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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Painfully Overburdened Days of the Gainfully Unemployed

If you recall, Ronald went into Chester County Hospital (pictured right) for what was called a routine double hernia operation. This was on June 21, one day before I went to Philadelphia and signed up for IBM School. He had the operation on the same day.
Ronald was flat on his back, but expected to be perfectly fine. What could go wrong. Even way back in the ancient times of the 'fifties hernia repairs were pretty common.
While Ron was knocked out of the loop, I was pretty busy during those last two weeks in June, especially since my mother’s car was broke down and I had to run her and my grandmother here and there. For instance, I took my mom out and she bought a shirt for Ronald, which I then took to him in the hospital. I was visiting him nearly every day of his stay. On the 24th, Sonja went with me, then I was back to see him alone on the 25th.
The one day I missed a visit was Friday. During the day I took my mom and grandmother to do the grocery shopping, then in the evening I took Sonja to the Boyd Theater in Philadelphia. I believe they were playing a re-release of Oklahoma!, which was filmed in a process called Cinerama. This was one of a number of innovations Hollywood threw at the public in the late 'fifties in an attempt to blunt the inroads of television. It was a multiscreen operation, that besides being half surrounding the audience, gave the illusion of 3-D. The Boyd was the first and only Philadelphia theater that had this technology. It stood right on the corner of 19th and Chestnut Streets. It has since been torn down. We didn’t get home from the movie until 12:30 AM.

Saturday was my 18th birthday. I celebrated this milestone by taking Sonja with me to visit Ronald in the hospital. Doesn't everyone celebrate their birthday in a hospital ward?  Afterward she and I went out for dinner in the evening.    I realize now days the 18th birthday is a big deal meaning a person has passed from minor to major status and is now an adult. All it meant to me in 1959 was I would have to go into the YMCA and register for the draft. Beyond the responsibility of maybe being called to go shoot someone, in the eyes of the law I was still a child. 
Again on Sunday, between attending Sunday School and MYF, I was off to the hospital for a visit during the afternoon, and then again once more after I got home from IBM classes Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday the 30th, Ronald came home from the hospital, allegedly with his intestines firmly repositioned inside his gut.
Summer settled into a routine of looking for a job, going places with either Sonja, Ronald or Both, attending classes at Florence Utt School and MYF meetings (Yes, I was still president). On Monday, July 13 after I got home from school, I drove straight down to Downingtown to visit Ronald. When I arrived it was to discover he wasn’t there, he was back in the hospital.
Early that morning he awoke with a sticky liquid on his abdomen. He says he thought it was the result of an incredible wet dream. He looked down and saw blood and pus coming out of the wound from the operation. The incision had opened. He pushed a washrag into the gap. His mother called for an ambulance, which took him back to the hospital. They placed him immediately in the contagious ward.
There was a thirteen-year-old boy behind a screen on one side of his bed. I'm sure a screen prevented any spread of contagion. Ronald was kept awake all night by the boy’s moans. He complained to a nurse about this in the morning, asking if anything could be done. She told him he need not worry anymore. The boy had died of meningitis.
He was in there for two weeks. I would go to the hospital to visit, but was not allow into the room where he was. I had to go outside and around to a window by his bed. There I would kneel down on the ground and talk to him through the screened glass. He was complaining about babies crying.

On the 15th my Ford broke down as I was coming home from the train station. Fortunately, my mom had her car back and could pick me up. While my car sat in a garage to which it was ignobly towed, my mother and grandmother took Sonja and I to the Kimberton Carnival that evening.
Over the remainder of the month I continued taking Sonja out or visiting with her every day. Several times we spend the evening at the Kimberton Carnival, sometimes going with my parents and on one occasion going with hers.

 The Kimberton Fair (pictured right) was a big deal in my area, and probably still is.  It was a large affair, an annual event held by the Kimberton Fire Company to raise funds. There were all the usual games of chance you find at fairs as well as carnival rides. On one of the nights that July that I was there with Sonja we was a strange confrontation. We had been having a fine time. Sonja and I had just gotten off the Tilt-a-whirl ride when approached by three guys who had gone to Owen J. Roberts. They had graduated the year before me.
They circled around me, isolating me from Sonja. One of them, jabbing a finger into my chest, accused me of stealing Judy Yeager’s English book. (Pictured left Judy Yeager.) I hadn’t stole anyone’s book and I didn’t like to be falsely accused, and I certainly didn’t like the way they ganged up on me threatening some kind of physical violence. I told them I hadn’t taken Judy’s book. I told them to get out of my way and reached around one of the fellows and grabbed Sonja’s hand. I guess I took them by surprise because they made a space and we walked away. They didn’t bother me after that.
But the accusation has bothered me my entire life. Why would they even think such a thing? I thought about it that night and many times afterward. We never put our English books in our lockers. There were cubbyholes in Mrs. Manser’s room and we simply left our books there from class to class. This did make them vulnerable to theft. The only identification our books had was a number written on the inside of the front cover. Mrs. Manser recorded the number of your volume at the beginning of the year in her role book. At the end of the year we had to turn our English book in to get our marks. If we didn’t we had to pay for the book.
I pictured in my mind taking my book up to turn it in. I checked the number and it was mine written in the front, but it looked a bit odd to me, as if someone had tried to erase it or something. Mrs. Manser kind of gave me an odd look when I handed it to her. I even remember saying, “It’s my number, isn’t it?” So now I was coming up with a theory about why my number looked odd. I think someone stole my English book, then altered the number in Judy Yeager’s and stuck it in my cubby. It made me very angry because I didn’t want Mrs. Manser thinking I might have stolen somebody’s book after she had been so kind to me. I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it is the only explanation that makes sense to me.
If anyone reads this from OJR and knows Judy, please assure her I did not steal her English book.
Despite this potential threat lurking about, we continued going to the Carnival night after night. On the 20th I finally got my Ford back from the repair shop. Besides the repairs I bought new tires and it cost me in total $102.52. You may be envious of that price, but in today’s dollars I paid $842.92. However, as has happened too many time in my life, like I'm under a witches curse, the next day I had to use my dad’s pickup to go to school again. One of the new tires on the Ford was flat.
Shortly after this Sonja and I double dated with a former classmate, one of those four Class Clowns, Nancy Bright and her boyfriend. Obviously Nancy was a lot of fun, Class Clown remember. I don’t recall what her boyfriend’s name was or where we went. I do know Sonja and I made multi-visits to the Kimberton Carnival with varied persons over the period of its run and on one occasion had an unpleasant ending.
Well, perhaps two unpleasant evenings.

We and another couple came to the Tilt-a-Whirl late in the night and the operator wasn’t going to let us ride. It was still a few minutes until closing time, but he was eager to close up his rig. We put up a big fuss and after several minutes of argument he agreed and we scrambled into one of the cars. This was a big mistake. We got our ride all right. The problem was the operator just let it run and run and run. It was beginning to look as if he would never let us off again despite our cries to stop. We were all getting pretty sick in the stomach before he released us from the torture. We rubes learned from that not to start any fuss with a carny.

With Ronald home again from the hospital I was visiting him regularly. Besides a number of social activities, we were sometimes visiting potential employers together. Neither of us was making much progress on the job front, however. I was going everywhere on the map. I went to Burroughs in Paoli and also stopped by the Paoli Hospital for an application only to find the office closed. On the 20th Ronald came to my house. I took him with me to MYF that night and he stayed overnight. The next day we spent in Philadelphia, sometimes being tourist, but generally canvasing for potential hiring notices.  I applied at Honeywell in Pottstown and on the 28th was back to Philadelphia answering an ad for work, which didn’t pan out, but on the 30th I was called to come to Philadelphia for an interview the next week. The next week I was back in Philly for an interview and I also received a telegram from the city about a job. The following week found me filling out an application at the Dopaco Plant in Downingtown. (Dopaco is a folding box manufacturer. Downingtown was known for its paper and box companies in those days. The name was a corruption of DOwningtown PAper COmpany.))

My diploma from Florence Utt wasn’t ushering me into the job of the future with any rapidity. Maybe the future for TAB Operators hadn’t arrived yet. I ran into the usual Catch 22 (an expression that had not yet entered the nation’s vocabulary, the novel wasn’t published until 1961). I was told I either had too much experience or too little. Really, fine, but I did have the highest mark at Florence Utt, I know how to start up the freakin’ equipment. For Pete’s sake! One bank in Philly turned me down because I had school training in the equipment. They wanted to train new hires “their way”.
Then my routine was once again interrupted because Ronald was back in the hospital. Actually, Ronald was in and out of the hospital so much that fall I guess visiting him there was part of my routine. Ronald’s routine hernia operation had turned into a nightmare for him that almost took his life. In this case, He, Sonja, another girl and I had been bowling Saturday evening and he seemed fine, and then Sunday he was admitted back into Chester County Hospital where he would remain for another three weeks.
            I was visiting Sonja every weekend and some weekday evenings as well. There had been no instances of thumb biting. When saying goodnight we were hugging each other pretty close as I kissed her. She began to rub her body up and down against mine. I became extremely aroused to the point of pain. I kept trying to move my lower body in a way she wouldn’t feel “it”. It was becoming very difficult for me to do this as she steadily rubbed up and down. I couldn’t politely disentangle us and the only ideas in my mind were how do I escape. I thought, “Man, this girl doesn’t know what she is doing to me.”
            Years later on relating this to my wife, she laughed and shook her head. My wife thought I was the most sexually naïve guy around when it came to the wiles of other women. 
            “She absolutely did know what she was doing ,” said my wife. “She was dry humping.”
        I suppose this was so, but if we hadn’t been interrupted suddenly by her mother stepping outside there would have been nothing dry about it. Sometimes we keep ourselves pure because we have high morals and great inner strength; sometimes it is because we are just  dumb naïve kids.
On that night I ended up taking Mr. Buckwalter’s advice, “Go behind the barn and take care of it yourself.” Actually, I took his advice a number of times during this period.

In September 1959 Downingtown, Pennsylvania held its Centennial Celebration. The incorporation into a borough occurred in 1859. Thomas Downing (1691-1772) who moved from Bradninch, Devon, England to America sometime before 1718, founded the town. He lived in Concord Township, Pennsylvania until 1732. He was a Welsh Quaker. He was a farmer, miller and merchant. Two of his great great great great grandsons, Herford and Ellsworth Downing married my grand aunts Helen and Clara Wilson.
The town held parades and pie eating contests. There was a Kangaroo Court that arrested men who didn’t grow beards for the event. Hmm, I didn’t have a beard, but was never hauled off to court. Maybe I was too much under age. They threw a Centennial Ball. This was similar to the proms, if a bit less formal. I didn’t have to rent a tux. I wore my gray suit, my only suit. I also wore this silly bowtie commemorating the event. I took Sonja as my date.

In her heels she was nearly my height. She bought a light lavender gown for the occasion. The image that stands out in my mind was not the Ball, but the flying eyewear. Sonja wore contact lens, which were fairly new on the scene in those years. We were dancing cheek to cheek and one of her lens popped out. Contact lens are very small and they bounce. Since they are clear they can be hard to spot. We spend a portion of that dance on our hands and knees. We were crawling about between the other dancers searching for her lens while protecting our fingers from stomping.  We found the lens.

That autumn Sonja enrolled at Peirce Business School (now Peirce College) in Philadelphia. She may even have been a classmate of my future wife. My friend Ronald would eventually go to Peirce as well. She went to classes by train same as I did to Florence Utt Schools. These trips to Philadelphia were to prove fatal to our relationship.

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