I first met Billy Roy on a Monday morning in September of 1957 when Mrs. Edwards, our third-grade teacher, introduced him to our class. He stood next to her, arms crossed with a sour-ball look on his face.
I knew this kid was trouble. He hadn’t done a thing to anyone yet, but he had that weaselly look about him; beady eyes, no chin, and partially bucked front teeth and a bad haircut, giving him the appearance of a hillbilly.
Our teacher says he is from Hamburg, Germany, and his father is an officer out at Carswell Air Force Base. Billy Roy, she says, is a German and an American citizen but doesn’t speak good English quite yet. So then, what is he, an American boy or a Nazi transplant? We kids knew all about those guys, having watched World War II movies on channel 11 and playing war with our BB guns. We always whopped the Nazis and the Jap’s. We took care of the Mexicans too when we defended the Alamo.
As luck would have it, Billy Roy now lives in my neighborhood, three houses down from my best buddy, Skipper, so after school, the gang calls an emergency meeting to figure out how to deal with this infiltrator.
It’s decided to give the “new kid” a chance to prove his salt; he would be allowed to hang with us until deemed worthy or fell flat on his face.
Our parents got word of our secret plan and told us, “we had better be nice to Billy Roy, or we would wind up at the “Dope Farm.” Someone ratted us out; most likely, it was Georgie; he’s afraid of everything and can’t keep a secret. He is also a known titty-baby.
“The Dope Farm” is a juvenile detention institution that our parents use as a threat when we act up. It keeps us in line. The stories about the place give us nightmares; it’s Sing-Sing for children. One of my older cousins spent some time there and later when he was supposedly rehabilitated, he robbed a Piggly Wiggly at gunpoint dressed as a woman.
Saturday came, our day to ride our bikes to Forest Park diamonds for pick-up baseball games. Our group of eight depart from Skipper’s house at 8:30 am. Billy Roy is standing on the sidewalk as we approach his house.
Skipper stops and asks Billy Roy if he has a bike and a glove; in broken English, he states he has neither of those items.
Georgie, the titty-baby, then says in a snarky tone, “if you don’t have a bike and don’t play baseball, you can’t be part of our gang.” The word’s spoken, the gauntlet laid. It looks as if Billy Roy might be out. Everyone gives him “the look” as they ride by. I feel a little bad for the kid.
Billy Roy keeps to himself during the next school week, eating his sack lunch alone and staying inside during recess. We can care less. He can’t tote his salt.
Saturday morning, 8:30 am, the same scenario. We leave Skippers’ house on bikes, heading for the ball diamonds. As we approach Billy Roys’s house, he comes flying out of his garage on a brand-spanking-new Schwinn Hornet bike. A chrome headlight and tail-light adorn the bright red and white bike—the sun’s reflection off the chrome fenders that cover the white sidewall balloon tires is blinding. Hanging on the handlebars is a new double-stitched “Plug Redman” Rawlings baseball glove, and sitting on his little head is a genuine New York Yankees ball cap.
Skipper skids to a stop and the rest of our bunch almost wreck our bikes trying to miss him. What is going on here?
The gang is in awe and more than a tad envious. This kids’ been here two weeks, doesn’t play baseball, can’t speak English, is likely a German spy, and here he is riding the Caddillac of bikes and now sports new ball equipment. Some snot-nose in our neighborhood is as rich as King Faruk, and it isn’t us.
Skipper, the wise leader of our bunch, surveys the scene, then tells Billy Roy that he can come along with us to the baseball diamonds since he now has the required items. So he rides at the end of our pack and struggles to control his expensive bike. He crashes a few times but catches up. Unfortunately for our intern, things don’t go well at the ballpark.
After educating Billy Roy on holding and swinging a bat, he’s bonked square in the forehead with a 40 mile per hour hardball. He’s out like a corpse.
The umpire, some kid’s father, drags him over to the bleachers and pours a cup of cold water on his head. Billy Roy wakes up, staggers about for a minute, and acts as nothing happened. We are impressed, he’s tougher than we thought.
Around the fourth inning, Billy Roy tells us that he is going home. He’s a bit dizzy and wobbly after his bonk and can’t participate in the rest of the game. We get it. He departs, driving his fancy bike from curb to curb like a blind drunk.
After the game, which we won, we gather our stuff left in the dugout.
Stevie says he can’t find his Cub Scout knife. Freckled Face Bean can’t find his Roy Rogers watch, and Skippers’ decoder ring is missing. My almost new pack of Juicy Fruit is also gone. Good Lord! there’s a thief amongst us. Georgie, the titty-baby, is the likely culprit; but he says he can’t find his dental retainer, so he’s cleared. That makes Billy “the Nazi” Roy the perpetrator. There is an ass-whoopin’ brewing. With retribution in our hearts, we haul-ass to Billy’s house.
Mrs. Roy answers their door. We demand to see Billy, so she brings him to face us. He stands behind the screen door for protection. But, of course, he denies it all until Skipper tells him to step onto the porch so he can whoop him. Billy steps onto the porch, but before Skipper can get a lick in, Billy pulls a switchblade knife from his pocket. He pops the blade and waves it at Skipper. Yikes! Not only is the little Nazi a thief, but he’s also a West Side Story hoodlum. We leave the porch and the guilty Billy Roy to his young life of crime.
After the incident, Billy Roy, to us kids, is a fart in the wind.
Having ruined his reputation in our neighborhood, he starts hanging with some older hoodlum boys from across the railroad tracks; we call them “the hard guys.” We are sure they will wind up at “The Dope Farm” sooner or later, and now young Billy will join them.
A few days before Christmas vacation, Billy Roy is missing from school for almost a week. We figure he has the bird flu or polio.
The next day, a rumor around the neighborhood, and now our school is that Billy Roy and two of the “hard guys” were pinched for holding up our small neighborhood grocery store with a Mattel Fanner 50 cap pistol.
We all agreed, that the bonk from the baseball injured his kid brain and turned him into a criminal. Last we heard, Billy and the two “hard guys” were off to the “Dope Farm.”