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Growing up in a large family.
I was born a poor white child from an Irish catholic family rich in love. I was raised in a modest home in a blue-collar neighborhood on the east side of Akron. My father William J, Darby Jr. married Hellen I. Gorman at St. Brannon’s church of Braddock Pa. Dad acquired employment in Akron Oh. At General Metals Powder Co. as a shop foreman. He was a loving man and father who often said, “ The best thing a man can do for his children, is to love his wife.” My father’s talents where many, to name a few; his ability of positive thinking was past down to all of his children, except for me, I was dubbed the groaner, by dad and with the encouragement of one of his many friends, Johnny Hughes. With all eight kids under the same roof, one bathroom and shared bedrooms, what the hell do I have to whine about! So my self, positive Bill, mom, two sisters and six brothers, made the best of what I feel an easy start in life. We had it all. I learned from my siblings what was good an evil under that roof on Flint Ave. House maintenance wasn’t my dads forte, he had a fear of electricity given that he lost his brother Frank in a fatal electrical accident rescuing a cat from a sub station next to Holy Cross cemetery, where ironically, Bill and Hellen’s interment, are within 100 ft. We all had our chores; as the middle child, I had the yard and trash, (In those days trash was set ablaze in a wire mesh or a metal drum container.) the bedrooms were always a conflict, because we really didn’t know whose bedroom it was. Dad gave me the worthy chore of pulling out clogged objects that fell in the one and only toilet. With no options and little hands, dad said, I would get a 12 oz. Pepsi. I would get that Pepsi most of the time, however, when I didn’t and not so positive dad had to lift the toilet, he would say, “ If I ever go to hell it’s because of this God dam toilet.” I was laughing big time on the inside, when I’d see the veins popping out of his gentle tempered head, on which bolt size, wax ring or mechanism is going to get this God dam toilet back in operation. Dad was a reverent man, who would knell and pray at the side of the bed, when he could and at times would use his rosary. When Bishop Sheen was on television, he would ask me to watch with him. Dad’s favorites were Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, Mitch Miller, Red Skeleton, Jack Par’s Tonight Show, Jackie Gleason and especially Rocky & Bullwinkle. In the winters dad and mom would let us walk to the .15 ct. theater matinee before they owned a car. Kay, Jim, Denny and myself would walk to the Linda, Rialto or Norka. After they bought a 52 Chevy in1954 from Peggy, Johnny Hughes girl friend, we went to almost all the theaters in Akron. The Lows, (now Civic) and The Highland are the only two left out of ten I can remember. That white 52 Chevy got us to Irish picnics, amusement parks, (Summit Beach, Sandy Beach, Chippawa Lake, Myers Lake, Euclid Beach, Conneaut Lake, Cedar Point, and Kenny Wood Park.) Portage Lakes vacations, grandparents, Elma and Charlie in Pa. before the turnpike or expressway, Rae Claire’s motels in Canton. Mom loved to dance and dad loved the idea that mom loved to dance. He would at times hail her Mother Mac Cree, witch meant: Mother of Heart in Gaelic. It was not uncommon for mom to have big Sunday dinners after Mass at Annunciation, theatres or whatever frivolities the day would bring. I know if we were late for Mass we would stand in back of the church and if we were too late, dad would drop us off and go to the D.A.V. or Eagles club for a beer and pick us up after mass. Mom would give dad that“ look,” I like to go with you Bill but I’d rather go to heaven with my kid’s “look.” Mom would dress us up to the 9’s Easter Sunday and we were never late. Women adorning Easter bonnets, men sporting fedoras. Our family looked so sharp I could see the pride in mom and dad’s eyes.
My older siblings are Kay, Jim, Denny, Bernie, (deceits at 2 yr’s) and yours truly, Paul, that’s all! Well, that is what mom always said to me. My younger siblings must be love children, for the reason that mom loved babies. After me is Michael, Timothy, (deceits at 38 yr’s) Patrick and the baby Kimberly, who was always dads baby. Those two would share the couch with mom to watch the Late Show.
Kay and more than ever, Jim set the groundwork for the rest of us. We learned from our older sister and brother what the rules were, not only under that roof, as well in life. Kay,“ the beauty”, dad, the defender of the beasts. Jim could and would kick anybody’s ass, if you looked at him the wrong way. The only fights he always lost were with broomstick toting Kay. Jim would get dads wrath, not only because he being the 1st born son, he is William J. Darby 4th. I had never seen Jim fight but on the street he had a reputation well deserved. Kay and Jim got the 1st of everything, good and bad. Denny and the rest of us got the rewards of being 2nd. Jim was the 1st to have an Allstate motor scooter, a 55 Chevy, fine cloths and his own bedroom, not because mom and dad gave it to him, but because Jim had work outside of the home where he didn’t have to do house chores. Jim had girls on his mind and a circus in his pants. Kay had boyfriends with same circus going on and for the 1st time, mom and dad were Ringmasters. As for the rest of us, our time would come, to be the 1st, the oldest and in the center ring. When I was about seventeen and Denny was attending collage at St. Joe’s. I got more attention from Dad and mom than I was accustom too. Where you going, who are your friends, why, when? What are you going to do for the rest of your life? Dad and I would sit at the dinning room table and discuss what it is like to be a know it all teenager. Dad never raised a hand to me, only a point jabbing finger on my chest, when I wasn’t with the conversation. I recall only one spanking Jim and Denny got at Indian Lake. We were out on the lake well after dark to find people dredging the lake for 3 drowned Darby children. I was too little to be spanked. I just had a great adventure in that boat, on that lake, with my brothers Jim and Denny.
Kay, will always be my big sister, who graduated from Our Lady of the Elms High School when I was 6 years old. Dad always gave her hell for warring make-up, but he commented on how she looked like Liz Taylor. I remember more then five boyfriends on separate occasions, on that front porch with Kay. They used to give me candy or gum to go away. In those days girls wouldn’t have too many boyfriends because of reputations and standards, which seem so backward today. I watched Kay on our 27” Muntz television on The Gene Carroll Show, pantomiming all the latest hit songs. Broadcasted, from W.A.K.R ch24 Akron then from W.J.W. ch3 Cleveland. Kay was also 1 of 5 finals for Miss Ohio where after a talk with Fr. Raft at Annunciation parish, dropped out of the competition because a bathing suit in public was not acceptable with church doctrine. Miss Ohio dropout made the front page of The Akron Beacon Journal. I feel it was a church publicity stunt at Kay’s expense. I just loved the manner Kay could embellish a dull event into a great one. She had the gift of making the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Jim told me a story how dad was going to make him small enough to fit into a dollhouse his brother built for Kay, all he had to do was redup the house. Jim, Kay and Denny worked their miniature butts off, all day thinking dad could do this magic. After they were finished, dad did his magic trick and placed a photo of each of them into the dollhouse. After that trick Jim never got excited about house cleaning again. Jim never acquired a taste for turkey. One Thanksgiving dad cut the head off this turkey that chased little Jim around the basement with no head. At the time Jim didn’t think it was so humorous but I am sure dad is laughing in his grave. Sins of the farther or mother, what parent doesn’t have a few in the circus of life? Jim taught me to swim when he pushed me off a 10 ft. diving board at Portage Lakes, no Red Cross training here, just sink or swim. Jim was confident of his life saving skills if I sunk. He was laughing when I swam like a duck to shore. I don’t know where he got his sense of humor. It was a near death experience for me, but nothing can be as bad as a headless turkey chasing me.
Growing up with Denny was an adventure, when there was nothing to do he would make things happen. Soaring little plastic airplanes on a thread to land on the coffee table from the 2nd floor landing, model boats, soap box derby’s, rope swings across the Little Cuyahoga or under the Brittian Rd. train trestle. Denny and I had this ATV back in the 50’s, it was a big airplane inner tube, we would crouch inside and role each other down a hill or use it as a sled when it snowed. He converted the tube into a raft with plywood and rope. The all time adventure was floating down the Little Cuyahoga River from Mogador bridge, portaging over 3 dams ending up at Goodyear plant #1, next to Thacker’s where we feasted on .15 cent hamburgers waiting for mom to drive us back home. Together Kay and Denny would craft these Blessed Mother holy water fonts out of seashells and plaster and I would sell them door too door for $5. Potholders made from square yarn kit 6 for $5. or one for a dollar. Lucky number punch cards were legal and also sold door to door. Dad working 3rd shift mom would often take us to the outdoor drive-in theatre’s, Denny and I would hide in the trunk to get in free before the rate changed to one ticket per car. On our 1st Portage Lakes vacation at Boat Dr. Denny and I caught over 200 bluegills with doe balls he prepared the night before. Dad had rented a gorgeous wooden out board boat for the week, that was seldom docked. That summer Denny became the expert angler as well as Golf became my 1st. real game at Turkeyfoot Lake golf course, there, Denny had a couple irons and a quantity of balls and we wacked utile dark and we have not stopped since. Denny acquired the golf passion when he would caddie at Portage C.C. I would go with him a few times not to caddie, since the golf bags were bigger than me, but just being with Denny on that bus ride from East Akron to West Hill was adventurous. Adventure is what life is and it’s what happening while you’re making other plans. Enjoy the journey, not the destination and keep positive, the passion, that our Ringmaster’s taught us, grandparents, parents, sisters and brothers all are one in this circus of life. I am just glad most all of us are here to enjoy the show.
Gene Carroll Show, pantomiming all the latest hit songs. Broadcasted, from W.A.K.R ch24 Akron then from W.J.W. ch3 Cleveland. Kay was also 1 of 5 finals for Miss Ohio where after a talk with Fr. Raft at Annunciation parish, dropped out of the competition because a bathing suit in public was not acceptable with church doctrine. Miss Ohio dropout made the front page of The Akron Beacon Journal. I feel it was a church publicity stunt at Kay’s expense. I just loved the manner Kay could embellish a dull event into a great one. She had the gift of making the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Jim told me a story how dad was going to make him small enough to fit into a dollhouse his brother built for Kay, all he had to do was redup the house. Jim, Kay and Denny worked their miniature butts off, all day thinking dad could do this magic. After they were finished, dad did his magic trick and placed a photo of each of them into the dollhouse. After that trick Jim never got excited about house cleaning again. Jim never acquired a taste for turkey. One Thanksgiving dad cut the head off this turkey that chased little Jim around the basement with no head. At the time Jim didn’t think it was so humorous but I am sure dad is laughing in his grave. Sins of the farther or mother, what parent doesn’t have a few in the circus of life? Jim taught me to swim when he pushed me off a 10 ft. diving board at Portage Lakes, no Red Cross training here, just sink or s