No Hero — No Heroine
Living in the city, we lived on a dead end street that consisted of only two houses. Our side I thought, was much better because of the many views we had. There was a glass company where my brother Tony and I, from our bedroom could watch them blow and shape glass. This, we enjoyed watching for quite some time.. The company property had a high fence all around it so no one could enter the work area. But we wasted no time climbing it. Never making it to the top and over because of it’s height. But we’d try again and again. On the other side of the fence we had the added attraction of viewing the railroad yard where the steam engines would come in and turn around after making their delivery or picking up a delivery from the then, Reed’s Glass Company. We would watch them turning the trains around or changing engines until they were finished. Smoke emitting from their tall stacks. It was quite the thing to see as a child and very intriguing at the same time.
Then in another direction we would see the big baby food sign for Clapp's or Gerber baby food, a long distance away.
We had a happy childhood, my brother Tony and I. As I think back to our childhood I can remember during the summer months, Saturdays especially, when the two of us would continually beg our mother to, ‘please,’ let us go to the picture show, our fingers crossed behind our back for good luck. Money was hard to come by in the 1940’s, but reluctantly mom always managed to find enough to let us go to the movies. Most of the while she would give us a little extra money for a candy bar, or popcorn and pop. It was at that time mom could have some peace and quiet for a few hours.
We’d spend most of the day at the show, staring at the screen, watching the different movies that would come on. First there would be the cartoons. Perhaps Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck. At other times it may be Woody Woodpecker, or Tom and Jerry. There were also many others too, that would appear over time. We never knew until the show started, what cartoons we’d see. Always two, before the main movie started. After the main movie was done we’d watch a News clip to update us on the war and what was happening around the world. Then a serial, like a popular cowboy show or adventure story that would continue weekly. Only then would the second full length movie begin. Once they were finished we’d start watching them over again. Usually leaving after the first movie was finished for a second time.
Returning home we’d play all sorts of games with the neighborhood kids until mom called us in for supper. Later, we’d take our baths, get into our night clothes and now ready for bed, we would kneel and say our prayers. It was after they were done, our older sister, Iris, would read a story to us, until we fell asleep. On Sunday’s we’d be up early for church. Once there, we’d hear mass, never understanding what was being said, but listening anyway, only because it was expected of us. We would use our rosaries and say prayers out loud with the whole congregation. Later in the afternoon we’d have a nice Sunday dinner with the family around.
On Saturdays once in a while, our dad would go to the dump taking Tony and I along for the ride so we could look around. We loved going because we’d get out of the truck and hunt for things we’d take home with us. We were always finding something. One time it was a cuckoo clock. We would look it all over and make sure it was in good working condition or at least able to be fixed. Then after taking it home, we’d clean it up real good and only then present it to our mom, with big smiley faces. She loved it, and we were happy to find it for her.
In the winter time we’d put on our snow pants, hats, sweaters, heavy coats and whatever else we'd need to guard us against catching a cold. Now we could go out and make a snowman. Sometimes we'd build a fort to hide behind when having snowball fights with the neighbor kids.
One time Tony and the neighbor kids were having a rock fight. Un be known to me, I walked out the back door and got one right in the eye. Boy, did that hurt! I don’t remember, but probably crying, went running to mom. It served me right because another time Tony and I were walking home from the picture show, he not watching where he was going. Tony turned around and smacked immediately into a lamp post, hitting his nose. When I saw it happen, I thought it was funny and laughed about it. That was just a few things about childhood that we liked doing, other than the rock and lamp post.
With the passing of time we were informed that we would be moving because our house and our neighbors house were going to be torn down for a freeway to be built. We didn’t know what a freeway was, but we were excited about moving. Especially after hearing it was the country we’d be moving to.
A couple of weeks went by when suddenly everyone in the house was packing. Dad used two big trucks from where he worked so that everything would be able to be moved in one trip. He would drive one and my older brother, Herb, would drive the other. We now left a huge seven room house, with a large bath, full attic, full cemented basement, and a large car garage, moving fifty miles away, to a house with five smaller rooms, one back room, which consisted of a dirt floor, later boarded and becoming my older brothers bedroom. No attic, and a dark, dingy, dirt cellar. After arriving at the house, which had not been lived in for quite awhile, we camped outside in the back yard so the living room and dining room could be re-papered, the kitchen getting a few coats of fresh paint. Tony and I had a lot of fun helping everybody with what they sent us to do continually.
The upstairs, had only two bedrooms. One was for Tony, me and our younger brother. The other room with a full bed, for our parents, and a crib for the babe of the family.
Now, I’m not a person who believes in superstition to this day, but helping mom clean and sweep the floors upstairs, we came across a dead blackbird. Mom, being superstitious told us that it meant someone was going to die . . . At first we were surprised, but quickly forgot about it. How different things were going to become . . . in just a short time.
In memory of my brother, Anthony. Tony as the family called him and whom he was very much loved by.
Here starts the true story of . . .No Hero - No Heroine.
It all began on a Monday, in the month of August 1952. I remember it as a bright, beautiful summer day. My brother and I were eating an early breakfast and talking about his birthday, which was Friday August 15th. A surprise party was going to be held Saturday with all our family and friends attending. My brother was to become the ripe old age of ten. We just kept chatting until we were finished eating our breakfast, when all of a sudden we heard the neighbor boy calling out our names. We put our dishes in the sink then hurried out the door. But not before my brother grabbed his Roy Roger cap guns, and other things we would use to play with.
“Hi Mike. How are you?” my brother cried out.
“I’m okay. I see you got your guns?”
“Yeah, I got ‘em. I’d sleep with them, if my mom would let me.”
“Me too... Are you ready cowboy?” Mike now asked.
“Looks like it, does'nt it? My brother answered, as he was strapping his guns to his side.
"Then let’s get going.” called Mike as he turned to run.
We were just leaving when mom asked me to go and get the mail for her. I got the mail and after handing it to her I turned around to leave. That’s when I heard, BANG BANG!
“Got one!” Whooped Mike.
“I'll check and see if he’s alive.” Tony said in return.
They had started without me, unable to wait. So I started to busy myself with putting together my famous “mud pie” mix. With this I could make some cakes, pies, and other goodies, to feed us later, in the land of “make-believe.” In the mean time the boys were busy fighting bad people in the area. Time was racing by. Something we were not paying attention to, until we heard the blast from the town whistle through the noontime air. Mike now had to go and was running home for his lunchtime meal. He had dropped everything where he was playing. Indicating that he would be back later.
Watching him run, I started thinking of how big and round he appeared for the age of seven. He had reddish blond hair, and a fat freckled face. All our friends had been thin, like we were. Even in school everyone seemed smaller. We could move like a whiz , if we needed to. Our energy was extreme, and we never let up. After all, we had plenty of room in which to run. We no longer lived in the big city, hemmed in by houses, that seemed to be squeezed together. Trees, bushes, and other things too, that were in the way. We had the whole world . . . or so we thought.
Mom was now calling us in for lunch. We washed our hands and face and came to the table. There my brother, pulling back the top of the bread revealed the peanut butter and grape sandwiches that we seemed to get on most summer days. He now asked . . .
“Can I have some strawberry jam on my sandwich instead of grape?”
No, mother said with a sigh. You know that’s for supper. She finished washing her hands, drying them thoughtlessly on the kitchen towel hanging next to the sink. Not knowing that refusing that one request, would haunt her for the rest of her life.
After lunch Mike returned, and the play continued. At least for a little while. We must have asked permission to go to Mike’s, because there we were riding our bikes to his house. I can remember being inside, talking to his mother who was busy. After that we went outdoors to see what his dad was doing. He was one of the busy farmers in the area. He had hired two helpers who were working with him for the summer. Both were boy scouts in their teens. The farm was situated on a hill that sloped downward behind the house on the right. Allowing us to run through the gate and next to the fence, that ran across the top of the hill. It seemed like we had run a half a mile or more before we finally reached the woods that we spotted from the house. We played and played.
Again it seemed like hours, but passed by quickly. We were picking up almost anything we found. We even picked up the make believe bad people whenever we came across them. We tired of that game after a bit and came out of the woods. My brother now spotted the creek below. It wrapped around smoothly and temptingly. Running through the property and traveling east and west. It seemed to call us towards it.
“Let’s go down to the creek and wash our hands and face.” Someone suggested.
The perfect place for washing, we thought. We weren’t afraid of water, and had no reason to be. We’d been around it plenty of times. Off the boys raced, both running as fast as they could. They reached the bottom of the hill, then walked over to the water. I followed, but was further behind. They were almost done washing, when I got there. The air was warm, but the water felt cold to me.
“Hey, while we’re here why don’t we soak our feet?” my brother suggested. Pulling off his socks and sneakers.
Watching my brother, Mike, now hurried to rid his socks and sneakers. I started taking mine off as well, but was much slower. Too, I was busy taking in the beautiful scenery all around and listening to the birds sing.
Then, with my brother in the lead, they started wading in the creek. You couldn't notice that there was a drop off just ahead. We didn’t even know of such a thing. Then all of a sudden my brother disappeared from sight. A few seconds later, Mike too, was gone. I quickly stood up, and became motionless. Finally like a bright light getting brighter, I realized what had just happened. I looked around, looking wildly for something. ANYTHING! That could be used to help get them out of the water. NOTHING! I turned and started running to get help as quickly as I could. After a short distance I bolted up the hill with all the power I had left, and hurried towards the house. It seemed to be taking forever. Time was going by. ‘Keep going! Don’t quit now.’ My thoughts were going crazy. I finally ran through the gate, approached the yard, and saw Mike’s dad and the boy scouts unloading a wagon. Trying to catch my breath and cry out at the same time, I finally was able to scream . . .
“The boys fell in the creek!” Again,
“The boys fell in the creek!”
Someone was shouting something but I had no idea what it was. They dropped everything they were doing and went running for the gate! I was right behind them following as speedy as I could. The first one out of the water was Mike, still fighting to keep afloat. And whose father’s adrenalin had taken over when he saw his son in the water, waving around. I watched as he literally, one handed, grabbed his son and threw him over his shoulder onto dry land. In the mean time the boys kept searching for my brother but were coming up empty handed. I had both hands over my mouth, eyes wide and not wanting to believe what I was seeing. It was my nightmare!
It seemed like an eternity, when suddenly one of the boys screamed . . .
“We found him!” Then, disappeared under the water again.
A few minutes later they were bringing Tony up. His body limp, head thrown back and both arms dangling.
There was a little island in the center of the creek where they placed him carefully. Know doubt, so I couldn't see him. They, started taking turns doing CPR and told to me that I’d better get my mother. That brought me back to reality. I was so stunned, I didn’t even think of getting mom. I just stood there mesmerized. All I wanted was my brother to be okay. It finally hit me what he had said. I turned and once more started running up the hill. Once at the house I grabbed my bike and peddled as fast as my feet would carry me, thinking in rhythm: ‘get mom . . . I’ve gotta get mom’ . . .
I dropped my bike on the front lawn and ran into the house. I opened the door to see mom at the ironing board ironing clothes. She looked at me smiling, a smile I would never see again. I looked at her, then shrieked . . .
“The boys fell in the creek!” again, at the top of my lungs . . .
“The boys fell in the creek!”
Mom’s face went white with horror, as she dropped the iron onto the board. Ran out the door, and started running down the road as quickly as she could. Leaving me to watch the siblings. She didn’t think of using my bike, but ran past it on her way to the road. She then had to run at least three quarters of a mile. I watched her run down the road all the way, from the window in the living room. How she didn’t fall at least once, was a miracle. She would then, after arriving at the neighbor’s house, have to run down the hill, where the three men were busy working on my brother. Trying their best to resuscitate him. I could now hear the fire siren going off in town, knowing what it was for. I then started pacing. In the mean time, Mike’s mom must have sent her daughter down to be with me. Back and forth, back and forth. My thoughts were of my brother, and not knowing what to do next.
“He’s going to be okay. Everything will be alright.” The neighbor said.
Over and over, she seemed to repeat the same thing. I covered my ears so I wouldn’t have to listen after awhile . . . But she seemed to go on and on for what seemed like hours.
“No he’s not!” I managed to scream all at once. shutting her up.
“No he’s not!”
“I was there, I saw it happen, and I saw when they brought him up. So don’t tell me he’ll be okay.” I shrieked.
“He’s NOT going to be okay!”
She sat silently, after that, waiting nervously for the time to go by.
All I could picture was their bringing his motionless body up out of the water and placing him on the opposite side of the creek, from where I was standing. As I patiently was waiting and praying to hear them say he’s okay. But those words never came.
I really should have been more lenient with my neighbor. But she had not been the one standing there staring at what I just had seen. Nor understand it. I, myself didn’t understand.
I have no idea how much time passed, before my mother was brought home. By whom, I don’t know. She was a mess, tears streaming down her once happy face her eyes glaring out at nothing. Now having to face this tragedy by herself. With no one around to comfort her. Not even family members to help comfort her. After all, we lived fifty miles away from everyone and dad, yet at work, was coming back with a truck from a long days haul.
My heart was shattered along with my mom’s. My brother and I were so very close. And I loved him so much. Now, he was gone. Nobody or nothing could help me. We had started out so happy. Having moved into the farmhouse from the big city. Now it had lost all it’s fascination.
Funeral arrangements were made the next day, and my dad took me into the city with him where he bought a suit of clothes for Tony to be buried in. He was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon. The day before his tenth birthday. His funeral was attended by a lot of people. I didn’t know who was there, when they were there, or how long they stayed. All I know is that we had a lot of family and friends. I don’t even know if they spoke to me. I had turned into my own zombie!
I guess I was the only one that spoke up about what happened that day. But the story I told wasn’t the truth and Mike’s side was never heard.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned that Mike’s parents had spoke up. In fact, I was married quite some time before I finally learned about it by reading newspaper articles that I didn’t know existed.
I read about what they said, for the very first time. Talk about not telling the truth! They even made up their own version of the events. It was THEIR version of the events that supposedly took place that afternoon . . . Their version was as follows: ‘They had told the newspaper reporters that while the victim was playing on the bank of the creek, the earth gave way and he fell into the water. Young Mike, unable to swim well himself, had jumped into the creek to attempt a rescue, while the girl(me)raced to the farmhouse for help. It was Mr.(no name) working in his field, who went to the creek and pulled both boys out . . . ‘ End of version. Something was terribly wrong here! Mike too, would have drowned if it had not been for his being over weight, and holding-up, until I managed to get help..
Not one person attempted to talk to me about the events that took place. It all became hush-hush, and no more was ever said. I had never had the opportunity to tell my side of what really happened that sad day. Neither had I talked to anyone about it. No newsmen, nobody! Its like I never existed. Then quite awhile later, when my older sister Iris came to visit. She eventually grabbed up some newspapers and told me to follow her. Which I did. Walking in the back woods quite a ways, she now stopped and taking the newspapers, opened them up and spread them neatly on the ground. She then told me to sit down. I obeyed like an obedient puppy. First she asked if I was comfortable, which I answered yes to. Then looking straight into my eyes, while making sure I was doing the same with her, simply, but sternly, said:
“Now, I want to hear the truth about how Tony really drowned,”
I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to talk about it or not. I think I was still afraid of getting into trouble. After all, I had lied. Something I didn’t really do, until that time. Then I started opening up, while crying like a baby. I told her everything right from the very beginning to the end. Afterwards she embraced me tightly, while she too, joined me with tears. She promised me that she’d never divulge anything I had told her with anyone,and she always kept that promise.
That whole conversation that day was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had told her everything! The first person who actually listened. She had heard MY side of what really happened that day. FINALLY . . . the TRUTH! It now was out. Before that time, I had said, we were all running down the hill but the boys couldn’t stop. Why, I said that, I do not know. Fear, I guess.
I learned much later, that I might have had to be placed in a hospital for my own good. I had not been myself since that time and didn’t even realize it.
My sister took care of that herself. She had become my nurse. That day, my sister, literally, saved my life. Yet, to this story, there is no hero and no heroine.
Author Notes: Author Notes:
The reason I know my sister said nothing to anyone about what I had shared with her, is back in 1980—’81, while visiting my oldest brother he asked me what happened(only the second person to ask). I was never aware that he didn’t know. After telling him about it, he never brought it up again. Nor did I.
So, you may be asking ‘why talk about now?’ The reason being that I have to correct and finish what the newspaper’s never did. They too, did not have the correct story, because of failure to speak to the person who was there. The eye witness! If they had, maybe I would not have had to live with this for over sixty years in August. Perhaps my mom would have continued being my mom, instead of losing it, after already losing eight boys, years before. Nor, my big brother ever having to remember it as he did most of his life. But it was me, having had to live with it, always seeing it as it really happened. All I can say is . . .”It has been one hell-of-a-ride!” Over and over again.
Written and lived by: Hope L Gallipeau...
Also known as: Lauryne Hope ... Author