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.