Fred Roth was killed in May of 1967 in Vietnam.
Freddie Roth was a hard-working kid. It seemed he always had a paper route, and while the rest of the guys in the Larchmont neighborhood played baseball after school, Fred was picking up his papers at the drop box at 96th and East D to start his deliveries.
Freddie and I ran away from school together in the second grade. We had lunch at his house that day -- tuna sandwiches and tomato soup if I remember correctly -- and made our plans. During the afternoon session of school at Larchmont, which then was a collection of portable buildings at 97th and East B streets, he asked to be excused to use the bathroom. A couple minutes later, I raised my hand for the same reason.
We met at the bike rack and made our break! Freddie made it. I got caught.
After a pretty severe scolding from my mom, herself a teacher, she admitted that if she had had our second-grade teacher, Mrs. Abner, she might have run away too.
Fred's mom, who fed us lunch that day, was one of the first daffodil queens in 1934 or '35. She was a nice lady who outlived most of her children.
Fred enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduation. He had finished his first tour in Vietnam and was back in the neighborhood around Christmas time when I was home for Christmas break from UW. He said that he had extended his tour for an additional 6 months to avoid pulling a second 12-month tour at the end of his 4-year enlistment, which was the standard for the Marine Corps at the time. He went back, and was killed in May.
I think about Fred every time I drive by the site of the newspaper drop box at 96th and East D .... wonder if things might have turned out differently if I'd gotten away and he'd been caught?
Rest well, Freddie.