If you met your child self from years ago, how well would you like him or her? I’ve been thinking with surprise lately that I’d like my younger self quite a bit. The big question in my mind is how I stopped being him.
A few weeks ago, someone reminded me in a vivid way of certain things from my childhood. Those images have stayed in my mind and I’ve been thinking a lot about who I was back then. Thursday afternoon, I started thinking about some of the funny and unusual things I did as a child and teen. The more I thought, the more I smiled. My way of “playing” wasn’t normal. Here are the things I thought of.
I remembered starting a bank for neighborhood children when I was about 11 years old. We hadn’t been living in this community near Birmingham for very long, but I decided I would take deposits from kids around me. I had a box with a lock, and I typed tiny slips of paper noting how much each was worth. I don’t remember exactly what the business plan was, so I’m unclear how I intended to make money, but I remember kids trading those little pieces of paper instead of money for a few weeks. (The whole bank went bust when my sisters demanded all of their money back. I guess it was a run on the bank.)
I thought about a radio relay service that I was going to set up when I was about 9 years old between Anniston, Ala., and Meridian, Miss. I lived in Anniston and I had a friend in Meridian, where I had lived for about a year and a half before. I knew that it was expensive to make long distance calls, so I had found a cheap radio with a limited range. My scheme was to set up repeating relays between the cities to deal with the limited range of the signal. And somehow, I was going to sell cheap communication time between the cities so that people could avoid expensive long distance charges. Yes, it made sense when I was 9.
I remembered my plan to set up an inexpensive telephone service for an area of several blocks between my house and the house of a friend who lived adjacent to the junior high school in Jasper, Ala., where I lived at the time. A tornado had come through town and destroyed a lot of office buildings. That meant that a lot of telephone equipment was being thrown away. I collected all of it that I could and figured out how it worked. I didn’t have central office switching equipment, but I figured out crude workarounds to make a simple system work. My friend and I started laying wire between our houses, but we were stymied by the little matter of how to run our wires over streets without climbing the utility poles. I gave up and just wired my own house with extra extensions everywhere. (I also rigged a bugging device to record all calls on the line. I didn’t really want to hear anything in particular; I just wanted to see if I could do it.)
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