The Turkish Baths

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Feb 9, 2008
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I had to buy a few groceries today. One of the female shoppers in the store appeared to be in her 50s, quite heavy, and close to 6 ft.tall, covered up and down her arms and legs with what looked like amateur done tattoos. It brought to mind the first time I saw tattoos on anyone.
In downtown St. Paul, when I was a child, there was a large bowling alley (Harkins Lanes) on two main floors. In the basement was Billbows Billiards and Turkish baths. My father would go there to bowl with friends, then they'd all go downstairs to sit around in heavy white terry bathrobes, drink Seagrams 7 or V.O., smoke cigars and play poker. Then they'd all go into the steam room to de-stink from the cigars and booze before they went home to their wives and kids. But, every couple of months, all the guys who had sons brought them along. We watched our fathers bowl, then when they played poker, we played board games like monopoly, or watched our older brothers play. We also had ginger ale to drink, while our fathers usually drank S7 or V.O. with ginger ale. We boys all brought our own terry bathrobes for the steam and shower.
Life was very different then. Almost all the fathers had been in some way part of the WWII effort, either as military or civilian. The steam room had a wood floor and tiered wood benches. There was some type of circular drum in the corner sitting on bricks. Inside the drum there was a gas burner covered with big rocks. Once the rocks were flamed and hot, somebody would splash water on them with pine or eucalyptus oil. Then everyone would peel off their robes to make them into cushions to sit on while they sweated. Modesty was a foreign concept.
Periodically, one of the guys steaming would lie face down on a bench. I suppose I was about six or seven years old, when I saw my first tattoo. I whispered to my dad why "that man" had a cartoon on his butt. "Ask him Stevie." He replied,
"During the War (of course he was referring to WWII, Korea hadn't begun) I was a fighter pilot. The pilot on my right wing and I were great friends. We vowed that sometime after the war, we'd get together and each of us would get a tattoo marking our service together. We waited almost five years, but now I've got Wiley Coyote and he's got Roadrunner."


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Oct 23, 2010
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Oregon City, Oregon - USA
Reading your numerous and varied posts is kinda like going through some of the sections I remember enjoying in Readers Digest…”Laughter the Best Medicine”…”Life in These United States”…”Humor in Uniform”…”Quotable Quotes”…”Points to Ponder”…etc. I love ‘em! 😊


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Feb 18, 2019
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When I was a kid I occasionally stayed over with my aunt and grandma. She had a stash of old readers digest, maybe a hundred or more along with several of the RD condensed books. Read all of the books and many of the mags. They were very interesting and fun to read.