Jean Shepherd's humorous story reminded me a great deal of Bill Bryson's book, The Thunderbolt Kid. He tells about Ralph's growing up in a steel town in northern Indiana during the Great Depression. It's hilarious what trouble boys can get into. I really like the format Shepherd used for telling the story. Ralph is visiting his old hometown of Hohman, Indiana to do a story about where he grew up. He feels vaguely superior after living in New York City for many years. When he finds his old friend, Flick, at his bar; they being to reminisce about their younger days. Ralph then tells the story behind each memory. As the afternoon passes, the two become drunker and maybe more maudlin; but it seems like the conversation any couple of friends meeting after many year would have. At first, Shepherd uses the stories to show how right Ralph was in leaving Indiana behind; but towards the end, he becomes more nostalgic for those glory days. I enjoyed reading about simpler times and how people coped with the problems of that depression. They kept on going, continued to have good times, and did the best they could.
This quote reminded me of the stories parents tell of walking to school in snowdrifts up to their waists, uphill both ways. It made me chuckle to picture school kids bundled up in about forty layers of clothing for protection in sub-zero weather: "Scattered out over the icy waste around us could be seen other tiny befurred jots of wind-driven humanity. All painfully toiling toward the Warren G. Harding School, miles away over the tundra, waddling under the weight of frost-covered clothing like tiny frozen bowling balls with feet. An occasional piteous whimper would be heard faintly, but lost instantly in the sigh of the eternal wind."
Ralph's memory of the Christmas he wanted a BB gun was absolutely priceless. I also laughed when 10-year-old Ralph writes a book report for his beautiful teacher, knowing this is the report that will convince her that Ralph is her one and only. The book is the one he finds on his parents' nightstand and is more than a little racy. Of course, in that era, a ten-year-old boy has no idea what he just read. And the blind date story that Ralph grudgingly agrees to go on to help out his friend. The girl turns out to be gorgeous, and Ralph talks incessantly in an effort to impress her. At the end he realizes that he is actually the blind date. Good times.