Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Man With The Steel Plate

When I was in middle school, I walked home from school about 5 miles with my French horn in it's case. I walked every where in those days. The town was large and I guess around 100,000 people. Different neighborhoods and different people. It was a very diverse town as was our neighborhood. In those days it was a real neighborhood with a school, churches, grocery store, drug store, gas station, movie theater and restaurants.

But in my neighborhood there was a park where this man use to hang out. I worked at the drug store as a soda fountain jerk. Sometimes he would come in to drugstore. He was different, and we all heard the scary stories about him. We called him Steel Plate Man. He was a veteran and had part of his brain blown away and the doctors put a steel plate in his head. He looked different in a creepy way. I had never seen anyone like him before. He seemed troubled, but I did not fear him.

Anyway back to my story, I would walk home and when I arrived to the park it was shorter to cut through the park than to walk around the entire block. Steel Plate Man was always there. He sat in the covered pavilion where the rest rooms were. I would just hurriedly walk as fast as I could to get out of the park. In the afternoon, the park was very dark and shaded from the trees. It did not feel safe there on some days. I can't explain it, just a feeling I would get. On those days that I did not feel safe, I would walk the longer way home to stay safe. I lived two blocks from that park and I knew if I could just get home I could lock the door and wait until my mother got home from work or my sister got home from high school.

Once a car full of boys followed me and even drove into the park to try to get me. I have never been so afraid. They were calling out to me to come to the car, but I kept on walking. My P.E. teacher lived on the edge of the back side of the park and I ran as fast as I could to her house. She calmed me down, and drove me and my French horn home. This was how life was in the city I grew up in. You always kept your eyes on the street and watched out for trouble in certain areas.

From middle school, the walk was nice until I got to the park. I still get the creeps when I think of how lucky I was not to be molested or killed by these crazy people. I did have a vivid imagination and that did not help one bit. My best friend and I would go to the park or to the drug store. It was odd how we knew the people to stay away from. How we knew I am not sure, but I am glad we did. We walked every where from church to the State Fair.

It would be years later, that I found out that the man with the steel plate had committed suicide in that park. I really felt sorry for him.


Mimi said...

I feel sorry for him too.
I had forgotten that you played French Horn! Some of the kids in the band walk to practice, but I would consider it too far for my son to walk with the F Horn - 3 miles!
We've gone soft, haven't we!

Akelamalu said...

It's amazing how some 'self preservation' instinct kicks in when you're a child isn't it? I remember coming across creepy men hanging about in parks when I was a kid too but I knew instictively to keep away from them.

Gail said...


Great share - I felt your every fear. Wow. So sad about the steel plate man. :-( And I think it is way cool that you play the French horn. :-)
Love to you

Rudee said...

I feel sorry for Steel Plate Man, too. I can imagine the temptation to take the shortcut carrying your horn, but the long way home sounds like it may have been best in this case.

Finding Pam said...

Mimi,I don't think we have necessarily gone soft, rather safe.

Akelamula, I guess we were street smart to a degree. Now my home town is really horrible with murders for no reason and so much robbery.

Gail, I played the french horn until my soph. year of college. It was very sad about steel plate man. I was afraid most of my life.

Rudee,it was always tempting to take the short cut through the park.

Travis Cody said...

We had places like that when I was a kid too. I remember riding bikes everywhere, but there were creepy places we would just avoid.

She Writes said...

It reminds me of the book The Gift of Fear.

Giggles said...

Sad story, but we only had our instinct back then. We had to stay safe, and if we were wary we kept our distance!" The gift of fear," that " she writes" speaks of gives you excellent insight into the importance of heeding our intuition! A favourite must read for everyone!

Finding Pam said...

Giggles, I am sure I must have read it, but I will go an check it out.