By Fred Wickert
I saw in the on the spot news coverage in Baltimore, a single mother with six kids go in to the middle of the crowd and drag her 16 year old son out of the crowd throwing rocks at and taunting police. She sent him home with a few swats around head and shoulders while teaching him that was not the behavior she expected of her kids.
The episode reminded me of an incident that happened in 1960 in Orlando, Florida. I was stationed there in the Air Police. While on patrol one day, around 5:30 in the evening I observed a young boy about 12 or 13 years old. He had a five gallon gas can with him and he was hanging around the base gas station.
The gas station was a civilian concession on the Air Force base for the convenience of the members of the military and of the civilian employees on the base.
In those days gas pumps were pretty simple. You pumped the gas by selecting the pump you wanted. You had two choices, either regular or high test. This gas staion had two islands. Each island had four pumps. On each end was a pump for regular and one for high test. There were eight pumps in all. You lifted the nozzle off a hook and inserted it in the gas tank of your vehicle. Then you raised the lever the nozzle had hung on. The meter on the pump reset itself to zero and the pump turned on. You squeezed the handle and the gas started to flow. When you were finished you hung up the nozzle on the pump, read the amount you owed on the meter, paid for your gas and drove away.
The boy I was observing, was watching the people pump gas. As soon as one drove away, he went to the pump, put the can on the ground and inserted the nozel in his gas can and let gravity drain the gas still in the hose into his can. He did this repeatedly. The station attendent told him to stop and he told te station attendent to go fly a kite. Each time he did this he got about a quart of gasoline in his can.
After observing this for a while, I went over, confiscated the can and aprehended the kid. I took them both to the Air Police office. There, we learned who the father of the child was and tried to call him at home. A house maid answered the phone. She advised that the Captain was on the golf course. The desk sergeant called the golf course. They sent a runner out looking for him. When they found him, he was told the Air Police had his son in custody and due to his age, to please come and take posession of him.
The Captain arrived already hot under the collar. How dare we arrest his kid? What did he do that was so important to pull him away from the golf course, kill somebody?
I explained what the boy was doing. The captain became furious and berated us Air Police for being out of control. How dare we go around picking on little kids for nothing. It was just a childish prank for God's sake!
While venting at we Air Police for our unforgivable abuse of police power, something began to creep in to his mind. Suddenly he stopped. Then he turned to his boy and said, "I don't understand what in hell you want gas for anyway. You don't have anything to use it in. What were you going to do with it?"
The boy said, "I need it for my go cart."
"Go cart? What go caret? Since when you got a go cart? Where did you get a go cart? You don't have any money to buy a go cart. You can't buy a go cart with just your allownace!"
Then the Captain stopped and wanted the gas can with the gas in it. I explained the gas was not his and had to be returned to the station. I told him he could inquire in a day or two for the can. With that he ushered his son quickly out the door and to his car. He had a new concern about where his son got a go cart and where was he keeping it. I suspect he was afraid it was not a good idea to get the answers in the hearing of the Air Police.
I kept thinking about the difference in parents today. The Air Force Captain had no concern at all that his som was stealing gas. He saw nothing wrong in that. He blamed the police for being overzealous in our job, claiming that it was just a harmless childish prank. He never got concerned at all with the behavior of his son until he found out his son had a go cart that he didn't know about. Only then was he concerned, and then he didn't want the police to know.
His son was a minor and of course, whatever might happen to him was going to be from the parent. There was a police report filed which was eventually sent to the fathers commanding officer. We Air Police were not privy to what happened there, but I imagine the Captain was given a lecture by his Commander to see to it that it never happened again and that was probably the end of it. We never heard any more about the go cart either.
The other parent, the single mother of six was a completely different story. She made it her business to teach her kids right. She wanted them to grow up respecting the law, respecting other peoples property and knowing the difference between right and wrong.
So many people make excuses. Their ancesters were slaves. They were poor and did not have a lot. They did not have opportunity. It does not matter what might have happened to your ancesters. That is no excuse. It does not matter that you are poor. That is no excuse. The truth is that no matter what you think or whether you believe it or not, you do have opportunity. You have opprtunity but you have to work for it. Nobody is going to come to your door and offer you a six figure job.
The mother of those six kids had it right. You first much teach your children what is right and what is wrong. They have to be taught to work for what they get and not expect a government handout for everything.
They have to learn to respect the law and the police. If you obey the law you have nothing to fear from the policfe. If a police officer gives you an order,
there is a reason for it. Obey it. Don't argue, just do as told and all will be well. Some of our community refuses to accept that. Those are the ones who get in trouble. Contrary to the belief of many, a persons color or race has nothing to do with it. The police are just trying to do their job.
I feel sorry for the son of that Air Force Captain because he is going to be in trouble all his life. Police or bad luck or an employer will get blamed for it, but it will be his fault, or even more it will be his fathers fault because he taught him wrong in the first place.
That single mom with six kids in Baltimopre? Her kids will amount to something, and why? Because she taught them right . When they grow up and become successful, I hope they will recognize that it is because their Mom taught them well.
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