In the sixties, there was a surge of spy topics in books, movies; and in real life, the Cold War. I was fascinated with the subject; religiously watching the popular television series, “Man from U.N.C.L.E” and reading “Harriet the Spy” (the book came out 30+ years before the movie). Although the book was more about childhood problems and emotions, I was mesmerized by Harriet’s “spy” habits and wanted to be just like her. (Just to put this in perspective, I was 10-11 years old at the time.) After finding a pair of old glasses (no glass, just frames) to disguise myself and purchasing a small spiral notebook with my savings, I setup a regular spy route each day with a stop at Malley’s drug store/cafe after school (this was when Malley’s was still embedded in the neighborhood before moving to the strip mall), hanging around the teachers’ breakroom door during the day (remember how cigarette smoke billowed out of there?), and in the evening sitting outside the neighbor’s open window. I wrote diligently in the little notebook about everything I saw and heard, even making a sketch now and then (yes, the photo on the right is a sketch I made of someone in Malley’s Drug).
When did the routine stop? Probably when I turned 13 and entered junior high. My world turned upside down about then. New and bigger school, a whole new set of “problems” and other priorities. But, I look back on my spy career with fondness. It seemed so damned exciting at the time. Watching people, and they didn’t know I was there (I told myself that, anyway /smile/).
Maybe this is why I like to people watch today. Wondering where they are from, what their families are like and if they have secrets. Imagination is a good thing—it keeps us young.