When I Grow Up

Like most boys of my era I first wanted to be a fireman. They rode around on these cool trucks, and got to sleep-over with their fireman friends, and everybody liked them! Who wouldn’t want a job like that?  They fought fires, saved lives and occasionally rescued a cat or a kid from a tree. They were our local heroes! I had an authentic red plastic fire helmet, rubber boots, a slicker and a badge. I even had this really cool peddle power, red pick and ladder fire truck with working ladders! My friend Bobby also had one. We’d tear up the street in our trucks answering calls and saving lives. Nothing could be better than being a fireman until a few years later when we all wanted to be Astronauts.

It was the 50’s and the Space Race between America and Russia was going full bore. There was always something in the news. Yeah Bobby and I were going to be astronauts, we had space helmets and we were going to be the first American’s to go to Mars. He and I used to sit out in his backyard and watch the night sky for orbiting space capsules and UFO’s. One summer we even built our own rocket ship and space capsule and lived in it. Well we didn’t actually live in it but we did spend a lot of time in it especially in the early evening. We even used to spend the night in it on occasion. There was no doubt we were going to be astronauts when we grew up, space travelers.

Well that dream lasted the rest of the summer then changed again. In the late 50’s and early 60’s it seems that every TV channel had at least one cowboy series and they were all great shows. Needless to say I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew. I wanted to be just like Maverick, Pallidin and the Lawman. My friends and I spent a lot of hours playing cowboys, we swore a pack that one day we would be a gang of good guy gunslingers, saving lives, stopping bad guys and making the West a safer place for everyone. By the time we were ten or so the great cowboy dream began a slow fade as we got into our Army man phase.

All of our dad’s had served in WWII and/or Korea. John Wayne war movies and the new WWII weekly TV series Combat was taking the public by storm. We all wanted to be soldiers and again promised one another that when we turned 18 we would all enlist in the Army. We spent countless hours in the empty field behind my house playing Army. There was the red army and the blue army. We dug trenches and foxholes, built forts and masterminded invasions against one another and blew up imaginary enemies.

My dad had given me one of his helmets, a canteen and utility belt to use and some of the other guys had stuff from their dads as well. We had a blast! But as we approached our teens BB guns and ammo belts did a quick fade as the shadow of the VietNam War spread across the land. No longer did we dream of fighting and war. Besides we were discovering girls and just like that a host of new career dreams opened up to us.

Truth be told I had pretty much decided that I would follow in my dad’s footsteps and be a truck driver when I grew up. I loved driving and I’d long been told to get into something you enjoy doing. Of course, my mom wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted me to be a lawyer and kept pushing me in that direction. If that didn’t interest me she’d say, I could be a dentist. But neither profession really interested me, and I knew even then that I’d never be a dentist or lawyer. I didn’t really have a clue what I would one day be. If someone had suggested back then that I would one day have a career as a teacher and then a counselor, I would have died laughing. Me a teacher? No way! No how! But that’s exactly what happened. In my case it just took a whole lot longer.

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