Sunday, April 30, 2017

An Encore-Remembrances Of Things Past-With Jeff Higgins’ Class Of 1964 In Mind

From The Pen Of Bart Webber

There was always something, some damn thing to remind Jeff Higgins, Class of 1964, a fateful year in his life and not just because that was the year that he graduated from North Quincy High School down in outer edge of the Southeastern corner of Massachusetts. He had recently, well, let's call it 2014 because who knows when some iterant reader might read this and because that as will be pointed in a second has significant for why Jeff Higgins thought that it was "one damn thing after another" when dealing with that class issue. If you did the math quickly in your head while I was pointing to the significance you would know that year represented the fiftieth anniversary of the his graduation from high school, then as now if less so a milestone on the way to serious-minded adulthood, and furthermore had  gone through something of a serious traumatic experience which left him numb every time something came up about that year, some remembrance.

If you knew Jeff in 1964, and even if did not you knew somebody like Jeff since every high school class had  a Jeff case and moreover his experience was not that uncommon, then you know form whence I speak. Hey, let's say you didn't know him back then in 1964 but only in  2014 that would tell you the same tale, with his three messy divorces and several affairs from flings to some more serious relationships along with scads of children and grandchildren now from the marriages not the affairs. Guess what you would know that it was about a woman, always about a woman, he eternally afflicted as old as he was from coming of age time to coming to the end-times.

So about a woman this time, this eternally afflicted time, named Elizabeth Drury whom  he had had a brief puff of air affair with in that same 2014 but which had seemingly vanished in his dust of memory until he went up in the attic to clean up some stuff. (By the way Elizabeth not Liz, which would show a certain informality, a certain good sport and not standing on ceremony or Betty, a nickname which conveyed continued childhood in those days as old as a woman might be, so no way she was not anything but a proper Elizabeth-type, who held maybe Queen Elizabeth I, you know the so-called Virgin Queen, the one who ruled England for a long time and had more lovers than you could shake a stick at but all we knew then was that she was the Virgin Queen, as her model, even in high school.) 

Yeah finally getting rid of most of stuff which had been gathering dust, maybe mold for years, in anticipation of selling his house and moving to a more manageable condo, down-sizing they call it in the real estate trade, and found a faded tattered copy of his class’ remembrance card. You know those time vault cards that card companies like Hallmark, the source of this one, put out so that people, or this case the whole class by some tabulations, can put down favorite films, people, records, who was President, and other momentous events from some important year like a high school graduation to be looked at in later years and ahhed over.
That yellowed sheet brought back not just memories of that faded long ago year but of Elizabeth in the not so faded past. So, yes, it was always some damn thing, always some damn woman thing.       

Maybe we had better take you back to the beginning though, back to how the year 1964 and the woman Elizabeth Drury had been giving one Jeffery Higgins late of North Quincy nothing but pains. Jeff had been for many, many years agnostic about attending class reunions, had early on after graduation decided that he needed to show his back to the whole high school experience which was a flat-out zero once he thought about every indignity and hurt he had suffered for one reason or another, and to show that same back to the town, a small hick town anyway which needed to be fled to see the big old world.

A lot of that teenage angst having to do with his humble beginnings as a son of a “chiseler,” not meant as a nice term, a father who worked in the then depleting and now depleted granite quarries when there was work for which the town was then famous and which represented the low-end of North Quincy society. The low-end which others in the town including his fellow classmates in high school who were as socially class conscious as any Mayfair swells made him feel like a nobody and a nothing for no known reason except that he was the son of a chiseler which after all he could not help. Of course those social exclusions played themselves out under the veil of his not dressing cool, living off the leavings of his older brothers, living off of Bargain Center rejected materials not even cool when purchased, you know, white shirts with stripes when that was not cool, black chinos with cuffs like some farmer, ditto, dinky Thom McAn shoes with buckles for Chrissake, just as his younger brothers lived off his in that tight budget world of the desperate working poor, of his not having money for dates even with fellow bogger’s daughters, and hanging corner dough-less, girl-less corners with fellow odd-ball bogger outcasts. So Jeff had no trouble drifting away from that milieu, had no trouble putting dust on his shoes to get out and head west when the doings out west were drawing every wayward youth to the flame, to the summers of love.

And there things stood in Jeff’s North Quincy consciousness for many years until maybe 2012, 2013 when very conscious that a hallmark 50th class reunion would be in the works and with more time on his hands as he had cut back on the day to day operation of his small law practice in Cambridge he decided that he would check out the preparations, and perhaps offer his help to organize the event. He had received notification of his class’ fortieth reunion in 2004 (which he had dismissed out of hand only wondering how the reunion committee had gotten his address for while he was not hiding from anything or anyone he was also not out there publicly since he did not have clients other than other lawyers whom he wrote motions, briefs, appeals and the like for, until he realized that as a member of the Massachusetts bar he would have that kind of information on his very publicly-accessible bar profile page) so via the marvels of modern day technology through the Internet he was able to get hold of Donna Marlowe (married name Rossi) who had set up a Facebook page to advertise the event.

That connection led to Jeff drafting himself onto the reunion committee and lead directly to the big bang of pain that he would subsequently feel. Naturally in a world filled with social media and networking those from the class who either knew Donna or the other members of the committee or were Internet savvy joined the class’ Facebook page and then were directed to a class website (as he found out later his generation unlike later ones was on the borderline of entering the “information superhighway” and so not all classmates, those still alive anyway, were savvy that way). On that website set up by tech savvy Donna (she had worked in the computer industry at IBM during her working career) each classmate who joined the site had the ability to put up a personal profile next to their class photograph like he had done on many other such sites and that is where Jeff had seen Elizabeth Drury’s profile and a flood of memories and blushes.            

In high school Jeff had been smitten by Elizabeth, daughter of a couple of school teachers who worked in the upscale Marshfield school system  and therefore were stationed well above the chiselers of the town. But in things of the heart things like class distinctions, especially in democratically-etched America, are forgotten, maybe not rightly or fully forgotten when the deal goes down but there is enough of façade to throw one off if one gets feeling a certain way, gets the love bug, and sometime in the  genes makes one foolhardy. That had almost happened to Jeff in Elizabeth's case, except his corner boy Jack Callahan had put him wise, had kept him from one more teenage angst hurt.

Jeff and Elizabeth had had several classes together senior year and sat across from each other in English class and since both loved literature and were school-recognized as such they had certain interests in common. So they talked, talked in what Jeff thought was very friendly and somewhat flirty manner (or as he thought later after the youthful lame had burned out and he drifted west maybe he just hoped that was the case) and he had "formed an intention" (that is the way he said it the night he related the story to me so forgive the legal claptrap way he said it) to ask her out even if only to Doc’s Drugstore for an after school soda and a listen to the latest platters on Doc’s jukebox which had all the good stuff that kids were dancing to in those days. He figured from there he could work up to a real date. But sometimes the bumps and bruises of the chiseler life left one with a little sense and so before making attempts at such a conquest Jeff consulted with Jack Callahan to see if Elizabeth was “spoken for” (Jeff’s term if you can believe that like this was some 17th century Pilgrim forebears time).

See Jack, a star football player even if he was also a chiseler's son got something of an exemption from the rigid routine of the social structure of the senior class just by being able to run through defensive lines on any given granite grey autumn afternoon and so had excellent “intelligence” on the whole school system’s social network, in other words who was, or was not, spoken for. (By the way that “grapevine” any high school grapevine, maybe middle school too would put the poor technicians at the CIA and the spooks at NSA to shame with the accuracy of the information. It had to be that resourceful and accurate otherwise fists would fly.) The word on Elizabeth, forget it, off-limits, an “ice queen.” So Jeff saved himself plenty of anguish and he moved on with his small little high school life.

Seeing Elizabeth's name and profile though that many years later made him curious, made him wonder what had happened to her and since he was now again “single” he decided he would write a private e-mail to her profile page something which the website was set up to perform and which the reunion committee was recommending the still standing alumnus to do. That “single” a condition that he now considered the best course after three shifts of alimony, child support and college tuitions made him realize that it was infinitely cheaper to just live with a woman and be done with it.

Jeff wrote a short message asking whether she remembered him and she replied that she very well did remember him and their “great” (her term) conversations about Thomas Hardy, Ernest Hemingway and Edith Wharton. That short message and reply “sparked” something and they began a flurry of e-mails giving outlines of their subsequent history, including the still important one to Jeff whether she was “spoken for.” She was not having had two divorces although no kids in her career as a professor at the State University.

Somehow these messages led Jeff to tell her about his talk with Jack Callahan. And she laughed not at the “intelligence” which was correct but not for the reasons that Jack gave (her father was an abusive “asshole,” her term for her standoffishness and reputation as an “ice queen”). She laughed because despite her being flirty when they talked in English class, at least that was what she thought she was attempting to do because she certainly was interested when they would talk Jeff had never asked her out and then one day just stopped talking to her for no known reason. Damn.                    

They say, or at least Thomas Wolfe did in the title of one of his novels-you can’t go home again but neither Jeff nor Elizabeth after that last exchange of e-mails about the fateful missing chance back in senior year would heed the message. They decided to meet in Cambridge one night to see if that unspoken truth had any substance. They did meet, got along great, had many stories to exchange and it turned out many of the same interests (except golf a sport which relaxed Jeff when he was all wound up but which Elizabeth’s second husband had tried to teach her to no avail). And so their little affair started, started with great big bursts of flames but wound up after a few months smoldering out and being blown away like so much dust in the wind once Elizabeth started talking about marriage. Jeff was willing to listen to living together but his own strange marital orbit had made him very strongly again any more marriages. So this pair could not go home again, not at all, and after some acrimonious moments they parted.           

Jeff knew that was the best course, knew he had to break it off but it still hurt enough that any reference to 1964 made him sad. As he took a look at the sentiments expressed in that tattered yellowed document he had a moment reprieve as he ahh-ed over the information presented. Had he really forgotten that there was no Vice President then since there was no Vice-Presidential succession when Lyndon Johnson became President after the assassination of home state Irish Jack Kennedy. That My Fair Lady was a  popular Broadway show then as now. That the Beatles had appeared on Ed Sullivan’s Show and done a film, that Chapel of Love had been a hit that year as well. That 1964 was the year the Mustang that he would have died for came out into a candid  world. That gas was only about thirty cent a gallon, and that another Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, married one Richard Burton for the first time (although not the last). And on that sour note he put the yellowed tattered document he had accidently come across in the trash pile with other tattered documents. He would remember things past in his own way. 
Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘50s Song Night- The Battle Rages- Jerry Lee or Elvis?- Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential”- Billie And Peter Paul Square Off

Markin comment:

This is the back story, the teen listener back story if you like, going back to the primordial youth time of the mid to late 1950s with its bags full of classic rock songs for the ages. Of course, any such efforts have to include the views of one Billie, William James Bradley, the schoolboy mad-hatter of the 1950s rock jailbreak out in our “the projects” neighborhood. Ya, in those days, unlike during his later fateful wrong turn trajectory days, every kid, including best friend Markin, me, lived to hear what he had to say about any song that came trumpeting over the radio, at least every one that we would recognize as our own.

Billie and I spent many, many hours mainly up in his tiny bedroom, his rock heaven bedroom, walls plastered with posters of Elvis, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, somewhat later Jerry Lee Lewis, and of every new teen heartthrob singer, heartthrob to the girls that is, around, on his night table every new record Billie could get his hands on, by hook or by crook, and neatly folded piles of clothing, also gathered by that same hook or by crook, appropriate to the king hell king of the schoolboy rock scene, the elementary school rock scene between about 1956 to 1960. Much of that time was spent discussing the “meaning” of various songs, especially their sexual implications, ah, their mystery of girls-finding-out-about worthiness.

Although in early 1959 my family had started the process of moving out of the projects, and, more importantly, I had begun to move away from Billie’s orbit, his new found orbit as king hell gangster wannabe, I still would wander back there until mid-1960 just to hear his take on whatever music was interesting him at the time. These commentaries, these Billie commentaries, are my recollections of his and my conversations on the song lyrics in this series. But I am not relying on memory alone. During this period we would use my father’s tape recorder, by today’s standard his big old reel to reel monstrosity of a tape recorder, to record Billie’s covers of the then current hit songs (for those who have not read previously of Billie’s “heroics” he was a pretty good budding rock singer at the time) and our conversations of those song meanings that we fretted about for hours. I have, painstakingly, had those reels transcribed so that many of these commentaries will be the actual words spoken during those conversations(somewhat edited, of course). That said, Billie, king hell rock and roll king of the old neighborhood, knew how to call a lyric, and make us laugh to boot. Wherever you are Billie I’m still pulling for you. Got it.
High School Confidential lyrics-Jerry Lee Lewis

You better open up honey it's your lover boy me that's a knockin'
You better listen to me sugar all the cats are at the High School rockin'
Honey get your boppin' shoes Before the juke box blows a fuse
Got everybody hoppin' everybody boppin'

Boppin' at the High School Hop
Boppin' at the High School Hop
Shakin' at the High School Hop
I've rollin' at the High School Hop
I've been movin' at the High School Hop
Everybody’s hoppin' Everybody's boppin'
Boppin' at the High School Hop

Come on little baby gonna rock a little bit tonight
Woooh I got get with you sugar gonna shake things up tonight
Check out the heart beatin' rhythm cause my feet are moving smooth and

Boppin' at the High School Hop
Shakin' at the High School Hop
Rollin' at the High School Hop
Movin' at the High School Hop
Everybody’s hoppin' just a boppin' just a boppin'

Piano Solo!

Come on little baby let me give a piece good news good news good news
Jerry Lee is going to rock away all his blues
My hearts beatin' rhythm and my soul is singin' the blues

Oooooh Boppin' at the High School Hop
Shakin' at the High School Hop
Rollin' at the High School Hop
Gettin' it at the High School Hop
Everybody’s hoppin' Everybody's boppin'
Boppin' at the High School Hop
Peter Paul Markin comment:

“Who are you taking to the hop? Come on now, tell me, tell me, your old buddy Billie, who you asked? Was it Theresa? Was it Donna? Was it Karen?” That was the incessant bugging by my old elementary school boy compadre, Billie, William James Bradley if you didn’t know already, every time a school sock hop came up. But you know, or you should know, that was just a little way that he had to bait me about my shyness, or rather my awkwardness around girls. Around girls that he, king hell king of the late 1950s rock night “discarded” and left for the rest of us, especially for me.

And he knew, he knew damn well that I had not gotten up the nerve to ask any of those three ex-flames, or any girl, to the dance coming up in a few days. For one thing because, as king hell king of the rock night, and therefore king, crowned or uncrowned, of the sock hop he had all the configurations, combinations, set-ups, and, and, no-go bust-ups all computed out, no, not on some machine memory depot but in his head. For another because he didn’t know that I had decided just to go to the dance alone and maybe getting lucky there. Heck, I had done it before, a few times, although not with any great success but if there is any rhyme or reason to youth it is around the possibilities of getting lucky. Of course, old Billie had “selected” Laura as his escort, no awkwardness in Billie, although I had heard, heard from more than one budding teenage source that she “liked me,”(don’t ever tell him this though for I will deny it on seven stacked bibles). Or liked my seriousness, and my clowny, get in the way bookishness. So I am going “stag” on the hope, the hell or high water hope that Billie will let his old buddy, his old amigo, his, well you know, have a dance with his escort to see if I have some “magic.”

Now, and ever since I heard about her opinion of me, I have been wracking my brain to figure out this question. How could she “like me”, or not like me for that matter, I do not know because although I had looked over in her direction in class dreamily (yes, dreamily) more than somewhat I had never said word one to her, or her to me. Now this Laura, if you want a description is not drop-dead beautiful, at least by Billie-Markin defined drop-dead beautiful, twelve and thirteen year old girl beautiful, but she has something else that I would not (and Billie definitely would not) figure out how to say for many years, she was fetching. Definition: nice figure, meaning having a shape, if you really want to know, because when you think about it, boy or girl, twelve and thirteen year old boy or girl, any girl that had a shape (meaning had womanly contours, hips, breasts, nicely-formed legs) rather than a stock stick figure tomboy-like girl was bound to get ahead in that be-bop night, and probably now too.

But more than that, for me, if not for Billie, she didn’t giggle, silly giggle like the other girls when a boy said something stupid-funny (and the twelve and thirteen year old boy universe is more than somewhat filled with stupid-funny stuff done by eons of clueless guys, trying, trying just like me, and just like Billie if he could have ever been honest about it, to figure out the key to the girl-charm thing, yes, there is plenty of room in that universe even now for the stupid-funny) and, she carried herself in a way, sometimes with a certain thoughtful look, sometimes by a thing she did by putting her fingers to her lips, and maybe the most important, that she knew she was a girl and was content with that knowledge. She would lack for no dates or admirers, ever. Oh, ya she was also smart, not Billie street smart, not Markin two-thousand facts smart but asking and answering teacher smart, without being crazy smart about it that you also knew every boy, or almost every boy, in the twelve and thirteen year old boy universe did not like in girls then, and maybe now for all I know. It only gets sifted out later.

But enough of Laura, of Billie, christ of Markin as well, of pre-sock hop arrangements, derangements and dreamily kid in the night be-bop stuff let us get to the sock hop. Hey, wait a minute, you know what sock hops are, or you heard from your parents or grandparents what sock hops are, right? Back in the fifties, yes, the 1950s (and a little bit into the 1960s but the term had kind of died out by then, at least for “non-squares”). If you don’t then I’ll fill you in quickly now, but you’ll see you really know about all of this because it is nothing but a “primitive”, maybe Stone Age when you hear it, version of any school dance scene since they started making teenagers a separate social category in the world, the whole wide world even. Okay the idea was to hem in this mad dash, this mad craze to dance, and dance guys with girls and vice versa, that kids have been into since the radio and jukebox came on the scene, maybe back in that Stone Age now that I think about it.

So dear mother and father, you name the generation, figured out if you can’t beat them join them, and the schools (and churches later) were in cahoots. So every once in a while to keep three eyes on this stuff (and to avoid the feared, seriously feared, basement or “family room”-launched “petting parties” if kids are left to their own devices), maybe a few times a month they would throw a sock hop (the sock part comes from the fact, the hard fact, that most girls, most twelve and thirteen year old girls, wore ankle socks. Ya, no nylons, etc. If you don’t believe me look it up on Wikipedia, or something). Now, most times, this was nothing but some parent or teacher acting as dee-jay and "spinning platters” (records) in some dank, well-lighted, too well-lighted school gym or church basement, christ more than once in the school cafeteria when the gym was being used for other purposes that night. Yes, the night, the night in those days being from seven to about ten in the evening so you would have to think pretty hard about not going, stag or dated up, to the dance if for no other reason than to be able to get out of the house, the cramped, nowhere project house (really apartment) for a few hours uncramped freedom.

This night, this night that Billie kidded me about, this Billie and Laura night, though somehow, although I am vague on the details of how they were brought in, we are not reduced to cranky, scratchy records but a real live local band, a band that prided itself, I heard, on doing covers of the “hot” new singers and groups we knew from American Bandstand (an afternoon television show that had Philly kids, older Philly kids, dancing and swaying to whatever dee-jay Dick Clark, is he still around?, decided was wholesome and fit for the ears of America’s afternoon rock obsessed youth). So this is a time you definitely did not want to miss. And to truth to tell I went early, nervously early if you must know, to see what was up and watch the band set up.

Now this is not just any time in the 1950s, although the sock hop thing, the worried parent, worried about those “petting party” things(and more, much more, about sex things) and this wild and woolly rock obsessed thing their no understand what kids are into could have been anytime from about 1955 on, from the time that Elvis exploded onto the scene with those swiveling hips, that jumping girl guitar, that unkempt hair (ya, unkempt to them), and that permanent sneer came onto the scene.

No, this is 1958 when the Elvis thing had died down a little now that he was dead, or we thought he was dead, and for a fact he might have well have been dead in the constant teen chew-up of rock talent from the kind of music and movies he was into after giving us such great stuff like Jailhouse RockGood Rockin’ Tonight, Heartbreak Hotel and One Night With You. Ya, the king was dead, long live the king, and let’s move on, okay. Billie and I talked about it, about how guys, rock guys that is, seen to have a short shelf-life, but as Billie knew, knew from his own bumpy rock “career”, that’s show biz. So this night we are wondering, wondering like crazy, how the band will work out and whose music they will cover.

Like I said I got there early and watched the band set up, including a piano besides the guitar and drums so I figure maybe they will do some Little Richard or Fats Domino stuff. Seven o’clock comes and here comes Billie with Laura. Wow, Billie has on a nice jacket, wide lapels like all the rock guys are wearing these days (I’ll tell you about how he got it sometime but you can figure that a projects boy didn’t get it as a birthday present from Ma and Pa). Really sharp. But double wow on Laura who has on a cashmere sweater, some wide skirt and, can you believe this, nylons, to show off her nice legs. Oh ya, and just a hint of smile on her face like she is here with the king of the rock night, crowned or uncrowned, and she has staked out the territory as queen, demure queen, but queen nevertheless.

Yes, fetching (although we will agree between ourselves that I don’t know that word, or how to use it in relationship to describing girls and their charms just yet, alright). But here is where the sweetest part comes in when Billie and Laura make their royal entrance and come over to where I am standing when Billie introduces me, formally introduces Laura to me, she gives me this, well, I don’t care if I do wear out the word, fetching smile and says “I’ve seen you in class but you never seem to pay any attention to me. I thought that report you gave on Greek democracy in class was very well done.” Be still my heart, she actually remembers the report… and me. And here I am wearing some bedraggled (always bedraggled, always) stripped (stripes, jesus) white collared shirt, ratty black pants, and old Thom McAn Easter-bought brown shoes. Well, she remembered my report, that’s a start, and it actually was pretty good because I went to the Thomas Crane Public Library right up in Adamsville Square to look the stuff up.

But enough of reports, and "be still my hearts" because the music is going on. A few covers of Little Richard and Fats as I expected, with that piano and all, some Buddy Holly that sounded a little tinny, a few other non-memorable odd and ends, including some Elvis that sounded, and I again swear on seven bibles, like old time parents’ music, like Frank Sinatra, or those guys. The suddenly, the leader of the band said that he had a special guest on the piano for the next number. We all wondered what the song would be while they were setting the piano up closer to the front. I heard somebody say it was going to be something by a new guy, Jerry Lee Lewis. Whoa! I have only heard him once or twice but I thought his piano was smoking so maybe this guest guy could do a good cover on it. Billie, Billie king hell king of the rock night, must have known something was up, and why (always why) because he brought Laura over and asked me if wanted to dance the next dance with her. Me, two left feet, or two right feet, stag, coming to the dance stag just hoping that I would get lucky with “discarded” Theresa, Donna, or Karen dance with fetching Laura. No way. The she said “but I really want to dance with you, you being Billie friend, and he says you are a good dancer,” and then turns a very whimsical smile on me.

Well what are you going to do when a woman (alright girl, but a girl with a shape) wants to dance with you, and had something nice to say about your school report, and, oh yes had that smile, that come hinter smile that leaves a man (okay, boy) anywhere from twelve to twelve hundred weak at the knees. Well, the music is starting so I say yes, okay yes.

And what does our guest pianist do but a cover, a hot cover by the way, of Jerry Lee Lewis’ latest, High School Confidential, which I had heard about but had not heard. Great. Laura and I are dancing away and she is doing nothing but give me meaningful smiles and, maybe that rumor about her “liking me” was true. I am just dancing away like crazy and people are looking at me like where did he learn how to do that. After the dance I returned Laura to Billie, a little miffed Billie but I could have been wrong on that. And then Theresa came over and asked if I wanted to dance. A few dances, a few Laura-less dances later the call for last dance came, and not feeling like watching Laura with Billie just then I headed home.

The next morning, a Sunday morning, if I recall, Billie came over to the house and was fuming/hangdog as we talked, talked obviously about the sock hop doings. Fuming because I had switched up on him. How? Well, apparently, Laura, sweet fetching Laura, spent more than the allotted time talking about me, rather than about Billie’s virtues and he had used the dance, the Jerry Lee Lewis manic rock number that he had found out the band was going to play to make me look silly (his word, although mine when I heard it was more of an expletive). Hangdog because he felt bad now that he had done his best friend wrong, wrong over a girl although, in Billie fashion, he tried to step back and argue that maybe he did me a favor getting me out on the dance floor. See, though what he didn’t know (and don’t tell him either, if you know his whereabouts) is that I had been taking lessons from his slightly older sister, Carol, on how to dance this latest faster dance stuff.

So that is the end of the story, or almost the end. A few days later Laura knocked at our apartment door in the afternoon after school. My mother answered the door and invited her in, although she, my mother that is, said Laura was coming in no matter what from the look on her face. She was fuming, although as it turns out good fuming, because she said she had been smiling at me like crazy when we were dancing to give me the “hint” to ask her for the last dance, the last close to her dance. Sorry, Laura. And then she blurted out her command, “You and I are going to the next sock hop together and you had better not say no.” Well, when a woman (girl, are you happy) "insists” on something, almost anything like that, and on top of that had that kind remark about that school report, and that shape, what is a boy, a boy of the twelve and thirteen year old universe to do but say yes. So at the next dance I won’t be dancing with Billie “discard” Theresa, Donna, or Karen although they are okay but with fetching Laura. So there Billie, we are even. And if anybody asks you, like they asked me once-Elvis or Jerry Lee? Jerry Lee, long live the king.
Billie, William James Bradley comment:

I am fuming, fuming six ways to Sunday if that is possible, fuming until the cows come home if there are any cows around, and if they have wandered I am still fuming. Why? I just called up Laura, Laura that I took to the school dance last week, to ask her if she wanted to go to the church sock hop scheduled for this weekend, Saturday night. Now it wouldn’t be as good as the last school one with a live band, and all, but even with just records and just ten thousand poor as church mice chaperones doing their chaperone thing to get grace or something, for real, we could still have a good time.

And do you know what she said. “I’ve got a date.” What, no way, no possible way, when everybody knows that she is my “personal property.” “Who is the guy, who is the guy, who is the guy who would dare cross the king of the rock night? This world is not big enough for the two of us, give me his name,” I said as I readied my arrows. “It’s Peter Paul, and before you get all crazy I asked him,” she darted back the sound of her voice pleased, pleased as punch the way she said it. “Double what?” I shouted over the phone so everyone within a twenty square mile area could hear, if they wanted to. And she came back, all sweet reason just like every girl, every stick or shapely girl, women even “I like you, I definitely like you, you’re funny, and you’re a good dancer, and you sure know a lot about rock ‘n’ roll, but you seem too bossy, and you take that "king of the rock" thing that Peter Paul keeps telling everybody about way too seriously. If Peter Paul hadn’t spent what seems like half his life building you up as, what did he call it, oh ya, “king of the be-bop night” you might be a better boy to be with. But the big thing, and here is where it all comes down on you, I found out, found out from Karen, that you tried to make a clown out of poor Peter Paul when you let him dance with me and you knew, or thought you knew, that he couldn’t dance for beans.” After she let that set in my head, uneasily in my head for a minute, she continued “So, yes, I went right over to his house and told him, no, what did he say I said, ‘insisted’ that we were going to the next dance together.” But get this, get this dagger thing aimed right at my heart. She finishes off with “And he makes me smile with his silly bookish ways, and you don’t okay. Next dance I’ll go with you, your highness, maybe.” And then she hung up. Ouch!

Two-timing that is all that it is. I can see that now. No, not Laura, you know how girls are, twelve and thirteen year old girls, with their hard to figure giggles, their starting to get shapes, and their monthlies (my sisters, Carol and Donna, told me all about it, sorry, tough luck girls). No, Peter Paul, Markin, that s.o.b., two-timed his best friend that’s all it can be. Probably went to the Thomas Crane Public Library branch that is attached to the school and read up everything that was on the shelves about two-timing, the history of two-timing, boys two-timings girls, girls two-timing boys, everything on the subject back to Pharaoh Egypt times. Just to two-time Billie, William James Bradley, known far and wide, despite what Laura said, as the king of the be-bop rock night. And Markin, no more Peter Paul nice guy now, didn’t have diddley to do with that. Period

But how did he switch up on me? I don’t get that. First, I know, I know from Karen, I know from Donna (not my sister Donna, Donna O’Toole, Cool Donna O’Toole, or was until I ditched her, or what did Markin call it, “discarded her”), I know from Theresa, and I know now, because I just asked her before she went out the door, from my sister Carol, that Markin never said word one to Laura before I introduced them the other night. Although now that I think about it I am still ticked off at Carol for not telling me about helping Markin learn to dance, rock dance, not that silly cowboy, barn dance, square dance thing that he calls rock dancing. I also know from Carol that Markin did not know much about jumping Jerry Lee Lewis. He was just hoping to get maybe an Elvis One Night With You, Good Rockin’ Today, Jailhouse Rock chance. Or a Chuck Berry Sweet Little Sixteen, or a Bo Diddley Who Do You Love? chance with Theresa, Karen or Donna (O’Toole). No way he believed, and I am going to go over right now and ask him about it, that he was going to step up to Laura’s league. Hell, it couldn’t have been that silly report, that silly report that he kept hammering me about as he leaned each new thing, Jesus Christ, Greek democracy, what are you kidding.

At his house I confronted him. “Okay Markin what gives, what, how, why, where, when did you figure out how to break my time with Laura? And don’t play innocent and definitely, I warn you, start talking about that report, that silly Greek geek report.”

Of course I do not believe Peter Paul’s story, is who me story, no way. No way in hell, excuse my language, is a nice shape like that Laura, a nice shape in all the right places, or trying to be in all the right places, and smart, real smart going to go off the deep-end for a, let’s face it, ragamuffin boy like Markin. Christ, even he said it, a guy with a clowny outfit, a shirt, a shirt, a white stripped shirt for Christ sake, if you can believe that, a Bargie special, or straight of the back-rack at Woolworth’s, black chino pants with cuffs, jesus, cuffs and those square, too square Thom McAn brown shoes that I haven’t worn since about first communion is going to put the whammy on a babe like Laura.

Against me, against the king of the rock night in these parts, with my smart-looking wide lapel two-tone sports jacket just like Eddie Cochran, my black pants (ya, black pants, the black is okay it is the chinos, and, and the cuffs that have to go) nicely-pressed (ya, ma-pressed), my Elvis-style hair-do with just the right length sideburns and my foxy, spit-shined Florheim suede shoes (no, not blue suede, that’s squarey square now).

Ya, it was some drugstore medicine whammy he put on her at the dance that night. No question, although I haven’t quite figured out how he did it, because everybody knows, or I know anyhow that Peter Paul and science don’t mix. Don’t mix since he tried that rocket ship caper last year, trying personally to beat the commies at their own game after Sputnik jumped the night sky, when he tried to send some balsa wood rocket into space when he punctured a CO2 cartridge with a nail and a hammier and almost got us all killed. Or when, after that, he started to mix some chemicals in his cellar to go about it another way with some three-stage rocket concoction and almost blew the whole place up. I’ll tell you about that sometime but right now I wish, I wish, well I wish. See, Peter Paul is really about things like Abigail Adams, or her son John Quincy, or about literary guys, like this guy Fitzgerald who wrote about rich kids with names like Basil something and Josephine this or that and their hi-jinks ages ago that he has been yakking about lately. Ya, reading about rich kids, rich, rich guys having fun with rich girls like that is going get us out of the projects, and like reading that stuff is going make him rich, or even get him a pass out of this dungeon project.

Hey, wait a minute, no, no, it is not about science, it’s not about some silly book report, and it’s not about Peter Paul suddenly being a lady’s man. Why didn’t I think of it before? It’s about this new rocker- Jerry Lee Lewis and his be-bop thing, be-bop piano thing. Ya that's it. They say he is going to replace the king, and for all you squares, cubes, and fourth dimension guys and frills, that means Elvis. And if you don’t know that name you must have been up in space with the dogs, monkeys, or robots or whoever is riding those rockets.

Okay, okay I can take a joke. The spell is not Markin, it’s Jerry Lee. Hell, a momentary thing, maybe a few weeks while the king is resting up and waiting to go into the service, or something. No way someone who jumps up and down on a piano, and is kind of a wild man ever going to be, in his wildest dreams, better than Elvis. No way, no comparison, forget it. Name song names, okay. Heartbreak Hotel, That’s When You’re Heartbreak Begins, Jailhouse Rock, Good Rockin’ Tonight, Hound Dog, One Night (that alone says it all). Come on now, I listed enough. And Jerry Lee, High School Confidential. Ya, it’s good, its be-bop but this guy is strictly a one-hit Johnnie. Ya, okay I’ll let Peter Paul have his moment of glory, and maybe a kiss or two, if he’s not scared like usual, but Laura will be back with me at the next dance. Who knows, if I cut in at this Saturday's dance that's coming up, to spare her having to dance with Peter Paul and his black chino cuffed pants all night, maybe this dance. Then Peter Paul can go back and try his luck on those stick girls that are more his speed anyway. Ya, Elvis and Billie. Long live the kings!
Singers' Corner- Honor The Birthday Anniversary Of Paul Robeson


Waterboy, where are you hiding
If you don't come right here
Gonna tell you pa on you
There ain't no hammer
That's on a this mountain
That ring like mine boy
That ring like mine

I'm gonna bust this rock boy
From here to the Macon
All the way to the jail boy
All the way to the jail

You Jack o diamond
Jack o diamond
Know you of old boy
I know you're of old
You rob-a my pocket
Rob my pocket
Silver and gold boy
Of silver and gold
There ain't no sweat boy
That's on a this mountain
That run like mine boy
That run like mine
In The Time Of Their Time-With Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show In Mind   

From The Pen Of Sam Easton

Sam Lowell spurted out the following almost automatically to Bart Webber after they had just finished watching the DVD version of Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show on Bart’s H-D screen giving his take on various sections of the film that rang a bell, rang true to his and Bart’s own Podunk experiences in northern clime Carver a half a generation later than those portrayed in the film, “You know that Jenny, Jenny the waitress, the one who ran the Out Of Luck Café, or whatever Podunk name, Archer City Café, or whatever the cafe was called back then probably knew every sordid detail in that two-bit hick town (two-bit no exaggeration since the total sum of the inevitable Main Street of the town was the café, the pool hall, a gas station, a rundown movie theater getting ready and not soon enough to run its last picture show and not much else the look of a million towns on a million foreboding highways any direction you want to go in America except now they are filled in with strip malls of monotonous same-ness except a few regional variations and they are fading  but the small town-ness is still the same).

Sam continued, “Probably knew who every high school girl was screwing, ('doing the do' in corner boy Carver society after hearing Howlin' Wolf perform his blues song of the same name over WMEX one fugitive night) or not screwing, the former meaning she was 'easy' despite what she told the girls come Monday morning about how she had successfully fended some Travis off, again, although a few months later when she disappeared from town to 'visit Aunt Emma,' at least Bart if you remember that is what everybody in Carver called the situation when some girl got in 'trouble,' got in the family way, and had to leave town everybody would then know that her description of her heroic efforts at resistance had been less than true. The latter though probably closer to the truth in the lie-filled teenage world when it came to sex, and a lot of other things too. I know as you well know from a couple of times you caught me out that I was lying like a bastard a couple of times when I said I was screwing Mary Shea and Diana Nelson and they heard about it and set everybody straight, although they in their turn were screwing, respectively Timmy Callahan the football player and Sal Rizzo, one of our corner boys then while they were going out with me. Damn girls.”

“Knew too if the guy, frustrated by the 'not now, later when we are married' business was two-timing her with some Loretta who in fact was 'easy,' hell, three-timing her with her younger sister who was not so fussy about having the marriage bed the place where she was broken in like happened with Lana Jones and that wildcat blonde-headed younger sister of hers, Betty, who was taking guys around the world in the back halls in junior high, that same high school girl who thought her Jimmy was true blue.”

“Yeah, Jenny knew the real virgins from the sluts overhearing the real talk at the counter that came on after school when those girls came in for their hamburgers and Coke, no onions just in case some guy came in and wanted to talk (that 'no onions' though really got its serious workout not then but on date night if he and she had stopped by to have Jenny cook up a burger on the way to love’s exertions but come midnight, one o’clock,  after love’s exertions worked themselves out they would tell her to pile those damn onions sky high), to play the latest dreamy song after she had wound up in the back seat of some pick-up truck hearing that song on the radio and kept it in her head to spin at the jukebox which was a fixture at the café which had brought in a couple of generations of kids in going back to the days when Ralph Jordan ran the place and would have the best selection of Western Swing tunes in West Texas.

“Yeah, probably knew in detail the sex lives, or non-sex lives of every adult in town as well, knew who was playing around nearby or in the Hotel Deville in Wichita City where despite its regal sounding name operated under the 'motel, hotel, no tell' principle which allowed the owner to fly everywhere he wanted on those love’s exertions workouts at his place; probably knew the net worth of every guy too; and, knew who was failing and who was succeeding in the big time oil game down there among the weeds in Texas just like Lila knew everything about everybody in town over at Jimmy Jakes’ Diner when we used to go there after school.” Bart nodded his head in agreement.

“Didn’t we call her ‘Lila the beguiler’ or something like that since we though that she was sexy even through that steam-sweated white uniform Jimmy made all his waitresses wear, she sure had a shape to go after as every guy from high school corner boys like us to over-the-hill over-the-road truck drivers like Shorty Rail knew who tried to hit on her then once they knew she had been divorced after her husband abandoned her for another woman. You remember what that meant in those days unlike now since divorces were rare in our old town that she was 'easy,' knew the ropes. What people didn’t know was that the reason she was doing that waitressing job other than that was the only kind of work she knew how to do since she had dropped out of Carver High in her sophomore year to run off with that guy who ran off with that other woman was to support her young son who was staying at her mother’s place over in Plymouth since there was no money around otherwise.”

“I know I tried to take a run at her one night when I was alone and the place was kind of empty before the lovers’ lane crowd came in after, I think you guys had gone to a Friday night football game over in Bridgewater, and I was drunk enough to make a fool of myself by asking if she wanted company. She smiled then cut me to the quick and said she was 'no cradle robber no matter what anybody around town said,' Bart thoughtfully, maybe wistfully, replied. “You know though she never said word one about that to anybody, anybody that I ever heard about, that is why people, almost everybody who went into Jimmy’s would talk about stuff around her that they wouldn’t even talk among their friends, wouldn’t talk about ever when Lois the morning waitress was on duty since she was the town chatterbox.”                     

“Yeah, I’m sure now that you mentioned how tight-lipped she could be that Lila knew plenty, probably knew about my father that time he went up to Boston with that “bogger” girl that had him going every which way before she dumped him back on my mother’s doorstep all sorry and forgive me,” Sam, turning flush red at the thought of his father running around with every tramp in town before his mother finally lowered the boom on the bastard.

“I bet Lila knew about all the girls in school too, who was shacking up with who down at the far end of Squaw Rock, the “do the do” lovers’ lane in Carver. Remember we called it, the sex act, usually just straight sex and not oral or something like that which is what happened more often than you would think down at Squaw Rock when girls would get scared about the “visit to Aunt Emma” but not scared enough to want not give their boyfriends a smile on his face, back then after Pete Markin heard Howlin’ Wolf call it that in of those smoking blues songs where he practically devoured the harmonica, would probably now too. I know on a cold night you couldn’t see into a single window of a single car come midnight and then around one o’clock the whole lot all disheveled with guys’ shirts hanging out and hair messed up and girls with their skirts all every which way came in looking for some good diner food, didn’t worry about onions now that the night’s exertions were done and they were going home after they ate their food.”  

“ I never wanted to be around Lana Loren once she got a fistful of onions and garlic down her throat,” laughed Sam at the thought of that at-the door kiss he had taken from Lana on many an night when they were an “item” after their love’s exertions and food afterward before she decided that big football running backs probably had bigger dicks than his and drifted off to the boys’ locker room to make herself available to Jake McGee the star running back of the Carver High School Class of 1964 football team which played in the State Division III championship and lost at the last moment.        

“You know Sam Lila probably could have saved you plenty of anguish that time you tried your luck with Melinda Loring and struck out before round one instead of wasting all your time going nowhere with her before you pulled Duckie Drake aside and asked him what was what with her. I admit the school grapevine, especially when Pete Markin had anything to do with it since guys and gals always humored Pete with some kind of gossip and then he went to see if it was bullshit or not, was damn good mostly but I bet Lila had the ‘skinny’ on Melinda in a heartbeat when she used to go there after school with Muffy Mullin and Sarah Goode and let her hair down. Lila would have let you know what Duckie took a week to find out that Melinda liked you well enough but she was not ‘going out’ with the son of a ‘bogger,’ not going out with a guy whose father worked the cranberry bogs just outside of town. Period”

Sam looked at Bart and his face reddened even after fifty years at that thought of the faux pas over Melinda, a thought that he had believed all these years and only had been disabused of a couple of years before when he ran into Melinda at their fiftieth class reunion and she had asked him why back then after he had been talking to her all serious like he was interested and she had given, or had thought she had given, him some very flirty signals he never asked her for a date, stopped talking to her completely one day and they never spoke again before graduation. Damn. That reunion night Sam had told her that Duckie Drake had told him that she was a ‘no go’ with boggers’ sons and that left him out. Melinda had laughed that that figured since Duckie was trying to ‘make’ her and put the blast on Sam.

In any case, and he would never tell this to Bart since he would freak out and go off on him, would have called him foolish and every other damn thing, Sam had had an affair, a short one, a very short one,  with Melinda after the reunion which he thought was really just a fling on her part once the thrice-married Sam said “no go” to any idea of marriage, based in the acrimonious end on some foolish idea that fifty years later you could make up for something you missed rather than face the facts that you really can’t go home again as Thomas Wolfe named the sentiment in the title of one of his books.

See, as well, Sam could not tell Bart that he had almost destroyed his long-time relationship with Laura Perkins who Bart was crazy about, had tried to beat Sam’s time with  a few times when Sam and Laura  had momentarily split up a few years back  and Bart and his wife Sarah were going through rough retired “empty-nester” blues. He had to laugh because if Lila were alive today, or that couple of years back she probably would have known all about it right after the reunion since he and Melinda had made no bones about their attraction to each other that night and Dora Prescott, the perennial chair of class reunions still lived in town and still patronized Jimmy’s and would have been in there five minutes after the reunion was over.    

“You know The Last Picture Show has to be one of the ten best films ever made in my book, somewhere after Bogie and Bacall in To Have And Have Not where they have some of the hottest sexual attraction to each other with their clothes on scenes I have ever seen on the screen and a couple of others because even though it is nothing but a coming of age film about guys and girls in Podunk Texas in the early 1950s its really about us, about Podunk Carver in the early 1960s and probably a million other places in the 1950s, 1960s, now too, where guys just hung out waiting for something, waiting for what Pete Markin called the ‘fresh breeze coming through the land,’” Sam chimed in trying to erase the subject of Melinda Loring from his mind, “Remember that first time we saw it when it first came out and we both said at the same time after it was over and we were heading out the Olde Town Theater in Washington we wished we had had time to watch it again?”

Bart said he remembered, remembered too why they were in Washington, D.C. for about the tenth time that year, 1971, a fateful year, or so it seemed after Sam had gotten out of the Army with his limbs intact after service in Vietnam but also after he had as he always used to like to say back then he 'got religion'; religion on the questions of war and peace and had joined the anti-war GI movement, joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) organization which was hammering home the message that it was high time, more than high time to end the war against people we had not real quarrel with in that benighted country. Bart, exempted from the military due to a leg problem suffered in childhood which made him limp profoundly even after a couple of surgeries since the military whatever else it may like likes it soldiers to march their asses off, had come to the anti-war movement through Pete Markin who had served earlier than Sam in Vietnam and had been the first Carver kid that he knew who flamed against the war once he got back to what he called “the real world,” a term Sam used as well.

The meeting point had been May Day 1971 when both men, Sam with VVAW and Bart with a unit from People’s Committee for Peace and Justice out of Boston had tried to unsuccessfully shut down the government. All they got for their efforts was some time in the bastinado and a couple of court dates before the cases against them were thrown out by the irate judge who had a short fuse about the prosecution wasting his time when he had real crimes and criminals to get behind bars since the arresting officer never showed up to identify them. After that last court date they decided to go see this film which Bart’s girlfriend and later wife Sarah had seen when it came out in late October and raved about it noting the same thing that they did about the whole scene being like something out of their Carver experiences. (Sarah a year younger than Sam and Bart had not gone to Washington that May Day since she had opposed the idea of shutting down the government as a stupid tactic rather than trying to build larger and larger national demonstrations to put pressure on the government. In the end neither position had won out over the other since the Vietnamese people, the people we had not real quarrel with, had pushed the American presence and its bought and paid for South Vietnamese government out the door on their own in April 1975.)                   

This second, for Bart, and third time viewing for Sam who had seen the film again after he had seen the unsatisfactory sequel Texasville, talk about you can’t go home again, in 1991 which reunited many of those same stars about twenty years later had been initiated by Sam. Sam had since his semi-retirement from the day to day operations of his small law practice had been via the beauties of modern technology, through the Internet and Netflix,running the rack on many of the old time black and white films that he had seen in the old days at the Strand Theater over on Lapine Street on Saturday afternoon double features. He had noticed The Last Picture Show when he was scanning the pages for such films, although the main period of black and white films was back in the 1930s and 1940s this film had been done in black and white to give it the gritty feeling of a dying town where time seemed to stand still in the up and coming 1950s. A wise choice on the part of director Peter Bogdanovich.     

“Funny right from the first scene, that football scene so many of the scenes in that movie even today ring a bell, make me think back to those high school days when a lot of what went on seemed to be universal for teens in the post-World War II world. American Graffiti   done in color and portraying an early 1960s small town California had the same effect on me,” Sam remarked as he was putting the DVD disc back in the much used and abused container as he liked to call the ratty pouch provided to put into the Netflix envelope to mail back and in return get another film from his running list, from what they call his want list.

Bart had chortled at that football scene and remarked as Sam was doing his work, “Remember back in 1960 when you tried out for junior varsity football where you were going to be the star running back of the team, another Jimmy Dunne the legendary Carver fullback from the 1930s that they still talk about come Thanksgiving reunion times and after about two weeks you gave it up because you said you didn’t like the idea of cleating anybody, or being cheated I forget which.” Sam replied “Yeah I remember but it wasn’t that getting injured that bothered me that much as I wasn’t that good at running. I kept getting plowed under by Terry Smith who weighed about two hundred and twenty pounds then a lot of weight for a high school kid after about a one yard gain. Hell I was only about a hundred and forty pound then good for a cross country runner which is what you know I did pretty well at after the football dream faded so that was that. The other thing that bothered me as well was that in 1960 the junior varsity sucked, never won a game, got pounded just like Sonny and Bubba in the film, and so that was that.

"Who knew that Jack McGee was going to move to Carver from Adamsville and take the team when they were seniors to the state finals. Boy thought that year, actually the year before, junior year when Jack started to blossom weren’t we crazy every Saturday, every what did you and Markin call them, oh yeah, every granite-grey autumn afternoon, watching the guys go for glory, go for glory after all those years with bum teams that couldn’t tackle, couldn’t move the fucking ball. I would have made the situation worse although even I could have had any girl I wanted senior year just by being on the team , and you know this was true since Paul Dolan, just an ordinary looking guy and a second stringer got the class beauty, Anna Aikens, and it wasn’t  for his sparkling conversation. Or his big dick which he didn’t have according to Mindy Stein who went out with him for a while and then dumped him and took her shots at Jack McGee who according to Jack Callahan’s sister he had, a big dick that is.  Funny how as much as we were obsessed about sex, about tits and ass, the girls, some girls like Mindy anyway were making their own sexual prowess observations. All I got for being a cross-country runner and trackman even after I won a couple of races was this from Jilly Dubois when I told her about my track exploits as a build-up to asking for a date which I desperately wanted from the minute she came to town sophomore year-‘Oh, does Carver High have a track team?’ Deflated once again.”                       

Bart tried to contain a laugh thinking to himself that back then track guys, runners, guys running around in shorts and sleeveless tops and looking silly were the butt of many jokes and were considered a nuisance on the roads even by their parents. So Sam had gotten just about the right answer from Jilly who if he recalled was something of an airhead even if she filled out a cashmere sweater nicely then he said, “Sam, remember the night before Thanksgiving football rally in 1963 the last game of the year, the last scheduled game for the seniors if they didn’t win the next day against bigger arch-rival Adamsville High. How thrilled we were to be there after the great up until then undefeated season something no Carver team had done, ever. How all the girls looked great, especially that cheerleader Maura [Sam interrupts “majorette, you know the baton-twirler, Rosemary something that I was all hot and bothered about after Jilly gave me the air.], okay, and everything was so keyed up. Didn’t you write something up about the rally for the next issue of the North Star?”    

“Yeah, I did I think I still have it around somewhere I’ll look for it when I get home and if I find it I will sent the story to you,” Sam said absent-mindedly as he was thinking back to where the hell it would be, really where would his copy of the Magnet, the class yearbook where that article would be found if it was anywhere. As it turned out when he got home that night he tried up in the spare bedroom, spare now that the kids were mercifully gone off on their own and he used the space as a semi-home office but found nothing that night. The next morning still full of the hunt since Bart had awoken something in him when he mentioned that long ago silly article he found the yearbook up in the lower attic and within that document there sat his blessed article. On reading the thing he was surprised how good it was, with the editorial help of Merdy Manning of course who bailed everybody out with her insightful thoughts about how a newspaper article should look even in a silly school newspaper pitched that special issue to students and alumni alike as always on the week after Thanksgiving issue which was mailed through the alumni association to its members, still is, and wondered aloud why his writing skills had lost their edge once he took to writing the lawyerly dry brief, memoranda and opinions for a living. This is the copy he sent to Bart by mail, snail mail:    

Thanksgiving Football Rally, 1963-Go Red Raiders

“Scene: Around and inside the old high school gym entrance on the Hunt street side the night before the big Thanksgiving Day football game against our cross town arch-rival this senior year of 1963. (Yes, that is the street with the Merit gas station on the corner for those who do not pass that way, do not patronize the place for cheap gas for that hot Saturday night date or something like that.) This piece is written, if you have not been around the high school for a while, at a time when they are still building an addition modeled, if you can believe this, on the office buildings across the street behind the MBTA stop and a tribute to “high” concrete construction, and lowest bidder imagination. For all of you though the scene inside could have been a scene from any one of a number of years, your year too. And I am willing to bet six-two-and-even with cold hard cash gathered from my hard earned bank account against all takers that this story “speaks”, except the names, to your year as well:

Sure the air is cold, you can see your breath making curls before your eyes no problem, and the night feels cold, cold as one would expect from a late November New England night. It is also starless, as the weather report is projecting rain for the big game. Darn it, not darn it because I am worried about, or care about a little rain. I’ve seen and done many things in a late November New England winter rain, and December and January rains too, for that matter. No, this darn it is for the possibility that the muddy Veterans Stadium field will slow up our vaunted offensive attack. And good as it is a little rain, and a little mud, can be the great equalizer.

This after all is class struggle. No, not the kind that you might have heard old Karl Marx and his boys talk about, although now that I think of it there might be something to that here as well. I’ll have to check that out sometime but right now I am worried, worried to perdition about the battle of the titans on the gridiron, rain-soaked granite grey day or not. See, this particular class struggle is Class A  Adamsville against Class B Carver and we need every advantage against this bigger school.

Do I have to describe the physical aspects of the gym? Come on now this thing is any high school gym, any pubic high school gym, anywhere. Fold-away bleachers, fold-away divider (to separate boys for girls in gym class, if you can believe that in this day in age and you who graduated before us probably wondered too), waxed and polished floors made of sturdy wood, don’t ask me what kind (oak, maybe) with various sets of lines for its other uses as a basketball or volleyball court. But enough. The important thing is that guys and gals, old and young, students and alumni and just plan townies are milling about waiting for the annual gathering of the Red Raider clan, those who have bled, bleed or want to bleed Raider red and even those oddballs that don't. This one stirs the blood of even the most detached denizen of the old town.

This night of nights, moreover, every unattached red-blooded boy student, in addition, is looking around, and looking around frantically in some cases, to see if that certain she who said she would come, pretty please come, has come for the festivities, and every unattached red-blooded girl student for that certain he, ditto on the pretty please. Don’t tell you never took a peek, or at least a stealthy glance. Among this throng this night are a couple of fervent quasi-jock male students, one of them who is writing this entry the other, great track man Bill Cannon., who is busy getting in his glances in, both members of the Class of 1964, with a vested interest in seeing their football-playing fellow classmates pummel the cross town rival, and also, in the interest of full disclosure, in the hunt for those elusive shes. I do not see the certain she that I am looking for who I pretty pleased but, as is my style, I have taken a couple of stealthy glances at some alternate prospects. 

This is the final football game of our final football-watching season, as students anyway, as well so we have brought extra energy to the night’s performance. We are on the prowl and ready to do everything in our power to bring home victory. ....Well almost everything except donning a football uniform to face the monstrous goliaths of the gridiron. We fancy ourselves built for more "refined" pursuits like those just mentioned stealthy glances, and the like.

Finally, after much hubbub (and more coy and meaningful looks all around the place that one could reasonably shake a stick at) the rally begins, at first somewhat subdued due to the very recent trauma of the Kennedy assassination, the dastardly murder of one of our own, for the many green-tinged Irish partisans among the crowd. But everyone, seemingly, has tacitly agreed for this little window of time that the outside world and its horrors will not intrude. A few obligatory (and forgettable) speeches by somber and lackluster school administrators, headed by Headmaster Walsh, and their lackeys in student government and among the faculty stressing good sportsmanship and that old chestnut about it not mattering about victory but how you play the game drone away.

Of course, no self-respecting “true” Red Raider has anything but thoughts of mayhem and casting the cross-town rivals to the gates of hell in his or her heart so this speechifying is so much wasted wind. This “wind tunnel,” obligatory or not, is followed with a little of this and that, mainly side show antics. People, amateurishly, twirling red and black things in the air, and the like. Boosters or Tri-Hi-Yi types for all I know. Certainly not the majorettes, who I will not hear a word against, and who certainly know how to twirl the right way. See, I am saving one of my sly, coy glances for one of them right now.

What every red-blooded senior boy, moreover, and probably others as well, is looking forward to is the cheer-leading to get things moving, led by the senior girls like the vivacious Roxanne Gaugh, the spunky Josie Weinstein, and the plucky Linda Proctor. They do not fail us with their flips, dips, and rah-rahs. Strangely, the band and its bevy of majorettes when it is their turn, with one exception, you know which one, do not inspire that same kind of devotion, although no one can deny that some of those girls can twirl.

But all this spectacle is so much, too much, introduction. For what is wanted, what is demanded of the situation, up close and personal, is a view of the Goliaths that will run over the cross town arch-rival the next day. A chance to yell ourselves silly. The season has been excellent, marred only by a bitter lost to a bigger area team, Walton, on their home field, and our team is highly regarded by lukewarm fans and sports nuts alike. Naturally, in the spirit, if not the letter of high school athletic ethos, the back-ups and non-seniors are introduced by Coach Leonard. Then come the drum roll of the senior starters, some of whom have been playing for an eternity it seems. Names like Tom Kelly, Walt Simon, Lee Moore, Paul Daley, Joe Zapp, Don McNally, Jim Fisk, Charlie McDonald, Stevie Collins, "Woj" and on and on (Jesus, don’t forget Woj even if I can’t spell his name right . I don't need that kind of madness coming down on my face for he was meanness itself even in ninth grade and maybe a reason I took up the sane sports of running cross-country and track) and on and on.

Oh, yes and “Bullwinkle”, Jack McGee, a behemoth of a run-over fullback, even by college standards (and he has been well-scouted by the local colleges like Boston College and Boston University). Yes, let him loose on that arch-rival's defense. Whoa! But something is missing. A sullen collective pout fills the room. After the intros are over the restless crowd needs an oral reassurance from their warriors that the enemy is done for. And as he ambles up to the microphone and says just a couple of words, “Victory tomorrow,” we get just that reassurance from “Bullwinkle” himself. That is all we need. Boys and girls, this one is in the bag. And as we head for the exits to dream our second-hand dreams of glory the band plays the school fight song to the tune of On Wisconsin. Yes, these are the days when boys and girls, young and old, wise or ignorance bleed Raider red in the old town. Did they do so in your day? And did they make those furtive glances as the hes and shes too? I hope so.”

Bart continued on about a scene from the movie that struck him as very familiar, “That scene with Sonny and his girlfriend, or whatever she was, maybe his whore from how fast she took off her blouse and bra, although she backed him off when he went to go up her thigh to the holy land, was beautiful even if the movie theater he getting was his ‘feel up’ in really should have been closed down because it was nothing but a rattrap. Remember that first time we went to the Strand Theater with dates, girls and how unsure we were about what to do, about kissing and about ‘sitting in the balcony’ so we just sat in the orchestra section and watched the movies. The whole thing seemed so confusing and awkward at first. Remember that time I tried to get a date with Sarah Goode, not my Sarah, but this other girl Sarah who I had a crush on in eight grade over at Myles Standish Junior High [Sam could not remember her face although he remembered the name.]

“I finally coaxed her into going to the Saturday afternoon matinee with me since she said she probably would be able to do that with a boy without her mother going crazy. I forget the movie, I forget how much it cost although I know we took the old Eastern Massachusetts bus up to the Square and then walked to the theater and I know we ordered a huge box of popcorn just in case things didn’t work out. That working out part remember was whether when you got to the theater, got inside, you were going to sit in the orchestra or in the balcony. After we got our popcorn and I think some sodas because that popcorn, theater popcorn was dry even with butter on it, and headed to the door to the seats I asked Sarah-orchestra or balcony? My heart was beating a thousand beats a minute until she answered-‘balcony, silly where else would we go. Bingo.’ Bingo too that she let me touch her breasts-outside her blouse of course- in those pitch dark seats where you could see and hear others breathing heavy and some moaning too. Double bingo when she taught me how to French kiss although the first time was messy and weird. To this day I could not tell you if you gave me a hundred chances what the damn movie was about or even what its title was. Oh yeah, we left an almost full box of dry popcorn on the seats when we left and two full cups of soda.”               

Sam laughed and thought about his own Strand Theater adventures once he realized that movie theaters were not just for watching movies like when he was a kid, a kid going dutifully to his double features every Saturday to get out of the house and out from under his nagging mother who was always bitching and moaning about something. Thought about Theresa Wallace, Linda Platt, Donna Nelson and a bunch of other girls he had taken to the balcony. He then startled Bart when he shouted out, “Hey didn’t they even have a drive-in theater in that whole goddamn dust bowl town?” That got Bart to thinking that Sam was right there was no scene, no classic teen scene where kids snuck into the theater piled in the trunk when you paid by each person not the carload when they got wise to what everybody was doing, had their own exclusive section for heavy breathing and foggy car windows where no parent with children would dare to go within one hundred yards of and crummy intermission food, those guys were really deprived because even his poor as church mice people brought their kids, him and his four sisters to the drive-in summer where you could see if not understand was going on that one hundred miles away. 

Later Sam would reflect on the meaning of the drive-in movie as part of his cultural heritage, think back to the times when he would ask his mother why they went there rather than the Strand and she had answered that aside from the cheaper price by the carload that was beginning to be the norm that she was smitten (her term) and had been since she was a young girl by Hollywood and its glamour which showed to better effect on the big outdoor screen so she was willing to put up with jungle jim craziness, awful intermission food and the damn green flies in July which meant that the speaker-side window practically had to be barricaded against the swarms. That old time conversation one of the few times that he and his mother had declared something like an armed truce made him write this little sketch to Bart giving his take on the drive-in experience that those poor oil field town dwellers were deprived of:

“Oh sure, everyone of a certain age, a certain baby-boomer age, a generation of ’68 age, has plenty of stories to tell of being bundled up as kids, maybe pre-set with full set pajamas on to defend against the late sleepy-eyed night, the sleepy-drowsy late movie night, placed in the car backseats and taken by adventurous parents (or so it seemed) to the local open air drive-in for the double feature. That usually also happened on a friendly summer night when school did not interfere with staying up late (hopefully through both films). And to top it all off you got to play in the inevitable jungle jim, see-saw, slide, swing set-laden playground during intermission between the film while waiting, waiting against all hope, for that skewered, shriveled hot dog, rusty, dusty hamburger, or stale, over the top buttered popcorn that was the real reason that you “consented” to stay out late with the parents. Yah, we all have variations on that basic theme to tell, although I challenge anyone, seriously challenge anyone, to name five films that you saw at the drive-in that you remembered from then-especially those droopy-eyed second films.

In any case, frankly, I don’t give a damn about that kid stuff family adventure drive-in experience. Come on, that was all, well, just kids' stuff. The “real” drive-in, as pictured in the cover art of a CD compilation I once purchased on Amazon when I was in a nostalgic 1950s minute a few years back and it showed what could have been our Meadow Glen Drive-In  scene is what I want to address. The time of our time in that awkward teen alienation, teen angst thing that only got abated by things like a teenage night at the drive-in. Yah, that was not, or at least I hope it was not, you father’s drive-in. That might have been in the next planet over, for all I know. For starters remember our planet involved girls (girls, ah, women, just reverse the genders here to tell your side of the experience), looking for girls, or want to be looking for girls, preferably a stray car-full to compliment your guy car-full and let god sort it out at intermission.

Wait a minute. I am getting ahead of myself in this story. First you needed that car, because no walkers or bus riders need apply for the drive-in movies like this was some kind of lame, low-rent, downtown matinee last picture show adventure. For me that was a problem, a personal problem, as I had no car and my family had cars only sporadically. Fortunately we early baby-boomers lived in the golden age of the automobile and could depend on a friend to either have a car (praise be teenage disposable income/allowances) or could use the family car. Once the car issue was clarified then it was simply a matter of getting a car-full of guys (or sometimes guys and gals) in for the price of two (maybe three) admissions.

What? Okay, I think that I can safely tell the story now because the statute of limitations must have surely passed. See, what you did was put a couple (or three guys) in the trunk of that old car (or in a pinch one guy on the backseat floor) as you entered the drive-thru admissions booth. The driver paid for the two (or three tickets) and took off to your parking spot (complete with ramp speaker just in case you wanted to actually listen to the film shown on that big wide white screen). Neat trick, right?

Now, of course, the purpose of all of this, as mentioned above, was to get that convoy of guys, trunk guys, backseat guys, backseat floor guys, whatever, to mix and moon with that elusive car-full of girls who did the very same thing (except easier because they were smaller) at the intermission stand or maybe just hanging around the unofficially designated teen hang-out area. No family sedans with those pajama-clad kids need apply (nor any sane, responsible parent get within fifty paces of said teens). And occasionally, very occasionally as it turned out, some “boss” car would show up complete with one guy (the driver) and one honey (girl, ah, woman) closely seated beside him for what one and all knew was going to be a very window-fogged night. And that was, secretly thought or not, the guy drive-in dream. As for the movies. Did they show movies there? Enough said.

Oh, except that at said drive-in, before the first show started at dusk, between shows and on the way home, girl-matched or not, you were very liable to hear many of the songs in this CD on the old car radio. The stick outs here include: Heat Wave (not as good as Dancing In The Streets but good), Martha and the Vandellas; Just One Look (make that look my way, please, even if you are munching on pop corn) Doris Troy; Wild Weekend (just in case you wanted to dance during intermission rather than watch the screen clock ticking off the time until that next film began), The Rockin’ Rebels ; and, Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby (yah, you have got that right, sisters), The Cookies.”

But that missive was later after Sam had gone home and thought about the matter. What Sam and Bart proceeded to think about were those steamy scenes with Jazzy that had them both going since she was such a fox even watching her some forty plus years later.  

“Jesus, didn’t that Jazzy Larkin remind you of Donna Nelson, looked like her a little although Donna could sing a song, sing a torch song to break your heart. I wonder whatever happened to her, never heard that she made it big after she won that talent show the town fathers put on which got her a chance at a record contract and that scholarship to State U,” wondered Bart as he got slightly heated up once again just thinking about that long blonde hair, those ocean blue eyes and that shapely body with those well-turned legs and that damn way she had of pointing her breasts to great advantage when she was talking to you. Then he blurted out the familiar chant of the time that went around the boys’ locker room when guys were finished with gym and were waiting for the bell to ring and were just chewing the fat, the fat being the guys’ versions of what the girls were saying on Monday morning before school in the senior girls’ lounge about what they did, or didn’t, do over the weekend and the subject in the locker room was of who got how far with various school foxes and Donna’s name would be on the tip of a lot of guys tongues since she didn’t like the idea of having a steady boyfriend, liked to “play the field” she called it and never had to worry about hanging by the midnight telephone on weekends if she didn’t want to.

“But she was a cunt too, left me  and few other guys hanging out to dry when it came ‘do the do’ time down at Squaw Rock, said she didn’t want to get that kind of reputation, although she would get every guy worked up and maybe let them feel her up but that was about it, didn’t want to be an ‘Aunt Emma’ girl, a girl who had to leave school because she was in the family way and when you hadn’t seen her around for a while the excuse would be that she was visiting her aunt for a while, a lot of girls were visiting a lot of aunts back then.

“Funny about Donna you expected the Irish Catholic girls with their novena books and rosary beads between their knees not to “put out” but I think Donna was a Protestant. I would see her coming out of the Congregational church across from school some Sundays when I was heading up to the golf course to do some caddying in grab some dough to take Sarah out, or to get something I needed when there was no money around to get it otherwise. Those Protestant girls were supposed to be looser, supposed to not be worried about going to hell if they did have premarital sex, or just gave a blowjob which most guys would be happy to get and not have to worry about getting a girl pregnant and have to deal with some irate father and a ‘shotgun’ wedding. Yeah, I wondered whatever happened to a fox like Donna, probably got married about three times and left them all to hang out and dry. Some women are just built that way.”       

Sam who had his own one on one entanglements with Donna, including a stupid midnight telephone call that he still got red in the face about all these years later asking her for a date when he got brave enough to give a call. They had been in English class together and like half the guys in the senior class he took a run at her especially when after they had been talking for a while about various literary subjects like Thomas Hardy’s books and T.S Eliot’s poetry he thought he was getting somewhere. Of course he was blind to the fact that lots of guys struck out with her, or had had a couple of dates and had gotten the “ice queen” treatment down at Squaw Rock, which he damn well knew from those boys’ locker room talkfests. But he pushed on anyway and of course Donna when she sensed a guy was interested and maybe was a little interested herself got all flirty and “wouldn’t it be nice” so a guy like Sam, or Bart, or the million other guys would take the bait, would figure they would be the one who would get to go up those luscious white thighs.

What Sam didn’t do, what he should have done as he had done in the past was check with Pete Markin to see if Donna was “spoken for” see if she was going with anybody just then since she had not been seen down at Squaw Rocks for a while with anybody from school. See Pete, ‘the Scribe’ as Frankie Riley called him, for some reason, was a guy everybody confided in, or at least told the latest gossip to and so he was the lynchpin to what was going on socially in the school, meaning really who was screwing who mostly but at least would help you with the grapevine intelligence about who was “spoken for.” He didn’t that time with Donna and wound up with egg on his face. Donna was going out with a guy from college, a freshman at Stonehill College a few towns over, and was according to Pete screwing the pants off the guy since college guys didn’t put up with that virginal stuff, they would just move on to the next girl who would put out. Peter figured that since she was not hauling some guy’s ashes around town where it would get out all over the place she could “do the do” up in some guy’s dorm and no one would know about it, no one around Carver anyway.

Sam still got red about that faux pas but he kept that to himself when he was talking to Bart as he told him about some information he had received about the late Donna Nelson when he had had gone to that 50th class reunion. Donna’s best high school friend, Diana Rich (nee Murphy), told him the tale. This is what Sam told Bart, “After Donna graduated she did go to State U on that music scholarship but like a lot of freshman then, now too maybe, she got caught up in the social life, got caught up big since she had missed that in Podunk Carver. She became a party girl, a girl who was up for a few things, a few kicks once she blew the dust of Carver off her shoes. At least that is what she had everybody thinking.

Diana didn’t know what happened with that college Joe from Stonelhill but he probably just drifted off to some other honey when Donna went to State U since that was about a hundred fifty miles away from Carver. She got involved with some up and coming folk-singer in her music class who turned her on to dope, marijuana and maybe some pills, some speed nothing heavy. This guy, Tim Harding, folk people would know who he was since he had some small success in that 1960s folk minute was conflicted about staying in school or trying to go out on his own and ride the folk minute wave. Eventually he decided to go out West and Donna bored and in love for the moment decided to go with him. They went to the Village then the Mecca for folk music after Bob Dylan and Joan Baez made the genre respectable for young people to listen to. In the Village as you can imagine with a ‘hot’ girl like Donna she went wild, left that folk-singer and started going through the alphabet of guys, some she slept with other she just teased with just like in high school. Stepped up her drug intake too, maybe a little alcoholic thrown in.   

“Along the way I guess she did a few ‘open mics’ at Murry’s across from the Gaslight which is where Tina Grace had gotten her start and her success later filled the place with singers like Donna looking to get a record contract and win some fame and fortune. Met a guy, a sleaze-bag from every account, a guy who said he could get her a contract. Naturally she had to go down the silky sheets with him, had to put up with few crazy things but mainly what this guy did was introduce her to horse, H, heroin back when that stuff was bad action, was some junkie tale out of The Man With The Golden Arm, bad stuff really and an expensive habit.

“The bullshit thing was this guy said it would help her voice, would bring her up that notch to get that Billie Holiday feel to her voice. That is all it took, although if she had thought about it for a while Billie went under one night on that stuff and never came back. But what does a foxy young woman with no dough and big dreams know about the down-side, probably figured that it wouldn’t happen to her even if she knew. Wanted to believe that bit about her voice. Needless to say she got more into the dope that into the music, the sleaze-bag eventually moved on to some other good-looking honey and left her with nothing but a habit, a habit and doing tricks in the street for dough. That went on for a while and then one night I guess she was about twenty-six, still had those flirty good looks even if she was sullen and moody now she deep sixed on some bad junk just like you read about these days and they found her in her small room in a rooming house on West Fourth Street, an overdose.”        

Bart was shocked, had not kept tabs on his old classmates, on Donna anyway but shed a small tear, Sam did too after he told the tale, and then said, “What made a girl like Jazzy, a girl like Donna tick. Made them all flirty and driving guys wild and then walking away like that was the most natural thing in the world, like a guy was supposed to take it and like it?” Sam shrugged his shoulders, “If I could have figured that out a long time ago I could have saved a lot of alimony and child support but I was always attracted to those teasers, those cock-teasers and probably always will be.” Bart laughed for moment before another small Donna tear came to his eyes.

The tears over, at least for the moment who knows what each man would think about later that night when Donna entered their midnight heads and what might have been, when Bart mentioned the scene about the drive-in restaurant and although it didn’t play much of a role in the movie it certainly did in the life of the Carver teen world, the life at Eddie’s Drive-In Restaurant out on Route 109 where every guy, with or without girls, with or without his corner boys would show up after dark, or maybe just before dark in the summer and go through the ritual of having Betty or Sue take their orders, wait, and then have the girls come out with a tray and put there hamburgers, fries and Cokes, maybe an odd Pepsi for some on the doors of those hot cars. This was a summer ritual as much as going to Jimmy Jakes’s Diner after school to play the jukebox was during the school season.

“Remember the night at Eddie’s when Johnny Blaze challenged Big Red Radley in that midnight “chicken run,” the one where the prize was Ellen Small,” Bart prodded Sam. “Oh yeah, that night when Johnny who had been hitting on Ellen, if anybody needed to hit on her to get what they wanted, for a while had had a few drinks, some Southern Comfort which I swear would rot anybody’s brain decided he wanted her and in best caveman style challenged Big Red and his ’57 Chevy with his modified ’49 Hudson that he probably spent about ten thousand hours on to a midnight “chicken run.” Usually these runs were just that to see who was “king of the hill,” but when Johnny called Big Red out he said if he won he wanted Ellen, wanted her sitting next to him in his coupe. Big Red, always full of himself and his prowess with cars and women, said in a flash, ‘bet,’ and so they were off down deserted Trever Road.

“Funny thing about guys, about girls too, this Ellen was as dumb as dish water even if she was well-built and had big tits which a lot of guys liked then, although I remember you and I talking about it one night and saying that we did not care one way or the other about that and we laughed about all we cared about was whether they did the number one question, did they want to put out. Ellen, dumb and sex crazy even in junior high school where she took many a guy in some back hallway and gave him a little something to think about. Not a tramp, not a nympho, but a girl who for some reason liked her sex which is something every guy probably found strange especially when they had to go through a civil war to get a kiss from a girl. So Ellen was what did we call them, oh yeah, the town pump, and even Pete Markin got his ashes hauled if you can believe that.

“You never did her, did you [Sam: no, a true no.]  I didn’t but that was because I was getting a little something from Janey Jordan, you remember her. [Sam; yeah, cute with very small breasts, right] Yeah, guys are strange sometimes because everybody knew Ellen was screwing on the side, some guy over in Plymouth according to Pete but Big Red and Johnny B. both were ready to storm heaven for this tart. Johnny won that night, won easily and Ellen cool as a cucumber sauntered over to Johnny’s car, slid up next to him and off they went heading to Squaw Rock for a little late night victory screw. Two weeks later and Big Red, missing his Ellen, called ‘bet’ on Johnny this time his won and she sauntered over to Big Red’s car and off to Squaw Rock. I heard later through Pete I think that this dumb as dishwater Ellen married some computer guy when that was just starting out and computers were just starting to jump and became some kind of society woman. Funny about that being from hunger Carver. I wonder if she was still screwing on the side, you never know.”                 

“It’s funny when you think about that film, when you think about when we were young guys too, how much time we spent just hanging around being corner boy guys hanging around, yakking about girls, cars, money and getting out of Podunk Carver, it must have been a universal thing then, maybe now too but you don’t see guys hanging around anymore, do you see them hanging at Jimmy Jakes’?,” asked Sam since Bart had pretty much stayed around the Carver area once he had sowed his wild oats out on the Coast and then come back, married his Sarah, and built up his printing business, raised a family. “No, those corner boy days are over, have been for a long time ever since they built the Evergreen Mall over on 109 and made “mall rats” out of all the kids. It’s not the same as my grandson, Prescott, told me one day when I asked him what they do over there. It ain’t dreaming our dreams that is for sure.”

Sam nodded his head, “You know I have a theory about that whole corner boy thing we had back then, how we had our little rituals, our little rules and regulations, and the “from hunger” stuff that pulled us together then. Just like Sonny and Bubba were looking for kindred, although we would not have used that word like we were some punk sociologists if we had known the word, looking for guys like us, Frankie, Pete, Five-Fingers, Jack before Chrissie took all the air out of him (or put it into him might be better), Be-Bop Benny, Flip, Danny Boy, all the guys who hung out successively at Carter’s Variety Store, Doc’s Drugstore, Tonio’s Pizza Parlor before he sold it to a couple who wanted to keep a family crowd and keep out cheapjack corner boys and we wound up at Jack Slack’s bowling lanes who were looking for the same thing, came from the same from hunger backgrounds, thought we had gotten a raw deal out of  life and just gravitated to the same company.

Peter, yeah, the Scribe said we were looking for that ‘new breeze’ he though was coming through the land then, and later when the breeze did come the great blue-pink American West night which even you went through with us. Or maybe it was just the girl hunger we all shared even when we had girls, even when we would get an occasional piece and be glad of it. But some kind of bond held us, held us for longer than just a minute anyway. But you could tell that same unspoken thing between Sonny and Bubba, the same grunts and groans when it came to saying anything about it.”          

“I wish that last chance last dance scene they had in the movie had been just a high school dance instead of a whole town dance mixed up with adult goings-on and coppers putting a damper on things because you know we lived for those damn things got all fixed up, dressed up, nervous and all in anticipation of the Fall Frolics, Bring Spring and the other thematic dances,” said Bart. Sam thought for a moment about what Bart had said and that triggered thoughts of a review of an “oldies but goodies” compilations about teen dance clubs which were the same thing as the last dance idea that he did for of all things the American Folk Music blog that his now companion, Laura (not wife remember he was over that idea after three marriages but he wished he had met her long ago and saved himself a ton of grief, money and loneliness), wrote for occasionally and had “dared” Sam to write something. He had initially balked and had used the excuse that he was a child of rock and roll and the aging folkies she associated with (and whom he was fond of in his own way since they were contemporaries and he was facing the aging process too, just like them, and moreover had had his own small folk minute memories) would give a rat’s ass (his old time corner boy expression never given up) about a last dance rock scene. Laura beat him to the draw and won the argument handily when she said “we were all children of rock and roll, get going). Here is what he came up with which he sent to Bart along with the other old writings at his request.                      

“I, seemingly, have endlessly gone back to my early musical roots in reviewing various compilations of a classic rock series that goes under the general title The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. And while time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-58, really did form the musical jail break-out for my generation, the generation of ’68, who had just started to tune in to music.

And we, we small-time punk (in the old-fashioned kindly sense of that word), we hardly “wet behind the ears” elementary school kids, and that is all we were for those who are now claiming otherwise, listened our ears off. Those were strange times indeed in that be-bop 1950s night when stuff happened, kid’s stuff, but still stuff like a friend of mine, not my grammar school best friend “wild man” Billie who I will talk about some other time, who claimed, with a straight face to the girls, that he was Elvis’ long lost son. Did the girls do the math on that one? Or, maybe, they like us more brazen boys were hoping, hoping and praying, that it was true despite the numbers, so they too could be washed by that flamed-out night.

Well, this I know, boy and girl alike tuned in on our transistor radios (small battery- operated radios mainly held to the ear but that we could also put in our pockets, and hide from snooping parental ears, at will) to listen to music that from about day one, at least in my household was not considered “refined” enough for young, young pious “you’ll never get to heaven listening to that devil music” and you had better say about eight zillion Hail Marys to get right Catholic, ears. Yah right, Ma, like Patti Page or Bob (not Bing, not the Bing of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? anyway) Crosby and The Bobcats were supposed to satisfy our jail-break cravings.

And we had our own little world, or as some hip sociologist trying to explain that Zeitgeist today might say, our own sub-group cultural expression. Our “cool” things, nothing hot, nothing sticky to the touch then. I have talked elsewhere about the pre 7/11 mom and pop corner variety store hangout with the tee-shirted, engineered-booted, cigarette (unfiltered) hanging from the lips, Coke, big sized glass Coke bottle at the side, pinball wizard guys thing. And about the pizza parlor juke box coin devouring, hold the onions on the pizza I might get lucky tonight, dreamy girl might come in the door thing. And, of course, the soda fountain, and…ditto, dreamy girl coming through the door thing, natch. Needless to say you know more about junior high school and high school dance stuff, including hot tip “ inside” stuff about manly preparations for those civil wars out in the working class neighborhood night, than you could ever possibly want to know, and, hell, you were there anyway (or at ones like them).

But the crème de la crème to beat all was the teen night club. The over fourteen and under eighteen teen night club. Easy concept, and something that could only have been thought up by someone in cahoots with our parents (or maybe it was them alone, although could they have been that smart). Open a “ballroom” (in reality some old VFW, Knight of Columbus, Elks, etc. hall that was either going to waste or was ready for the demolition ball), bring in live music on Friday and Saturday night with some rocking band (but not too rocking, not Elvis swiveling at the hips to the gates of hell rocking, no way), serve the kids drinks, tonic, …, oops, sodas (Coke Pepsi, Grape and Orange Nehi, Hires Root Beer, etc.), and have them out of there by midnight, unscathed. All supervised, and make no mistake these things were supervised, by something like the equivalent of the elite troops of the 101st Airborne Rangers.

And we bought it, and bought into it hard. And, if you had that set-up where you lived, you bought it too. Why? Come on now, have you been paying attention? Girls, tons of girls (or boys, as the case may be). See, even doubting Thomas-type parents gave their okay on this one because of that elite troops of the 101st Airborne factor. So, some down and the heels, tee-shirted, engineer- booted Jimmy or Johnny Speedo from the wrong side of the tracks, all boozed up and ready to “hot rod” with that ‘boss”’57 Chevy that he just painted to spec, is no going to blow into the joint and carry Mary Lou or Peggy Sue away, never to be seen again. No way. That stuff happened, sure, but that was on the side. This is not what drove that scene for the few years while we were still getting wise to the ways of the world The girls (and guys) were plentiful and friendly in that guarded, backed up by 101st Airborne way (damn it). And we had our …sodas (I won’t list the brands again, okay). But know this, and know this true, we blasted on the music. The music on some of those compilations previously mentioned. I will tell you some of the stick outs, strictly A-list stuff from those teen club nights so you get the flavor of those hormonally-maddened times:

Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters (oh, sweet baby, that I have had my eye on all night, please, please, James Brown, please, save that last one, that last dance for me); Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison (for some reason the girls loved covers of this one, and thus, we, meaning the boys “loved” it too); Alley Oop, The Hollywood Argyles (a good goofy song to break up the sexual tension that always filled the air, early and late, at these things as the mating ritual worked its mysterious ways); Handy Man, Jimmy Jones( a personal favorite, as I kept telling every girl, and maybe a few guys as well, that I was that very handy man that the gals had been waiting, waiting up on those lonely week day nights for. Egad!); Stay, Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs (nice harmonics and good feeling); New Orleans, Joe Jones (great dance number as the twist and other exotic dances started to break into the early 1960s consciousness); and, Let The Little Girl Dance, Billy Bland (yes, let her dance, hesitant, saying no at first, honey , please, please, no I will not invoke James Brown on this one, please).
Sam thought to himself how after all these years how much growing up, how much coming of age in that corner boy world of the late 1950s and early 1960s centered on sex, on “doing the do” as something, probably the Scribe who was into the blues well before any of the rest of us who only got interested when the Stones came blasting over the Atlantic seas, had picked up from the lyrics of an old Howlin’ Wolf song, and of always being on the edge of some sexual exploration, some unexpressed sexual longing too and of some measurement of sexual prowess among the group, and among the school’s male population in general. And as he thought about the matter how much they lied, each one of them about their sexual adventures, lied over the top, lied on the high side about their sexual conquests. He thought since he and Bart were being candid with other, or as candid as two old time corner boys who came up the hard way, and came up with a certain ethos that was dominated by male prowess with the opposite sex could be he would pose a question to Bart about his relationship with Sarah, the girl who would be his wife, and who still was.

“Bart I have been thinking about this question off and on for a long time, since back when we were juniors and you first met Sarah Ridge, Sarah who you would marry. You always said that you never had sex with her then, that she was one of those Protestant girls who didn’t fit the mold about being easier about sex than those damn Irish Catholic girls who were always giving us the runaround about sex being the devil’s work or some such bullshit any time you went beyond some chaste kiss with them, Jesus, I remember Mary Shea almost ripped my arm off when I tried to go up her dress after she let me feel her boobs.

“Tell me the truth now, Christ fifty years later because although I know you were always a little shy about talking about sex in general and about protecting Sarah’s reputation so the rest of us would leave her alone when you guys were having one of your ten thousand little falling outs. Wouldn’t hit on an “ice queen” which we certainly would not do if we knew she was a certified one but Pete Markin one time told me that he saw you coming out of Sarah’s house late one night late junior year when her parents were away for the weekend and he said you looked all disheveled, had your shirt out or something but also had big grin on your face like you had just got laid. Now you know Markin was tight-fisted with his information, wouldn’t tell anybody anything if he wasn’t sure because that scrawny bastard didn’t want fists flying in his direction if he was wrong and wouldn’t have told me in confidence what he has seen that night if he wasn’t sure of what he had seen. You never mentioned it to the guys or me, always were grousing about how Sarah didn’t want to “do the do” was afraid to get pregnant, afraid she might have to go see "Aunt Emma" if she did, would barely let you squeeze her tits, from the outside of course, and never came clean with us. I wondered about it but since we had a certain code, a certain sense that what a guy said about his sexual exploits or as here not about his exploits was the skinny even if we knew from our own experiences half of what we said was bullshit just to appear not to be a fag, what did we call it then, oh yeah, ‘light on our feet’ but I know you were screwing the pants off her if what the Scribe said was right.”

“Yeah, I was, what about it,” Bart answered with as much bravado as if he had told the gang back then that he was getting his regularly from Sarah up in her room and not down at the far end of Squaw Rock where it was always presumed, even if incorrectly, that all those condoms on the ground had been usefully used. Bart then came back on Sam, “Don’t mention it to Sarah at this late date but Markin had asked her back then one day after school when he ran into her at Doc’s where he was playing the jukebox because he was crazy to hear some new tune he had heard on the radio the day before if she was a virgin and the Scribe was the kind of guy all the girls would confide in, knew he wouldn’t spread it around, and a few weeks after that night you are talking about she told him she wasn’t. She didn’t have to say more about who had deflowered her because everybody knew she was with me. 

“So if we are being what did you call it, being candid, what about the times you said you were screwing Sadie Hoffman, that hot Jewish girl that you were crazy for and who you said gave you a tumble that first date night, made your dick sore from doing it so hard? My sister Jenny who was friends with her from cheerleaders said that Sadie mentioned one Monday morning before school girls lavatory talkfest that she didn’t know what she was going to do with you. Said to the girls that she liked you but that you were trying, and failing, to get into her pants so hard she was going to have to break up with you. If I remember you did break up with her a couple of weeks later.

Sam thought for a minute, trying to draw a picture of Sadie in his mind, trying to at that late date still cut his losses when he said, “Okay, okay I didn’t get to first base with her, played it all wrong anyway, see some guy, some Jewish guy, Steve Kalish said she was easy, that for some reason Jewish girls were easy, maybe because they came from hot climates or something but that was bunk. But you remember a lot of guys thought that way about Protestant girls and Jewish girls too figuring they had to be easier to lay than those damn Catholic girls from the church who were nothing but cock-teasers.

“You couldn’t, I couldn’t say after I made a big deal out of it, a big deal out of screwing a Jewish girl which was worth about five stars in our scoring system if you remember how Frankie Riley would make up that point system for the number and hotness of our conquests that I didn’t even get a hand-job from her. A Jewish girl even an ugly one like Frida Stein would get you five points automatically unlike say Ellen Small who didn’t get you any points or maybe one since she was as easy as a whore and it didn’t cost you anything to do it with her except maybe a look her way.  That sure was a crazy time for learning about sex, or half learning and I am surprised more of us didn’t get caught lying our asses off but you know the girls were doing the same thing and so nobody wanted to challenge anybody about any sexual exploit they claimed. Thank God that whole sexual thing is easier these days, easier I guess although three expensive divorces and a bunch off affairs since then make me wonder some times. In any case if I ran into a piece like Jazzy I would be claiming I had all I wanted from that bitch just like old Bubba did, maybe claim more than I wanted to.                   

“Jesus, it was weird to see those high school kids, Bubba and Sonny leading the charge and the sheriff right there in front of them popping bottles of beer right there in public, carrying flasks of hard liquor,  drinking right out in the street like they were drinking soda, thinking nothing of it. I never checked the last time I saw the film to see what the liquor laws were in Texas in the early 1950s to see if you could drink that young but I never did,” Sam mentioned to Bart after he had said all he was going to say about his youthful sexual exploits, and non-exploits too. “Remember though that first time we had hard liquor down at the sea wall at Adamsville Beach after you went to see your grandmother to get medicine for her and you got a pint of liquor with it,”

Sam continued. “Oh yeah, I used to run up Adamsville to get Grandma Riley’s medicine and so they knew me at Cleary’s Drugstore even though  I was only sixteen they would let me as part of her order a pint of Seagram’s Whisky. All the Irish grandmothers who had accounts with Cleary’s did it, did it for medicinal purposes they would say, the doctors would write it up that way. That one time thought Grandma didn’t order her whiskey but I did anyway and they thought nothing of including it in the order. I brought the order to her house down the street then called you up and told you to come meet me up at Adamsville Beach and told you I had some booze if you wanted to taste what it was like. Jesus we drank the whole thing, probably too fast and I know we were sick for a while. I didn’t like whiskey after that for a while but as you too well know I developed a taste, the taste for it before it almost destroyed my life, and did destroy at least one marriage, the first one but maybe that wasn’t meant to be anyway.”

“Speaking of booze remember that time we went down to New York, Sam said, “down to New York when we were in high school senior year with a few of the guys when you only had to be eighteen to drink there. That was a blast that they were talking about for months afterward, a lot of it urban legend stuff but some of it true. We all piled into Jack Callahan’s car, remember how much hell Chrissie McNamara, now Mrs. Jack Callahan for the past thirty years or so (and in business circles Mrs. Toyota since Jack has been the hot rod Toyota guy in Eastern Massachusetts for a long time), gave Jack about going to New York with a bunch of heathens, that is what she called us, since this was shortly after she had put her foot down and came into Tonio’s Pizza Parlor one night when we were sitting there figuring out what the hell to do come spring break and she, tired of his taking his peaks at her, and she him, plopped her lovely ass on his lap and dared him to pull her off and the look in her face said it would take the whole football team of which he had been one of the star of that fall to get her off (“arse” we called that part of the body then mimicking our grandparents most of whom had come over from the old country the generation before, come over from Ireland and still held to some of old expressions and we just went nuts saying it). And equal time Jack looking at her like it would take more than a football team to get her off that lap if anybody was foolish enough that night to try. But Jack had said to Chrissie that he had promised the rest of us to go and as he was the only guy who had a car that could make the two hundred mile trip he was in.

“Let’s see Pete, Frankie, and the Be-Bop Kid went too yeah three front three back, that three front the days before bucket seats so you could get three in the front and not be illegal. So we went one Friday after school the week of spring break and got to the Taft Hotel, remember we were channeling the ghost of Holden Caulfield or something and since he has stayed there were decided we would invoke his memory by staying there as well. We got there and believe me we were in thrall to New York and all the skyscrapers, all the traffic, all the people but best of all the hotel didn’t hassle us about having three guys per room and we didn’t have any hassle at all pooling our money to get a ton of booze for the weekend at Cappy’s Liquor across the street. Funny how we were all thrilled to get to New York to see the sights, the Statute of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Plaza, the five cent Staten Island ferry and we wound up spending the whole four days never leaving the hotel except to grab more booze from Cappy’s and a ton of hamburgers from the White Tower. Remember those two sisters we met in the lobby from Trenton who were staying on the floor above us and their girlfriends and how we wore than elevator out, and not just the elevator, going up and down. I think everybody got laid except Jack and we already knew the story on Jack although maybe he did cadge a little something because he definitely was a girl magnet with his good looks and football built.

“Then when we came back to town that next Tuesday and stopped at Jimmy Jakes’ Diner for some real food everybody in the place knew we had been under the sheets, had had a hell of time although none of us could say what sights we saw when asked. Naturally Chrissie went crazy seeing Jack with a few days growth on his face and we had all we could do to keep her from taking a bat to us. I think Sarah was flaming arrows at you too.” “Yeah, she froze me out for about a week, maybe more, Bart chimed in, “wouldn’t talk to me until I lied like a bastard that I just drank myself under the table and she relented, but it was a close call. We almost didn’t wind up going to the senior prom because of it. Jesus, that was a time and as many times as I have been to New York since then for one reason or another I will always remember that time, and to be honest that Clark sister from Trenton I shacked up with the whole time.”                       

Sam, fixing himself a drink from Bart’s liquor cabinet now filled with high-end scotches and whiskies, while he was pouring began thinking about that crazy scene in the film where Bubba in a rage over Sonny taking his time with Jazzy after she had turned him over and they got into a fight where the crazed Bubba bonked Sonny over the head causing him to bleed and to have to be taken to the hospital to take care of his battered eye and face. “Bart, did we, did any of the guys ever fight over some girl of mutual interest I don’t remember. I know we almost came to blows that one time over Sarah when you two were on the outs and I tried to move in when I knew from Pete that she wasn’t a virgin and that maybe she would give me a tumble. But she solved that problem for us since she wouldn’t give me a tumble, said she was true blue to you although she did say she was flattered by my attentions, you know how she talked like that.”

Bart fired back, “Hey, don’t you remember the night Pete almost got his balls handed to him in a basket when he tried to pick up the Be-Bop Kid’s girl, what was her name, Betty something, Betty Bower. Pete had heard, had heard correctly as it turned out that Be-Bop and Betty had split up and so under our “code” she was fair game. Pete was pretty straight like that although if you recall on that New York trip he took that Suzie whatever her name was right away from Be-Bop so maybe there had been bad blood between them that we didn’t know about although it never came to the surface before that night with Betty.

“She had come into Tonio’s by herself to pick up a pizza to go and Pete was sitting in our corner booth along with Be-Bop who was in the dumps. So Pete went up and asks her if she needed somebody to help share that pizza at home, needed some company. And she said, yeah, sure they could watch a movie or something with her sisters that she was baby-sitting for that night. Be-Bop saw this action and saw red or whatever color he was seeing that meant he was not happy. As they went out the door to her car, her father’s car, to head to her house Be-Bop went up and took the pizza that Pete was carrying for Betty and dumped it on the ground. Now as you know Pete was a runt and even thought Be-Bop always said he was a lover not a fighter Pete got scared, thought Be-Bop was going to hit him. And he was, he definitely was because he had his fist in a ball ready to rock until Betty told Pete that maybe Be-Bop better pick up the pizza and take her home. Jesus. No double Jesus because Be-Bop said that night while the younger sisters were eating the damn pizza and watching television they were up in Betty’s room making the bed scream. Women.”                  

Bart got all solemn at the next moment as he always did when the subject of Sam’s military service came up in conversation as it would after watching this film since Bubba’s remedy for what ailed him, Jazzy ailed him was to get out of town and join the Army, join it at a time when the Korean War was eating up men at a prodigious rate, “Sam what did you think about Bubba going off to war to try to resolve what ailed him, try to get out of Dodge. Did you notice nobody, Sonny anyway, thought anything of it, didn’t even bat an eyelash when he announced that he was taking the Trail-way bus out in the morning.”

Bart waited as Sam mulled over what he had just said, thinking to himself that he had had it easy on that question since he had been declared 4-F, unfit for military duty due to that childhood injury that would not heal and Sam had been dragooned into the Army by his friends and neighbors at the draft board, had seen action in Vietnam, had come home disenchanted with the war, tried to tell everybody who would listen that the whole war was a disaster, had joined various G.I. anti-war organizations and had been a life-long opponent of almost every military action the American government had tried to foist on its citizens.

“You know that part of the film where Sonny and Bubba get back together just before the bus leaves when Bubba leaves his souped-up car for Sonny to take care of while he is gone probably has been replicated in more Archer City/Lima, Ohio, Davenport, Iowa, Ellsworth, Maine, Carver, Massachusetts small town America locales than you can shake a stick at. The young, when we were young didn’t want to speak of death, treated it like it wasn’t there, couldn’t happened to us, like we would live forever or close to it and so nobody was there in that town, nobody in Carver either and I am to this day still bitched out about it to tell us what the real cost of war was, what would happen if we made it back to the real world. So Bubba, so Sam, so Ralph, so Pete and all the other kids from working class towns, from the inner city barrios and ghettos never get somebody to tell them like they should that there is another way, a totally different way to deal with your military obligation. I am still bitched out about that too. But today I am bitched out mostly by the fact that the same kind of kids that got dragooned into the Vietnam War, and I am glad you did not have to face that choice, got dragooned into Afghanistan and Iraq. Jesus.”

Bart said nothing just kind of let it go, let that idea that Sam had said that it was okay, which he had never said before, that Bart had not served in the military a situation which had bothered him since back then. But he too knew that Carver the town that he had stayed in all his life except those few years when he sowed his wild oats with Sam and some of the boys was still sending more than its fair share of sons of boggers to fight the American government’s wars.           

“You know since we are being candid in a candid world that I have never asked you whether you ever regretted staying in Carver after those few years that you sowed your wild oats with out in California during various summers of love, various acid-etched experiences out in Haight-Ashbury, Joshua Tree, a few places south of the border where the dope was plentiful and cheap and came back to Carver, settled in with Sarah, developed your printing company before and after the that whole silk-screen fad on tee-shirts and posters came and went and had a pretty good if staid life after all,” as Sam posed that question kind of pensively to Bart who was still savoring Sam’s answer about Bart’s lack of military service back in the day when al lot of young men like Sam were being chewed up and spit out.”

Bart answered in kind, “Despite all the adventures we had for those couple of years we were out West and down in Mexico, despite all dope and women, especially the women who “made my toes curl” as one of them told me they would do to me and they did my heart still belonged to Sarah who I knew was waiting back here for me. I tried to talk to her about heading West, about getting the hell out of Carver but she said she was attached to her family that lived mostly around here, wanted to live in a small town, liked the idea that our kids would go through the same schools that we went through, that we would go to the Strand Theater like we had in high school although she was wrong on the longevity of that place since it closed down about ten years after we married when the mega-plexes came to the mall and sucked the air out of independent movie theaters, wanted to stay and smell the roses of the same old place and frankly after a while, after I had built the business up by adding a line of commercial accounts that kept us going before the new digital technology blew us out of the water I wanted to stay too although every once in a while I would dream wistfully about that beach at Big Sur where we stayed with those girls from UCLA who were as wild as the Huns and think well Carver really was too small for big pant dreams.”

Sam, who had been all over, had been married three times and had many affairs a couple when he was still married, had left Carver and not really looked back until many years later, until just a couple of years before that fateful fiftieth class reunion knew in his own heart that he could not go home again, that he could not hold the fort against the future like the Barts and Sonnys of the world.”

With that last bit of wisdom Sam yawned, knew that he had to get home to Laura in Boston and dream the dreams of the vagabond just. As he left out the front door of Bart’s house Bart yelled after him that “You are right, right as usual when it comes to films, you must have been in contact with the ghost of Pete Markin because The Last Picture Show really is one of the ten best film of all time, no question. And if we did not know it then, know it that first viewing, it really was about us, about growing up in Podunk, having friends, and dreaming dreams.”

Sam could think of nothing else that he would have added to that sentiment.