Those unforgettable memories of a boomer childhood

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We love getting baby boomers’ memories in the mail at BoomerCafé. And we were particularly delighted when Erin O’Brien of Redondo Beach, California, sent us hers. Remember those innocent days of childhood when imaginations were vivid? Erin’s conjured up The White O’Bino.

My sister and I assembled our toothbrushes, nightgowns, and feather pillows, and rolled them into our sleeping bags with an excitement that rivaled Christmas. It was Friday night, and a camp-out at Elaine’s.

Erin O'Brien

Erin O’Brien

We dined on potato chips with onion dip, and danced and sang to Beatles and Monkees albums in front Elaine’s mother’s new TV-stereo console. Paul was my favorite Beatle, and Davy, my favorite Monkee — although Micky did have the sense of humor. While we tried not to allow our preferences to overlap, eight musicians were barely enough to go around for seven pre-pubescent girls.

Later we changed into our nightgowns and settled into our sleeping bags in the back yard under our “tent,” a plastic tarp fastened to four poles by Elaine’s dad.

The goal was to stay up until midnight. That was the time for ghost stories by our resident storyteller, who lived across the street, two doors down from Lisa. She spoke with such conviction and authority that she naturally seemed like our leader.

“This is the story of the White Albino,” our storyteller whispered, as we leaned in to listen.

The White Wino was what Lisa heard.

Erin, friend "Sally" (my little brother dressed up) and younger sister Joanie, (circa 1969) in front of the swing set in their back yard, three doors down from Elaine's, in the shadows of "The Hanging Lady."

Erin, friend “Sally” (her little brother dressed up) and younger sister Joanie, (circa 1969) in front of the swing set in their back yard, three doors down from Elaine’s, in the shadows of “The Hanging Lady.”

The White O’Bino was what I heard, being of Irish descent.

The White O’Bino worked for a chemical company. I pictured him in an olive green jumpsuit like a mechanic would wear, with an embroidered name tag, and bald like Mr. Clean, minus the earring.

One day at work there was a terrible accident, and the White O’Bino slipped and fell into a vat of liquid gas, bleaching his entire body except for his head. From then on he was known as the White O’Bino. He began haunting people at night, which I hoped didn’t include girls in their nightgowns in sleeping bags. This was motivation enough to stay awake all night.

Erin's lifelong friend Elaine.

Erin’s lifelong friend Elaine, as a child.

His feminine counterpart also met with an unfortunate end. Dressed in rags, she had long, black, unkempt hair. While I don’t recall her crime, she was hanged from a wooden telephone pole. Our storyteller pointed to something in the distance over the back yard wall, and I swear that this is what I saw: against the midnight sky, her arms outstretched, she was high above our heads.

The Hanging Lady always disappeared in the morning light when I peered over the edge of my sleeping bag. It was hard to picture which telephone pole it was the night before— maybe the one in my own nearby back yard.

A few hours later, we were awakened by scratching footsteps and falling rocks. My first thought was of the White O’Bino. Gazing upward we could see workers re-tarring the roof to sprinkle a new layer of sparkly white rocks. We made a dash for indoors, wrapped in our sleeping bags. Elaine’s mom chuckled as she flipped pancakes in the black cast iron pan, having “forgotten” the roofers were hired for that morning.

On the way home with my sister, I eyed each back yard telephone pole as I walked with my sleeping bag under my arm.

The "hanging lady" of childhood fantasies … an old electrical transformer on a pole.

The “hanging lady” of childhood fantasies … an old electrical transformer on a pole.

 

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Erin. Those were indeed incredible times so pregnant with such awe, excitement, and promise. I am not sure that children today can truly appreciate what we had, or more often did not have growing up, forced by circumstances to use and develop our imaginations.

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