I knew the Harford County of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, before it was all built up and rerouted the way it is now. The famous Ripkin Stadium was a farm back then, where we used to go hiking and camping with the Boy Scouts. The house where I grew up was not far from the old farm. I would go camp out, until I was too old. I slowly awakened to the layout of the roads around me and began to enjoy the countryside of the place on a wider scale, when I was pedaling an old bicycle.
Now, the whole place is a beer garden, no thanks to the famous baseball player.
With plenty of good health and strength to enjoy my youth, in the glamourized 1960’s, it mattered nothing to me, to expend whatever energy it took to get anywhere I wanted to go, or to ride that heavy old bicycle for miles around. I would do it mindlessly, just for the heck of it. I enjoyed the challenge. The bicycle was a perfect vehicle for taking in the entirety of nature, as I rode around, and attended the various activities I chose for myself.
I enjoyed a great measure of liberty in my youth.
I eventually went on to diving cars, but both bicycle and car that I drove for myself, have found their way out of my life for sometime now. I’m grounded with the aftermath of a couple of different fractures of bones I cannot fully recover from. I had a milk and honey time of it there for quite awhile, when I would drive the roads irrespective of gasoline consumption, or the time of night.
I’d wander the days and nights with no notice of the display of a clock. I was footloose and fancy-free for a long time. Had an insomnia problem for many years, which has really not abated much to this day. I wake in the dead of night, get up and may as well get to work on the latest short story, being wide awake and clear minded, even in maturity.
Al Douglasson and I were inseparable when we were young. I imagined I was such a one to be unkind and to betray good friends. Al stole the girl I hoped to go out with, when we were all three of us in high school. We’d gone over to the girl’s mother’s house once, while I suffered from a case of nerves, to be face to face with perfect beauty. He stole her right out from under my nose.
Al and I hung out for a lot of years as friends, even after he got the girl. Early on we’d ride our bicycles everywhere together. It was easy to get tired of walking in our home town. He had one with a banana seat, where mine, though it was old, was more conventional. As soon as we could get driver’s licenses, we both got a hold of cars, and were off to the races. It seemed as normal as blueberry pie.
Both of our first cars were Rambler Americans. The Rambler was a 60’s car, which was kind of boxy, but it would go and go. We used to have our mid-night adventures in those cars. We were a couple of crazy high school kids, who became accustomed to getting around a town that could accurately be called a small town, but had a lot of extra real estate between point A and point B. Distance didn’t matter. In those days we didn’t have a care in the world.
What Al did with the girl, was bombard the girl’s feminine instincts, from right in the middle of their teens. She was a kid, too. Maybe it was different in college, but I didn’t knock the girl up. It wasn’t fair to that kid, and I say that, knowing all about the male libido. She ended up with a bun in the oven her first year in college, going through college with a big, obvious tell-tale tummy. She was going with another guy by then, a college man. She felt mortified with as natural a thing as getting ready to bear a child. What Al did to that girl was shameful.
The girl’s mother didn’t help matters any. She cursed her daughter and said the girl had made her bed, go lay in it, when the girl came home from college pregnant. In high school, Al was jealous of me, but could not hang onto her every minute. I don’t understand what was so unnatural of me to associate with that young lady, when I was the one who was smitten with her in the first place. She and I would hang out at her mother’s place, while she gave signals I could ignore, but not miss, of wanting a little action. It wasn’t Al Douglasson who knocked her up. It was he who set her up for rejection by her mother, the way things turned out. I think she wanted a baby at 15, the way Al had her worked up.
But I still hung out with the guy. He’d be all hot under the collar about the girl, so I just told him I had no idea what he was talking about. But, may as well hang out with him. He was always popping up like a bad penny. He’d always made certain I had alcohol to drink, as if he were doing me a favor. We rode around in our old Ramblers, and learned the roads for miles around. In fact, I had an old Rambler for many years to come after that. Then his dad got transferred to a church in Bethesda, and Al was no longer around town.
Ramblers were good cars. They were something like a Nash, which people used as race cars before our time. There was a garage up the street from where I lived which specialized in my vehicle. Somehow, they kept that car on the road until another associate of mine wrecked the daylights out of it. At that point the car was a useless piece of junk. Doesn’t take long for boys to get into mischief, and we found our share, Al Douglasson and I. I guess the attraction between us, in the backs of our minds, was that we were a couple of Preacher’s Kids, were rebels in cahoots, PK’s.
Al Douglasson died of cancer at the age of 47.
I did bit parts at the Old Harford Theater, back when they used to house the concern in the old barn, still standing on the Harford Community College Campus until the end of the sixties, at least. I don’t remember much about the Old Barn Theater of my teen years, nor do I know anything about anybody tearing the place down. I do recall there were about three or four of us teens to take up space on stage, which was situated in the middle of a big room, called theater in the round.
Remember a little bit about a couple of shows, used to perform in. The one’s not tangible enough in my memory that I could tell you about it. The only thing that comes to mind is that I wore a tuxedo for it, and that we had a fountain on stage, as supposed to be booze, but all it was, was water. The several shows I did participate in, in the three or four years I used to volunteer there as a teen, in the summer months, I remember a teenage girl attending one evening.
I thought I was in love.
I will admit to being fickle my whole life long.
But don’t want any action.
I recall there was a musical, Birthday of the Infanta, which was a compelling tragedy about the state which constitutes beauty, in the eyes of the beholder, and other shows which continue to repose in the recesses of my mind. I’d rather recall them all, and tell you about them, but it’s no use. When I went away to university in the Fall of ’69, walking away from the Old Barn Theater, and never looking back. I guess it was just one of the ways of youth to do a thing like that.
I can recall doing side jobs occasionally, for the Old Barn Theater. The task I can recall was not the least bit demeaning or meanial for a bright, young high school boy. I considered the task a game, and once in a while the boss would to show up, to make certain I played the game by the rules. The boss sat me down with all the old fashioned cash register receipts, to do a tally. It was his job, after all.
Wonder of all wonders, I was able to do bookkeeping as if it were nothing. I couldn’t do it now, if my very life depended on it, but it was a positive experience at the time.
Assisted living now provides most of my transportation needs. My oldest brother, who lives here in town, provides the rest of my transportation needs. This place is generally referred to as the Tidewater Area of Southern Virginia. It’s been since 2011 I sold my last car, which was on it’s last legs anyway, being ten years old. I don’t miss it. That car was one, big deficit and liability. I allowed my driver’s license to expire voluntarily, due to a hip replacement on my right hand side. My hip has been a painful, difficult injury, requiring ongoing physical therapy.
I can’t answer for any renovations done to the old towns, like where I grew up, or the county seat itself, where I worked for a time after dropping out of university. I recall working that job in the county seat was a heyday for me at the time, but I don’t know what either town has gone through since I left. I really didn’t go home that much, because the ladies moved to a retirement community, and I would visit Mother till the day she died, in 2008. I’d like nothing better than a drive down memory lane, but I’m incapacitated.