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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Easy Street is a Couple Blocks from a Cliff

Lois is standing on a Sassafras River pier in Maryland. This is an attention grabber because the life of a couple 20 year old on Easy Street might not be the most exciting material in the world. But sex sells and this is what they use to do to promote a lot of rather budget-level movies in the 'seventies. They called them Exploitation Films and the object was to get an audience into the theater.
Welcome to my theater.
We were returned from the big city to the back country. We got home from our New York jaunt at 4:00 PM on August 7. Our Lark, a car, not some pet bird,  was still in the garage near Pottstown getting a new radiator and hoses. So on August 8 we were off with Lois’ father to her Uncle Albert’s Sassafras River cabin.

She had graduated from the modest blue one-piece she used to wear on these outings. Now she wore a brazen white Bikini. For me this suit had a nice convenience over her other. It was held together by these metal clasps that were easy to unsnap. It made removal of her suit very simple and quick underwater. We just had to be careful our coverings didn’t drift away with the current while we were “swimming”.
The next day we did nothing, but rest at home, and on the day after that my mom and grandmother delivered our repaired car to us. I drove them back home. We still had just over a week of vacation remaining and on August 11 we motored to Virginia.
We went on a six-day motor trip exploring that state. Virginia's publicity board hadn’t come up with the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan yet, and didn’t until 1969. Over the years they tried a variety of slogans, but nothing caught on until that “Virginia is for Lovers” tag and boy, did that ever catch on!
I saw this trip as a real opportunity to put my movie camera to use a decision I rather regret  today. Technology has rendered 8mm film an antique of the past. My movie camera and projector are gone. I do still have the films I made, somewhere, but no way to see them. Because I had that blasted movie camera I took few still photos. I can get them converted to DVDs, if I can get enough extra money together to afford it and if I can locate them.

I was a member of AAA (still am) and allowed them to map out this trip as they had our Honeymoon. It was a nice service. We went into an AAA office and sat down with one of their agents. She asked us a number of questions about what kind of trip we would like and then after a few days they gave us a packet containing maps, tour books, brochures and a flip-page booklet called a Triptik, which was a detail map and narrative of the proposed trip It is hard to make out here, but each page held a portion of map with a blue line indicating the route.

The Triptik had a some charts inside where you could record stats about your trip or figure the expenses, along with pages of tips on accommodations, what to do in an accident and so forth. Today you go online to the AAA website and create your own tour map and print it out.

AAA sent us traveling through Wilmington and down the length of Delaware. What is Delaware? Okay, I know from my travels there are a number of people who will ask me, "What state is Delaware in? Delaware is a state! Wilmington is the largest city and Dover is the state capitol. In is a small state about the size and shape of Israel. In 1962 I knew it was a state, but these were nothing but names on the map to me. I never dreamed I would end up living in the state.
We continued down the Delmarva Peninsula to Kiptopeke Beach. There we waited in a seemingly endless queue of vehicles  to board a ferry across the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, the bridge-tunnel not yet constructed. It cost me $3.00 for carrying my car. The trip across the bay took over an hour and a half. My car was the last in line to get on board, leaving it inches from the back gate and I kept fretting it would roll off and sink in the bay.

We stayed initially at the Admiralty Motor Hotel in Norfolk. The rate was $12 per night. On the travel down we had lunch at a Howard Johnson’s in Dover, DE. (Howard Johnson's were everywhere in 1962, like McDonald’s are today, only better). Lois had a tuna and egg salad bowl and I had a hot turkey sandwich, cost with tip, $3.70.
We ate dinner in the Admiralty Mayfair Room that evening. Lois had a shish kabob and strawberry parfait. I had the roast turkey dinner (was I gobbling yet) and a chocolate parfait, all for $8.50. We had driven 247.5 miles and used 17.3 gallons of gas. I spent $5.65 on gas and almost as much on tolls at $5.45. Gas was $.32 a gallon, outrageous!

We drove a short distance to Williamsburg and stayed at the Williamsburg Lodge, also $12.00 a night. We had lunch in the Lodge’s Coffee Shop, a club sandwich for Lois and Frankfurters, baked beans and a salad for me. The cost was $2.75.
We took in the historic town with its colonial shops and pageants. That night we attended the Oscar Wilde play, “The Importance of Being Ernest”. Dinner was at the King’s Arms Inn (pictured right). Lois had sliced ham with sweet potatoes, beets, salad, fruit shrub and pecan pie. I feasted on a half chicken, sweet potatoes, beets, salad, fruit shrub and orange sherbet. They served vegetables family style. The cost was a whopping $8.75, the most we spent for a meal the entire trip. But after all, The King’s Arms Inn was the premier restaurant in Williamsburg so one expected prices to be high.

We had lunch at the Lodge Coffee Shop again the next day before heading for our next destination. Lois must have liked their club sandwich for she had another. I had a hamburger, total $2.00.
We made several stops on our way to Richmond that afternoon. We visited Sherwood Forest Plantation, the home of President John Tyler. Landscaper Andrew Jackson Downing (left) designed the grounds. He was quite an influential landscape designer and he designed the White House and Smithsonian grounds. He died a tragically young, 36, when the boiler exploded on the steamer Henry Clay cruising the Hudson River.  I wonder if he was a relative? He probably is. Note the slight craziness in his eyes, that's a sure sign.
Our next stop was the Berkeley Plantation and we upped the count. This was the birthplace and home of two Presidents, Benjamin Harrison and William Henry Harrison. Finally, we explored the Shirley Plantation. There were no Presidents born or living here, but it was the first established plantation in the state. It was founded in 1613, six years after Jamestown and has been owned by the same family ever since. The arrival on the Shirley Plantation has my family arrival in Whiteland beat by 70 years. David Meredith came to America in 1683.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Richmond again paying $12 for the room. We had lunch in the Inn’s La Paree Restaurant. Lois had swordfish, salad, baked potato, tomato juice and orange sherbet. I partook of a pork chop, applesauce, fruit juice, salad and orange sherbet. Dinner was $6.70.
We had lunch in the La Paree the next day as well. Lois went for the La Paree Salad, milk and chocolate fudge ice cream. I got another hamburger, milk and lemon meringue pie. Lunch was $2.85, which won’t even get you one slice of pie anymore.  It will probably buy a glass of milk.
We hit some more Virginia President’s homes that day. First was Ash Lawn, President James Monroe’s home followed by Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s interesting estate. We were driving on the Skyline Drive, the roadway my father helped construct when he was in the CCC.
We went underground at the Luray Caverns and finished up with a visit to a car museum. We stayed at the Mimslyn Inn at Luray for the night, $11.00.
We had dinner in the Mimslyn Inn Dinner Room. Lois had Lobster Tails, Lionized Potatoes, Harvard Beets, milk and peach shortcake. I had filet of haddock, applesauce, Harvard Beets, milk and a chocolate sundae. This set me back $6.00.
We had lunch the next day at the Luray Caverns Coffee Shop. Lois had a Caveman Hamburger, French Fries and milk. I had something called the Dashaway Barbecue, French Fries, juice, lime Jell-O salad and a Pepsi. This was our second most expensive lunch, $3.05. Must be because it was a tourist destination. Man, isn't it surprising we were really round about the belly with all this eating? It those days we always got dessert, too, which we seldom do anymore.
We cut across to the West and spent a little time at The Natural Bridge before ending our  tour of Virginia. We would be back this way a few decades later  and guess what?
The Natural Bridge was still there.

From there we traveled back to Pennsylvania to Gettysburg. We visited the Wax Museum, Hall of Presidents, The Diorama and Fantasyland. That night we spent at the Battlefield Hotel (left), $9.37.
We had dinner at the Gettysburg Howard Johnson’s. Lois had clam chowder, crab cakes, French fries, Cole slaw, an ice cream roll and milk. You may have noticed Lois likes seafood, something I do not. I had roast turkey (obviously I like turkey), mash potatoes, cranberry sauce, peas, an orange drink and fudge cake. Dinner was $5.64.
The next morning we stopped in the Jennie Wade House, the Cyclorama and took a tour of the Battlefield before heading home. We stopped at another Howard Johnson’s for lunch in York, Pennsylvania. We both had Ho-Jo’s and French Fries and Cole slaw. Lois had milk and strawberry ice cream short cake. I had a Coke and a chocolate sundae. Our final meal on the road was the most expense of the lunches at $4.04.

We were on the road six days. We covered 794.1 miles using 37 gallons of gas. My total gas bill for the trip was $11.58. I can’t even get a half-tank full today for that amount. My Lark got just over 21 miles to the gallon.

It sounds as if all we did on this Virginia trip was eat, but we really did go to many attractions. I am sure I took several reels of 8mm film, but until I can afford to have those converted to DVD I will do without any pictures. And there were pictures.
We arrived home at 5:00 on August 16 and the next day I ran those film boxes up to Pottstown for developing, and naturally we stopped at my parents for dinner. I got the developed reels on August 23 and we spent another evening at my parents having our premier showing. By then it was the last Sunday of August and we were back to Pottstown for the Wilson Family Reunion at my Cousin Bob’s. In case you wonder, in this silly picture from that reunion, my father is on the far left and I am second from the right with my arms crossed.

The powers that be over the mailing operations at Atlantic Refining made the final decision to convert to Speedaumat while I was on vacation. This made Ron Paul crotchetier than ever and when I reported back to work he was barely speaking civil to anyone. He grumbled about the new system constantly and the dark smoke from his pipe was thicker and darker making you expect lightning strikes would soon shoot out. I was barely inside the mailroom door when pulled aside by the boss, not just my division boss either, but the head of the Department, a man we seldom saw. He usually was in his private office many floors above us.
Because of Ron Paul’s uncooperative attitude, a decision was made to pull me from the daily work force to help with the conversion. This was a job that should have automatically fallen to him, but his stubborn refusal to cooperate called for a change in plans. Instead the conversion job fell to me because I was considered the most reliable employee. Ron would have to sit down at a Graphotype and actually type plates to fill in for my reassignment. He was certainly not pleased about that.

Ron Paul was not the only person grumbling about their current situation. Since before we went off on vacation Lois had often complained about feeling isolated up atop Mount General Warren. “We’re out in the middle of nowhere,” she would say. “I can’t get out anywhere. There is nowhere to walk to. There’s not even any sidewalks.” It was certainly true that she was totally dependent on me to take her anywhere, unless she wanted to pay for taxi cabs. There was no public transportation between us and Paoli and she had never learned to drive a car.
She didn’t know, but her plight had been heard and my dad went in to Pottstown on the First of September and picked up the forms to apply for a Lerner’s Permit. She didn’t actually get around to filling it out and taking it back into town to get the actual Lerner’s Permit until October 6. In between she had started seeing a doctor every couple weeks. She was having some problems, but could identify exactly what was wrong.
She took her first driving lesson from a private trainer on October 13. My grandmother paid for it. After her lesson she and I joined her father for dinner in Collegeville, probably to celebrate her birthday that was coming up in a couple days. On the 21 she had a two-hour lesson beginning at 9:30 AM and then another lesson on the 27. She took one more lesson on November 3, then went straight to Norristown and took the test. She passed. That was on a Saturday and we joined with my parent's gang at the Spring City Firehouse that night. You know, these were the people from whom Richrd and I used to “borrow” cars.
On October 1, 1962 the Meredith name became headline news. James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi as its first Black student. His name was in the news constantly that fall. As a result of this I had to put up with a lot of tasteless jokes such as “is he the black sheep in your family,” etc. etc.

In late November we began the Speedaumat conversion. It was going to occupy my days for the next six months and then some.
Ronald wrote in December that he had bought his first car, but promptly had an accident. All his saved up money was going to go to pay for the damage. He asked me not to send him a Christmas present that year since he couldn’t reciprocate.

I was reading J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and Dante’s “The Devine Comedy.
As for my own writing, I was finishing up the “Writer’s Digest” Course. I still had a B+ average.
Despite the pickup at work and the Writing Course, I had one of my most productive years so far, composing some poems, but really a fair amount of short stories. Most of these tales still revolved around either fantasy or crime, but there were a couple that were quite different as I began to be dragged toward more insightful stories about human nature by Salinger and certain other writers. I also put together another collection of short fiction, “Acts of the Fathers”

In early December I began writing a novel about teenagers and cars. I was obviously still under the strong  influence of Henry Gregor Felsen, but this was a novel I felt confident I would finish. I had the timeline, plot events all outlined.  There was a trio of boys at the center of the novel. Again I was basing some of my characters on people I had known. Jerry Westfield, a boy obsessed with girls and cars, was patterned after Richard Wilson The other two boys were patterned after myself. I always said Casey Scott was me as I wished I was and Ronald Candle was the me I thought I was. My working title was the name of the main character, Ronald Candle, but eventually I changed this to Come Monday.

At the end of 1962 the future looked clear and promising, if somewhat boring. We didn't realize that soon our world would change - the whole world would change - and sometimes we would wish the boredom would return. We never noticed that Easy Street was a very short avenue ending in broken pavement and rough road.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New York, New York

In August Lois and I managed to get our two-week vacation at the same time. She had been complaining about cabin fever a few weeks into summer and said we needed to get away for a while. I arranged for a three-day excursion to New York City. She was still writing me some of her notes at work, which showed her tendency toward anxiety, especially if we couldn’t hook up for lunch together, such as happened on August 1.
Hi Sweetheart:
Boy did I ever miss you at lunch. I thought I was going to burst into tears when hatchet-face told or rather commanded me to stay until one o’clock. Oh honey, I love you so much. Today was so miserable not having lunch with you.
Well daring I have to close. Only 68 hours till we leave for New York.
I love you, Lois

Sixty-eight hours to go before we would leave for New York. On the 3rd of August we went to my parents for dinner, but more importantly, to leave our car there for servicing. My parents took us up home and at 7:30 the next day we called a taxi to take us to the Paoli train station.  We were off to New York.
We transferred trains at 30th Street Station, a stop before our normal work-a-day stop and  kept hauling North until we pulled into Grand Central Station. we were a bit overwhelmed by the size of that station, but we quickly hailed a cab out front and soon checked in at the Waldorf-Astoria (left in the 1960s).
The Waldorf-Astoria was one of the top ranked hotels anywhere back then. (I think it still is a Five-Star establishment.)  It was at that time also the tallest hotel in the world. (That it isn’t any more.) During our stay President Herbert Hoover was still in residence. He would die two years later at age 90. We never caught so much as a glimpse of him. On the right is Lois on the day we checked in.

The address was 301 Park Avenue, which is between 49th and 50th Streets. Thankfully, the city wasn’t festooned with garish Trump signs yet. It was the Waldorf-Astoria, not the Trump-Astoria and over by Central Park was just plain The Plaza.
Our two-bed room was $20 a night. It must have been one of their bargain rates for we lower-class types. In today’s dollars that would be the equivalent of about $160 a night, really a modest sum for such a lavish address. There is a photo of Lois sitting on one of the beds in our room to the left. That price was a good deal anyway you look at it. You can book through Expedia at a special rate at the Waldorf today for a mere $319 a night. Low-rate room or not, we lived it up during our stay. 
We did the usual tourist things, I suppose. We took a Gray Line Bus Tour to all the highlights. The ones I remember best were a walking tour in the Bowery, especially along what they called Skid Row (pictured right, a certain contrast to Park Avenue) and the elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building. The down trip takes your breath away. With my fear of height, I sort of hung back away from the outer wall of the observation deck.

Probably the most romantic thing we did was take a carriage ride through Central Park in the late evening. No one had fed this horse on Beefaroni, so there was none of that resulting unpleasantness (a little Seinfeld reference there). Walking from the carriage to the hotel so late at night did not bother us. You felt safe trotting through downtown Manhattan even in the wee hours because of the ever-present crowds.
We did not go to a Broadway Show this time, but we did eat well. We searched out several of the well-known eateries such as Mama Leone’s. Back then, if you were a tourist to New York, you had to go to Mama Leone’s.
Mama Leone’s was a mecca, sitting on 44th Street in the heart of the theater district. We entered into an entryway more like a corridor that was crowded with people waiting and the hustle and bustle of passing waiters. All the wait staff was male, dressed better than myself, except for an ankle-length white apron tied about their waists. It took something close to an hour, but we did finally get a table. It was a nice table, I felt, I mean what did I know, it wasn’t anywhere near the kitchen door. It was located pretty much in the center of this fancy dining room. There was a lot of crystal about and statues on pedestals, mostly naked I believe. Three strolling violinist maneuvered between the tables all evening playing Italian love songs, stopping briefly by the tables to serenade each guest.

Our waiter appeared and Lois ordered from the somewhat outsized menu (pictured left). Probably some kind of seafood dish, for she does like her seafood. I don’t. I am a red meat guy. I looked the menu over and decided this one dish sounded good, so I ordered it. I asked for the Chateaubriand. This is a slab of tenderloin cut from the thickest part.
“But, sir,” said the waiter, looking somewhat stricken and perplexed, “that is for two.”
No wonder it was twice as much as anything else.
Feeling just a little bit stupid, I settled for the filet mignon. It was not my final stupid gesture.
When dinner was done the waiter brought the chit. It was for $12.00. Those were lush days, my friend, and I was use to $12 dinners. That was what we often paid at The Black Angus and other restaurants we frequented around Philadelphia. Remember, I already told you that $20 in 1962 had the buying power of $160 today. And without so much as a moment’s hesitation I tossed down a twenty-dollar bill and said, “Keep the change.”
The waiter scooped it up and started to walk away. Lois and I headed for the exit. Suddenly the waiter was trailing behind me bowing and scraping, going, “Oh, thank you, sir, thank you, thank you.” I thought he was going to throw himself down and kiss my feet. I expected the violinists to traipse behind playing, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow!”   My gosh, we hurried our pace to escape this.
In 1962 10% was the expected gratuity. A dollar twenty would have been considered a fair tip. I gave him a 67% tip. I decided it was quite as embarrassing to over tip as to under tip.

We were up reasonably early on August 5. Back then Lois was still working and used to being up and out with the birds, although on days off she tended to sleep late. But that morning we were dressed and exited the Waldorf around 9:30. We went walking along looking for a place we could buy breakfast. Suddenly something caught my eye and I pulled Lois to a stop and pointed. There on the curb was a small newsstand and on the front was a large photograph with one headline beneath the Daily News banner, Marilyn Dead. There was no need for a last name. In the early ‘sixties Marilyn could only mean Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn’s death garnered world-wide coverage, but nothing such events bring about today. Of course, 1962 could be considered as still the early years of Television and there was no so-called social media beyond the telephone; no internet, no Facebook and no Cable TV with its 500 channels of mediocracy. Details of her body being found were given. In the first stages it was reported by some paper as a suicide. She was known as a troubled woman. Other reports gave the cause as an overdose of sleeping pills. No fowl play whatsoever was suspected. Conspiracy theories weren’t as rampant in the early ‘sixties, there were no rash of murder  rumors or sexual liaisons with the Kennedy brothers for the length of a  decade, except some sparsely dissimulated ones from less than credible sources: 1964, The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe by Frank A. Capelli, who claimed it was part of a Communist Plot; 1966, Who Killed Marilyn Monroe by Charles Hamblett and 1968, The Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe by James A. Hudson.
Photographs of the death scene or of her body in the morgue were not quickly and readily available to the public until long after her passing.

It was a different time.

We went to breakfast and probably talked briefly about Monroe, but then we had a trip to New York to finish.