Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Pete OkonskiMy family lived in Green Bay until about 1967 in a little two-bedroom rental at 819 South Roosevelt Street. (Happily, the house is still there.) How I still recall that useless piece of trivia is one of those mysteries of memory that no one will ever explain to me so that it makes sense.

Although it’s not so hard when there are plenty of photos like this one in our photo album. This is my brother Pete. He can’t be more than three years old in this photo, but that little guy had some legs on him. We grew up in that legendary time when parents sent their kids outside to play all day long without worrying about whether or not they’d be snatched off the street by a deviant or a cannibal or a human trafficker. I used to run up and down and all around the block for hours without raising an eyebrow, as long as I ran straight home when I heard my mom calling. If I couldn’t hear my mom calling because I was too far away, or in someone else’s house, one of the other kids would and the word would quickly be relayed to me. That’s how it worked.

Pete was a special kind of wanderer, though. Mom would send him out in the yard to play and five minutes later he was nowhere to be seen. An hour later he might be as far away as Saint Paul, Minnesota. The kid could move fast, and he stayed gone long after word was out on the street that his mother was calling him. Even back then, that worried my mom. After the second or third time she had to mount a search party to find the little booger, she started labelling him to make him easier to find.

They used to sell denim patches with a sticky backing that you could melt over the torn knees of kids’ jeans with an iron. Mom would cut them into quarters and write Pete’s name and address on them with an indelible marker, then iron them onto his jackets, his shirts, and his pants. She used to joke that she ironed them on his underwear just to make sure. I thought she used to write our phone number on them, too, but it’s clearly missing from the label in this photo.

the wanderer | 2:23 pm CST
Category: O'Folks, Pete, story time
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