Bulletholes & Ivory Soap, by Wallace Fromm ISBN 9780615468402
Five out of five stars
I have reviewed several books written by men that grew up in the Midwest and chronicled the events of their boyhood. While there are always similarities, there are some differences. One of the similarities is that all were somehow involved in agriculture. Fromm grew up in Cedarburg, WI in the 1940s-1950s, at a time when the population was approximately 2,500. It was a typical such town, in general the businesses catered to the outlying farm population, although there were some small, local manufacturing establishments. Most towns of this size had some small factories, their demise is something that did more damage to a community than can be measured by the loss of local wages.
The Fromm’s farm was one generally reserved for growing gladiolas and an apple orchard, although they also grew other crops such as potatoes. Their farm was large enough to have hired hands and they never seemed to struggle financially.
The author, like all boys growing up in those circumstances, managed to struggle to stay out of serious trouble, and this is a chronicle of what can be considered his main adventures. The two best ones concern the school bully and the event used to justify the title.
Brian was the school bully and he made the mistake of running afoul of teacher Mrs. Hartmann, an otherwise kindly woman that had the arms and build of a tough farm woman. When Brian was embarrassing the girls with his answers to questions, Mrs. Hartmann took care of matters by walking up and punching Brian in the head, knocking him to the floor. No more bullying and no more goofing around in class by anybody.
When the author acquired a 22 rifle with ammunition, purchased while under age from the local hardware store, he decided that he needed to test his marksmanship. In his mind, he carefully selected his firing range, with his target on a solid stump. After firing several rounds, he walked to the target to check his accuracy. Finding no hits to the target, he looked more closely, discovering that the bullets had deflected off the stump. To his immediate terror, he discovered bullet holes in the siding of their house.
After determining that his mother had not been hit, he conducted a frantic thought experiment to determine what he could use to patch the holes and leave no trace. The title gives away his rather imaginative solution.
If you were a boy growing up in a similar-sized town in the Midwest during this time frame, you will see much of yourself in the actions of Fromm, even if the exact nature of your adventures were quite different.