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, May 31, 2016

Patty-Cake, Patty-Cake, The Irish have Landed

February 27, 1960 was the last date with Pamela Wilson. The Sunday evening following our breakup I hosted a sub-district meeting of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I was still President of the group at Bethel. There were over 200 attendees.
Way off in other places a transition was coming. A young man named Robert Zimmerman shuffled onto a small stage at The Ten O’clock Scholar coffeehouse in Minneapolis and was introduced as Bob Dylan. He was a nice Middle-class Jewish boy from Duluth and Hibbings. He wouldn’t be moving on to Greenwich Village until 1961, then he'd let a myth of hoboing and train hopping grow up around him and present himself as the new Woody Guthrie.
In November of 1960 a young lady of Mexican descent, who grew up on Staten Island, recorded an album of traditional folk songs for Vanguard Records, the first successful product of her blossoming career. Her name was Joan Baez. (My caricature of Joan Baez isn't very flattering, is it?)
Meanwhile, really far off in Hamburg, Germany a small band was gradually forming itself. They have been playing with some shifting personnel under the name, "The Quarrymen", now they decide to become the Silver Beetles, but shortly changed the spelling to Silver Beatles.

My friend, Staurt Meisel was a sophomore now at Franklin & Marshall College (right, at Franklin & Marshall). He chose to major in Russian Area Studies. He got word in 1960 that his father was dying of cancer and there was no hope. It sent him spiraling down into depression and he admits much of the year “was spent drinking beer, Old Southern Comfort, and Purple Jesus, and driving my car, a light blue 1954 Chevy.  The fog of despair was omni-present, but kept at a tolerable distance by the alcoholic beverages.” (Stuart Meisel, My Story, p. 51)
The young lady I spoke of previously, whose best friend and mother both died around her high school Commencement  graduated from Upper Darby High School and gone on to Peirce Business School. She would receive her diploma in January 1961 with an Associate Degree in Secretarial. While studying at Peirce she got a job at Atlantic Refining. In 1960 she went from the Messenger Pool to a filing position in Central Billing on the 16th floor across the hallway from Sales Accounting.

As for me, I was there on the 16th Floor, too and was still shy around strangers. I was and am a low talker. So was my father for that matter. You couldn’t always catch what he said. You can’t always catch what I say. Almost every day this tall girl working in Central Billing would pass me in the hallway.  She would say hello and I would say hi, but she couldn’t hear me. She came to think I was the most stuck up guy in the world, but despite her opinion she never failed to keep saying hello.

I was working a lot of overtime a-sudden. Sales Accounting’s work had picked up over the winter months, especially the Burner Oil business. I hated doing overtime because it limited my writing time, but the paychecks looked nice.
I used my pay, padded with the extra overtime bounty, to refurnish my bedroom and rid it of the used and mismatched everything I owned. I had been sleeping on the same bed as far back as I could remember, maybe since I crawled out of my crib. It had a pipe-like dark brown metal frame with tan highlights. My other furniture was just a mishmash picked up here and there, mostly very dark faux-wood.
I junked it.

I bought a matching bedroom set of light colored maple. It wasn’t fancy, but had a contemporary design; in other words, it had a clean, but boring 1960 look. There was a single bed with a bookcase headboard, a bureau with drawers, small nightstand and a desk with chair. It cost $400. I must have been flush at the time. The same suite would cost $3,233 today. My grandmother painted my room and I bought a new carpet. (Yeah, my 62 year-old grandmother painted my room. She painted all the rooms in that house. You wanna make something of it?) The photograph is my former bedroom as it looked in 2012. Back to being a mishmash, but that is the bookcase bed I bought way back in 1960.
I wasn’t finished splurging. I installed a new radio with rear speakers in my Ford and bought a stereophonic record player for my room. Wow, it was amazing hearing sound in 3D. The first stereo record album I played was “Bob & Ray’s Stereo Spectacular;” it may have come with the player. It was a 33 1/3 album featuring music framed between Bob & Ray comedy bits. The purpose was to show off the effects of stereo. It was pretty neat. Hearing records in stereo for the first time was like that moment in “The Wizard of Oz” when it goes from black and white to color. It was an Ooooh! Moment.

I was no longer hearing anything from Stuart and hadn’t since he went off to college. Ronald and I wrote to each other regularly. He was finishing up Basic Training at Fort Dix that March. He dropped his tray at lunch and brought the whole mess hall to a stop while he cleaned it up. By April he graduated and got his orders for M.O.S training (Military Occupation Specialties).
He was shipped out from Fort Dix in New Jersey to his next stop in seeing the world, Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He was there for his career training. Within a week he was already facing an unexpected crisis at his new base, toilets.
“I spent a week in processing,” he wrote. “The barracks there were worse than the ones at Fort Dix. The latrines were the worst. No tile showers. Just sheet metal showers. No partitions between the toilets. They were out in the open side by side. Six of them in a row.”
There are some things in life where one does want privacy. I remember the photo of military toilets that was one of the reasons I dreaded the idea of being drafted.
Fortunately for Ronald orientation was over in a week and they moved him to his school barracks. They completed these new facilities only three weeks before placing him there.

“They were 3-story very modern buildings. Our mess hall is a modern paradise. The latrines are huge with very modern convenience (sic). The toilets are completely enclosed and even have a latch on the door.”
Enclosing the toilets was a good thing indeed if the latrines were part of the mess hall that was a “modern paradise”. That takes me back to that Drive-in clip, “Our restrooms are located in the back of the center building. Please join the people chatting and chewing…”
Ronald learned institutions don’t always do what they promise.
“You know this ‘guaranteed choice’ you’re given isn’t so ‘guaranteed’ after all. I wanted business administration but they told me I have 058, which is a school for radio operators.”
Once he got into the training he was glad he had it. He was spending hours listening to Morse code, but unlike some he could take the continuous dot dot dash beeping
He also joined in another aspect of Army life, making the rounds of bars with a couple barrack mates. He found such places as “Wigwam” and “Little Klub” very interesting, but gave no details of why. (These may have been Jazz Clubs in the South Side of Boston.) His bunkmates “Went to Boston this week but [he] didn’t have the guts to go. We already have one kid in our platoon who has V. D.” He followed this with Morse code that spells out “WRINSTHON”, whatever that is. I wonder if he meant, “Write Ron”?
He ended asking me not to let my parents read the letter.
While Ronald was learning his Morse code at Fort Devens, something was brewing in places nobody here ever heard of.
North Vietnam imposed universal military conscription for an indefinite period on its citizens.
At the same time a petition was being send by a group of South Vietnamese to their President, Diem (pictured right), calling for him to reform his corrupt government. In response Diem closed several newspapers and had journalists and intellectuals arrested. And these are the people we're defending.

But so what, as I said nobody here ever heard of these places, who cared? It didn’t concern us. It might have concerned the 900 American Troop stationed there in 1960, however.
That literary agent Scott Meredith was still after me. I gave in and sent him a story called, “Moon Was Cloudy”, which was based on Richard Wilson and his rivalry with the boy I called Bob. Mr. Meredith analyzed the story and sent back advice.

My weak points were a shifting point of view. This is something I had to overcome. My strong points were that I was “a possessor of a lively imagination. [I] know how to write a vivid sentence that brings to life the scene [I‘m] describing, and when it comes to writing dialogue [I] show that [I] have an ear for everyday speech and the ability to set it down.”
He didn’t say anything about lacking vocabulary.
Again I turned down the offer to go with Scott Meredith as my agent. Probably a huge mistaken on my part. He not only might have helped me develop better plot lines in my stories, he might have altered the plot of my life if I had.

May was not shaping up as a lucky month. A girl, Ruth Dickinson, I knew in high school was killed in a head-on collision. Two people I worked with at Atlantic were also involved in accidents. A car hit John Laven from behind. Bill Jung had a head-on in his new 1960 Chevy. There had been a wreck the week before that badly damaging his old car. Neither accident was his fault. Both these men had become good friends. John Laven died about a year ago; I do not know what became of Bill Jung.

Anyway, how did I meet Pat?
She worked on that sixteenth floor, too. She worked on the other side of the hall from Sales Accounting in a different department, the same one the tall girl did. It never crossed my mind to ask that tall girl out even though I passed her almost every day and she always said hello. I don’t remember seeing Pat in the hall that often. Did someone introduce us? I honestly can’t remember, but as surely as Elvis Presley discharged from the Army on March 5, I found the courage to ask her for a date.
On May 24, 1960 I saw her during lunch. I was thinking of asking her to go see the Musical “Gypsy” in New York in June. I had two tickets to that show, but there was an office party at a nightclub coming up on June 3, a closer date, and I quickly asked her to that party, which turned out to be a fortuitous choice, as I'll explain later.
The same Tuesday I asked Pat out during lunch, I dated another girl in the evening. Anne Shantz (pictured right) was her name and I met her at MYF. We went to a skating party that the Nantmeal Church threw that night, where I tried desperately to teach her to skate. Instead, of course, I simply succeeded in pulling us all down and nearly killing us in the bargain  I wish I had a video; it was pretty funny. But videos didn’t exist yet.

I had also been dating one of the young women that worked with me at Atlantic, Arleen Guida.
As nice as Anne and Arleen were, Pat quickly made me forget them.
Pat wasn’t very tall, less than five foot, about the same as Suzy Cannell. She was an Irish lass with dark red hair and blue eyes and cute as a button. I admit I never understood that quotation. How is a button cute? Well, if a button looked like Pat it would be cute.
On June 3 I escorted Pat Gormley to Scilla’s Supper Club in Northeast Philadelphia, located in a building that was a speakeasy back in the prohibition days, but became a legitimate business founded by Gaetano Sciolla when the Twenty-fifth Amendment repealed prohibition in 1933. By 1960, Sciolla’s ranked as one of the big three along with Palumbo’s in South Philadelphia and The Latin Quarter in Cherry Hill, New Jersey of the area night spots.

We went with two couples, Dolores Muller and her boyfriend and Harry Koons and his wife. Harry’s wife was also a redhead named Pat. It was Larry and Pat and Harry and Pat. I ordered the veal cutlet and Pat had the seafood plate. It was a Friday night, so good Catholic that she was she didn’t order meat.
A comedian named Johnny Gilbert hosted the show. He later became quite famous as a television announcer. He's the current, long time voice of th TV game show, Jeopardy.
Dolores was a bit put-off by Gilbert’s jokes because they touched on some bathroom humor.
Here is some of Gilbert’s material from that show:
“This Irishman died and the priest wanted to write an eulogy. You know what an eulogy is? It’s a small animal about so long with a head on both ends. It’s the meanest animal in the world. You know why? Because it has a head on both ends and can’t go to the bathroom.
“The priest asked the widow if her husband was a Moose.”
“Nay, ‘E weren’t s Moose.”
“Well, was he an Elk?”
“Nay, “e weren’t that either.
“Well, was he in the Ku Klux Klan?”
“An’ prey tell, what’s a Ku Klux Klan?”
“It’s a bunch of devils under sheets.”
“Ay, that he was, a devil under the sheets!”
There was a record pantomimest who opened the show, which is the way Jerry Lewis started, by the way. He did “Mambo Italiano” as a big fat Italian woman and then ‘The Old Philosopher”. He finished with a spot on impersonation of Elvis.
After Gilbert, the star came on for the rest of the evening.
The headliner was Connie Frances (pictured left). Connie was a Jersey Girl and was one of the early queens of Rock “n” Roll who put out hit after hit in the late ‘fifties and ‘sixties. Her real name was Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero. Before her big breakthrough she did dubbing for Hollywood movies, being the voice of actresses who couldn't sing very well. She did the singing for Tuesday Weld in “Rock, Rock, Rock”. She made it to the top with a monster hit she released in 1957. The song didn’t go anywhere until January 1, 1958 when it was played on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. It was “Who’s Sorry Now?” By 1960 she had a string of top hits including “Heartaches”, “Stupid Cupid”, “My Happiness”, “Among my Souvenirs” and “Lipstick on your Collar”. In fact, in 1960 she hit Number One on Billboard with “My Heart Has a Mind of its Own”. She was to continue having Top Ten hits through 1962. Her show that night was terrific. Connie could belt out a song with the best of them.

Pat looked lovely that night decked out in a gown like dress, with gloves and a new hairdo. She lived in Mayfair, a section up in northeast Philadelphia. I got lost taking her home. I hit a detour going up the Roosevelt Boulevard and we ended up in Center City, but I eventually got her to her house.
We were quickly a couple going many places together. We went dancing and bowling. She visited my home; I visited hers. Her family was somewhere on a slightly higher economic level than mine. I attended a dinner party at her home and I was nervous the whole time. Everything was so formal. I never saw so much silverware around one place setting. There seemed to be a knife, fork and spoon for every item served. In my family we made due with one each for the meal.  Near my plate was a small round bowl that I was afraid to touch. I didn’t know if it was a clear soup, a short glass of water or a finger bowl.
On June 11, which was my grandmothers 61st birthday, I went out for the evening with Dick Huzzard. I was supposed to be in New York that night. Remember the Broadway Show I had considered inviting Pat to way back in May? I had the two tickets and the show was the big hit “Gypsy”, only problem, Broadway went out on strike for the first time in 41 years.
Pat and I went to Willow Grove Amusement Park on June 25. Actually, it wasn’t too many miles from her home. It was a very popular place at one time known as “Philadelphia’s Fairyland”, but it no longer exists. There is a shopping mall there today, what else? We tripled dated with four in the back seat. I no longer remember who went with us. It was at Willow Grove that I first took hold of her hand as we walked. She said, “It’s about time!” She gave me a gift of cufflinks on my birthday a couple days later. She was the first girl to give me a present. I wrote to Ronald Tipton, saying, “Maybe she likes me?”
Despite my lack of elegance, Pat fell in love with me. There would be no bitten thumbs when my arm encircled her shoulders.

The final days of June were always a busy time in my family. My mom had her 40th birthday and they had their 20th wedding anniversary, plus Father’s Day, and then came my birthday. On June 26 I went swimming with Tommy and Suzy Wilson in the afternoon. Tommy and I went bowling that evening. The next day, my 19th Birthday, it was back to work, where I got 10 cards and a box of candy. At home I received a jacket, shirts, ties, socks, a record and $5.00. On the 28th I went to the movies with Melvin Moyer (pictured left)

Life was floating along and seemingly good, if somewhat uneventful or exciting. But after the fireworks on Independence Day would occur some events that again changed the course of my life.

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