Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

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

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

So Walk Me Through, Back Through the Fields


After high school most of my classmates went their way and I went mine.
Ray Ayres disappeared from my life and the next I heard anything of him, he was in Seattle. From what I can piece together he was probably serving in the U. S. Navy. Five years later I learned he was a student at West Chester State Teachers College and married.
He had not seemed to have settled down to anything study over these first fifteen years out of school, certainly there was nothing that represented what expectations for him may have been.  His address changed at every reunion (but then so did mine). By 1974 he was a father of a daughter.

Around that same year, one of Ray's sisters became the wife of a man named Coffee. The Coffee family were restauranteurs and that year they purchased the Black Angus.
In the obituary of Mary DeAngelo, who with her husband owned the Black Angus, it says the DeAngelos owned the Inn from 1960 to 1974.  I first ate there with my parents well before 1960.  The Inn was a landmark restaurant most of my life and before me. It began long ago as Mosteler's General Store, then evolved into the Ludwig's Corner Inn and eventually The Black Angus Inn and then perhaps most famously as DeAngelo's Black Angus Inn. Now in 1974 it turned another page as it fell into the hands of the Coffees. 
Ray went there to work for a while and then shortly thereafter the Coffees opened a new restaurant in Birdsboro, The Angus Pub, and Ray was co-owner and manager. The Angus Pub did not stay in business long and when it closed Ray Ayres basically disappeared for a number of years.

Richard Ray Miller contacted me in the fall to go to Philadelphia with him on a job interview. He didn’t get that job and soon after he also disappeared (Photo, l to r: Ray Ayres & Richard Ray Miller).

I was spending a lot of evenings typing away on stories and poems, but I no longer had an outlet. I had written and performed at school, but I was out of school now. There were no more venues taking on my stand-up routine and no dances looking for Gravely & Hearse. There were no mentors about anymore either. Anyone I shared my writing with told me it was nice I liked to write, but I would need a real job if I wanted to make a living.

I was left with a social life that revolved around Ronald Tipton and Richard Wilson. Richard and I were still taking our pleasures in cruising around that summer, looking for girls and dragging the Pottstown strip, but these things were being to pale. Richard was still in high school and would be entering eleventh grade that autumn. I was losing interest in living this teenage lifestyle.
Richard, Tommy Wilson and I were on our way to Reading one afternoon. I wanted to stop at a drugstore in Stowe for something, I forget what. I found my purchase and went to the counter to pay. Richard was waiting in the car. Tommy had come in with me, but went off in his own direction. We got back in the car and on our way. Tommy is pulling items from his shirt, bragging about how he stole this and stole that. I was furious. I told him he ever did something like that again I’d ban him from my car. The darn fool, if he had been caught I would have been suspected of being his shill, distracting the clerk so he could pocket what he wanted. I didn’t like Tommy; he was too sneaky.
Not that Richard couldn’t be as sneaky. One time we, along with his parents, visited his grandparents in Pottstown. During the visit, Richard excused himself and went out for “a walk”. When he came back he was all smiles. Later on the way home he gave me a wink and pointed to the floor. He had stolen a set of hubcaps off of a parked car.
Richard got a revolver somewhere and he hid it in my glove compartment. He didn’t tell me. My father borrowed my car for some reason and he found the gun. That was the angriest my father ever got with me. I thought this time he might hit me. He went on and on about how serious this was. He said if a cop had pulled me over I would have been arrested.  I didn’t know anything about the gun. I was in turn furious at Richard, but he kind of laughed it off. It was all beginning to wear thin.


Ronald and I were looking for jobs. School days were over for us. Our parents told both of us to forget college. I was a nowhere man after graduation. I wasn’t going to college and I didn’t have many resources or skills.What kind of work was I going to find? Jobs had become scarce. The year before the Stock Market dropped into a Bear market. The economy was down. It had begun falling in 1957 and hit its low point in 1958. The Eisenhower Administration did little to boost the economy because of inflation fears and unemployment remained high. For men Ronald and my ages it was at 15.3 percent. For men in their early twenties it was 8.7 percent. 
Jobs were not easy to come by.
I went back to the farms with help from dad.
My father owned his own rig now. The tractor was a Brockway. There was a sign on the front bumper, “A hour late and a dollar short”. The trailer was a flatbed.
In early summer he constructed wood rail sides for the trailer and began hauling tomatoes. He built it sturdy. He didn’t want to repeat what happened to a friend of his. This trucker was hauling tomatoes up a steep hill near Parkesburg when the side gave way and spilled tomatoes across the road, premature ketchup.
Dad was hauling now as a gypsy. A Gypsy Trucker didn't have the same connotation as that  term apparently has today. It didn't mean he was an illegal trucker. It meant he was a freelancer not contacted out to any one trucking firm. He was basically in business for himself. Perhaps the only negative put on the Gypsy drivers was a lot of them weren't card carrying members of the Teamsters. As far as I know my dad was a dues paying Teamster his whole hauling life, although when all was said and done the Teamsters did nothing for him.

Anyway, dad took me up to some independent dispatcher’s office in Lancaster County and I got a job as a truck loader.
It wasn't a complicated job. Took more muscle than brains. You rode with a trucker to a Lancaster County Amish farm. The farmer came up to the truck with a horse drawn wagon stacked with bushel baskets of tomatoes. You, that meaning the trucker and I,  transferred the baskets from wagon to truck, stacking them seven to eight feet high down the thirty-foot length of trailer. It is not hard on the brain, but can be a killer to the back. I was making ten dollars a day.
It was kind of funny when you got to a field, and it was the same at every field you would pull into. You’d no sooner park when the Amish girls would gather nearby and watch you work. There was a similarity about them. Not just their clothing, but in their faces. They seemed happy enough as they watched you labor there in the sun, shirtless with sweat running down you in rivulets. They would look you up and down, shyly smiling and sometimes whispering to each other. Most of them were pretty. Their faces glowed with red cheeks.
My employee only lasted a couple of weeks. Near the end I helped load dad’s truck, my last  load, and rode with him on his run to a Heinz factory. Dad always got Heinz Ketchup. He said he had delivered to several companies and Heinz always got the best tomatoes. I don’t know where this plant was located. I think it was in Pennsylvania, but can’t swear to it. (Photo on right is the old Heinz Ketchup factory in Pittsburgh. This may be where we went.) We could have gone into Ohio. We loaded up in the morning and we arrived at the plant well after dark. He parked behind a few trucks that had beat him there and we slept in the cab. He said if we had not driven to the plant before sleeping we would have found a much longer line in the morning. Getting offloaded would have kept us waiting for hours.

They allowed me to wait in the plant during offloading. I asked where the restroom was. I found it and went in. I never saw a restroom like it before. It was very large. In the center was this large circular fountain. That is what it looked like anyway, but it wasn’t a fountain. It was a wide metal bowl perhaps twelve feet in diameter. (Much like the picture on the left, but many times larger.) In the center was a slender pyramid with water flowing down its sides. Some men were standing around its sides and I realized this was a giant urinal. I walked out determined I could hold it in until our next stop. Nothing had changed on my shy bladder front.
We returned home and dad contracted to haul steel again for some company. Tomato loading season had ended and I was Nowhere Man again. I went back to searching the want ads for work and Ratso Rizzo's Farmer's Market stand for fresh flesh. I think I finally bought my first "Playboy Magazines" that summer.


It was late June and the weather turned warm. I thought about that girl I met after graduation and decided to call her after all. She answered the phone and sounded pleased to hear from me. She told me how to get to her house, which was near Spring City. She lived down a long winding lane off of Stony Run Road. The area was country fifty years ago. It is a continuous line of homes today. I don’t even know if her house still exists. I looked for it in 2012 and could not find it.

She said wear my bathing suit.

1 comment:

WARPed said...

Dang Larry...you've left us hanging!!!

:-)

-Andy