Crape Myrtle Miracle

Crape Myrtle Miracle

Crape Myrtle Miracle is a multi-part recollection by Dr. Tracy D. Connors. Additions to the story will be published regularly, typically about once a week. Bookmark your browser to make it easy to follow the miraculous, but true, story of how curiosity about where a friend was disappearing to on Monday nights and a mysterious $20 bill in a crape myrtle bush changed the life of a Florida 12-year old in 1951.

How Curiosity Changed my Life

To this day I don’t believe in miracles, much less that money grows on trees; but, when I was 12, the nearest thing to a miracle that ever happened to me–happened to me in the crape myrtle bush that grew at the end of our driveway.

My best friend “Joey” lived down at the end of our unpaved block of bungalows. Big oak trees overhung the sandy ruts which snaked down the block to Elwood Avenue, the only paved street in our North Shore neighborhood at the time. Joey lived on the corner of Elwood and West 58th Street. I lived on the corner of Vermillion and West 58th Streets. I had known Joey since I was about four years old.

North Jacksonville Baptist Church
North Jacksonville Baptist Church

When Joey started disappearing on Monday nights, I was very curious. It didn’t take me long to find out why–the Scouts! He was going to a Boy Scout meeting…every Monday night at the Christian Church. We were 12 years old…and Baptists. I wasn’t so sure that it was right for us to go to a meeting at the Christian Church. After all, we had to set a good example for the younger members of our church, the North Jacksonville Baptist Church Sunday School department. We weren’t quite sure what we believed, but since the name of that church was different from ours, we felt there must be an important difference somewhere.

Joey wasn’t so sure he wanted to join the Scouts–he was just visiting for a while to try it out–but he agreed to take me along to the next meeting. I couldn’t WAIT until Monday night. When it finally arrived, he came by to get me on his bike.
We peddled hard and fast down the sandy ruts of Vermillion Street. If you didn’t steer your bike carefully down the ruts, you could lose your balance and go over…trapped in the rut and off balance.

The low spot in the dirt street where we sometimes waded calf-deep after a thunder storm to sail our “boats” made of scrap pieces of 2×4 lumber, was only a dusty memory in the fading light of that Florida summer evening sun. Turning right at 60th street, we pumped faster going downhill, getting up speed to crest the slight hill before Pearl Street, and pure bliss for tired cyclists, reaching its tar-and-gravel paving. Four more blocks, a right turn on Tallulah Avenue, and we were pulling up to the church…sweaty, breathless, and scared…at least I was.

I rolled my right dungaree pants leg down after hooking down the bicycle’s kick stand with my right toe. [In the early 1950s, our heavy cotton denim work/school/play pants weren’t called “Levi’s” or such.] You didn’t want to get your pants greasy on the open sprocket, or even worse, caught between the chain and the sprocket.

As I let go of the bike and headed for the church, the point of the kick stand promptly punched into the sandy soil, allowing my bike to fall over onto Joey’s. Both bikes then fell over together with a great clatter, pedal bending spokes, twanging loudly. Great, no chance of slipping in the back unnoticed.

I tried to take a few extra deep breaths to prepare me for this new experience as Joey pulled open the door of the old wooden Sunday School building. It didn’t help. I was still breathing hard. Worse–we were late. All the other boys were already inside, in their green uniforms, in their seats–and staring at us, as we stumbled in wearing sun bleached “polo shirts” with wide horizontal stripes, faded dungarees, and high topped black tennis shoes, the ones with the rubber patch over the canvass of your inside ankles.

In school, when classes were boring, we would pull and tug at the rubber patch, messing with it until it loosened its grip on the canvass, and could be pulled of in bits and pieces. It was a poor substitute for chewing gum, but that’s what we did. Then, the reason for having a patch over the ankle become clear. Holes quickly wore through…at the ankles. When new school clothes were being bought in August, it was only expected that a pair of tennis shoes would last one school year–or less.

The Scouts swiveled around on their high backed deacon’s benches to ogle the noisy new–and late–arrivals. Only the tops of heads from the nose up showed above the shiny high backs of the benches–beady sets of bright eyes underneath moist brows watching us with intense curiosity–green “fore and aft” garrison caps perches in all directions.

Later, I would learn that the Scouts called them “piss cutters,” when no leaders were listening. To say “piss” when you were twelve was devilishly wicked.

© Copyright 2016 BelleAire Press, LLC

Crape Myrtle Miracle is a multi-part recollection by Dr. Tracy D. Connors. Additions to the story will be published regularly, typically about once a week. Bookmark your browser to make it easy to follow the miraculous, but true, story of how curiosity about where a friend was disappearing to on Monday nights and a mysterious $20 bill in a crape myrtle bush changed the life of a Florida 12-year old in 1951.

Part II Hooked on Scouting

About Tracy Connors

Tracy D. Connors graduated from Jacksonville University (AA), University of Florida (BA), the University of Rhode Island (MA), and Capella University (Ph.D. with Distinction, human services management, 2013). Ph.D. (Honorary), Leadership Excellence, Jacksonville University, December, 2013. Designated a "Distinguished Dolphin" by Jacksonville University, Feb. 2, 2010.