Rainbows in My Pocket
by Zed Merrill
Trafford Publishing

"As I finish this page, the summer months are beginning to approach, meaning, God willing, I'll be able to attend another annual Old Timer's high school reunion in Albany."

Growing up in Albany, OR, Zed Merrill stored many memories of those good old days. He offers his recollections in this slim volume, devoted to tales of his boyhood, an era that ended when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. With a father who was an executive in the regional power company, Merrill was not a poor kid, but he was a regular guy who enjoyed camaraderie with his pals. He recalls, for example, sneaking into the local movie theater with his “gang” of “West Enders.” One boy would phone the theater owner, who would have to go upstairs to answer, giving Merrill and his buddies time to rush through the door without paying. Merrill describes swimming naked with his pals in the “Cally” (Calapooia River), blundering into a crime scene at the local jail and stumbling home reeking of tear gas, playing “Kick the Can” on city streets, and bicycling thirty-eight miles on a date with his future wife on Valentine’s Day. His book ends with a trip back home, to see that little, surprisingly, had changed after seventy years.

Merrill’s reminiscences remind us that life in America was once a lot safer (fewer cars, less crime) and though parents were strict, they trusted their neighbors, so kids could roam freely almost anywhere in town. The stories are told with good humor and put the reader neatly in the scene. None of the pranks were mean-spirited; all were necessary rites of passage. Most of the author’s gang would end up going to war by their late teens (Merrill joined the Navy). They were doubtless toughened by their street games and supported by their mutual values. Rainbows in My Pocket paints a colorful picture of life in America in a bygone era.

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