In 2007, I wrote a book, “Play is Where Life Is.” Since then, I have enjoyed putting bits of the book, and the comments they elicit up on this blog. My son, Dan, was kind enough to do all of the technical and design work.
Many of these posts are tennis related…many are not. They are all here for everyone’s use and I hope you will find some, or all, of them helpful.
We moved to Madison, NC when I was four. In two weeks the late Billy Fulton and similarly late, Sterling (Tuddy)Webster, were sidekicks for life. The Websters were next door and my first stop to collect them for the day. So as I crawled through the secret tunnel we’d made I noticed their neighbor’s garage was burned to the ground.”What happened to Miss Carrie’s garage?” I asked the whole stunned family as they watch smoldering smoke circle upwards from the ashes.
I grabbed Tuddy aside. ???? “Craig did it. He was hiding in her garage, smoking.”
Relieved it wasn’t Tuddy or Billy, I wondered about Craig. I knew there was a family with Craig (14?) and O’neil (18), who I’d heard “… that older one is a good guy, but watch out for Craig, he’s nuts.”
“Who is Craig, anyway?” I asked Tuddy.”He’s my first cuzzin.” Age 7, I wasn’t sure about genealogy.
When I got home My mom asked what all the excitement about? “Craig burned down Miss Carrie’s garage.”
What? Repeat. Report. Then I asked my also stunned Mother,”… Momma, what is a cuzzin? Do I have a cuzzin? Does it have to be a boy? Staccato to still reeling Geneva Phillps Parham.
Mom : Yes, you have several cousins.
Mom: well, Aunt Mary’s Son, Ed, is one.
Me: Is he the first cousin?
Mom: Well, actually he is!
Me. Is he going to burn our garage down?
Me: What’s so funny? Do I have a second cuzzin? A third? Who are they? Are they dangerous as the Websters.
The total explanation took a while, but Mom did a pretty good job sorting it all out.
So the “Norfolk Phillips” are all first cuzzins–Jack, Henry, Eileen, and Mary Anita? We didn’t travel the then prohibitive journey to Tidewater often. But they travelled well as a group and always made better efforts than the rest of us. So fortunately I knew them enough to be proud they were my cuzzins, as I liked all four and they belonged to Uncle Lindsey. Uncle Lindsey was the youngest sibling of my Mom and her several sisters. Being last and male, Lindsey was messed up. From a bunch of Primitive Baptists, Lindsey escaped with a sense of humor and a taste for the kind of attitude that tickled me. And his siblings, Geneva, Aunt Olive, and Aunt Mary. We all looked to Lindsey for laughs and crafts (He could build anything, including home made toys for the kids. Cuzzins included.)
I’m losing too many. Jack just died after fighting the dreaded one, Alzheimer’s disease. He was the closest age wise to me and I liked talking to Jack. I am sad for Jack, but proud of my first cousins, who lovingly did all they could.
About this time we’d found Melvin Steele down near the Dan River. They lived in the bottoms, and Mel’s dad, Mutt, was a plumber. Not only that he was an amateur boxer and taught Mel how to fight. This aided our arsenal.
Fighting was part of the deal and I’d done my share. Being the preacher’s kid my dad got every report. He’d “strap” me for fighting, I’d whip Tuddy or somebody else the next day.
One day E.T. called me into his “study”, a room upstairs in the parsonage where he’d prepare sermons. This memory is very vivid. The study was blue, an- other Sunday school classroom was pink, one was yellow.
My dad sat with his back to me facing out the window, toward the garden.
The conversation went like this, “Son, you continue to get into fights. I’ve strapped you, grounded you, lectured you, and done everything I know. Today we change course.”
Whereupon he removed his big leather belt and took off his shirt.
He turned and told me, “Now you hit me until I tell you to stop.” I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t hit my dad. He demanded, I cried. He demanded. I hit him.
“Seventy may be the new sixty, but 80 is still 80!” (Gary McMahan).
I did it again. Used some bad language at the wrong time. My Dad was a minister and I only heard him use smut once. We were washing the parsonage windows, he was outside, I was inside. I had somewhere to be fairly soon that I alone deemed more important than the Baptist windows. The third time I barked “what time is it?” came the stunning answer: “Half passed the crack of my ass, fifteen minutes till farting time!”
At age 14 I already added profanity as a second language, but this coming from E.T. Parham shocks me in my 80th year.
My mentor in dirty language and impure thoughts began early. Billy Fulton. I think his source was Uncle Louie. My lately arrived at theory that an offshoot of WW11 was that dirty jokes, limericks, poems, etc. got spread at an exponential rate. I wrote this about Uncle Louie . (from PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS):
“Billy had moved in with Opal and Woody into a nicer home, albeit further away. He also got us closer to “Uncle Louie”. Uncle Louie was a World War II Vet. It seemed like he was always under the hood of his car. Later in life I’ve decided World War II was the vehicle that spread various types of humor throughout the country. Uncle Louie was our source. He knew every dirty joke, limerick, ditty, titty, or whatever. (See page 24 Archibald Bearasshole). And I loved it.
Names of farts: Fiz, Fazz, Fizzle, Fazzle, poot, anti-poot, rip ass, and roar.
Sizes of brassieres: 32A, 34B, Hubba-Hubba, Oh Hot Damn, Here Comes the Showboat, and the F.O.B. Detroit.
“I saw her butt ……she didn’t see me. I saw her ass she crossed the street.”
I was becoming addicted to funny people and they were often “smutty”. Billy was an encyclopedia of vice. He had a “pornographic memory”.
Billy’s lying was just accepted by us. He was always making things up. He listened to the radio and all the “green hornet” adventure programs of that day were great for his imagination. He introduced us to Jonathan Winters, the 9 cent movies at the Patovi Theatre, dirty jokes, but most of all to Uncle Louie. More in a moment.
Once Opal wouldn’t let him out of the house, saying he was grounded for ly- ing. Perhaps this was my first knowledge of a “child psychologist”, as we were told he was being counseled for lying.
Years later Billy admitted how this all unfolded, and this account was later told at his funeral, attended by his mom.
In those days there were “carnivals” and just the sort of thing Billy craved. He convinced his mom that if she’d let him attend he’d never lie again. Cautiously Opal gave him 25 cents. Fifteen cents got him in the gate. A peanut stand at the entrance got the dime. Today it would not be allowed but in 1948 a “monkey” (really a 70 pound baboon) was chained to an iron stake, right next to the peanuts. The baboon held out his hand. Billy gave him a peanut. One for Billy, one for the monkey. What fun! The problem arose at the bottom of the bag, when it was empty. Billy held out his hands to show the baboon it was empty. At that point Billy swears the baboon grabbed his hands and beat the living hell out of him. All of a sudden the carnival manager runs up to him and kicks him out for “disturbing his baboon”. The next scene has Billy only 20 minutes out of “time out” standing on his porch, bleeding, crying, dirty, and clothes ruined. Opal, hearing him, runs to the door: “Billy, what in the world happened to you?”. Momma, a monkey beat me up”. Opal: “You’re lying and get back in your room.”
Opal endeared herself to me when she shot- gunned Billy’s bicycle punctured inner tube, thinking it was a black snake.
Tuddy died on me. Though he was a year younger, he lost his last tough battle. I was asked to speak about him during our childhood in Madison, NC. We were seldom apart.
In the process of examining this period (1944-52) at ages 4-12, something personal dawned on me.
At age 74 memory becomes an issue. However, one of my memories is quite vivid today. My Father was Baptist minister and, while a mild man, he was serious.
the Presbyterian church. It is nighttime and we are door to door “evangelizing”. I am about eight years old, and I DO NOT like doing this!
It’s tough at that age to tell a father like mine “I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN”.
As a matter of fact, I DIDN’T.
Looking back, while preparing my Tuddy-talk, I think I concluded I’d fulfill MY quota by saving Tuddy. Maybe even several of the Websters.
As I mentioned, we were inseparable. Homes too. Normal for
me was the austere parsonage we lived in. Small, plain, with the tacit understanding we had the “…way, the truth, and the light.” MANIFEST DESTINY: TUDDY FIRST. 216 Hunter Street was different. Dark, rich colored furniture, lots space. BUT — there were beer bottles in the house. SF(the father) and Irene (mother) both smoked Lucky Strike CIGARETTES. While they all seemed en route to hell’s fire, I did realize Irene was gorgeous and made me tingle. Looked like Ava Gardner, blowing sexy smoke
rings through deep red lipstick..LIPSTICK. And I perceived, or thought I perceived, an unspoken agreement with her that Tuddy NEEDED some saving.
Accident prone,never missed or won a fist fight, disheveled in any attire, somehow lovable Tuddy. We fought everyday. He, left-handed,
had the boxing glove of that orientation. (Wouldn’t you’d know he’d be left-handed?). I had the right glove. WHOP,WHOP, no ducking. After every fight or accident I’d take him to Hunter Street and Irene. She would look at me with mixed suspicion and understanding gratitude, as he cried tears, often accompanied with other fluids, i.e. blood, snot, or pee.
I OFTEN talked to him in commands (having accepted my role in his salvation): “Tuddy, blow your damn nose!” Or, “…you can’t wear that nasty shirt.” My sister,Gerry,said “no stripes with checks”,”no browns with blacks”, etc. Rules he violated throughout adulthood and without concern.
There was a compounding factor. BILLY FULTON, the third of the three muskateers, or “Tommy, Tuddy, Billy. “Fulton” was pathological liar and had a “pornographical memory”. Devil sent, I was convinced, not what Tuddy needed. The daily highlight Billy created with two challenges: (1)”I BET YOU CAN’T…” and (2) “I DARE YOU TO…” Manipulation directed at Tuddy.
This would result in my admontion, “Tuddy, you idiot, don’t try that!”
The scene is US220 (main street thru Madison) beyond
That would cause us to fight, and then a trip to Irene, Billy laughing at us. Somehow I instinctively knew I couldn’t save Fulton. And I was right. There was another easier cause. Tuddy told us he had a brother.
“What is his name? Deems. “What is his real name,” I insisted. “Deems” Tuddy said. “Deems Bourne Webster. And my REAL name is STERLING!? ME: Bullshit, your name is Tuddy. Always will be” Tuddy”: I’m telling you my name is Sterling Fountain Webster, the third!”
“FOUNTAIN? THE THIRD? Who the hell is naming people up there? We can’t have names like than in our group. The next thing you know they’ll want to name somebody Xavier,
or Reginald, or some other ridiculous crap!”
My Father accepted a job in another town and Tuddy became Sterling.
Vee Bundy spoke of the adolescent years..Business partner, Rocco Lassiter, spoke of adult shenanigans and stole the show with very plausible “Sterling tale”:
Rocco remembered a “flush” time when they rewarded the group with a trip to the NCAA FINAL FOUR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT, to
be held in New Orleans. Rocco: “Sterling was in charge of housing arrangements. About a week before the tournament I called Sterling asked where he had booked us? Sterling said sheepishly ‘I haven’t quite got that nailed down yet. Call me back in two days!’ Two days later I was warned “…I might as well tell, you’ll find out soon. I got all of us a great place to stay. Lots of suites at a five star hotel. Great amenities. All first class’—Sterling concluded and paused. “I asked Sterling, what could be wrong with that”? His reply,”…Rocco, the rooms are in Las Vegas!”
Basketball, gambling, and flying,eh, Tuddy?
As the floor was opened for comments from his close friends and I enjoyed them all. At same time, with each story, I found myself thinking: Tuddy- don’t leave you keys in the car. Or, you speak about as much German as Mickey Mouse and you have no idea where we are! The gasoline doesn’t go there, you dumbass!
Irene–if my Dad hadn’t have moved I could have stopped SOME of that.
My messianic impulses were abated to the point that perhaps DEEMS got it right: “Parham, I believe the Websters CONVERTED YOU!”