Monday, March 31, 2008

Snowmobiling The Day After A Blizzard Hit

That was the best snow of my life.

Three days before that photo was taken, there was two and a half feet of hard packed snow out there in the front yard, whoops, I mean doorya'd of Katahdin Lodge and Camps in Moro, Maine. Then about three feet of super soft and fluffy white powder fell all over the snow belt up there that includes the Township of Moro Plantation. It was a two day blizzard all over those Great North Woods.

Two days before that photo up there was taken, when the snow began to come down, we knew that a huge storm was just beginning. And with about two feet of snow already on those roofs of our small cabins back there we knew that the upcoming snow would add more than enough weight to cave the roofs in. If you look at the piles of snow around the cabins you will see how the snow that I had shoveled off those roofs is piled up around there with fresh powder on top of it. But there isn't a full three feet of fresh snow on the roofs because I had shoveled some off and then the harsh, blizzard winds had blown a lot of snow from that open area into huge drifts against the snowbanks that were alongside the road out front. The snowbanks and snowdrifts were all ten to fifteen feet deep all along both sides of the road out in front of the Lodge. It was a couple of weeks before we could look out the Lodge's first floor windows and see any cars driving by.

Before the new snow coverered it, I already had a well worn snowmobile track worked into the snow there in the front yard of the Lodge. The track went in a large, tromped on looking oval shape all around the outsides of the cleared property there. It had one trail going off into the ninety-mile deep forest behind the Lodge's yard, but that trail only went about a mile back in to Hale Pond. That section of snowmobile trail went over an old, minimally cleared and cared for woods road, which was on Lodge property. There was another snowmobile trail that lead from the Lodge across Rural Route 11 out front and on into the woods across the road. Then it traveled through a tightly cut and cleared section of woods trail until it lead out into some old farm fields.

My Uncle Finley Kenneth Clarke owned Katahdin lodge and about six hundred and fifty acres of woodland back there behind the Lodge. That woodland stretched all the way into Canada before it reached a tar road; and there's only a few woods roads in between. Some are well maintained and others are in various stages of overgrowth.

Somehow, supposedly, one corner of Finley's property angled out into the backwoods waters of Hale Pond. The pond was a mile and a quarter long, maybe a half mile or so across. A mile and a quarter long stretch of fresh, cold water seems too large to be called a pond, but in Maine, a pond is spring fed and has an outlet, a lake has an inlet and an outlet.

Due to the natural fact that Hale Pond was spring fed, no one was ever allowed to walk out on the ice there. I can't remember exactly, but I think that the spring water is a small number of degrees warmer than the pond water and the spring water flows up to the surface where it can seriously weaken a small area of solid ice that is surrounded by long distances of ice that is thick enough to walk or snowmobile on. No matter what the exact science behind it is, it isn't safe to walk or snowmobile on ice that is on a spring fed pond.

One impetuous time, my Aunt Marty--Finley's wife--and either her sister or a female friend snowshoed back to Hale Pond. They thought that it looked pretty safe to walk out onto the pond a short ways. After all, there was about two feet of snow all across the pond and up into the deep woods all around. And there were small, wind swept bare spots along the shoreline where they could see that the ice underneath the snow there was also about two feet thick. They then took photos of each other standing out about forty yards or so from the edge of the land.

When Finley saw those photos, he flipped his lid at Marty and the other woman.

Any sensible man would have.

Up there in that photograph, with the red snowmobile in it, while that beautiful, nicely settled in, powdery snow in the photo was falling, I was using a farm tractor with a wide, hydraulic bucket on the front of it to plow the Lodge's horseshoe shaped front driveway. The snow was coming down so quick, steadily and heavily that we knew that if I didn't do that plowing all night long then the driveway would become too snowed in for the farm tractor to handle. That meant paying for a bulldozer driver to come up and dig us out.

During that blizzard, Marty only allowed me to come into the Lodge to warm up for ten or fifteen minutes after every two or three hours of plowing fast falling snow. Fin had been out of state on National Guard duty when Northern Maine was struck by one of the biggest blizzards ever known of up there. So I had the whole blizzard to myself. Or more realistically, and without any "tongue in cheek" humor, I had to do all of the plowing and shoveling work myself. I enjoy being outdoors in snowstorms, immensely so, but one man on his own in that situation doing that snow clearing job really could have used a little friggin help.

Again, that was three feet of powdery snow that fell on top of two and a half feet of hard packed snow in two days. After I had shoveled and plowed snow all day, most of the night, and through the next day during that blizzard, my aunt had pointed out the healthy red complexion on my cheeks that the wind driven snow had given me. Then she said to me, with a squint on her face, "Now doesn't that feel good? Do you know how much it would have cost me to hire a bulldozer and its operator to come up here and clear all of that snow off of the driveway after the blizzard ended if you hadn't kept it plowed? A hundred dollars."

Conquering that sizable storm felt great to me.

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Snowmobile Riding At Katahdin Lodge

Believe it or not, these are mild jumps, compared to what we Patten, Maine snowmobilers were into. We had jumps that gave us a lot more 'air'.

This third photo was taken so that I could show my family and friends in Dundalk, Maryland just how you have to throw your body around on a snowmobile in order to counter balance the G-Forces during a hard curve, or the sled will flip over. What's happening here in the photo is that my left foot is planted firmly down onto the left side running board of the sled to hold it down, my right leg is holding tightly onto the sled's seat, my right heel is dug into the seat and I'm holding on tight to the handle bars.

My favorite and most versatile riding position was with my left foot planted down nice and comfortable on the left side running board, my right knee on the seat along with the lower part of my leg down to the top of my boot. That way, the rider is half kneeling and half setting down. Then I could easily dig my right foot and leg into the right side of the soft, padded, smooth vinyl seat, hang my warm mitted hands over the handle bars, loosen up my thumb for the throttle, hit the gas, haul-ass and hold on like a baby Opossum hangin onto its moma's back when the hounds are barking bad breath at 'um.

Then it doesn't take but second or two or dexterous throttle action till you're outrunning the hounds and being blasted in your face with cold, delicious Northern Maine air.

Some sled riders rode kneeling down with their knees on top of the seat most of the time. That is the absolute most advantages way to ride, and that is how we had to go through certain sections of our favorite trails. Riders can shift their weight around faster and tighter in tune with all that is happening when in that position. Sometimes when the riding got to where everyone had to ride on their knees, we had to yell over the sounds of the running engines at first time snowmobilers who thought that riders sit down flat all the time. 99.99% of all first time riders take a little convincing to get 'um up off their haunches when the trail gets its roughest. Then after a short ride for them in the company of skilled riders they usually find the groove and fit right into it easy enough.

There are times when it is best to stand up nearly straight, but with your knees flexing to the pounding of the snowmobile against the snow. If the surface of the snow on a wide open field is hard packed or crust covered enough for the sled to travel across it without sinking down into the snow at all, then it is often best to stand up when flying along at whatever the highest safe speed was. Sometimes a rider stands up just to hoot and holler from the intense excitement and shear joy of riding.

Every time that a sled goes galloping down an ungroomed trail it cuts any low spots even lower. And ya' carve up the trail into the best line of travel, so as the days pass after a good snowfall hits then those kinds of trails get more challenging and that provides you a nice dose of miniature roller coaster style fun. It was always top speed for us Patten area riders throughout the tightest of barely cleared woods trails.

When I set up this series of photos, I knew that people who have never ridden a snowmobile like this might think that I'm showing off by hanging off the other side of the sled like that, but G-Forces, gravity and natural balance dictates how you have to lean into the curves. If you do not do what the natural balance demands of you then the sled flips and you flies. You have to have your body in what ever position that is necessary; or it's down to the snowmobile repair shop to replace broken sled parts and maybe to the hospital to repair or medicate some busted or badly bruised human body parts.

John Birmingham flyin' a Ski Doo.

Now here is John Birmingham showing what a hard left turn looks like from the left side of a sled when you stay setting down. If he was riding in a straight line and had hung his body off the side of the sled like that, then the sled would have tilted over onto its left side. If he had not hung off the side like than when making a hard left turn than he would have flipped and flown off to his right.

Again. It may look like we were showing off for the camera, but there is always only exactly one position that your body can be in during this kind of riding. You either get into it and get a good feel for the balance and the G-Forces or you will wreck.

The powerful, Adrenalin feel of those forces is what I loved most about riding snowmobiles. I rarely ever sat down flat on one. This was because we did most of our riding back then on our own woods trails or out on old unused farm fields.

Today, there are well groomed, fairly flat and smooth snowmobile trails running all over the State of Maine. When riding on those modern trails, you do spend most of your time sitting down, but ya' still gotta' lean into them curves.

And, oho, it feels so good when you get right into that groove and ride well.

Know what 'ah mean?

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A Great Day of Snowmobiling in Moro, Maine

This was out on Rockabema Lake in Moro Plantation, Maine, around February of 1969. We were taking turns climbing up that island and hopping onto the top of it. It was about twenty some feet or so straight up the side of the island to the top.

It was a mighty sharp climb, I'll tell ya' that.

I made sure that I had that tree more visible in the next shot, so that maybe people could see how steep and high that the climb actually was.

I was new to sledding and had no idea that a snowmobile could do that. I made it to the top one time, loved it to death, but was just about scared to death to do it again. It could have seriously injured and maybe even killed anyone who fell backwards with their sled falling down on top of them. So I stayed up there on top of the island in the cool, comfy, soft snow and took this series of photographs.

That fellow, I believe, is either Carol Gerow or his younger brother Pete Gerow. I'm prett-near positive that he is a Gerow brother. Carol was married, owned Bear Mountain Lodge and was settled down. So he and I never ran around together all over the Maine countryside going to parties, dances, hanging out in town, drinkin' beer and chasing girls, but me and ol' Pete sure enough did. Pete and I got into a few hellacious and hilarious conversations during Cribbage games at Katahdin Lodge too.

Pete had a tad bit of a kind of a pudgy, Pillsbury Dough Boy look about his face. I had known him all winter long while we all were wearing long sleeved shirts. I'll never forget the first time the next summer when I saw him in a short sleeved shirt. He had arms on him that looked like something from those Charles Atlas bodybuilding adds we used to always see in comic books. But Pete didn't get his impressive muscle structure from using Charles Atlas' Dynamic-Tension miraculous method for total muscular development, Pete got that way from growing up splitting wood for the family's wood stoves, by using a chain saw from the time he was about 14 years old, by shoveling a lot of snow, and doing other hard physical labor to help his family survive and thrive in the, sometimes harsh, northern Maine environment.

My friend Pete didn't look one bit homosexual. And, as far as I know, he wasn't. But I just looked at some old Charles Atlas adds that are on the Internet, and they look real gay to me today. I'm not saying ol' Charlie A. was gay, he may have been one hell of a ladies' man, or a dedicated, monogamous husband, but his adds sure look gay to me today. Maybe that's just my 21st century awareness of the openness of homosexuals in our society. I'm not against the rights and freedoms of gays or lesbians in any way, though I do say that the protections and rights associated with legal marriage should only be for the protection and rights of heterosexual couples and their children.

I want this new series of articles to be like it was you and I comfortably sitting in my home, while looking at these old photographs together. And as when anyone is sharing photos from their past, they would be conversing about things that the photos would bring to mind.

This photo of a Gerow brother brings up my memories of their dad. Their father, Putt Gerow, owned a tiny country store at Knowles Corner, Rt. 11 and Rt. 212. That is a few miles north of Bear Mountain Lodge, and six miles north of where I lived and worked at Katahdin Lodge. Putt and Pete lived in a nice sized house that the store was attached to the front of.

Putt taught me a very valuable lesson one time on how to start a motor vehicle rolling that had been stopped still on a snowy, icy, slippery road surface. He had shown me some very deft and gentle clutch and gas pedal technique. Unless ya' know that technique yourself, you can't imagine how well that driving tip has served me well throughout my life.

I have had a lot of fun with that driving technique while riding friends around in the snowy wintertime or on muddy back roads. I've also made some good money from it, when I was driving professionally.

Especially when I drove a taxicab.

I possessed a Baltimore County Taxi Driver Permit for three years. During that time, when it snowed or there was an ice storm, there I was in an old worn out car, which had been converted into a taxicab, with bald tires on it, and I was just-a-walkin' that cab all over Baltimore City and it's suburbs. Hardly another vehicle was out on the road, because there was four or more inches of snow piling up all over the place, or several inches of solid ice everywhere on everything. The cab was not mine, and if you ask me, it was a crime to have that junker on the road, but it passed the required inspections. I drove a cab during and right after every snowstorm and ice storm that occurred within those three years when I drove a cab.

While those snow and/or ice weather events were happening, many of my northern Maine learned driving technique's were sincerely appreciated by my cab riding customers. I got a lot of people to work when they could not handle the slippery driving conditions themselves. It was always very safe, comfortable and relaxing driving when I was "at the wheel". The entire time, I was very aware of, and thankful for, what Putt Gerow had taught me about easing a motor vehicle across slippery road surfaces.

I'd have never driven a cab if it weren't for my degenerative back disease and severe depression keeping me from working full time as a photographer. Now I survive on a small, monthly, non-service connected disability check from the Veterans Administration. Just thought that I'd throw that in to let you know how important Magic City News is to the work that I do get to do these days.

The last time that I saw Putt Gerow was in 1977 or '79. We sat in his living room talking about all of the old, fallen down hunting camps that he knew of way back in the woods. Some of those camps were from the days when only wealthy men could afford to go on hunting trips to Maine, and they had traveled by train to get to and from northern Maine. Those men were doctors, lawyers and very successful businessmen who brought the best of whiskeys and other liquors along with them to the hunting camps. And then empty, expensive, booze bottles were thrown onto each camp's own dump back in the woods.

Those bottles were valuable antiques, when Putt and I were discussing them. Putt knew where several of those old dumps were located. He had found some of those valuable old booze bottles there and had stashed some of the empty bottles under rotted old stumps or in other places where he could easily locate them again. He had been deer hunting, or something, at the time and did not want to carry the bottles around the woods with him. Putt wanted to hike back in to go get those antique bottles some day. But, in the late 1970s, Putt's health was failing fast; he was just too darned old to go that far back in the woods anymore, where the old hunting camp dumps were.

I had brought up the subject of antique bottles and old dumps. I have wanted to go find some of those buried treasures ever since I had learned about the old camps and their dumps, back in 1968, and also how the rich hunters had brought their highest priced booze along to showoff, enjoy and share. I tried as hard as I could, but I could not convince Putt to tell me where some of those dumps were. I wanted go antique hunting out in the woods. I assured him, and by jeeze I meant it, that he and I would each receive fair splits of the profits of what we sold and also each of us would acquire our own personal antique bottle collections.

Putt was your typical Native Northern Mainer. Putt was an Old Maine Woodsman of the highest caliber. I was no more than an old acquaintance of his, mostly just a regular customer in his country store, who had come "from the outside". Twasn't any damned way that Putt Gerow was going to share any of his knowledge of where those long gone hunting camps had been with anybody but a close relative or friend of his, who was also a Native Northern Mainer--and you can bet that he probly never let anyone at all know there where abouts of those old bottles.

I certainly did enjoy seeing Putt 'stick to his guns' and not ever give up hope of going that far out in the woods again, to where the dumps were. I love them woods and being out in them too much myself for me not to understand how he saw the situation. He never gave up hope to take one last, long walk in the woods.

Putt Gerow was a good man.

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Snowmobiling On Tillie's Back Field

From left to right: That's my Aunt Martha Clarke setting on a double track, single ski Ski Doo; then there is my old Moto Ski; and then it's me on a single track, double ski Ski Doo.

The three photos on this page were taken in 1969 on a Katahdin Lodge neighbor's farm field in the Township of Moro Plantation, Maine. The neighbors were an older, married couple, and I'm sure that one was named Tillie; I think it was the husband, but I can't remember the other one's name.

That neighbor owned those fields in the three photos, and Tillie and I had cut a rough trail from the very back of his fields through the woods there to an old overgrown woods road that then led you past the old Katahdin Lodge dump, through the shooter's end of the Lodge's rifle range, and then across RT. 11 onto the Lodge's front yard.

I often went snowmobile riding through there to the fields by myself.

When anyone from Katahdin Lodge went snowmobile riding alone, they were required to carry certain emergency items with them. In case of mechanical breakdown or the rider got stuck in deep snow.

A lone snowmobile rider always had to strap a pair of snowshoes onto their back. That way, if the sled broke down they could walk out. No one can walk very far in deep snow, without snowshoes, before they become exhausted.

In case of an accident and injury, or for some other reason the rider could not make it out on snowshoes, they needed to be able to start a camp/signal fire. So a lone rider also had to carry three packs of matches stashed into the pockets of three separate layers of clothing. That way, if melting snow or rain rendered the outer most stashed pack of matches unusable, then one of the two inner layer stashed match packs could get their emergency fire started.

If the stranded rider's perspiration got the inner most layer stashed matches wet, then there were the other two packs. Perspiration damage to the matches can easily happen if the rider becomes stuck in deep snow, but had not had a mechanical breakdown. Getting stuck meant working up a wicked bad sweat, while trying to work the sled out of the bad spot it's in. If you look closely at the skis on the sleds, you can see handles for pulling the sled out of a bad spot.

And snowshoeing makes a person sweat a lot; a stranded rider has to take off and carry at least one top layer of outer clothing when snowshoeing. But if the snowshoes break, or the rider becomes exhausted from snowshoeing, then they must stop and try to start a camp/signal fire.

The match pack stashed in the rider's middle layer of clothing was there for the rider to be even safer in case they became stranded out in the woods alone.

Whenever I rode a snowmobile to go visit Tillie and his wife, their television would begin to pick up static interference from my snowmobile's firing spark plugs. There was a lot of acreage to ride on back on their fields, and the TV interference only occurred when I got real close to their house, where we never did any regular riding. When they saw the static, and knew I was coming, they put a pot of water on the hot wood stove for me. Because I'm a tea drinker who can't stand the taste of coffee.

They were wonderful people to spend time and drink tea with.

I added this photo of the three sleds together for any vintage snowmobile enthusiasts who may want to see these older sleds from a slightly different angle of view.

And there I go just a zipping on by on the old Moto Ski.

Can you see how the seat on that old Moto Ski is built up higher than it was when the sled was stock?

I didn't do that to the sled. I didn't like it either, because that made it harder to ride through the woods trails or to do fast, sweeping turns out on farm fields. It set me up too high and screwed up the center of balance. Worse, I couldn't ride real well up on my knees like a good sledder does, when they need to change their balance quick and easy to keep the sled from flipping over.

That sled had been owned by a beaver trapper who had built what was basically a long, shallow wooden compartment under the seat, where he could store traps and other equipment.

The sled came cheap to my Uncle Finley, because it had spent a few days under the ice of a lake, when the trapper had fallen through one time.

The sled was given to me as partial payment for my work at Katahdin Lodge.

One of the coolest and most unique things that I ever experienced happened while riding a snowmobile on those old farm fields, which are seen in the three photographs.

No, I'm not talking about the times I sat there in the dark field at night, with the snowmobile engine shut off, and a pretty girl sitting next to me; while we snuggled up close together and gazed up through the barely polluted skies above, at the brightly twinkling, planet and star filled heavens, as she and I quietly chatted--while admiring it all.

As good as that was, no twinkling planet or star was the coolest, most unique object that I ever saw up in the sky there.

It happened during mid-day, on a beautiful, sunny, winter day. Three of us were riding single on our own sleds. I was with Al Levesque's grandson (the kid was from outa' state too) and Old John Tucker's native Mainer son. We were heading towards the John Tucker residence, up on the Town Line Road. We were happily traveling along at top speed, across the wide, flat farm field, running nearly parallel to a tree lined wind break. We had to ride to the end of the wind break and turn left along side of the Town Line Rd.. I was riding to the right of the other two sledders. It was already turning out to be a glorious day for us.

When, all of a sudden, and I mean ALL OF A SUDDEN, Tucker sweeps in close beside me at top speed; he reaches over and taps on my left coat sleeve, while yelling for me to look up and to our left; he points to a spot just above the wind break tree line to our left, and there was a mighty freakin' huge, flat black, a non-reflective black, United States Air Force B52 Bomber.

That mighty behemoth was traveling about a slow as it could go, right there, nearly down at tree top level, right beside us, and it was moving in the same direction as we were.

We automatically popped up from our sitting positions on our sled seats and rode standing up and jumping up and down. We were waving wildly to the bomber crew member who was sitting in the cockpit seat closest to us. And we three young sledders were hollering our mighty happy heads off.

That bomber crewmember pointed his finger down at us. He must have been pointing us out to the rest of the flight crew.

We three young men down there were lovin' life as we knew it.

Then the guy in the B52 waved back to us.

I found out later that the plane was from Loring Air Base, which was 60 or 70 miles north of the Lodge. They performed those low flying maneuvers to try to fly under the air base's radar, like an enemy aircraft would. And the flat black paint was designed to make the aircraft less visible to radar and to the human eye.

But we three snow sledders sure enough saw it!

And what a thrill it was!

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Innards Of A 1968 Era Ski Doo Snowmobile

I took this shot in a Patten, Maine snowmobile repair shop, to show my buddies down around Dundalk, Maryland what the engine and clutch of a snowmobile looked like. But I wasn't so good of a photographer yet. So the detail seen in the sled is not as good as I could have gotten it by using better camera gear and with my U.S. Army Photo Lab Tech School training behind me.

While I was in that snowmobile repair shop, there was an old Maine lumberjack there sharpening his chainsaw blade--by hand. My Uncle Finley was there too, and we marveled at the dexterity and skill with which the lumberjack was handling his sharpening file. It was a considerable piece of work.

The entire time though: the lumberjack's squatted most of the way down onto the floor, with his backside halfway perched upon a small, old wooden box; the chainsaw was on the floor; he's gotta' half lit pipe hanging down from his between his teeth; he's casually conversing with the half a dozen or so of us younger Maine woodsmen in there; he's spinning off good jokes, quips and brief little, interesting and funny stories--like an old Maine lumberjack might.

It impressed me how he could work at such an unrelenting and steadily effective pace and be so relaxed about it. Hand sharpening a chain saw blade is not easy, because you have to make your file strokes just right--every hundreds of times.

I mentioned a little about how amazed I was about this, and the gregarious guys in the shop all agreed with me. They said it takes a real old timer to use a file on a chainsaw blade chain that way.

I loved hanging out with the people in those places.

Below is one final vintage snowmobile photo, for this series of articles. It shows some of the awesome scenery enjoyed by backwoods travelers in that part of Northern Maine.

I sure wish I could get someone to teach me how to bring out the best in my older photos by using photo restoration and enhancement software like Photoshop. These vintage snowmobile photos of mine have the potential to look much better than how I know how to scan them in and present them on the Internet.

I have no idea who that guy on the snowmobile was. For some reason the name Cecil Gallagher or the last name of Cyr comes to mind.

But this photo shows the front end of that model and year Moto Ski snowmobile about as good as my inexpensive camera, which I owned at the time, could do it.

This shot was taken somewhere up in the Township of Moro Plantation, Aroostook County, Maine.

That sloping field he's on was a super-duper fun place to ride our sleds on. And I believe that is Mt. Chase in the background.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Good Day's Fishin at Katahdin Lodge

That is one very happy David R. Crews there holding up a stringer of sixteen Brook Trout caught in Hale Pond, on a good day in Moro Plantation, Maine, by Martha and Finley Clarke, Wayne and Barbara Birmingham and David (myself).

Hale Pond is a mile back into the woods behind Katahdin Lodge. There was a barely drivable dirt road going back to it, from the Lodge. The pond is a mile and a quarter long, maybe a half mile or so across. A mile and a quarter long stretch of fresh, cold water seems too large to be called a pond, but in Maine, a pond is spring fed and has an outlet, a lake has an inlet and an outlet.

Wayne, Barbara, Finley, Marty and I had spent the better part of a very nice spring day puttering around Hale Pond in Katahdin Lodge's 16 foot, aluminum fishing boat.

There was a Loon fishing for its dinner on Hale Pond the same time we were fishing for ours. We would be anchored tight and fishing, but not catching, when we'd spot the Loon making a dive. I suppose you could say what we did next was rude. We'd crank up the outboard motor and go cast our lines where the Loon had just dived down and come back up from with something fishy looking to eat in its mouth. As we headed our motorboat in the direction of the Loon, as soon as we got anywhere near where it was, the big fishin' birdie flew off to another fishing spot on the pond. Humm. Looking back on that, I also suppose you could say that the Loon knew all the good spots, so why not share that info with us humans. The Loon trick worked every time. We humans caught a few trout where the had just dived for some itself.

Wait a minute!

I can't remember who had said to go fish in the Loon's spots. We hit on about a half dozen of them. Maybe it was my Uncle Finley. If that's true, then it was his bad karma from that what caused my fish hook to catch the skin of his right temple. And not my youthful clumsiness.

Uh huh. It wasn't my fought at all!

Five good sized adults in a 16 foot fishing boat is stretching your water safety luck, anyways. We were just about at maximum capacity for the boat. It was crowded.

I was casting my rod. I had it held straight back behind me, horizontal with the surface of the pond. I thought that if the hook and sinker were near anyone, they'd say so quick. I thought I had a clear casting space, but Fin was slightly into that space. I made a mighty hard cast, and the rod jerked tight and froze in mid air, about a foot into the sweeping arch of the cast. It felt like the hook had caught on the outside edge of the little boat's gunwale--directly behind me. The boat was so crowded, that I did not bother trying to maneuver around to see where the hook was attached. So I lowered the rod backwards back down some, figuring that this would unhook it from the gunwale, then I moved the tip of the rod backwards a half a foot or so, to make sure that I was clear of the entire boat this time. And I gave it a mighty heave ho and away you go. But it jerked tight, hard and fast and froze in mid air again.

Somebody said something. I turned around and what do I see, the curved shank of the barbed hook grabbing a tight hold onto the soft, 'tented out' flesh of Finley's temple, and the barbed point sticking back out of his temple.

He was hooked good and proper like.

Surprisingly! Ol' Finley K. made nary a sound.

I started to try to take the hook out, but they all said let Wayne do it. That made sense to me. Wayne was a top-notch Registered Maine Guide. He got it out easy enough, no serious damage was done to the side of my uncle's head, and we kept on fishing.

I guess you could say I hooked the big one that day. And it was the one that didn't get away.

We had ridden back there to Hale Pond in the Lodge's Land Rover, so we could tow the boat with us. Hale Pond was our favorite hiking destination, so vehicle traffic was discouraged by never making one little improvement to the rough road to it. The road was on Lodge property.

Fin decided to leave the boat there till bear hunting season kicked off on June 1, 1969. He didn't mind if any of the locals used his boat without asking, but he did not want anybody to screw up or swipe his little outboard motor. He told me to hide the motor. So I stashed it over behind some trees and in some underbrush, stepped back towards the beached boat, and saw that it was not easy to spot the hidden outboard from there.

As we loaded our happy selves into the Land Rover, we were all practically singing songs of joy.

It was a stupendous way to spend a day.

We got about 30 yards up the road, and there was that darned outboard motor showing plain as could be over in the woods. I had stashed it well enough from anyone who was commandeering the boat for awhile, but not from anyone traveling down the road there. My Aunt Marty thought that was hilarious, and Fin and the Birminghams did too.

It was embarrassing.

I had only been living in Maine for five months, and I was raised in suburbia. I had a lot to learn yet.

I heard about that one (that outboard motor stashing screw up of mine) now and then for the rest of my time at the Lodge. Hooking my uncle wasn't what they told everyone about as much as where I hid that motor. But that's how it is when you are the youngest employee in any business.

It was a fun, bouncy ride all the way back to the Lodge.

We were all in top spirits.

Right as we started into cleaning and cooking the fish, in the Lodge's kitchen, Ol' Grayden, or was it Irving, Bates came driving into the dooryard for an evening's visit. He stopped by at the Lodge now and then to play Cribbage and tell us all some mighty tall and entertaining tales. That seventy-or-eighty-some-year-old Bates feller could keep me enthralled for hours with his stories about hunting, fishing, woodsman's adventures, family life and small town gossip as lived and loved up in that part of God's Country. And the addition of one more person made it a perfect match for the number and size of hungry human bellies to the number and size of dee' delicious, fresh fish.


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I Bought A New 1969 Triumph 250 Motorcycle In Maine

My 1969 Triumph 250 Motorcycle

I had to drive 66 miles from Katahdin Lodge to the nearest Triumph dealer to buy that bike. There was a Honda dealer over in Houlton, 35 miles away, but the next nearest motorcycle dealer at all was up around Caribou and Presque Isle. And I checked the odometer once, it was 66 road miles from the Lodge to the Triumph dealer.

My Uncle Finley was going to buy himself one just like it, but the Triumph dealer would not give Fin a discount for buying two at a time. The dealer charged $735.25 for one, and he wanted $735.25 for the second one. But he was a native Mainer, who had never seen us before that day, and we were "from the outside", not from Maine. My Uncle Finley and Aunt Martha had moved to Maine, from Maryland, in 1965. The dealer may have given some native Mainer a break on the price, at least the 25 cents, but not to anyone from the outside.

I had some great times riding that motorcycle in Maine. It wasn't powerful enough to take the hills up there very fast, but that was O.K. with me, because I hadn't become too highly skilled of a rider yet.

In 1973, while living in Dundalk, Md., I bought a Yamaha 650 motorcycle. I became quite the highly skilled rider on that one, for sure; and there are still a few witnesses around who can testify to that fact.

Whenever I went riding out in the countryside, of Baltimore and Harford Counties in Maryland, with some other motorcycle riders from the Dundalk area, I always ended up leading the way. What I had learned up in Maine about country driving served me well when riding motorcycles through the Maryland countryside.

In Dundalk, I was nicknamed "Trick Rider", by a guy who I grew up with. He gave me that nickname because I would stand up on the seat, while riding, or hang off the side of my 650 Yamaha like a Plains Indian Warrior hanging off the side of a well trained horse while shooting from underneath the horse at battling Calvary soldiers or circled, covered wagons, and I'd do some other crazy looking things on the 650.

But my motorcycle trick-riding wasn't much of anything compared to what we see in motocross riding today. They really pull off some wild tricks in motocross, and usually way, way up in the air too.

In my defense though, we 1970s riders didn't have the super suspensions on our bikes like today's bikes have. And, like guitar playing, nobody had invented the wild, well tuned, modern licks or motorcycle tricks yet--that we enjoy today.

One time, up in Maine, I was on that 250 Triumph and goin' down the road feelin' fine, when I hit a huge mass of flying insects, just past Peavey's Corner on the way to Shin Pond from Patten. The massive cloud of bugs was so thick that they were peppering my face like bird shot from a shotgun blast and were flying up under my sunglasses and blinding me. So I had to turn around and head back to town.

I can't remember if they were mosquitoes or blackflies. Each of those insect species thrives in Maine every summer.

Maine's seasonal insect infestation gets so bad that you cannot walk very far outside before you are in bug bitten misery. You have to wear insect repellent when outside for more than a minute, if you want to be comfortable out there.

During summer bug season, we Katahdin Lodge bear hunting guides wore long sleeve shirts with the sleeves buttoned down at the wrists, and insect repellent applied to our wrists and lower forearms. We "bloused" our work boots military style. That means we tucked the bottoms of our pants legs up under big rubber bands, which held the doubled over pants cuffs tightly against our boot tops, to keep biting insects from crawling up our lower legs and chewing on them for a good, bloody meal. And we doused the sweatbands of our hats with bug dope too.

We guides all often got bit a few times each day. After all, somebody's gotta' feed them aggravating little dive bombers. The well fed insects then go on to be food for fish, birds and some larger insects, and those critters are all important parts of the local ecosystem. The bugs bite us humans, trout eat bugs and humans eat trout, at least I do.

Seems fair to me.

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That Ornery Horse

That is my mother, Finley's older sister Doris, on That Ornery Horse - named Boy; Finley's chit chatting with the beast, they were best of friends; the woman standing back there on the Lodge's boardwalk is Doris and Finley's mother, my Grandmom Clarke.

Very few people ever got anywhere on That Ornery Horse. I can't remember the old guy's real name, so he shall be referred to here as That Ornery Horse. He sure was ornery to me. When I rode him, he wouldn't go hardly one darn direction that I wanted him to.

That is a 16-year-old me sitting all wrong on That Ornery Horse. I don't know a thing about horsemanship, but if you do I'm certain that you can take one quick look at this photo and tell that I have no idea how to handle a horse. The way I'm sitting in the saddle and handling the reins told That Ornery Horse that I knew not a thing about how to control him. Then I'm allowing him to graze on grass, when I was wanting him to walk around and take me for a horsey-back ride. I can't tell you exactly what I was definitely doing wrong, but I can tell you that I was doing it all wrong.

That horse was real sneaky rascal.

One time, in 1969, an experienced horseman, who was a paying guest at the Lodge, was showing me how to saddle that horse. And the darned horse snuck a peek backwards to see where my feet were placed. Then he casually placed his hard hoof down onto the top of my relatively softer foot. Now that's a sneaky rascal.

And the whole dang time I lived and worked at Katahdin Lodge, it was me who watered the horse in the morning, fed and watered him in the evening, and mucked out his stinking muckin' little barn.

He was a pest too.

Anytime I was mucking out his two stalls, in the little horse barn my Uncle Finley had built for him, I had to shut the door to keep him out there, or he'd come in to just stand there and harass me. I would be steadily shoveling his horse manure out of his living space, and he would ease on in next to me, then lean over against me and pin me up against the wall.

What an ingrate!

I am no horseman at all.

I only tried to get him go for a nice long ride back to Hale Pond once, but he wouldn't go more than a hundred yards down the mile long woods road to Hale. I knew my limitations with him, so I never tried to ride him again.

No big deal. When that horse was under my care, he got treated like he should. I always gave him his necessities, along with a few gentle words and a light, friendly scratch to his face, no matter what the weather or anything or anybody else was doing. I worked on his schedule. That's only fair.

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Living In The 7600 Block Of Dunmanway

In order for you to understand what the people and places in and around Patten, Maine mean to me, you need to know what kind of a young man I was, and where I came from, just before I moved to the Katahdin Valley area of Maine. It would be one thing if I had been a country boy from Northern Baltimore County, Western Maryland, or Maryland's Eastern Shore who had grown up working outdoors on his family's farm and had hunted and fished his entire young life. But it was another thing for me, because I was a Mod clothes wearing Rock n' Roll minded kid from the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk, Maryland. I had quite quickly become a country kid up in Maine. And I loved it.

This was my longtime next door neighbor, Carolyn "Sissy" O'Baker.

Sissy is sitting cross legged in the back of her brother's Blues Rock band's hearse. The band's name was The Psychedelic Propeller.

Our families had each bought brand new homes next to each other, in the 7600 block of Dunmanway, five days apart, in 1955. I have a younger sister, Jeanmarie, who is Sissy's age. Sissy has a brother my age, Austin. "Aussie" and I were best of friends, and Jeanmarie and Sissy were good friends. There were a dozen or so other kids on our block, who's families had also moved there in the mid-to-late-1950s.

The 1950s and '60s 7600 block of Dunmanway was a good place to grow up.

Left to right, kneeling down in the front are: Davy Phillips, Debbie Atkins, and Kevin Humphreys. In the back, left to right are: Austin "Aussie" O'Baker, Bobby Humphreys, Dougie Atkins, and Billy Phillips.

Dave Phillips lives in the house he grew up in, and I think that he has been in a home waterproofing business most of his adult life. Debbie Adkins was married to a buddy of mine, but they divorced, and I have lost track of her. Kevin Humphreys is still around Maryland somewhere, but I have no idea what he's up to these days. Austin O'Baker and his family moved to Chicago in 1967 or '68. One time, just after I got out of the Army in 1971, Aussie visited me when was again living at my parents home on Dunmanway, and that's the last I knew of him. Bobby Humphreys joined the Baltimore County Police force, and served as a narcotics detective for most of his career. Doug Atkins is a successful business man who used to own the Dundalk bar named The Zoo. Bill Philips has passed on to a kinder, gentler world 'on the other side'; where his loving father had been patiently waiting for him, for several decades, and his loving mother has recently joined them.

That's me, when I was about 14-years-old, standing in front of the O'Bakers' house. This is looking up the 7600 block of Dunmanway past my family's house, which is next door to the O'Bakers' former house. My younger sister now owns our old house.

And that's me, at about 14-or-15-years-old over in the Baltimore County Recreation and Park's ball fields across from my former home on Dunmanway.

There were four Baltimore County Recreation Department baseball fields right across the street from our entire block. Plus two soccer fields; one of which was also used as a football field. The competitive sounds along with the spectators' cheers of little league baseball, football or soccer games being played there was a lively and welcomed addition to the soundtrack of my life. I never got too into playing organized team sports, but I sure had fun over there watching games and hanging out with all the other spectators.

I did play in a lot neighborhood pick-up baseball and football games over there though. I preferred the casual atmosphere of pick-up games to the oft uncalled for dirty tactics of trophy-minded parent-coaches, plus the aggravating rule book pounding antics of player's parents. And, as you probably also know from national new reports, it gets a lot worse with some parents and parent-coaches at 21st Century children's competitive games.

Dunmaway was a good place to live.

This was my Grandmom Crews at the left, Grandmom Clarke on the right, and Granddad Crews at the other end of the kitchen table. I took this shot during one of our many family get togethers at my parents', two sisters, and my home on Dunmanway.

Every year, we had large birthday parties there for my two sisters, and me. And we went to my many cousins' birthday parties at their homes, or sometimes at one of our Grandparents' homes. Both pairs of my Grandparents had large enough homes for everyone on their side of the family to be comfortable in; but amongst their children--my parents, aunts, and uncles--our home on Dunmanway was the largest of all the other family homes. So any of my cousins' special, big birthday parties were held at our mutual Grandparents' home. I can't remember how often we had big birthday parties for the adults, it wasn't every year, but we did have them.

That photograph marks my entrance into the world of serious photography. Absolutely so. Before that, I, like most people, mostly took what could only be considered as snapshots.

I saw that typical Grandmothers visiting at our house scene at the kitchen table. But I did not want to do the usual stand there, point my camera, and say, "Hey Grandmom, I wanna take your picture, smile!"

I wanted to capture the scene on film just as it was in normal, unposed life.

So I went into my bedroom and came back out into the dining room with my cheap little Kodak Instamatic Camera hidden up under my shirttail. Then I got down onto the floor where a few of my younger cousins were playing with some toys. I made it look like I was goofing around with the younger kids, while watching my Grandmothers for when they looked just right. I wanted to capture, for ever, the personal, intimate interaction between the two older ladies, whom I loved so dearly; and who had known each other from way back around the time when they each first got married. When they had lived in the small town of Sparrows Point, Maryland.

As soon as the scene looked perfect to me, I whipped out my camera from underneath my shirttail, quickly stood up, off went the flash, and I had successfully banged off the shot that I wanted. I had made one wonderful, informal portrait of both my Grandmothers together in my home.

Of course, then came warm, sincere smiles from my Grandmothers.

They each said, with deep, Grandmotherly love, and also with pleasantly feigned mild aggravation, "Ohh! David!" Then they said something like: darned you "Davy Boy" for surprising us with that camera's flash. Naturally, my Grandmothers were quite delighted, and felt sincerely complimented, to have me surprise them by taking a photograph of them that way.

Behind the entire block, of the 7600 block of Dunmanway, is pair of train tracks; for freight trains only. Slow moving freight trains, which virtually eliminated any danger to us kids who grew up while often playing "up on the Tracks". Because from anywhere back there on the Tracks you will hear then see the train when it is plenty far enough away to allow you to get off the tracks before it comes any kind of close to you.

And, yup, the first letter in "Tracks" should be capitalized, because to us kids in the neighborhood, it was a specific geographical location.

We always referred to the location as, "up on the Tracks," because the Tracks are on a steep, raised embankment. The railroad tracks were there long before the houses we lived in were built. The raised embankment was built to keep the Tracks evenly level with higher ground just further up the Tracks. But it worked perfectly as a physical deterrent to smaller children who have to practically crawl up the steep, slippery embankment. It also worked as a psychological boundary between the Tracks and the backyards there, for everyone. It did not seem that that tracks were in our backyards, but more down there just past the ends of our backyards.

Those raised train tracks have always served as a nice way to present, for your viewing pleasure, the powerful, modern steel, American industrial beauty and awesomeness of huge freight trains. I have always enjoyed watching trains going up or down the Tracks. My sister lives in the house we grew up in, and if I am there visiting and hear a train a comin', I will go out back to watch it go by.

In the 1950s and '60s, when we often had plenty of extended family over for birthday parties and picnics, the other kids in our family were fascinated by the trains going by behind our home. Naturally, after hearing trains going by several times a day for years, my parents, two sisters and I would detect the faint sound of an approaching train long before our visitors could. We always called out to all the visiting children in the house that, "A train's comin! C'mon kids, go to the dining room window."

It would take a few minutes for the train to get there, because it had to go slow for the unguarded road crossing a half block up the street. That made it even better for the mysteriousness of how my parents, sisters and I knew the train was coming. The kids would always be pressing their faces up against any of the six, large, glass windowpanes of the dining room windows, while jumping up and down and saying, "Where? Where? Where is it? I don't see it. We don't see it!" Then they'd be tickled pink when it came rolling on by back there.

That was for inside parties, which usually occurred in the evenings.

All family picnics were held in our backyard, because it was the biggest and best backyard of anybodies. We had a picnic on every Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. On the Fourth of July, Maryland's biggest and best Fourth of July Parade ended three blocks away up on Dunmanway. Later, at nightfall, Dundalk's fireworks were viewable from the slightly higher ground of the Baltimore County recreation property across the street.

When trains went by up on the Tracks, we picnickers would all be out there luvin' it, the children gleefully so. We would all wave to the train's engineers, and they'd smile and wave back. Meanwhile, a few of whomever were down at the bottom of the yard, playing Horseshoes, Badminton, or Croquette, would always give the passing engineers the old yankin' an invisible-cord-to-a-whistle arm and hand signal. The engineers 'id give 'er a few friendly toots, and the family would send back cheers of joy to the engineers.

Back during those years, three or four trains a day made round trips on the train tracks behind my former home. They came from the rail yards of Baltimore City down to the Bethlehem Steel Mill in Sparrows Point. There, they exchanged strings of rail cars full of steel making supplies for either emptied supply cars or cars loaded down with massively heavy, freshly made steel products. Then the same train came back up the Tracks again. Every time I saw one go by, I enjoyed it.

But the trains don't go by up on the Tracks very often anymore. Bethlehem Steel once employed over 30,000 men and women, including many members of my family. But there are now fewer than 3,000 total employees working there, and not a one is related to me.

Here is the only good shot of the Tracks that I can find. It must be from 1963 or '64. That is Johnny Ripple at the left, and me on the right. I didn't want to use all these old photos of myself on here, but they are the only ones I have that show what I'm writing about on this page.

The spot of light colored sand at the end of the yard is one of a pair of sand pits down there for playing Horseshoes.

If you look very closely, in any of the three, over forty-years-old black and white photos on this page with me in them, you can see that I'm wearing a pair of Jack Purcell Sneakers on my feet. They cost three times what regular sneakers did; they cost over nine bucks. And, I believe that they were the most expensive sneakers money could buy at the time--in and around Baltimore.

A half-a-block down the street from my childhood home on Dunmanway was Baltimore County's Merritt Beach.

If you scroll back up and take a quick look at that photo of me standing on the Baltimore County Recreation and Park's ball fields across from my former home on Dunmanway, and look at the baseball backstop fencing at the top, right side of the photo, you can almost see through the fencing and into the entrance for Merritt Beach.

When I turned 11-years-old, I began taking Red Cross swimming courses "down the Beach". We neighborhood folks rarely ever said, "Merritt Beach," it was "down the Beach" to us. I took Red Cross swimming lessons down the Beach every summer, from when I was 11 until I was 14--when I passed the Red Cross Junior Life Saving test. The only difference between Senior Lifesaving and Junior was that you had to be 16 to take Senior, they swam more laps than us and had to swim out three times as far to save a 'drowning life guard', to pass their test.

In 1965, Merritt Beach was closed to swimming. It was the summer before I turned 16 and was old enough to take my Senior Life Saving there. It was closed due to the terrible water pollution caused by the Bethlehem Steel Mill, in Sparrows Point, over across the back waters of the Chesapeake Bay that we swam in down the Beach.

Entrance fees for the Beach were a quarter for anyone 15 or under, and fifty cents for anyone over 15.

But then, I was a neighborhood boy, weren't I. And there was a locally well known way to sneak into the Beach without paying. It was a path through shoreline trees and bushes, way across the other side of a school field from the ticket booth. It was on the other side of Merritt Elementary School--my Alma Mater. And young Dave, that'd be me back then, was probly the best there was at utilizing that free path to fun in the sun.

If you got caught sneaking in, the lifeguards told you that you had to help them clean up the day's litter from the beach, along side them at the end of the day. I never got caught more than twice. But it was a lot of fun when two or three of us younger teen sneakins on litter patrol got to making horse playin' challenges with any of the 16 to 20 some-year-old lifeguards, who would gladly wrestle any two or three of us aggravaters into the sand. I never knew any guy who got caught sneaking in to not show up at the end of the afternoon to pick up beach litter, like the lifeguard had ordered them to. It was all part of the fun. The Beach was one of the best local teenage hangouts there ever was, anywhere, in any century. There was no way we locals would ever get ourselves barred from there for not showing up at the end of a great day at the Beach to work for the entrance fee we had tried to sneak past.

Anytime I snuck into the beach, that two-bit ticket price I saved by sneaking in bought me one ten-cent twelve-ounce soda, full sized candy bars were a nickel, so were small bags of pretzels or chips and also any one great Rock n' Roll song on the jukebox played for a nickel. But there were times I snuck in 'cause I didn't have a quarter. Even though my father had a good full time job in a steel mill, and my mother had a good part time job at Hutzler's Department Store in Eastpoint Mall. That's the way it was with all middle class Americans back then. We always had a nice, comfortable home, enough groceries and good clean clothes to wear though. And I never heard of any family around us ever loosing their home due to foreclosure or eviction.

The Beach was often packed with picnicking families, especially on weekends. Down there at the former Merritt Beach, there is still a very cool, breezy, large, nicely spread out picnic area under great shade trees at what now is called Merritt Point Park.

This photo of Merritt Point Park, formerly the Merritt Beach picnic area, was taken on a foggy, drizzling day in around the year 2002. It is the only one I could find right now to show how nice the shaded picnic groves are in that park.

Here is a 1977 photo of the section of the former Merritt Beach where we used to swim. The grassy part right in front was where the soft, clean sand for laying upon out in the sun used to be.

There were times on the sandy part of the Beach where you could not find a place to lay a beach towel. A beach house at the top of the gently sloping beach sand had a little snack bar, a wall of vending machines and one kick-ass jukebox. I can hear the long ago sounds of bare, happy, sandy feet shuffling under the young dancers there right now. It was a great place to meet chicks.

That platform out in the water once had two ladders for swimmers to climb up onto it and two diving boards for swimmers to dive off of it.

The two sets of poles out in the water used to have ropes with flotation devices on them. The two ropes ran parallel to the water line on the beach. "First Rope" was the safety line that non-swimmers should stay behind. The water at First Rope was about five-foot deep at high tide. The beach sand went out under the water to about 1/3rd of the way past First Rope out towards "Second Rope". At high tide, Second Rope was in eight-feet of water. It was illegal to go past Second Rope. One fair warning was all the lifeguards ever gave to anyone who swam out past Second Rope. Two times out past it and the swimmer was ordered out of the water.

As swimmers walked out past First Rope towards Second Rope, the sand dropped off at that 1/3 of the way out mark, and it dropped off at a very steep angle. It dropped into very soft, mucky muddy bottom.

During a very low tide, I once jumped off one of the diving boards feet first and held my body stiff like an arrow to see how far down into the muddy bottom I could sink. I went into it all the way up to my knees. But because this was after I had taken four years of Red Cross swimming lessons, taught at Merritt Beach, including Junior Life Saving, I knew that as soon as I began to try and kick myself free from that muck that I'd be sucked in tighter. I was ready for it, I was just doing an experiment as I did try to kick myself free. And by-golly it sure enough did just what we swimming students had been taught--the muck sucked onto my legs, and the harder I kicked, the tighter the mud's grip on my legs became. So I relaxed my legs and used my fairly well developed upper body to "power" myself back up to the surface. I was ready for it: I had sucked in and held my breath in preparation for it; the were not very many people at the beach that day; I had buddies on the diving platform and lifeguards on the beach who would have known right away if I was under water too long and stuck in the mud. The danger was minimal to me at that particular point in time. But I had proven to myself that any untrained swimmer who did not know what the bottom was like there would have definitely drowned if they ever became stuck in that soft, mucky stuff. There probably had been drownings there when someone got stuck in that muck, but I do not know of any of those actual incidents.

And that trailer park across Bullneck Creek there is a five star rated trailer park. I don't know who rates them, but I do know that five stars is the highest rating. I mowed lawns and delivered newspapers in that trailer park, plus I visited friends there. It is very neat and clean, and during most years the police never have to go down there for anything. It is still that way today--a nice, clean, safe place to live.

Before it was closed due to pollution, I had planned on becoming a lifeguard down the Beach.

Then I had planned on getting my driver's license at 16. So that I could meet girls at the Beach, or coming out of the Beach, and then give them a ride home.

An any hot summer Saturday or Sunday, when the Beach was still open for swimming, but was getting ready to close for the day, a steady stream of families in slow moving cars came up past my house on Dunmanway. Along side of the cars, in the street between the moving cars and the neighborhood cars parked along the curb, was a steady stream of tired, walking teenagers, along with any of their younger brothers and sisters who had gone to the Beach with them. They were all worn out from a day of fun in the sun. The girls would often ask me and/or Aussie O'Baker and/or any other possibly-16-years-old looking neighborhood guys who were relaxing out in front of our houses, while enjoying the parade, if we could give them a ride home. We young teenage guys in front of our homes on Dunmanway and the thin, steadily moving crowd passing by were joking and laughing with each other the whole time, till the last weary straggler struggled on by.

The loss of swimming down the Beach was very bad for me.

But the neighborhood was still a good place to live.

This is the former Merritt Beach in 1991. You can see a flat piece of the old beach house jutting out into the right side of the photo. That tree filled area across Bullneck Creek is Chesterwood Park. It was, and still is, a very nice place, indeed. Back around the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, during hot summer days, when there wasn't much of anyone who owned any motor vehicles yet, steam boats from the harbor in inner city Baltimore brought picnickers out of the awful, stifling, coal-burning-cookstove-smoke-saturated-air polluted, city heat to Chesterwood Park for a day's relief from that crappy, city life.

In those olden days, back around 1900, when Chesterwood Park was one of the best places where any inner city Baltimoreans ever got to go, Merritt Beach was part of a large farm.

The Beach was formerly known as Dundalk Bathing Beach, and was once affectionately known as "The Old Snake Hole." But, unfortunately for a young outdoorsy kinda' kid like I was, most of the snakes that were once seen down there, in abundance, had been long gone before I was ever old enough to go down there to see or catch any of them. Ah well, I've never really been much of a snake handler anyways.

When I was growing up on Dunmanway, there were, and there still are, a few turtles living down there in the shallow, mucky bottomed back waters of the former Merritt Beach. Catching and releasing Snapping Turtles was my specialty, amongst us neighborhood kids. But! Guldangit! I'm prett-near ashamed to have to say that I never ever got my paws on one single wild Painter Turtle in my whole life. And I have yet to photograph any Snappers. I intend to do some great portraits of Snapping Turtles some day. But here's a photo of me with a whopper of a Snapper that I caught down the there, about a dozen years ago. That's me old best buddy, Bug Doggy, at my side.

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Mod Clothing, My 1966-68 Bedroom, and Some Of My Good Friends In High School

In order for you to understand what the people and places in and around Patten, Maine mean to me, you need to know what kind of a young man I was, and where I came from, just before I moved to the Katahdin Valley area of Maine. It would be one thing if I had been a country boy from Northern Baltimore County, Western Maryland, or Maryland's Eastern Shore who had grown up working outdoors on his family's farm and had hunted and fished his entire young life. But it was another thing for me, because I was a Mod clothes wearing Rock n' Roll minded kid from the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk, Maryland. I had quite quickly become a country kid up in Maine. And I loved it.

There I am in 1966 or '67, at 16 or 17 years old. I'm sporting an elongated "Joe College" hair style, and wearing a Mod flowered shirt. That's a wide Mod belt holding up some tight fitting, Mod hip-hugger pants. I'm standing in my suede Mod boots, while standing on a rottin' Mod log. I'm holding up an old Mod door, in front of the fallin' down Mod shack that it fell off of. When I went Mod, I went all out for it.

But I could not grow my hair into a long Mod style, because I was still in school. When I graduated from Dundalk High School, in 1968, most Maryland schools did not allow a male student to wear his hair one fraction of an inch down over his ears. Long haired boys were expelled.

And Hippie hadn't hit Baltimore yet. Except inside of publications like Life or Look Magazine.

That amateur fashion shoot, up there, was shot right over in a thin strip of woods that runs along side of the railroad tracks behind my family's Dundalk home, on Dunmanway.

That busted up shack was an abandoned "colored people's house", on railroad property. The railroad never allowed anyone to move in after the previous family had left. Which had made sense in the modern 1950s, when that last family had left, because there was no running water in the place. The railroad had not allowed any such improvements, just a little electric service.

Inside of that moldy old shack was where I fell for the greatest practical joke of the 1960s, when I tried smoking dried banana peels.

They tasted lousy.

And didn't do a thing for me.

A San Fransisco Haight-Ashbury Rock n' Roll star, Gary "Chicken" Hirsh, of Country Joe and the Fish, was credited with starting that ridiculous, substitute for reefer, rumor. Way back then, in much of America, a lot of us kids had only heard of pot smoking, but never had seen any weed. It was already being smoked heavily in Frisco though.

I had heard of several ways that you had to prepare the banana peels to smoke them. There were recipes for boiling it in water, or rubbing alcohol; and then drying it in various combinations and ways of drying it slow or fast or in complete darkness, or up under your left arm pit while you flapped your arm or something. Or whatever some birdbrain could come up with to try and prove they were hipper than thou.

It was written later that the Rock star rumor starter had read that there actually is a psychoactive substance in the white lining of banana peels. But a lot of, freely circulating, opposing falsehoods were written and/or spoken about the origins of that zany idea.

About a year and a half after I had tasted the bitter smoke of that great, practical joke, I am in Patten Maine on a Saturday night. I walk upstairs above the stores in town, to a small apartment or rented room up there, where some buddies of mine were hanging out. I walk in, and there are three or four of them up there just a grinning and a giggling like fools. I look over to the far side of the room, and there's one of 'um flippin' banana peels on the hot radiator by the window, to dry them out.

I laughed and said, "I know what y'ur doin! You're dryin' out banana peels to smoke 'um. I tried that once, but it didn't work."

One of 'um replied, "Yeah, well we're still gonna try it. We can't get any pot to smoke up here in Patten, and we want to try something. You're not going to tell anybody, are you?"

I was grinnin' and gigglin' almost as bad as they were by then, when I replied, "Shoot no man, I ain't gonna tell nobody! I just told ya that I smoked it once myself."

Smoking dried banana peels didn't do anything for them either.

I was not drunk, or any other kind of stoned, when that photo of me laying there in amongst a pile of old junk was taken. The empty beer bottles are simply part of a conceptual piece of instant on the spot junk art--something to express the rebellious and avant-garde artistic flavor of the Mod experience.

Although I did way too much underage beer drinking over around that old shack--it was a very popular neighborhood place for that illegal act--I can 100% absolutely guarantee you that I did not drink the beer that was in those empty National Beer, Nat'y Boh, Nasty Boh bottles. I never drank a quart of National or a long neck, deposit bottle of that watery crap in my life.

After I got out of the Army, in '71, and I was drinking a little too much beer almost everyday, my father usually had part of a case of National cans in our refrigerator. I never took but one, one time. It gave me a headache. And, during my entire thirty-one-year alcohol consumption career, I never again drank any of that most famous Baltimore beer, with Mob Town's (Mob Town is Baltimore's Civil War legacy nickname) beloved, famous, winking Mr. Boh on the label.

Thirty-one-years full of heavy drinking times, not drinking times, heavy drinking times, than not drinking at all again was enough.

I'm retired now.

This is my 1966-68 bedroom at home on Dunmanway. I had curtains that matched the bed spread.

And I had bought a record album carrying case with the same design on it. In 1968, I packed that case full of records and took it to Maine with me.

The photos on the walls all came out of magazines that I sure wish I had copies of now. I read the best Rock mags on the market, and they are worth some money now. The only magazine name I can remember right now is Crawdaddy. And there must be some photos up there on the wall that came out of Life or Look Magazine. All from what are some of the more valuable collector's issues now.

The photo on the wall that is at the bottom left is of Frank Zappa and The Mothers. That photo up above the Mothers and to the right could be Jim Morrison sitting behind the TV in a closet. The red one at the top with its head missing is The Crazy World of Author Brown, with his flaming hat on. I liked his one song, Fire, and the wild photo, but never had any of his albums. That is Cream--Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker on the railroad tracks, in the photo at the top, middle. On the far wall, at the top, is my favorite drummer of all time, Ginger Baker. I'm lost on the rest of it.

This is my bulletin board, with a well thought out collage on it. What I was thinking at the time, though, I couldn't tell ya'. And the eyes were on a mobile.

In the lower left corner of the bulletin board, it seems like that could only be Janis Joplin belting out a blues wailer. I got real artsy-comical with the feet under the tomato, and it is probly Jack Bruce as the tomato's harmonica playing head. I believe I spot a black and white shot of Ginger Baker playing his drums near Jack's head. To the top left, in red and playing left handed guitar is Jimi Hendrix. I see another shot of Hendrix in red all the way over to the right, middle. At the top left, that double image is of Owsley Stanley, the Grateful Dead's longtime soundman, Bear. The regal black woman in the magnificently colorful dress was simply a great centerpiece for the collage. The WJZ TV bumper sticker was there at the bottom of the bulletin board's frame because of the goofy elephant graphic and whatever goofy graphic was at the other end of it.

That round disc of cardboard tacked into the top right corner of the wooden frame is a Sgt. Pepper Album cut-out insert.

I have an uncut Sgt. Pepper cut-out insert sheet in my living room. It is made of light cardboard and it's almost the same size as an album cover--the cut out is 12 x 11 13/16. I paid twenty bucks for it at an antique show, a few years ago. The disc on my bulletin board looks like I cut it out from one of those famous cut-out sheets, but I didn't. Nobody did. A machine did it. Because I bought the Pepper album a few days after it was released, and I will never forget how overjoyed I was when I opened up the album, carefully slid out the paper sleeved vinyl disc and along with it comes a whole lap full of separate cut out inserts.

"What's this?" I joyously shouted to my parents and sister, who were in the living room with me. The whole cardboard sheet cut out version came in later runs of the album. So there's a bit of Beatles collectibles trivia for ya'. If you ever see a used Sgt. Pepper Album at a yard sale, flea market, etc., or in a dumpster, check that baby for the machine cut cutouts in it. That would be a very valuable find.

That hip looking, long haired young lady is one of my best friends from high school, Patricia MacNeil.

Pat designed, created and sewed most of her own clothes. She was fashionably far ahead of the other girl's at school, with her own natural sense of style. But she never acted like she was or would ever say so. Her clothing creations were visually pleasing and very attractive; but not attractive in a "look at me" kind of way. Her handmade dresses, blouses and skirts seemed to gently flow from within her, and she looked just exactly like she should have. She probably made the pants she is wearing in the photo. And she may have created her coat too, or at least redesigned it to some degree. Her best work, though, was in creating her beautiful blouses, skirts and dresses.

This photo of Pat had to have been taken on a Saturday or other day when there was no school in session, because girls had to wear skirts to school. It was probably taken after an afternoon spent together in downtown Baltimore, while shopping and hanging out with our usual group of friends who also dug the hip places in and around the once bustling Howard Street corridor.

Pat and I and about a half dozen of our other friends all walked part-ways home together from Dundalk High School, everyday during our senior year.

About the only major difference of taste, or opinion, in our shared teenage lifestyles was: Pat and Nancy Becker could not talk me into listening to any of their acoustic Bob Dylan albums.

I had Dylan's electric Highway 61 Revisited and was a serious listener of it. When I told my group of friends that I had begun to really get into all of the music on Highway 61 Revisited--to me, it was all as good as the '60s anthem from that album, Like A Rolling Stone, that we have all heard many times--Nancy and Pat got all too gushy like and said, "Ohhh Dahhve. If you like that, you have to come listen to his first few albums. The lyrics are so good."

But I had heard bits of his acoustic music before that, and it wasn't for hard rockin' me. Till about fifteen years ago, when I began to collect, and listen to, all of Dylan's early stuff.

Each day after school, Pat and I were the last two walking together--after all of the others in our after school quorum of hip, high school kids had broken off to go their shortest routes to their homes. Then Pat had to take a left at Robinwood Rd, and I went on the farthest of all, to Dunmanway. But many a day I walked with Pat up to her house. Then we hung around the bird feeder, out in the front yard, for a while, sharing warm and humorous conversation.

I took that photo during the final half of our senior year.

This is Carmello Krocheski. She was also one of my best friends from high school, and a member, in fully fledged good standing, of the after school walking home together crew with Pat, Nancy Becker, and I. Carmello died young, from Lupas. I think she was about 28-years-old.

I took this photo just after we had graduated from high school. As I look at this photo, I can see where you may be thinking that she is not a very cool and hip looking 18-year-old girl at all. Today, she doesn't look too hip to me either. But Carmello most definitely was a very hip young woman.

Carmello had the same type of music in her record album collection as I did. And, when I was the lunchtime record committee for the Dundalk High School cafeteria's stereo system, I was the person who turned DHS onto The Cream, Frank Zappa, and Jimi Hendrix Experience. I think that it was Carmello who had turned me onto Tim Buckley. She was seriously aware of, and deeply concerned about, the horrible effects that the Vietnam War was having on our generation. We also read some of the same books, and saw the world around us from many similar points of view.

She was a whole lot of fun to spend time with. A very upbeat kind of a gal.

After my 1968-69 year in Maine, I entered the Army in November 1969. And when I was home on Christmas leave, on Christmas Day 1969, I visited Carmello and her family. There was a nice, heavy snow falling, and my Northern Maine acquired driving skills served me well that day. I had a great and safe time driving my father's big, white Ford station wagon all over the southeastern Baltimore County area, while wearing my Army, full dress, uniform to visit relatives and friends.

That day was the only time I ever wore my Army uniform at home in Maryland, and I only did so for my family and close friends. During those Vietnam War years, American military personnel in uniform were often treated very rudely and crudely by American civilians--whose freedoms we G.I.s were protecting.

The last time that I saw Carmello, just after my discharge from the Army in the early 1970s, she told me that I had done something kinda' odd at her house, on Christmas Day 1969.

Carmello lived with her older sister, and their mother--two other lovely ladies whom I was well acquainted with. I'm fairly sure that I had been drinking some beer that day, as I could have purchased it at Ft. Holabird, though I was only 19-years-old at the time. But I can't quite seem to fully recall doing what Carmello told me I had done. I do have a slight, hazy memory of maybe doing it though.

Carmello's family had set out a very nice Christmas buffet. Evidently, I had made a potato salad sandwich from their buffet table. Carmello said that she, her sister, and mother just couldn't get over me making that potato salad sandwich; they got some great laughs from me doing that, and had reminisced and laughed about it for years after.

I love homemade potato salad, and am a self declared connoisseur of the dish. And now I do hazily, definitely recall doing that. I had picked up the idea from some Maine or Army buddy of mine, somewhere along the line, and I remember him saying that his family had always made potato salad sandwiches. I thought that it was pretty funny, so I made one too. So I do believe that I had also made one that Christmas Day at Carmello's--just for effect. Ya' know what I mean?

I had some beers in me, I was extremely happy to be home, and I had probably done it to give the Krocheski gals, all three of whom I liked a lot, and whom I was liked by a lot, I'm pretty darn sure that I had done it just so they would get some good laughs out of seeing me eat a potato salad sandwich.

In fact, now that I have written it out, and see it more clearly now, I know I had done it for comic effect. Because I have never had a potato salad sandwich since then.

This is Nancy Becker, who was also one of my best friends from high school, and a member, in fully fledged good standing, of the after school walking home together crew with Pat, Carmello, and I.

How fully fledged was I at the time? Well let's just say that I was very fortunate to have such intelligent, world wise, sensibly humorous, and down-to-earth female friends as the three young women on this page. Or I'd have gone too wild, too soon. And I seriously doubt that I'd still be alive today.

In the photo of Nancy, she is standing in her sister and brother in law's--Linda and Tommy Beaver's front yard, on the Fourth of July, in the early 1980s, I think. I hadn't seen her in over ten years, when I walked up to her on that bright, summer day. That's why I took the photo as she extended her hand to greet me. I wanted to capture that moment forever.

Nancy was always quite the delightful young woman to be around. Like I said before, on this page, the only serious disagreement Nancy and I ever had was when I refused to go with her and Pat MacNeil to listen to Bob Dylan's first three albums, because I was not into the acoustic Dylan yet.

After my 1968-69 year in Maine, on a November day, about a week before I entered the U.S. Army, I was home in Maryland to spend time with family and friends. Nancy, Pat, and I decided to go hitchhike down to Georgetown in Washington D.C.. I think one of them had an apartment in downtown Baltimore. Because for some reason, we had rendezvoused, to begin our hitchhiking adventure, in downtown Baltimore, at an old time lunch counter, in a drugstore up in the Howard Street corridor. It was already dark out at the time. We each drank a cup of hot coffee or hot tea, at the lunch counter, to get us warmed and revved up for the adventure.

As we sat there calmly, happily talking amongst ourselves, and sipping our hot drinks, we each were taking slight, furtive glances at this very weird, and outa' whack, fellow on the other side of the lunch counter, because he kept pouring and pouring spoonful after spoonful of sugar into his cup of hot coffee, from an old time glass sugar container. The glass sugar container ran empty, and he begins to call for the waitress.

The waitress was one of those older, worn down kind of women, who had never had a fair break in life; she had already lived a long lifetime of rarely ever really looking good; and she possessed a charmless personality, that matched her dismal, low budget lifestyle. The poor old gal was sort of hiding behind a lit cigarette back there just inside of the stainless steel, swinging kitchen door. She was very slow in responding to the weird guy's steadily repeated requests for her to attend to his present needs and desires.

Now, Nancy, Pat, and I are not saying anything at all about what the weird guy and waitress are doing, nor are we acting like we were paying any attention to them. But we three were each thinking to ourselves, "He's dumped about eight teaspoons of sugar into his cup of coffee, so he can't be gonna ask the waitress for more sugar. But I just know he's gonna do it."

Finally, the waitress comes out. And, in a drably tired, and defeated-by-life tone of voice, the old gal asked the weird guy what he wanted.

Very droll like, just like the two of them were doing a well rehearsed and perfectly timed comedy skit for a TV show, he said he wanted more sugar.

That was it for us! We had to drop some money onto the lunch counter and get going really fast. We were cracking up and didn't want to offend those two unfortunate souls at the drugstore lunch counter, by laughing right at them. We stumbled over each other's feet as we practically rolled up into a giant ball of hilarious laughter and on out the door and onto the sidewalk--while whispering to each other in unison, "Did you see that? Did you see that?"

The rest of the night was just like that, all the way to D.C. and back again. It was great.

I had my Maine Guide's Buck Knife on my belt, and I was in about the best physical condition I ever have been in. So though there is always a dangerous side to hitchhiking, we were three sharp minded 18-19-year-olds, and I was as ready to rumble with any potential trouble as I ever was.

We got a few good rides out of Baltimore, then a guy who was already in the Army, who was driving an old Corvair, picked us up. He was heading to Georgetown himself. He was a good driver, and a pleasant conversationalist.

As we drove through D.C. and got closer in towards Georgetown, the G.I. driving us hinted around that he'd like to walk around with us for a while. I may have gotten a little too protective of my female friends, when I smoothly nixed that idea. He probly was an OK guy, but I wasn't too certain, and I think maybe I should have asked him along with us. I told the girls about it as soon he dropped us off, and they said that, yeah, I should have asked him along. I still feel a little bad about that.

Nancy, Pat, and I all three knew our way around Georgetown, and we had a fantastic time there. We knocked off the fun an hour before the bars were going to close. That was our well thought out, strategic plan for having our thumbs in the air while the traffic leaving the internationally known and populated party district of Georgetown would be the heaviest.

We hadn't had our thumbs up for more than a full minute, when the third car passing by pulled over, and stopped. It was a little yellow VW Bug. The driver's door popped wide open, then the passenger door popped wide open; and one really drunk and tired looking, good looking, young woman jumps up out of the driver's door, then one really drunk and tired looking, good looking, young woman jumps up out of the passenger's door.

The driver hollers and slurs out, "Who's gotta driver's license? We can't drive no more! One of you has ta drive."

With that, I got into the driver's seat; Nancy, Pat, and the female passenger got into the back seat; the drunk girl driver got into the passenger seat, and I drove us all the way to where Pat, Nancy, and I had previously met up in Baltimore. It was a great trip back home.

The VW belonged to the driver's brother. The two girls were from Delaware, and they had picked up two, very lucky, hitchhiking sailors. GO SWABBIES! Then they all four had had some good times in Georgetown.

But they had one big problem, besides sobering and resting up while I drove them safely as far as Baltimore--I wasn't too much under the influence of alcohol at all. Their problem was that the brother had told his sister not to drive his VW Bug out beyond the town limits of where they lived. So the girls had disconnected the car's speedometer, in order to hide the high mileage put on his car that night.

The Delaware girls were very grateful to us for safely, and with lots of good conversation and joking around all the way, for safely helping them get as far as Baltimore. And we three hitchhikers were extremely grateful for our super-superb luck in catching a ride all the way to Baltimore in less than a full minute's thumbing time.

It sure is a shame we can't very well safely hitchhike anymore. Oh well. I Still have some great memories of those bygone days to enjoy though.

After my 1968-69 year as a Maine bear Hunting Guide, I came home to Maryland to visit family and friends, just before I entered U.S. Army basic training. During that short time to still be a civilian, I went to a party at Carmello's new, single working gal's apartment; well it was new to her, but in a very old and architecturally interesting and sound building. I can't recall whether Pat or Nancy were there, but at least one of them probably had been. Carmello's apartment was her hip pad, ya' might say, but she'd have just called it an apartment. It was a cool and hip little home for a young woman, that's for sure. It was in Baltimore City--not quite downtown, not quite uptown--on East Biddle Street, near Charles Street. A decidedly, fairly hip young neighborhood in that day and age. The area was populated by art students from the Maryland Institute, plus struggling, young and older professional artists, musicians, poets, writers, some brand new and some older Hippies, some cranky and crusty really old folks-long time residents, etceteras.

It was a nice, small, pleasant, hip, gregarious group of conversing young people there at Carmello's party. They were a very mellow lot--but no pot or hash was smoked, though I never knew of Carmallo ever smoking any, there were definitely some part time pot/hash smokers there. Not me at the time, but I had puffed it some in high school and really got into it a year later, while overseas on Okinawa.

There were no alcoholic beverages there either. Me being the several times a month social beer drinker that I had been for that previous year in Maine, I asked if anyone wanted to pitch in on a case of beer.

Well shoot man, the way they reacted, you'd a thought I'd suggested we all go out to mug a bunch of the old folks in the neighborhood. Everybody there dropped their chins to their chests, or looked away from each other, and especially away from me, with very soured, disapproving looks all over their faces, as the whole place became nearly numbed by surprise looking. The molecules of the quietly, forever slowly moving air in the apartment just sort of stopped bouncing around against each other, stopped dead still and hung there, in the middle of the room. I was feeling completely off balance and out of place, while the stale air waited for the sounds of someone's vocal chord vibrations to stir its stunned, little molecules up a little, when one long-stringy-haired and fuzzily bearded guy, who was sitting cross legged on the floor, said, "A case of beer? A bottle of wine maybe. But a case of beer? (he snorts a short, sneering snicker) No way."

You may have already read some of my writings on this site about me wanting to grow my hair long, but having to cut it to be able to live up in Maine. Well the one thing was at Carmello's party was that I was the only shorthaired guy there. Believe me, those guys there were not the first in the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area to want to grow their hair long, but once it had become the popular style of more and more Baltimore area young people, the young men in the social circles of Carmello and her party attendees all had longer hair. BUT! The attendees were as prejudiced against my short hair as my Aunt Martha, Uncle Finley, and the Native Mainers up there around Katahdin Lodge had been against my long hair--a year earlier.

I stayed a little longer, while Carmello and I enjoyed each other's company a little more, but then excused myself, and headed on back into my old home neighborhood. There, I found some drinkin' buddies to pal around with for the rest of the evening. That stuffy group of Carmello's newer friends there were not quite up to my somewhat wilder and more fun ways of socializing. And those wine-ee party goers weren't so damned, avant-garde-er, and hipper than me as they thought they were.

After I was discharged from the Army in November 1971, I was invited to a dinner party with Pat, Carmello, Nancy, and some other people whom I had known in high school, and new acquaintance or two. It was a nice time. There was some wine and little bit of cold beer there. A little bit of pot was piped. We all shared some considerably lively and stimulating conversation. Though I left that party feeling nice and contented to have been there, I knew it was the last time I'd be with any of them like that. They invited me around again, several more times, but then gave up on that idea.

I had become way too wild and crazy while serving in the U.S Army on Okinawa, to be around my down to earth old friends. I had developed an unsettling, nearly unquenchable thirst for cold beer and other forms of booze, and a nearly unsatisfiable desire to smoke another bowl or joint of weed. That was not compatible with some of old my high school friends' lifestyles. Not with Pat, Carmello, and Nancy's. But there were plenty of other lifelong friends around my old home neighborhood who drank and smoked just like I was doing.

That heavy drinking and smoking and other drugging lifestyle maimed a few of my old friends--physically and/or mentally maimed them, killed a few, and the peripheral damages of our self destructive lifestyles destroyed, or made miserable, too many of our families', friends', and/or lovers' lives, our professional working abilities and relationships, and the well being and futures of too many of our younger relatives.

Take it from a survivor, drink alcohol and/or use other drugs as little as possible. If you haven't tried any certain such mind altering, oft terribly personality and life altering, pyschoactive substance yet, don't move onto it. You may be moving to someplace where there is only destruction, pain, and misery. Keep your consumption of what you do use to as minimal of an amount as you possibly can. You'll live a healthier, happier, and a much more positive, successful life if you do.

Though it has been close to 15 years since I drank any booze, but not as long since I last misused any drugs. Every single day of my life, I pay a little bit of a life and soul draining price for my mistakes in the former use and abuse of alcohol and other mind altering drugs.

There are no free rides in this world. Ya' gotta' pay to play.

This is Ray-Ray Griggs. He and I were good friends from the seventh grade, about when this photo was taken, on up through high school. He had been going to Catholic school somewhere, until he got himself kicked out of there. Then he came to my public school, when we had been good pals for over a year already. He was in a lot of my classes, and we created some funny times in those classes.

Ray Griggs and I each pulled off a good number of lighthearted classroom antics on our own, and also sometimes together. We could team up very effectively with one of us acting the straight man, and the other being the funny one. We'd switch it up from one time to the next, so as to keep everyone else off balance on what to expect when one of us two would set one of our little comedians' plans into action. It was often done with a few words whispered, along with some hand signals sent, across the classroom to the other guy, when the teacher had their back turned and was writing on the chalkboard. Or one of us two would give a serious answer to a teacher's classwork question, and the other'd add a funny quip to the end of it. The whole class would roar with laughter, and the teacher also often got a kick out of what we had done in jest. We made a few of our teachers smile quite a lot.

We never put anyone down or poked fun at some other kid who couldn't get us back with their own wit and childhood wisdom. Getting hit back with some good comedy was half the fun. Ray's and my jokes, pranks, comical stunts, and funny punch lines thrown into the day's class lessons were all done for everyone's enjoyment. Naturaly, the teachers didn't always appreciate the adolescent comedy we had used our thick, steaming, young skulls to create. But we never-ever really ticked a teacher off, or ruined their day. Because we never did anything out of malice towards authority or towards our fellow students.

If I were to really get into to telling you all about Ray-Ray Griggs, I'd have to start another web site just for him. Only then could I tell you all I remember, and cherish, about him. Plus, to be fair to all of the many, many people with their own personal, cherished memories of wild and funny times with Ray-Ray, I'd have to solicit and publish Ray-Ray stories for several years. I was intimately familiar with Ray-Ray's well known, and well loved, wild and crazy, rib splitting hilarious at times, one of a kind personality. He was that kind of widely popular and much beloved person.

I'm going to tell you two more things about Ray-Ray.

The first is something that I was sworn to secrecy about, during the first week that I knew him. Ray-Ray took tap dancing lessons in an after school tap dance class held in Dundalk Elementary School. But he didn't take them for too long.

The second thing is something that everyone who knew Ray-Ray knows full well. Ray-Ray was one of the very most highly skilled--over the public road--motorcycle riders who has ever twisted a big bike's throttle grip. Ever. Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace.

Please don't mind me for qualifying myself here by saying that, in my younger years, I could really ride hard and right in the groove myself. I was much more highly skilled at it than the average motorcycle-two wheeled motor vehicle operator. But I could have never kept up with Ray-Ray, if we had ever gotten to ride together, and he had decided to leave me way back there behind him in his jet stream.

Unfortunately, he and I never managed to be going in the same direction on our bikes at the same time. Ray-Ray owned and rode a big bike, a Harley 1200, for most of his young adult life. I only owned and rode a big bike, a Yamaha 650, for two years. And I got hit on it twice, by cars whose driver's were at fought for the accidents. So that cost me too much riding time, while the bike was in the repair shop.

I knew Ray-Ray's well earned reputation for the way he rode. I had seen him ride a few times. I knew the way that some of the guys who had been blessed to ride with Ray-Ray could ride hard, but safe, themselves. Guys who greatly admired Ray-Ray's superb motorcycle handling skills, and who all agree with me in all I say here about our long departed friend, Ray-Ray Griggs.

Ray-Ray may no longer be gravity bound to ride the tar topped streets, highways, and backroads of this earth any longer, but he certainly must be riding hard, fast, and in the groove somewhere. That's the way his soul was on this side, and it may very well be the way that his soul is spending eternity on the other side. He and I did get into some minor hooliganisms together, and also on our own, or with others. But I reasonably believe that he never did anything so wrong that he was not accepted and fully welcomed into a good place on the other side.

This is Joe Stamboni, a somewhat pudgy looking fellow, and truly one of a kind.

You see that curly, down over the forehead, waterfall styled, Rockabilly lookin' hairstyle of his? He was about the last guy in our school who had held onto that 1950s/early 1960s look. By 1965, most of us East Coast USA teen males were into the "Joe College" look. Our hair and clothing styles reflected what the college kids looked like at the time. Like what you'd see on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys on the cover of an early Beach Boys surf music record album. But Joe looked positively normal and in style with his hair like that.

Somewhere around midsummer of 1965, Joe and his parents had moved in two houses up the street from mine, on Dunmanway. That was during the summer before my first year of high school, which was tenth grade at the time. Joe was going into twelfth grade. That school year, my next door neighbor and ten-year-long friend, Austin "Aussie" O'Baker was going into the tenth grade too.

By the time that the beginning of the school year rolled around, Joe was on good, friendly terms with all of his neighbors. So everyday of the 1965-66 school year, Aussie's mother drove her son Aussie, Joe, and I to school. It was great fun having Joe ride with us, because he could really brighten up the start of your day. He possessed a keen, sharp, and ever ready wit, all about him, all of the time. He was just about the most popular guy in school. And between classes, when you walked down through the crowded school hallways with Joe, it was non-stop, "Hey Joe, how ya doin," "Hey Joe what's up," all the way. And Joe was steadily joking and laughing with people all up and down the hallway, at a steady pace of up to about 10 or 20 kids away in either direction. Ain’t no doubt about it, Joe was surely the most popular guy in Dundalk High. He got along great with kids in every clothing/hair style type of click and group and with all of the teachers too. Most everybody knew and liked him.

Joe was probly the last male to wear black leather, pointy-toed, Hollywood movie hoodlum style shoes, which had big Cuban Heels on them, on the boardwalk “down the ocean” (Ocean City, Maryland). All of us other teens were wearing penny loafers, tennis shoes/sneakers--particularly Jack Purcells, or sandals. But Joe believed that there wasn’t anything better than the solid, thunk-thunk-thunking sound of his hard, Cuban Heels hitting them boards while he strolled on down the boardwalk, checking out the girls, and the girls were all looking around to see where the solid sounds were coming from, and then they watched him stroll on by.

Joe Stamboni was the first guy in Dundalk to dare wearing a polka dot Mod shirt. I do believe I remember it having large red polka dots on a yellow background. About that time, he also decided that the only pants he would wear were white jeans. He bought three pair of them, and he put on a clean pair everyday. He said it trully simplified things for him by only having three pair and always knowing he had to wash two pairs of them every other day.

I don’t know how the heck Joe ever passed any courses in high school. He never took a book home. He never studied or did any homework at home. Somehow, he got it done during the school day.

Joe often talked about a Corvette he was going to buy, as soon after he graduated from high school, and he got himself a full time job, as he could. Consequently, Joe had a Corvette spinner hubcap screwed onto the front cover of his blue, school notebook, which he proudly carried as he walked down the halls. He eventually owned several different Corvettes.

Joe was a very good drummer, and was heavy into 'slinging fatback' on the drums. Fatback is a nickname for the heavy backbeat of Rhythm n' Blues/Soul music.

Joe kept his drum kit set up in the family room at the side of his house. When Joe was practicing on his drums, anybody walking down the sidewalk out front or driving down the street out there could hear it. Us neighborhood kids would sometimes sit out in front of Joe's house while listening to him pounding out a heavy, rockin', beat to some Rhythm n' Blues songs, with a whole lotta' soul.

When he was practicing, Joe liked listening to Baltimore's WSID AM radio station, while playing along to the songs spun by the greatest of all Soul/R n' B disc jockeys, Fat Daddy.

When Fat Daddy was introducing songs and doing other on-the-air radio disc jockey announcements and all, he jive-talked in a very fast Baltimore City style African American accent. Fat Daddy often made it very difficult to understand exactly what he was saying, but in a most entertaining way. The majority of his listeners were inner city African Americans in Baltimore, and even they could not understand much of what he said on-the-air. Joe loved telling how Fat Daddy had gotten into trouble for saying, "Every time I hear the Supremes, I cream in my jeans!" Which Fat Daddy had said numerous times before some prudish woman in his listening audience finally figured out what he was saying every time he played a record by Diana Ross and the Supremes; and then that woman filed a formal complaint about it.

A teenage Joe once gave me some of the best advice I ever heard: “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.”

I found that statement to be quite profound.

It was absolutely amazing to see a somewhat pudgy Joe wearing an out of style hair cut, out of style shoes, the latest style pants, and also shirts that were soon going to be in style, and he was the most popular guy around.

Last week, I was quite fortunate to have enjoyed a nice conversation with an old friend of mine--Dave Collins. I had seen Dave and talked to him last fall, after his Rock n’ Roll band had played a concert in Dundalk Maryland’s Veterans Park. Which was the first time we'd seen each other since shortly after we had graduated from high school together. Previous to that conversation in Veterans Park, the last contact we had was by letter, when Dave was in Vietnam, and I was a student in the U.S. Army's Photographic Laboratory Technician School at Fort Monmouth New Jersey. In fact, I still have the last letter that I was going to send to Dave. It is in a Photo Lab Tech School notebook that I have kept through all these past decades.

Dave moved into my neighborhood in 1963 or '64, when we were both 13-or-14-years- old. He ended up being in a lot of my classes at school, till we graduated together.

We were very good friends when Dave and our mutual, close friend Larry "Sid" Cramer formed a Rock N' Roll band with some other guys. Dave was the lead singer, Sid played bass guitar, and, another old friend of mine, Frank Catanzariti played lead guitar. I knew the organ player, and the three guys who had served in succession as their drummer, but I can only remember Larry Lundy as one of the guys who had played drums. The band's name was.

The Suns were a great Rolling Stones type of Rock n' Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and Blues music based band. Dave's Rocked-out-Bluesy singing actually sounded a little like Mick Jagger's--till Dave's voice fully matured, after high school. And that opinion of Dave’s singing abilities is coming from a lifelong collector of recorded music who is, first and foremost, a Rolling Stones fan. The Beatles were better, but the Stone's earliest music sounded just like I felt inside. I went to many of the Rysing Suns' live performances. The Suns were the best 1967 era high school aged Rock n' Roll band who were all Dundalk kids.

I traveled around Dundalk and the Baltimore area having all kinds of teenage fun with Dave and Sid.

At Dundalk High School, in our senior year, we cut out for lunch period one afternoon together. This was a time when all school kids were expected by all adults to be in school during school days. Sid drove us in his car to the Wise Avenue Gino's Hamburgers joint for lunch.

As we approached the very busy intersection where Holabird Avenue turns into Wise Avenue at Merritt Boulevard, we all three look to our left, because the driver of a furniture delivery van had lost control of his too-fast traveling truck, and was heading in our direction. The truck was about to wreck either into us or something or someone right in front of or beside us.

The truck had been barreling down Merritt Boulevard and had tried to make a right in the curved, right turn lane, onto Holabird. But instead, it went flying straight across the cement lane divider, and was bouncing all up and down. The driver and two furniture delivery helpers inside the truck's cab were bouncing all up and down like basketballs being dribbled by Meadowlark Lemmon at a Harlem Globetrotter's game--and the inside of the roof of the truck's cab was like his huge hand dribbling all three balls at once. Those three men were looking very frightened.

We had a red light up ahead and were slowing down at the time for that stoplight.

The truck stays on a straight course all the way across the two lanes of Holabird Ave. that go in the opposite direction we were going, but, very fortunately, no vehicles were moving in those two lanes.

Then the truck comes a bouncing up over the Holabird Ave. center cement divider, and the darned lucky truck driver accidentally squeezes through in between two cars that were stopping for the red light just up ahead and to the left of us, over across one lane in the left turn lane. We were in the curbside lane heading straight.

The driver frantically whips his steering wheel to his left, which just barely keeps them from plowing into our left, front side. There was one car up ahead of us in our lane, and it was already stopped at the red light. The truck driver whipped it to the left, just missed smashing into the left side tail end of the car in front of us, as the truck pulls up to a complete stop, in the center lane, right at the red light, right as we pulled up beside it.

It was eggzactely like a scene in a comedy movie--like in Cannonball Run.

It was an absolutely amazing, and rather hilarious, set of fortunate circumstances for all. Everybody who was traveling through that intersection at that moment was lucky. Because if the truck had hit any vehicles, there's no telling what the chain reaction would have been. The vehicles who had the green light were all flying real fast as usual up and down Merritt Boulevard.

But we three high school guys were doubly lucky, because if we'd have been any part of an accident, we would have been suspended or possibly expelled from school.

I never cut out for lunch period again. I felt that my luck at not getting caught cutting lunch was all used up on that one.

Sid's car was his mother's older, used Chevy Nova station wagon. Not a cool car, but it carried plenty of band equipment, or Sid's friends. I was in that car when I learned of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. I was in the back seat, and I think it was Stevie Eitel in the front passenger seat--I know it wasn’t Dave.

It happened on a Friday night. Sid, Stevie, and I were going out somewhere, I can’t remember where, but we had just begun our evening of teenage socializing. Dundalk Shopping center was a very busy, lively small town Maine Street kind of a place back then. Local teenagers were hanging out there a lot on Friday and Saturday evenings. I have forgotten whom we had stopped to talk to, but we had been driving up Dunmanway into the shopping center, when Sid had spotted someone we knew and had pulled into the alley across from St. Rita’s Church, to talk to them.

It was two of our friends, I think that one was Jerry Swan, and they said, “Hey man! We all have to be off the streets and in our houses by eleven o'clock tonight.”

Naturally, Sid, Stevie, and I thought that those other two guys were trying to play a practical joke on us. Then when we told them we didn’t believe what they were telling us and asked why we had to be off the streets, they told us about Dr. King’s death and riots happening in Baltimore City. But of course, we didn’t understand why we had to be off the streets because of that, even though Dundalk borders Baltimore City.

Just then, two uniformed Auxiliary Cops came walking up to our car. Auxiliary Cops don’t carry guns, but do help out the regular police in various ways. We teenage guys there all knew what the two cops were. They didn’t carry guns, but they had big wooden nightsticks, flashlights, handcuffs, and some powers of detention or arrest. The two guys standing outside Sid’s car asked the two cops to verify their claim that we all had to be off the streets by eleven, and the cops verified it. The two cops continued to steadily walk towards us until they came right up close to the car, brushed our two buddies away from the side of the car with their nightsticks and shined their flashlights inside and checked out everything inside the car’s interior. There was something in a large, brown paper bag sitting under Sid’s jacket and right next to me in the backseat.

One cop points his nightstick at the jacket and bag and brusquely says, “Hey, what’s under there?”

We teens all knew right away that the cop thought it was a bag full of cold beers under the jacket. Because we had drank some cold beers together before and knew that it definitely did look like it was two six-packs in a bag hidden under the jacket. Sid reached around, lifted up his jacket, and opened the bag for the cops to see what was inside of it. I forget what was in the bag, but having the two Auxiliary Cops come down so quick and heavy on us like that let us know it was no night to be screwing around with the 11PM curfew.

The next day, Saturday, there was a 6PM curfew. I was up in Dundalk Shopping Center all that afternoon, and it was very weird.

Usually, cars that were parked in the shopping center stayed parked for at least a half-hour, and usually for longer. There were a lot of good retail stores and eateries there in 1968, and people could shop for a lot of different things there. But on that Saturday, people were coming in, getting only what they needed that day and were getting out and going back home as quickly as they could. The adults all looked very solemn and worried. We teens were thinking that it was all very entertaining, but after a couple of hours of watching all this strange movement of shoppers and their cars, it seemed like it was the end of the world coming and everybody was preparing for the worst.

The liquor stores and bars were all closed all that weekend. I saw an old wino go into DTs and fall down shaking like crazy on the sidewalk in front of the old Arundel Ice Cream restaurant, because he could not buy any booze anywhere. The ambulance had to come and take him away.

I can remember that by the time my friends who were also up there that day, and I started to head to our homes for the 6PM curfew, we were had become pretty well spooked by it all.

My father had a 22 Cal. rifle, a single barrel 12 gage shotgun, and a 7 MM hunting rifle. He told me that he had the shotgun and 22 already loaded, just in case a roving carload of rioters might come through our neighborhood. He had a shy, sorta' silly grin on his face, and said he knew it was probably not going to happen, but if I had to I had to defend the family and house.

Sunday it was a 3PM curfew. That was as close to a science fiction end of the world movie or an episode of The Twilight Zone that I ever wanna' get anywhere near. About an hour after the curfew set in, I simply had to go spend a few minutes standing out in our front yard. It was something I never want to see again, with no life anywhere to be seen or heard till a lone car would go flying by up on Merritt Boulevard and fun right through the red light.

As the lead singer in a 1968 era Rock n' Roll band, Dave Collins was bound and determined to grow his hair long, and to graduate from high school. But, as I say in other pages on this web site, in those days, longhaired boys were expelled from school, or had already quit school. Dave did manage to get away with having his hair grown just a little ways down over his ears.

I had to be satisfied with having the longest sideburns in our high school. I cut them shorter for my yearbook picture, but mine are the longest sideburns in the DHS Class of '68 Yearbook.

One afternoon between classes in school, I moseys on into to the school's smallest boy's lavatory and am unpleasantly surprised see two guys I didn't know beating up on Dave Collins. It was one taller, bigger guy and Dave duke-ing it out hot and heavy, with the big guy's medium sized buddy trying to throw some cheap shots in over and around his big buddy's large chest and shoulders, at Dave's face and head.

Dave had been trapped by them two chumps towards the back of the lavatory, between the sinks and the toilet stalls, so he had those solid fixtures on both sides of him to his advantage, because it kept the medium sized chump from getting around his big buddy, and then really doubling up on my best of friends, Dave.

As soon as I saw it all, I jumped onto the medium guy's back, did a little Judo move (taught to me by Dave Rix) on him, took his legs out from under him, and crammed his lousy little backside right into a urinal, stuck my index finger damn near up his snotty little nose, and said, in no uncertain terms, "One on one #*&*&%#@##! One on one."

That sumbee in the urinal had the nerve to look up at me like I was the one not fighting fair. But he sat there in the urinal until I allowed him to get up.

I quickly turns around to see how ol' Dave is doing; and I swear to you that he is fighting in such perfect boxing form, with his head tucked down, real nice and defensively, and his mighty young fists upper cutting furiously fast and pppooouuunnndddiiinnnggg that big dude so fast and hard into his large section that Dave's punches were lifting the big chump's heels right up in the air--about three inches off the friggin floor. That big sumbee's face was looking totally pained and frustrated, because he could not land anymore of his punches anywhere onto Dave where it counted.

So the big chump throws up his hands in defeat, steps back, looking all miffed and uppity like he was being cheated out of his clean cut American male's right to beat up all longhaired males. Then he has the nerve to say, "Alright. Alright. But I'm gonna see you later sometime."

Dave was a peace loving fellow, so he didn't say anything at all in reply to that great big, sore looser.

I had never even seen those guys anywhere in school before or never saw them after that, at all. I had no idea who they were. But the fight did happen right at the end of our senior year, so them two chumps only had a few weeks in which to see either of us two Daves later.

Man! That ticked me off to see a big guy who looked like he should have been able to take Dave on his own but had his smaller buddy helping him out. If Dave would have started a one on one fight and it was me jumping in and throwing in cheap shots at his opponent, Dave would neither have liked nor allowed that at all. He was a fair fighting kinda' guy, and so was I.

I am no longer a proponent of stand up and duke it out fair rules anymore. It's do what you have to win these days, so I have adjusted my personal defense standards to fit the modern lack of gentlemanly fisticuffs rules for a fair fight.

The way that the fight had begun was: Dave was in there alone. The two chumps had walked in and saw Dave's "long hair", which was only a half inch or so down over top of Dave's ears, at the most. Dave was combing his hair back behind his ears at the time, but them two clean cut American boys took offence to it. So the big one--he was a full head taller than Dave and a bit wider at the shoulders--calls Dave, "Hey Sally."

Because Dave was cornered back there in that small space between the toilet stalls and the sinks, he had no choice but to fight his way out of there. I don't recall what Dave said back to the big chump, or whom Dave had said had swung first. But Dave, as anyone would have, knew that he was trapped and about to be swung upon, so he may have indeed gotten the first punches in. Dave did have a false tooth cap knocked out, so he may have been sucker punched by the big chump.

Dave sure enough did get the last, mighty effective, punches in there, though. I will never forget turning my attention from the medium sized chump, whom I had handily stuffed into the urinal, to look back at Dave and the big chump battling it out and seeing my old peace loving friend Dave Collins fist fighting hard in a fine example of a boxer's defensive tuck and lifting that big chump's heels right dee-frigg up off the floor--by the solid delivery of perfectly placed, thumpitythumpitythumpity, punches to the big boy's, large, chicken hearted, mid section.

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