Before moving to our house on Fir Avenue, in Clinton, we were situated in a small two bedroom house on Foster Avenue, in the middle of town. A very small place but it was temporary, until the house on Fir was made ready. I don’t know why it was not already ready when we moved to Clinton in July or August of 1966, but just as well. I met Rocky, who I considered my best friend in Clinton. Bernie Rokstad, named after his father, also Bernie or Bernard, but also known as Rocky. Bernie had eight siblings. They lived in a small house right next door. Their house was set back on their lot. Their front yard was mostly just a dirt patch where the Volkswagen van was parked. Of course they had a van, a minibus instead of a car, with such a large family.
I met Rocky’s sister Donna, before meeting Rocky. My mother had suggested we have a small house party for the kids to get to know our neighbors. The record player was crooning out Sounds of Silence when Donna entered. Donna was older than me and may have already been friends with the Evil Sister. I was on the verge of puberty so was struck with a mysterious nonsensical attraction to the neighbor girl. The music didn’t help.
Rocky came later. We befriended each other and stuck close together. We started junior high school at David Stoddart together, and were classmates in Mrs. Tait’s home room, who taught French (Voir et Image), among other things. Rocky and I went on many adventures together in the short time we lived in Clinton. I’ll tell you about a couple of them later.
Early on Rocky told me he knew how to drive and was showing me how he could start the family Volkswagen van without even having a key. He wire started it, it was in gear so it jumped forward a few feet and bumped into the fence. There was a bit of a panic because of course Rocky was not allowed to play with the van, despite claiming that he was a good driver. He was unable to restart the vehicle and return it to its original position. He would have to face the music.
Early in the school year there was a dance. My first one, I knew nothing about dancing. In preparation for the big event, in the privacy of his bedroom Rocky demonstrated some of his dance moves, as instruction for me. Weird undulations and gyrations that I wasn’t sure I would be able to emulate at the dance. One of his big sisters opened the bedroom door a crack and peeked in. There was loud guffawing followed by an outburst of laughter. Rocky did not take it well.
The school dance was held in the gymnasium. The lights were low, the music was familiar; Lovin Spoonful, Mamas and Papas, the Monkeys, Beatles and of course Simon and Garfunkel. For the most part Rocky and I were just observers and the dancers were mostly from the older grades. Our school had grade eight to twelve. I was asked to dance by a pretty girl and of course was awestruck. My first ever dance. I looked for her after that, throughout the evening, but I suspect that once she found out that I was just a grade eighter (and she was in grade ten) she was nowhere to be found.
As I already told you, we moved from Foster to Fir, just on the outskirts, where we could look down on the town, across the small valley to David Stoddart School on the far hillside, down, over Mr. Bunker’s roof to the West’s ranch across the highway and the Pioneer Cemetery. It was all pretty cool.
Best of all I could phone Rocky by only having to dial three digits, because the town was so small and had so few telephone numbers. When his mom would answer and call Rocky to the phone she would announce ‘Ape is on the phone’.