All of the songs on the album, ‘Feeling Fifteen Again’ are based on life experience. Some are nearly literal in their retelling of a personal story – ‘Keep on Rollin’ is a prime example.
When I was young (so many, many years ago) my family was exceptionally poor. During one particularly dire period, my little sister, Sissie, and I would accompany our father to the railroad yards near our house. There, we would scrounge and salvage piles of coal which we could burn in our furnace at home.
We also gathered up feed corn – meant for live-stock – which we took home to hand grind for corn bread. We always had to be on the alert for railroad security who would have arrested us for pilfering. It was Sissie’s job to keep watch while Dad I did the work. (The railroad ‘dicks’ were notorious for beating the trespassers they caught, mercilessly.)
On other days we’d walk the vacant lots and fields on the outskirts of town and gather wild greens (e.g. Swiss chard and lamb’s quarter-otherwise known as ‘pig weed’. My dad never called it that for obvious reasons. (BTW, Queen Anne’s lace is a wildflower in Central Illinois. It’s also called ‘wild carrot’ and is poisonous. )
The St Stan’s refers to St Stanislaus, the Roman Catholic church in the Polish neighborhood of my hometown, Kankakee, Illinois. One Easter, there was a blizzard and we couldn’t make it to Mass at our normal parish. At my father’s insistence, we trudged through the blizzard to St Stan’s to attend Mass and receive Communion; the Eucharist.
My dad would set traps and taught me to rig dead-falls and snares to catch rabbits. I remember that he used to go into the fallow field across the road from our house and hunt pheasants with a bow and arrow as you couldn’t discharge firearms in the city limits. We’d feast on rabbit and pheasant when the hunting and trapping was good. Once, a pheasant, flushed from cover, flew into the side of our old Chevy, killing itself and denting the fender. It became our supper that night.
My mother would use the pheasant feathers to cover pill-box hats and such. Although my dad did fashion little slippers for winter, none of us wanted to wear the rabbit pelts.
As I’ve said, my songs are stories of my life. In a manner of speaking, ‘Feeling Fifteen Again’ is a testimony to the kindness of my friends and family. Without their loving assistance in dire times, I might not have survived. No joke. There were several times in my life when I would have been homeless and starving except for those who loved me.
I dedicated the album to those who ‘gave me life, kept me alive and those who gave me reason to live.’ I should have put that dedication on the fronts-piece of the booklet rather on the end-piece.
Keep on Rolling
You gotta keep on rollin’ – Roll past the break of dawn
You gotta keep on rollin’ – Ain’t no moss on this stone
You gotta keep on rollin’ – roll ‘til the rollin’s done
You gotta keep on rollin’ – Can’t nothing slow us down.
Down by the railroad tracks; scrounging in the switch-yard
Gather up the good feed corn that’s fallen from the box-cars
Find some stoker-coal. Take it to warm our home
Wading in the Queen Ann’s lace; Picking Swiss chard and lamb’s quarter
Daddy used a guitar string; Caught himself a little brown coney.
Sissie cried and would not eat. All she had was cornbread
Trudging through an Easter blizzard, on the way to Mass at St. Stan’s
Gotta take the Eucharist; Or we’re facing sure damnation
Heading home, my daddy told me, ‘Here’s what you’re gonna learn from this.’