***Of This And That In The Old North Adamsville Neighborhood-In Search Of…..The Midnight Angel
I'll Get By-Paul and Doris Riley's "forever" song.
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
For those who have been following this series about the old days in my old home town of North Adamsville, particularly the high school day as the 50th anniversary of my graduation creeps up, you will notice that recently I have been doing sketches based on my reaction to various e-mails sent by fellow classmates via the class website. So I have taken on the tough tasks of sending kisses to raging grandmothers, talking up old flames with guys I used to hang around the corners with, remembering those long ago searches for the heart of Saturday night, getting wistful about elementary school daydreams, taking up the cudgels for be-bop lost boys and the like. That is no accident as I have of late been avidly perusing the personal profiles of various members of the North Adamsville Class of 1964 website as fellow classmates have come on to the site and lost their shyness about telling their life stories (or have increased their computer technology capacities, not an unimportant consideration for the generation of ’68, a generation on the cusp of the computer revolution and so not necessarily as computer savvy as the average eight-year old today).
Of course not everybody who graduated with me in that baby-boomer time class of over five hundred students had a literary flare or could articulate their dreams in the most coherent way. But they had dreams, and they have today when we have all been through about seven thousand of life’s battles, good and bad, a vehicle to express whatever they want. As I have mentioned before in other sketches I have spent not a little time lately touting the virtues of the Internet in allowing me and the members of the North Adamsville Class of 1964, or what is left of it, the remnant that has survived and is findable with the new technologies to communicate with each other some fifty years and many miles later on a class website recently set up to gather in classmates for our 50th anniversary reunion. (Some will never be found by choice or by being excluded from the “information super-highway” that they have not been able to navigate.) Interestingly those who have joined the site have, more or less, felt free to send me private e-mails telling me stories about what happened back in the day in school or what has happened to them since their jailbreak from the confines of the old town.
Some stuff is interesting to a point, you know, including those endless tales about the doings and not doings of the grandchildren, odd hobbies and other ventures taken up in retirement and so on although not worthy of me making a little off-hand commentary on. Some stuff is either too sensitive or too risqué to publish on a family-friendly site. Some stuff, some stuff about the old days and what did, or did not, happened to, or between, fellow classmates, you know the boy-girl thing (other now acceptable relationships were below the radar then) has naturally perked my interest. Other stuff defies simple classification, like here where a fellow classmate, Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie, the leader, no, the king hell king, of my high school corner boy existence “up the Downs (local expression)” at Salducci’s Pizza Parlor pays homage, I think, to his mother who while she lived was both his main nemesis and his main angel if that makes sense. Here something he put on his personal profile page which I picked up on and we exchanged e-mails about since I knew her in the old days and knew what heartache he brought her and what anguish she brought him as he fought for his place in the sun:
[Frankie and I met up in seventh grade in the junior high school over at Adamsville North where he, after I had moved from the Adamsville projects on the other side of town, took me under his wing and told me what was what. What was what about, well, obviously about girls since Frankie, a good-looking guy and a smooth-talker, always had a bevy of them around him until his “forever” main squeeze, Joanne Murphy, pulled the hammer down in tenth grade (and even then he would sneak around after they had one of their ten thousand break-up fights and he took advantage of his “freedom” to, well, “look around”). Told me too what was what about hygiene and sex (the hygiene part was helpful since my mother neglected to give her children the word on this but the sex part reflected the hard fact that we good Catholic boys learned about the whys and wherefores of sex on the streets and in the locker-rooms and so got a ton of misinformation only corrected years later). And told me also about the ways of the world and not to be a chump (advice I mercifully did not always follow). In return I (and later others when we graduated to hanging our feet on the wall in front of Salducci’s) I was his scribe, his flack-catcher, his “press agent,” his confidant (especially when mother hells reared their ugly head after some Frankie sin, usually venial), his best friend (sometimes in dispute on both sides) and his midnight creeper when we were short of dough. So, yeah, I knew Frankie for a long time until after high school graduation when he went his way a little and I went mine. He eventually to lawyering, I told you he was a smooth talker, and me to political public service (chump stuff in his vocabulary). We kept in touch for a while, drifted apart, got back together drifted, now back, well, e-mail back together since he lives in another state. But mostly for our purposes here I know his mother, or knew her, so what he says here is aces. (I wasn’t his “press agent” for nothing.)]
Doris Margaret Riley (nee Kelly), NAHS Class of 1942, 50 Newbury Street -1925-2007 by Frankie Riley
[Frankie mother (and his grand and great grandparents) had been born in North Adamsville, lived on the street listed above, and she went to the high school there before her marriage to Paul Riley whom she met while working at the Hullsville Naval Depot where she was a clerk and he, after seeing bloody service with the Marines in the Pacific wars, had been stationed there waiting demobilization. They, Frankie and his three sisters, lived with her parents for a while before the moved to Elm Street on the “wrong side of the tracks” (wrong side according to grand-mother Kelly and others) where they lived when I first met Frankie and all through school.
By the beauties of computer technology and the Internet Frankie was able to place his mother’s photo on his personal profile page. The Thomas Parker Public Library, the town library, had several years ago placed all of the Magnet class yearbooks on-line and he had linked and downloaded that photo to his profile page. That photo is what he is referring in his tribute.]
…you cannot tell from this class photograph that this young woman would have more sorrows in her life than she deserved. And created some sorrows too. She had a hard life, had married young, a teenage bride, certainly too young by today’s norms, somewhat sickly with one hungry growing boy and three whining daughters born close together, and an eternally loving husband who however was hampered by his inability to give her whatever he had promised her after he left the Marines at the end of World War II. And the sorrows started early as the four children overwhelmed her capacity to deal with them as they strayed from some worthy paths. (I am being kind to myself and my sisters here.) And so she brought sorrows to them as well. Home life was a series of screams, shouts, verbal fights, an occasional truce, years of estrangement, and in the end bewilderment. Not a pretty picture, not at all, and it never really did get better before the end. I wish it had because now I realize that she did deserve better, whatever her incapacities. Every once in a while I fret over that “deserved better” fact but I am okay with the idea that she did the best she could. Yeah, sometimes a picture isn’t better than one thousand words.
[Enough said, enough said, brother.]