My Friend and I

Written by Tom Ludwig

At a ripe old age of 6, I was held back in the first grade. By the time I turned 13, Jim was 12 years old, and that summer in 1962, Jim turned 13. Jim and I played football at White Oak Jr. High. We were on the offensive line. Jim was a center, and I was a right guard. Soon, we started hanging out together. He had a female friend named Charlotte. She was a pretty good-sized girl at 16. Her father was a contractor, and she sometimes worked for him thru the summer. They were well to do. Her dad bought her a 1964 Galaxy XL 352 engine and a hydromantic. This girl had money, and because she had a crush on Jim, I always thought that was one reason Jim always wanted me to come along and ride all over Cincinnati. We always tried to help out with the gas by giving her $2.50 apiece. Back then, that would buy many gallons of gas because gas was $.19 to $.23 a gallon. She often asked us to go places like the car show and the cavalcade of customs at City Hall on the parkway. She even bought tee shirts for us to wear to show that we had been there. The shirts were printed with a 1957 two-door Impala on the front that had flames painted on the car, and it was jacked up. It was neat and nice of her!

We would go to Western Hills drive-in, sometimes the Dent drive-in, or the Oakley drive-in on the weekends. She liked John Wayne movies. Jim and I preferred Science Fiction movies. The kind where the grasshopper ate Chicago or King Kong and Godzilla. This went on for a few years, but by the time I was 15, my father had been hurt on the railroad. He could not drive, and he applied for a special permit allowing me to drive before the age of 16. To drive, I had to pass the written and the driving test, and this permit had restrictions, such as allowing me to drive mom or dad to medical facilities and rehab for dad. He was very puzzled when he would teach me to drive in his ’63 Buick LaSabre with a 401 wild cat engine with 410 torque. To his surprise, I already knew how to drive. He gave me some pointers, and I was a bit rusty parallel parking, but in time, my adventures all started with me driving all over town when I turned 16.

Now Jim had turned 16, and both of us quit going out with Charlotte because she met an older guy. Jim started to go out with Becky, and when she broke it off with him, he took 36 aspirins to try to end his life because he was heartbroken. Later he walked out in front of a car at Becky’s house, but he was not injured badly. I talked with him, and he told me he was seeing a psychiatrist.

When I stayed at his house, we watched movies on the channel with Bob Schrive, the TV host. During this time, we started talking about going into the military. We were both going to go to Cuba and knock off Fidel Castro. Not long after that, I started dating around, and out of the blue, Jim introduced me to a girl named Nina. She was from Owensboro, Kentucky. Nina began going to Colerain High School, and before I knew it, she had bought a navy ring. She put string all around it and claimed it was mine, and we were going steady.

I have to say that I did not know how to feel about what she did. The summer of ’66 was approaching, and Nina called me to set a date for Friday night at someone’s party out of Colerain District. I reluctantly told her I had a pool tournament with the guys that night. Little did I know, the fellows changed their minds and told me we were all going to a party in College Hill. When we arrived, we started talking to different girls who weren’t from Colerain. They were from North College Hill High School and McAuley High School. As we got acquainted with the girls, Nina walked in with Jim. She came up to me and accused me of lying to her. I denied it and told her that I had come with the guys to play pool that night. I was embarrassed, then told Nina I did not want to go steady anymore. I also reminded her that going steady had been her idea. I went downstairs to the basement bar and talked with other people. Nina stayed upstairs. A few hours went by, and one of the girls came down and asked, “Aren’t you Nina’s boyfriend? I answered well, I was but not anymore. Then she told me Nina was drunk and lying in the bathtub crying.

I tried to get Nina out of the tub, but she would not budge. My friend Greg said come on. Tom let’s get out of here. Jim said that he would take Nina home. So, I said okay. Just like that now, two broken-hearted people are hooked up. I did not see Jim or Nina for the rest of the summer. Towards the middle of the following year, my last year in high school, I was a junior minus. And Jim was a senior, and so was Nina. She finished the year out being pregnant.

This was one of the reasons I didn’t finish school. Because the Naval recruiter said I could finish in the Navy. I was ready to take them up on it when Bob, my childhood friend, said he would go into the Army. They also told him he could finish there. He could not get into the Navy because he had only completed 8th grade. The military took us both, and his mom said we only had to pull three years if we did not like it. The Navy said I would have to pull four years. So, in 1967, I joined the Army.

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