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Be careful before you take a giant step

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My late brother-in-law, Calvin “Cap” McKishen of Woodbury, New Jersey, was a likable, friendly person, but he had one unusual passion.

A passion that was very unusual. He came up with pet names for just about everyone he met. For instance — our next door neighbor, Edwin Sayers, became Fred MacMurray, the movie star, became “Grundo.”

And then there was me — I became “Cedric” because he loved the name of a movie star whose name appeared on the screen as Sir Cedrick Hardwicke. No kidding, he loved that name, and had to find someone to tag the name on, and it was me.

We got to be close friends soon after I moved in as a roomer with my sister, Jeanne and Cap in Wenonah, New Jersey, in my mother’s comfortable little bungalow on Glassboro Road in 1947 right after I graduated from Glassboro High School when I was 17.

Cap was a really careful car lover of his immaculate light green 1941 Plymouth, and he taught me many things on how to wash my first car — a 1942 Ford Club Coupe that I had just bought at Ace Motor Sales in Woodbury.

One of the first things he taught me — how to use a sponge to wash my car, and a chamois to dry water drops, before they dry on the car leaving water spots.

Now that I think about it, I think I never saw his car dirty. If you ever mentioned how nice his car looked, then you became one of his best friends.

Yes, Cap and I became the best of friends and I enjoyed having a room with them. Probably more than ever expected, because our living together was such a welcome change for me.

It was my first ever living away from home with my mother except for National Guard encampments once a year from my 10-year enlistment period with New Jersey and North Carolina units.

Let me explain — my dad died from a heart attack at an early age of 48 during the Big Depression in the 1930s.

I was 8 years of age, my sister Jeanne, 10, and big brother, Bill, 18. I think mother was 42.

Luckily, my grandfather, Mother’s father, was a homebuilder in nearby Philadelphia, and after her dad died, we moved from our farm, to the close-by bungalow, also owned by Mother.

Mother, Jeanne and I never felt content in our step-father’s Pitman, New Jersey, home (5 miles south of Wenonah). Let me explain — after Dad died, Mother was courted by several widowers, but winning out was another William S. Allen — the same first and last name, and initial as my father’s. Only the middle name was different — my dad’s middle name was Sirret, and the widower’s middle name was Scott.

I really think Mother fell in love with that name instead of the person, and the marriage didn’t last but for a few years. William Scott Allen didn’t turn out well at all, except he was a good provider.

We learned that none of his neighbors got along with him as arguments developed over his dog and theirs. We soon learned that he actually enjoyed arguments and often instigated them.

Although it was difficult, I made a commitment to stick it out with him until I finished high school. Mother stuck it for about a year later when she came to also live with me, and my sister and Cap.

All three of us learned this: Never take a giant step before you learn all the ropes you can.

Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, invites comments at 919-556-3059 or