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, June 4, 2016

Oh, The Many Amusements of Merry Youth

As was becoming quite the regular weekly routine, Lois came home with me on the train at the beginning of September, the second as it was. We had dinner and went to the Exton Drive-in. By this time our visits to the drive-ins had passed any such previous experience for me and definitely did not include any snacking on my thumb. This is not to say we had progressed beyond some very close hugging and a lot of kissing. I was very slow to give up my gentlemanly approach to ladies. (The photo is Lois in the backyard at Bucktown. Behind her was the mowed field and beyond that the hill of forest.)
On Saturday we made one of our frequent outings to Willow Grove Amusement Park. You know, I’m kind of puzzled why we were so attracted to Willow Grove. Maybe it seemed closer between our two homes, but there were several parks around we could have visited. Granted, Lenape Park was small compared to most of these with limited choice of rides, so I can understand skipping it. There was Lakeview Park in Royersford, another relatively small park. (Lenape closed as an amusement park in 1976; Lakeview closed in 1988.)

Still there were larger parks abounding. I had always loved Rocky Springs out in the countryside outside Lancaster. I still remember that one with great fondness, especially the Iron Works picnics,  and consider it one of the best. It was intimate, yet diverse. It closed the first time in 1966 and just sat there for years rotting away, like some spooky movie set. It was reopened by new owners in 1979, but only lasted another four years before being sold off piecemeal at auction. Something very melancholy looking at pictures of the rides of Rocky Springs abandoned and crumbling.
There were the bigger parks that have survived even into the current times, such as Dorney Park in Allentown and Hershey Park in, where else, Hershey aka Chocolate Town. Granted Hershey was a bit of a hike, but my family and Lois had spent a day there on August 21. Whatever our reasoning, we went to Willow Grove a lot in those early years. Willow Grove Park closed in 1975. It was torn down and now there sits, what else, Willow Grove Park Mall. I understand the mall does have an operating Merry-go-round. Big hoorah!
You might say we were amusement park groupies in our younger years, but never on the roller coasters because of my fear of height.
As I write about these amusement parks I grow very happy I was young when I was. We had so much about us to go and enjoy and we weren’t isolated by technolgy. Besides the glut of amusement parks we were surrounded by bowling alleys, drive-in theaters, miniature golf courses, roller rinks and other diversions. It was a golden time to be young.
Even Fast Food hadn't taken foothold yet. There was a variety of diners and independent hamburger joint all over the country, my favorites being Dick Thomas' Brick Oven in Exton and Jimmy John's Pipin' Hot Sandwiches, about 5 miles south of West Chester. There were a few chain restaurants around, but they were not the dominate places like todays franchises. There were Howard Johnsons, especially along the turnpike and here and there were a White Tower Hamburger shack, although I don't remember any of these being near my territory. There were some White Towers in Philadelphia, such as the one pictured at broad and Race Streets. We hadn't become a cookie cutter society yet.
The first places I recall being around that would fall into today's fast food category was Gino's. These 15 cent hamburg
providers began to be seen abut the county and for a while dominated the market. They were started by two former Baltimore Colts players, Alan Ameche and Gino Marchetti, from whom they took the franchise name. There was a third partner, a friend of theirs named Louis Fischer. The chain began in Baltimore in 1957. McDonald's didn't begin really showing up around our area until around 1961. Of course, we are still stuck with McDonald's, but Gino's has long ago disappeared into fast food history and probably been forgotten by most.
I think Gino's teamed up in the early days with Colonel Sanders to peddle his chicken. And actually the next fast food chain that popped into my history came before McDonald's as well, it was called Burger Chef, not Burger King, but Burger Chef.

Somehow in-between amusement park runs we squeezed in another fishing expedition. Once more we set off in the darkness of early morning to depart Indian River Inlet upon a charter. It was pretty much the usual gang of idiots, except this time Lois was aboard.

Beginners luck prevailed and Lois landed the first catch of the day, a pretty sizable tuna.Unfortunately from the moment her prize was securely on deck she came down with a case of seasickness that lasted the rest of the way. Now I had never suffered from motion sickness up to that point, except that time the Tilt-A-Whirl operator wouldn't let us off his infernal machine. Nonetheless, I suppose out of sympathy, I also came down with the green skin and churning innards, wobbling over to sit beside her and try to control what my stomach so badly wished to rid itself of.
There was another neophyte along this trip, Patty Lilly. Way back in the dark ages you may recall seeing Patty and I in a field together. We weren't very old, but we did stay friends through all those years since.
In the OJR Ledger blurb for Paul Miller it mentioned his frequent trips to West Chester. What was in West Chester? Patty Lilly was in West Chester. They are the other couple hoisting fish in the photo above. Take note of how they tower over  us. Were they that much taller? Yes, they were. Keep in mind, I was six foot tall and Lois was 5 foot 10. Eventually Paul and Pat would get married and I guess, raise giant kids.

Ronald did make it home that Labor Day weekend, but I missed him most of the time because we were away here and yon. When he called to announce his arrival, Lois and I were at Willow Grove. The next day, Sunday, the family, including Lois and I went somewhat north and spent the day at Roadside America, a giant train layout, and exploring Crystal Caves. On Labor Day itself I did pick up Ronald, then we went and got Lois and spent the day at my house. Doesn't that sound exciting? 
The next weekend Lois and I visited her Uncle Albert's bungalow in Maryland on the banks of the Sassafras River. Lois looked so demure sitting on the pier in her blue bathing suit. There was no hint of what some of our future outings would be like. There was no sneaky skinny-dipping this time, nothing unto forward...yet.
The most that was going on under the surface as we swam was the nips of these tiny fish. Lois did not find their “kisses” very pleasant at all.

Summer 1960 was coming to a fast end. In September television broadcast the Richard Nixon-John F. Kennedy Debate on the 26th. This was the first time ever a Presidential Debate was broadcast. Nixon, nursing an injured knee and the flu, wore a gray suit and blended into the gray background while Kennedy popped out in his black outfit. Television proved unkind to Nixon. During the affair, John Kennedy looked directly into the camera, which gave the appearance of his talking to the audience in their living room. Nixon, more accustomed to non-televised press conferences and interviews, stared off to the side of the stage at a gathering of live reporters. This sideward glance and indirect gaze gave him a sneaky countenance since it seemed he was afraid to look the camera directly in the eye. People listening to the debate on radio declared Nixon the winner, but those who watched TV said the opposite.

In my life there  was the Sonja-Lois debate and Lois was clearly winning that campaign. I purchased an engagement ring for $125, equivalent to just over $1,000 today. I didn’t consider it a great ring, but it was the best I could afford. I bought it on the 29th, but even though we had a date that night, I wasn’t ready to propose quite yet. And then an accident on the Schuylkill Expressway delayed my drive home from her house for 45 minutes. There were three people killed. I hoped this wasn’t a bad omen.
On September 30, 1960 the Howdy Doody Show did its last broadcast. Talk about another nail in the coffin of my childhood. I use to watch this show every afternoon when I lived at 424 Washington Avenue from the first week we got a TV until well into high school.  For the first time in its long history Clarabelle the silent clown spoke. At the end of the thirty minutes he said, “Goodbye, kids”.

Ronald Tipton completed his training at Fort Devens. They gave him a choice of his permanent assignment based on class ranking. Although he had finished ninth in his class it wasn’t high enough for the plum assignments.
“My recruiter told me that 99% of the assignments in ASA
were overseas. And that is where I wanted to go, but the only overseas assignment I had a choice of was Ankara, Turkey, which isn’t supposed to be too good. Our class also had two allocations to England, but they were chosen right away. All the rest of our allocations were stateside.”
Ronald, who joined the Army to see the world, would serve out his commitment at Fort Meade, Maryland. He was often able to come home for the weekends. He wanted to see foreign shores, but never got off the Eastern coast of the United States.
Bill Brookover (pictured left), our friend from Downingtown, flunked out of college. His father bought him a $2,000 boat that Bill was to pay back when he got a job. For someone such as Ron and I, whose parents told us to forget college, this seemed a waste of an opportunity. It also seemed strange to see someone rewarded for such a failure.
I was not about to waste my opportunity. October 15 was Lois’ birthday.  I took her to dinner at the Black Angus restaurant in Ludwig’s Corner near where I lived. Valley Forge Battlefield was on the route between our homes and as I drove through this historic site I pointed to the glove compartment.
“Do you hear that rattling?” I asked.
She said no.
I said, “Something keeps rattling in the glove department. It’s annoying.”
        I pulled into one of the parking areas along the road. I got  out of the car, walked around to her side and opened the door. “I want to see what’s causing it,” I told her and opened the glove compartment.
I took out the ring box I had placed there, got down on one knee beside the car and asked her to marry me.
She said yes.

The rest of 1960 was anticlimactic. On the Third of November I again took the Atlantic Excursion to New York, the last one I traveled to alone. I saw the Broadway show “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” starring Tammy Grimes. It was a musical based on the life of a survivor of the Titanic sinking and was written by Meredith Willson.
On November 8 a razor thin majority, less than one percent,  elected John F. Kennedy President of the United States.
On December 6 Ronald came home on leave. He made a date with Vivian Beale, a woman he had dated off and on during his high school years, and the four of us spent a night out. I guess all was forgiven. Vivian was Ronald's date for the Downingtown Senior Prom, but he couldn't get a ride that night and he stood her up, he didn't call her or anything.He says this is something he regrets having done to his day.  Ronald went down to Aberdeen, Maryland to Fort Meade the next day. 

I began the countdown to my marriage.

Lois was literally doing a count down. Despite the fact we saw each other every weekend and ate lunch together as often as possible, she wrote me regular love letters on the days we didn’t get together. In most of her missives there would be “only 286 1/2 days” or “190 1/2 days” or “85 1/2 days”.
With the engagement came a time warp. At moments the marriage felt far off and like it would never arrive. Others moments the time rushed by too quickly to get everything done. The events and occurrences became a jumble in the mind.
On November 26, we attended the marriage of Dottie Bender to Jack Walls at the West Chester Methodist Church. Dottie’s parents were longtime friends of my parents.  Her father Joe had served with my dad in the Navy during World War II and I believe Joe helped my dad land his job at Hines Trucking. The Benders had moved to Downingtown around the same time we moved back and for a brief period Dottie was my babysitter. Now that she married she would become one of our social friends after our own marriage.
The next day Lois and I were at Tommy Wilson’s birthday party at the Norco Fire House. I do not know exactly what happened, but Lois apparently felt she did or said something to be embarrassed about. Two days later I received a letter from her typed on Atlantic Refining Letterhead.
I’m sorry if I embarrassed you at the party Sunday night. I was only kidding you, but I know it must have sounded awful. Please forgive me, honey. I know I shouldn’t have been so impulsive and I promise it won’t happen again.
Oh Larry, I love you so much. I promise that I will never ever embarrass you like that again. I feel so bad now but I know that nothing can be done now except to watch myself in the future. Once again let me apologize for my foolish actions. I just hope your folks aren’t too mad at me. I love you.
I wish I knew what in the world she could have done to feel this way. I also wish it was true that such things would not happen again.

These moments of doubt were something deep seated we didn’t realize. She suffered from poor self-image. She spoke of herself as if she was a homely person, but she was really quite good looking. She was 19 and it was incredible how much she looked like her mother at the same age. That is her mother, age 19, on the left and Lois, age 19, on the right.


Ron said...

What? No photos of Thomas's Original (and I don't mean the English muffins. I used to love those times we went to Dick Thomas's and had their French Fries, milk shakes and hamburgers. The best. Coincidentally, many years later, the man who hired me at Girard Bank was named Dick Thomas. No relation even though he did have a home in Honey Brook.
Yet another fabulous retelling of your personal history Lar. I have to read it over again and again because I don't want to miss anything!

Larry Meredith said...


I didn't include any photos of Dick Thomas' or Jimmy John's here because I had included photos of those places in a previous chapter.