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Captain's Log: Thunderbolt kid

John and I both read this book recently. It is by the same author as A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson. We would find ourselves laughing out loud and reading portions to each other. I thought John should tell you about this book as so much of it mirrored his own childhood. So today you are treated to a Captain's log.

Captain's Log: The Thunderbolt Kid

"The Thunderbolt Kid" is a book by Bill Bryson about growing up in the 50's and 60's. Since we're about the same age, his reminisces about growing up in Des Moines Iowa reminded me of growing up in Carlsbad New Mexico and the upper peninsula of Michigan.

I spent my first four years in Carlsbad, so I don't remember a lot, but I remember my first girl friend, Vicki, the girl who lived across the street. She had a younger brother who liked to eat dirt. Mr Bryson talks about running behind the DDT truck that would drive through neighborhoods trailing a fog of insecticide behind it. I remember that: a group of kids enjoying the cool mist of insecticide on a hot day. DDT was eventually banned, but not because of health risks to humans. Or so I'm hoping. I also remember a bread truck, Bunny Bread, that would come through selling small loafs of bead to kids like the ice cream trucks sell ice cream today. I've never met anyone who knows what I'm talking about, and Mr Bryson doesn't mention it either, but I loved that bread.

The Thunder Bolt Kid also talks about being kicked out of the house in the morning with the expectation that you should entertain yourself until evening. After the family move to Wakefield Michigan when I was about five, that's what I remember. By then, I wasn't the youngest so my mother had other things to keep her busy. After breakfast, I was on my own and that was fine with me. If I showed up for lunch I would get fed, along with whoever was with me. If not, then I was mooching off of someone else. We were expected to be home when the street lights came on.

I learned to ride a bike when I was five. I actually got the bike in Carlsbad when I was four, but the training wheels didn't come off until Wakefield. It was a Huffy with big fat tires. I had that bike all the way through high school, although by then it wasn't my only bike. I put a banana seat on it at some point, but otherwise it was all stock. When I went to college, my parents sold it. I was bummed when I found out. I loved that bike. I remember pushing that bike home when I was I was in third grade because the fenders had been bent into the tires to the point where they wouldn't turn. Probably because we were playing follow the leader and none of us had any sense. Nothing my Dad couldn't fix.

Lots of other memories from that time, and I was able to go back and revisit the scene of some of my fondest memories in Wakefield and Bessemer Michigan last summer. Of course, lots of things have changed since then. Mr Bryson also points out some of the current events of the time that seem almost surreal today. It was the dawn of the nuclear age, the space race and the cold war. Interesting times.

Happy Trails................


  1. I think the 50's and 60's had to be the best time to grow up in Canada or the U.S.

  2. Did you ever put playing cards in your spokes so it would sound like a motorcycle? Such fun memories.

  3. Great post John. Your stories brought back a few memories for me too.

    I love Bill Bryson and will have to pick up this book. The Walk in the Woods is one of the funniest books I've ever read. I hiked a small portion of the Appalacian Trail and found his discriptions of his experience to be hysterical and so true.

  4. times were simpler then that is for sure....
    Have fun

  5. I don't remember a bread wagon, but I do remember the 'rags-a-lion' wagon pulled by a horse down the alleys of my neighborhood in Chicago. :)

  6. Thanks for the heads up on this book. I'll be looking to read it soon!

  7. Great post, John. Brings back many fond memories...10 cent Zagnut candy bars and Barq's Creme Soda, Whizzer motor bikes and my beloved paper route. I collected 62 cents weekly from my customers - 7 cents for the daily plus 20 cents for the weekend edition. With my first $10 in earnings, I remember buying a 45 rpm record called "At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors. It cost me a dollar as I recall. Oh, and coincidently my high school was known as the Thunderbolts! (I don't think Bryson was in my class though)


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