FACEMASKS (412)

Many small teams in North Carolina played six- man football. There is a great Sports Illustrated article on Texas 6-man football, played even now. The rules are different (shorter field, 15 yards for a first down, gotta lateral it once before, running it, etc.) but essentially its “hike it, and rednecks go long!”
Really, it was like a back yard game, but folks were serious. As Willie Nelson stated: “When Jesus said love thy neighbor, there was no such thing as high school football.”
And they were playing with live bullets. At 5’3” 105 lbs, I was faced with tackling a junior on our team named Jimmy Freeman. Jimmy ran it at 6’1”, 175 lbs, and the only little guys, Aubrey Moody and I, tried to summon the courage to tackle him. My first realization was, hey – Jimmy ain’t Tuddy.
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Only the toughest ventured out on the field. Frank Brown, the oldest of the Browns, was asked to help our coach. Frank said two remarkable things (1) we ain’t wearing those face masks, they’re for chicken shits, (2) if a man serves two years in the army and doesn’t spend six months in the brig, he ain’t much of a man.”
Two years later as a senior my right heel hit Charles Montjoy in the teeth in practice and we helped him pick up seven teeth from the field. I then begged for and received a single bar guard. Whew. Chicken shit or not, Frank.

GEOMETRY (413)

Another summer failure was a college foray with an East Carolina student. I was hired by Virginia Beach Photo Service, located on 15th St., Virginia Beach. The trick was to sell pictures on the beach, which were developed, and placed in a key chain “plastic viewer.” $2.50 charges netted a commission of 50 cents per sale. Strictly commission.
The summer job gods got me good this time. It rained for 17 straight days. I mean no one was at the beach. I almost starved. Finally the sun shown.
I was an apprentice without sale #1. My mentor advised me to leap when I felt froggy. I watched several sales pitches and began to think I could do it.
As we approached two seated teenaged girls my employer went into high gear. He: “Let me take your picture.”
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She: “No”
Through several “pitches” she remained firm, where upon he reached down and yanked her up by the arm and took her down to the shoreline and snapped her picture.
My turn!
Me: “Let’s join your friend.”
She: “No way.”
After three similar rebukes I employed similar tactics as my teacher.
As I grabbed her arm and started to lift her she began to shout “I’ve got an
artificial leg! I’ve got an artificial leg!”
As I watched the towel that had covered her prosthesis, I observed in compass
fashion, her leg draw a half circle in the Va. Beach sand.
Bus back to Robbins. Borrowed the fare.

ROCK AND ROLL (414)

Jack always had a handful of money. One trip he and I made featured me get- ting off work at 9:30 pm, riding 157 miles to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. Jack told me “I’m going down there and play every pinball game they have until I beat each one.” My allowance went fast but I watched the sun rise at the same time I watched Jack complete the whole Pavilion circuit. We rode back to Robbins.
The beach was magic. We’d sneak into El’s Pad at Ocean Drive and watch the big kids. I remember hearing “Don’t Be Cruel” continuously for three hours at the outdoor jukebox and dance floor across from El’s, next to the ocean. We had a white guy who could rock. Actually, Jack was more like Jerry Lee Lewis and all
those songs remind me of Jack today. I sent him the Jerry Lee CD last year (2006). “Great Balls of Fire”.
I owe Jack. He hauled me everywhere, caught my passes, lent me money, and took me to the Rock and Roll Shows.
Sure enough, if you watched the Raleigh News and Observer in the mid to late fifties soon you’d see an ad for a show at Memorial Auditorium in our capitol.
This wouldn’t be one act. Sure there were “head liners.” Mostly “Fats” Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Sherelles, Ruth Brown, and on and on. All the great ones and they’d come in bus loads. Sometimes as many as a dozen different performances or groups. We’d go early and watch them pile out of the buses. Occasionally Jackie found a glass jar full of quarters and half-dollars, his grandfather had buried on the farm. The old man didn’t trust banks because of “The Depression”. Upon finding one of their treasures we were apt to follow the shows from Raleigh to Greensboro or Winston-Salem, over to Charlotte on consecutive nights.
This was pre-integration. The blacks sat in the balcony and fought with the cops who wouldn’t let them dance in the aisles. One night the ruckus got so bad they dropped the stage curtain on “Fats” as he sung “Blueberry Hill”. Another highlight featured a golden suited Marvin Gaye, who while singing a medley, be- gan to discard garments of gold. First, a coat, then shoes, a golden tie and shirt. Finally, as he revealed golden boxer shorts, Marvin and the band switched to “I’ll be doggone.” Classic!
Jack had a “56 black and white befender skirted Mercury and it would fly. And he’d let it. Minimum 80 mph. The route to Raleigh featured a long sharp curve that Jackie had set the record on while rounding it, and he’d try to top his “personal best” every trip.

CON GAMES (415)

I’m losing too many friends. Gerald “Scope” Wallace could be a handful. Most of my other friends were afraid of Scope. But the funny ones catch me, regardless. His specialty was wise-ass. The first time we met he convinced my Wife and I to go to Raleigh on New Years Eve, 1972. Going there he swerved quickly off the road to a shack with the neon sign, BEER. Got to get a couple, he said. The place was awful and the cashier was overly rude. Perfect for Gerald. After several attempts to be nice and getting nowhere Gerald took the bag of beer, turned and on the way concluded with “…you certainly do have a nice place here!” A few hours later he got us all kicked out of the FROG AND NIGHTGOWN (Scope liked jazz. And wine.) “… the grapes got me again”.
My last haircut reminded me of Gerald. With little hair left, I go Great Clips for the minimum. And, I have learned how to register “on line”. Twenty minutes wait, maximum. The trouble was a storm caused school to be cancelled and the shop overflowed with “walk-ins”. And the staff had not booked enough tattooed, pink haired clipper wielders.
Much like the express line in the grocery store when everyone has 50 express line items and a pocketbook full of coupons, and the cashier runs out of register tape—Oh Mother, things ain’t going well.
I am winning the patience game. Kids groaning, adults shouting at the barbers, people leaving. My 20 minutes is already 30.
And, another cycle has rotated without me. Hmmm—trying to get the kids out ain’t working! They all have full heads of hair to be cut with monograms in their hair and color variations I knew not of.
Many of the grumbling had to stand. I read another hairstyling magazine and the seat next to me was vacated by a mad veteran left the shoppe.
All of a sudden there she was. Everyone knew her. My guess is nearly every small town has one.
She works in the local hardware. Knows where every nut and bolt in the store is, but has never found tact, kindness, or patience. And here she sits by me in midst of the angry. I thought of Gerald.
After a long silence I began the one sided conversation:
Me–you a local person?
Old salt–Swansboro. (silence)
Where did you go to high school?
Salty—Swansboro.
Where were you born?
Swansboro.
Do you work around here?
Swansboro. silence. end of round one.
No sound but angry grumbles. Riot coming?
I said nothing.
And then the break.
She ASKED ME—how long you been waiting?
Forty minutes late.
You register on line?
yep. silence. round two.
Then, me first. “and you know its like cooking. You work all day on the meal and everyone eats in five minutes.”
Salty with first crack of agreement–grunts.
Me: Not only that, everyone ahead of me has some special request. They could cut my bald head in 5 minutes. (the hook and she takes it)
THEY CAN’T CUT YOUR HAIR IN FIVE MINUTES!
ME WITH THE BAIT–“Want to bet””
Loudly now, “You are damn right I’ll bet you!”
(The crowd shifts from anger to silence upon witnessing the developing scene.)
HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO BET?
SHE–I’LL BET YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT!
100$ I SUGGESTED. (the crowd hushed moan).
Well, no.
Me-how bout a dollar? DEAL! The crowd erupts with applause.
“TOM” is called. I’m up, bet is on.
I show the old salt time on my six dollar watch. She nods ok.
I am in the first chair so my talent is tested. First a whisper to my girl who has heard what is going on: “Don’t talk. Cut it as quick as you can. Big tip”
Next hide the watch under the apron, but where I can watch the time. The crowd now watches gleefully. Some make side bets. The watch is at four minutes and ticking. Patches of white hair flurries abound. Barber is doing her part.
Salty’s first mistake. She didn’t make note of the starting time. Beneath the cloth apron I deftly reset the watch giving me added one plus needed minute needed to beat the deadline. I kissed my cutter and showed Salty the altered watch. YOU OWE ME A DOLLAR! THE CROWD ROARED.
She smiled and handed me the buck. I started to put it in my pocket, but then goaded her. Boy –I got you. You didn’t check the real time. The trim took more than six minutes! She giggled, probably her first. I gave her her bill back. The crowd, waiters and those inside have completely changed moods. I turned to leave and waved at the victim, then the crowd, Halfway through the door I turned around and said “got you again.” That dollar is yours and you won a dollar on the bet. It dawned on all as I looked into my wallet. I showed her nothing but large bills. Now stunned I took the bill back. Can I pay you with this? Gerald smiled down, or up. I had them all scratching their heads.
I reached in my pocket and took out four quarters and paid my debt.

BLOCK-CHARGE CALL (417)

One night we played Pembroke State at their place. In 1960 this “Indian school” in Lumberton, NC featured some tough fans. McComas had had a run in with an older player on their team. It seems the guy was really mad at McComas for not recruiting him. At any rate the game was tight and this guy was trash talk- ing McComas. With the score tied at the buzzer, the same guy tried to drive the
middle. There was a big block-charge call that went strangely to Atlantic Christian, the visitors.
Right under the basket, and in front of McComas, this irate veteran yelled in protest at the referee’s call. Along with his protest came his teeth, or more accurately his upper plate. As the teeth bounded and skidded toward McComas, Jack handed them to the player, smiling broadly.

OFF TO COLLEGE (417)

Mom lent me the family Chevrolet to drive my gear to college, a suitcase and a lamp.
I drove to Wilson on Friday, moved in, rode back to Robbins to deliver the car. Then I rode the bus back Sunday night.
Coach McComas roomed me with fellow basketballer, John Eskew, aforementioned very white young man. The new dorm for men was not yet completed yet, and, being recruited late, there were no rooms in the “old” dorm. We moved into the Alpha Sigma Phi house on Friday. About the time I found out John smoked too, I had to leave for Robbins.
Sunday night at 10:00 pm I rolled back into the Wilson bus station. I walked the mile to the college and fraternity house. No Eskew, someone else in our room.
“You now live on Nash St.” our room’s present resident stated: “The other guy took your gear.”
Given the directions to the Nash Street address, I lugged my Samsonite to the street once called “one of the top ten prettiest streets in America” (by National Geographic).
The house was a mansion. I knocked on the door and Eskew descended the anti-bellum stair well. I was told secretly he’d explain in a minute, as I was shuttled upstairs where he and I shared a room.
Once inside he stated “Don’t blame me, they moved us here.” We were housed across from Jack Boyd. (Page 108) There were three bedrooms upstairs. One was empty.
Jack was Yankee to the core, and while Eskew seemed okay, Jack was strange. Jack, I found out later was one helluva player. Smith and Street’s basketball issue had predicted Jack to be the next Dick Groat when he enrolled at Duke University. He’d been offered a signing baseball bonus with the Philadelphia Phillies Base- ballers, and at that point, held the all time scoring record for High School football in Pennsylvania. Quite a resume. He also was my “most unusual character” (of Saturday Evening Post fame).
I never knew why he was kicked out of Duke, but there he was in Wilson, NC with me, Eskew and loud lady, Mattie Dildy.
I met Mattie moments after Jack had come over to our room. She rarely came upstairs, being 70 plus years old, fat and staggeringly drunk a lot of the time.
On this evening Jack succeeded. “Mattie, get the hell up here and I mean now”, Jack shouted. John and I were stunned when she waddled in, disheveled, tight, and ready to party as much as any fraternity man. I had stripped to my shorts, and was lying in my new found bed when Jack said. “Mattie, get in the bed with him!” She laughed and headed my way. Obviously Jack saw how appalled I was, and called her off. “Mattie, he’s got athletes foot, don’t get in there!”
I was eighteen years old, out of rural Robbins, not sure of myself two hours ago, and now this weird scene. And it was continually a scene.
Mattie bought a brand new ’59 Pontiac that year. Lying in my bed, or wan- dering around the house, I heard her hit the brick columns on her house gate 23 times that year.
Later she moved her middle-aged son into the front bedroom. Another mis- placed student just sort of moved in. Her son rarely came out of his room.
She wouldn’t turn the heat on so we’d burn a fire in our bedroom fireplace. There was a back room full of old furniture, much of which went up in flames that year. We found a crow housed in the same room. Also Jack had found a small snake, which fascinated him. Being a Philly resident, snakes were a rarity to him. He’d put the snake in the bathtub and watch him for hours. The highlight of many raucous nights was when Mattie, pissed at us for the late night noise, came upstairs. With some beer thrown in, the scene looked like this:
Jack turned the snake out, we opened the door to the back room, and Jack started undressing Mattie and rolling her in the floor. The other college boy was panic-stricken over the snake, particularly after Eskew turned out the lights in the entire house. The cops had been called by the neighbors and when the lights came back on there we were, Mattie rolling on the floor giggling, the snake, the crow loosed, one kid crying and the son from the back room standing in his door scratching his head with one hand, his testicles with the other.
The cop was Ray Hayes. He wore knee high motorcycle boots to go with his motorcycle. What a strange look on his face. Years later Ray would still corner me trying to figure all that out.
One of Mattie’s neighborhood drinking buddies was Georgia Stark. They’d be in the gin pretty good by the mid afternoon. Georgia’s son, Lucien wrote an inter- esting book about Wilson during this time period entitled “The Noise Upstairs.” Wilsonians are trying to figure who’s who in this 2006 first novel by Lucien. If he wants any verification that that part of Nash Street was strange in 1959 he can call me, Eskew, or Ray Hayes.

DR. HAMLIN (BLOG 419 )

Dr. C.H. “Honeybear” Hamlin was still teaching at 92 years old. A pacifist, he gave everyone who could get in his class an “A” regardless. He’d done the same thing starting with World War II, keeping as many in school and out of the mili tary as he could. In 1962 he was saying, “We got no business messing with those “Veeneese”. I can proudly state one of the tennis classes I taught closed out before Hamlin’s “American Social Thought.” (All he taught, the same material in every class). When they announced my class beat Dr. Hamlin, the first person to every top him, I took the Registrar’s mike and thanked the student body, to a round of applause.
People fought to get into his classes. Once, when admits to classes were printed on I.B.M. cards, someone stole the admittance cards from the administration building. They were selling like hotcakes at 35 dollars a pop before the Entrepre- neurs where caught.
People would bring Dr. Hamlin butter beans, okra, sweet potatoes or whatever was growing. He’d first claim kin to them, “What’s your name? From where? Or Yes I knew your sister!”, then he’d pat their hand and say your grade is already “in the vault”. Once I saw a student being led across campus by three blue tick bird dogs. His name was “Blackhawk” (very dark hair) and I asked “Hawk, where you going? He said “I’m gonna show Dr. Hamlin my dogs.”
Atlantic Christian built a nice student center toward the end of Dr. Hamlin’s career. The school had a policy which stated no building could be named after someone still living. The students were told to take down their homemade sign proclaiming the C.H. Hamlin Student Center. They refused. The school removed the sign. The students erected another. The school took it down again. This continued until the school relented, and a nice sign bears witness to love for Dr. Hamlin.