Thursday, August 03, 2006


In early September, 1978, I was six years old - almost seven. I was living in Manitowoc - 1856 Michigan Ave. to be exact. One of my best friends at that time was a kid named Carl Sund. Throughout my life, I've always considered my early friendship with Carl to be one of the most influential persons in my life. Carl was a year older than me in school. But he was actually almost two years older than me in life. He was born Halloween night, 1969. I was born in late September, 1971.

Carl was extremely cocky. Best of all, he wasn't afraid to mouth off to adults. I learned a lot from him! We hit it off great. He lived a few houses down from me. Our moms worked together at the Manitowoc Social Services department. So we saw each other all the time.

Before school, Carl (and his brother Matt) would often come to my house. We would then walk to school together. Matt was a year younger than me. He was also the opposite of Carl - not a troublemaker at all. As was the norm, we would walk through my yard, then cut across my neighbor's yard. We'd then walk between two garages, end up in someone's driveway on the other side of the block, keep walking, then cross the street into Citizen's Park. That was the way we walked to school. We all attended Andrew Jackson School. Cutting through people's yards shaved about 10 minutes off our time. It was a no-brainer.

I'm not sure why. But after school, Carl and I usually walked home alone. I don't know where Matt was. As usual, once we got out of the park, we crossed New York Ave. and walked into the driveways to cut across the block. Incidentally, the driveway to the east was the home of Dave Neilitz, a friend of ours. Dave was a year behind me in school as well. Dave had dreams of being an NBA referee. To date, he hasn't made it. But he is a referee on some level - college I think. I also recall Dave wearing a bunny costume on Halloween. And he shit his costume. That was nasty! But that's another story.

Anyway, as we walked between the two garages, we noticed that the side window on the garage to the west had a big crack in it. Lord knows why we thought the way we did. But we figured we should make the crack bigger. So we found some big rocks behind the garage, and ended up smashing the window.

But it didn't end there.

For whatever reason, we crawled inside the garage. A car was parked in there. So we got in the car and started messing around. Then we got the idea to break the windshield as well. So we grabbed our rocks and started smashing. Now as everyone knows, regular window glass and car window glass are two different things. But to a six-year-old and an eight-year-old, we were mystified. Despite our first efforts, we couldn't break the glass. We were dumbfounded. Finally after considerable effort, the windshield started to shatter. I can recall sitting in the front seats, kicking our feet up against the windshield. Eventually we were able to get a hole all the way through. Even if we hadn't, the windshield was totalled. After maybe 20 minutes or so, we got bored and left.

Carl stayed by my house. We ended up playing in my yard. About 30 minutes later, we heard a commotion of some sort where our vandalism had taken place. Obviously we were curious to see what was going on. So we decided to wander over. We walked around the corner of the garage, and saw a group of people - the owners, and a bunch of neighbors. And they jumped all over us! They started screaming at us and accused us of the damage. We of course denied it. I was always amazed though. Even before we poked our heads around to see, they had already assumed it was Carl and I who had done it. Can two kids that young have a reputation already?

Well, we weren't going to stand there and be abused. So we started to walk home. One of them blocked the path between the garages, and forced us to walk all the way around the block. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. As we walked down New York Ave., we talked. Then we saw a fence which separated the house we were in front of from the house of my next-door neighbor. We saw a familiar face. It was Gibby (Gilbert Moreno). Gibby was Carl's next-door neighbor. He was a few years older than us. Carl's parents hated Gibby. They thought he was a bad influence on... well, everybody. Gibby wasn't the brightest of boys either. My dad loves to tell a story of how Gibby came up to him one day while he was painting our house. Gibby said, "Hey Gary, it's my birthday today!" My dad said, "Oh yeah? How old are you?" Gibby's reply - "I don't know - 9 or 10. I'll have to ask my mom." Wow. You know, if there's one thing a little kid knows, it's how old he is. Even if he doesn't know, you'd think he'd at least have a clue on the actual day of his birthday party!

But anyway, I digress. Gibby saw us and shouted, "Hey, you guys better get over here. There's a policeman here. And he says you did some very bad vandalism!" I turned to Carl and said, "What's vandalism?" That's a word that I was unfamiliar with. Anyway, knowing we could be in serious trouble, we did what any normal troublemakers would do. We lied. We came up with a story that we thought was good. We figured that we'd tell the cop that we walked home as usual, saw another kid (who lived half a block away) run away laughing. Then we came upon the damage ourselves. It would work. It had to!

By the time we'd rounded the block and got back to my house, both of our parents were outside with the police. As cops do, they separated us and talked to us each individually. Both Carl and I stuck to the exact same story. We denied everything and blamed the kid down the block. Ironically, that kid's name was Joe Stodola - no relation to my former teacher... I assume. He was five years older than me, and was also a known troublemaker. He had scarred his own face while trying to burn down his grandma's garage - or at least that's what I was told. So he seemed like the perfect person to pin it on.

The cops let us go, and went down to Joe's house. I didn't find this out until years later. But my mom told me that when the cop talked to them after questioning Carl and I, he told them, "There's no way these two kids did it. Both of them have the exact same story. They were completely consistent. If they were lying, one of them would have slipped up at some point." Both my parents and Carl's parents knew differently though. Despite our young age, they knew how smart we were. They were convinced that we were guilty. But what could they do? We continued to deny it.

There's a lesson to be learned here. Anyone who's ever sen the shows "Cops" knows it as well. When a group of people gets stopped for something, the first thing the cops do is separate them. It's very rare that everyone will have the same lie. That's how they get you! This early lesson in life came in very handy during my adolescence. If you're in a group that has done something wrong, come up with a story and commit it to memory.

Incidentally, Joe Stodola approached me at school the next day and yelled at me for sending the cops to his house. I denied doing that too. And that was the end of that.

That incident was probably the first major criminal thing I ever did. When I see a six-year-old today, I'm absolutely shocked. I can't imagine that I ever could have done something like that at such a young age. It blows my mind. But... that's who I was back then. I stayed that way for years and years, before finally stopping that sort of behavior when I was about 15 or 16.

I feel bad about what we did. I don't know what it cost to repair their car and garage. But I'm sure it was plenty.

I moved to Two Rivers on Friday, November 7th, 1980. Carl and his family moved to a Chicago suburb about eight months later. I last saw him in the summer of 1985, when we went to visit them. However, I actually looked Carl up and called him during the summer of 1997. I believe he was living with his mom. His parents divorced in the late 1980's. As for Matt, he became an attorney. He's somewhere in western Wisconsin, near the Wisconsin/Minnesota border.

UPDATE 9/18/06 - I looked up Carl and E-mailed him. Here's his take on the incident.

I'm glad it's been so many years and no one really remembers the
"incident" with the broken car windshield. I don't remember framing Joe
Stodola, or even remember Joe himself for that matter. I do remember
that the main reason we smashed up the car is because the people who
used to live there used to yell at us for walking "through their yard"
and we wanted to take revenge. I also remember we used a huge cinder
block to smash the windshield open and that we left the cinder block on
the hood of the car. The cops thought we couldn't have done it because
they thought the cinder block had been THROWN into the windshield and
that a couple of young kids like us could have never lifted that big
heavy of a cinder block. I guess they must not have noticed our
footprints all over the hood of the car. (Or did we have the sense to
wipe away the footprints??) I'm glad nobody else was there when we did
it. I'm sure my brother would have told on us for sure!


At Thu Aug 03, 08:31:00 AM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

Dave Neilitz... how funny. I used to hang out with Dave a little. We met some time after 1989. I'm not sure if we met at UWMC or through some mutual Manitowoc friends. It's funny that you mention his interest in being an NBA ref. All I really remember about Dave is his love for being a basketball referee and his dream of being an NBA ref.

Burt... do you have any info on Dave. Is he a referee at some level??

Oh, and you wonder why I wouldn't give you a ride home from school. Dude... I was interested in keeping the windshield in my car!!!

At Thu Aug 03, 08:36:00 AM PDT, Blogger MarkC said...

I just did some looking around for Dave. It looks like he is an active referee here in the midwest doing NCAA Div II or III games.

At Thu Aug 03, 08:50:00 AM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

I liked Dave. I remember stealing his R2D2 Star Wars figure once. He got mad at me, and banned me from his house for a week. Dave's mom used to work at Shopko. She would often drive us all to school.

Anyway, yes, you found Dave's information before I could. Dave would have been with the class of 1990 - probably at Lincoln.

I ran into Dave again at UW Manitowoc as well. I first enrolled in the 1990-1991 school year. That was his first year as well. I had him in Mr. Emmett's creative writing class. He remembered me. We talked here and there. And yes, he was obsessed with becoming a referee. Obviously it worked out for him.

On a side note, Dave's dad would often umpire softball games at Citizen's Park. Like father, like son.


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