Lake Arrowhead, where I now live, but larger and, in 1959, not as developed. The Country Club was right in front of my friend’s home; Bing Crosby was a member, and, since I had arrived after Labor Day, the official end of the season, we played every day.

We both went over to the ANG base, which was also Spokane Airport, and I signed up. We were scheduled to go to basic the first week of October. That gave us almost a month of nothing to do but play golf. There was some social life as college had not yet commenced classes and there were some girls around from the U of Idaho. Here is where I committed my social catastrophe. The first night after I arrived, we all moved over to the Country Club bar for beer and socializing. There were a half dozen girls and guys and the conversation went along smoothly until someone asked me about my trip. I told my pheasant story and then, fatefully, the subject of I 90 came up. I said the road had been great until I got past the Montana border and then it turned into cow pasture with lots of detours and I had even had a rock chip my windshield from a truck passing me.

Silence followed.

The conversation passed on to other topics and I didn’t really notice how I had killed the conversation. Later, after we took the girls home, we went back to the bar for a final beer and I was informed of my error. In short, there was nothing east of Cour D’ Alene Idaho, all the way to Minneapolis, except the whorehouses in Wallace and Kellogg Idaho. This was how I learned that prostitution was legal in northern Idaho. It all came from the mining towns where, to protect the decent ladies in town, houses of prostitution were permitted to operate openly and legally. Wallace and Kellogg were big silver and lead mining towns (they are now ski resorts and the prostitutes have probably gone on to their reward.) and there were lots of whorehouses in both towns. It turned out that everybody knew about the road except the girls (That was a different era) and nobody ever mentioned it around them. One of the Crosby twins had nearly been killed driving back drunk from Wallace or Kellogg.

Our day, for that idyllic month, consisted of a breakfast of crumb donuts and Treetop apple juice. We would be on the first tee by 9 and would finish after dark, sometimes with cars shining their headlights on the green so we could putt out. We dated the Idaho girls (There were lots of Canadian girls around, referred to as honkers, but the season was early for them.) We spent a lot of time at U of I and had a lot of fun. The girl I dated was named Rita and is probably a great grandmother now. She was nicknamed “Juliet” for a very unfortunate scene where she had too much to drink at a party and sought what she thought was a quiet place to throw up but it was a balcony over the party.

Then off we went to basic training at Lackland AFB. The next section is here.

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