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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Living the Double Life

       1967 was an oddly quiet year. On a personal level things were going rather well. I had put together several collections by now and I took a photo of my binders spread across my bed.
       My wife and I sat down and did what I called a photo essay on the riots that had burned across America during the Civil Rights Movement. It consisted of clippings from imagines, such as Newsweek and from newspapers that we matched to the lyrics of "Singing in the Streets.  We titled it Danse Macabre and we both laws pseudonyms.  I was back to being Eugene Lawrence and Lois used the name Jean O'Heaney.
   I also collected the poems I had written between 1965 and 1967 as  Lost Laughs and Last Lovers as well as a themed collection of Short Stories called Tales Out of Wilmillar and Other Town, which were mostly based on my life in Downingtown. The stories had been written from 1954 to 1967. For these two books I used my full and real name.

As for my day job, Eight months after I became a Control Clerk, I got promoted again, this time to TBA Ledgerman. The elite regular job in Accounts Receivable was Ledgerman. These were the persons who the Ledger Clerks worked for. All the debits and credits cards the Clerks pulled from the storage bins went to the Ledgermen. (Lederman was the title, but several were women.) The Ledger men matched up the individual accounts and cleared items, and justified and balanced each customer's account. There were a half-dozen Ledgermen in each region and they were all Level 10s.
     TBA Lederman was a specialized version one level from the top. It was not assigned to a region, because this person handled items from all regions. TBA stood for Tires, batteries and accessories. There were far less items for these than for gas and oil. That is why there was only one TBA Lederman, and now that was me.
     Oh, now some may look at me in 1967 and think you do not look much like a serious business person in some big corporation. Well, yes and no. During the day at work I wore the dreaded three piece pinstriped suit, pants, vest and jacket. I wore wingtip shoes, a white shirt and some sort of stylish necktie.  This was my prison uniform, all I needed was the number across my breast pocket. On one of my reviews, Donald Jones, the manager of the department did suggest I get a haircut.
     "You look like a Beatnik," he said.
     He was a bit behind the times. The long hairs now were Hippies.

     TBA Ledgerman was a level 9. I went from a Control Clerk at Level 7 to a Level 9. In other words, I made an unusual jump in grade. Ron Paul, remember him of the two thumbs on one hand, immediately bought a union grievance against me.
      Yes, Atlantic employees were in a union, the Atlantic Independent Union. I had even run for Shop Stewart. The current Shop Stewart had held that position since Atlantic was part of J. D. Rockefeller's Standard Trust, I think. Nobody ever ran against the guy and he couldn't believe I did.  I ran on a platform that the union and the company were too cozy for the good of the employees. I very narrowly lost. Maybe I should make it more positive sounding and say, I almost won. But truth is, I lost. People choose to keep a company cozy union. I guess they were afraid we’d strike if I got power. In all honesty, I was happy I lost. Being Shop Stewart was probably more trouble than it was worth.
      Ron Paul, of course, claimed I broke the seniority rules by jumping a level. He had blown his chance in Addressograph and been shunted aside, now he thought he could exact some revenge. He claimed he had more right to the Level 9 job that I got. The company and union had to hash this one out. It was true he had several years seniority on me and it was also true you just didn’t see people jumping two levels in this company, but in the end it went my way and I became the TBA Lederman while Ron Paul disappeared into obscurity. (This is not the guy who kept running for President.)
      I slid easily into the position.

On October 23 I was at my parents enthusiastically telling them I had sold a story to Magazine of Horror. This was not only the first story I sold to a publication found on newsstands everywhere, but it was an international magazine with a good sized world-wide circulation. On top of that, it was the first time I got to see my real name as a byline. I had visions of greatness. Move over Hemingway, there's a new top dog in town! This was just the first step to my Nobel Prize.

The magazine was edited by Robert A. W. Lowndes. He, himself, was a science fiction writer as well as editor of several publications. As a boy he had been inspired and encouraged by H. P. Lovecraft. As an editor he not only bought and published my tales, but he was also the first to publish a young English teacher named Stephen King. In the photo, taken in 1939, Lowndes is the second from the right. He is with a group of writers of fantasy and science fiction, who were once quite popular, From left to right we have Cyril Kornbluth, Chester Cohen, John B. Michel, Lowndes and Donald A. Wollheim. Wollheim went on to be co-editor of the annual World's Best Science Fiction from 1965 through 1990. Kornbluth won Hugo Awards, one for best story and another for best novella. He was also awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame honor. He died at the age of 34. I think all these guys are dead now. Lowndes passed away in 1998; Wollheim in1990.

In 1966, Atlantic Refining merged with the large west coast Richfield Oil Corporation. Atlantic was a fairly conservative company when I came on board in 1959. Henderson Supplee, Jr. (left) was in charge of it, having become President in 1952 and then Chairman in 1964. He was given a lot of credit for saving a once faltering institution and being instrumental in the Richfield merger. How instrumental he was in the merger, I don't know. He left the company in 1965 as that merger was festering,  saying, “Because it was time”.  To be honest in those early years I worked there, I considered Atlantic a solid, but stodgy company. It made a consistent profit and its stock price was very dependable, but nothing about it was particularly exciting. My 5th Great Grandfather was an Abraham Supplee, born in 1746. I don’t know if we are related to Henderson.

       Actually Atlantic merged with a smaller firm called Hondo Oil & Gas in 1962. When Henderson Supplee stepped down, a head honcho of Hondo, Robert O. Anderson, who had come to Atlantic into a high position, stepped up and became chairman. On a fishing trip that Anderson took he met Richfield’s chairman, Charles Jones. Anderson enticed Jones into the merger. Thus in 1966 the Atlantic Richfield Corporation was born. It would be better known as ARCo. Sinclair Oil Corporation was absorbed into the fold later in 1969.
      Anderson (right) was anything but stodgy and contented with the status quo. He was a dynamic gentlemen and once he had full control ARCo became a giant, one of the Fortune 500s top 50 companies. The stock went on an upward tear, a situation that proved very good for me. When I had first been hired at Atlantic, one of the benefits was what they called a Credit Plan. It was very similar to what would later become known as a 401K plan. I would have a set percentage withdrawn from my weekly pay. Atlantic would give me 50% to match whatever amount I choose and put all this in a savings account. I had a choice between an account that would pay me a set interest rate or my money and their contribution could be used to buy Atlantic stock. I had chosen the stock.

      Thus the company was doing well and so was I, too well I felt. All I wanted to do was get home at night and write, but I kept being successful in the office and being given more responsibility. In January 1968 I reached almost the top in Accounts Receivable, I was promoted to full Regional Ledgerman. The Region I was assigned was New England.
      This was a Level 10 and with the Merit Raises I was also getting yearly I was making $127 a week. This was the equivalent of $880 in today’s dollars or $45,760 a year. If we had held on to that house up on the hill, we would have been able to afford it. Instead we were living with my father-in-law and trouble was brewing.
      With a couple of exceptions, 1967 was a placid year. One bit of excitement came when one day I felt sick at work. It was pretty overwhelming and Donald Jones, my boss, told me to go see the company doctor. That's correct, Atlantic had its very own in-house company doctor. It also had a company nurse and a medical suite.  
      I was greeted by the nurse, a sour-faced woman. She sent me into an examination room and bid me strip to my underwear and socks and then sit up upon this padded table. She took my blood pressure after which I sat there shivering for a bit until the doctor strolled in. I don't know where he had been or what he was doing that took him so long, there were no patients in the suite except me.      He proceeded to do what doctors use to do, thump my knee and hold my tongue down with a stick to look down my throat. He had some kind of instrument that he put to his eye and looked in my ears and up my nose. Finally he pressed a very cold stethoscope against my chest. He told me to take deep breaths as he moved this hearing device about my skin. Then he went behind me and ran the thing up and down and around my back, all the time going, "Hm-m-m?"
      "I can't find a heartbeat," he muttered. "I want you to leave an hour early this afternoon. I don't want you in the evening rush."
     Really, don't get in the crowds headed home because I don't have a heartbeat? Shouldn't I simply lay down because I must be dead. I lost all confidence in the company doctor that day.

      I was writing essays and reviews here and about, and had sold my first fictional short story. I was doing well at work. There were some events in the world that really had more impact for the future than immediately, especially upon me.
     The Supreme Court ruled that interracial marriage was constitutional. The suit was brought by Mildred and Richard Loving. In 2005, Nanci Griffith recorded a song she wrote regarding this case called “The Loving Kind”. I’m sure that many members of the younger generations don’t know that once it was illegal for people to marry someone of a different race in many states. People actually went to jail for such a thing. That prejudice was what made it somewhat risky walking about Philadelphia with Jane.

     Otherwise things were relatively quiet that year within the Civil Rights movement. Stokely Carmichael, head of SNCC did coin the phrase, “Black Power”, however.

The National Transportation Board was created to look at safety in automobiles. This was a direct outcome of Ralph Nader’s 1965 book called, Unsafe at any Speed.

Over in the Middle East, Israel won the Six Day War. This all evolved around the closing by Egypt’s President Nasser of the Straits of Tiran to Israel shipping.

Troop strength continued to grow in Vietnam, the numbers were up to 475,000. One not among this number was the boxer Muhammad Ali, who refused to be inducted. As a result, he was stripped of his World Champion crown.

Pirate radio had become quite prevalent in Great Britain and similar aspects were popping up in the U.S.  A DJ known as Wolfman Jack, real name a mundane Robert Smith, was becoming popular on underground radio in the states.

Personally, what really caught the attention  of Jim and the gang in his basement, beyond their own artistic posturing, was a large number of reported UFO sightings. As a writer of horror and science fiction, I took a deep interest in the Flying Saucer phenomena. Lois, Joe Rubio, Dot Waters and I spend some nights driving all over Delaware County believing we were in hot pursuit of some kind of invasion from outer space.  Look, there is a light, follow it, follow it! It’s a wonder we didn’t smash into a tree  or something because we were speeding after the mysteries in the skies rather than watching the road. Did we catch any aliens? No, my conclusion years after the fact was that we were chasing the landing lights of many airplanes heading to Philadelphia International. Imagine that, airplane lights near an airport!

In 1965 a company called Polaroid introduced a very cheap camera called The Swinger, probably a very apt name. It wasn’t much used for quality or artistic photography, but for taking those photos people didn’t want to drop off at the local drugstore for developing. The salient feature of the Polaroid was it took instant pictures, you developed the prints as you snapped them.
It was a messy operation from what I recall. You had to smear this very smelly chemical on the film to make it develop, then let it sit a bit. You then pulled off the front and there was your print, a glorious wallet sized black and white image. It never lost the chemical smell, by the way, but over time the image had a habit of fading away.
The advertising aimed it toward the youth market, fresh scrubbed kids on the beach and that kind of thing. The lady who gave it the name the Swinger claimed she got the inspiration from watching Edwin Land (right) walk around with the thing. She said he would hold it by its strap and as he ambled along, he would swing the camera back and forth.

Maybe the kids did use it for those beach outings. But that is not what the people I knew used for their main portraits. The advantage of The Swinger was you could take nude photos and never have to have a developer see them. I did take some general pictures with the thing, but the outcome was often streaked or blurry and over time the picture would fade and warp.

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