A Childhood Friend, Just Quietly Gone

 One of my best childhood friends died almost a year ago. It’s a measure of how much we’d drifted apart that I didn’t find out until last week.

  There was, to the best of my knowledge, no obituary, no funeral service. He was just quietly gone.

  We met when we were four years old. My parents had just moved into their dream home in Boise’s still developing North End, now a long established neighborhood. The Hally family lived across the street and two doors down from us. Four-year-old Timmy was the youngest of four brothers.

  “What are you doing?” he asked me on the day we met. 

  “Playing with rocks.”

  Rocks in the gutter of the still unpaved street in front of our house. There were no X Boxes or Flying Orb Balls in those days. Kids played with whatever was at hand.

  “Ok if I play with you?”

  And so, over rocks in a gutter, a friendship was born.

  Another boy our age lived in a house in the next block. It wasn’t long before Bill Molitor, Timmy Hally and I were briefly inseparable.

  Our pastimes were typical for kids of those days – playing baseball and hide and seek, swimming in the municipal pool, making snowmen and snow forts, playing with toy trains, playing marbles in the alley, riding bikes with playing cards clothes-pinned to the frame to chatter deliciously in the spokes …

  Timmy was the unwitting recipient of injuries at the hands of yours truly, as I was reminded in a letter to the editor he once wrote. One of his former classmates sent me a copy of it last week along with the belated news of his passing:

  “I have known Woody since he, his sister and parents moved into our neighborhood at 25th and Lemp streets in the early 1950s,” the letter said. “At first his name was Woody Woodpecker, but his mom asked us not to use that so it became Woody, as I was Timmy. Yuck, I never liked the name Timmy.

  “One thing I will always remember is him hitting me over the head with a baton when we were about nine or 10.”

  What he mercifully failed to mention was that attached to the baton, which I’d found in an alley, was a ball of concrete about the size of a softball. I was behind our garage hitting imaginary villains over the head with it when, with astonishingly bad timing, Timmy walked out the garage door as I lowered the boom. I had no idea he was anywhere around. Luckily, he wasn’t unconscious long enough for me to get into serious trouble.

  In his mother’s opinion, my getting into trouble was overdue. In the not too distant past, I had shot her son with an arrow and almost knocked out his front teeth.

  The arrow incident was an accident. Its intended destination was a paper target tacked to a fence. Just as the arrow was released from my bow, out came Timmy – once again with impeccable timing – from through the aforementioned garage door. It was a kids’ arrow rather than a hunting arrow, but its dull tip still managed to draw blood and outrage the victim’s mother.

  The shuffleboard incident was not an accident. A shuffleboard court pattern was built into the Hallys’ tile floor in their basement. We were playing the game one day when Timmy did something that made me mad enough to toss one of the shuffleboard discs at him. No one was more surprised than I was when it hit him in the mouth, resulting in two loose teeth and inordinate bleeding. If Mrs. Hally had had her way, I’d have been grounded for life.

  Mr. Hally, incidentally, was one of the more interesting people in the  neighborhood. He and Bing Crosby, the famous crooner, were friends as students at Gonzaga University. A picture of them standing beside each other graced the Hallys’ living room. Mr. Hally drove a beautiful, black Buick Roadmaster, easily the coolest car in the neighborhood. He was an engineer who supposedly helped design the beautiful Rainbow Bridge north of Smiths Ferry. I never knew whether that was actually true.

  Timmy and I grew apart during grade school, as childhood friends often tend to do. My birthday was just in time for starting first grade while his was a couple of months later – different classes, different friends. The Hallys moved to Washington State after his sophomore year in high school. We lost contact after that for a number of years.

  One of his classmates, Russ Renk, sent me some life details about my old friend last week. It had been my understanding that he worked for a company that made paper products, but there was no mention of that. He worked for Boeing and later for Loomis, formerly Loomis Fargo, as a vault clerk. He attended Central Washington University for two years and was married for seven years, ending in a divorce.

  In his twilight years he moved back to Idaho and occasionally showed up at places where my band, the Mystics was playing. We’d chat during my breaks; he almost invariably turned the conversations to times past and friends long unseen. Most recently he lived in Payette County, where he spent several years on dialysis.

  His passing makes me the last of the old gang. Bill Molitor died four years ago.

  My great grandson is about the age we were when the three of us were childhood pals. Maybe next summer I’ll take him to the old neighborhood and teach him to play marbles in the alley. It seems as good a way as any for me to honor their memory. 

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

2 thoughts on “A Childhood Friend, Just Quietly Gone

  1. Sweet, as we all can relate. Sometime I’ll share how my friend John Ripley nearly shot out my eye with his pellet gun. Didn’t know it was loaded! Thank goodness for my hated thick glasses.

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  2. Tim, 

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    div>I remember Timmy vividly from your book. Such wonderful memories! It’s hard to lose our friends. Hope you’re having a gre

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