Tuesday, March 07, 2006

April through May 1965

Here are some more journal entries from even farther back in time; this time beginning 41 years ago. Again, the text in [square brackets] is editorial notes to myself to flesh out the story with more background.

April 17, 1965 [written when I was 19 years old]
Haven’t done much today, but decided to put down a couple of thoughts maybe I will be interested in later.

[Provide background about my previous summer jobs (car washing, lawn mowing, USGS line crew in Norva/Waynesboro & Frericksburg – tell story of the first racially integrated line crew & our experience with a segregated diner); describe characters, including Vic Gauza. Tell why the freedom & independence was so important to me & why I was so looking forward to a summer away from home on my own.]
About Ocala… A month or so ago I found out from Capt. Marker [a friend of my dad's who apparently was connected with the Civil Service] whom I accidentally met at the Episcopal Church here in town that my application for a job had been approved, and Vic Gauza [who had interviewed me for the job] had just seen my dad and told him I was to be assigned to Ocala, Fla. Now this threw me! Ocala, Fla., for the summer! ! ! Man! Well, I’ve thought about it and have inquired around, but haven’t been able to find out much about the place yet. Now, I know it’s a good-sized Florida town, a little south of Gainesville and about in the middle of the state, E-W. But what is it really like? Is it just a tourist trap? Is it a colonial slum, like Fredericksburg? Does it have a lot of good-looking chicks (not like F’burg!!)?

Joanie’s not too happy… know she wouldn’t be when she heard that I was leaving for the summer and wouldn’t be back ‘till Fall. I’m not glad about that aspect of it either. I know I’ll get homesick for her. She’s been such a good friend…and lover! But there’s nothing anyone can do about it, so might as well look on the bright side of it. Maybe she can come down and visit her grandfolks. I don’t think they live too far away from Ocala.
Now, about this job…Mr. Gauza said I’ll get per diem… but only while I’m living away from Ocala!! What does that mean? He says I’ll be away from Ocala from 50% to 75% of the time. Will I “camp out” with the rest of the crew? Or will be just simply be living in another city for awhile? Sounds like fun, if only I can bring my car along.

Ah… at the mention of that word, I begin thinking of the real fun I’ll have this summer… I’ll be independent! Not “independent” like I was last year, when I came home every weekend, and even like the year before, when I stayed away, but was tied down with a car that got 10 mpg, so I couldn’t afford to run it very often. Now, I’ll have the Opal! It should get in the neighborhood of 30 mpg on the highway, and that’s just where I plan to be more of the time.

[Tell about the family cars: The ’52 Cadillac & 1960 Opal station wagon. Tell about my Dad’s philosophy of cars: buy an old one & run it into the ground; never maintain it. Tell the story about the ’52 Packard, which Dad traded for a load of Rhododendrons, then tried to seal a leak in the transmission with radiator sealer.]

[Tell about my experience playing in the Top Hats with Charlie Mathias & Billy Hunter; how I again made contact with Billy Hunter in 1988 when Mirage was playing at Bryce ski resort. Tell the story of the drunk woman who tried to pick me up after the H’burg Moose Lodge gig; tell about how bad it smelled outside, because it was across Rt. 11 from the Rockingham Poultry plant. Tell about playing at Crafton’s Mountain Lodge & at the outdoor WHBG radio show. Tell about how I played two keyboards at once. Explain how I got into the Top Hats through the son of the people in whose house I rented a room for the summer at $10 a week (is this correct?).]

The trip down sounds like fun! I’ve already planned my route and possibly a side-trip I may take on the way down to Charlie Mathias’ house in Harrisonburg. He’s a good guy! That trip should probably take me about 125 miles and around 4 hours and 15 minutes out of my way. But I like to drive, and I’ll have plenty of time. At an average of 50 mph, I should be able to make it down to Gainesville in a total of about 19 hours driving time. Assuming an hour or so stay in Harrisonburg and possibly some time in Waynesboro, I should be able to drive 10 hours per day. The first day I want to get a little over ½ of the time covered. If I started around 6:00 or so in the morning, I’d get into H’burg at around 8:50. Then, if I left by 10:00, I should hit Rte. 95 in N.C. by about 2:05. That’d put me into S.C. at around 5:35. I could travel thru to about 7:00 or the middle of S.C. (around Summerton somewhere) and then stop for dinner and a place to stay for the nite. Hope I can find a good, cheap motel; maybe one which will run me around $3.00 or $4.00 for the nite. Then, if I left there at about 6:00 in the morning, I should make Ga. By about 8:46. Fla. should come up about 12:00, and Gainesville at about 1:50. Of course, I’m almost sure I won’t stick exactly to this schedule, but if I can get in by 1:50 in doing so, the latest it seems I could get in at Gainesville would be at least before dinner. After all, in my calculations, I assumed a 45 mph average thru Va., and a 50 mph average thru the rest of the trip. I know I could keep that kind of average (50 mph) up on the Interstate highways. But a lot of the trip, especially through S.C., Ga. & Fla., appears to be on regular, 2-lane, undivided highways. Just how much that’ll slow me down is hard to say. That it will slow me down some is certain… I’d be up shit creek if I were to get stuck behind some old farmer going along about 40 mph., with a steady line of traffic in the other direction!!! I won’t have near as much passing power with the Opal, of course as I did with the old’ ’52 Caddy. And the Opal will be unbelievably loaded down…. Just hope I can make it up the mountains east of H’burg!!

Speaking of loaded, I’m going to see if I can get Donny [my band buddy Donny Hyland, who was old enough to buy liquor in VA] to buy me a 6-pak or so of beer to drink on the way down. I could chill it in the freezer before I left (at Tommy’s house) and pick it up when I left Friday morning. I could leave room for it in my suitcase, so I could have some in the motel room at night. And I could have a little to finish off down in Ocala. Hope I can find someone to buy for me down there!! I may need a bit of the stuff if I can’t find any girls (like in F’burg this summer)! But then, at least I could go home on weekends!

Hope I can have most of the weekends free. I’d like to maybe go to my grandmother’s cottage in Cedar Keys. Then scoot on over to Daytona, Pensacola, and maybe Miami, or even Key West. Yes, I think I’m going to enjoy that lil’ Opal this summer!!

April 18, 1965
Well, I played heretic again today and didn’t go to church. Easter Sunday, even! But I rationalized that the church (Bruton Parish) would be so crowded with tourists I wouldn’t be able to get in anyway.

[Describe historic Bruton Parish church in Colonial Williamsburg. Describe what it was like attending college at William & Mary. Explain why I decided to attend there. ]

Ah! Got my speaker box today! Sure is big enough!! Hope it sounds as good. Don’t know if we’ll be able to get it in Andy’s car. It sure looks good enough, though.

[Explain how hard it was to find a suitable amp and speaker for my electric piano that could compete with electric guitar amps. Explain that I had a friend build me a bass reflect speaker box for my piano, which turned out to be too big, then the other one that I ordered from a Lafayette Radio Equipment (precursor to Radio Shack) catalog & built myself at home.]

I sure do like that Top Hats’ record. Hope Charlie can make some big money off it. Still hoping to get to see him in my way South this year.

[Tell about the Top Hats’ record, a copy of which I bought in the record store in Colonial Williamsburg.]

Man! Am I ever getting tired of this place!! I think I’ll have a fit when my last exam is over!! Don’t know how I’m going to fit all that stuff in the little Opal to go home this year! I know! I’ll take a couple of suitcases or so full of stuff home with me when I come up for the prom on May 22 or 21. Maybe I can take the wheels off the old speaker box and take it up, too. (I’d better find some way to get it all home, because I know it won’t all fit in the back of the Opal!) Not with that trunk, anyway. Maybe I can take the trunk full of stuff, the speaker box, and a suitcase or 2 back on the bus with me. That way, I’ll have to live on just the bare essentials for a week afterwards, but at least I’ll avoid getting my dad’s dander up when I come home for good!

April 20, 1965
Got Mr. Horton’s number today. Maybe I can save some money by going home with him. Hope he doesn’t mind carrying all the junk I hope to take home with me.

[Explain that Mr. Horton was someone with whom I used to hitch rides back and forth from home to college. Describe the trips, including the story about passing within smelling distance of the paper plant in West Point & everyone smelling it & not wanting to implicate themselves. Tell the story about what happened in the Freshman dorm (Brown) the first time that smell wafted through the windows. Tell about how the train would rock the dorm. Tell about hiding Vodka & beer in dorm room. Tell about the dorm party where The Strangers played our first gig, how we blew a fuse & how funny the tape sounded when it started back up again. Explain how I met lead guitarist & singer Wayne Jones & singer Harvey Bryant in the dorm, then answered Buck Collins’ ad in the paper, then got Andy Reeve (drummer) by putting an ad up in the dorms.]

Got to get studying! They’re really piling it on now! Don’t believe all the work I’ve got to do!!

[I was drunk when I wrote the following, which is printed in boldface, because I scribbled it VERY LARGE.]

So GODDAMN SICK OF THIS SHIT!!! GODDAMN! Why the Hell to I have all this fuckin’ goddamn work to do??!!! SHIT-FUCK!! I don’t give a slippery fuck whether I pass or not!! All I want to do is get OUT of this goddamn place!!!!! FUCK!!

May 13, 1965
WHOA! Just took a Spanish test in the EAR! Sideways! Hope I passed it. – Well, if I can hold out through the next week, I’ll be okay. Just think! Today’s Thursday, Just a week from today, I’ll be through with classes. (But I’ll be studying for exams on Friday). Well, it’s bound to be over SOME DAY!

Well, we have our rehearsal scheduled for the TV show today. Hope it goes over good, with no bad hitches. Should be fun…

[Tell about how my band The Strangers taped a made-up TV show patterned after Dick Clark's American Bandstand for a graduate student's thesis, how we planned for me to say clever things & how I totally froze up and looked completely wooden when the time came for the host to interview me. Wayne (our lead singer) came up with this idea that sounded really funny at the time: He was singing in the shower, and the only way we knew to shut him up was to ask him to sing in our band. Then watching the tape how we doubled up in laughter at seeing me look so stupid on TV, and how at the same we were pretending to be some big name band – how I couldn’t catch my breath for laughing so hard. You know, one of those times where you actually think you might asphixiate yourself from laughing.]

I may be reading this a long time from now, remembering what a good time I had in college. Well, it's all relative, because I have to work like Hell, and the frustrating thing is that I never seem to be getting anywhere. Just taking courses and screwing around…Seem to be wasting my time… and my Dad’s money. But I have to finish as soon as I can, because Dad can’t retire until I do. He’s got to support Mary for the rest of her life, too. Guess I’ll have to some day, too. [I was right about that.]

[Explain about my dad’s poor health & my retarded sister.]

Should be a good weekend coming up. Hope Marianne and I hit if off like we did the last time. Peter, Paul & Mary should be good. [We attended a PP&M concert.] Hope the dance Saturday night is good. Don’t know who they’re having for the dance after PP&M!! Anyone but the Collegiates, please!!

[Explain that the Collegiates were a rival band at W&M. Tell about Marianne, a “townie” and how we used to study together at her house, which was a restored historic home that was formerly a colonial stable.]

May 24, 1965
About that Spanish test… I got a B on it! Unbelievable! That’s all I can say.

Well, about to finish my first year of college. Sure feels good to have it almost over!

Really looking forward to leaving for home… and then for Fla.! Boy, the longing a fellow gets to be on the road…sometimes it’s almost more than I guy can bear.

Got an illegal car down here for the last week…hope I don’t get caught. Don’t know how I’ll keep away from it for that long!! [Students at William & Mary were not allowed to have cars, because it's a tourist town, and if all 3,000 students had cars, it would create too much traffic. I brought the car down at the end of the school year so I could drive my electric piano, amp and luggage back home.]

Sure hope I have a good summer. Really looking forward to it…even more now than ever!

May 28, 1965
Almost OVER!!…Yep, guess my Frosh year is about up. I’ll probably look back on this and laugh; or I might kind of wish I were here and now again. But this is past you now, kid. Remember, always look to the future; the past holds nothing but memories.

Little philosophy there. Got my last exam tomorrow. Spanish. Hope I don’t screw it. Got an A for Geology this semester. Don’t believe that shit!!

Hope I don’t get the tube tomorrow if someone sees my car when I load it! Could be tense, especially since I have to find somewhere to park it! Guess I’ll leave it at Marianne’s house. Because the regular parking places are only for two hours.

Wish I knew what I was going to major in. Have no idea! Hope I figure it out before next year when the deadline comes. May get some ideas from the job this summer.


Anonymous said...

So which side of the Top Hat's record did you like? "No Letter Today" or, um, "69"?

RunAwayImagination said...

Hey Anonymous, are you a former Top Hats band member or fan? I'm saying that because I didn't mention the names of the songs in this blog post, and there can't be too many people who still remember that record.

The straight answer is that "No Letter Today" was the "A" side, and "69" as I remember was an intstumental filler, so I guess I liked the "A" side better. The crooked answer is 'hahaha'.