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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Work and Write and Fiddle My Life Away

I began my first adult, full-time job on November 25, 1959. This was the day before Thanksgiving, so after reporting and spending a day being shown my duties, I received a day off to be thankful for finally finding employment. This also meant I went back to work on Friday and then got a full weekend off.
We packed a lot into that weekend as our boyhoods closed out around us. Ronald, Ginny Mowrer joined me and Pamela Wilson at a sock hop in the Berwyn Roller Rink. Yes, as Sonja slipped further away from my grasp, Pam slipped back into it. Sonja’s friend Ginny, though, stayed with Ronald even if Sonja had pulled out of my life for the moment. They would be a duo from now into the New Year, with me joining them for a number of double dates.

On Saturday, Ronald Tipton, George Bird, who after that particular car ride I had grown leery towards, joined with me and Dick Huzzard for a few frames of bowling. Dick pictured right) was a former classmate and was active in the MYF, as I still was. I had been on good terms with him, but never particularly close, yet just like I needed a replacement to slide in for Sonja, I needed someone to slide in and replace Richard Wilson. It was not that Richard and I had a falling out, just we were going in different directions. I was working full time now and he was still in high school. So I sort of traded one Richard for another.

Dick was typical of a lot of people living in that part of our county. He was a farm boy, had been in the Agriculture program, rather than Academic like yours truly. He was treasurer of the Future Farmers of America chapter at OJR as well as a regular member and attendee at MYF. We became regular buddies over the next few months. Oddly enough, or maybe not, I attempted to date his future wife, Louise Dancy.
I had a crush on Louise in high school and on my new job I tried a gimmick to entice her to go out with me. I took a purchasing requisition form and filled it out ordering a date with her.
It didn’t work. My order was never fulfilled.
The day after the Berwyn Roller Rink dance  I was bowling with Ronald, George and Dick again.  Dick was to become a pretty regular companion in 1960 for bowling and such activities.
December started off clear, the temperature at 41 degrees. With the last month of the year my life was moving into a pattern designed by the job dominating the center of it. My workdays were long, a dictate of living so far from the office and being depended on trains for my transportation.
My starting time at Atlantic was 8:30 AM. I had to catch a 6:00 train in order to be on time. I  would wake, dress and head out the door by 5:30. This gave me time to drive to the Royersford Station. The train arrived in Reading Terminal in downtown Philadelphia at 7:40. I then had to detrain and walk three-quarters of a mile to 260 South Broad Street. I’d be at my desk by 7:55.

In the evening I at least didn’t have a time to be home by, but that was a small luxury. I clocked out, literally, of Atlantic at 4:45 PM. We had these large units attached to the wall and on each side were holders for time cards. Each employee had a slot. You pulled your card from one side, pushed it is the time clock until it went clunk, then put the card in your slot to the other side. You clocked in and you clocked out. If you were fifteen minutes late or early on your timecard the company docked you an hour's pay.
It always took time to get an empty elevator car down from the 16th floor at quitting time. There were about eight cars in the bank, but like a zillion people all leaving at once. Those on the  upper floors, 17 through 21, had the advantage and half the time when a bell would ding and a red light (for down) would snap on and the door would open, there would be enough space to squeeze one person of a slender build into the mass before it whizzed on is way.
One trick I employed was to push the up button then jump in a car when a white light lit (for up), but others quickly caught on to that one. After this Whack-a-mole game with the elevators, it was usually close to 5:00 by the time I walked out the front doors to the sidewalk, followed by my reverse three-quarter of a mile walk to the Reading Terminal. I caught a 6:00 train back to Royersford. Trains did not run so often between Philadelphia and Reading, and all whistle-stops in between.  I would be back home by 7:30 each work day evening and mom would have my supper ready.

I did get a lot of novel reading riding the Reading rails back and forth.

Traveling and job demanded better than half my day. If you could’ve looked at my schedule all you saw was work, work work work and work, and then my weekend would become a hot bed of whatever frantic activities I really wanted to indulge in. Most weak evenings I was in my room pecking away at my old Underwood, being creative you know.
On the first Saturday in December, for instance, I went over to the Phoenixville hospital to visit a friend. His name was Harrison Tyson, but everyone called him Buddy.
  He was another person that was part of the group I hung with at OJR. I don’t remember exactly why he was in the hospital anymore, but after the visit I drove to Downingtown to get Ronald. That night I double-dated at some dance with Ronald and Ginny. It was a blind date for me. I was set up with one of Ronald’s cousins, albeit I long forgotten which one.
We got hit with a snowstorm on the next Monday. My dad took me to the station and picked me up that night. The rest of the week was just good old work, except Friday was special. Friday I received my first paycheck, but of course I had to turn the entire proceeds over to Snelling & Snelling for their aid in landing me this job. You talk about the working poor; I was the working broke.
That Saturday I drove south to West Chester, about an hour drive when obeying the speed limits, which I had to because my grandmother was along, probably paying my bill.  What bill, you ask?  The reason for this trip was to see Dr. McClure, my eye doctor, for an exam and new prescription, so that bill.
It must have been fun driving home after getting the exam. Back then the drops (expect a little stinging) they put into your eyes to dilate your pupils took a good while to return to normal. This left you seeing the world as a big blur. We all survived my driving half-blind and that evening I attended a MYF Christmas Party with Dick Huzzard and Lane Keene. Sunday was a day of rest for me. Because of the Saturday Night Christmas Party there was no MYF meeting on Sunday.
Another week, another day to day of trains and work, then on Friday evening I took beautiful Pamela Wilson to the Berwyn Dance. No other couple this time, just the two of us. Saturday I picked up Ronald, then I picked up my new glasses in West Chester. Since I could see better now, we tested the peepers out by Ron and I going to Philadelphia and seeing the latest wide screen epic to come along for the season, “Ben Hur”
Ah, yes, "Ben Hur" was filmed in CinemaScope, a new technique designed to combat the audience gobbling maw of television. Now the world could gaze upon Charlton Heston's pectorals in wide screen as well as glorious Technicolor. Yes, the great contributions to mankind continue.

The next day I was sick. 1960 seemed to be a season of sickness. I took off from work and went to see our current family sawbones, Dr. Mann. He said I had a bad virus, naughty little thing needing a spanking, and he prescribed some fowl tasting medicine to teach that virus a lesson. I don't know what it did to the virus, but it certainly punished me, ugh!
We also got four inches of snow, so I was glad not having to travel into Philly that Monday. I felt better on Tuesday, well enough I went back to work.
My mother came down sick with the virus on Wednesday. Oh, how merry, everybody getting ill for Christmas.
We had a party at work on the 24th, the first of a tradition of Christmas Eve office parties for me. I would have a long line of these affairs in the decades ahead. It was also the first of another tradition, being let out early for the holiday. I actually got home around 1:30 PM. There was none of this phony baloney with Happy Holidays. We were sent off with a hardy Merry Christmas. Come on, Christmas was the reason we had a party and Christmas was the reason we got off early and why we were spending oodles of money every year so let’s not pretend there was any other reason for why we celebrated the season than to have a Merry Christmas.
When I got home I went down to Ronald’s and drove him to Ginny’s so he could give her a present. Once he had performed this tsk and he was safely back home, I returned to my family for Christmas Eve. We opened our gifts at midnight, technically Christmas Day.

This was my favorite time to have Christmas during my working career, on a Friday. Although we had opened our gifts at midnight of the 24th, Christmas Day was still a hectic time. My Uncle Francy and Aunt Doris, Little Francy (my cousin) and some other boy came for the day and supper. I don’t know who the other boy was. Uncle Francy and Aunt Doris always seemed to have some stray kid with them or at their place. I also brought Ronald up home for the day, but he didn’t stay for dinner.
So see, this was the nature of Christmas Day, too full of activity and tension and doing. It falling on Friday was always wonderful because it meant you had the rest of the weekend to just kick back, relax and enjoy what you received.
There was no MYF again that Sunday due to a heavy fog. Despite the fog I did go get Ronald and we went bowling. The fog was very thick as I headed home.
Mom was well enough to go back to work on Monday and I certainly was. A friend of the family named Joe Hill died that day (right is Joseph Hill in 1937). Someone always seems to die just after Christmas. I think they hang on through the holiday to allow the day to be enjoyed and then they just let go.

On Thursday we again got off early and I was home at 1:30. That evening I picked up Ronald, Ginny and some other girl and we went to a party to welcome in the New Year and new decade, and in a way, a new era of my life. It was 1960. (On left, me, Ginny and Ronald.)

I have not spoken too much about my writing, which was generally something I was doing every night after work. By the end of 1959 I written enough pieces, which I kept in a small filing cabinet, to begin gathering like pieces into collection or anthologies, if you please. Some were standalone books such as the manuscript for my play Ya-Ha-Whoey! I had also drawn enough one-panel cartoons for a volume as well.  I titled this Hector’s Hectic Life, even though many had not been drawn with a single character in mind. As I collected them I decided there should be a central personage. This kind of jumped back and forth for dominance between this long-nosed guy and his dog. Maybe his dog was Hector.

 I collected the 26 poems I had read at Owen J. Roberts and the rejected class poem into a volume, Early in the Mourning. I also pulled all the song lyrics written for Ya-Ha-Whoey!” and made a separate volume as a book of poetry that I labeled, Besotted Ballads. Even though he only contributed to one lyric, I did credit Stuart on the cover and frontispiece as “with Stuart R.  Meisel.
Several decades later, Stuart and I did a number of songs together, thus necessitating my adding Volume One and Volume Two to the Besotted Ballads collections.

I had written three short novels since 1957. At first I just kept these separate, but early in 1960 decided they were slim enough volumes to simply combine into one book. One of the novellas was an extensive and expanded reworking of my very first short story back when I was 12. Remember, “It”. I completely restructured that Frankenstein meets Treasure Island fantasy and after flirting with various new titles, Such as “It, From Quicksand Island”, to “Horror of Quicksand Island” to “Dream of Horror”, I settled on just Dream
The other two were Smoke, a science fiction story of a future society controlled by a governing elite, where even sex was only allowed to the upper class. Sex, for all my Pirate Girl Fantasies and obsessiveness never has played a great role in my fiction. However, the driving force for the hero of Smoke was sex as he realized the unfairness of the society in which non-upper class men had their genitalia surgically removed. Woman were not so mutilated because the poorer population of females could serve as sex slaves to the elite men.  The third item was originally called Rodder Road, but then shorted to simply Road. It was a tale about a dead hot rodder’s ghost seeking revenge against a rich entrepreneur he blamed for his fatal accident. I put the three together in a volume I called Smoke Dream Road.
Sorry, but it had nothing to do with drugs.

I had started an apocalyptic novel about the end of the world called Breadth of the Earth when I was 15, but I stopped working on it in 1959. It was a microcosmic view of what would become of the Earth if Revelation played out. Everything centered around a farm family in this rural area. I did near 200 pages, but that was it.
It would be a few more years before I wrote a novel that I actually completed, unless you count Attention Teacher! or Frank March’s School Daze. To be honest, I’m not certain I ever even finished those two opuses.
I certainly had enough short stories by the time I was 18 to create a collection. I kind of wanted to keep the genres together as one set and I had a mixed bag, science fiction, horror, crime, humor and I suppose what could pass as mainstream. In the early part of 1960 I did put together a volume of horror, more or less, called Never-Contented Things! (The title came from a line in a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.)

Of which those butterflies
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again
[Never-contented things!]
from Fairy-Land

I made two momentous decisions around this time or call them gimmicks, if you wish. First, I would never do a collection of works containing a poem or story or essay with the same name as the collection. There was not to ever be a Crypt and Other Stories.
My other desire was never to use the indefinite article as the first word in the title. I have written thousands of pieces since I made my fateful pledge to be a writer at age 12, and I have escaped using the dreaded, “The” in all titles save one. That one was called, “The Ravin’” and since it was making a direct reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Raven”, I had to use the indefinite.
With Sonja quickly fading from the picture, I returned to Pamela Wilson. We picked up dating as winter set in. We went to Sunnybrook Ballroom on double dates with Ronald while he was still a civilian. Although my relationship with Sonja had gone south, Ronald and Ginny Mowrer appeared to be getting along just fine. 

Ronald was very awkward on dates. I would see how he acted around a girl like Ginny and go home thinking he was even shyer than I. He would be in the back seat with Ginny looking as if he didn’t know where to put his hands. He might stiffly put an arm about her. I didn’t think there was any danger of Ginny biting his thumb.
I could see it in her eyes, though, that she really liked him.

One day in the parking lot at Sunnybrook Ronald was talking. He pointed at something in the distance, but just as he stuck his index finger out, Ginny, who had her back to him, turned around. His pointing finger went right into her breast. He turned bright red and began stuttering an apology. She simply accepted it as the accident it was. I again went home thinking I had never seen a guy so backward around girls.

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