Tag Archives: Red Ryder BB Gun

Joey Giammalva

Last night Janis and I ran into Beverly Giammalva at a function. She is the widow of a very dear old friend, Joey Giammalva. Joey and I grew up together in Kenner, and we go back as far as I can remember, like when I was around six. I lived on Sixth Street near the corner with Williams Street. Joey lived on the same block as me but facing Minor Street, and just so happens right across the street from my future bride, Janis Cristina.

Me, Manard, Joey 1953Joey, Manard Lagasse, and I were the closest of friends in those days and remained so through high school, even though I went to East Jefferson, and Joey went to De La Salle. We kind of drifted apart after that, simply because we were separated by schools. Both Manard and Joey were two years younger than I was. Joey and I reconnected a bit, when I transferred to the University of Southwest Louisiana, and he was attending there.

As I was talking to Beverly, my emotions were flooded with memories of Joey and me as kids. What came to mind?

For one, his home on Minor (in which Beverly still resides). I can still picture every room. I would show up there on Saturday morning and find Joey watching TV in their den, a smallish room at the back of the house. He had a back porch that was initially only screened, and then Mr. Giammalva added jalousie window glass. We were not allowed in the living room. The sofa was even covered with plastic. No, I’m not making that up. I think they used that room only once a year, Christmas.

And, of course the kitchen.

Mrs. Giammalva (Miss Mary) was a fantastic Italian cook and somewhat tradition bound, because they had the same meal every Sunday at noon: spaghetti and meatballs and fried chicken. I’m not sure, but I don’t think fried chicken is very Italian? Whatever, it was great fried chicken! I must confess that I sometimes managed to be around the Giammalva house about lunch time on Sunday a bit more often that perhaps I should have been, and naturally, they invited me to eat with them.

Mr. Giammalva was an ice peddler for my future wife’s family business, Cristina Ice in Kenner. He delivered ice (some of us still had “ice boxes” then) to homes and businesses in his red, stake-bed, Studebaker truck. I will never forget that truck.

And get this! His helper was none other than Lloyd Price, before he became a famous recording artist. Some of his hits: Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Staggerlee, Personality, and I’m Gonna Get Married. A resident of Kenner who made good.

Mr. Giammalva also was a part-time trapper. He ran a trap line somewhere west of Kenner and brought in muskrat and little animals I think were mink. He treated the skins and hung them to dry in his two-car garage.

I spoke elsewhere of Joey and me having Red Ryder BB guns. Did you know robins were good table fare? I didn’t either, but the enterprising Mr. Giammalva did. Robins migrate and in the fall stopped on the way south in his hackberry tree to feast on the little hackberries, often filling that tree with robins by the hundreds. Mr. G and Joey’s Red Ryder BB gun were waiting for them. Many robins went into his freezer after getting their fill of hackberries. And no, that wasn’t legal. But, hey, it was Kenner in the 1950s.

Joey was a bit chunky when we were young but slimmed down as an adult. He suffered from flat feet, and I mean flat as pancake. We often played with the hose on the summer and Joey’s feet would make flatulence sounds on the wet concrete. Funny what you remember. And that one brought on the tears.

We also had go-carts, and we were often chased by the Kenner Police for running them on the streets of Kenner. I wrote about some of those adventures here and here.

The photo above of (from left to right) me, Manard Lagasse, and Joey was taken by Mrs. Giammalva in Joey’s back yard. He carried that old photo around in his wallet for decades. Finally about twenty years ago, he made 8×10 copies for Manard and me and presented them to us. It hangs in my home office. I am sorry to say that both Manard and Joey are gone now.

I miss them both, and unfortunately, we often don’t realize how much we miss someone until they are gone. If you have friends you love, spend time with them, because they won’t be here forever, and neither will you.

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“You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Anyone who has seen the movie “A Christmas Story” based on a story by Jean Shepherd will recognize that statement as the argument used by everyone in authority when Ralphie (Peter Billingsey) wanted a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. It is a great movie, a classic that I watch every Christmas and enjoy it every time.

A few years after we acquired our Red Ryder BB Guns we upped the anti and acquired Hahn CO2 gas BB pistols styled like a real 1873 Colt Peacemaker.

HahnWow! Not only was it real looking, except for the CO2 cylinder under the barrel, but it shot BBs too! And it was a repeater! Cock the hammer, and the cylinder rotated bringing around a chamber with a fresh BB in line with the barrel! Way cool!

My best friend, Mike (Buck) Roy, and I both had one of these along with genuine-looking buscadero holster rigs. We were in high cotton then!

And headed for trouble.

Buck accompanied my family and me to our summerhouse in Waveland, Mississippi one weekend, and of course, our Hahn Peacemakers made the trip with us.

The house was back off the beach behind the railroad tracks and surrounded by piney woods. It was a veritable heaven for kids with BB guns. Saturday morning Buck and I strapped on our shootin’ irons, loaded them with a fresh CO2 cylinder and filled the magazine with BBs. And we headed for the woods to subdue some rustlers—or something.

We made our way through the woods quick drawing and picking off various varmints who presented themselves as targets of opportunity, tin cans, clumps of dirt, small pools of water, wayward crawfish, birds, etc., and eventually ended up at the railroad tracks.

There was a nice little creek that went under the tracks through a culvert big enough we could walk through only slightly stooped over. Buck positioned himself on one end of the culvert, and I was on the other. And we commenced to have a shootout.

Now, we weren’t shooting at each other but “aiming,” if you can call it that, at the water making splashes like real bullets striking nearby.

This was not really a good idea, and subsequent events proved the truth of that.

Suddenly, Buck quit shooting at me. I peaked down the culvert and only his feet were visible, and he appeared to be lying down.

Uh-oh!

I ran across the tracks and found Buck face down in the dirt. When I approached he rolled over and thumbed the hammer back on his Peacemaker and pointed it at me. “You shot me!”

I thought he was going to shoot me, and maybe he should have. I had hit him in the eyebrow just above his eye! We weren’t sure if it was a direct hit or a ricochet off the water. Either way, I almost shot his eye out!

We made up and decided that game was beyond stupid and probably should be discontinued. As we were walking back to the house, Buck was poking at his wounded eyebrow. “You know, Lane, I think the BB is still in there.”

“Lemme see.” I looked real close while pulling at the wounded area and sure enough, I see copper in the wound! The BB is lodged just under the skin! “Oh crap!”

“What? Is it in there?”

“Yes!”

“What do we do now?”

“What any cowboy would do when his partner has been shot. Dig the bullet out!”

“Are you nuts?”

I probably was, but so was Buck, because he agreed the “bullet” had to come out. Fortunately, I had a small pocketknife, but the blade was too large for this surgical procedure. I used it to sharpen a stick to a point and dug it out with that. I forgot to make Buck bite on a belt to keep him from screaming out in pain. He did, however, limit his cries to a brief string of profanity directed at me.

Bullet out, we had another problem: just how do we explain the “bullet wound” to my dad? We concocted a story that Buck ran into a sharp branch that poked him there. It was, after all, true, except I was directing the sharp branch. MB never noticed nor asked, so we escaped being disarmed.

I still have my Hahn Colt Peacemaker, and Buck still has the scar.

Lane & Buck ca 1963

The picture is of Buck (on the right) and me about five years after the Great RR Gunfight. He was my partner-in-crime for most of the misadventures of my misspent youth.

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Red Ryder BB Guns

Every red-blooded American boy has to have a BB gun, right? Of course! As I recall Joey Giammalva was the first to get one in my little group. I was already something of a gun-nut even though I did not own any but toy guns, but my toy guns were almost real. I had a plastic Thompson Submachine Gun that looked real, I mean really real! I had a cast aluminum M1911A1 .45 auto pistol. The mold was made using a real pistol, so what came out of that mold looked just like a real 1911A1. Wish I still had it!

Red RyderBB guns were another matter. While the Red Ryder Lever Action BB Gun bore only a passing resemblance to the famous 1892 Winchester seen in all Westerns of the day, the fact that it propelled a projectile out of the barrel was sufficient compensation to get over its somewhat lame and unrealistic appearance. Besides, Joey had one, so I had to have one, too. My first request was rejected by my parents. That meant I had to pitch a kid-fit, and they are usually successful, especially if maintained long enough.

They folded. (Parents have a low threshold for kid-fit pain.)

Next day we made a trip to Cavalino’s Hardware, and I came home with my new Red Ryder BB Gun. Joey and I commenced to terrorize the bird population of our neighborhood to the chagrin of bird lovers everywhere. Don’t worry; the birds remained relatively unscathed since we were pretty lousy shots. That, however, would change with time.

That started a trend. Manard Lagasse acquired a BB gun next. We were then a three-some of bird terrorists. How we did not shoot someone’s eye out is something akin to a miracle, but we didn’t, at least not until later—almost—but that is another story.

My bride loves to remind me of how one of us put a BB through her parent’s front window.

And I will deny that to my grave!

Eventually, we mastered aiming our BB guns, which were not terribly accurate. If you could hit a tin can twenty feet away you were doing good. Terminal performance depended largely on what I would call the shotgun effect, albeit delivered one BB at a time. Shoot at something enough times and eventually you will hit it, like a living room window, even if by accident.

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