Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sex and Death and Sex, and Surviving Babysitting

It was in the summer of 1956 that I learned the full story. There was a common lie told us when we were little when we came all curious and asking where babies came from. We were told the stork brought them. Oh, some were told babies were found under cabbage leaves, but the idea of this big bird flying up and depositing a baby on your doorstep was much more exciting. Of course, I knew quite early on neither this or that was not true. When I upon a time yelled out in public hearing when spying a pregnant woman, “Hey mom, look at that fat lady,” my mom was so embarrassed she saw the necessity of telling me babies came from inside the mother and that woman had a baby inside her.
I was a bit horrified at the notion and some years later I further upset Ronald by informing him of this fact. He did still believe in the stork ruse. However, our problem when we discussed this baby in the belly stuff was how did it get there and how did it get out. That we didn’t know, but on one rainy summer day I was to learn.
It was a weekday, because I was spending my weekends with my grandparents again. No one else was home, though. My father was probably on the road. My mother had gone to Downingtown to visit my grandmother, because I don’t think she started working again yet. I was lounging about the living room because the weather outside wasn’t very nice. I decided to find a book to read.

We had a large secretary desk to the side of one wall in the living room. This desk had a cabinet on top with bookshelves and my mom kept her books there. I opened up the doors and began reading titles. She belonged to some sort of book of the month club, but her taste in literature didn’t match my own and nothing was appealing to me, but then my eye caught the edge of a thin volume peeking out between the hardbacks.

It wasn’t a book really, more a booklet, almost a thick pamphlet. The date of the publication was 1933, which was the year my mom turned 13. I don’t remember the title, but it said something about sex and teenagers and their changing bodies. There was a drawing on the front of a boy and girl standing next to each other. I took it to an easy chair, sat down and read through it.
It was fairly simple and straight forward. There were some line drawing to highlight the text. Some of these showed bisected diagrams of the sexual organs. Once I finished reading I knew how the baby got inside the mother. I knew why my penis reacted the way it did and I knew why this fluid sometimes shot out of it during sleep. I knew now what my mom and dad were doing when I walked into their bedroom a few years earlier and they got upset with me. I even understood my grandfather’s joke about the new women’s bathing suits back when the Bikini was introduced.
Since I was still spending weekends in Downingtown I was getting together with Stuart and Ronald. This may be when I told Ronald the facts of life, as he claims I did. (left Ronald, 1955.)  I know we had a conversation about babies being inside the mothers, but I don’t remember me telling him how they got there, but maybe after I read that booklet I did. At any rate, he says I did and that he was totally shocked by it, expecially at the idea that, “My father pees inside my mother?”

I may have learned the Birds and Bees from that old manual, but it did not cover many things. It was strictly heterosexual functional sex. There was no discussion of positions other than the “Missionary Position”. There was no mention of oral sex or anal sex or sex between same genders. The term "transgender" certainly never came up.
There were a few paragraphs concerning masturbation. The theme of these can be summed up in one short sentence, “You shall not masturbate.” I do not recall if there was a warning you could go blind from this activity or not.

 In the snows of that winter came a little work. I had been without a job since we moved. When I could get there, I was paid to shovel the snow off the porch and around the parking lot at the Flowing Springs Inn.
There were two restaurants on a curve along the Pottstown Pike between Pughtown and Kirkwood. The Flowing Springs Inn was one, The Old Fox Den was the other. The Old Fox Den has been out of business several decades now. Over the years it always seemed one of the other was closed. The Old Fox Den would fold and Flowing Springs would gurgle to life, then Flowing Springs would fall from favor and the Den would reopen. In 1957 the Flowing Springs Inn was in its heyday.

They’re both non-existent now. The Den (left as it now looks) is so hidden by overgrowth you barely notice it. Meanwhile the Flowing Springs  Inn closed its doors and after a couple years open as a restaurant called the Titus Inn. This picture is the way the building looked as the Titus Inn. The enclosed front porch on the Titus Inn was an open one back when it was Flowing Springs. Otherwise the place looks the same. Snow would drift up over that then open porch against the front door. My job was to clear it and then the spaces on the lot for the cars to park. It took some time to do, but they paid well and I needed money to see me from snowstorm to snowstorm. It wasn't exactly an every week occupation.

I ate at the Flowing Springs a couple times, lunch, but I never ate at The Titus Inn. I was never able to figure out what days The Titus were open. Oddly, in this day and age, they didn’t have a website. I only found them in TripAdvisor and they received a very good rating, but it didn’t give hours. It listed them as Spring City. They are not in Spring City by several miles. Another review site listed the place as St. Peters Village. Wrong, nowhere near St. Peters either. Maybe that is why they closed, nobody could find the place. Since Titus Inn closed yet another restaurant opened in that building, Crofts Tavern. Crofts has since closed, too.

I was visiting Downingtown less frequency. Now that I was fifteen my parents could go out without getting me a sitter and I guess they were tired of making that trip to Downingtown every weekend or perhaps it was grandfather had become so ill during the latter months of 1956 he didn’t want me there.
I had mixed feelings about this. I missed the opportunities of visiting Ron or Stuart as often, but I was uncomfortable around my Grandfather. First it was because of his drinking and now because of his sickness. Near the end of 1956 he stopped  his drinking. His doctor told him he had cirrhosis of the liver and had to give up alcohol. He did, cold turkey, but on August 30 an entry was made in my grandmother’s diary, “Francis to Dr. Parke, weight at 183 lbs.” This was followed by a string of entries for the rest of 1956. “Francis to Dr. Parke; weight 173 lbs.” “Francis to Dr. Parke for shot; weight 167 lbs.” “Francis to Dr. Parke; weight 160 lbs.” “Francis to Chester County Hospital, stomach tapped; got 2 qrts. liquid.”

The day after Thanksgiving he came home from work feeling sick. He didn’t return to the Iron Works again until January 7, 1957, a period of around six weeks. His constant visits to Dr. Parke continued right into 1957 and he was getting more and more shots when he went. The hospital visits to pump his stomach increased. They took 8 quarts from him on January 4, 6 quarts on the 21st and another 6 on February 2.
On January 2, my grandmother fell down the steps and was knocked out.  She revived and refused medical care. On the 4th I stayed for the weekend partly to keep an eye on my grandmother. My grandfather spent most of it in bed. He was tired, weak and complaining his stomach hurt. I spend Sunday with Ronald playing records, then went home. I was back at my grandparents on the 18th. I went to the movies with Ronald and then to the Farmers Market.
January 22 was the last day my grandfather ever went to work. He came home not feeling well and his stomach sore.  On the next day, we had no water at home; something broke in the pump. That was on the 23rd. On the 26th I visited my grandparents with my mom and dad. Grandfather wasn’t feeling at all well. The visit was probably to drop off his birthday gift. He turned 57 on January 28.
He went back to Chester County Hospital on February 2 for another stomach tap resulting in 6 quarts of liquid removed. My parents and I visited that day and then went to the Farmers Market. This was the last day I saw my grandfather alive. On February 5 th he went to see Dr. Parke for a final visit. When he came back home he was ill with the chills, a fever and had delirium that evening.

 At 3:15 AM, February 6, 1957, he died in his sleep of cirrhosis of the liver.

There seems something almost fatalistic in this, I suppose. Great Grandfather Millard Brown named my grandfather after his own father, Francis Fizz Brown. Both men were carpenters. Francis Fizz the First built barns. He died from a fall off the roof of a barn he was working on. This happened October 29, 1911 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. The man was 56 years old.
My grandfather once built houses and in his last days built support frames at the Iron Works. He died from alcohol-induced cirrhosis caused by excessive drinking. But a fall caused the heavy drinking. You could say he died as the result of a fall, too. My grandfather was 57 years old by a week when he died.
I remember the funeral. It was out of the Hicks Funeral Home in West Chester. We sat on armless chairs with cushioned backs and seats. When we walked by the casket he looked like a wax figure, not at all as I would remember him. All his life he had been a plump fellow, now he was thin and deflated, wasted away. It was troubling, yet releasing to see his corpse lying there. After all, the man in the coffin had become an abusive drunk once tried to strike me, but before that my grandfather was the surrogate dad who took me fox hunting and let me play shuffleboard bowling. My real grandfather was a man who disappeared from my life six months before this man died.
We sat in the front row during the service. My father leaned over and whispered in my ear, “It’s all right to cry.”
I did.
That may have been the kindest act my father did for me in my childhood.

The funeral procession was fairly long. A lot of people knew “Brownie”, a lot of people had shared his whiskey and chaw of tobacco. He was buried up upon the crest of the hill in The Grove Methodist Cemetery. The day was foggy with rain.
Two and a half months later it was discovered my grandfather had been buried in the wrong lot at The Grove. The body had to be dug up and replanted.

In a reversal of fortune or twist of fate, put it as you would, my grandmother came to live with us instead of the other way around. This meant no more visits to Downingtown at all for weekends. However, since my mother had learned to drive, it meant more alone time for me. They made frequent visits to relatives and friends during the weeks to come as well as shopping trips together.
Sometimes they would take me along on visits (or more likely insist I come along). They went to my Aunt Clara Wilson Downing’s quite often. Aunt Clara had seven children, one boy and six daughters. William was the oldest. Clara’s youngest daughter, Alice, had been one of my babysitters and I had a rapport with her. My next favorite cousin among her offspring was Dorothy. Cousin Dot was the oldest daughter and a free spirit. (Pictured left: Aunt Clara, me, Alice and Dot half hidden at Valley Forge.)

I preferred to stay home alone.
Yes, of course,  the Lady Pirates sometimes returned, but more often it was the Exhibitionist Girl daring me to dig in my father's duffel because my imagination was aided greatly by those pinups in that bag. My fantasies led to different climaxes now. I knew how to masturbate.
I was still pretty na├»ve about the whole sex thing and still didn’t know what a woman looked like below the belt. Discovering that secret was a year away.

I did learn a lot sooner than that not to turn your back on Tommy Wilson, literally.
Richard was coming to my place regularly because my mother and grandmother went out a lot and he would find peace there from his mother’s constant nagging. There were times Tommy and Suzy or just Tommy came with him. Usually this meant his mother made him bring them. It was rare for Tommy and Sue to come to my place without Richard.
I was home alone and taking a bath when someone knocked on the side door. We didn’t get that many visitors and since they knocked on the shed door it was probably not a stranger. My best guess was Richard had come to see if I wanted to do anything. I climbed out of the tub, dried quickly and wrapped the towel around my waist. I looped the ends to make a knot and hurried out to see who was there.

I peeked through the dining room window and saw Tommy and Suzy standing on the steps. I didn’t see any sign of Richard. I went into the shed and let them in. We walked back through the dining room into the living room. I led, Tommy and Suzy trailing. As we entered the living room I said, “Give me a minute to go get dressed.”
Tommy grabbed my towel and yanked it off. I grabbed at it and caught a corner. We were in the middle of the living room playing tug of war with the towel.
He was younger and shorter, but heavier and dug in like a bulldog, slowly pulling my along the floor. I gripped the towel further up and yanked and we both skidded backward further into the living room. It was an epic battle indeed.
Except I had completely forgotten about Suzy. Suddenly I remembered her. I looked at her and she was staring at me, wide-eyed with a strange little smile and it wasn’t at my face.
Tommy completely pulled the towel out of my grip and I dashed into my bedroom. I realized I was getting erect as soon as I saw where that girl was staring. I’m sure she noticed too. I got dressed and nervously came back out. They sat about the living room waiting. Tommy tossed me my towel as soon as I appeared and laughed. Suzy looked over and she was still smiling.  I wondered if this was going to be a problem. I don't need weird smiles overtime she sees me. (Picture left is Suzy and Tommy in our living room.)

When the Wilsons and my Parents went out that New Year’s Eve it wasn’t a one-time thing. They went out every Saturday night with a group of their friends. These weekly affairs provided me with another opportunity to earn some money. I hired out to Big Ray Miller as a babysitter. Big Ray was the same friend of my dad’s who wanted to find those Coatesville toughs and beat them up. He had three little kids. I enjoyed the job. I was still young enough to play games with them. I would read them children stories, but I would embellish these with my own characters and plots, as well as use funny voices. His kids loved me and I never had any problems with them.
I was very strict with their bedtime. It wasn’t just to please their parents that I sent them off to sleep on time. I had discovered, because I was a snoopy-type, that Ray Miller had a stash of Girlie Magazines tucked away in a hassock in the living room. I put those kids to bed, checked on them a couple times to make sure they were asleep and then I would dive into his “hidden” reading material. I had to be careful to control myself since one of the kids could awake and trot out from bed at any time. I couldn't do more than peruse the pictures and get myself all heated up. This left me wound up without release by night’s end.

 Big Ray Miller is leaning in the doorway looking past Elmer Wilson, Richard's father, in the chair, Christmas 1956. It was most likely early enough he was in the state he reached on Saturday night when he got back from the get-togethers. Ray Miller's driving me home from babysitting got rid of any sexual tension I had built up. He replaced it with a new tension, the fear I was going to die. He’d stumble back around 2:30 in the morning, drunk as a skunk, and drive me home. I’m surprised he could find the way to his car let alone my house. It amused me that my parents and their friends went out to a bar every Saturday night, drank until 2:00 AM and then went to church the next morning. We went to a Methodist church that preached staunch teetotalism. It was almost as funny as the Deacon who greeted everyone at the door on Sunday morning reeking of whiskey. I didn't let those amusements hit me until safely home to bed though on a Saturday night. It wasn’t very funny riding with Mr. Miller as he tried to decide which of several lanes was the proper one left of the centerline before choosing the non-existent one. I guess I should say a thank God the roads were pretty empty that time of morning.

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