Carlisle - Harry Baya
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Last update May 12, 2020

Chapter 4 : Carlisle

We arrived in Carlisle near the end of the summer before the start of my 8th grade year.  Madge and I both attended the Carlisle public high-school.   All my friends were from the Carlisle Barracks army post.  We took a bus back and forth between Carlisle Barracks  and the high school, a two or three mile trip.  Occasionally a group of us would walk home, passing by, or through, the Dickinson College campus.

I am guessing there were between 100 and 200 officers in my father's one year school.  There are two such senior schools and, except for wartime promotions, attendance at one of these schools is a necessary step to become a General.  My father was promoted to full Colonel, the last rank below General, at this time.  Being selected for one of these schools is recognition that an officer has some chance of becoming a General.  My father wanted to become a General, but never made it.  It was especially difficult to become a General in peacetime if you were not a West Point graduate.  My father was always a good student and, with some effort, was one of the top students in his class at the War College.

I attended 8th grade in the Carlisle Public high school.  That was the only time I was in large public school with a football team and similar activities.  I believe the school went from the 8th to the 12th grade. 

I remember 8th grade as a reasonably happy time.  The post was fairly small and a group of older kids formed a loose community.  I was one of the youngest in that community.  We would often gather in the sports area behind the house I lived in.  It was a large football field with bleachers on one side and a running track around the outside of the field.  This was the home field where Jim Thorpe, a famous athlete,became a two time all American football player.

Sometimes we would play a loose kind of tackle football.  Other times we would sit in the bleachers and sing.  I remember learning “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and “You can’t ride my little red wagon”  We also sang songs I had learned in Fairlington, including “Did you ever think when a hearse goes by…”.

Other songs I member from that year were: ‘The Blacksmith Blues” by Ella Mae Morse and “The Little White Cloud that Cried” by Johnny Ray..I don’t know when my voice changed but I do remember that I could sing a fairly good imitation of Johnny Ray’s “Little White Cloud…”.  From Google I found some other songs I remember well from while I was in Carlisle:  You Belong to me,  Jambalaya,  A Guy is a Guy, High Noon, Glow Worm, I’ll Walk Alone,  Doggie in the Window, You You You, I Believe,  Crying in the Chapel, Your Cheating Heart,

As an adult singing became one of my favorite hobbies.  However back then I did not give it much thought.  Looking back I now see that music and singing were more important to me than I realized at the time.  It seems odd to me now that I can remember singing solo numbers like I did.  I also recall that I often remembered words to songs better than most of my friends.  It was not until I got to college and sang with friends in the fraternity that I became aware of how much I liked singing with others.

The group of kids I mentioned often met in the bleachers on weekends, holidays and vacations.  We sometimes told shaggy dog stories.  I learned and told a few, some of which I still remember.

I remember that a friend (possibly Joe Breen, my next door neighbor) and I would mow lawns with push mowers.  The lawns were small and I think we charged 25 cents.  When we each had 75 cents from mowing we would ride our bikes to a nearby ice cream shop, a block or so outside the post, and get a hot fudge Sunday.  Sometimes we would do this twice on the same day.

An important part of my social life was the teen canteen.  The canteen was in a large room in the upstairs of a building across from the post movie theater, about a block from my house.  I believe there was a small PX store on the ground floor.  There were activities for teenagers on Saturday evenings and often on Friday nights and during the day on Saturday.

There was a jukebox there that played 45 rpm records.  It may have been free, or maybe it cost a nickel for each record played.  I think there was also a coke machine and a candy bar machine nearby in the building.  There may have been a snack bar in the canteen that was opened on Saturday nights. 

One of the activities at the canteen was dance classes and my sister, Madge, and I were active participants.  I remember learning to dance a number of different dances fairly well.  These included the waltz, the rhumba, the polka, the swing step, the cha cha cha, and “slow dancing”.

I especially liked the Cha Cha Cha and the Polka.  I remember that once I got the Polka step down and could find a good partner I could fly around the room.  It was a thrill..One of the songs we Polka’d to was “Tzena Tzena Tzena”, probably sung by “The Weavers” .

The most popular step was the swing step.  This was what I think most teenagers were doing all over the U.S. to faster songs.  I think the step had different names in different parts of the U.S.  I think it was called “The Lindy” in some areas.  I remember a rock and roll song that year, probably “Rock Around the Clock”.  Other songs I remember were “Walking my baby back home” by Nat King Cole and “Idaho State Fair”  sung by Vauhgn Williams.   The flip side of that 45 may have been “Lady Love”, which I also liked.

I had turned 13 the previous summer and was one of the younger kids going to the teen canteen.  I remember that in England I weighed 7 stone, 7 lbs and ¼.   That would be 105 lbs.  By the end of 1952 I probably weighed between 120 and 130 pounds and was around 5’4” (just a guess).  Many of the girls were taller than I was.  I was reasonably trim and athletic and liked to dance.  One of the cuter older girls was short, about 5’, and somehow she sometimes volunteered to be my dance teacher.  I loved dancing with her.  Near the end of our time in Carlisle I told her that there was one kind of dance we had never done. She asked what that was and it told her we had never danced slow.  We did dance slow a number of times after that and it was a big thrill for me.  I used to remember her name, but it’s gone now.

Another memory from the Teen Canteen was that at some point they had a party to which our parents were invited to join us.  During the party they had a dance contest in which each couple was a parent and their child.  My memory is that my mother and I came in first and that my father and Madge came in second.  However the order may have been the other way around.

At one point I was being bullied by another boy (Carl Welborn).  He lived on the post and rode the bus to school with me.  He was older and outweighed me by 30 pounds or so.  I don’t remember the details but this is more or less the way things happened.  I think he used to do things like punch me in the arm, knock my books out of my hands and tease me.  his went on for a few weeks and I was upset.  One day when we were waiting for the bus to take us home I got so mad that I punched him in the face – like I had when I was boxing in England.  He came after me and beat me up.  Other boys had to pull him off me on the ground.  However, after that he stopped bullying me.

Here is another experience that happened while we were waiting for the bus.  I think this says something about being 13 years old.  Friends and I were discussing that we had heard that you could hold your breath and make yourself pass out.  To do this you had to hyperventilate by taking lots of deep breaths, until you felt kind of dizzy.  You would then hold your breath.   I decided to do it and asked a friend to stand behind me and catch me if I did pass out.  I did it and passed out, but my friend had wandered away and I fell on the sidewalk.  I was not badly hurt, just bruised, but I was furious with the friend for walking away.

I was in the boy scouts and at one point there was track meet with scouts from all over.  It was held on the Jim Thorpe track, the one behind my house.  They wanted everyone to participate.  Everyone in our troop tried running different distances.  I was one of the slower ones and ended up as the third leg of a four man team running the 880 yard relay.  We would each run 220 yards.  That’s a brutal distance.  The 100 yard dash is over quickly and you recover quickly.  The 220 is a long hard push and left me wiped out.  We had a very good runner (Monty Widam?) for the last leg.  My memory is that my team was in first or second place when I got the hand off and I lost some distance and maybe one position during my leg.  However our last runner was fantastic and passed everyone with long powerful strides.  We won the race.  I can still see him in my mind, each stride was like a powerful spring going off.

My room was in the basement of our house and I loved that.  I could, and often did, stay up late reading or listening to the radio.  I could pick up the Wheeling, West Virginia, station late at night and began listening to Country music.  I remember that Hank Williams was popular then.   I just Googled him and found that he died in January of 1953, while I was in Carlisle.

I took “shop” in the 8th grade.  This was the only time I took a course anything like this. We got to choose our final project and I chose to make a bedside table.  I am kind of embarrassed to remember that I insisted on cutting grooves in it so that my radio fit into them.  Others, including my father I think, argued with me about this – pointing out that it would be somewhat ruined for any other use.  I was stubborn & did it the way I wanted.  I finished it with a yellowish see-through finish.  I don’t think the finish was all that good because I have memories of the surface feeling kind of sticky.  I do recall enjoying it as a bedside table in my basement room.

At some point there was a formal dance.  I asked a nice looking young woman who was in my home room and lived on the post.  Her name was Jody Polk and her father was a general, possibly the post commander.  I don’t think I had a tuxedo but I am sure that I dressed up.  I remember that I went to her house, one of the larger ones on the post, with a corsage.  I may have kissed her goodnight, but I doubt it because I think I would remember that if it happened.

A few years ago I decided to try finding her via the internet.  I ended up in contact with a woman who was also looking for her.  This woman had been a good friend of hers for several years.  I eventually found Jody listed under her maiden name as an artist in Texas.  I decided to let her friend call her since she knew her better than I did.   The friend later emailed me that she had talked to Jody and that Jody did not remember me.  I never contacted her.

Before entering 8th grade my parents had me tested to see what grade I should join.  I think I was with my parents when we met with the school counselor.  She said that I was academically qualified to go into the 9th grade but that they were not sure my social skills were at that level – especially given the transition form an all boys private school in England.  Also that would have put me in the same grade as my sister, Madge, and that did not seem like a good idea.  All things considered it was decided to put me in the 8th grade.

I now realize that the school in England was far more demanding than the U.S. public school system.  That math and language (latin, Greek and French) were a big jump for me when I started classes in England.  I took no foreign language in the 8th grade and my memory is that I found the math easy.  My guess is that the extra math and language work I had done in England helped me to coast through most of high school without a lot of hard work.

On the other hand my hand writing and spelling were not helped by my years in England.  In Fairlington, just before England, we had just started using fountain pens and were laboring to write cursively.  I remember that ink eradicator and white out were useful then.  In England in class we used quill pens and little in bottles that sat in a hole built into the wooden desks..  The spelling of many words, and even the pronunciation of some word (like “schedule”) was different .  For whatever the reason my poor spelling and handwriting have plagued me ever since.

I remember that in Fairlington we had a weekly spelling test.  The teacher would give us the words  for the test days before hand.  I would always get 100’s on those tests.  However when the teacher gave us a surprise quiz with words from earlier weeks, I did not do so well.  I think am good at memorizing things for a purpose.  However, once the need has passed, my memories seem to fade more quickly than they do for others.

We had Chips, the English Setter, with us in Fairlington and I would walk him and sometimes take him with me when I rode my bicycle.  He would sometimes run away and I have memories of chasing him for hours on my bicycle – sometimes far off post.

Since Chips was a pedigree dog we decided to enter him in a dog show in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  We may have gone to two of these events.  I sometimes walked him in the show.  My memory is that he got some sort of ribbon – but it was not first place or anything special.

At the end of the school year approached in 1953 my father once again began to consider retiring and returning to Tampa.   He was 45 years old at that time.  At this point he decided to accept the position of Chief of the U.S. Army Mission to Venezuela.  This assignment included taking a 6 month course in Spanish at the Army Language school in Monterey, California, so that was to be our next home.

Carlisle is only 5 hours or so from Abingdon and I am sure we visited several times during that year, possibly sometimes by train.

One of the things we did in Carlisle was to roller skate.  We used the skates that that tightened on to your shoes using a key.  Though the sidewalks were rough there was a nearby apartment building complex with a long basement that had smothe floors perfect for skating.  It was often dark in places and we had a lot of fun skating and playing things like hide and seek or tag.

There was also a pool on the post, near to the Teen Canteen.  Though it was not open for most of the time we were there, I enjoyed it.  I remember being very amused at finding what I think of as a “falsie” floating in the water.  It was a kind of fake breast padding that was put into the top of a girl’s swim suit.  I was young and naïve and just beginning to have some idea about what sex was all about and this excited and amused me.  Part of the interest was related to realization that girls wanted to be noticed as being sexually attractive.  This was news to me.

Though I often did things with a group of kids who did things together, like explore and abandoned house across a stream just off the post – our “haunted” house”,  I was also somewhat of a loner.  I would occasionally bicycle to the other end of the post and ride through the backyards between the houses (a kind of common area/park for the people who lived there) observing all the strangers.  It was a kind of outsider experience that I enjoyed.

I do not have any clear memories of going to high school football or basketball games, or seeing cheerleaders.  If I did it must have been only once.

I do remember that the entire year was especially interesting because I was learning (or relearning) the American culture after two years immersed in my English school.

One sort of symbolic incident I remember occurred in the first week or two in the 8th grade..  Some students made fun of me for carrying my books “like a girl”.  It turned out that I was holding them against my chest.  Apparently this was the way boys sometimes carried books in England and was not the way boys carried them in the U.S.  I adjusted.  I suspect there were a lot of other adjustments, most of which happened without me being conscious of them.

I now infer that I must have had two accents in England, one for when I was in school and one for when I was among Americans, like when I was home with my family.  I do not recall anyone remarking on my English accent once I was back in the states.

All in all I have happy memories of my time in Carlisle.  I did not feel exceptional or extra special.  I did well in school but was not the smartest kid in class.  I became just one of the kids.  I liked to do things with other kids and liked to take my turn singing a song (The Little White Cloud that cried) or telling stories (Ghost stories, shaggy dog stories).  I enjoyed our group adventures but was not a leader.  I was attracted to some of the girls but did not have anything like a girlfriend and did not go on dates.

I remember that our family seemed normal and happy to me.  Madge and I were not close friends but I don’t recall much conflict with her that year.  I believe my father studied hard and enjoyed the school and his friends there.  I believe mother was active in one or more women’s groups.   We had dinner together almost every night, always something mother had cooked.   I had still never heard of pizza and there were no fast food chains.  I don’t think we had a TV and I know we spent no time watching TV.

At the end of the academic year all of the families of those who were students at the Army War College would move on to their next assignment.  A small percentage of the kids were children of the War College faculty and would be staying on for the next year.  It was an interesting culture of coming and going that we all shared for that year.

We had our English Setter, Chips, with us while in Carlisle but my parents decided that we would not take him with us to Monterrey and on to Venezuela.  This was somewhat difficult for me.  I have never been comfortable with the word “love”, but I have been aware that I did, and still do, become quite attached to pets.  I guess this is a kind of love.  My parents found a farm not far from Carlisle who would take Chips and we drove him out there.  Though it was a sad occasion for me, it was lightened a little by the fact that as soon as Chips got out of the car he took off running around the farm and seemed quite excited to be there.  I don’t think I was able to get him to come back when I wanted to give him a final goodbye before we left.

By the time I went to college in 1957 I had attended 7 different schools.  Of the twelve years of grade school ( 1 through 12) I attended American schools for only about six years. .  The schools in Falls Church, England and Monterrey were Catholic schools.  The high school in Caracas was Presbyterian.  I believe this varied experience had a strong influence on who I am.  Living overseas for 5½ of those years also affected me.  I have since read books about people who spent part of their youth in a foreign culture and I identified with that experience.   One book said that people with that background would always feel themselves to somewhat a stranger no matter where they were in life.

Looking back I can see that the transition back from England was probably made easier by joining the community of kids at the Army War College, many of whom had backgrounds as culturally diverse as mine.