Pit Stops on The Road Of Life

 SOPHOMORE YEAR 1965-1966


 

Whew!  Despite having flunked my intended major, Math, to start freshman year, and earning only a 2.06 GPA that first semester, I had managed to survive.  I had done a little better the second semester (2.33), which raised me to an overall 2.21.  Gratefully, I heard nothing at all from the Sordoni Foundation, so my scholarship was still intact and I returned to King’s for my second year. Flunking that one 4-credit course, Calculus, had put me a wee bit behind the 8-ball.  For my remaining three years, I’d have to take six 3-credit courses pretty much every semester in order to graduate on time.

The first day back on campus, I headed straight to the Business Office to take care of my finances for the upcoming year.  I was happy to find out that, with the $350 I had saved from caddying, in lieu of freshman year’s $600, this year I needed to borrow only $425.  They helped me choose a new lender this time: the PHEAA, or Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency where, I guess, the interest rate was lower than with last year’s National Defense Education Act.

Before I get down to boring you with how I did in each course, let me tell you about some other changes. 

My housing had changed since now, as a non-freshman, I no longer needed an “overseer”. King’s, being confined to a fairly-small area in downtown Wilkes-Barre, had, for years, rented space in the Hotel Sterling. 

The Sterling, two blocks down from our classrooms at the corner of W. Market and River Streets, was owned by the Sordoni family, the same family that gave me my scholarship.  I’m not sure how old it was, but it appeared to have been comprised of two sections.  I’ll make an educated guess and say that the 7-story, “mini-twin-towers” portion closer to the Susquehanna was the older, original section, while the much-taller section was newer.  As annotated in the drawing, King’s rented floors 3 though 7 (essentially ALL) of the original section.  [The newer section continued operation as a more-modern-day hotel operation for paying guests.] It was quite obvious to us dormies that King’s had not spent a lot of money on upkeep over the years of its tenancy.  I specifically recall the threadbare carpeting in the hallways and the far-less-than-modern locks on our doors. 

Sprinkled among us students were some quite-elderly folks who apparently had refused to move out when King’s moved in.  One of them was a Jewish lady named Mrs. Rosenthal who suffered, apparently, a serious diminution in her sense of smell.  She wore enough perfume to gag a maggot and one always knew for long hours afterward if she had preceded one on the elevator. Another, thanks to my reliable source, classmate Jim Zartman, was known as “Scoop”. He was extremely hard of hearing.  There was a never-ending war of words over his loud TV vs. the students’ stereos.

The “mini-twin-towers” had between them an open-air rectangular space which rose from the hotel lobby’s ceiling, beginning on the third floor.  The lobby ceiling was a glass, atrium-type translucent dome.  The dome’s exterior was covered, necessarily, by a steel-mesh covering lest the glass be broken by falling debris, a lot tossed by dormies, which would have then cascaded onto folks in the lobby.  Anyone with a room on the interior side of a hallway could look directly across that expanse and look directly into another student’s room.  Both Zartman and I roomed on the third floor, he with his chum from Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown (Adams County), PA, Donald “Jelly Bean” Smith, and I in a single room.  Their room did not face the open area and thus was quieter than mine which did.  An upperclassman named Tom Price (“TP”) once placed his stereo on his windowsill across from me and loudly played “Shotgun” by Junior Walker and the All Stars for an hour or more.

There may have been more than one priest in the Sterling, but I recall only Father Simeon Gardner. He pretty much stayed in his fifth-floor room and didn’t mess with us unless someone threw a beer can down the laundry chute or otherwise raised a ruckus (see “Shotgun” above). 

While I had made several friends among my fellow dormies in freshman year, they, in turn, had OTHER pals and chose to room with them.  Thus, sophomore year was the first of three years in which I was assigned my own room simply by not signing up to room with anyone else.  I was just as happy to have the single room, having lived with just my Dad for, lo, those many years.  Besides, it was nice to have a refuge for a nap between classes.  Pinochle-playing and general BS’ing was available right next door or down the hall.  Zartman tells me there was a TV room on each floor, but, for the life of me, I can’t recall one. 

My third-floor room that sophomore year was directly above the kitchen used for the Sterling’s general-public guests and I had to put up with the smell of whatever they happened to be cooking several floors down below. (We Kingsmen, of course, walked up to the main campus to eat in our own cafeteria.) 

My next-door neighbors were Michael Scheuchenzuber (a\k\a “Mike the Shike”), from Lancaster, PA, and his roomie Nick Reale who was from, I think, somewhere in Jersey.  Nick’s major was Philosophy and he was a very serious student who considered himself quite the singer.  His favorite tune was “Every Street’s A Boulevard In Old New York”, one that I hadn’t heard before I met him and haven’t heard again since I graduated.  Shike was an off-the-wall Philosophy major known to go running down the hall in his underwear shouting “This dorm in not metaphysical to me!”  Shike used to make money by giving haircuts in his room and I guess his Dad may have been a barber, for he had an official barber’s towel to cover the client.  I think he only charged fifty cents or a dollar. With a personality like that, it was no wonder that he was also an actor in the King’s Players, and he may have helped me decide that I’d have time to do some acting, too.

First semester transcript.

Given that I had taken what would normally be a first-semester course, Accounting Principles 1, during my SECOND semester of freshman year, I now had to wait until the second semester of sophomore year to catch up with Accounting Principles 2.  In the interim, I was able to take a couple of Business Administration courses, neither of which required a lead-in course.  BusAd 41, by virtue of the “4”, seems to have been intended to be a senior-year course but I can’t blame my “C” in it for taking it before I was ready.  It’s far more likely that I did my usual bit of paying attention in class but studying very little.  It’s not very memorable.  BusAd 11 (Math of Finance) would appear to be a freshman-year course and it was, undoubtedly, no more than simple algebra at the worst.  I have no excuse for my “B”, rather than an “A”. Econ 21 probably introduced me to the “supply and demand curve” but really wasn’t all that exciting.  I believe Econ 21 was taught by a Mr. Norman Luqutte who was from Ponchatoula, Louisiana and, therefore, quite hard to understand.  Even as an Accounting major, at liberal-arts King’s, I was required to take two years of English, the same as two required years of foreign language.  I had a choice of either British or American literature.  I chose American, thinking “the Scarlet Letter” would be much easier to understand than would “Beowulf”.  The choice made little difference, for I read very little, as evidenced by my shameful “D”.   Even more surprising, in the opposite direction, was my “C” in Philosophy 22, for I cared not a whit about Philosophy.  French 11 was my second semester with Father Boyle and I again aced it. Overall, I scored a 2.33 GPA that semester, which raised my 3-semester cumulative a wee bit, from 2.21 to 2.25.

The silliest part of that first-semester, sophomore-year transcript is the non-credit “P” in PhysEd.  King’s College’s ONLY true sports facility was located at Scandlon Field, across the Susquehanna River in Kingston.  There was no busing available and I didn’t recall any physical activity whatsoever.  Here, again, I have to resort to Zartman’s recall.  Behind Hafey Marian Hall was a fenced-in, paved rectangle, large enough to barely house a smaller-than-regulation basketball court and, at times, volleyball net would be strung up.  Not having been much of a jock in high school, I very, VERY seldom set foot in this area, leaving it to the more-athletically-inclined “Joisey” boys.  Apparently, King’s had to provide SOME sort of physical education and, for us non-jocks, that consisted of a volleyball team.  Zartman reminds me that bespectacled Charlie McElroy, who was even less coordinated than either of us, was on our team. It was fairly obvious that the school ASSIGNED us to this “nerds” team.   Zartman says we lasted for exactly ONE game, got our butts kicked, and were never seen on that court again.

I didn’t wait long to join the King’s Players, doing so the very first week of the semester.  That turned out to be a wise choice, for it gave me a whole new bunch of pals to hang around with.  Our dressing room was on a sort-of mezzanine level slightly outside the auditorium where we put on our shows.It was our unofficial “clubhouse” every day of the school year, even when no production was underway.  On days when I didn’t have time enough between classes for a nap back in my dorm room, I had a place to hang out and BS with whoever showed up.  Our crew consisted of, probably about 70% dormies and 30% brown baggers from the surrounding area.

The head of the Drama and Speech Department was Carl Wagner and he was ably assisted by Gerry Godwin.  They took turns directing the four productions we did each year, two per semester.  They also taught classes but I never enrolled in any of those.  Peter Sargent also taught Speech in that department. With respect to our plays, he was in charge of seeing that the sets got built, props were obtained, and the lights and sound were properly set up.

With four productions each year, we were busy pretty much all the time, with only a week or ten days or so between wrapping up one before beginning work on the next.  The procedure was that the director would announce which play he was going to produce next and volunteers would make their names known to him.  Depending on one’s class load, one might want to act or maybe just be part of the production staff.  Word was also spread throughout the local theater community, for we had no female full-time students at King’s.  Given the needs of a particular show, we might enlist the services of part-time nursing students who attended only evening Chemistry classes, adult women form the Wilkes-Barre Little Theater, or maybe even a high school girl.   Gerry Godwin’s wife, Kathryn, was even in one or two shows.  Maybe five weeks before show time, the director would post his casting list and rehearsals would begin.  Those involved in set construction would report in the evenings to the basement of Northampton Hall, three blocks from our campus.

Our first show of a school year was traditionally presented for children in October and, thus, my first show ever was “Hansel and Gretel”.  It’s basically a three-character show and I certainly didn’t fit either main character and would have made a danged poor witch.  I was a stagehand this time with a few tasks to perform.  There were only two or three scenes in the show and I would help open and close the curtain during scene changes.  While it was closed, I also “flew in” the trees for the forest scene: “trees” that had been painted onto canvas and hung from wires controlled by pulleys.  They didn’t weigh very much but still, it simply wouldn’t have done to smack Gretel in the noggin with a tree when she wasn’t looking.  A harder task was when the witch would toss flash powder into her cauldron, causing a large “POOF!” that would make the kiddy audience ooh and aah.  It was my job to light a can of Sterno, reach out gingerly (so as to not burn myself) from behind the scenery, and sneak it into the cauldron while action was taking place across the stage.  I couldn’t light it too soon lest I waste our entire one can before the show had completed its run. It was also tough to KEEP it burning.  At least once, the witch tossed her powder and nothing happened. L  In the final scene, Hansel and Gretel dispose of the nasty old witch by pushing her into the fireplace.  The witch was wearing black, of course, and the rear of the fireplace was draped in black cloth.  My job was to pull her OUT the rear of the fireplace without allowing any light to escape around her.  I failed once for, during the curtain calls, the audience yelled “I KNEW she wasn’t dead!  I saw her go out the back!”  It’s hard to fool kids.

Before I go too far, I really should mention Santo Loquasto, who I got to know for only that one year since he was a senior when I joined the Players.  While Pete Sargent helped us build our sets, Santo DESIGNED them.  Santo went on from King’s to a graduate degree at Yale and then an outstanding career on Broadway (see  http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=25069) as well as earning three Oscar nominations for his work in filmdom ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0520288/ ) , a great deal of which has been spent working with Woody Allen.

About right before Christmas we did our second-of-four shows.  I don’t have a yearbook from sophomore year but Zartman does and he says it was “Saint Joan”, for which I would, again, have been a stagehand.

In mid-November or so, I got a bright idea as to how to earn more money.  With the “Christmas rush” upcoming, John McGovern let me take a temporary sabbatical from the cafeteria.  The Boston Store was hiring extra sales help and paying minimum wage of, I think, $1.25 an hour versus the $0.85 I got in the cafeteria.  I was hired and assigned to their University Shop, a men’s clothing section.  I worked something like 5 to 9, Tuesday through Saturday, or a total of 20 hours a week, grossing $25.00.  In the cafeteria, I would have worked only five shifts of 5-to-7 and grossed $8.50.  [Only some 40+ years later, on a statement from the Social Security Administration, did I recall that, while the Boston Store deducted FICA, the student work-study program didn’t.]  Even WITH said deduction for FICA, I was way ahead with this temp work.  These amounts seem piddling now but one must remember that, back in 1965, record albums went for $1.98.

I was the only temporary hourly employee in the University Shop, working with either one or two full-time older guys, who were paid, at least partly, on commission.  The biggest-selling items, of course, were men’s shoes, and they were also the toughest to sell, making sure the fit was just right.  I quickly learned the layout of the stock room which was arranged by color and then sub-sorted by style and size but I wasn’t all that swift on measuring feet so I gladly deferred to the full-timers.  I was quite content to concentrate on shirts, slacks, and socks. At times, with only one co-worker and three shoe customers at the same time, I had to chip in and help on shoes. In reality, I was much more of a “money collector” than a true salesman for I very seldom convinced a customer to buy something they didn’t already have in mind. 

Second semester transcript.

 With second semester, I began to catch up to where I would have been had I started as an Accounting major in freshman year.  Accounting 22 was the second part of a first-year course and I got what became my norm, a “C”. I did the same in Math of Finance. 

Econ 22 is worth a paragraph of its own.  I have no idea WHAT I learned with my “C” there but it was taught by another of the off-the-wall members of the Economics Department, Dr. Petrychenko. As his name suggests, he was of Russian heritage and,   from his very-broken English, most likely a recent immigrant.  He’d take the roll but we weren’t quite sure of some of the surnames he’d try to pronounce and would answer up to anything that sounded even close to ours.   Then would come, as in some other classes at this Catholic school, a “Hail Mary”. He would choose a different guy to say the prayer each day.  Being an atheist, I wasn’t at all aware of Catholic ways but, apparently, it was customary for the prayer leader to finish with invoking the name of his patron saint.  Immediately thereafter, the rest of the class was to respond with “Pray for us!”  Knowing that Petrychenko really wouldn’t understand us, a reciter would invoke “St. Joseph”, which engendered a quick “Aspirin!”  “St. Louis” yielded “Cardinals!”  Econ 22 was held in one of the older classrooms of the main building, part of the original coal company structure.  It had one large structural pillar near the door that was probably three feet square, just large enough to hide behind.  Quite a few fellows would, one at a time, after they’d yelled “Yo!” for the roll call, be out of their seats and hidden behind the pillar the first time Petrychenko glanced down at his notes.  The second glance and they’d be out the door!  Petrychenko also had his own marking system.  To his mind, there were such things as a “B++” and a “C - -“.    

In English 32, I read no more books than I had in English 31 and rang up a second “C”.  Phys Ed 2 is a complete blank to me. I really SHOULD have done much better than a “D” in History 12.  Luckily, another “A” in French somewhat offset that, but my overall score for the semester was a measly 2.17, slightly dragging down my cumulative GPA from 2.25 to 2.23.

In March, we Players presented our annual Shakespearean play. Directors Wagner and Godwin liked to vary their choices from histories to tragedies and comedies. This time, Wagner chose “The Taming Of the Shrew”. I’d been a “good soldier” over my first two offerings with the Players, giving it my all as a stagehand. This time I was rewarded with my first acting bit.  It wasn’t much, as a servant, and I don’t think I had a single line but, still, I enjoyed it immensely. 

Publicity pic from the Times Leader newspaper.

I’d forgotten who got the lead role as Katherine (“Kate”), the Shrew, but, looking back at the clipping, I see it was one Andrea Tomasko who was, I think, a high school gal. My dormie neighbor, Mike “the Shike” Scheuchenzuber, had been a Player for two years and he got a more-senior role as the chief servant. 

SOMETHING Shike said caused Kate to dump a pot of spaghetti on his head.

The newspaper clipping is also most informative, for I wouldn’t have guessed that we did seven performances in all, including four matinees for high school audiences.  It was, after all, a trip to a King’s Players matinee my senior year at Lake-Lehman that first engendered my interest in the theater.

According to Zartman’s yearbook, our fourth show that year, probably in May, was “The Importance Of Being Ernest” but I have no recall of it whatsoever.  I was most likely a stagehand again.

According to a perpetual calendar, Easter was on April 10, 1966 and like most schools, King’s had a Spring break around that time.  A day-hop student posted a notice in the school lounge stating that he was driving to Florida and looking for passengers to defray costs.  I decided to sign up to go visit my oldest brother, Warren, who was then working for GE at Cape Kennedy (known as Cape Canaveral up until 1963).  I’d have to make my way home on my own but, during that leg of the journey, I could stop to visit my next-oldest brother, Bob, in Raleigh, NC.

The driver signed up three passengers and we four fools piled into a VV “bug” and pulled out of Wilkes-Barre during a snow storm around 2 PM.  We traveled all day and all night, stopping briefly for some coffee and to stretch our legs about once every three hours or so.  I got to do some of the driving around Richmond, VA but the car’s owner decided I was too hard on the clutch and that didn’t last long.  The non-drivers eventually grew tired of talking and caught cat naps as best they could.  After leaving snow behind us, it felt really great to lie back in the rear seat and dangle our feet outside the windows in the bright Georgia sunshine.

The car owner’s ultimate destination was to visit a buddy in Fort Meyers on the Gulf side of FL, so he’d be headed the full length of the state, which was terrific for us passengers.  Two got out in Daytona Beach, eager to take in the Spring Break revelry there.   I stayed with him until Orlando (26 hours after leaving King’s) and then started hitching eastward toward the Cape.  I caught one quite memorable ride, in an ambulance, of all things!  I asked the driver”What happens if you get an emergency call and have to turn around?  You gonna leave me out in the middle of nowhere where it’d be tough to get another ride?” “Oh, not to worry”, he replied. “Our company only carries mental patients.”  While I was relieved somewhat, I was a bit concerned, too. He was driving SO fast that I feared he was one of the patients who’d absconded with the ambulance!

I visited with Warren and his family for about three days: wife Janet, 8-year-old Susan, and 4-year old Warren Paul.   He drove me around to see the sights, notably an orange grove and the HUGE Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) where the rockets were put together  That sucker is so big (per Wikipedia, “the largest single-story building in the world…526 feet (160.3 m) tall, 716 feet (218.2 m) long and 518 feet (157.9 m) wide. It covers 8 acres (3 ha), and encloses 129,428,000 cubic feet (3,665,000 cubic meters) of space”) that it seemed we were getting right up to it when, in fact, we were still ten miles away.  The flatness of the Florida terrain contributed mightily to that misconception. 

When it came time to leave Warren wanted to buy me a bus ticket but I told him that I really enjoyed hitching and would rather do that.  He was concerned for my safety but I told him I had plenty of experience and knew how to look out for myself. 

I stopped briefly in Daytona Beach but it wasn’t all that warm that day and I saw very few bikinied honeys during a short stroll on the beach. I then caught a really great ride with a young fellow who was headed all the way to, I believe, Delaware. Unfortunately, he got pulled over for speeding by the sheriff just across the state line in Ludowici, GA .  The sheriff had nothing against hitchhikers and I went on my merry way, leaving the driver behind to try to talk the sheriff out of giving him a ticket.  I held a sign reading “Raleigh” but was, nonetheless, stuck for almost three hours with many NC license plates zooming right by me. Eventually, I saw a figure in the distance approaching and I thought “Dang! Another hitcher!  I’m much better off by myself.  More people will stop for one than will stop for two.”  The fellow approached and I was shocked to see that it was my former DRIVER!  He said his ticket would have cost $300 but, luckily, the sheriff settled for his signing over the car title! Nice racket the sheriff had going; he could sell the car for maybe $1,000.  Even Wikipedia doesn’t know about that angle, reporting only “The town gained notoriety during the 1950s and 1960s for its aggressive traffic enforcement policies. The American Automobile Association went so far as to specifically label Ludowici as a speed trap. Allegedly, members of the local police force were engaging in manipulation of the timing of the traffic signal downtown so as to catch unsuspecting out-of-area motorists 'running' a suddenly changed red light. The switch for the stop light was located in the barber shop. This activity subsequently came to an end when then-Governor Lester Maddox stated that the practices of the Ludowici police were giving the entire state a bad reputation.”

After about another hour of waiting, we caught a ride with a local fellow with a van-full of boxes containing crickets that he sold as bait.  My former driver, now car-less and broke, went on his way hitching but I gave up the ghost and conceded. I was never going to make it to Raleigh before dark, so I may as well take a bus.  I was still so far from Raleigh that my ticket cost $14.  Ludowici is such a small town that the bus station closed down while the attendant went home for supper. I spent his supper hour on a bench outside the station fighting off what seemed like B-29-sized Georgia “skeeters”. I made it to Raleigh and visited for another day or two with Bob and his wife, Sandra, and then went on back to King’s by bus.  I’d had enough hitching for a while.

School let out for the summer in May of 1966 and it was time to look for employment again.  It made sense to return to Skytop for a second season as a caddy and I did so, but it lasted only two weeks.  Oh, the money was still good and the caddy master liked my work but I was bored out of my everlovin’ mind!   My buddy John Riordan hadn’t returned from West Chester and the rest of the caddy crew was just the usual assortment of older fellows with whom I had little in common.  After two full winters raising Cain in the dorm, sitting around the caddy camp with no transportation was positively stultifying and I bid the place a fond adieu.  I had already decided what my next step would be and I hitched home to Sweet Valley to tell Dad.

“You’re going WHERE?”  “Atlantic City.”  “You don’t have a job!” “I’ll find one.” You don’t have a place to stay!” “I’ll find a room.” “You don’t know anyone there!” “I’ll meet lots of new folks.”  I really didn’t think of it at the time, but this was yet another sign of my “growing up” – making adult decisions and then bravely setting off to see what fate may bring. 

Summer in Atlantic City is the height of the tourist season and I figured there would be plenty of job openings around town.  Restaurants seemed the first likely place to look and, sure enough, I landed a job the very first day.  It was as, essentially, a “line cook” at a place on the Boardwalk but, since I knew next to nothing about actual cooking, I ended up making sandwiches in a window that oversaw the passersby.  I’d forgotten the total manual ineptness I’d first demonstrated in high school shop classes but it came roaring back to the forefront almost immediately.  I was simply too slow and not to be trusted around a sharp knife.  I lasted two days and my departure was gratefully accepted.  I had found a room and thus, had a local address to which they sent my meager two-day paycheck.

Atlantic City’s streets, as you may know, are familiar to most as a Monopoly board and, just down the street from my first job, stood the Wilrose Restaurant at the corner of Pacific and Tennessee avenues.  It had a “help wanted” sign in its window and I diddy- bopped on in. Much as I had to the caddy master the prior summer, I proceeded to lie to the owner.  I told him I’d had experience as a waiter serving faculty dinners at King’s when, in truth, I’d been chiefly a dishwasher.  It really didn’t matter much, for the owner, Steve Pappas, a Greek from Philly, really needed help and I was hired on the spot.

Our wait staff was comprised mostly of fellow collegians but two fellows were older: high school teachers on their summer breaks.  One teacher was a rather cranky money hog, out to grab as many tables as possible and always the last to leave.  The other guy was much nicer although his poor dog had to live in his car, hopefully out of the summer sun.  His owner left him some water and would visit him with restaurant scraps between shifts and take him out for a walk.  The Wilrose was an equal-opportunity employer; its servers were males and females, mostly white, but one guy was Chinese and another, who lived in my rooming house, was a Thai.  I recall only one black, an Atlantic City- local busgirl, and we shared our tips with her.  

I was a bit clumsy at first but soon got up to speed and wouldn’t very often forget to serve toast with a breakfast.  The Wilrose chef was an older fellow who, about every ten days, would get in to screaming match with Pappas and go off on a drunken toot for a day or two until he could be coaxed into returning.  In his absence, Pappas’ father would take over the chef duties and he soon taught me kitchen etiquette by yelling at me.  Having been, theretofore, only a restaurant CUSTOMER and a cafeteria dishwasher, I had never given serious thought about food preparation or exactly how a kitchen was run.  It only took one yelling-at to learn to NOT order the meat loaf from the chef.  “PICK IT UP – ALREADY MADE!!!”   I also learned that Canadians could always be spotted by noticing their Gitanes cigarettes. They were very poor tippers.  Apparently, they were used to a gratuity being automatically added to a check (“le service est compris”). I came up with the idea of stage-whispering to the busgirl, who understood not a word of French, “y-a-til une pourboire?”  I’d ask it, just loud enough for the Canucks to overhear, as she cleaned a nearby table.  “Pourboire” meant “tip” and they’d get the idea.  

Adding to my vocabulary of high school Spanish and college French, I picked up few words in Greek.  Pappas’ 10-year-old son hung around the kitchen most of the time and he’d bring along his little dog, which was strictly verboten.  Had the Health Department learned of it, there would have been a serious fine.  “Skilo” was my very first word of Greek, and it meant “dog.” My second word was “skata” meaning “shit” because that’s exactly what the dog did one day, over in a corner.

My rooming house was a 3-story home owned by an elderly couple and my room was on the third, and hottest, floor.  The husband didn’t get around so well, and he knocked $5 a week off my rent for hauling down the garbage cans from each floor, which I accomplished by dangling a can with one hand over the railing as I descended down the exterior fire escape to the alley below.

Three of my fellow wait staff also roomed there. One was the Thai fellow whose first name was Thanin.  As a linguist, I could properly pronounce it as “tah-NEEN” but the elderly couple could manage only “thannin”, which rhymed with “plannin’”.   The other two fellow- roomers were a couple of college gals from a small school somewhere in North Carolina.  I took them to be just college roommates who had decided to get a job together for the summer and I found the short-haired brunette to be quite attractive. I evinced no interest in the chubbier blonde.  The brunette seemed somewhat amused by my on-the-job flirtations and only much later in the summer did I learn what had been obvious to many others – they were LESBIANS!    The brunette was the dyke and the blonde was her femme “wife”. Damn! Unknowingly, I had managed to take up residence in what I learned was the “gay side” of Atlantic City!

Our room were exceedingly hot on that third floor and, to compensate somewhat, each was equipped with a set of doors.  The interior was a standard door, equipped with a lock. Often, though, we would leave it open all night so that air could circulate in and around the exterior set of screen-covered, “Dutch” doors which were of a swinging (no pun intended) saloon-type.  I didn’t give much thought to security, although I probably should have.  The first incident that caused me alarm was when I was awakened by a fellow sitting on the edge of my bed.  I chased him out onto a flat roof and, had I caught him, likely would have pushed him off.  The final straw was the lez couple, who threw a pair of panties over the Dutch doors and onto my bed.  This was in very late August and I was furious, telling the landlord, “Either they go or I do!”   He seemed reluctant to do anything, so I pulled out of AC about a week in advance of Labor Day, which would have been the most lucrative of the entire summer, what with the Miss America pageant coming to town.  Steve Pappas implored me to not leave him short-handed but he fully understood why I wanted to get out.

I actually stayed for a few more days after I’d decided to leave, for I had met a beautiful STRAIGHT girl!   Her name was Lee and I encountered her at a newsstand.   She wore a “Marywood” sweatshirt and I said something dumb like “Yo, Marywood! King’s here: I couldn’t afford a sweatshirt.” She chuckled at that, we chatted, and I walked her back to her rooming house.  We agreed to meet there the next night and I took her to a movie.  I explained why I was leaving early and she agreed that I’d encountered an intolerable situation.  Lee lived on Mulberry Street in Scranton, about fifteen miles from Wilkes-Wilkes-Barre and I we avidly agreed to see each other again after we’d returned to school.  I took her phone number and, sadly, left her behind.  What had begun so briefly turned into what would be an eight-year-long, on-and-off relationship that I’ve treasured forever.  Sorry to leave you, readers, with this cliff-hanger, but I’m bound to tell this story as it actually, chronologically happened.  (I haven’t exactly written this autobiography in chronological order and my “Disaster Bum Years” section is already online.  I could have sworn I mentioned Lee along about 1974 but I see I didn’t.)  Please bear with me as I plod along.

Ronald E. Hontz

33 Whitcraft Lane

Shrewsbury PA 17361

(717) 235-5791

cell phone (717) 309-1402

e-mail: Sweetvalleykid@gmail.com

 

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