Good Boys Gone Bad
Island Voices

Good Boys Gone Bad

By Seán Malone and John Sweetman

We never actually set out to do wrong, but occasionally small, impulsive actions led to doing the wrong thing, and for small lads this outcome was as natural as paint on a fence.

Gene Amondson and I were wandering around a construction site, and as young boys do, we picked up debris and put things in our pockets, already overloaded with detritus.

It so happened that we picked up round slugs that come out of electrical boxes. A few were about the size of dimes, and so we went into the shop, and with files and rasps, tried to make two dimes. In order to make them authentic, we scratched our names on them and a crude “Mercury” head.

We went down to the store, and sure enough! They worked, and we did not have to share a NeHi orange soda. 

The next day, Mrs. Neely called us in when we came back with bottles to return. After a bit of a stern admonishment, she sentenced us to an afternoon of bottle washing, but never told our moms. She did all this with a smile and even returned our fake dimes, but said that our “Mercury” head looked like a rat. 

Seán reflects: “The freedom to do something wrong is enticing. It just seems to be an easier way to go. We were young and did not yet foresee unintended consequences.”

The Bradley’s lived next door, and Kit was a best friend in our occasional dishonest behavior. Mackie’s store was only a half mile south of us, and Mr. Mackie had a fine collection of penny candy and gum. We could get a bottle of Coca-Cola for a nickel. We never had any money, and would cruise the ditches for empty bottles on our walk to the Cove Store. 

If we were unlucky and came up empty, Kit and brother Mike would hide on either side of the store while I made sure that the coast was clear and signaled them if Mr. Mackie left the front of the store for the back room. Many cases of empty bottles were stacked on the deck behind the store and Kit and Mike busied themselves with filling the bags they carried.

We greeted Mr. Mackie inside the store with our bags of bottles. “It looks like you had good luck collecting bottles,” he remarked. At two cents a bottle, we had enough for a few candies or bubble gum, and maybe a 10-cent bottle of coke to share. It only worked for a couple of times; after a second time, Mr. Mackie caught us red-handed and banished us from his store.

All of us read comic books which included advertisements for “neat things” in the last couple pages. One ad read: “Valuable stamps on approval.” I answered the ad, and when the stamps came, I “approved of them,” and proceeded to enter them into my stamp book. A couple weeks later, I started to receive letters from the stamp company’s lawyer, demanding that I pay for the stamps, which I did. 

I once applied for a job building trail in the North Cascades when I had two black eyes from fighting. My best friend, George Farmer, had held my arms while a guy punched me through the window of my 1936 Plymouth.

The second black eye was the result of thinking that I would be welcome at a Nez Perce Indian picnic, up the west fork of the Teanaway River on the road to Blewett Pass. I left the fire circle, and was walking up the creek, when he came out from behind a bush with a rock in his hand and knocked me out. I wasn’t welcome. 

I got the job and worked for 10 weeks, five miles South of the Canadian border, building trail with a Pulaski tool and shovel.

July 10, 2023

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