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, November 4, 2016

Moving Toward the Dark Side

We moved into Lansdowne Towers on August 1, 1971. This was quite an uptick for us. The place was new, clean and spacious, and no roaches. Despite the name, it was located in Aldan, Pennsylvania and was nearer Darby than Lansdowne. Maybe Lansdowne sounded more upscale than Darby. Ironically, it was just around the corner, perhaps a mile or so, from Fitzgerald-Mercy Hospital.a place I would be working a few years down the future.
The walls were extremely well sound proofed, no more erotic bathroom. Not that it mattered, our neighbors were not students, hippies and prostitutes, either. We even had celebrity neighbors, Joe and Jimmy Watson, defensemen for the Philadelphia Flyers. Jimmy, who went on to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, lived in B Building. He was the younger brother by 11 years. Joe, who was one year younger than me, lived with his first wife, Mary Ann, down the hall from us in A Building.
I never personally met Joe, but Lois became an acquaintance of Mary Anne, who she would sometimes meet in the laundry room. In fact, she taught Mary Ann how to use the machines. Mary Ann was very pretty, but not exactly an intellectual. Lois says that Kendra Wilkerson Baskett (left) reminded her of Mary Ann.

A more important meeting Lois had was on the Landowne Towers shuttle bus. There she met a woman named Grace Stone and they struck up a friendship. Soon Bill and Grace Stone became our closest friends and we regularly socialized pretty much weekly from then until 1975.

One strange coincidence occurred when I paid my initial check at Lansdowne Towers. The check bounced. This embarrassing situation was the second time our check failed on paying an initial rent. Our first check had bounced when we moved to the Commodore. Neither time was my fault. In the first instance, I had been paid on the Friday we made the payment. The Teller at the bank got sick that day and went home early. She placed her tray beneath her station and no one at the bank checked to see that her till went into the system at closing. Therefore, my paycheck sat in the dark of the counter over the weekend and was not discovered and processed until Monday. Meanwhile, my rent check hit my account to be flagged for insufficient funds. I just had them redeposit after we found out what happened. The bank apologized and waved any fees.
It was a bit different at Lansdowne Towers. I came home and found a note in the mailbox from the rental office saying my check had been returned for insufficient funds. I walked down to the office completely confused as to why this had happened. The rental agent handed me the returned check and I looked it over.  It hadn’t been returned for insufficient funds; it had been returned because it had been sent to the wrong bank for collection by 1st Pennsylvania, Lansdowne Tower’s bank. Instead of sending it to Lincoln Bank in Philadelphia, it had been sent to a Lincoln Savings Bank somewhere. This was easily fixed; I just wrote another check. It apparently got cleared properly this time.

My troubles with cars continued. Two months after buying a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle,  I had to take it up to Fitch’s Garage in Bucktown on August 17 because the brakes weren’t working well. We were visiting my parents while the car was being serviced and Lois went outside to jog around the back field. Doing one of her laps she stepped in a hole and fell at the very rear near the woods injuring her foot. She had to crawl back to the house on hands and knees because none of could see her plight from the house. We put on an icepack and hoped it was only a sprain, but the swelling and pain continued into the next day. We took her to the Phoenixville Hospital. She had broken some bones in her foot and they had to put on a temporary cast. She was in a lot of pain. They gave her some medicine and crutches.

We all decided it was best for Lois to stay with my parents until she was able to get around.   I borrowed my dad's Jeep Scout to go home. My car still wasn’t fixed on the 19th and I came up to take my grandmother grocery shopping. Lois said her foot didn’t hurt as much. On the 20th I finally got the Chevelle back. I drove my grandmother to Cousin Everett Wilson;s to get tomatoes and eggs. Everett, like most of the Wilson side of the family, was a farmer. That is him on the right with his wife and brood of children in 1968.  I went back to Aldan. Lois was feeling better.

 The photo of her in her cast (and very short mini dress) was taken at my parents. I took my father’s Scout and went home.
On the 21st I took Lois for a ride. We stopped at King of Prussia Mall (right C. 1970) and she got her hair shaped and bought some knitting needles.
 King of Prussia Mall was big, but not yet as huge as it is today. Even then it was a mess to drive in that area. It was usually congested with traffic. The Schuylkill Expressway out of Philadelphia joined the Pennsylvania Turnpike nearby and Valley Forge was just down the road, so it was a busy hub. Still the Mall parking wasn’t too bad nor were the passageways between stores that overcrowded. They would be nearer Christmas, but Lois had little trouble maneuvering about on her crutches during the summer. She came home with me that night saying she could make out.

On August 26 my folks came to visit us, but they were lost for an hour on the way. Their visit was short because Lois had to be taken back to hospital to have a permanent cast put on. She hobbled about in that thing, but I think it was off by her birthday in mid-October.

My dog, Cythia Wilmillar (Cindy), which I had left with my parents when I got married, died the afternoon of October 15, Lois' birthday. She was 11 years old.
The photo is Cindy in 1971.

Also during the year, I had a confrontation with The Reverent Charles Davies (right) over making donations at Bethel Methodist. He send me a letter asking for money and I felt we didn't need to do so. Lois and I had really only attended church there very sporadically over the past decade since our marriage. Bethel sent me this solicitation for funds and I wrote back basically claiming they never showed any interest in me, except wanting money. He called me and requested a meeting and I met with him. It did not go well. I had come to a point in my life only a year or so earlier where I rejected the whole notion of God. I embraced Atheism and had come to the conclusion that there was no other purpose to life than seeking happiness and pleasure. I gave my arguments as to why I had come to this state.

This Reverend Davies  left off with a question:

“Why do you feel you should explain your decision? If that is where you find satisfaction, then why do you think you have to justify it to anyone? What even makes you believe it is anybody’s business what beliefs you hold? You have chosen your course, now that is your concern and not anyone else.”

I took these as rhetorical questions and left our conversation with them in mind. Yet, after some days passed I decided to answer them in a letter to Reverend Davies because our meeting had left me angry:
After considerable thought, I have come to a decision about the question of my spiritual comfort and to which church or religious interpretation I should entrust my allegiance. I have come to the conclusion there is none. That is, if I don’t claim out and out Atheism, I certainly admit to a deep-seated agnosticism.
To your last questions and statement:You have chosen your course, now that is your concern and not anyone else;” this may be a truism, if this was another world, but this world is not so ideal that one can declare a credo without raising some wrath, some wonderment, some fears and some joy in others. Disbelief in an invisible god is not a popular course. Anytime a person chooses for himself a stream outside the main river, he will be questioned and berated for it. Therefore, it is necessary to give an explanation of my decision, not because it is anyone else’s business, but because it isn’t.
There is another, perhaps tenuous reason to give you an explanation. Because you are a man of God it must be your duty to concern yourself when anyone strays from the religious establishment. If you would not ask why, would not care, would not debate such a profession by a fellow human, then you would be guilty of dereliction of your faith and calling. Your statement sort of symbolizes your surrender of that concern.
On the other hand, whereas I reject the legendary and mythological ideal of Judeo-Christianity and would be free of showing concern for anyone except myself, taking here the more common opinion toward the non-believer, you by tradition and expectation must be immediately involved with your fellow man. If this were not so you would do far more damage to your church and faith than any atheist or cynic could ever do.
Our back and forth went on, this from my last communication with Reverend Davies:
Maybe everything comes from my lack of religion, but still many times it seems the established world is crumbling and mankind is digging in with his fingernail to help it break. You know though, your self-satisfaction theory of belief may be best, at least for some. I have tried to join three different churches, contacting them and exacting pledges of indoctrination, then never hearing anything further.
Something else. I think you are doing the right things by your congregation, getting them moving by the force of your personality, but what shall happen to the ‘Davies Plan’ after your temporary leadership is dissolved and some other minister assigned? I have seen it over and over at Bethel. A new man slamming down the pillars his predecessor erected. Methodist Churches are too often a personality cult with the congregation going up and down like a yo-yo as faces shift behind the pulpit. I can’t help but say if there is to be churches they should be strong and demanding and tied to some mystical dogma rather than some passing preacher.
But if we can’t have a strong centralization in religion, then we just have to go for your inner-revelation of the Bible as our only authority. Only in such a case, their reality isn’t any need for any church or minister. If I must do ninety percent of the work, I might as well do the other tenth too and save the tithe.

That last part, which may be difficult to understand out of context, came about because when I met with Reverent Davies he finished our debate by saying, “Everybody seated in these pews probably has a different belief, but it only matters if they believe in something.” I didn’t believe in anything at the time, but it seemed if you were heading up a church you wouldn’t want each parishioner making up their own beliefs.

I was doing very well at Lincoln Bank. One day I was called into the manager’s office and both my superiors were there. Was I in trouble?  No, they wanted to ask me a favor. They pointed to the office of the Assistant Treasurer. It was dark at the moment because he was on vacation. They confided in me that they planned to terminate the man, but they didn’t want to do that until someone learned exactly what he did. They wanted me to be that someone.
It was very clandestine. I was to learn his job, but not reveal what their plans were. He would be told I was just to learn things as a backup. I was then promised that when they did push the ejection button, I would be promoted to the Assistant Treasurer position and get his office. With some misgivings, I accepted this espionage assignment.
The results of this undercover duty and the new people we would soon befriend would have a great effect upon Lois and I into a darker path. Perhaps a precursor of what was coming was my purchase of a Polaroid Land Camera.
I had always been a picture taker, but I was still doing it with a Kodak box camera. It was not so much the Polaroid allowed me to take more pictures. You didn’t have the development costs, but the film itself was expensive, you only got eight shots at a time and it was a messy process. You had to coat the print with this smelly liquid and let it dry. And the pictures tended to have a green tint to them if the weather was cold and they didn’t hold up well over time.

However, they had a couple of advantages. For one, you could see your shot right away because you didn’t have to take it to a developer, wait two or three days and then find out half your shots were fuzzy or blank or completely dark. That not having to take the film to a developer was also the second advantage. You could now take photographs you couldn’t before because some third party would see what you took. This meant you could take nude photos. And we did, we certainly did.

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