Sunday, March 30, 2008

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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