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

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Hint of Coming Change



Well, there we were playing house for real and feeling pretty grown up.  Let me tell you, nothing brings you down from thinking you’re all that than locking yourself out of your home and having to call for your mommy. I’m not exactly sure how we managed this feat, but we did. I must not have kept my house key on the same ring as my car key because we came home, got out of the car and discovered me had nothing to unlock the house with. Lois must not have taken her purse with her.
This is kind of humiliating. We went next door to the Lutzes and asked to use the phone. I called home where my mom had our spare key. The whole blasted family drove down with it, mom, dad and grandmom. Thereafter we gave a spare key to the Lutzes. We’d just have to trust them.

There were a couple things I mentioned in my last letter to Ronald I would like to pontificate
upon a bit more. I had told him I bought a movie projector.  I bought a three-lens movie camera in the spring. Not much good to make movies if you don’t have a projector to watch them on. The little reels of 8mm film ran less than ten minutes at a time. I eventually got a splicer to splice some of my takes together. The splicer also helped if a film broke, which was not unusual given it had to run through a complicated track in the projector. 

That track was a constant frustration. It took more time to thread those little spools through to run that it took to watch the result. Sometimes the film’s little guide holes would slip the pins on the feed and the film would tangle or pile up on the floor. Worse yet, sometimes it would catch and the head from the lamp would burn a hole through the celluloid.

   
Ronald frequently came home from Fort Meade. We went swimming at my first cousin Bob Wilson’s place that summer (pictured right with Lois looking over the lake). The family held the annual reunion at Bob Wilson’s. The reunions were every August since 1957. Bob had a large swimming pool up on the hill behind the house, but Ronald and I choose to swim in the lake that lay in a meadow below it. It may be no one was home and we didn’t want to use the pool without permission.
I took my camera along and we took turns filming each other splashing about in the water. Ronald was a slim as ever, but I had put on some weight since being a skinny kid whose ribs always showed.


There was more motive behind buying the projector than just viewing the pathetic little scenes I filmed. You see, I always wanted to own a film library. Now one could buy Hollywood movies for 8mm projectors, but they were far from the big screen version. They cut down the original to a short, choppy collection of key scenes. An hour and a half movie might run twenty minutes on these retailed reels. They were also silent. They had dialogue cards interspersed like the films as they used to do back in the silent era. Still, it was kind of cool. I film library proved rather slim, however; I only bought three such films.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” was hardly the best of that Universal monster franchise,
but I had a fondness for it. Creighton Chaney, billed as Lon Chaney, Jr., who originally created werewolf, Larry Talbot, in “The Wolf Man” again played the character  Boris Karloff had become too big a name by this time, so Bela Lugosi played the monster. Lugosi refused to play the monster in the original Universal “Frankenstein”, objecting to being hidden behind the makeup. His career was on the down slope by 1943 and he couldn’t be as fussy about roles. He didn’t have the ability to give the creature the kind of charisma Boris Karloff brought to the role. This wasn’t the worse for Lugosi. Near the end of his life he was wrestling rubber octopi in Ed Wood flicks.
Continuing down the line of the Universal Monster Franchise, in fact, getting near the end, I
purchased  “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”. This was one of the best Abbott and Costello comedies. I was a fan of the duo. Lugosi got to put on his Dracula Cape again and show his face and Glenn Strange played the monster. Lon Chaney, Jr. continued in his Wolf Man roll and Vincent Price’s voice made a cameo as The Invisible Man. “Frankenstein Versus the Wolf Man” was okay as a silent film. It was mostly grunts and growls anyway. Abbott and Costello suffered in the format. They were most famous for word play a la “Who’s on First” and that doesn’t work in a silent film.
Glenn Strange was a actor in a number of secondary roles in both Hollywood and television.
Before the Abbott and Costello farce he had appeared as the Frankenstein Monster in “House of Frankenstein”. He was a big man, 6 foot 5 and over 225 pounds, so he made a handy foil. He did a lot of TV Westerns in the ‘fifties, most notably playing the Bartender at Miss Kitty’s saloon. He bore a little bid of resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. His real first name was George, George Glenn Strange    

The third film I bought was the cheap 1955 Sci-Fi “Tarantula”, starring John Agar and Leo G.
Carroll. Actually the special effects were quite good for its time and it stayed away from the clichés of a mad scientist or nuclear fallout. (Leo G. Carroll was not really a mad scientist with evil intent at the beginning of this film.) It was Clint Eastwood’s first film roll. He played an uncredited Air Force Pilot.


As an aspiring author I read a great deal more than I watched movies. I read novels and short stories constantly, but I also read biographies of famous writers and I followed certain publications on a monthly basis. The two publications I purchased every time they appeared on the newsstand were “The Writer” and “Writer’s Digest”. Both featured how-to articles on the craft and “Writer’s Digest” also included a section of potential markets. “Writer’s Digest” also ran some contests during the year.


One of the annual contests was for short fiction. In the latter part of 1961, I mailed off a story
and paid the ten-dollar fee. I was certain thousands of people entered and chances of winning were fairly small, but what difference would one more rejection for my collection matter. First prize was a goodly amount of money for the times; it may have been $500, plus the winning entry would be published 

I didn’t win first prize or any money, but I did get Honorable Mention and a free short fiction-writing course. I took the course, which ran the remainder of 1962 and finished with a B+ grade. And like the Art Classes I had taken I did slip in my practice habits at the end. My initial grades were A’s, but in the later months I slipped down to B’s, but unlike the Art School, I did finish and graduate this course.

The tale I entered was a war story, “Soldier, Soldier”.  It was about two soldiers on guard duty overnight, watching our for their sleeping platoon. Their names are “Mac” and “Checker” and they
spend their watch arguing over the value of remaining loyal and not going AWOL, since Checker believes the enemy is going to overrun them in the morning. Here is an excerpt, and I’m sorry, but I did use course language in my fiction where I thought it would be the way people talked.

“What the hell are they?  Indians, ‘Fraid to fight in the dark?” Checker was a short man, twenty-one with green eyes and red hair. He was a clown, always ready with a wise-crack, always ready to duck work. He sat with his back to the wall. A mud-splattered rifle lay across his lap.

“Why?” asked Mac. Mac was tall and gaunt, older, dark-eyed with hair the color of dry grain. He was a good soldier, never complained. He was looking over the wall toward the fringe of haze. He was mentally composing a letter to his wife. He told her the night was similar to the night they met and the night they sat in his car on the hill overlooking the town. It had been quiet and dark then too.  There had been a distance haze, the lights of the houses in the valley shrouded in a light fog. He couldn’t bring himself to tell her there was a difference. He expected those across the field behind the haze to rise up in the morning and kill him. He looked over to Checker.

“ ‘Cause they don’t wanna die in the dark, just like Indians, y’know, don’t wanna die in the night, y’know, cause their souls’d get lose or sum’p’tin’. Hey, Mac?”

“What?’

“What’d’ya think of that, huh? You think if we get killed in the night we’d lose our souls?”

“I don’t know nothin’ about souls.”

“Hell, we ain’t gonna get shot at night anyway. They won’t come tonight. They ain’t come at night since we been here. But the days, man, the days are fuckin’ hell.”

Both fell silent.

Sorry, tain’t gonna tell you what happens. 

A vacancy opened up in Addressograph. Somebody escaped somehow. I believe they left the company to go to collage They promoted a Mailbox out of the mailboxes named Dave Claypoole.  (It is a regret of mine that I never got a photograph of Dave. On the left is one of my sketches of Dave).
He and I hit it off right away and soon became friends. He was the first new friend I had made since marrying and he quickly filled that role of "best friend". All my past "best friends" had essentially disappeared from my life at this point, except for one. I still considered Ronald Tipton my best friend and looked forward to his return from the service, but Ronald was there and Dave was here readily available.
He had a Triumph sports car, it was green, we’d sometimes take rides in it. I found him easy to talk with, which was rare for me with my growing social anxiety.
Dave had gone to Temple University on a football scholarship. He livd in an off-campus dorm  and walked back and forth to classes on those gang-riddled North Philadelphia streets. He lived it up in typical college boy style, partying between classes and engaging in a good bit of beer drinking. One night he left a party in late evening and as he walked up what was then called Columbia Avenue a brilliant idea entered his brain. He could walk hope on top of the parked cars. He climbed up over the trunk of one such car and then began walking across car roofs, hoods, trucks all down the street. He had went a block or so doing this when he saw the four doors of the last car he crossed swing open. Six large Black dudes climbed out and Dave abandoned the car tops for pavement and ran like never before. He must have been very fleet because he escaped.
In one game he got injured seriously enough he couldn't play anymore, so they took away the scholarship.  Without the scholarship he couldn’t afford the tuition and had to drop out. He worked for a while as a meter reader for the Philadelphia Gas Works. As the rookie he was assigned to, let's say, less than the best neighborhoods. He had a lot of interesting stories about homes he visited to read a meter, everything from your expected angry dogs to infestations of fleas to walking on planks across a sea of writhing worms. Now he was going to Temple again, but as a night student. I didn’t even know they had such a thing as evening college.


Ron Paul was celebrating his eleventh year at Atlantic by growing more moody and unpredictable. He would often lean against his desk, puff his ever-present pipe and glare across the room at Dave and I.
He had some resentment against me that apparently seemed from the quality of my work. When Dave arrived he took an immediate dislike toward him for no reason, unless it was Dave's quick friendship with me.  One day Ron was leaning against the a worktable in back of the area blowing out smoke rings and Dave Claypoole was running the front Addressograph Machine while talking to me as he worked. Ron suddenly picked up a platen and threw it across the room just missing Dave’s head by an inch or two. 
A platen was a metal rod that fitted on the print arm of the machine. It was very, very heavy. It was what came down and struck the top of the envelopes when they were on top of the plate, forcing the ink to print the address. If Ron had connected with Dave’s head the thing probably would have killed him or at least done serious head trauma.
There were several things getting under Ron Paul’s skin. We had employee statistics. Each week they issued a report showing per hour rates and accuracy score. I was first all the time. In fact, I was beating the set standards by so much the efficiency department reevaluated our group and raised the standards. Ron Paul was not happy about this. 
He also didn’t care for Dave. I’m not sure why. It may be because Dave was going to school or perhaps it was because he didn’t intimidate Dave. He certainly didn’t like it that Dave and I had become friends. 
The biggest thing getting Ron Paul’s goat was the threat of Speedaumat. The Head of thesystem. We all gathered about one day and listened to a lecture on the advantages of the new technology. The man then set a tray of plates on the machine top and asked Ron Paul to try it out. Ron refused. He was Supervisor and should have been supporting management in this, but instead he was sulking about it. He had hung backbend the gathered group and only half listened to the man’s talk.
Department was considering upgrading the Addressograph machines to a new system called Speedaumat. A representative of Addressograph even had a test machine installed to demonstrate the new 
The representative tried to persuade him to try, but Ron just waved him off. The man asked if anyone wanted to try it and I raised my hand and stepped forward.

Ron Paul may not have realized it at the time, but he jumped the shark that day.
As for me, I looked at my situation and I though, "Life is good". I had no clue that this mix of seemingly unrelated events would somehow alter my life greatly in the next years to come.

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