Our family had gone through a dog-less stretch of morethan a year because of our unsettled family life with the
war and Dick’s treatment for polio. After getting Dick
settled in down in Georgia, my parents came back north.
Dad went back to work with the phone company, but
he was transferred to New York City. Another move! In
1946, we landed in Montclair, New Jersey.
Dick Walsh (left) with
unidentified girl and Bob
We lived on the one hundred block of Essex Avenue. Itwas a four-bedroom gray colonial with dark gray shutters
and window boxes for flowers. It was the perfect location.
We were just a block away from Edgemont Elementary
School and a short walk to the Watchung Avenue train
station for Dad’s commute into Manhattan.
We were finally in a home that was ours, and we startedto talk about getting another dog. Based on a collection of
family memories, it was thought a dog would do us—and
especially me—some good.
We were the new people in the
neighborhood. It would be several more months before
Dicky got out of the hospital and making new friends in a
new place wasn’t easy.The thought of a new dog sounded great,
but the realitywas that money was very tight.
Dick’s treatment at WarmSprings was very expensive, about
$50 a day. That’s theequivalent of about $600 a day in today’s
economy. Dadwas a proud man and would not accept any money
from the Sister Kenny Fund that provided funding for the treatment
of polio. There was no medical insurance back then either,
so the cost was entirely out of my parents’ pocket. Therewas just no leftover money for nonessential purchases.
Someone suggested picking up a dog at the pound.We gave it a shot and brought home Frisky. Frisky was a
mid-sized mongrel who really did live up to his name. He
was frisky and he loved to run. If he got out of the house
or off his leash, forget it! It took forever to corral him.
One day, he disappeared for hours. Eventually, we foundhim waiting to be discovered under a street sign that read
Essex Avenue in Maplewood. It may be a few towns over
and eight miles away, but my dog could read!
As much as we loved the idea of having a dog back inthe house, the truth is Frisky was a tough dog to love.
His wanderlust became a lot of work, and his behavior
was a liability. I felt especially bad for the trash man.
As if picking up the trash at six o’clock in the
morning wasn’t hard enough already, that poor guy had
to use the can’s lid for a shield whenever Frisky sought to
hem his pants.
In 1947, Dick came home from Warm Springs, Georgia.He brought back a cheerful spirit and warm Southern
drawl that he picked up while completing first grade in
the hospital. I was just so happy to have my best friend
and twin back. I had somebody to join me for The Green
Hornet radio show. We chatted a lot and I brought Dick
up to speed on just about everything he missed while he
I also had a pal to walk to second grade with—
which is really saying something considering how badly
polio had damaged Dick’s legs.
Doctors thought Dick would never be able to walk
again. The fact that he could was really a testament to his
indomitable spirit and sense of humor.He also learned to dance
at Mrs. Stautinger’s Dance Class, to ride a bike, to fight, and
eventually marry and have three children.
Our dog, Frisky, was as happy as he’d ever been. WithDick back in the fold, Frisky probably saw my brother
as another littermate—someone to play with. There’s
just something about dogs and children. Sometimes
that playfulness was a bit much.
Frisky saw no foul in bouncing up to Dick’s
face. With Dick’s disability, that led to some tumbles. We
kids suspected that Frisky might not last.
*Next excerpt, find out what happened to Frisky and how a game of cards brought a new addition to the family.