No doubt my children and grandchildren don’t know about my brush with the law. After all, it’s not something a Jewish mama brags about!
At an age when I had no clue as to what reform school actually was, I fully expected to become an inmate at one. I had a vague idea of what school was but reform was a word not found in my somewhat limited vocabulary. I was 3 when it all happened. It was scary!
Let me digress and tell you about our little town of Parksville NY and our town law enforcement officer whose name, like my father’s, was Sam.
In the 30s and 40s there was no crime in Parksville. Nothing. We never locked our doors. For privacy we had hooks and eyes on bathrooms. All the dogs were licensed. The drivers didn’t exceed the speed limit. Actually I don’t remember a speed limit to exceed. Nothing was ever stolen from anyone and certainly there was no violence One summer, a fox we called Reddy was accused of doing bad things to nice chickens by expediting their executions, but how do you arrest a fox? It was pretty much a Camelot kind of place.
Nonetheless, the powers that were thought that Parksville needed a law enforcement officer. So, many years before I was born, in 1939, Sam the Cop, an unemployed local Jew, was decked out in a blue uniform, actually given a night stick (no need for a gun), and told to maintain the law and order which was already very very well maintained. Sam loved wearing his uniform and he was a devil with a STOP sign. Such power had he. He even had handcuffs, which, when the incident happened, I was sure were just the right size for a 3 year old.
The incident is very clear in my mind. I was sitting in a sandbox and peacefully (stress the word peacefully since I was not an incorrigible child, although my mother often thought otherwise) making beautiful sand castles. The sand was just moist enough so that my efforts stood up on their own. I had already made about 6, lined up in a row in front of me. I was proud indeed. Suddenly, and without provocation, my cousin Leon, z”l, my age and probably very jealous of my beautiful little mansions, stomped each and every one of them so that they ingloriously crashed to the ground, returning to their humble muddy origins.
I didn’t deliberate my choices. Crying would give him the most satisfaction so I refused to do that. The next choice was to whack him hard on the head with the spoon I had been using to help shape the objects of his jealousy. I did it. Hard. Sending him off screaming and giving me one moment of soon to be dispatched joy.
He ran straight into the arms of our Auntie Bessie (she being from Boston, although not a Brahmin, insisted on the auntie instead of aunt). Bessie quickly got to the meat of the story and came over to me, by now a shivering whimperer, and announced: You are going to Sam the Cop. Now !
To this day, 73 years later, I remember the short walk to the village where Sam was posted as if it were a walk to my execution. I vowed never to ever hit Leon on the head with a spoon again. She, being a smart lady, figured out that maybe I would use some other weapon. Not good enough.
OK. I’ll never hit Leon again.
Let Sam the Cop deal with you.
Well, he did, and reform school was promised if I became a repeat offender. This time I’d get off with no punishment. I can feel the relief now that I felt then. I knew reform school had to be bad. I wasn’t going. I’d never hit Leon again.
That was a lie, but I never did hit him again with a spoon. (And he hit me plenty too!).