By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 10/21/2017
Occurred: 6/1/1956
Topics/Keywords: #Autobiography Page Views: 696
Typical of me, I wasn't really running AWAY…I was running TO.

I remember going to Two Guys, a department store, with my sisters and parents. Actually, we didn't usually go into the store; in those innocent days, we kids would be left in the car while our parents went into the store for "just a minute". These minutes often seemed to be hours. We would play for awhile, then cry until our parents finally returned.

I do remember getting doctor kits. Or, rather, mine was a doctor kit; my sisters got nurses' kits.

I also had most of a train set, though for some reason I never got an actual power supply so I had to make the train move by myself.

Running Away

Me and my girlfriend.

Next door to our house was an apartment building owned by a woman named Lucy, who I used to visit because she had a record changer and would let me watch it play. But, next to that, was the home of the Gallucios. The parents lived upstairs, and Mr. and Mrs. Gallucio lived in the downstairs apartment with their three children, Barbara, Joena, and Tommy. Joena (pronounced Jo-eena and short for Josephine) was my age and so we played together and I called her my girlfriend, as by that time I understood that everyone was meant to pair with someone.

So we played constantly, in that era when kids could be sent outside and weren't expected to be seen again until suppertime. We had pretend weddings, we played with spoons in the dirt, we floated boats in the gutters after rains or when the snow was melting.

Me, Mary Joan, Joena, and Louise

There were other kids in the neighborhood, and some played rougher than others. An older boy from across the street somehow pulled little Tommy Gallucio's fingernail off. I didn't see it happen, but he showed us later and it was horrible.

The Mickey Mouse Club was big on TV in those days and we all trooped inside each afternoon to see it. It was every child's dream to visit Disneyland. I asked many times, and the answer was always, "We'll see…someday." No one tried to explain how far away it was; and in my five-year-old's notion of the world, I thought it must be fairly nearby—after all, we could see it on our television set—so I really couldn't understand why they wouldn't take me there.

Disneyland, 1950s

My father took me for a walk, one day, and we reached the top of a hill just as the sun was setting. I had asked where Disneyland was, and my father pointed in the direction of the setting sun. Of course, he meant "west" but I thought he meant, just over the next hill.

So, the next day, I plotted with Joena to sneak to Disneyland. We agreed to meet after she had been put to bed. She was going to creep out of her room and hide behind the sofa until her parents went to sleep. Then she would answer the door when I knocked, and we would just go.

My father worked at night; my mother took her shower after putting us kids to bed. I insisted on putting on my own pajamas that evening, and when I called Mom in to kiss me goodnight, I was already in bed with the blankets up to my neck, to hide the fact that I was still in my clothes. I waited for her to start her shower; then I snuck out of bed and tiptoed to the front door, which was right next to the bathroom door. The shower was still going, so, heart pounding, I opened the front door and escaped.

It was dark outside, illuminated only by the street lamps and the gentle glow of a city night sky. There was no one else in sight. I ran the two doors down to Joena's house and rang the doorbell. To my consternation, her mother opened the door and her parents were clearly still awake—dressed in day clothes and entertaining company. They were also quite surprised to see me.

"Paul!" Mrs. Gallucio said. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to see Joena," I replied, still not sure how to handle this unexpected turn of events.

"She's in bed, asleep," Joena's mother asserted.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Did you look behind the sofa? We were supposed to go to Disneyland tonight."

"She's in bed," Mrs. Gallucio said firmly. "And you should be, too. Don't you think your mother will worry about you being out so late?"

I knew I wasn't supposed to go out without permission, and I knew I should be in bed. I also knew I would be in trouble if my mother found out. But it hadn't occurred to me that I might be the cause of worry on Mom's part. Reluctantly, shoulders drooping, I returned home. Of course, by the time I got there, the shower was off and mom was in bed, where she heard the unmistakable sound of the front door opening.

"Who is it?" she demanded.

"Me," I said, forlornly. I knew what was coming, what years later on in the South I would learn was called "a good ass whomping." That was, however, the last time I ever tried to "run away" from home although, as I tried to point out to my frantic mother, I hadn't really been running away; I was trying to run to Disneyland…and this would never have happened if they'd simply taken me when I asked.