Kilroy Was Here

From the man cave file.

A trip down memory lane, thanks to my Dad, and good old eBay.

Kilroy was here. Popular graffiti, from the days of WWII, when your grandparents were young. Supposedly started by a quality inspector, in one of the big shipyards, it became immensely popular, and showed up, all over the world.

It was the first thing I remember drawing, copying my Dad's doodles, and hearing his memories come to life.


It was also my first graffiti.


Sunday School. A long, long time ago.

The kids all went downstairs, after being welcomed, and maybe hearing the grown ups sing a hymn, or two.

We gathered, at a little table, and waited, impatiently, as all kids do, for one of the Deacons to give us our lesson, while the adults tackled the serious Churching.

There was a chalkboard, and usually there would be a verse, or a question, written there, beforehand. A preview.

They did a great job, selecting stories, that would hold a kid's attention.

Adam and Eve. Noah's ark. David and Goliath. None of the heavy, scary stuff.


I was ten, or eleven. A pretty good kid.

A cub scout, quiet, and respectful.

The Davis family had a sweet little girl, 2 or 3 years old, that I had befriended. She would get fussy, sometimes, during those long sermons. Her Mom would bring her down, to our class, and I would entertain her, while they finished up, upstairs.

It made me feel super grown up, I was the baby, at home, and never got to play the big brother role. She liked me, for whatever reason, this adorable little toddler, with the biggest brown eyes.

I couldn't help but feel good, when she came looking for me, all smiles.


We had different teachers, they may have drawn straws, or had some rotation schedule. Rock, paper, scissors, maybe. They were all memorable, and did a great job, but Ralph was my favorite.

He was always there, and he was the guy that rang the bell, by pulling on that fat rope, as we got started, every Sunday.

Bong! Bong!! BONG!!!

He would give it his all, and a little extra, when our tiny faces were all turned backward, watching him at his task.

It looked like hard work, and he'd have to tuck his shirt tails back in, and straighten his necktie, when he was finished.

Maybe dab his forehead with his handkerchief, if it was Summertime.

A true gentleman, with a quick smile, a caring heart, and time to listen, and help.


This particular Sunday, I must have been feeling frisky, or showing off, in front of the younger kids, while we waited, unsupervised. I grabbed the chalk, and drew my best Kilroy, looking over his little fence, down in the lower corner.

I had drawn him hundreds of times, and he came out pretty well. The best touch was a single, curly hair, on top of his bald head. That's the way Dad always drew it.


I felt like a gangster, defacing that holy chalkboard, right there in Church.

Innocent, but pushing my luck.

I've always figured God must have a pretty good sense of humor.


Ralph had drawn the short straw.

I was relieved, to see him coming, but still nervous, I was already regretting my bold criminal act. I might be in trouble, and the embarrassment was already starting to glow, on my cheeks. I could feel it.

Before my belly started churning, Ralph let me off the hook, with his crooked grin, almost like my Dad's trademark smirk, but Ralph's was crooked on the other side.

I was instantly at ease.

He was quiet, for a minute, just grinning, and reminiscing. It stirred up some memories, I guess, he seemed quite pleased. Finally, he spoke.


That's the Shmoo.


I had never heard of the Shmoo, I only knew the character as Kilroy, so I was all ears. That's how I learn, and I realized that fact, early on. Pay attention. Listen. Especially to the Elders.

He set his Bible, and his papers down, we were all done with those, for the day.

I don't remember what the preview was, on the board, but it didn't matter. We wouldn't get to that, either.

He told us all about his War memories, what the Shmoo reminded him of, and what those memories meant to him, and his family. Serious stuff, for church kids, but he had a perfect delivery, tailored to kids, with a wink, here and there, for the older, sharper ones.

We were a good audience, hanging on every word, of this grown up, non- Churchical storytelling.

He was emotional, talking about wartime, it's really unfathomable, unless you've lived through it.

Sneaking good lessons in, at every chance.

He let me tell my Grampa's story, one of the only stories I knew, well enough to tell. I'm sure my 10 year old version was pretty sloppy. Still, he made me feel so proud, of my Grampa, that I never got to meet.

Blushing, in front of our little group.

The kindest of words. Straight up love.

Churching me, without me realizing such.

I'm sure my skinny little chest was all puffed up, with pride.

We were still talking about days gone by, when the rest of the grown ups started filing down the stairs, for cookies and coffee, after the service. Normally, the highlight of every Sunday, for us kids.


Not that Sunday. I felt so good, about that fleeting session, that I didn't want it to end.

Every kid loves War stories.

At least, we did, back then.

My little drawing was right there, on the chalkboard, through the coffee hour.

Not a single grown up noticed, that I could see, but I was still on top of the world, feeling all grown up, myself.

Ralph seemed to have a special grin, just for me, through that cookie hour, and from that day, forward. Our little thing.

It made me feel taller, even.

I was the short kid, back then.

I probably had Mom measure me, with the yardstick, when we got home.


I have to say, that was the most fun I've ever had in Church, and I'll leave it at that.


Trinkets, from eBay, priceless, to me.

When I see these little guys, sitting on my shelf, it brings me right back to that day.

I think about my Dad, and my Grampa.

I can feel it now, that warm ease, of fitting in, and being accepted. Pride.

Clear as day, all these years later.


I'm sure glad that Ralph pulled the short straw, on that eternally bookmarked day.

Divine intervention, maybe.


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