5. Music Finale

Bob - Band uniform

5. Music Finale

School started again and my wonderful life continued blossoming! I earned first chair trumpet in the marching band. On my previous birthday, Daddy had proudly presented me with a shiny new French Selmer cornet, the finest instrument of the day! I won medals at State music festivals, and the Assistant Band Director at Michigan State University invited me to take lessons with him…was I flattered!

My life was all planned in my mind. I would become a professional musician, or a band director, and play my horn the rest of my life. Scouting and music were the center of my wonderful life!trumpet

During my childhood we attended the Church of Christ in town. The Hicks family was the Sunday School orchestra; Mom on the piano, Daddy played violin, my sister Jan played saxophone, I played trumpet, and an elderly gentleman played a lap tuba.

One of the kids, Ivan, became my life-long friend. We sang in the choir, and when the electricity went off, Ivan and I pumped the big bellows backstage so the pipe organ would work.

One day at home, as I walked into the living room, I fell! I just lost my balance and fell down! I fell again the next day, and Mom dug out Grandpa’s old cane so I could get around. Something was drastically wrong!

After a couple of days, I could not walk. The doctors in the small towns nearby were unable to diagnose my problem, so my aunt took me to Chicago, where a doctor friend of hers got me in to the University of Chicago Clinics Department of Neurology.

For the unfolding of a dramatic moment in my life, come back tomorrow!

4. Choices – Bus or Train



  4. Choices 

Bus or Train


Our group chaperone and most of the boys, were impatient to get traveling, so took the bus. Three of the boys and I thought that going on the train would be far more comfortable than riding a bus all night, so chose to wait the two hours.

We watched the bus pull out, then as we walked across the street to the train station, a cab driver offered to drive us around downtown Chicago for an hour to see the sights for two bucks apiece. I had been in Chicago before visiting my aunt, but the other guys had not, so we went.

We saw the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry with the Planetarium dome, and the bright lights of the theater marques in the downtown loop. With the driver’s commentary, it was fun, and we got back in plenty of time to catch the train.

The train arrived in Ionia next morning about an hour after the bus. My parents told me that the boy’s parents were very upset with the chaperone for leaving us alone in Chicago! My parents were not worried, because they knew I was mature enough to take care of myself and the boys.

A week at home, where I celebrated my fifteenth birthday, then off with the scouts to the 1950 National Jamboree at Valley Forge. A lot of us got poison ivy, not so good! My wonderful summer was over, and I went back to school.

Have you or anyone in your family had some interesting travel experiences?

3. Scouting

Boy Scout logo

3 . Scouting            

I was eleven when I met Gerard Perry in Ionia. He invited me to join his Scout troop and go to summer camp the following month. One had to be twelve to join the Boy Scouts back then, but I would have my twelfth birthday while at camp, so Mr. Perry said that would be okay.

Scouting, and Mr. Perry became a major influence in my life. I wanted to do everything – so I went to Camporees, overnight camping trips, hikes with Mr. Perry and the troop, and worked hard to earn the ranks and badges. I loved getting badges! I was “challenged” by two other boys who were always one step ahead of me, Rex Starkweather and John Dalzell. For example, John and Rex were going to the Scout work camp on Mackinaw Island, and I wanted to go too.

My Dad was always supportive, and paid for me to go. It was a wonderful experience, but I got lost in the woods, a humiliating learning experience that made me late getting back to the Scout barracks.   My punishment was extra latrine duty.

Boy Scout Eagle

Two years later, I was close to reaching the rank of Eagle Scout and was a Patrol Leader in the troop. At summer camp, I danced in the Indian Lore Dance team, and was dubbed “Leaping Panther” by the leader. I was initiated into the Order of the Arrow, and became a blood brother of a blood brother of a chief of the Canadian Blackfoot tribe.

The summer of 1950 was a busy pivotal year.  A traveling evangelist came to our church and spoke to the teens.  He painted plaques with foliage that read “Prayer Changes Things”, and talked about God in nature.  Because of Scouting and my love for being out in the woods, I felt that God was calling me and I decided to accept Christ.  I told my folks on the way home, that I was going to be saved, and went forward at the alter call in church soon after.

John Dalzell and I joined a group of boys from our council and went by train from Ionia to Cimmaron Cito New Mexico to Philmont Scout Ranch. I was delighting in my maturing body that enabled me to run faster than anyone in the troop, and hike twenty miles for Hiking Merit Badge. The hike with burro packs through the mountains at Philmont was an exhilarating highpoint experience.

On the last day of the trip, I walked a short way from the ranch headquarters to look at tracks in the clay left by Conestoga wagons of the old West. I climbed up a wire fence to get safely away from a grazing buffalo, which we had been told to avoid. I watched a mosquito bite my arm – couldn’t let go, or drop Mom’s camera, and a mosquito bite was usually insignificant. Not so this time!

Our train trip back home had a stop in Chicago to change trains. There was a delay to get the connecting train, and our chaperone leader, who was inexperienced, gave us a choice – wait two hours for the train, or catch a bus leaving then for the overnight trip to Ionia.

To find out our choice, and the consequences, come back for the post tomorrow. 🙂

Was there a pivotal point in your life that you could share?


2. God’s Protection

toy rifle

2. God’s Protection

When I was seven or eight, playing alone on Grandpa’s farm, I did a lot of “pretend” games. One day I was playing “Commando” climbing in the big maple tree across the driveway from the kitchen door of the big house.

My Commando popgun rifle was strapped over my shoulder as I climbed down from the tree. I had to slide through a forked branch and then drop to the ground. When I slid through the forked branch, my hand slipped, and the popgun caught on the branch, with the shoulder strap around my neck. I was trapped; and about to be strangled if I let go of the branch! I could not pull myself up enough to free my neck from the strap tight around my throat.

By God’s provision, my dad was passing through the kitchen, and looked out the screen door to see my plight. He slammed through the door, leaped off the porch, and ran to wrap his arms around my legs and lift me up so I could get the gun strap off. Daddy lowered me to the ground, and said, “No more tree climbing today.”

Have you had a frightening experience? Would you share?

Has God protected you, or wrapped His arms around you as a loving Father to save you?

1. On The Farm

Barn - Howe - 1904?

1. On The Farm

How did I get to be eighty?

It really all started after my grandparents passed away, and we moved to the farm in central Michigan. I played alone a lot because my sister Jan was eight years older than I was, and gone at school or busy with friends her age. The only boys in the area were more than a mile away, and were real farm kids who had to work and do chores. During the summer, I shot bow and arrow, plinked tin cans with my B B gun, and played in the barn.

Then school started, and I was inside reading comics, Big Little Books, school books, and paperbacks. We played Monopoly, Parcheesi, card games, checkers, and Chinese Checkers.

My youth was highlighted by experiences with critters and wild things. I had a pet raccoon who lived a long time in the house with us before returning to the wild. I had a pet crow whose “nest” was a rag pile on top of the refrigerator in the work room. Daddy brought to the porch three baby skunks who had lost their mother, but they never got tame enough to bring into the house. We always had a dog.

Daddy bought a pony named Smokey for me when I was eight. Mom led me around until I got over my initial fear, and then I could ride outside. I was Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman all in one. What fun times!

One day when I was feeling adventurous, I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a paper bag, saddled up Smokey and rode across the highway all the way down the lane to the back of the farm. What an adventurous outing! I tied Smoky to a small tree, and sat on the grass to eat my lunch, then started riding back to the barn. When Smokey saw the barn, he took the bit in his mouth and took off running! My pulling on the reins and shouting had no effect on his rush to get home and get something to eat. Thank God there were no cars on Michigan Highway 66 as we crossed. Smokey scraped against the barn door, tearing my blue jeans as he rushed to get to the oat bin.

My adventures are shared in a book I’ve written, Memories of Growing Up On Grandpa’s Farm, a collection of anecdotes and rhyming stories about my life from age seven to eleven.

Did you have pets when you were a kid? Do you have fun memories from when you were little?