As a child, did you ever hang out with, or know some kid or kids that today you wonder – what ever happened to them? These would be kids that you really wouldn’t see yourself hanging out with today, but if you could peek out through one of those live nature cams at them, or maybe if they got their own reality show today, you’d watch it every week? Well for me, those people would be the Hubbards. I briefly mentioned the Hubbards in this story (link) and I wrote about the early experience with Doug Hubbard the thief in this story (link). I’ve been saving up some notes though because the Hubbards easily deserve an entire story all to themselves and today is the day.
I spent 5 years on Goodman Avenue, from the age of 5 until age 10 when we moved away from the Fillmore Elementary school district in Hamilton and into the Lincoln district. My Mom would be quick to say that the Hubbards were a large part of the reason for wanting to move out of the neighborhood. For good reason too as you will read about here. Doug was a hoodlum in the making.
The Hubbard family consisted of an old Grandpa and Grandma, a single mom named Juanita, (I never did know what happened to the Dad), three boys and a sister named Joyce who I never laid eyes on, only heard the tales of. Juanita was of Spanish decent I suppose but she had no accent that I can recall so must have been at least second generation born and bred American. Juanita was uneducated but worked hard to do what she could to help keep the household running. I seem to recall Doug saying that they received food stamps and to bring in money, she cleaned a few local households, (possibly stealing from them too – there were rumors). I can still recall looking out my front door and seeing her walking up the street, making her way home on the days she worked. Juanita could also be seen rooting in the trash cans occasionally, looking for useful household articles. We kids referred to her as a garbage rooter. At the time, it was funny to us kids; not so much today.
The Hubbards lived in the worst looking house on the street, a few places up from my friend Timmy’s house. The house was narrow and tall with the entrance really on the side of the house, not in front against the street. I only went inside the house a couple of times and what I remember was going up some narrow steps cluttered with household obstacles like dirty clothing. I remember the boys shared a bedroom and it smelled a bit like urine. (Nice memories, huh). We were really the only kids living on the street at this time as most of the houses were occupied at that time by older people. There was no avoiding the Hubbards.
The oldest Hubbard child was Joyce. I never met Joyce and only heard that she lived downtown in Hamilton at a hotel (the infamous Grand Hotel). Doug referred to her as ‘my sister the whore’. I never really knew what a whore was back then but I assumed it had something to do with Halloween. She must have a cool, (or ghoul), job.
Next in line was Doug. Doug was a year older than Timmy and I but in terms of worldly knowledge, he was already close to being an adult; a nasty, thieving, devious adult. Looking back, I can say that when he was around me and Timmy, he was on his best behavior. I do however have some memories of Doug that will paint a picture of the type of man he was probably destined to become (we should have known this when he tried hiding my coins in his shoes).
One memory had to do with his grandpa. His grandpa was old and a bit feeble. I’m guessing that when we were children, he was perhaps 65 years old and not a healthy 65. His main activity was to sit out on the side porch in a rocker, chewing tobacco and taking the opportunity to see if he could spit on us kids as we were walking past, on our way to Doug’s backyard. One day, we kids were having a water balloon fight; a favorite activity in the summer. Doug decided to show off for me and Tim and by throwing a water balloon on his grandpa. Problem was though, it didn’t break. While Grandpa was trying to gather his wits enough to get the balloon off of himself, Doug jumped up onto the porch and tried to pinch the balloon. When the balloon didn’t break the first time, Doug touched the balloon with his cigarette, breaking the balloon and spilling water all over his grandpa. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you – Doug was a smoker at the age of 10. (I’ll relate to this fact one day in a future story). We laughed, but I knew it was wrong and I didn’t know what I felt about that. I guess that’s why this memory is still so vivid, because it felt so wrong.
If the act of trying to steal my coins and then breaking a water balloon on his own grandpa isn’t enough to convict Doug, well then there is more. One of my more vivid memories has to do with gasoline. Doug was a young wizard where it came to lawn mower repair. Even at the age of ten, he was able to take apart a mower engine, identify bad parts, clean it up and put it back together. He had to learn this skill no doubt to lack of money in the house and Doug’s needing cigarettes to feed his young nicotine addiction. You see, Doug mowed some lawns wherever he could get the work so that he would have his spending money. Even though money was scarce there, I do recall Juanita dipping into the pockets of those old dresses she wore, looking for change when Doug asked for it. I don’t remember if Juanita was a smoker but I suspect so because she had a raspy, cigarette smoker’s voice, as I recall.
The Hubbards had a garage out on the back edge of their lot, just as most of the houses did back then in our neighborhood. They were rarely attached to the houses. Hubbard’s garage was a light windstorm away from becoming a pile of rubble. The two doors, (where cars were meant to drive through), were guarded on the inside by a massive pile of ‘stuff’. To anyone, this pile of stuff would look like garbage. As long as we lived there, I only saw that pile noticeably reduced once for a garage sale. After the sale, all the stuff was thrown back into the garage. It was not stacked or organized but we kids could climb up on the stuff pile and then squeeze through an opening in the doors. We used this opening on occasion to sneak into the garage from the rear. I don’t remember what the heck we were sneaking in there for, probably just playing ‘Spies’.
When we were kids, there weren’t as many money-grabbing lawyers around as there are today. Know how I know? Because we kids were free to maim and kill ourselves on fun toys like Creepy Crawlers (link). Our toys taught us critical survival skills and are the reason why we are still here today. Kids today are doomed. One of our go-to toys was called a bean shooter. I think our parents and grandparents may have used peas in their days. A bean shooter consisted of a sturdy, thick straw and a small brown paper sack of beans. Yes folks, our local candy stores carried bags of beans, packaged up with the intent of selling to us kids and hoping we would shoot out an eye of one of us little heathens. It was from these beans that we also first acquired bartering skills for one day when we walked into Bowden’s Bicycle shop, we saw his bag of beans was selling for 25 cents. When I told him that Payne’s had the same bag for only 15 cents, he sold his bag to me for 15 cents, (no doubt an undercut price move aimed at putting poor Ms. Payne out of the bag ‘O bean business).
But back to the gasoline. It’s a well known fact that built into the rules of every child game or contest, that when one cries out “uncle” it is a signal to the other contestant that the child yelling uncle has admitted defeat. It is then customary for the victor to cease whatever activity has caused the crying out, (such as an arm twist or a hair pull). One day we kids were in the backyard of the Hubbards and I had run out of beans during one of our many bean fights. After getting pelted a couple of more times in the bare thigh, (and let me tell you that those suckers do sting), I had given the customary surrender signal – “UNCLE, UNCLE”.
Doug was not listening though and I was trapped at the inside opening of his garage. Deciding to use some leverage, fighting fire with fire, I saw Doug’s precious can of gasoline sitting there. I knew that Doug coveted his gasoline like a child molester covets his computer’s dirty pictures, (even though we didn’t yet have computers), so I picked up the can and poured a little out on the ground. I could tell this angered Doug because he began pelting me with more and more stinging missiles. I warned him that I was going to keep pouring unless he stopped and so I poured out more and more. What does a future criminal do in this instance? Of course, he pops out his matches and quickly throws one onto the gasoline! The flames were getting a little higher and I was beginning to think that perhaps I should now make my way to the top of the ‘stuff pile’ in order to escape when Juanita comes running out to the rescue. Juanita was stomping out the fire and throwing dirt onto the flames, all the while yelling at Doug – “what the Hell are you thinking? You will burn down the garage.”
Juanita sent us home and so Timmy and I walked down the block with my having a great sense of vindication. I felt like I had stood up to Doug who was older and bigger than I and that I had shown him I knew how he thought and what his vulnerabilities were. Even before this episode, I rarely sought out Doug without my buddy Timmy being with me. There was something about Doug that just didn’t feel right, something a little “scary” I guess you’d say. Trust your instincts people!
Doug had two younger brothers. Yes, Doug was the oldest boy, the role model. The two brothers were Johnny, who I think was my age but had been held back a year or two in school, and Vernon who was three years younger than I.
I don’t have many tales to tell about Vernon. What I remember is that he was picked on. He was the baby of the family, a little shy, potentially good looking I suppose (from my memory now of what I think I remember his looks to be) and he was obviously Juanita’s pet. I think this last attribute was perhaps why Doug took it upon himself to pick on Vernon and to tease him whenever he was with us. I had learned from my dad how to tease others and so I remember playing along, Timmy and I both laughing whenever this would happen.
The worst episode I remember had to do with Vernon’s taking an opportunity to relieve himself in my friend Tim’s garage. I’m not talking about #1 – it makes me sad today to think about what conditions at home must have existed for Vernon to not walk up the street 4-5 houses to go to his own bathroom, but he went #2 in Tim’s garage. This wasn’t in my notes, I didn’t even remember this until I began typing about Vernon. As punishment, I seem to remember Doug instructing Timmy to hold Vernon steady while Doug picked up the feces with a broom and then proceeding to wipe it onto Vernon’s legs. That was our young-kid neighborhood. No wonder Mom wanted to move away from the Hubbards!
Poor Vernon – in retrospect, he was the only Hubbard who might have had any chance to become productive in society….but what a stack of odds against the poor kid.
And then there was Johnny. Johnny was one of those slow boys you’d see riding ‘the stubby bus’. When not at school, he was kept indoors all day. I’m not quite sure what he was going to do if he got out, but I do remember that like my girlfriend’s dog Misty who would bolt out the front door whenever it was cracked open and unguarded, so too would Johnny. I remember a couple of times when Doug came running down the street, asking me and Timmy to hop on our bikes so we could all three go out looking for Johnny who had “escaped”. We always captured him. He’d be walking when we’d see him and then when he’d see us bearing down on him with our bikes, he’d attempt to run but we would always manage to fence him in. Doug would hop off and grab hold of his arm and then lead him home. Doug himself didn’t have a bike. He’d ride double with one of us and then would walk home, leading the escapee. Like Kim’s dog Misty, it always made me wonder what the heck was going on inside the house to make Johnny run away. Where did he think he was going and what would he do when he got there?
In later years, Johnny made it to high school. When I was a senior, he was a sophomore. Naturally we recognized each other. When passing each other in the hallways, he’d always yell out a big “HI ROBBIE!” At the time, it was a tad embarrassing since he was such a geek and I was trying to be cool. (Oh brother)
Johnny was in the slow classes. I’m not quite sure what they are called today, but their schedule then was designed to try to teach them basic social and survival skills. I think we called them “Jaycees” back then. It must have had something to do with the junior chamber of commerce? Most of the JC’s were given some type of employment to help begin training them to understand how the world works. Johnny was given a dish washing job in the cafeteria. He was so proud! One day, my buddy Joe and I were sitting at a table, eating our cafeteria lunch. I had my back to the area where they do all the tray and dish cleanup. Johnny was back there, as always, working hard. He had captured me in his sights I guess because after being seated for 5-10 minutes we both heard the following (and I’m not exaggerating):
Joe was laughing and said, hey I think someone wants your attention.
So I turned around to look at Johnny. I knew it was Johnny. When he saw that I had seen him, next he shouted:
DON’T BOTHER ME, I’M WORKING!
I thought Joe would pee his pants from laughing so hard.
They say that if you ever want to feel blessed or better about your lot in life, that all you have to do is to look around, for not far away is someone who is much, much worse off than you are. I wonder how far the Hubbard kids had to search to find people with worse starts in life than they had. A father that did not exist and a mother that was a thief herself, (she stole jewelry from my friend Timmy’s mom, (items she thought would not be recognized as missing). Did you grow up with kids like these? Count your blessings if you did not.
Where are they now?
Who knows. I figured Vernon was the only one who might have had a chance but when Googling his name in Hamilton, I come back with matches like Inmate Search. Joyce died of AIDS many years ago, one too many tricks turned. I remember reading about Doug many years ago. Apparently he killed his wife with an axe (I really expected gasoline to play in here).
And Johnny? Well no wonder he tried escaping every time the door was left unlocked. Perhaps he’s still running…..I hope so.