The East Wing

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November 22, 2020-

On this day, fifty-seven years ago, the trigger was pulled on hope and change in America, as fleeting as it seemed to be under John F. Kennedy. Too many who flew the banner of progress, in the 1960s and ’70s, had their lives cut short by those who had much invested in the status quo.

On that day, I remember sitting in a middle-of-the room seat, in a Study Hall, in the East Wing of Saugus High School. We were attending afternoon sessions, as eighth graders, as our Junior High School had been torched by a disturbed individual, several weeks before. Thus, the high school was the site of double sessions, with the upper level students taking classes in the morning, so as to be able to go their jobs, in the afternoon.

A classmate, who was sitting behind me, asked “Why did you kill the President?” I turned around and looked at him curiously, then noted he was listening to his transistor radio (the predecessor to a cell phone, for the disaffected of our adolescence), through ear buds. All the same, I went back to my reading material.

Several minutes later, the School Counselor came on the Intercom and informed us that President Kennedy had been shot and that classes were being dismissed for the day. I walked home, somberly, and found my sobbing mother, saying he had died in hospital.

The East Wing was itself torched, by the same individual, who was eventually caught by a vigilant school custodian, at our third venue of that year. 1963-64 was, for me, the 2020 of virulent mayhem. There was no microbial pandemic, but I began to wonder who, and what, were next. Five years later, we had our answer.

I will always be fond, though, of the East Wing. All the schools we used that year are now gone, replaced by consolidated school buildings, which the present administration of Saugus Public Schools regards as more efficient. For the sake of the children and youth who depend on that school system, I trust it works out well.

Day of the Dead

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November 2, 2017, Prescott-

Hispanic families, in Mexico and elsewhere, observe this day as a way to honour their departed ancestors and strengthen the ties between this world and the hereafter.

As I looked out the window, this morning, I swear I could see Penny’s image, and that of her father, looking back at me, in a tree across the way.

Some have gone on, this past year, who had roles, large and small, in my life.

Uncle George Boivin, one of my last surviving father figures, gave me a paving stone from Boston’s old Scollay Square, which was transformed into Government Center, when I was about 12.  He was ever available, when I was in Colorado, to set me straight, in the difficult  2 1/2 years, immediately following Penny’s passing.  His mind was sharp, until the end, and those doll houses live on.

Al Tercero served our American Legion, at the post and district level, for over 30 years.  Now he is in what we call Post Everlasting.  The Honour Guard he helped establish is still the finest in Arizona.

George Marchessault, also a Past Commander and Honour Guard stalwart, stayed true to the Legion code and was ever present at our gatherings, on almost a weekly basis, until his last illness confined him to rest.

Bea Cronin, a grand-aunt’s sister-in-law, was always outside watching the Saugus High football team, from her back yard. There was an open door and welcome to the kids who knew her sons, and to us, her far extended family, when we were in the neighbourhood.

Ivaloo Mac Vicar was always in the hall, when I was passing to classes in seventh grade, admonishing us boys to WALK down the stairs, ONE step at a time.  She made it to the Century Mark, and a bit beyond, as did-

Evelyn Porter Anderson, who gave my mother a shot at success as a hairdresser and cosmetologist, in the uncertain days after World War II.  She never stopped doting on the five of us, until blindness and infirmity kept her confined to her last home.

Bernis Hanlon taught me, in fifth grade, to rely on my own wits and to start building  layers on my thin skin.  It took twenty more years for that lesson to really stick, yet less time for her next life lesson, appreciation of fine drama, to be absorbed, six years later, when she was the  High School Theater Advisor, who didn’t mind my being on the periphery of that club’s efforts.

Firuz Kazemzadeh was a high-level scholar of the Baha’i Faith, and one of our most accomplished mentors, serving in so many capacities, legal and educational.  His was always a bright and friendly face, at national and international gatherings, as well as at “our own” Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, held annually in Phoenix.

So many others have come and gone- and some day a person or two will write of my time on this Earth.  There is much to do, as yet, so let it not be too soon.

 

My Life Thus Far: The Sixties

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February 5, 2016, Phoenix- I had my lunch, of spicy California rolls, at Dreamy Draw Park, a popular desert redoubt, on the northeast side of town, before going in for what was an encouraging dental checkup.

While sitting in the coolness of the Sonoran Desert, I went back, in my mind to the years of adolescence.

1960-High Point: The New England Shopping Center opened.

            Low Points:  Ellen moved; my Grandma died.

People in the Heart:  Barbara I., Ellen S.

Places in the Heart:  Makepeace Hill, Johns Pond (Mashpee)

1961-High Point:  Hiking Mt. Chocorua, NH.

Low Point:  Having a stupid meltdown, while on that camping trip.

          People in the Heart:  The Geotis family, who moved into the Statuto’s old house; the members of my Boy Scout troop.

          Places in the Heart:  The White Mountains of New Hampshire (all of them).

1962- High Point:  Family gatherings at Kingston State Park, NH.

             Low Point:  Five days in the hospital.

People in the Heart:  A tall, beautiful girl in our grade (anonymous, out of respect              to her and her loving husband); my then new friends, Dean and the late Mike; three            beautiful sisters, who were friends of our extended family.

            Places in the Heart: Canobie Lake;  Kingston State Park.

1963- High Point:  Putting an end to being bullied in Grade 8.

            Low Point:   The death of John F. Kennedy.

             People in the Heart:  Half the female population of Saugus Junior High School.

Places in the Heart:  Every school building that was torched by a serial arsonist,                  who was in our class.

1964-  High Point:  Promoting out of Grade 8.

Low Point:   Dealing with enuresis.

             People in the Heart:  Those three beautiful sisters; the thugs who actually stood                  up for me.

             Places in the Heart:  Our cellar, where I could shine the family’s shoes and listen                to the richness of pop music; Breakheart Pond.

1965- High Point: Getting my own newspaper route.

Low Point:  Dealing with a pedophile.

            People in the Heart:  My neighbourhood group of friends (who remain my friends,              to this day).                                                                                                                                 

            Places in the Heart:  Breakheart, Johns Pond, the Saugus Howard Johnson’s                          Restaurant (where so many of us hung out); Mt. Chocorua.

1966- High Point:  Getting my driver’s license.

            Low Point:  Working out the bugs in my own driving behaviour.

             People in the Heart:  Most of my newspaper customers; Coach Wall, who put me                 through Driver Boot Camp, and whom I credit for 50 years of driving, with only                   two, one-car, accidents; Joan M., one of my best female friends, ever.

             Places in the Heart:  Martha’s Vineyard; the above-mentioned spots, from 1966.

1967- High Point: Getting a job at a supermarket.

Low Point: Struggling on the job.

People in the Heart:  Bob Powers, my first boss, and one of the finest people for                   whom I’ve ever worked;  all my above-mentioned peers from Saugus High.

             Places in the Heart:  Merrymeeting Lake, Alton, NH; Fireplace 10, at Lynn Beach.

1968- High Point: Graduating Saugus High School.

           Low Points: Not taking college seriously; all the crap that went down that Spring.

            People in the Heart:  Ron Gerace, my fourth boss; Professor Ahmad and Jim                          Gorman, who tried to set me straight about college; Kathy W., to whom I should                  have paid more attention.

             Places in the Heart: The old campus of UMass-Boston; the Back Bay; Hampton                    Beach, NH.

1969- High Point: Completing Army Basic training.

             Low Point:  Leaving college, feeling like a failure.

             People in the Heart:  My Army buddies, Tim and Mike; Drill Sergeants Cummings,             Wescott, and Green.

             Places in the Heart:  Downtown Columbia, SC; Myrtle Beach; Indianapolis.

Junior High had its share of abysmal moments.  High school, I must say, was freeing.  I had a core group of friends, and yet made the rounds of several groups of people, in Saugus and in nearby Melrose.   I was too young, emotionally, to have attempted college.  Girls and protest marches were way bigger in my life than studying.  So, 1969 found me treading water in a job at my Dad’s GE Plant, then signing myself up for the Army.  It was past time to stop being the family nuisance.  On June 16, 1969, I left for Fort Jackson, SC.

I did not, in the scheme of things, end the ’60’s too badly.  By October, 1969, I had made a place for myself on a “clean-up crew”, re-establishing Army postal service to the residents of Tri-Service Barracks, Fort Myer, VA.  Still, the bugaboo of alcohol dependency, along with mild autism, kept me from bonding with many people and created all manner of problems, with my family and with others, who didn’t know me very well.  The hiatus of Boot Camp and Advanced Individual Training did bring me a bit further along towards adulthood, but relapse came, once I was back in routine.

The ’70’s would be the first of my two lost decades.