How My Brother Saved Me From a Life of Crime
When I was about 7 or 8, I was fascinated with the world around me. Even at that time I loved the latest technology. Like a toaster that popped up all by itself, a clock that had a snooze or the washing machine that had an electric wringer.
I know you will say they had wringer washers
for a long time before that. True. But not in my house. I was
truly fascinated with that wringer. I couldn't wait for the next wash
day. I did run my arm into it a couple of times. It had a safety
bar that stopped it and popped it open, so it wasn't that bad. A few
bruises and that was about it. I wish I had one of those right now
to play with.
TV Panel and Mechanical Calculator
The greatest invention of the era: TV
The greatest invention though was a
Television set that was a huge piece of furniture that looked like a
dresser but had only a 12 inch black and white screen. In the
early 50's the programming was rather limited with broadcasts only
evenings and weekends, but I was fascinated with the TV
itself. I always thought that the programming was dopey
but I could hardly stand not knowing what was inside that box and how
We received a local station and the reception was completely dependent on a pair of rabbit ears that dad hung on the wall and two balls of tin foil attached to the ends of the antenna which served to give the TV a living look, although living color was not a feature in our household for quite a few years after that. The reception gained on those rabbit ears sometimes required holding them at just the perfect angle.
We fixed it!
What really interested me was the inside of that box. I did get a look in there a couple of times, and although I had no idea what I was looking at, it was magnificent. A lot of tubes and such that all lit up and created a tremendous amount of heat. One time the TV stopped working and my brother Tom opened up the back of the thing and we saw that a couple of tubes were not lit. We took them out and took them to a place that sold tubes and had a tester. We tested them and replaced the ones that needed to be replaced and the TV worked again. Now that there was technology!
There was no money for .......
At some point we acquired through perfectly legal means a penlite flashlight. Of course, I wanted to take it apart and inspect the light, battery, switch, and how the mechanism worked. I spent several days playing with that penlight. And, well, it didn't really belong to me, it belonged to my brother Butch. So when I completely exhausted the battery, he was unhappy. I knew it was a matter of getting another battery.
There was no money for batteries.
It was only a few days before I had my chance. We were at the country store. In those days the convenience stores were small mom and pop stores that stocked a little of everything, groceries, nails, paint, chicken feed, etc. which saved us a drive to town, a drive we could ill afford. While in the store, I spied the exact battery that Butch needed for his penlite. Of course there was no way that I would ever be able b-u-y the battery.
My first crime!
Sooooooooo, I decided to borrow the battery. I can still remember the excitement I felt walking out of there with the merchandise in my pocket. I had just gotten away with the crime of the century! I was destined for a life of crime. I had no regrets and didn't care if it was wrong. I felt exhilarated. I was headed for a life of crime. It suited me. I liked how it felt.
I waited until the most opportune time to reveal my treasure to Butch. I was thinking that he would think it was the greatest thing. I showed him the battery I had absconded with and his reaction was not at all what I expected. He looked at me and frowned and then all of a sudden he bellowed “MOM! MOM! MOM! Look, Steve stole some batteries when we at the store.” What the hell? I was had.
I got caught stealing.
Bad Boy, Bad Boy, Watcha gonna do?
You can never forget the look on a mother's face that tells you disappointment, hurt, rage, and determination all in a split second, but it was emblazoned in my mind for all time, to haunt me the rest of my life anytime I decided to do the wrong thing. That single second in time has never left me.
Well that look and that second in time was nowhere near enough for my mother. Oh noooooo, not even close. The first thing she did was grab me by my ear and dragged me to the car. The whole time shouting in Italian and French. Something like, “Sacre bleu, Momma mia.....” I had no idea what she was saying but the message was clear. She piled all of us in the car, shotgun was reserved for me, not a seat of honor, but a seat of shame. Off we went.
When we arrived I was again pulled by the ear to stand in front of the store owner. Here I was to return the stolen goods, apologize, and offer to work until the debt was paid. I was told that if the police were called, there would be no reprieve. I would have to face the music. I tearfully returned the battery, apologized and told the shop keeper I would work for him (who, by the way, was friends with my parents) and did work sweeping the front walk and entrance area a few times.
My Brother is my Guardian Angel
Thank you Butch!
This experience never left me. I wanted to steal a lot of times in my life and I did a few times, too, but I would always go back to that time and I felt guilty and afraid that I would get caught. Consequently, over all these years, I have kept my nose clean and resisted a life of crime because I could not do the time. I have my brother, Butch, to thank for this outcome.
Thank you Butch, you saved me from a life of crime!
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