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 17, 2016

There Has To Be A Morning After

Ronald, Stuart and I attended a Philadelphia Phillies game on May 24, 1959 (photo left, Stuart and I entering the ballpark s taken by Ronald). It was a double header between the Phils and Milwaukee Braves.  I guess we went by bus. The games were in old Shibe Park, called Connie Mack Stadium after 1953, although I believe we still called it Shibe.
Stuart brought his glove, but no fowl balls came up toward our seats. There were some Milwaukee fans sitting in front of us and we had some friendly jibing back and forth. The Phils won the first game and we were gloating, but the Braves took the nightcap. (Right, old Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium.)

This was only a couple weeks before graduation. I am not sure if there were many more times the three of us went anywhere together. We might have gotten together a few more times during that coming summer, but in August 1959 Stuart went off to Franklin & Marshall College and pretty much out of our lives for a long time. (Photo right Stuart and his Pi Lambda Phi brothers. Stuart is the third from the left in the second row.) There were a few intermittent and chance meetings during the 1960s between Stuart and I, especially around Temple University, but for all intent and purposes it would be close to forty years before we really hooked up again.
Stuart said at a reunion Ronald and I had with him in 2011 he remembered watching Twilight Zone at  my home. This was wrong. Twilight Zone didn’t debut on TV until October 2, 1959 and Stuart was gone by then. I think he confused it with “Shock Theater with Roland”, which we did watch together at times. “Shock Theater” began in Philadelphia in 1957.
Roland was a voice actor named John Zacherley (pictured left). The show showed old horror movies. Roland, looking like a skeletal undertaker, introduced the films and appeared at every commercial break with a pithy comment or two. It was very successful in Philadelphia and after a couple of years the host moved to a New York station using his own last name for the same persona.
During the years John Zacherley was on in Philadelphia he had a hit record, “Dinner with Drac”, and recorded an album.

Stuart did write in his autobiography that after watching “Shock Theater” at my place he was scared to death walking home afterward. I probably would have been too. “Shock Theater” didn’t come on until 11:00 at night. It would have been around 1:00 AM when he went home.
Except here again his memory is faulty. “Shock Theater” with Roland debuted on Philadelphia WCAU-TV in October 1957. I moved from Downingtown to Bucktown in June 1956 and although for a while I spent weekends visiting my grandparents at their Washington Avenue home, this ended a few weeks after my Grandfather died in January 1957, well before “Shock Theater” premiered. If he was walking home to Downingtown from my place in Bucktown, no wonder he felt scared. It would have been a 15-mile hike in the dead of night. I don't believe Stuart ever visited me at my home in Bucktown.
Now Ronald and I used to watch and discuss “The Twilight Zone” during the period after we graduated. I remember watching it at least once in his parent’s home on Hopewell Road.
“The Twilight Zone”, like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”,  influenced my own writing. Especially the stories of Charles Beaumont (pictured left), one of Twilight's many writers. I had three of his short story collections, The Hunger and Other StoriesYonder and Night Ride and other Journeys, as well as Remember, Remember, essays about pop culture. Beaumont died at age 38 from a somewhat mysterious wasting disease.

It is funny the crowded memories that flood in about those times, disjointed stuff, yet almost as if some finishing touches had to be put on my boyhood. Little things and silly things and confusing things that happened. For instance a little thing like taking a birthday gift to Iva Darlington in Downingtown. After all these years we were still close enough to exchange gifts. We even still exchanged Christmas presents.
On June 3, which was the day after my Graduation, after spending the afternoon at Ronald Tipton's, I  took him and picked up Tommy Wilson. I am not sure why I did that, because Tommy and I weren’t the friends that Richard and I were. We just went out cruising around through the evening, except I ran out of gas. I guess we found a nearby house and called home and asked my mom or dad to bring us a can of gas. We got home somehow, I just don’t remember how.
Speaking of strange rides. I was driving Ronald and some friends of his here and there during the latter part of May, this included a trip to Rocky Springs Amusement Park on May 30 with Ronald and a boy named George Bird. George was quite prevalent on the various trips we took there for a while. One night after being at the Downingtown Farmer’s Market and taking Ronald to his house, I agreed to take the others home as well. These three were Bill Brookover, a longtime friend of Ronald, Stuart and myself, the aforementioned George Bird and I believe the third boy was a friend of George or Ronald named Ed Cage. (In the photo right, Bill Brookover is on the extreme left. Ed Cage and George Bird are the two on the far right.)
As we were driving the conversation around me drifted off to the subject of sex. I really didn’t  have any experience in the matter, or none I wished to talk about. I wasn't going to share my stolen moments with porn magazines so I could masturbate with these guys.
But out of nowhere, this guy George began speaking about oral sex, although he used more graphic terms. He went on and on about the pleasures of it. Quite honestly this was a subject that never crossed my mind at that point of my life. The further we drove, the more explicit he got and then he began questioning us on who had experienced this form of activity. I was growing more and more uncomfortable the direction this chatter seemed to be headed and was becoming very eager to be rid of these guys. George was suggesting we should try it. Someone urged me to pull off the road,  but I told them it was getting pretty late and I was tired, I just wanted to get them home and go get some sleep. This seemed to dampen their enthusiasm and the car grew silent for most of the rest of the trip.

After that night neither George or Ed popped up in my life again, much to my relief. Ronald remained close friends with Ed for the rest of Ed’s life. Ed died in Rehoboth during January 2015. I have no idea whatever happened to George. Bill Brookover is still an occasional friend of both Ronald, Stuart and myself.
I didn’t follow the conversation very well because it was making me nervous. It was a new viewpoint to me and the suggestion we pull off the road and have oral sex with each other repulsed me. I knew almost nothing about Homosexuality then and  did not realize that the discussion might have certain implications for the future.

Right up to my high school graduation I was dating and flying with Suzy Cannell. On May 29 I took her to the Senior Party at OJR, then on the 30th she was with me and my parents to attend stock car races in Hatfield. On the next Sunday, May 31, I spent the whole afternoon with her before attending the Baccalaureate Services in the evening.
With the completion of Baccalaureate Suzy simply disappeared from my life. Between the Baccalaureate Services and Commencement, she returned to Jon. It wasn’t really going to matter to me, because something was going to happen the night of Commencement that would take my mind off Suzy completely.
After the graduation ceremony at Owen J. Roberts on June 2, I was loitering in the hallway. I saw Mr. Elliott leave school with one of the boys from my class, but had no idea where they were going together. It struck me as odd, to tell the truth. I stood and watched them get in his car and drive off. They both seemed happy, smiling, laughing. Perhaps he was simply driving my classmate home after the ceremony, but I have always wondered.
I was about to leave and go home when Dorothea Lederman and her family walked by me. She stopped and introduced me to her mother and suddenly they invited me to join them for a Commencement Party. It surprised me because I was never really in much with Dorothea, although we were friendly to each other and she was part of the little group I often hung around with.
I followed their car out to the other side of Pottstown to a restaurant on Ridge Road called The Lakeside Inn (now known as the Copperfield Inn at Lakeside). Inside I was brought to a long table with a couple dozen people sitting and I was shown a chair right about the center on one side.
There were two older women, somewhat exotic looking, sitting across from me. There was a blond girl with glasses seated to my right. I knew the girl, but only by her face.
One of the older ladies leaned over the table toward me. “You just graduate?” she asked.
“Den vhat you are do now?” She sounded to me a bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor, some kind of middle-European accent. “You go college?”
“No,” I told her.
The girl to my right cleared her throat and the older lady looked toward her.
“Ah yes,” she said with a small laugh. “You know, of course, my niece?”
I nodded yes, but no name would come to mind. “I’ve seen her around school,” I said.

"She play de piano quite vell, perhaps you have heard her.” Said the Aunt. 
       Yes, that was where I remembered her from. She played the piano in the variety show where Ray and I did The Barber and The Boy sketch. What was her name? She co-wrote the class song., “As We Say, Farewell.”

Twelve long years have passed us by.
In our hearts we hold a sigh.
Of the days of toil and pleasure,
Rewards without a measure
As we say farewell to thee, dear Roberts High.***

I knew she was in my class, and although she was also in the Academic Program we had never been in any of the same classes. Frankly, I had hardly noticed her at school. I knew she was one of the quiet people that faded into the background. She wasn’t one of the popular girls. I had never seen her at anything, except for her occasional piano performances. I wasn’t sure she had even been at the prom, and I would learn she had not. She didn’t have a boyfriend and she had very few dates, if any.
We chatted about school and the future during dinner. The woman with the funny accent was her aunt. The other older woman was her mother and she didn’t say much during the evening. Her family had come to America fleeing the Soviet takeover of Latvia at the beginning and during World War II.

At the end of the evening she gave me her telephone number along with her full name, thankfully, Sonja Katherine Kebbe.  She told me I must come visit, that they had a pool and we could swim. I thanked her. I thanked her Aunt, I’m not sure why. I thanked Mrs. Lederman for inviting me. I probably thanked the waiter on my way out. I tucked Sonja’s number in my wallet and came home. I didn’t give her a second thought and didn’t expect I would call her.

I had all but forgotten Sonja by the next day. June 4 was clear, bright and with a temperature of 82. It proved a perfect day for Downingtown where the Class of 1959 was holding their Commencement in the football stadium This is the group I would have graduated with if I had remained in Downingtown, so obviously I knew a lot of the graduates. Ronald Tipton (pictured left), Stuart Meisel, Bill Brookover and several others I had been good friends with were getting their diplomas. My grandmother, mother and I attended the ceremony. Afterwards I visited with Iva Darlington for a while. She also graduated that afternoon.

Both Owen J. Roberts and Downingtown had closed their chapters on the classes of 1959.

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