The Baggage of Youth

One night, while checking out his equipment lock-box, he presented me with a fearsome-looking, 24-inch riot stick that I’d been warily admiring. He said it was a well used, old-timer and he wanted me to have it. The club’s mellow luster came from hand-rubbing with linseed oil. He “warned me that I’d better take care of it the same way. I promised.

Woven around the handle was a leather thong that enabled me to hang it proudly on my wall with my other memorabilia. I have no idea whatever happened to that illustrious weapon. I wish I still had it. Along with my Alaskan Oosik.

During the celebrated, Portland Rose Festival parade that year, Jack was able to get me a job as a street peddler. With a wide strap around my neck and another around my waist, holding the metal case out in front of me, I worked my way up and down the street in front of the crowded curbs. I loudly hawked chocolate-covered ice cream bars and Popsicles.

My territory was a two-block stretch along one side of Grand Avenue, ending at the intersection where Jack directed traffic. He waved at me as I worked the crowd.

Including a few good tips, I came away from the parade that year with a fistful of dollars.


Jack and my mother came close to making a go of it. I think they could have been happy together.

Any such dream shattered on the afternoon that Jack Devlin suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on the handball courts of the Portland YMCA. They told me he died on the way to the emergency hospital. That night, I locked myself in my room. And I sobbed bitterly.


My mother strongly admired Amelia Earhart. The slender, female pilot with the engaging smile symbolized for my mother the new American woman, who could do anything a man could do, oftentimes better.

The legendary pilot captured my imagination, too. I pictured her as a gutsy, American woman who thrilled to the sheer adventure of flying. As much as I could, I tried to keep track of her exploits. I knew that during the year I was born, she had set a woman’s altitude record of 14,000 feet. I also knew that in 1928 she had been the first woman to fly the Atlantic. It wasn’t until later that I learned she did this as a passenger, with an alcoholic pilot and an ex-Army mechanic. The strange trio made the flight in a tri-motor Fokker flying boat.

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