New York, The Empire State. It was in the 1950’s and still is known that way, who knows why? Wikipedia gives the following note on the subject: the U.S. State of New York has been known by many nicknames, the most notable of which is The Empire State. Adopted as late as the 19th century, the nickname has been incorporated into the names of several state buildings and events. It is commonly believed to refer to the state’s wealth and resources; however, the true origin of the term is unclear.
My opinion is that the Erie Canal had a lot to do with this nickname. The canal was built in the early 19th century and connected Albany, NY with Lake Erie and from that, all the Great Lakes. Syracuse, NY has a canal museum. Why all this geography? Because a lot of towns sprung up along the canal, Weedsport, Lockport, Port Byron, Meridian, Jack’s Reef, and a lot more. Marge liked to take an occasional drive to Jack’s Reef just because she liked the name, so we did it. Many of these towns have deteriorated, though some have become bedroom communities. If you are ever in NY, and have some time to spare, take Rt. 31 and not the Thruway, as least for a bit. That’s the way most New Yorkers live, once you get out of the NY city area.
Both sides of my roommate Roy’s families had homes in little towns like this. So much time has passed that I forget who lived where. One place looks a lot like the other, old Victorian homes, big lawns, etc. I am too urbanized to move back, but I enjoy a visit once in a while.
Anyway, some part of Roy’s extended family lived in one of these little towns. Let’s say it was in Plainville. I am not making this town up, it is today on an AAA state map, and it the name is descriptive.
The time is now 1955 in this little story. Roy had become friends with a couple in Plainville. I don’t remember their real names, so lets call them Janet and Richard Webster. Good as any.
Who are these people? Middle class, hopefully upwardly mobile young-ish people. Richard has a technical job of some sort in one of the many industries that were part of Syracuse then. Janet is a stay at home Mom with two small children. Sounds like a mid 60’s sit com. Sports cars and High Fidelity recordings are the newest technology of the day so of course Janet and Richard Webster had these to keep up with class expectations.
Hi Fi required a good quality tube amplifier of about 100 watts power driving a huge stand alone speaker, and of course a quality record changer or $$$ turntable to complete the outfit. The Websters owned a British Morgan plus four sport car, and maybe another small but less pretentious import.
Despite what outwardly appeared as the “good life” I got the sense that there was an underlay of interpersonal tension between the two Websters. Nothing too specific, just body language, choice of words, etc.
Saturday evenings were often a rather casual, come as you are type of open house party. Some times I would visit with Roy for a weekend and we would go to Plainville with his friend Fred. Fred lived in a little trailer outside Port Byron. He had an old Ford Model A sedan and we would drive over. He had a dishonorable discharge from the Army and was proud of it, had it mounted in his trailer. He just would not accept authority, which I can understand and made a poor fit with the Army.
Here is a YOU TUBE clip of the same style car. Click the triangle to watch and you can view full screen as well, like any YOU TUBE clip
Other couples were often there discussing car rallys, new records, movies, etc. For some reason, there were often at least two local schoolgirls. One was a well endowed but not too bright daughter of a local minister. She did convey that this was not then, nor would it ever be, her calling. There was frequently another girl, Rita, all arms and legs then, maybe 14 years old.
So, October is coming to a close and Janet and Richard are having a Halloween party and Roy and I are invited. Sounds good. Janet bought some pumpkins and squash for decorations, picked Roy up and then came to Syracuse where I joined them. Janet drives, Roy is in the front seat, the pumpkins and I share the little rear seat of the Morgan.
The image is from Google images and is a Flicker posting. You have to use a little imagination but the three of us and our cargo are in the car. The weather is cold and starting to rain, common for central NY at that time of year. It gets worse as we leave Syracuse but not bad with the top up. On the way home, Janet reaches a bad spot in the county road. The road both curves a bit and rounds a small hill. The road is banked wrong and mud had slid down over it as we started to crest the hill. The Morgan spun out and flipped over as we crested. Janet was a good driver, the road was just poorly designed, especially for rainy weather.
Fortunately there is a drainage ditch on the sides of the road and the car landed upside down on the ditch. Otherwise we might have died or at least been seriously injured. I was scared S____less since I was under the gas tank and feared it would catch fire and I would be burned alive. You can see from the photo that the doors are cut quite low and Roy and Janet were able to squeeze out. I followed as quickly as I could from my seat in the rear. What a relief!!!
The rest of the evening is very vague. I was beat up by all the Halloween veggies and had a cut on my chin, lower left side. Somehow I got taken to a doctor who sewed me up. ER, clinic, hospital, I have no idea, but we all then got rides back to Plainville. The Websters insisted I stay there in the spare bedroom until I felt better. I was not badly hurt, but beat up and sore, that’s certain. Roy said something like “That’s the only time I ever saw a guy get beat up by a gang of pumpkins.”
I woke up next morning and the shock had worn off so I now felt sore all over and had taken some sort of pain pill from the doctor. I just lay there groggy, dozed, and felt both sorry for myself and glad things weren’t worse. About mid-morning the bedroom door slowly opens and in comes Rita. This is an unexpected surprise. We chat for a bit about how I felt, which was lousy and then another surprise. Rita went over to the other side of the bed and started to get in with me. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like “Rita, it is good to see you, but I hurt all over, I am drugged and groggy from the pain medicine. I don’t think this is a good time for company.” This was true of course, but in addition the idea of an 18 year old male in bed with a 14 year old female is not a good idea. Or, I just wasn’t adventurous, maybe a mixture of all.
Somebody got me back to Syracuse, I called my parents and told them I was in a little accident but not really hurt. Case closed.
Following up, the next year the Websters did divorce, Janet got the children and moved to Syracuse getting a non -professional job at the University and renting a little house in the general University vicinity.
She had another car now a Renault Dauphine which you can watch on the YOU TUBE commercial following:
It is now 1956 and Roy and I are sharing a room in Grover Cleveland. For some reason Janet comes and picks us up to go to her house. Maybe move some furniture, something like that. Roy sits in the front and to my surprise, Rita is here in the rear as I am I. Rita is no longer just arms and legs but now quite physically attractive. I thought this was an opportunity to make up for a year of lost time. WRONG!!! I couldn’t get in the game, much less to first base with her. How could she, a high school student, pass up the opportunity for a relationship with a smart college junior? Perhaps she felt rejected by me from a year ago but it just did not work.
In the long run, this was probably best as there was no possibility of a lasting relationship. That’s it folks.