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Daytona

Daytona Beach

We finally continued on our journey to Florida when I was ten, three and a half years after we had started out from Hastings. It had been a long detour at Grams's house in Chevy Chase.

My parents had lived in Florida before -- in Key West. This time we made it as far as Daytona. It was a lovely, open place to me, free of the tensions that had seemed to suffocate me at Grams's house.

We only stayed there for nine months, and I haven't been back to Florida since. But I loved it there, and I've gone back to it sometimes in my dreams.

Joey and Tanya stopped by there a couple of years ago and sent me these photos they'd taken. I'd expected huge changes to have taken place. But everything looks the same as when I was ten . . . though I guess Joey looks a little older.

The house on Gardner Court

      This is where we lived for a few months during the fall when I was ten, Joey and I sleeping in an open porch on the right side that my father had somewhat weatherproofed with a translucent plastic stuff. We were here during the hurricane that caught our old Oldsmobile in a foot and a half of water out front.
      In December, after the Oldsmobile had died, we had to rent a truck to haul our things to a third-story apartment on the other side of the Halifax River in Daytona Beach.

My parents were sorry they'd left DC. In Daytona they were finding it much harder to make ends meet than they'd expected. My mother took a bookkeeping class and started work at the Nehi Bottling Company.

But I was ten years old and I didn't care if we were rich or poor. I loved Daytona. I went to school barefoot sometimes. I fished in the Halifax River and caught an eel or two that we had for dinner one time, it seems to me. We would sit around on Sunday evenings and listen to Ozzie and Harriet and the Great Gildersleeve and the Lone Ranger and whatever else was on the radio. The Fat Man. The FBI in Peace and War. While we listened we would do other things. Those Sunday nights while the radio stories played, I used my thumb to press cloves into oranges, in close, neat rows, making wonderful sachets for christmas presents. At school I also made some sort of little planter out of a whelk shell, and that was what I gave to Win for Christmas -- maybe with a bottle of perfume from the five and ten.

Where we lived in Daytona Beach.

      Here's the sixplex we moved to in December. It was a couple of blocks from the ocean and a couple of blocks from the main drag of Daytona Beach. We were in the third floor on the right side.
      Julie, whose room was right at the front of the building, was with us at Christmas, but she didn't want to finish her highschool career at Seabreeze High so went back to DC and stayed at Grams's house to finish up at Wilson. But she and a couple of her girlfriends, Mary Ann and Emily, came down to visit at spring break.



After the hurricane we moved from the house at Gardner court and left Daytona proper to move into a third-floor apartment in Daytona Beach, a couple of blocks from the ocean. I went to the elementary school, Joey to the junior high, and Julie to Seabreeze High.

I slept on an army cot in the diningroom. Under the cot I had a collection of cigar boxes, and in one of the boxes I had a few special shells I'd collected on the beach or paid fifteen cents for at one of the gift shops. I liked wandering around in town and peering at the shells in the gift shops and finding a motherlode of comics,their titles neatly torn off, in a dumpster behind a drug store. And I liked going to the movies. There was a theater that showed double features for fourteen cents, and on Thursdays two kids could get in for nine cents, which brought the price down to two and a quarter cents per movie.

Sometimes I went to them with a boy named Roger Griswold. A strange kid. He'd told me, to my revulsion, how he had put a firecracker into a chameleon's mouth and blown it up. The firecracker wouldn't fit so first he had to break its jaw open. Later he bragged about having hanged someone's cat. And he saw the cat again later! That was proof to him that cats really do have nine lives.

Joey on the wharf.

      Joey on the wharf.
      When we were living in Florida, Joey spent his time reading Mathematics for the Million while I spent mine wandering on the boardwalk. Smelling the odors of the arcades. Hearing "The Tennessee Waltz" and "Good Night, Irene." Joey and I laughed at the lyrics of "Good Night, Irene" -- about jumping into the river to drown. We thought that was hilarious. Who would jump into the river and drown for a woman named Irene? "The Tennessee Waltz" brings up the boardwalk and the arcade for me; it must have been playing there all the time.

At the end of the school year we had to go back to DC again. My teacher, Mary Nell Ainsworth, had done her best to bring me out, and before heading back to Wichita, Kansas, to get married she wrote a nice little note to Win and Joel, reminding them to "keep Tommy social."

We could not afford a car so Joel managed to get a ride north for himself and Joey with a man who was driving straight through to New York. It was the summer Winibee was getting married to Shery Humsey, a syrian/lebanese psychiatrist she'd met while a nurse at Lenox Hill hospital. For a few weeks of the summer Joel and Joey stayed in a residential hotel in New York, and when Joey practiced his clarinet it reverberated up and down the central courtyard and the neighbors yelled out their windows, "For Christ's sake will you shut the hell up!"

Win and I came up in a Trailways bus. At one of the stops along the way I had a hot roastbeef sandwich with mashed potatoes, which seemed to me the height of luxury and the most delicious thing I'd ever eaten.

[Nota bene: This page, like all the others in this site, is in progress. Please let me know if you find anything false, misleading, offensive, or intrusive to your privacy. Let me know too if there's a photo or something in the text that should be removed or something that should be added. I have not set up this site primarily for my own sake but for my family and friends -- and I welcome all corrections, additions, and suggestions about how to improve it!]


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Copyright 1999 T. N. R. Rogers. All rights reserved. Last revised 29 oct 99.