May 1991

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Harpending's Corners


Edwin N. Harris

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I graduated from Dundee High School in 1935, and took the obligatory trip to Washington, DC, with the class in our 1934 Ford school bus. Many of the students from this farm town of 1200 souls, had traveled only a few miles from home until now, and of course were excited. But for us veterans of the 1934 trip to Chicago with Ralph Smith, this Washington thing seemed anti-climactic, if not a bore. Then, we traveled free as wild birds, unencumbered with chaperones, supervised schedules, and being told that the trip would be educational.

The bus was piloted by our friend, Les Green, who was often our noon-time piano player in study hall, playing such tunes as, "My Gal Sal," "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louie," "It's a Sin To Tell a Lie," and "Mocking Bird Hill." The bus made a daily ten-mile trip from around Weston to school, and after Les parked it, he doubled as school janitor until it was time for the return trip. Some evenings, mostly on weekends, he directed his own small band that played for dances at neighboring small towns. Les was well known and well liked.

Of the trip, I remember most the stifling humidity of Washington and our cramped quarters in one of the hundreds of tiny cabins packed in an open field, somewhere east of Washington, probably the site of an old military encampment. The cabins were called our "Motel," with their bath houses positioned to serve several cabins each. The girls section was located across one of the main roads that bisected the camps.

Boys who had female attachments attended them in the evenings, while I, unattached, roamed with one of the small bands of free spirits. We found a seedy saloon within walking distance that would serve any age, and we slept little. In that heat we could not expect to sleep much in any event. Air conditioning was as yet unknown, and we were all glad to leave for home.

Years later I visited Washington with my family under much more pleasant circumstances. When I tried to recall something of the first trip, there were few positive memories.

© 1991, Edwin N. Harris
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