Rules are a good thing

We started out in Fairfax, Virginia, with $70.00 each. Tom and I were going on an adventure for the Summer. We had Trailways bus tickets and would ride from coast to coast and from Montana to San Diego. Both of us had worked after school and saved up the money. Our parents told us that if we saved up our travel money, they would purchase our tickets. They also supplied us with some of the travel gear that we would need. We each had a duffle bag which contained a sleeping bag, a few changes of clothes, and a travel shaving kit. I would not need to use my shaving kit for another 6 years, but anyone that knows my mother knows that she believes in having what you need in case you need it. We also each had a cooler (plaid vinyl) that held 6 cold drinks along with some snacks to carry us through to meal stops.
The travel money may not seem like much, but it was 1965. I am glad that I decided to write about this trip, and some of the events to follow, because I came to the realization that for years, when the story has been told, my age was given as 14. Actually, Tom was 14 and I was 15. I am glad that this error has been clear up. I feel better. We had a good summer and were able to do some amazing things. We took the tour van around the race track in Indianapolis. We spent a couple of days in Joplin Missouri where we found an old shop that sold anything kids our age could want. I bought a canteen, which I thought was a good investment for the future, and Tom bought a 22 cal. starters pistol and a box of caps. I suppose one never knows when they will come across a race that needs to be started. Tom ate some bad sausage in El Paso and he missed most of New Mexico and Arizona. Anyway, we had a good trip across America. We camped out at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and walked down to the bottom (and back to the top – guess which was easier). We spent two days in Disneyland and actually used a video phone to talk to people at the World’s Fair in New York. We finally ran out of money while staying in Yellowstone National Park. Fortunately, they had a Western Union office. I called my mother collect and she wired us $20. We went on to Chicago and, after a few days there, headed home. It was a good summer.
We had been on our own and I am afraid I began to like the experience. During my junior year in high school, I found myself pushing the boundaries at home and at school. The rules always seemed to get in my way. Finally, I think it was in February of 1966 (because there was a lot of snow) I had enough. I told my stepfather (a very wonderful man) that I was 16 years old and wanted to do what I wanted to do. I was going to quit school and work full time. He said “Fine, you can work and we will work out a rent and board agreement for you to pay your way here”. “What?” That was certainly not what I expected him to say. I decided that if I was going to pay for a room, it would not be at home. I was already working after school at a convenience store. A couple of friends of mine asked if I wanted to share a trailer with them in a trailer park at Kamp Washington. What a deal – the opportunity of a lifetime! They did not tell me that it was only about 20 feet long with one room, but, that was okay. Freedom was worth it. The first week went very well – there was no second week. The neighbors complained and we were thrown out.
Things worked out though because one of the guys had his father’s 1956 Buick. It was big enough for all of us and he parked it behind the hamburger stand near the school. I decided to stay in school because of the encouragement of the truant officers. On one particularly cold and snowy night, someone knocked on the window of the car. A couple of ladies were opening the door and waking up the boy whose father owned the car. They had driven up from North Carolina to get and him take him home. Once he was gone, we kind of looked at one another and, I suppose, each wished that our mothers would come and get us. I got over it though and delighted in my freedom. They did not want the car so we had a place to stay for a couple of more days, but his father did come and take it away. Another guy, whose brother cooked at the hamburger stand, bought a 1955 dodge. He paid $45 for it and the dealer gave him ten day tags. He drove it for ten days and then parked it behind Vincents Diner, next to the Fairfax Theater. It was still very close to the school, so I moved in. It wasn’t bad because, between school and work, I was not home all that much anyway.
The last semester of school became tedious and I began to miss a lot of classes. Toward the end of the semester, my mother came and told me that the vice-principle wanted to meet with us at the school. They told me that if I would be willing to move back home, take my exams with a passing mark of ‘B’, they would allow me to continue in school and begin the next year as a senior. The deal sounded almost too good to pass up, so I thanked them, moved home and studied. I did not learn much though.
I passed the exams and enjoyed my room at home, but I still did not want to abide by the rules. My stepfather said that he had some friends that were sailing to Europe for the summer and wanted to know if I would like to work on their boat. I declined because it sounded very constraining. My sister had turned 18 years old and I heard that she was in Fort Worth, Texas. I told my mother that I wanted to go and find her. I packed a suitcase, bought a bus ticket and with $45, set out for Texas. After a few days in Fort Worth, with the help of my uncle, I was able to find my sister. We were glad to see each other and with the money that I had, rented a garage apartment. After a while we went our own ways. I ran out of money and ended up sleeping in the parks during the day and staying away from the police at night. I was able to find odd jobs and that gave me some security at night. I stocked the shelves at a convenience store and the clerk’s wife brought me dinner when she brought his. I washed the oil and grease off of the concrete bays at a gas station and the night shift worker paid me a dollar. It was worth it to him not to have to do it. There was always something to do. Toward the end of the summer, I ran into my sister again. She had an apartment in a house and told me I could stay with her. That was a relief. One day, our brother showed up. I still do not know how he found us. He just drove up and said that our parents had told him to try and find me. He said that they said that I could come home and stay if I would be willing to obey the rules, do my part of the chores around the house, attend school regularly, and I could get my job back after school and save my money. You know, I had had all of the freedom that I could take. It was just about to kill me. I put my clothes in the car and said goodbye to my sister. My brother and I were headed north out of Fort Worth. She was hitch hiking west, headed for California. After all, it was 1966. I looked at my brother, “Let’s go home.” It would be nice to be safe. Rules were looking good by that time.
In 1969, I met Bonnie Warren and she changed my life. A few years later, we trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and He gave us life. And how wonderful it is!

About sjbjburke

I am an evangelist that enjoys Bible study and I look forward to posting outlines and receiving helpful comments. My wife and I celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary in 2022 and we enjoy serving the Lord together.
This entry was posted in Reminiscing - anecdotes and lessons from my youth. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rules are a good thing

  1. Son says:

    This is good– we’re going to read it to our teens!

  2. sjbjburke says:

    Reblogged this on Sjbjburke's Blog and commented:

    As I was considering the wonderful love of God for us and the blessing of commemorating His birth this month, I thought again about He patience and longsuffering with me in life.
    Psalm 40:2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

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