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 29, 2016

Pam, or is it Louise Now, My Heating Oil Ticket Burns For You

The Rock ‘n’ Roll decade slid away overnight into the 1960s. It was a lull before the storm. The lives of my friends and I and the world was about to change. Sonja Kebbe was still in my life, but growing more distant. I was back to dating Pamela Wilson more than Sonja. Ronald and Ginny were still a couple.
 In reality, I was drifting with the current, truly was a nowhere man because I had no particular plans. College was out of the question and so was the military, but that hardly mattered because I had landed a decent job. It wasn't anything I particularly wanted to do, but it paid well. Socially I  appeared not  to be lacking companionship; if anything, my social life had expanded. My only real ambition was to be a writer, but I had no clear idea of how to accomplish this goal.

My writing goal wasn’t even set at a high bar. Becoming a Pulp Fiction hack was as good as anything else as long as my byline was beneath the title. I would write anything to get into print. The problem was how does one go about getting into print. I learned the basic format for submitting manuscripts from articles in The Writer’s Digest. Beyond knowing the general way to layout my pages and type it double-spaced and on one side of the paper, I knew nothing. I just wrote what I wrote and sent it out rather willy-nilly to this or that publisher's address.

Meanwhile, the culture around me was moving on to something new.
Elvis Presley, who was the great symbol of the 1950s, was in the Army stationed in Germany. The number one song of the moment was “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton (pictured left), a Country singer who had a few crossover hits.
However, several new names dominated the Billboard 100 during the year 1959 representing this transitional period after the great Rock 'n' Roll Decade.  Bobby Darin, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Paul Anka all had hits in the top ten and several others scattered down through the top fifty.
Fabian, an artificially created, little-talented singer snatched off a Philadelphia doorstep, was climbing the charts with “Tiger” and “Turn Me Loose”. He would prove be a flash in the pan. (e also apparently was a flash in the flesh as well. For some odd reason there are quite a number of nude photographs of young Mr. Forte on the Internet.)
 Tommy Sands was being plugged for a while as the new Elvis, but he didn’t last long. Elvis didn’t show up on the 1959 Year's Top 100 Billboard Chart until Number 34 with “A Fool Such As I”,  and his music was going away from the raw edge of hard rock that had brought him to fame. The Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson were still hanging in, each charting multiple songs in the lower Top 60, but they were fading.

Perhaps almost unnoticed, laying in wait ready to pounce, down at Number 77 of the Hot 100 list was a group that would be a bellwether of what was to dominate much of popular music in the decade ahead, The Kingston Trio an ivy-league clad trio of modern folksingers. The song was “The Tijuana Jail”. Amazingly, The Kingston Trio is still touring, but not so surprising don't expect to see the original group. Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Guard's replacement, Jon Stewart have all passed away. Only Bob Shane survives, but he is 82 and I'm not sure he gets around as much anymore.

Ronald, Ginny, Pamela and I were still attending dances at Sunnybrook (pictured left. Me, Pamela and Ronald). Sunnybrook, which was the largest ballroom east of the Mississippi at the time we went there, began as a farm with that name, Sunnybrook Farms. A public swimming pool and picnic grove opened on the grounds in 1926. The owners added a dance pavilion that debuted on Memorial Day 1931. At the time we were attending dances there it still featured the Swing Bands from the 1930s and 1940s. It still was booking such acts just a couple years back. Scheduled for the ballroom on March 31, 2012 was The Glenn Miller Orchestra. Today it apparently is using the large ballroom for booking special private affairs, like weddings. It has recently opened a restaurant called Gatsby’s and is featuring entertainment similar to what you find in a number of bars and coffee houses hereabouts.

One of the last dances we attended together featured The Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Ray McKinley, who had been lead drummer in Miller’s Army Air Force Band. Currently a male vocalist named Nick Hilscher leads the Orchestra, who is much too young looking to have ever known the original Glenn Miller. At the time we went, Glenn Miller (pictured right) had been missing since December 1944, presumed killed over France during WWII.  You wonder how many original members are still playing then, over 70 years years later. There is something sad about this continuation of bands from the past. They is static, perpetually playing the same tunes in the same arrangements over and over all these years. There are probably very few of Glenn Miller’s players still alive and none still involved with the orchestra.

In a way 1960 seemed static too as it began. Things had settled into a routine. People like Avalon and Anka were not great musical innovators, so the music scene was in a lull.
There was relative peace in the world.

I was likewise settled in at Atlantic Refining Company. Sales Accounting was on the sixteenth floor. I did not find my job particularly challenging to do. It was certainly much better than starting as a mailboy, sorting correspondence all day standing on your feet, except when you carried the satchels from floor to floor and office-to-office delivering every hour on the hour. The most difficult part of my job was catching an elevator down at quitting time. There were twenty-one floors in the building. Everyone left at the same time and the floors above filled the elevators before they reached mine. The doors would open and perhaps one or two of the 100 waiting could squeeze in. We smarter ones would also push the up button, but there were smart ones on the floor below as well and even the cars going up often opened nearly full.
Sales Accounting had a number of employees. We sat in perfectly lined up rows of desks facing the manager’s office. The manager sat facing us from his private office at the front. His name was James McAllister. We could all see him at his desk behind his glass door, when he was there. He was an avid golfer and often was on the link during the day. He seldom communicated directly with we mere employees. He had a supervisor that relayed all his orders and messages. This was an older man named Townsend. He had thinning white hair and white moustaches. We referred to him as Ha-rumph behind his back. He never began a sentence before first clearing his throat. I don’t really remember the names of the other employees anymore.
I liked my job, but after two months was becoming bored. I had quickly gotten it down to a routine and I was completing my tasks very quickly. Every day I was finding more idle time on my hands and I couldn’t stand not doing something. My assignments were thus. Every hour the mailboys would sweep through and drop a bundle of mail on my desk. I would sort it by employee and deliver it to their in-baskets. Then in the mornings I would receive packets of burner oil tickets. They each had a six-digit number at the top. I sorted them into number order. There was a coding sequence to the numbers that indicated which employee got which tickets. After sorting I distributed the tickets to the proper clerk. I thought the process slow when shown to me at my starting. I developed my own method of sorting, which proved much quicker. This was one of the reasons I had time on my hands.
Sometimes I had to make copies on the Photostat machine. This was my least favorite thing to do. The Photostat was contrary to say the least, and slow. Xerography was just introduced in 1959. Businesses were not widely using it yet. The company that developed that technique became Xerox in 1961.
One of my jobs was to get the clerks supplies when needed. It was a hit or miss proposition. Clerks simply stopped by and said they needed some pens or a certain form and I’d go look in these two cabinets in the center of the room. Often what I needed I wouldn’t find. When I couldn’t find something, I noted it for ordering. Some other clerk ordered monthly, but then just stuffed it into the cabinets where he could find space.
Ha-rumph, Mr. Townsend, had a gruff personality and didn’t like to be bothered, but I went to him anyway. I asked if I could reorganize the supply closets and take over ordering. He ha-rumphed a couple times, but said to go ahead. I completely rearranged the cabinets into what I thought was a logical order. I created an inventory sheet to keep control of the amounts. Now what we needed each month was known with a glance. Even though I now did the ordering I gained time not searching for things not there.
So when I finished my burner tickets, which was sooner every day, I began asking the clerks in the office if I could help them with anything. This way I was learning other jobs and filling my time. I also picked up a few more regular duties because certain clerks had tasks they were more than happy to hand over to somebody else. I didn’t mind. It kept me busy and made the day go faster.
Despite my efficiency, my days were long due to my start-stop times. The train ride took over an hour with all its stops. The Reading didn’t run a lot of trips to Philadelphia. The seven o’clock train didn’t get me into Philadelphia early enough to walk the several blocks to work by 8:30. I had to catch the 6:00 train to be on time at work. I would leave home at 5:30 to drive to the Royersford Station (which I preferred to Pottstown). I wouldn’t get home until after 7:30 in the evening. Of course, in the morning I arrived at my desk a half hour before starting time. I couldn’t clock in, because then they would have to pay overtime, but I wasn’t much for sitting and twiddling my thumbs. I usually started right in on whatever work was available, then at 8:30 went to the big clock and punched in.
I did a lot of reading riding those rails. My tastes were moving into other material beside crime and horror. In July, for instance, the movie “Elmer Gantry” came out. I liked the movie and decided to read the book. I became hooked on Sinclair Lewis. I read through his most famous novels, Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith and I began collecting his books. I have almost every volume he wrote except a couple of his earliest, such as Free Air. Those early ones are hard to come by and I probably couldn’t afford them now if I found them. His themes and style began to influence my own writing.

On January 27, Ronald Tipton entered the Army for basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Stuart Meisel was starting his second semester at Franklin & Marshall. I was working high in the sky in Philadelphia. The old gang was breaking up. On February 1 there was the first lunch counter sit-in by Negroes in Greensboro, North Carolina. The old ways of the United States were on the verge of breaking up as well.
I didn’t hear from Ron until February 20. He had begun the letter on the 14th, but partway through they sounded lights out and he couldn’t get back to his letter until almost a week later. It was a long letter. He had just completed crawling the infiltration course under live ammo. They had issued him his first pass, but he drew K.P. duty and wasn’t able to use it. He looked on the bright side, “since a lot of guys were on pass there weren’t as many there for chow. Still the pots and pans (my particular job that day, the worst you can get) were piled 5 ft. high.” He was expecting to get a full two-week pass in another couple of weeks calling that thought, “Beautiful”.

“I’ll be so glad when I get home, ” he wrote.
Near the end he wrote, “Sorry I didn’t write Virginia. I’ll try to get a letter off sometime this week.”
Ginny had been asking if I had heard anything from Ron.

On March 5 I received another letter from Ron. He began by mentioning a Mike Tine, who he stated later in the letter was his best friend in the Army. They had their rifle training cancelled because it snowed. I guess it never snows during a war so you don’t need to train in it. He said his training would be through after another week.
Ron had a little accident and made a mess in the mess hall. “I spilled my whole tray just as I was sitting down. I completely overturned it. And the way they keep things moving in that mess hall I completely disorganized things. I had to mop it up and got (sic) another tray. Try doing that sometime, it’s embarrassing as hell.”

He said, “I’m pretty sure I wrote to Ginny five weeks ago but no answer. But maybe I’m mistaken or maybe I forgot to mail the letter. Nevertheless, I’ll write her a letter tonight. I miss her.”
I thought this a bit odd. If I was away and had a girl she would have heard from me before anyone and more often. He said he missed her, but couldn’t even remember if he wrote her or not. If he had, she hadn’t got it because she was still asking me about him.
He ended with, “That’s the thing about the Army. The uniforms are nice.” (A reference to our conversation when he switched from the Navy to the Army.) “Write soon. And if you have any nice girlie books don’t be afraid to send them. No, I just (sic) kidding you.”
In February, while Ron was away, Pamela got interested in some boy at school. I was looking around for a new girlfriend. I had my eye on a girl I had graduated with named Louise Dancy. She was a thin girl with long brown hair. I guess she had that waif look because I was very attracted to her. She is the one I tried to get a date by sending her a Requisition Form. It didn’t work, I never heard from her. She later married Dick Huzzard. They are still married and living in Spring City. They had two daughters and a son. Louise became a welder at ICI in Valley Forge.
I tried this same technical on another girl named Louise. Requisition No. 499894, 2/14/60, to supplier Miss Louise Anne Crothers. Quantity ordered:

“One Louise Anne Crothers – Petite and delicate, cute. Wanted for date at Sunnybrook or anything else convenient. Please Rush. Will call and check with fingers crossed.”
Believe it or not this time it worked.
When Ron came home on leave after his Basic Training, Louise and I were dating. Along with Ginny, we all went to Sunnybrook (pictured left, Ginny Mowrer, me and Louise Crothers.). That was probably the last time Ronald and Ginny saw each other.  Ginny married Robert Alexander within the next few years and they are still together. She raised two daughters and a son and then became the Secretary to the Headmaster at the Church Farm School. It’s a small world. That is the private school that was up Rt. 30 from me when I lived in the swamp.
As far as I was concerned, for all intent and purposes, Sonja Kebbe was gone from my life as well. She had her chance with me and choose otherwise. I saw it as too late for her now. She had her chance with me. She became Administrative Secretary to Judge Harold K. Wood in the U. S. Court House in Philadelphia, a position she held for a dozen years. In 1974 she was unemployed. The last I saw of her was probably 1969 and she had gained a lot of weight. She never married. As late as 1984 she was still living in the same house she grew up in. After that she disappeared from the radar. She has shown up recently living in a Montgomery County assisted living home.

Louise Crothers (pictured left) and I didn’t date very long. She eventually married a J. Ronald Trinley and had two daughters. She was more a footnote between more serious relationships. There was another little redhead waiting in the wings.

But all of a sudden, like a spider on the wall during the summer, Sonja flounced back into my life. Perhaps the jaunty lads of Philly were wearing thin. I kept my determined attitude that she and I were finished, of course. Yeah, right.  I was right back in love with her and blind as ever to whether  I was being used or not, I may have simply been a convenient tool for use when no other was handy, and it seemed suddenly there wasn’t some prince in waiting for her anywhere so I guess it was back to the commoner.

Sonja threw several little soirees as she called them. She mostly invited her new friends from Philadelphia. One of those friends was a young man she met on the train, but he hadn’t shown any romantic interest in her.  He was a composer. I met him at one of these affairs and we spent much of the evening talking to each other while Sonja flitted about playing femme fatale with the new crop of young men who arrived.  I told him about my play and that I didn’t write music well. I knew how to read music and I sometimes composed tunes, but with my bad ear it wasn’t easy. I would write the notes on staff paper and pick out the notes on my trumpet. He agreed to write the music to Ya-Ha-Whoey.
His name was Bob Condon and he lived in Valley Forge. He took me to his home and as we went around this twisting driveway I saw sculptures in the yard. His father did them, he said. His dad was a sculptor.
I didn’t give much thought to it then, but it tuned out his father was a fairly well known sculptor named Rudolph Condon, a friend of Jamie Wyeth. (Rudolph Condon also designed hooked rugs and in 1956 “Life” magazine had featured him in a story. (Pictured above, Rudolph Condon in his car and with one of his sculptures. Pictured left below Rudolph Condon with rug and Jamie Wyeth, the artist.) 

Needless to say, Bob had some connections in Valley Forge. He arranged for a place we could work on the music in private. It was a room up in the bell tower of the Washington Memorial Chapel on the Valley Forge Battleground. This appealed to my gothic horror leanings. We climbed a dark, narrow, twisting stairway to this dim room with a piano part way up in the tower. We were the Phantoms of the Chapel.

1 comment:

Ron said...

I love reading your history. What a wonderful legacy you're leaving for your family and friends by putting down in writing for posterity your unique personal history. And thank you for including me. You jog my memory of those long time past.