from Neighborhood to 'Nam......and back.

Growing up in a close knit neighborhood during the ‘50s and ‘60s was not unusual, it was the norm. Friendships were long and the bonds were tight. Friends walked to school together; joined scouts together; played sports together; grew up together. They dated and married girls from the neighborhood. . .And, most of them went to war together, not as a group, but as single individuals….and those same friends parted ways for a time. Each moving on to a new phase of their life.

The neighborhood was ‘Kaisertown’, a Polish-American community on the far east side of Buffalo New York. . .the war was Vietnam.

This blog is a collaboration of stories and experiences from this group of men, childhood buddies, all now in their sixties, whose friendships have lasted a lifetime.

These are also recollections from those young men who stayed behind. . ’caretakers’, as you will, of the old neighborhood that was a part of them . . .keeping the memories alive until all returned.


Jerry:  The Summer of '65. . .

The summer of ‘65, what a great period in our lives.  Graduation from high school, didn't have to worry about going back to school come September, unless one had plans to go to college and most of us didn't share any enthusiasm to go back to school at that time.  What it meant was a lot of beach time, and Sherkston and Sunset Bay were the places to go, and we certainly did that.  There were a few of us sitting in Wiechec's,  Lommer, Harpo and myself, and we were hashing over what our plans for Saturday would be.  Well I think Harpo came up with the idea to rent a boat at the small boat harbor and take it to Sun Set Bay, weather permitting.  Saturday came around and it was a gorgeous day, perfect conditions to take the 14 foot boat that we had rented and take that trip as we planned.  I think Lommer borrowed a 14 horse motor from his uncle and man we were ready to depart on this planned adventure. Such a beautiful day for boating! Lake Erie was like glass, again perfect conditions for what we thought was going to be a perfect day.  

Well, after boating for a while, we headed to our destination that seem like the trip that lasted forever, and come to think of it from the small boat harbor to Sunset Bay in a 14 foot, 14 horse motor probably did take us forever.  As the story goes, we never made it all the way to Sunset, and Lake Erie turned to what I thought at the time was a perfect storm. The weather was still good but the wind picked up and our boat was taking on water. . . A LOT OF WATER!  At that time we decided to turn around and give it our best shot to make it back.  For some reason we had a #10 can in the boat that we used for bailing the water as the waves came gussying in over the sides.  I'm saying to the guys, "shit! this doesn't look too good for us to get back to shore”. . . I really can't remember if we had any life preservers, we probably did if we rented the boat, but if we had to pay extra for them knowing us we said the heck with them.  We thought the trip was long going out well, let me tell you the trip coming back seemed even longer, but finally ‘Skipper’ Lommer got us back behind the break wall and things started to look a lot better. He got us back safely and to dry ground.  You want to talk about feeling good to be on ground, such a great feeling.  We ended up of course at Wiechec's to talk about what we’d do the next day,  I  think  we ‘drove’ safely to Sherkston. Never again did we attempt to take any boat out on the glassy waters of Lake Erie. 

Here we are 51 years later and I still laugh about it. . . what crazy, young, inexperienced teenagers we were.  I would not join the Navy because of that, Lommer joined the Marines because of that, and Harpo must have enjoyed himself because he joined the Coast Guard.  Well, we’re here to talk about that day and that's a good thing.

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