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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sunny Daze


The drive up her lane was lovely, my car oozing through the shadows as the surrounding trees danced in a summer zephyr.  I crossed a bridge over a creek and pulled into  one of the spaces for cars off to the side. I noticed now that they had dammed the left side of the creek to form the swimming pool. When I stepped out of my Ford I heard classical music playing. It seemed to come from the air, not too loud nor too soft. It was one of the few classical pieces I knew upon hearing, Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake".   I looked toward the music.
There was a small patio in front of the house with a large speaker upon it. The tall blond girl was standing there. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit, blue and perfectly formed to her body. Her hair was blowing in the soft breeze. She wasn’t wearing glasses. Her blue eyes appeared to gather in their color from the sky. She looked absolutely incredible. I slowly walked up to her and each step closer brought me nearer the delightful scent of her perfume. It made my head spin. As I reached her she swept back an errant strand of hair and said, "Hi."
I was in love.
We swam in the dam. We floated in inner tubes, splashing at each other like little kids. At one point I swam over behind her and upended her tube, sending her face first into the creek. She popped up looking angry.
“You scratched me,” she said.
“How?”
“On the valve of the tube. Right here.” She pulled the one side of her suit high up her body to show me a small red mark toward the front of her hip just above the thigh   I could see much more than just this minuscule scratch, enough to know she was a natural blond anyway. She gave a little chuckle as she tugged her suit into place and dove away from me.

Her mother came out with a tray of food and called us to eat a lunch. This presented me with a problem. Pretty much from the moment we entered the water, but especially after the brief exposure of the scratch. I was in a state of full arousal. This was bad enough, but I was only attired in a swimsuit and there is very little area to high such a condition in a swimsuit, especially one that is soaking wet and will cling to your body when you make an effort to emerge from the water. This was a conundrum. I couldn't say I preferred to stay in the water and swim because this would be impolite to her mother who had gone to some trouble to make us a meal. I also felt I couldn't simply come up to the porch in full exposure, so to speak.
I swam over to the side of the pool and was able to just reach a towel lying nearby. I took a few moments to dry my hair and face and shoulders as I slowly made my way to the shallow end where I could push myself out of the water. I sat on the stone edge and deliberately dried my back, chest and shoulders. Her mother was urging me to come to the porch. Holding the towel casually in front of my ...um...situation I walked to the table and sat down on a chair, folding the towel over my lap.
I saw her Aunt had come outside with a tray of additional servings. The woman placed it on the table, but the whole time her eyes never left the towel on my lap. She had a wry little smile on her lips as she stepped back from the table and stood looking. I would eventually learn that her aunt was a very bawdy lady.
  I Met mother again and dad for the first time. Her aunt was very liberal, salty and a bit of a kook. She was like the character Auntie Mame with a Baltic North European accent. I could easily imagine her Aunt waving a cigarette about and disclaiming, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" The whole family came off as exotic to me. They were refugees who had made a successful life in America.
Her father was the least talkative of the family. He was a do-er, not a talker. He built the house they lived in all with his own two hands. It was very Avant Gard for that time. It was a two-story, modernistic affair. There were a lot of balconies. It was an interesting and pleasing home. My Aunt Edna had a home built in the 'fifties that was considered quite modern and Avant Gard as well. In fact, "House Beautiful"came to her place and did a photo feature.Today her house is the office of a flagstone dealer and it looks rather plain and ordinary(pictured left). I don't know if the Kebbe house would look ordinary today, for as I have said, I couldn't find it and it may no longer be in existence.
In the back yard behind the Kebbe house sat a single engine airplane. Her father had also built it. He had been an engineer in the old Soviet Union, but I believe Sonja said he was retired . Her parents were definitely older than the average and he seemed older than the mother.
When I left there late that afternoon I was in a daze and already anxious to return.

That girl I wasn’t sure I’d even call became my obsession. We were talking on the phone daily. We were getting together almost as much. She told me I was her first boyfriend, that she hadn't really dated before during all the time of high school. This may have been true. She was one of those quiet girls in school that always fading into the background somehow. But she was articulate and witty. We laughed a lot. We only argued over music, especially dance. She was very much into the classics, while I was more a little of everything. She did like Broadway. What we really disagreed about was the ability of dancers. She was very prejudice toward Soviet dancers, while I argued that American dancers could do anything the Russians could. I did not think those Cossack Kicks were so difficult and sometimes I would go into a kick or two myself. Although I dropped the ambition by my twenties, there had been a time when I had desires to be a dancer. I probably was a very poor one. 
 Her full name was Sonja Katherine Kebbe and it was like a song in my head.

One day she threw a party for some of her friends she made in Philadelphia and invited my friend Ronald and me to attend. There were ten couples at the party, counting Ronald and a long time friend of hers from OJR named Virginia Mourer. She went by the name Ginny. She was a very slim girl with long brown hair.




The Kebbe’s were very liberal, especially her aunt who was somewhere beyond liberal. Her Aunt flitted through the house playing host that night. Not only did she serve trays of food, but also alcoholic beverages. It didn’t faze Sonja’s family that all the guests were eighteen years old and Pennsylvania law disallowed drinking before age 21.Their attitude was, "Let the boys and girls have fun."
Neither Ronald nor I drank any booze. By eight or nine o’clock the other boys were sick in the bathroom or passed out in various corners. Ronald, Ginny, Sonja and I, plus the other girls, sat on the living room floor playing Spin the Bottle. Meanwhile the Aunt passed back and forth offering suggestions for a more romantic mood.
Virginia and Ronald appeared to get along fine. They must have, because they became steadies over the next few months as we did a lot of double dating.

During this time in early summer I was still searching for a job and saw an ad in the Pottstown Mercury classifieds. It said Proctor & Gamble wanted local young men for field marketing. We were to report to the Pottstown YMCA at such and such a time for interviews. I went to the Y and was immediately hired.
The job was temporary, the hiring agent made that abundantly clear.  It was an introductory campaign of a brand new product called "Mr. Clean". Every morning during my employ I went to the Pottstown Train Station at eight in the morning. There waited a large white van with Mr. Clean's likeness and name splashed across its sides. The van took several of us to a section of homes located in Pottstown and dropped us off at different streets. I was the youngest member of this crew. The others were in their early twenties, off from college on summer break. A few of them were traveling employees, while the rest of us were local boys picked up for local deliveries.
I carried, as did we all,  a large satchel over my left arm containing a dozen of so 10-ounce bottles of Mr. Clean. As I walked from house to house, I would pull out a bottle and drop it into a paper envelope. The envelope had a loop at the top. This I hooked over the doorknob of the first house, knocked once, and repeated for the next house and the third and so forth down both sides of the avenue. If someone answered my knock, I just told them it was a free bottle of a new product called Mr. Clean.

The van would drove around the streets and pick me up at the other end of the avenue after I had given out my bottles. It would then drop me at a new street with a new supply of samples. Sometimes the van followed you down a street. It played the Mr. Clean jingle repeatedly through a loudspeaker on its roof, all day long. On one of the streets young children followed behind me attracted by the jingle. Perhaps they thought it was an ice cream truck. One boy of perhaps ten stayed at my side telling dirty jokes, most somehow containing the word "pussy". This was not a very nice section of town. This urchin probably knew more about sex than I did.
We canvassed all Pottstown, Pottsgrove and Stowe. After that they drove us out to small towns in the area such as Boyertown and Red Hill. After two and a half – three weeks our territory was completed and the job done. During the final week the crew chief pulled me aside. He told me they saw I was a hard worker. He offered me a job on the permanent crew. It would have meant traveling across the country in the van. Being only 18 I had to get my parent’s permission. Before the Vietnam War reached it peak of drafting eighteen-year olds, the legal age was 21. You could not do anything if younger than that without your parent’s signatures. On July 1, 1971 the Twenty-Sixth Amendment dropped the legal age to 18. There had been too much outcry about sending people to die who couldn’t vote. The drinking age remained at 21 in most states, since war is so much safer than drinking a beer. Anyway, in 1959 if I wanted to go traipsing about across the country for Procter & Gamble, I needed my parents' approval.
They would not give approval so at the end of the week I was unemployed again. I wonder how different my life would have been if they said yes. I don’t play “if” games though. People usually assume things would have been better if they made different choices. Maybe I would have climbed the ladder to a high position with Proctor & Gamble.

Right!
Or perhaps I would be dead now. It might have been an adventure or a trap. Think of what could happen to an 18-year boy traveling with a bunch of other young men across the nation. Oh sure, I'm sure everything would have been fine and we would all have been in bed by nine at night. Of course, the question might have been, with whom? The only thing we can really say is my life would have been different.
I thoroughly enjoyed the job. I was out in the air everyday walking. That was what I had enjoyed about being a paperboy. Postman must be the greatest job in the world is what I was thinking at that time. Spend your day walking and sticking mail in mailboxes and trading friendly greetings with the people you meet.


During the time I had this Mr. Clean job I bought a record player from Ronald Tipton for $15. I paid him $1.00 down and then the rest in installments. I’m not sure why Ron was selling his record player. It may be he thought he was going to die.
Ron had decided to join the military. He went to 401 South Broad in Philadelphia and took the physical. At the last station of the exam they discovered he had a hernia. He had been born with it. It was not fully developed. They told him the strain of basic could exasperate it. They would only allow him to enlist if he had it fixed.

 Even though we had a number of family celebrations on Sunday, June 21, I spent the afternoon at Sonja's and stayed for dinner.  Meanwhile, Ronald was admitted to Chester County Hospital to have the corrective hernia surgery performed. It was routine that almost took his life.


1 comment:

Jon said...

Just to let you know I'm still reading your memoirs and thoroughly enjoying them.