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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Summertime, New Jobs and Spectres of Ruined Romance

By July 1960, I had been in Sales Accounting going on eight months. This was not a long time by the Atlantic Refining standards of that time.  t was a conservative, bit stuffy, slow-moving institution under the Chairmanship of Henderson Supplee, Jr. That is Supplee on the right below. Its stock price had remained fairly fixed for years and in-house promotions came slowly. But that eight months seemed a long enough time frame to me, and despite adding several duties to my roster, the job was now rather routine and I was growing bored.
Atlantic Refining had a posting system. Every week Personnel put new job openings on all the bulletin boards. Company policy was to promote from within, at least up to a point. (We will discuss that point in a later chapter.) I checked these postings every week and in July I saw a Level 4 opening in Addressograph for a Graphotype Operator, whatever that was for I had no idea what a Graphotype Operator did or what an Addressograph was. I applied anyway and I got the job.
“You need to understand,” the Hiring Clerk told me, “this is a temporary position. The individual currently holding it is in the Army reserves and will be going to his six-month training requirement. If at the end of his training he chooses to return, we must give him his job back.”
“What happens to me?”
“If he comes back to his former position you will be bumped back to your old job. The person who replaced you will be out.”
It seemed worth the risk and I accepted the situation. Sales Accounting hired a young woman to replace me. She tended to divide like an Amoeba, that is, after a month or so on my old job she complained it was more than one clerk could handle and even though I had handled it, which proved her thesis incorrect, the department hired her an assistant. Then not many weeks following they hired an assistant for the assistant. I suppose that made me a job creator.
The Army reservist never returned and I stayed in Addressograph almost four years. In my haste to promote out of Sales Accounting I had made a tactical mistake. I had taken a job in a “service department”.
Nobody told me then, but folks did tell me later when it was too late, that within Headquarters there was a division of labor bias between “clerical departments” and “service departments”. Service departments were anything that provided support to the clerical departments. This would include the printing department, supplies, maintenance, purchasing, mailroom, etc. With the exception of mailboys and messenger girls in the mailroom, which was the entry point for almost everybody, those in a service department had scant opportunity for advancement outside their own department. Service department employees were in dead-end jobs, for the most part. They were the General Course people of the corporation, whereas the clerical staff was the Commercial Course People. I had just chosen to enter Purgatory or maybe just Limbo.
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” premiered in August and almost ruined the shower business. Norman Bates wasn’t the only psycho around. My immediate supervisor in Addressograph was an odd dude himself, not that he was going about killing anyone; although, he came quite close one day.
He was very skinny with a burr haircut and a face like Arnold Stang. He wore glasses and almost always had a pipe between his lips (you could smoke in offices in those days). He had two thumbs on his one hand. The thumbs each curved inward and joined at the tip. He had been Supervisor in Addressograph for over a decade, the service department curse. (For those not familiar with Arnold Stang, he was a comic character actor on radio and television in the 1940s and 1950s. He was quite prevalent, usually playing a cocky, but inept nebbish. That is his picture on the right and he bore a striking resemblance to my Addressograph supervisor.)
The Supervisors name was Ron Paul (not the perennial presidential candidate) and he was none too stable. He was as touchy as nitroglycerin.

Speaking of explosive situations, around this same time the Ghost of Romances Past reappeared. Sonja Kebbe got in touch with me to announce she and Bob were breaking up. She claimed she was going with another Bob, but he was only a minor distraction. He didn’t live up to her first Bob and her past boyfriends..
“I know how you felt,” she said, “if you were as crazy over me as I was over him (Bob Number One).”
I gave her my condolences. She suggested I come "up and see her sometime" or words to that effect . When I wrote Ronald of her re-contact he suggested I try getting back together with her because, “a heart can’t be broken twice.” He also mentioned he was coming home for Labor Day weekend. I didn’t realize these two events were going to cause some trouble for me.
On the 17th there was no MYF, our meetings were done for the summer. My puppy had a sore throat. I went to the motorcycle races with Paul Miller, his uncle was the Ray Miller who I used to babysit for back as a teenager. Paul's dad and my dad did a lot of work together and the Miller men had been along on our tuna fishing excursion. The Millers are pictured on the left. The two tallest are Paul and Paul Junior.

One of the frustrations I had in life was never knowing what they had intended to write under my senior photo in The Ledger, the OJR Yearbook. This was probably the first place most of us turned when we received our copy. Everyone wanted to read what the biographic blurb said.
There was this quote of Sir Francis Bacon, which seems apropos: “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Beneath this was written my supposed personality sketch
Tall and rather mechanically inclined…seen visiting West Chester frequently…likes riding his motorcycle around the countryside…finds it difficult to find time for homework…never has much to say…plans to work for his father as a truck driver and mechanic after graduation.
Say what? Me mechanically inclined? And I’ve never ridden on a motorcycle in my life, although I have a lot of friends who do. I certainly had no plans of being a truck driver and especially one working for my father. So what gives.
Well, one panel over in the yearbook is Paul Miller’s photo and write up, which is exactly like mine, except for the quote and the first three words of the blurb: “Big and broad…” instead of Tall and rather..." Somehow I ended up with Paul’s write up and so everyone else in my class got to read what the editors thought of them, except me.
I am not sure if Lois was along to the motorcycle races or not. I was out with her on Saturday, took her to dinner and for a ride. Obviously somewhere over the weekend the recent contact from Sonja must have come up or we ran into Sonja somewhere. I received this letter from Lois when I returned to work on Monday.

I’m sorry I acted as I did yesterday but I guess you realize it was a case of pure unadulterated jealously. I was so jealous of the fact that Sonya (sic) had arrived on the scene again. I don’t consider myself the most possessive person in the world, but to me Sonya (sic) represents a threat to my future happiness. I know you’ll laugh or get mad at me, but darling I can’t help it. I’ve fallen so desperately in love with you that in some instances I can’t help but get jealous. Believe me darling I trust you completely, but I know how things were between you two once and I get scared as I know time can change things between two people (that time being now and in the future). Larry, I hate to even think of what life would be like if you should leave me. You mean everything to me, and the fact that her mother keeps comparing you to every boy she brings home plus the fact that I remember her mother telling me that I got you just in time shook me up. All I could see was her trying to get you back on these trips home. That was the reason I said I didn’t trust her. She reminds me of my cousin Evie. I’ve seen Cousin Evie in action too often for comfort. In fact when I first brought you around, my dad told me to keep you away from Evie and Joan if I knew what was good for me if I wanted to keep you coming to 1030 Cobbs St & not to 1018 Cobbs St. You see my cousins always take an avid interest in my boyfriends and no interest in me.
Oh Larry, please don’t leave me. I can take almost anything in stride, but not your leaving me.

Well darling, there’s my whole story. Maybe I wasn’t as understanding as you thought but I thought a threat had arisen and I was ready to stand up and fight. My mom taught me that anything in this life that is worthwhile is worth fighting for. And I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than you. I am hardly ever jealous but this was one time the green eyed monster bit me good. I hope you aren’t mad at me. You have my complete trust, love and understanding.

On the surface this letter seemed quite reasonable given the circumstances. Lois knew how head over heels I had been for Sonja and it may have been naturally expected to judge Sonja as someone who couldn’t be trusted. However, although I wouldn’t see this until many years later, this was the first of what became a disturbing pattern.

As incredible as it sounds, according to this letter I must have taken Lois to Sonja’s place at some point. I don’t know why I would have done such a thing other than to show off to Sonja how I had replaced her, which was behavior out of character for me. At least somewhere along the line according to Lois, she met Sonja’s mother more than one time or at least claims to have.
In the letter Lois also makes references to her cousins, Evie (right) and Joan (left), always stealing her boyfriends. But who were these boyfriends? Lois has spoken of a couple boys she dated briefly in high school, but has not made any mention of her cousins coming after these guys and taking them away from her. She has certainly never went into any details about these stolen boyfriends, but I would learn that details were often lacking in her complaints. I even question whether her father ever warned her to keep me away from her cousins.
Now some may ask why would I doubt these statements? We’ll see some behaviors occur that will answer that question eventually, but to be perfectly clear I am not sure what is true and what is not.

July closed as usual, work all week and then a burst of activities crowded into the weekend On Saturday the 24th, we (my father and I) ran my Ford out to Parkesburg for inspection and new shocks (isn’t this contraption completely rebuilt yet?). When we got home, I helped dad put new sides back on the flatbed as he was going into the tomato hauling business again. That night we went to a Country Serenade and then to the Kimberton Carnival.
Now this matter of a Country Serenade, what is it? It is also called a Shivaree. Lane Keene had gotten married and was home for the wedding night. All these friends (so-called) of theirs snuck up and surrounded the house below their bedroom. When the light went out for a few minutes the serenade began, or the caterwauling actually. Yelling and beating on pots and blowing horns to make a horrendous racket. We even had a bullfrog fiddle, which is like a long log with some kind of string fastened that you play with a bow, like a violin, except it makes a deep, frog like croak. All the while people are yelling for the new bride and groom to come out until they do.
This is why you don’t tell anyone where you are staying for your wedding night.

The next day, a Sunday, I took Lois to Willow Grove Park.

During the week I took Cindy to a Vet in Limerick for the cough she had developed. The doctor said she might have tapeworms. Some medicine was prescribed.
On Friday I went to the Exton Drive-in with Melvin Moyer, then that Saturday I went with Melvin and Dick Huzzard to the Kimberton Carnival again. I didn’t get home from the Fair until 2:45 AM. I slept late and no one went to church, but in the afternoon I went horseback riding at Anne Shantz with Melvin and Dick. And then July slid into August.

Lois and I both saw “Psycho” at the same time, but not together. She went with her girlfriends and they all came out of the movie leery of showers. I believe I saw it with Richard Wilson at the Hippodrome Theater in Pottstown. It didn’t make me fearful of showers. I preferred baths anyway.
It did make me into a strong Alfred Hitchcock fan. I admired his movies and I read a lot about him and his methods. I had always watched “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” so he had already been somewhat an influence on my own writing. “Psycho” made me aware of the use of symbols in storytelling.
For instance, when Marion Crane is dressing after the opening scene in the hotel room she puts on a white bra. When she is dressing to flee after stealing the money she wears a black bra. In the motel, when she makes the decision to return the money, she is wearing a white bra again. She also had a white purse before she stole the money, but exchanges this for a black one afterward. These are clues to Marion’s switching from good girl to bad and back to good.

Ronald had also saw “Psycho” at this time. He was always a movie fan. He thought it was a terrific movie. Around the same time he went with some Army pals to see the film, “Sex Kittens go to College” (afraid I missed that one) in Fitchburg, but got into the wrong theater and sat through a film he had already seen,  “5 Branded Women”. Vera Miles appeared in both this and “Psycho”, which were made at the same time. Because they shaved Vera’s head for “5 Branded Women” (Vera on left), she had to don a wig for Psycho (Vera on right).

John Zacherle, who as Roland hosted “Shock Theater” in Philadelphia, became such a big star that Success lured him away from the local area to the Big Apple, New York City, where he began hosting a similar show under the name, Zacherley. He was cashing in on his fame with records and books. I was currently reading his book, Zacherley’s Midnight Snacks, a collection of short stories by science fiction and horror writers. He brought out another collection in the same year called Zacherley’s Vulture Stew”.
On August 6 Chubby Checker launched a nationwide craze with his song, “The Twist”. There was also a twist for Ronald. The Army transferred him to E Company because his course changed. He had to change his quarters from the nice new facilities to barracks left over from World War II, “which were built to only last 4 yrs.”
I was talking about going to college next year. I was going to Study Creative writing, Drama and Music. Whatever plans I had in mind to accomplish this became a mote point a couple of months later.
Lois and I went to the Valley Forge Music Theater on August 13 to see West Side Story. The Music Theater was in a tent in those days. They called it “theater in the round”. This was because the stage sat in the center with the seats completely surrounding it. Actors played to all sides and often used the aisles as part of the stage. We had the first two seats in Row A of Section A. This meant we were on the aisle and at the edge of the stage. We were practically in the show. I feared being stabbed during the knife fight we were so close to the action.
Neither Lew Tendler’s Restaurant nor the Valley Forge Music Theater exist today.

I tended to write parodies of famous people and I send Ronald one on President Eisenhower convoluted speaking style.
“Well, now, if we are to look at the overall picture, that is to say, in regard to that question, which of course, I haven’t to any degree as yet studied or read up on, I would say, in all practicality, emphatically, I think so.”

I was probably under the influence of a new name hitting the Billboard comedy record charts, Bob Newhart. He released one of the greatest comedy albums in history called “The Buttoned-Down Mind of Bob Newhart”. His shtick was to do mock telephone conversations with famous historical figures. I send Ronald a supposed conversation between Abraham Lincoln and his press agent. Reading it over today I wonder if I simply repeated a Newhart routine as if it was my own.
 Newhart was in the forefront of a new wave of comedians and comedy. It was one era changing to another as represented in August by two occurrences in the music world. On August 18 an unknown band made their first public appearance in Hamburg, Germany under  only the simple name, The Beatles (pictured right).
In nearby Doylestown, Pennsylvania one of my youthful influences died of stomach cancer. His name was Oscar Hammerstein II (pictured left).
Then something happened that almost upset my whole applecart. I do not remember exactly the incidence, but am piecing it together from letters. My best guess is Ronald came home over Labor Day weekend and we planned to go bowling.
He had recently written about scoring a 198 and hoped to top 200. He hoped we could do some bowling when he came home on that holiday.

Ronald, Lois and I went bowling, whether Ginny was along I don’t recall. I do know that somehow Sonja Kebbe showed up and Lois was quite upset about that fact. This was not the first time Sonja popped into my life since she broke up with Bob. Lois definitely considered her a threat. It is a wonder she didn't bowl Sonja over with her bowling bowl.

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