Tag Archive | Indian Hills


Big sister Laura holding baby sister Cathy on her christening day in 1959. That's at out great-grandmother's house in Russellville, and I still have the chair that went with the couch.

Big sister Laura holding baby sister Cathy on her christening day in 1959. That’s at our great-grandmother’s house in Russellville, and I still have the chair that went with the couch. I’m guessing early summer by my tan – and my necklace that was a gift from some neighbor boys for my first dance recital. I’m 3. She’s 5 or 6 months.

My sister and I are walk-through-fire-for-each-other sisters. We’ve gotten through enough hard times together that we know we can survive anything together.

And, yes, we realize we’re lucky to have such a relationship. Hard for us to fathom, but not everyone gets along with siblings.

I loved her from Day 1. Heck, I even named her. As an only for three years and four months and the first grandchild on Mother’s side, I had my day in the spotlight and was ready to share.

Posing in our grandparents' backyard in Russellville in 1961, I think. I'd be 5 and Cathy 2. We were hot stuff.

Posing in our grandparents’ backyard in Russellville in 1961, I think. I’d be 5 and Cathy 2. We were hot stuff.

She drove me crazy at times, as little sisters do, but that didn’t come until later. We never even really fought.

We did have  to share a bedroom until we moved to the “big” house in Indian Hills the end of my fifth-grade year (the third bedroom before then always had to be a den/TV room). That caused most of the few problems I had with a pesky little sister – Cathy was oblivious that there was a problem. If I had a friend over to play and we shut her out of the bedroom, she’d beat on the door and yell, “Let me in! I want to play.”

Mother always made me let her in – “You can’t shut her out of her own bedroom, and she just wants to be like you,”  she’d say, adding that it was a compliment.

Sigh. We mostly played outside, though, which eliminated that problem.

I do remember being super-annoyed when we’d go on trips and Cathy would insist on putting her feet in my lap or leaning on me. Mother, however, would abide no “She’s touching me,” or “Cathy’s got her feet on me again!” Nope, “She’s your little sister,” Mother would say. “She’s not hurting you. Be sweet.”

After we had the big den on Blackhawk Road, I often got stuck cleaning up messes made by Cathy and her friends. If I tried to say that wasn’t fair – by now you can guess how far that got me.

Sure, I teased her and told her lots of crazy stuff as if it were true – she was very gullible – but I never really picked on her.

I also got lots of spankings up to a certain age – generally for sassing but sometimes for running off, doing something crazy/dangerous – and Cathy never did. After we were older, she told me she found it easy to stay out of trouble; she just watched what I did and didn’t do it. Smart girl, that baby sis.

She always had my back, too. Never tattled, covered for me when I needed covering, and thought everything I did was cool or worth copying. She trusted me to pierce her ears. (Nearly killed me to poke holes in my sister, even though I’d done lots of other lobes. Almost fainted, as in had to put my head between my knees. I retired from that after her ears.)

I cut her hair when she wanted a shag in junior high. That’s trust.

The back of this photo says "The Robert L. Cartwright Family: Bob, Willette, Laura and Cathy 1970." I think it was early enough in the year that Daddy's 36, Mother 34 and Cathy 11. I'm 14.

The back of this photo says “The Robert L. Cartwright Family: Bob, Willette, Laura and Cathy 1970.” I think it was early enough in the year that Daddy’s 36, Mother 34 and Cathy 11. I’m 14.

Fortunately, we never had to fight about clothes, as many sisters do. The age and size differences were too great. And her feet passed mine by just enough to keep her out of my shoes. But, lordy, when it came to my makeup (which I bought myself) and accessories, did she ever help herself.

Her best friend and neighbor across the street, Connie, even ’fessed up to tell me they liked to wear my retainer when I wasn’t home.

“Gross! Mother!!”

That one Mother did back me on – retainers were expensive.

Cathy and Connie on my 15th birthday. That's our driveway on Blackhawk, and Connie's holding my kitten, Ben, one of many strays I brought home.

Cathy and Connie on my 15th birthday. That’s our driveway on Blackhawk, and Connie’s holding my kitten, Ben, one of many strays I brought home.

By comparison, that's me a month later (holding Pam's kitten, Peanut). Dig the short white Levi's and chukka boots. Oh, I'm standing in front of the Crownover's house next door, for some reason. Looks like Pam took the photo from the shadow.

For size comparison, that’s me a month later (holding Pam’s kitten, Peanut). Dig the short white Levi’s and chukka boots. Oh, I’m standing in front of the Crownover’s house next door, for some reason. Looks like Pam took the photo from the shadow.

Only two times do I remember being really upset about “borrowing” episodes. The first one I’d willingly loaned her my first good watch to wear to a party. She’d asked and everything.

But afterward, when she came in and tossed it to me, saying, “Here’s your watch. It doesn’t work anymore,” and walked out, I was stunned. Still don’t know what happened to it and can’t remember the outcome.

In retrospect, I have to respect her punkitude. Rare for little sister.

I’m pretty sure that was my Elgin, something I’d really wanted and had gotten for Christmas. I don’t remember if it was before or after I broke it myself at a New Year’s Eve party – but it worked when she left with it. (I do hazily remember how I broke it, but we won’t go into that. The New Year’s Eve event was definitely Blackhawk years and Cathy covered for me in an uber-big way. Owe you, kiddo.)

But it could have been a different watch and we could have already moved to Wewoka. Time blends together 40 years later.

The one time I really had a meltdown, though, was over some expensive-ish kohl makeup I’d splurged on. It came in little clay pots and was supercool. I can’t remember the brand. I’ve looked and looked but can’t find it online, though it did look something like this little pot from the late 1970s. indwebready I’d gotten some sparkly cobalt blue eyeliner and  blush. Maybe black eyeliner, too.

I did find this cool magazine page touting the look. I might've had a turban, too.

I did find this cool magazine page touting the look. I might’ve had a turban, too.

Let me add that I was a heavily plucked eyebrows and mascara-only girl from about 16 on, except for special occasions. And since the fancy kohl stuff was in clay pots, I couldn’t tell that it was disappearing at an alarming pace.

One night was a special occasion – don’t remember what it was, but I was ready to get dolled up, ready to roll, when I discovered my little clay pots were empty!


That one time Mother bought me replacement makeup. Guess I made do with mascara that night.

Shortly thereafter I married too young, too quickly, too foolishly, and shortly after that Cathy married obscenely young, at 19. We grew closer every day even though we lived apart.

Hardship draws you together and blood is definitely the tie that binds. Though I’m designated “the strong one,” I count on her for more than she knows.

She’s got my back, and I’ve got hers. We’re the Cartwright girls through thick and thin.

Love you, kiddo.



Hot fun in the summertime

It never takes much to set off a reverie of the hot fun in the summertime we Indian Hills kids had, but what started this one was really two-fold. A. Tonight is my 40th high school reunion, NLR Northeast Class of 1973. B. Yesterday I got a message from Greg Jones, fellow IHer, who told me he’d just learned that we were cousins of some sort!

Seems our moms  had made the Tackett connection years ago at a party at Mary Frances Cole’s house (where I spent years babysitting Mike and Mark in the summer while Mary Frances went to college) and neglected to tell us. And since Mary Frances hasn’t been a Cole in years, they’ve known for a long time indeed.

But in those days of old, she was, and Buddy Cole was my dad’s best friend. He used to pick me up early in the mornings to babysit, so early the boys would still sleep for hours and I’d watch the classic movies shown on KATV, Channel 7. blue dahlia (I’m sure that’s the right station. If it’s not, I plead a long time ago.) Loved them and learned so much about cinematography and life.

And I read. One book in particular stands out – one morning Buddy tossed me a copy of the new, sensational Everything You everythingWanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), saying, “Here, you should read this. You might learn something.”

Did I ever! Another clear memory is of Daddy’s face when he came somberly to me with his and Mother’s copy of the book and said, “Your mother and I have read this and we think you should, too” – to which I replied, “Oh, I’ve already read that. Buddy gave it to me.”

In retrospect, I can understand the look on his face.

And of course the pool is always a deep subject to explore. We had so much fun there and almost total freedom after a certain age.

I’m not sure if it was the day after school was out for the seventh grade or eighth grade, but Pam and I decided to have a sleepover and day at the pool. We decided we’d each invite one other girl – Carolyn Huff was Pam’s pick, Gina McDonald mine – and somehow we talked our parents into letting us sleep in Pam’s stepdad’s boat, which was parked under a tarp between their house and the Jennings’ next door.

We stayed at the pool all day and had a blast, but the main thing I remember is how sunburned Carolyn got – it was frightening and she was ST37 literally sick from it. Daddy was so concerned he drove to the pharmacy in Sherwood and got our magic elixir for sunburn, S.T. 37. We doused her with it. Don’t believe we slept in the boat – after sweltering with flashlights a while, we had to get our poor burned friend under the air conditioning.

Don’t ask me why this came to the forefront of my mind, but another memory stirred up by Greg’s message is a vivid one of Rob Fisher, our redheaded neighbor boy (he and Cathy are the same age), dancing like mad on our front porch and singing, “Roly poly, roly poly” along with my 45 of “Mony, Mony,” which I had blasting in the living room with the window open.

Pretty freaking cute in retrospect, but I teased him mercilessly about getting the lyrics wrong. Sorry, Rob – you know I love you. But music was serious business in my world. Even bubblegum pop like “Mony, Mony,” which was kind of feeble for Tommy James and the Shondells. (Billy Idol covered it in the ’80s, oddly, so it did have staying power.)

One more memory chain, then I must fly. Can’t find any pool pictures – they must be at Mother’s, if they exist, but I can remember summers by bathing suits. The first year we were on Blackhawk Road was the last year I could wear a little girl’s suit. It was a two-piece, white with ’60s neon-color mod flowers all over it. I tanned through the white and had reversed-out flowers everywhere else.

I won’t go through them all, but, again in retrospect, I’m kind of surprised my parents let me get that canary yellow ruffled bikini at 13. I know there’s photographic evidence of it somewhere because I remember Garth taking the picture. The summer pictures I did find (below) all show the joie de vivre of those days.

I hadn’t yet become camera shy. Life was a gas, man, and you can see it in the smile.

And now time to stop to get ready to go back to the past. Forty years. Crazy.

Thanks, Greg, for getting me going again on the Indian Hills train.

This is 14-year-old me and Linda Lowe, who will be at the reunion tonight, posing at the Cole's house when I was babysitting. Don't know who wielded the camera.

This is 14-year-old me and Linda Lowe, who will be at the reunion tonight, posing at the Cole’s house when I was babysitting. Don’t know who wielded the camera.

So this is me and dearly departed Tom Bennewise, who refused to cooperate for the picture, which I think my sister took. The short hair is the result of the home perm gone bad that made all the longer hair fall off.

So this is me (just turned 15) and dearly departed Tom Bennewise, who refused to cooperate for the picture, which I think my sister took. The short hair is the result of the home perm gone bad that made all the longer hair fall off.

With my beloved cat Ben (yes, that's my son's name, too). Approaching 16 and with the addition of braces, which didn't stop the smiles.

With my beloved cat Ben (yes, that’s my son’s name, too). Approaching 16 and with the addition of braces, which didn’t stop the smiles.

In the backyard, which extended for miles, since Blackhawk was the last street in North Little Rock in those days. Cuddling Ben again. Wet hair, no makeup, no worries.

In the backyard, which extended for miles, since Blackhawk was the last street in North Little Rock in those days. Cuddling Ben again. Wet hair, no makeup, no worries.

Twisting by the pool

April 27 is Neighborday, a very nice construct being promoted by the folks over at Good.Is. The point is to get out and meet some neighbors, something I plan to do this afternoon, with grandbabies in tow.

We’ve hit the neighbors jackpot already, with one of my best friends (Julia) within walking distance, Bob and Theresa across the street, Alyssa and Matthew next door – too many to name, which is very cool in 2013.

But Neighborday harkens me back to the days of twisting by the pool in Indian Hills, when you didn’t have to force neighborliness at all.

For two of those idyllic years in the late ’60s-early ’70s, Daddy (who died 31 years ago this past Thursday) was president of the Indian Hills Community Club, which meant – in addition to me having to work at the pool for free (but I loved it) – teen dances and adult parties at the pool. He and Mother always loved a good party.

We literally danced on the diving boards and felt ever so cosmopolitan – like something out of a beach party movie. When we  girls were lucky, the lifeguards asked us to slow dance.We also spied on the adults and saw them twisting by the pool, too.

What fun days. I don’t have any photographic evidence here, but if I find some at Mother’s some day, I’ll add it.

But just hanging out on Blackhawk was fun, too, and I do have photo proof of that. Every day kids would meet in the street and come up with some kind of fun. It happened organically, no planning required.

Here are just a few of the Blackhawk crew in front of the Cartwright driveway. Occasion? none. Just random fun.

Here are just a few of the Blackhawk crew in front of the Crownover driveway. Occasion? None. Just random fun.

Neighborliness just was. When new neighbors moved in, you went over to meet them. Even if you didn’t really like someone, you were friends by proximity and you accepted each other.

You rode your bike all over the place and got to know people several streets over. You met kids who went to Catholic schools at the pool. Neighborliness was easy.

While many factors have played into the demise of the neighborliness of the good old days, I blame much of it on the disappearance of front porches and the privacy fences surrounding back yards. You’ll notice in these pics that we’re in the street or front yard or driveway. We had huge, huge backyards that we hardly touched.

Recently Cathy and I discussed that we need to meet Mother’s neighbors. She and Bill moved there in July 2002, and we don’t know a single person to call should we need someone to check on her since she’s 20 minutes away.

The street has tidy lawns, no porches and privacy fences.

See what I mean?

Anyway, it won’t be on Neighborday, but I am going to do something old-fashioned, like bake some cookies or bread and take it to her neighbors on each side and ask for their phone numbers for emergency use.

And you know what? I’ll bet they like it.

Happy Neighborday to the Indian Hills crew. Still love you guys.

Little sister Cathy and neighbor Connie, with my little rescue kitten, Ben. On our driveway, of course.

Little sister Cathy and neighbor Connie, with my little rescue kitten, Ben. On our driveway, of course.

I think I've used this study in dorkitude before, but the point is, look where Pam and I are standing – by the front porch. And look at my sister's Stingray bike on that porch. You can't tell, but it was purple.

I think I’ve used this study in dorkitude before, but the point is, look where Pam and I are standing – by the front porch. And look at my sister’s Stingray bike on that porch. You can’t tell, but it was purple.

Stand by me

I read an article in the Oct. 22 Newsweek about how hard it is for 20somethings to find friends who will last through thick and thin.  I keep thinking about the article, by a mother-daughter team, Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig, which says social media makes it harder for young people to form intimate relationships.

I’m sure that’s true. But what has stuck in my mind is the premise that lasting friendships are formed in your 20s. “The friends we make in our 20s are not only BFFs; they’re also our first truly chosen friends, people we discover as a result of our adult decisions – where to live, work, or study – as opposed to our parents’ choices,” the article says.

Most lasting friendships are the ones you make between 22 and 28, according to research cited in the article.

What’s struck me about all this is how it’s so not the case for me. The major lasting friendships of my life were made at almost 3 (Kelly) almost 11 (Pam), 15 (Anita).

Just before my 13th birthday and just after Pam’s we lived at the Indian Hills pool.

At just turned and almost 15, we were a little surlier about having our picture taken on Pam’s parents’ boat.

Granted, I was married young to a man who a. wanted to keep me socially isolated and b. succeeded by being so unpredictable that no one wanted to be around him. (I wrote about that in an earlier post, American Girl.) My sister – and Pam, after she moved back to town – were the only people I could really count on to stand by me in my 20s. Kelly had moved to Northwest Arkansas and was long-distance by then.

My two good friends I made in my 20s both dumped me – one because I remind her of a time in her life she’d rather not remember and the other because she decided to change her lifestyle and I no longer fit in. Both stung, but I understand.

By my 30s I was working and no longer isolated, and as I was turning 33 I met Rhonda, who was turning 30. She’s been around through thick and thin since the day we became friends (which was not the day we met, but soon after).

In our later 30s, Anita and I joyfully reconnected – she’d moved back to Arkansas after her divorce – and we celebrated my 40th birthday together as I was moving toward a divorce.

Then in my 40s I met Jan, Starla, Dauphne, all people I can count on and consider myself lucky to know. At 50, Susan became a stalwart of my life, and just recently, Julia and I re-met – we know we had to have met in a previous life or have some kind of tie, because the connection was instant. We’ve led very different yet bizarrely parallel lives in many ways.

Pam and I were just talking today about how that article and how “universal” truths are sometimes not so universal, no matter what research shows. She’d popped in for lunch since she was in from Heber Springs for a yoga workshop.

We can do that popping in and out thing without a hitch, though we never learned to do it like Samantha or Jeanie – but not for lack of trying.

Part of the reason Pam, Anita, Rhonda and I differ from the study is the southern gothic lives we’ve lived, I’m sure. None of us took the “go off to college at 18 and make lasting friendships” route. We all did life the hard way for years.

For Pam and me part of the reason is because we grew up on Blackhawk Road in the wonder years and those friendships never die.

Yes, Pam, I know. I still need to write that book.

My iPhone thought Pam and I needed the soft-lens/cheesecloth effect at 57 …

… but we thought we’d do a “photo-booth close-up” reprise, all noses and teeth like in the old days downtown. We don’t care – we’re just happy to be here and to be together.

Comeback kid (That’s my dog)

Nicky was a ramblin’ man, a rover, a rapscallion. Though the leash law was firmly in effect in North Little Rock well before we moved to Blackhawk Road, Nicholas von Robwillaurcath considered himself an exception to the rule.

Nicky was a rambler, but he always made it home to sleep in his own bed.

He wandered the streets of the east side of Indian Hills, meeting folks as he went. But he always came back.

People we’d never met would greet him by name if we took him for a walk. “Oh, we know Nicky,” they’d say. We were never quite sure how his name got around, but we did meet lots of people that way.

Nicky was a scrappy dog – he came from blue-blood lineage and had the paperwork to prove it, but he quickly got nicked ears (which made his name seem pretty appropriate, now that I think about it) from duking it out with other dogs over territory. Never mind that he was a slim miniature dachshund; he was large in his mind and attitude.

Once Mother heard him ferociously barking in the carport and opened the door to find the dogcatcher backed into a corner.

“Lady,” he told her sternly, “you’ve got to keep your dog at home.” Or something to that effect. Fat chance. We were lucky he didn’t arrest our four-legged juvenile delinquent; those were the good old days.

He was also a ladies man and a lover. He only sired a few puppies that we know of, once as a stud to another registered dachshund and the other time was with a homely, small mixed-breed dog from way down on another street. She used to strut down Blackhawk when she was in heat.

Pam and I called her a “slut mutt,” or something like that, and thought it was exceptionally funny that her name was Fanny. One of her litters had a couple of puppies that looked very much like dachshunds. Oops.

This was before people routinely spayed and neutered their pets. Don’t know that my dad could’ve borne neutering his boy anyway – Nicky was the other male in a family of girls for the few years he stuck around. Daddy called him “son.” They had a special bond.

When Daddy came home from work, Nicky would follow him to the bedroom and “talk” loudly about his day as Daddy changed out of his suit. “Tell me about it, son,” Daddy would say, encouraging him to go on. That little wiggling dachshund body would whip into a frenzy, and he’d twist the small round area rug on the hardwood floor into a ball as he wriggled.

Daily routine, it was. Another routine was helping Daddy mow our giant back yard. Daddy would pick up rocks and toss them into the woods behind our house to keep them out of the lawnmower. Nicky would retrieve each one.

One of his cooler tricks was turtle hunting. Daddy would say, “Go find me a turtle, boy,” and off into the woods Nicky would tear. It might take him an hour or more, but he wouldn’t come back without a turtle in his jaws.

Cathy and I (and Pam and Connie and whoever else happened to be there) liked to play a trick on Nicky, too, and though we felt mean, we thought it was hysterical to call him “Ricky” – he never seemed to notice and got just as excited when we talked to him. Shame on us. 

Nicky came to us as the cutest little wiggly Christmas present you ever saw in 1966. I was in the sixth grade and Cathy the second. It was mad love at first sight.

We decided on Nicky, short for Nicholas for his registered name, and Mother came up with the rest of it, a combination of Robert, Willette, Laura and Cathy. Robwillaurcath.

Nicky left us on Christmas Day in 1970.

What happened was this: We used to have violent acorn wars in the space between the Cartwright and Crownover houses. We’d divide into teams/sides/whatever and pelt huge acorns as hard as we could at the opposite side.

Hurt like hell, actually, but kids will be (idiot) kids and we thought it was great fun. But little Nicky wanted to be in on everything we did, and he’d chase and scoop up acorns too. At some point, he accidentally swallowed one whole, but we didn’t know it.

He became terribly ill in December and x-rays showed the acorn that had ripped his intestines. Of course my father told the vet to operate, and the surgery went well. His recovery was long and we’d go visit him to keep his spirits up.

No one was a more regular visitor than Daddy. We couldn’t go Christmas Day, of course, because the vet’s office was closed. My father came home in shock on Dec. 26 – he went to visit his boy, only to learn that the holiday caretaker hadn’t read the instructions and fed Nicky dry food.

His incisions ruptured and no one was there to notice he was dying. We were all heartbroken, beyond crushed. But none as much as my dad.

Daddy came home and took to his bed. Cathy and I, as aggrieved as we were, were scared. We tiptoed around and whispered in respect.

Sometime after he emerged from the master bedroom, Daddy announced that there would be no more dogs. He couldn’t go through the pain again. Of course that’s before we met tiny Katie Scarlett Cartwright, the cutest little gingerbread dachshund puppy you could imagine.

She was a faithful companion to Daddy through his illness and outlived him by a few years. But she’s another dog tale.

This is about Nicky, who blue-blood or no, was still nothing but a hound dog. And one heck of a guy.

Mother at 35 on the kitchen couch with my first Ben, who seems to be cleaning his foot, and Nicky shortly before the acorn wars of 1970.

Let the sunshine in

Starting the 10th grade with newly bobbed hair was never the intention. On the contrary, Mother and I intended that my sophomore year would commence with my stick-straight, baby-soft, fairly longish hair transformed via gentle home perm (administered by Mother) into flowing golden locks.

Gentle waves that helped curl stay put was what we envisioned – a Sister Goldenhair effect, if you will.

The Breck girl look was what we were thinking.

What I got was more suicide blonde.

That’s because we forgot to factor in the summer of ’69, with its mass quantities of Sun-In applied at the Indian Hills pool. 

I was born a cotton-top and the Marilyn Monroe platinum lasted a few years before giving way to a golden ash blonde, which gradually – as does most non-Nordic blonde – turned to medium ash brown with blonde streaks.

Mother’s rules against mixing adolescence with hair color prevented me from becoming a Summer Blonde, but we bought right in to the “works with the sun to lighten your hair naturally” promises offered by the makers of Sun-In, so at 13, I’d applied it liberally.

My hair took on that tell-tale orangey-blonde cast so many of us shared in those days. I’d have done better to stick with lemon juice, which, though harsh, would always strip the brown out to a consistent platinum-to-white shade. Orange has never been a good color for me.

The second summer, sans Sun-In, the “naturally” lightened part, which was well below my chin by then, continued to bleach out, giving me a Laura TuTone effect.

I don’t remember if the perm was a Lilt  or Toni  – maybe it was an Ogilvie – but I do remember the day we applied it. Pam was there to watch and for moral support. Our kitchen was the scene of the accident.

It started off well enough, stinky, as perms always were, but quick, and the three of us talked and laughed during the curling and application. Then we waited for the curl to set.

Mother rinsed off as much stink as possible, with me leaning over the kitchen sink; we patted the hair-wrapped curlers with a towel to soak up as much water as possible, then she began the unfurling of the hair.

I remember the weight of the curlers as they rolled downward and the sudden release as they dropped off. Some things stay with you forever.

My hair, unfortunately, didn’t.

As the first curler dropped to the floor, Mother gasped loudly behind me. Pam’s eyes and mouth opened into large round O’s, like Dancing Bear on Captain Kangaroo.

Dancing Bear's expression had nothing on Pam's the day of the great perm fiasco.

The curlers fell with such emphasis because several inches of my hair was still wrapped around each one. The hair below the Sun-In divide was no longer attached.

Mother began to cry and Pam was speechless, but for some reason the whole thing struck me as hysterically funny.

“It’s OK, it’s just hair,” I kept reassuring my mother. “It’ll grow.”

Pam joined in the hilarity after the initial shock (and after she saw I wasn’t upset about it). We laughed while Mother sniffled and picked up the mess.

All it took was a good trim with the scissors, and I had a nice little pageboy or flip, depending on my mood. By October, I shortened it a little more and liked it a lot.

But I never touched Sun-In again.

I haven't a clue what we're doing here, but note my accidental bob. Not bad at all, but we could lose the bobby pins. And check out Cathy's Stingray bike on the porch.

Doing my best Breck girl hair toss, even with my shorter hair.

Your turn to be a Breck girl, Pam!

This is a good street

When we first moved in at 6324 Blackhawk Road

6324 Blackhawk Road

in late spring of 1966, the lay of the land was like this, facing our house from the street: to the immediate right, next door, were the Crownovers. Four kids, Andrea, Alan, Garth and little Gwen.

To the right of the Crownovers, the Werners, with five kids, including a set of fraternal twins. To the right of the Werners, the Steinbaughs, two kids, Keith and Karen, if I’m not mistaken. To their right, the Fisher clan – Johnny, Lindy and their brood, John Paul, Chuck, Vicki and Rob.

To their right, the Conways, two kids, Julie and Luke.

Across the street from the Crownovers were the Jennings family with two little girls, Connie and Judy.

In June, Pam moved in directly across the street from us, next to the Jennings, and the Barnetts (two kids, Beth and Buddy) arrived on the corner, all the way from Texas, two houses down from us on the left. In between were the Wilkins, the kindly older couple that every neighborhood seemed to have.

Way down on the other end of the street, my good friend Michelle Casey and her sister Celeste from our old neighborhood had moved in just before us, but they didn’t get down our way much. I spent quite a bit of time at their house for a while, though.

It was kid heaven.

(I went up to the attic to pull out some pictures from those glory days that I took with my Polaroid Swinger, but they were too faded to scan.  Sad. Lots of kids in goofy poses. You can probably imagine.)

I was 10 and in the last stretch of fifth grade. Cathy was 7. The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’” was just giving way at the No. 1 spot on KAAY-AM, 1090 on Your Dial, to “Monday, Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas. It was a spring of good music and good times.

Cathy, Connie, Buddy and Rob were all the same grade. Pam, John Paul, Michelle and I were all in the same grade, and most of the other kids were within a couple of years in either direction. We were all friends and all played together.

But we didn’t all go to school together – Indian Hills was so new that the elementary school wasn’t built yet, so we had total school choice. Cathy and I stayed on at North Heights, even though it wasn’t the closest school, so I could finish out my elementary years there.

People could send their kids to whatever school was convenient, so kids on our street went all over the place. The Fishers were at Pike View, I think, and Pam went to Park Hill because it was close to her mother’s work. The Werners were Catholic and went to Immaculate Conception, just a quick walk through the woods away.

Because of that close proximity, many of our neighbors in Indian Hills were Catholic and never went to school with us, but we still bonded in the street and at the pool.

(By the year Pam and I started seventh grade together at Ridgeroad Junior High, IH had its own elementary, where Cathy, Connie, Buddy and Rob became classmates.)

So many people from the old neighborhood picked up and moved to Indian Hills in that time that Cathy and I had new neighbors/classmates who were old neighbors/classmates. Indian Hills was a hot tamale, a going concern.

We were also an upstart, renegade neighborhood, challenging Lakewood – long the supreme NLR ‘burb – for ultimate suburb rights. Since Indian Hills literally butted up to the city limits at the time and had nothing but woods before and behind it for years (barring a piece of Sherwood connectivity), we won those rights easily.

But we were like wild Indians in the eyes of the Lakewoodites. Since Indian Hills opened its doors to anyone, we were interlopers, woods-dwellers, second-tier suburbanites.

That’s how Pam and I felt at times in junior high, anyway. But we didn’t care. We loved those woods and the total middle-classness of it all and made them our own.

Tommy, can you hear me?

 Tom Bennewise was one of the wittiest, funniest and most brilliant people I ever knew. It’s no wonder I fell head over heels for him the summer after the ninth grade, shortly after meeting him at the Indian Hills pool.

Luckily for me, he fell just as hard. We were inseparable, or as inseparable as we could be with my parents’ rules on how much time we could spend together the two summers of our romance (we only lived two blocks apart, so that was a hard rule to enforce).

Attending different schools determined how much we could see each other during the school year. He was at Catholic High. I was at North Little Rock Northeast.

But we were always thinking of each other. I’d love to still have the voluminous correspondence we wrote – every day, at least for a while, we’d document the activities of our school days, our thoughts and feelings, whatever came to mind, in notes to each other.

Sometimes he’d address them to “Missy Laura Lea Cartwright.”

He’d either come by to make the exchange or Pam and I would walk to Don’s grocery store in Sherwood, where Tom worked as a stock and bag boy.

His young manager, also named Tom, came to my Tom’s funeral in February. It was good to see him again.

It’s possible I tossed those notes in a fit of pique after we broke up, but I suspect they were tossed by my ex-husband, who destroyed many things from my teen years. Fortunately my photo album was safely at Mother’s.

I found this card from Tom just this morning!

Tom and I played wicked games of Scrabble – sometimes he’d win, sometimes I would. We were a pretty even match, but he liked that I was competitive and would cheer for me when I won. Same thing at ping-pong.

Though I’d always been interested in photography (got my first little blue camera at 7 or 8), Tom taught me the ins and outs of 35-mm film photography. I was his favorite subject to shoot for a while.

Photography became his career – he was young Gov. Bill Clinton’s photographer for a while, then ran CameraMart until its demise. When it came time to buy my son’s first Minolta, I took him to Tom. We remained friends throughout adulthood because we also really, really liked each other.

Quick Tom memories:

• Once he brought me a giant bouquet of tiny tea rosebuds in a giant Campbell’s Tomato Soup can. I don’t know whose yard he took them from – sorry, whoever you are – but they were delightful, and ever so Andy Warholish.

• Another time he took care of our dachshund, Katie, and my cat, Ben, when we went to my cousin’s in Ft. Worth for Easter. When we returned, he’d decorated the house with a “Welcome Back/Happy Easter” banner he’d made and other touches. He’d left me an Easter basket, too.

• I used to make these yummy oatmeal-raisin bars called “Raisin Mumbles.” Tom always joked about them by mumbling the whole time I was mixing them. Sounds cheesy, but it was funny when he did it.

There are so many more. He was thoughtful. We thought we’d spend our lives together, even though we knew we were very young, and spent lots of time talking about what we’d do in the future. We spent lots of time listening to the great music of 1969-1971. He gave me my “Aqualung” album.  (Not too romantic, but I dug it.) And a book of Ogden Nash poetry.  And his heart.

But just as school was starting for my 11th grade and his senior year, he came over with some news. His mother had decided he could only continue seeing me, a Presbyterian-raised pseudo-protestant, if he dated Catholic girls from the Mount as well. She didn’t want his senior year to be eaten up with Laura.

I cried hysterically. He cried almost as hard. I told him no way, no how would I agree to that. It was me and me alone or no me at all. His tears convinced me he agreed and I won the battle, but thinking back, I’m not sure he ever fully conceded.

We had that conversation in the dark sitting on the end of Pam’s driveway, I remember.

Things continued the same for a while, I thought, with a few adjustments. He said he had to go to ballgames with “the boys,” and we could see each other on Saturday nights. I was oblivious until my good friend Gina McDonald heard a girl gushing over “Tommy” at the state fair, turned around, and was shocked to see Tom with another girl – a Mount girl.

Gina told me at school, of course, and I let him have it with both barrels. The note I wrote probably singed his fingers or self-combusted after he read it. He didn’t even know he’d been caught until then. He tried to reason with me, but I wouldn’t back down. We were through. Brokenhearted, but through.

A few months later, on April 22, he turned 18, and within days showed up at my house. Whether he’d reasoned with his mother or just taken a stand I don’t know, because I’d already moved on. It was too late.

I’d met the redhead (well, strawberry blond) of my dreams, the one I thought was THE great love of my life, until I met my husband, John, who is not jealous in the least. (Our wedding song was “In My Life,” because our relationship doesn’t negate what came before. Listen to the lyrics, if you don’t understand.)

As I said, Tom and I remained friends, but we didn’t see each other very often – just the random running into each other after CameraMart was gone, though his sister, Charlotte, and I manage to run into each other fairly frequently. So the news of his death surprised me. I can’t say shocked, because the last time we’d visited, he was rather a mess.

I got the news from my old friend Linda Lowe Apple, who grew up near Tom on Osage and introduced us that first summer. She came down from Springdale, and we sat together at the funeral.

In my mind, he’s the brilliant, creative boy whose Boys’ State T-shirt I wore with pride. The one who shared and kept so many of my secret thoughts and plans. I miss him being alive, even in the distance.

I wish he could have found a way to carry on.

Just before the Catholic High Christmas party/dance at Riverdale Country Club, which is now a soccer field, I think. It was torn down years ago. Mother made my outfit. She had a green one from the same pattern.

Carry that weight

When faced with the prospect of replacing a 30+year-old crown and not knowing what might lurk underneath, it helps when your dentist is also your friend. That’s how today started, bright and early with groggy me in perky Shirley’s chair.

That would be Shirley Reid, dentist supreme, and great person to have in my life.

I took a textbook, thinking I could read in the waiting stretches, and thought I’d use the grinding, smoking, molding, etc. time to plan, in my head, the presentation I have to give tomorrow night on the policy paper that had me in tatters last week.

I had just decided how to start the talk when Shirley offered me her iPod to drown out the sounds of the grinding.

Of course I said yes. She cued it up to “Abbey Road” for me. All thoughts of school or anything present went out of my head. The Beatles can always help me carry a weight. And take me back in time. “Abbey Road” takes me back to my ninth-grade year. 

It also takes me back to Tom Bennewise, the first love of my life, whom I met at the Indian Hills pool the summer after the ninth grade. Tom was one of the smartest people I ever knew. Sadly, past tense is correct; he died in February at 57.

His mother made us break up shortly after we passed the one year mark because I wasn’t Catholic. Now both of my children are married to Catholics. Hmmm. And my daughter lives in Indian Hills. Hmmm.

Back to the Beatles and “Abbey Road.” I relaxed (as much as possible in such a tense situation) and let the music take me away. Still knew every note, every word and every song that would come next.

I’m always amazed, when I really concentrate on the individual instruments, at how great the Beatles were. And how under-rated Ringo Starr is. His drumming is impeccable. And he’s a sweetheart.

I reminisced about sitting on my bed with Cathy, stereo playing loudly and me tutoring/torturing her on which Beatle sang which song. Sorry, Cath – I know it stressed you out when I quizzed you, but it was just so important to know. And aren’t you glad now that I did? (Or do you at least forgive me?)

One of the first things Jude could clearly say was “John, Paul, George and RINGO!” while correctly pointing to each one on my refrigerator magnet. Annabelle and Sylvia love gazing at the faces on the 10th-anniversary Beatles poster in our kitchen.

Though I have no memory of buying the poster (um, it was the ’70s), Mother remembers it hanging in my bedroom. It was a happy surprise when I found it in our attic years later.

I’ve left that to Brent in my will. He mentioned to Liz it’s the only thing we have that he’d really love to have. Good boy.

Now I’ve got to get back to that presentation on the sad topic of the VA not being prepared for or properly handling the follow-up care of returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD and TBI.

But I think I’ll turn on some music. That always lifts me when I’m down.



Season of the witch

The 1942 classic "I Married a Witch,"* starring Veronica Lake, was one of my favorite classic movies during the Blackhawk Years. Veronica Lake was one of Mother's faves when she was young, and the movie inspired one of my favorite TV shows. (That would be "Bewitched.")

Since we moved to Blackhawk toward the end of my elementary years, my major trick or treating was done in the old North Heights neighborhood and the various places we lived before that. But I do have a couple of very definite season of the witch memories from the Blackhawk years.

The first Halloween at 6324 Blackhawk was my sixth grade year, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what we went as. Pam? Cathy? Any recall? I’m thinking I was a hippie or a hobo – no real costume.

But, oh, the seventh grade. Pam and I thought we were much too old to go begging for candy, but we didn’t want to miss out on the fun of the night, so we decided to come up with a joint costume and just wander around for entertainment/shock value.

What we decided to be was a purple cow. You know, “I never saw a purple cow; I never hope to see one. But I can tell you something now – I’d rather see than be one.” Rather a bizarre poem, actually, but we decided we did want to be one and set about making a costume.

Mother gave us an old white sheet. I have no idea where we got the purple paint, but we painted large purple spots all over the sheet, and I fashioned a cow head/face out of paper plates and painted it as well. Don’t remember what the tail was, but I’m sure we wore black shoes for hooves. I’m sure we looked quite impressive.

We took turns being the front of the cow – it wasn’t easy wandering up and down the street, ringing doorbells, and saying “Moo” when you’re bent over at the waist and walking blindly in the rear. It wasn’t easy as the front half, either, but at least we could see through the eye slits.

We were too proud to hold out a bag for candy; at 12, we were big girls. It was strictly for something to do.

The next year involved no costumes but was much more exciting. We just walked all over Indian Hills in regular clothes observing the goings-on. I’m reasonably sure my friend Gina McDonald, who lived in Lakewood, joined us, but it may have been Kelly. By the time of the big excitement, I think it was just Pam and I.

We were on Pontiac across what was then called 107 when the older boys with water balloons came along – a long way and across a highway from Blackhawk.

We were just wandering about when they ambushed us and started chunking those balloons as hard as they could. The first few missed and splatted on the street, but we knew it was just a matter of time – they were several years older and would definitely overtake us, so instead of running, we changed strategy.

We turned around to face them and somehow managed to catch the water-bombs, unbroken, which we promptly chunked back – and hit our targets with a splash. That happened enough times that we got cocky and started laughing at them, so of course the teenaged boys got really angry and yelled, “Get them!”

They started running at us with harm on their minds, so we took off – but it was obvious we couldn’t make it home. We couldn’t just dart across the busy highway, and even if we could have, they’d have overtaken us before we got very far running uphill and block after block.

So I quickly decided on a different tactic. “Come on,” I commanded and we ran into a random carport. I turned toward the bullies and yelled that this was my grandmother’s house and they’d better back off.

They didn’t buy it and kept advancing. “I mean it,” I threatened. “You’re going to be in trouble!”

They kept coming, all the way into the carport. There was nothing to do but turn around and walk through the door into the kitchen of people we’d never met. Turned out they were a very nice older couple who were thrilled to see us and help us. (This was the late ‘60s. You might not want to do that today – the door would be locked anyway.)

The looks on the bully-boys’ faces was priceless – shock, disbelief, fury and a bit of fear. I had to give them an “I told you so” smirk, even though we were shaking by the time I shut the door.

The couple greeted us warmly, commiserated with us over the mean boys, and gave us snacks and something to drink. (I wish I remembered their names – she had dark brown hair in a great big updo and seemed kind of glamorous; that much I do remember.)

We peeked out the window occasionally, and when the boys had given up and left, we thanked our faux grandparents, slinked out into the dark and hightailed it for home.

Good thing we didn’t have a cow costume to slow us down.


Another Halloweenish memory from those years was the annual fall swarming of the blackbirds in the trees of the two empty lots on the corner. Pam and I had to walk past them in the very early morning to get to the bus stop. It was super-creepy when they rustled and cawed. 

Then one night we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” on television. The next morning when we walked to the bus stop, the birds were there, a bit noisier than usual, it seemed. We tried to be cool about it, but it was hopeless. We’d seen what rogue birds could do.

Some of them started some serious shifting in the trees, and one of us yelled, “RUN!!!”

Did we ever. All the way to the bus stop without looking back.

I wonder if birds can laugh?

* You can watch “I Married a Witch” on Hulu!