thumbnail of Skip Through the Shadows: Scenes From Childhood; Part 1
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
I skip through the shadows. Scenes from childhood. When the bell rings. I tell you, things need to be done, not on your not your fingers in your head. I can remember teachers, I can remember their names. My mathematics teacher was named Octavius WSPA. We had a music teacher in junior high school who we called Spittin Willie. It was a big joke that sitting in when the first row was the spit and Willie types of tables, long stories of our child being asked to appear and Mr. White Folk, he said, when he was a child, I used to make a slingshot. I'd see the kid's legs. True.
One teacher insisted that we hold our books a certain way flat on the desk, and we shouldn't hold books any other way than that. So that sort of thing just irked me, and I always would do everything in my power to torment that kind of teacher and find what little things it was that made them mad in a classroom. You have a tendency of holding things back. You want to whisper something to a friend. And so the teacher points a finger at you. So then push it. Hold it back. So luck is building up. I'd write a note and I'd give it to the guy next to me. So I told the teacher that really tired of it. And she said, OK. Next note that's passed. I'm going to take and read and try the whole class. So I drew this awful picture over wiggly eyes and I wrote Isn't the teacher looks stupid the way she's sitting on her desk. And of course, she grabbed it and crumpled up. And third wings. Damien, awful glare. Mr. Kinzinger's seemed like a real tough guy. And he's the only teacher that ever paddled me because I disobeyed his explicit instructions and booed for one of the contestants at cheerleader trials. That was hard. I didn't mean to.
I just meant to lean over to my friend girl. I was laughing and I was. There are no two ways about it. I was definitely a sissy and I was labeled that starting in kindergarten and all the way until I was 16, I would be called on to answer something and I would answer and then there would be like little echoes from other corners of the class going like like that because I was assistant to. I was buddies with Mr. Grover and the janitor. I'd go to the shop leys and he had all of these boxes with hinges and things like that, dozens of keys and magical implements, almost like a saucer. That's profound.
And we are not leaving because I am not in the classroom. The teacher had full control of you. So the minute that bell rings, it's like noise. I was always a top student in class, but when it came to recess, man, I was nowhere. I was always chosen the last. I was one by one is all those kids were selected for me until only I was left. I was like always. Not only the last chosen, but it was like, okay, you can take snap. Well, you know, you take Santoine, you know, you take they fought about who was going to have to take me. I used to always get right field because no balls came there and I would just stand there and pray it would be over so I could go home and listen to Frankie Lymon and the
teenagers, the maybe umpire. But I fixed them since I was umpire. I had complete control over the whole thing. And every time somebody did something that I didn't like him personally, no matter what the reality of the situation was, I said they were out and indeed they weren't because I was the umpire. Do you remember the language in Rosten was always really funny with language actually easier, I think, for you to remember those things than it is if we were like in a group of kids who were being snotty to us. They think they are making us feel that what does make them feel it really? And so we would do this special talking to her set up shop and we could actually make up something and say she just said that her shoelace is loose. Did I have an extra shoelace at home? I told her, yeah. Did that pay up or not? But some pulled up. I. I bike up and stop bulk up and up. I'm up at Babas. Don't make a girl. She's sort of like not at me and said, you know, I'm gonna really beat
you. But when the bell rings. I was the shrimp and the scholar. So the bully had his way with me and he pushed my ten speed over one day. So I went over. I picked it back up like it must have been a mistake. I turned around. He was right in my face and he just pushed me in the chest. What are you gonna do about it? I just said what the guys around the school said are fired at your job. He said, oh, really? He just came up on me and started swinging. This boy was right next to me. He took my cardboard and ripped it side, tickled by his shoulders. And I started shaking and my dad and stuff. And then I couldn't stop myself. My leg hurt his ankle right here and his ankle slumped on him and he was flat on the ground. As I went out towards the yard to grab me, pull my hair, started pulling me down, started shaking me really hard. Fortunately, I have all the sisters who went to the school will buy time until my sister, she told me, don't tell my mom because she went to get revenge. It was like my sister had to fight her oldest sister. Her brother fought my oldest sister.
Because the family name is very important at the school. A family portrait. Dear mom and dad. Everyone at camp is mean. There are bullies. There are two rats and four bats in my cabin. I wish I was at home with you and granny and granddad and my mice and Uncle Ned. The very earliest memory I have of my grandmother was that she often wore men's clothes. She was a tiny, tiny woman. And she would put her hands in the pockets, the jacket, and assume
a stance that had absolute authority. That was extremely attached to my mother. And every time my mother went away, I always thought that I was going to be sent to an orphanage or something. Like to me, my father was great. I used to say that when I grow up, I want to be like you. Hello now. Well, now you're sitting on my lap. All those funny spots all over your face. Are you a pretty good girl? Very good. And whose girl are you? My grandfather was one of the most important people. He had a place in the country that had a lot of stone walls. And my mother and dad and grandmother were super protective of me. And I would start to climb some of those stone walls and I would say, you better get down. You get hurt. And my grandfather would say, let the kid walk on the wall. He's got to learn to do things for himself. He always seemed to have time and he was not hurried. David where to catch shit there where he jumps.
I winker. Tom Tinker, no drummer. Peter King jumper. I thought the old Barry was just fascinate because she made faces. She was terribly nervous. She had nervous affliction out. Of course. Archcity that little store right there. My eyes glued on a watch at all chambers filled with good works. Always join something that would lift up Humala's. Oh, I thought she was terrible. Yeah, I know. May be. He had me. Me. My mother did things to scare me on purpose. She was going out one evening and I started saying, you know, Mommy, I don't want you to go out. Orson, I heard this fall. She had fallen onto the floor. What she'd done was pretend to fate. I said, Oh, God, please don't die anything. Bobby, Bobby, please don't die. And I promised that I would be good. Saying that. What was that? You said you would be good.
Are you a pretty good girl? Very good. My cousin was the same age as me, and one day I went to play with him for the afternoon and my aunt went down to the store. So first of all, I decide that we should take the curtains down and I could use it for a veil. So we did that, though it is hard that the chair shouldn't have legs, so legs off the chair. It was a great friend and my aunt came. Well, I wouldn't lie. I never got caught or anything. I kept I kept from being caught. I kept away from it. So we ran away to the ramp outside of Marshall Fields and just hung out on the underneath part of the ramp, pursuing pulled out in the world to look after we were missing a lone ranger. Click, click, click, click, review. Do you remember we used to do the famous twin. Oh, that's our brush, our teeth. And then we'd always pretend we were doing something professionally when we were doing, and we'd always be the famous twins.
And my mother decided we should make the bed so we'd make all the beds so we would be the slaves captured in this foreign hotel have to take bets in order to become free. We went to a western show where they had cowboys who could whip, you know, if someone was smoking a cigaret, they could whip out the ash. And so we bought some little children's whips. I thought I should train my sisters how to hold things, twigs and things, and I would learn how to whip out of their hands. So we practiced that in the yard quite a bit. And of course, I wasn't always able to do the trick successfully. My two older brothers and I were rolling down on the couch one rainy afternoon when we were all taking turns, getting up on the very top of the couch and then rolling down under the cushions and then rolling down onto the floor. My mother came in and just got really angry at us for doing this and started wailing at us and spanking or some hitting all of us really hard. And we were just absolutely terrified. When I was 13, I rode a bicycle 70 miles away.
I just didn't know where I was going on when I was going to come back. I just wanted to get out of St.. US. Not only did I want to run away from home, I was always looking for somebody to adopt me. When can remember there were three and half and I fell and hit one place and I fell over on foot. Well, we didn't wake him up, so we needed to cheer and take this difference with it to have it under the carpet. And then she came in and said, we are sinners, come and we kick in any given day. Later, she found out about my mother just about hit the ceiling. The whole world was collapsing on the front of us. She yelled and she shouted and she screamed and she became violent. She began to throw stuff, hardware at me and everything else. I ran for miles and I remained away for two whole days. I slept on a park bench in Union Square until I got so hungry and so dirty. I returned home. My mother wasn't a bit apologetic when there wasn't a word of regret, but sorrow or joy at seeing me back or anything like that.
Just about at the point where you had decided that you were never going to talk to her again. It was all right. You would just live in the bathroom for the rest of your life. Then she came in with candy. I have long since given, but the memories remain. Skating on thin ice. I was constantly doing something wrong. I always did what she told me to do. You had to because it's always I don't do it. That was the best thing to do in the world.
I always was interested in the wrong stuff. When I was really young, my favorite game was car accident. And my parents would go out and buy me a little toy cars and I would take them and smash them with a hammer and think, Oh my God, there's been a terrible argument. Hi, my friend. Are the cars coming? Hurry up, Kai. You better hurry up. Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Right. Thank, Gary. Thank you. Oh, thank you. Hi, honey. Hi. I remember taking all my father's neckties and gluing them on my head. So I had long hair like a Rob Roy. I thought I was Captain Hook and walked around for a long time with a coat hanger up my sleeve at all times. One day we were all sitting around the table and my father, he was sitting at the head of the long table. He didn't like it when we were all talking at once because he couldn't hear anybody. But we were just ignoring even all plan in the spirit of all this good fun. I said, give me the bread. So my sister next to me turned around and said, Say, please. And I said, I said it. And my father.
Suddenly the noise had gotten too loud for me. And he said, Oh, you settle down. What's the matter? I said, well, she wouldn't say, please. So he said, Are you gonna say, please? And I said, no. How old was I there? 10. I'd say a 10 year. Clifford, I'm doing I'm skating on thin ice. I used to warn me not to do that. I used to say that I was where you're skating on thin ice. I had a governess who was the most disapproval woman I've ever known. And it's still a to school. I had her. She lived in the house. I found a what they studied under a big tree embroidering. She'd make each something dainty. So I climbed up the tree. I had a small daughter stick by head. I ditched out on the Bradshaw barber and dropped it. No lap. So he said, I'll make you say, please. He leaned way down over the table and sort of hung over me and said, Say, please. And I said, no.
At dinner, everybody came down and sat in front of the store. The old women and the parents and everybody. And there was a a little old lady who lived in an apartment alongside the stoop. And she couldn't stand the. We just hated her. She yelled at the shut up, shut up and we were going to shut up. Desperations. She'd usually throw a pail of water on us. And we knew that when that was was a funny thing. It was kind of like a challenge. Anyway, she's Mrs. Radice just coming with her. And, you know, we scramble off the stove. And then, of course, we'd go right back again afterwards. While we were talking, we always would move toward adults. We wanted them to hear our language and not be able to figure it out.
As difficult as Damar stage, you would see companies Deville Dayvon from Sebelius have our stay the same same level. Like the people I really admire or the juvenile delinquents that I used to draw juvenile delinquents and make up names for that whole case histories and the backup like baseball cards. And I had about 20 them and I would say this girl burned down the school and I would look at them and play with them and imagine different things and how their parents were reacting and who they were running off with and war crimes they were doing. We'd go through a neighborhood and knock over the garbage cans. We had a very salacious game. What was called putting out the fire in a church. They would pee on a fire to see who could put it out. The flash. He went to jail for the third degree. He is a pitiful sight to society. When he was arrested, he went to jail for stealing that jaunty red light.
So he said, I'll make you say, please. He couldn't lose face, you know. So he got up and went outside and everybody said, Aha. You're gonna get it now. You better say, please. But by that time it was too late. I decided I wasn't going to give him to anybody. He got Lim's off the apple tree and my mother said, now those limbs are too big clubs. And he said, I'll make her say, please. So you've got me out in the yard. And they all gathered around and he broke about three or four of those limbs over me. But then he said, Did she say it? And everybody said, no. I was yelling under his arm. I was yelling bloody murder without saying anything. So he said, I'll make you say, please. You're not out to me. You hear her classroom. And my teacher asked me what happened in 1943. I see Columbus discovered America. The next thing you know, Albertini FSD We had agreed that nobody should wear a straw hat after September 15th.
And so we would hide in various places above stoops, below basement's if necessary, in alleyways and wherever a man walked by on or after Sept. 15, we would dispose of his straw hat. We would have a hook, would pull it off and throw it into the street. It's fun to play around with adults because they put out to certain world that you're supposed to fall into. And it's not necessarily any better. The new world. Well, I was thinking was I'm not going to say police and all. He was thinking, well, she's gonna say, please. But my mother finally jumped in and said, she said it. He was very sorry about it afterwards, but he said you oughtn't to be so stiff necked. And I said, oh, I got it from you. That was the thing that got us to be friends. I wasn't afraid of him anymore.
In the secret Gardy. We used to take off and just disappear for the day. We wanted to be amongst ourselves and not to be with our parents. I had a favorite tree that I climb and I'd sit up in that tree for hours and hours and hours and just watch the sky and watch the clouds. I think that's something that we really lose when we get older, is the ability to just sit and look good looking and find a little back then, you know. Then for a little while, flying around on their own, did I despise them? Inspiron They all fell right through the spider rack. I would imagine myself a great explorer. We used to hide around on it. On the other side of the house, down in a drainpipe. Nobody ever found us there. I could see everybody and they couldn't see me. And they'd all wander around yelling at me and saying, You have to wash the dishes. Come on here. And she'd say, Where were you? I was hollering for you. Say, Well, I hear you.
Had hangouts. My main place was a Clay Hill. Well, it was where they'd made bricks and they would dig out the clay to make bricks and they would leave gouges and things. And we'd go and find us a Sladden board, almost like clay pouring water on it. And I played that. Well, you could tell if I'd been I live in our town. Some places were very dangerous and it had a foundation of an old barn there. We were told that it was very dangerous. And so naturally, that increased the attractiveness of playing there. Oh, I climbed hills all the time. That was my favorite thing to do is just to get out and be by myself. If you want to see what was on the other side, one of those ridges, you climb up the top and there would be other ridges and you climb a little higher one and there's other ridges. They all fell away from you like petals in a rose. The mountain was my imaginary country and I built a picnic area and pads. We had little walkie talkies that we made out of pieces of wood that had a little hole
cut in the side where we kept a map of the local region. Always fun to sneak around. Not to be seen. I'll have to remember the bureau. She has long, warm. Yes. Oh, she's going to have wet legs in a minute. One day I opened up the water meter and I found a black widow spider friend who I recognized by the hourglass design on its belly ballet before I turned over. So I caught the black and white and brought it home in a jar. Why did you push it in with the lid? It doesn't have to have a jar. I said I got it right or I got it. Mommy loves it. Oh, here's a jar, dear. Then I ran back into the house and a battery me back. I dropped it in to the spider's rag breakfast bag. Conure. Well, I spent a lot of time in the top of that willow tree. I could see everywhere, everywhere, all around.
But nobody could see me. We had a lot of tree forts there, all these deformed, huge stumps of trees that were hollowed out with new trees growing up next to him. One of them was some witches house because it was had all these pointy charred stumps around it like a turret of a castle. My sister and I would go up there and look down and say, we're on top of the world. Everybody knows we climbed Mount Everest and we'd be waving at the rest of the world. And we had made some planks up there. So we had a little platform up in the tree. I've kept that place a secret for most men, two, three years. But the roots that created all been washed away by the river and the still standing. So a great place for little kids to climb. Well, I always thought that there were little spirits out in the woods and fairies and gnomes and things like that. And I always like to put little trays of water and stuff in the roots of a tree and a little mossy place. Then three days later, I'd come back and it would be gone. You know, there was always sure that my little people had come and done that the earth.
There was always moist. And had this nice, earthy smell. You put a shovel in it and you flip it over and the worms would come out and it was just great. We just started digging. We're going to dig our way to China. We got maybe about halfway there. The Japonica bush. It's a flower that has a little green herb at the top. And then a bell shaped flower comes red flower comes down like a big skirt. And so we always picked those japonica flowers. And. And I would sit there and spread out all my japonica flowers. And I'd be different members of the family. They would all be doing things and the father would be going off to the fields with the horse mentalistic. And then the mother would walk, walk, walk, walk, walk to the store and get this little basket of stuff and walk back. And we actually acted out things with him and we had this weeping willow tree with fronds that reach all the way down on the ground. You go inside, you can't see in, but you can see yet. We played doctor for almost all of one summer. It would be on my nutes skin patch by skin patch inspection. And then we just do something else totally unrelated, like push each other on skates or
something like that. Grass's One of my favorite things to do to lay down on my stomach in the grass so that my foot in my head was just at the same height of the grass and just watch all the bugs that were crawling around in the grass was transpiring back into the hiding place. I never could see it and crawl out Friday night. Look around, say don't find the spider again. Spiders would a little place we had out down to the river we call it. We had a swimming hole away, waved me away as all we had within that playground. I just remember that all the times of the year were beautiful, and I tried to say, oh, this is the best, you know, spring when all the leaves are coming out in the violets are blue moon and I love the hills. In the wintertime, the tree trunks look like sticks. And then fall is the most pretty, most prettiest. I guess I got that from my mother cos she's so appreciated nature and she was always seeing large children. This is the prettiest time.
That was the thing that I remember her saying the most. Windows on a grown up world. I always thought when I was little that everyone was monsters when they were around me, they put on these realistic masks, but I could tell on the inside that they were actually evil and they were just faking it. They are hard on this awful red lipstick which you get all over you when they kiss you. And every time they kiss you, you just rub it off as fast you could. But then you could still feel it on you afterwards. We had a hug them all. I used to hate that. I mean, even when I was 12, 13, 14, I was expected to give everybody a kiss.
Yuck was awful. That's why you're a girl. That's right. Oh, that's my angel, darling. We had a dining room table and I used to escape under that table. And of course, it was a fascinating place because I was able to eavesdrop on all sorts of conversations that were not really meant for my young years. My grandmother and great aunt talking about things that I didn't have any recognition of. But now I look back on them and I recall, yes, Aunt Ruth was an alcoholic. All I really remember was not ever understanding anything that was going on. Everything was always confusing drawn by this. Yeah. How much is it? A clue, darling. I'll give you three cents for it. You can take the three cents for an $18 sponge. When I was little, my uncle said something really stupid and my grandmother said to him,
Your head is full of sawdust, Johnny. So my little money started clicking. I think it does. We got to find out. But this is one day. A couple days later, we sell a chip. So that tolerance pushed him and he smacked his head, crashed into the back of the wall. His head was pouring with blood running. Daddy, daddy, daddy. Don't worry. John, his head is full of blood like everybody else is. No. So. My mom and dad took me and my brother into the kitchen, sat us down on their laps and said, we're gonna get divorced. And I didn't know it. Divorce was. But my brother, he started crying. So I started crying, too, because I figured it was something sad that was happening. I didn't know what it was. I was used to not understanding things. They called us into the room and told us we're going to live in separate houses. That doesn't mean that I'm not your daddy. That doesn't mean mommy's not your mommy. That was pretty strange coming home and no daddy. I just never saw a lot of them after that.
We were the only Jewish family in a very Catholic town and they were very abusive to us in those days. I remember my brothers would come home from Hebrew school and little boys would be in love. Oh, I remember the street fights. Yes, my brothers used to be very simple. A street fight, one street against another, or the Italians against the Jews. I remember that very well. You'd see them coming as a gang. It was always a gang, and there'd be fights. I didn't know the Jews didn't react that day. I didn't know that. I got in New York. The wall was all right in my world. As soon as I got on the train, that's where I got to realize. I started reading. I saw colored found station and hype I a long time for I speak about it, but I saw the water was coming out of same pipe and I wondered as it was, I was a water. I looked out the window and could see just the top
of a cemetery and the lightning review, the blazing cross blazing over this cemetery. And I can remember my grandmother picking me up and saying, don't think, just breathe. And the next day she showed me the charred remains of that burnt cross. That was the evidence of the Ku Klux Klan. Grandpa died when I was seven or eight, I guess. And we all went to the funeral. And you always kind of dreaded going by the coffin and seeing the dead person, but you wouldn't have missed it for the world. And we looked down there, lay grandpa looking very peaceful. All the women were carrying on and crying. And I couldn't cry. I was of the age where I knew you should be sad, but I just I couldn't get sad enough to cry. Father had an array of maiden sisters, and they kept dying all the time. I hated it was missing. They aren't so much of each man that mother had.
The word was old. But for us, in fact, at one time, something. Okay, rainbow stripe. Yeah. I'm going to catch an insanity to see my father. Maybe you here to ask him. OK. She said yes. OK, let's think the worst ways we can die. You could be paraded through a pickle. That would be weird. You could get New York and have somebody put that on your forehead. And all I really remember was not ever understanding anything that was going on. My sister Mary drowned. She was three. And it was really weird to see her dead. Remember staring into her face. I didn't know what dead was. I knew something was terribly wrong with her. You know that that wasn't quite Mary. My mother telling me that she's gone to heaven is with God and angels, mother. And it was really weird looking in, looking in, wondering what's going on.
Skip Through the Shadows: Scenes From Childhood
Part 1
Producing Organization
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-526-0r9m32p60b).
Program Description
"'These glimpses of childhood move me because they are simple and real. I want to hear more.' --Benjamin Spock, M.D. "The character of every adult is shaped by childhood experience, and memories of childhood profoundly affect us for the rest of our lives. Skip Through the Shadows is a radio special in ten parts that brings to life the magic and the pain of growing up. Story is woven with sound in a way that invites the listener to re-enter the playground, the family living room, and the secret hiding place under the willow tree. Each program focuses on a central archetypal theme, from the justice system of the schoolyard to the [nighttime] world of lullabies and under-the-bed monsters. "Skip Through the Shadows provides an evocative journey back into the world of class bullies and imaginary friends, private languages and secret clubs. The cast of voices is richly varied and features dozens of children and adults, including legendary blues artist Brownie McGhee, traditional folk musician Jean Ritchie, Fred 'Mister' Rogers, and filmmaker John Waters. Their recollections are candid and compelling stories, of a first kiss in a Kentucky mountain hollow, and a summer's evening of mischief-making on the front stoop of a tenement in New York. "In adult listeners, Skip Through the Shadows triggers their own vivid memories; for children, the series offers a realistic portrait of their present-day lives. This combination of audience appeal is unusual in radio. And because it explores themes that are universal in childhood, Skip Through the Shadows ties listeners to the experience of all people, regardless of when and where they grew up."--1986 Peabody Awards entry.
Broadcast Date
Created Date
Asset type
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-b77d12e0618 (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio cassette
Duration: 1:10:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Skip Through the Shadows: Scenes From Childhood; Part 1,” 1986, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Skip Through the Shadows: Scenes From Childhood; Part 1.” 1986. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Skip Through the Shadows: Scenes From Childhood; Part 1. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from