Many of the wives were talking about the issues of the day: war, politics, and, inevitably, race.
I don’t think I told this story before. If I have, in the words of an old friend of mine from England would often say, “Toughy buns.”
In the late 1960s, after about six mind-numbing years at IBM and a brief but productive stint at Opportunities for Broome, my father worked for Associated Building Contractors. I’m not quite sure what he did at ABC, but I imagine it had something to do with safety compliance, since that’s what he did at J.A. Jones after he moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974.
One of the perks of the job was the ability to travel. In 1969, give or take a year, mom and dad went out to San Francisco on a business trip of his. While the men did whatever, the “wives” would have lunch.
At one of these events, many of the wives were talking about the issues of the day: war, politics, and, inevitably, race. Some conversation took place on the latter topic, during which Mom listened thoughtfully, but said nothing. One of the wives, wanting to draw Mom into the discussion, said, “Trudy, what do think?”
Mom said, “Well, being a black woman…” Apparently, many jaws hit the table, perhaps one or two literally.
It is true that the red wig that she wore in the 1960s, which was even brighter in color than this one from the 1980s, made her skin appear even lighter. But she never identified as anything but a black woman.
My father tended to be the more visible, the more outgoing in the couple. So when there was a narrative in which SHE was the chief protagonist, mom enjoyed it immensely. She told this story more than once; there were a few anecdotes that she liked to repeat. I never asked him, but I have to think that dad was pleased that mom was out there, gathering information.
Les and Trudy Green were married on March 12, 1950, and were wed for more than 50 years, until my father died in August 2000.
Oh, yay, it’s that time again. The anniversary of my mom’s death in 2011, the only person I actually saw die. Losing a parent is hell. I mean, it happens all the time to other people. It is the “natural order of things” but it still sucks.
Perhaps I should come up with a playlist of my own, just in case, but it’d be pretty eclectic, NOT just Beatles and Motown. Note to self: work on that.
Anyway, I signed up for this Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry. I logged in months ago and got a packet in the mail shortly thereafter. But it was only the beginning of this year that I swabbed the inside of my cheek and mailed it, and only so I could actually SAY I did so without lying.
Oh, yeah, the picture. It was taken on my 52nd birthday, which she remembered. But of course she would. The provenance of the photo? Ah, you’ll have to wait until March 7. BTW, I wrote THAT post before this one because that’s what I do sometimes.
I remember when Nat King Cole died in February 1965 from lung cancer.
My mom loved Nat King Cole. Not only did she appreciate his voice, but she thought he was quite handsome. As he was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1919, he was less than nine years older than she was.
I remember being in my maternal grandmother’s second floor and find albums of Nat Cole 78s. And by “albums”, I mean these books that looked like photo albums with paper sleeves holding a single cut on each side of the vinyl.
To my recollection, they weren’t being played anymore. My household, a few blocks away, had moved over to that newish technology, the LP, with a dozen songs playing at 33 RPM, or 45 rpm singles. I don’t recall my grandma having any player at all.
I have no idea what happened to the collection, and since I never HEARD them, I don’t recall the tracks, but it seems that most of them were on Capitol Records.
Here’s a list of Nat King Cole songs on 78s. Absent my mother’s feedback, I guess I’ll link to some of my favorites from the period, with no guarantees that I haven’t snatched a re-recording, rather than the originals; there were quite a lot of them.
I remember when he died in February 1965 from lung cancer, his ever-present cigarettes being the cause. My mom didn’t make a big deal of it, as I recall, but I suspected that his passing privately wounded her.
My mom, Trudy Green, who died 2/2/2011, would have been 91 today.
My working theory about relationships among three adult is that, when there’s one person who has a relationship with the other two but that the other two don’t have a natural relationship with each other, it spells trouble.
I’ve been there, getting along with two guys at the coffeehouse we lived at c. 1975, but they inexplicably hated each other. I mean throwing chairs at one another. I was the hinge in the middle, trying to make peace, generally unsuccesfully.
A better example is when I lived with my sister Leslie and her then-husband Eric in the summer of 1977 in Jamaica, Queens, NYC. Leslie was the hinge, trying to keep peace between her spouse and her sibling.
Unfortunately, I know my mother, Trudy, spent years being the hinge in the relationship between her mother Gert and her husband Les, probably since Les and Trudy got married in 1950.
It was fairly clear that Les did not particularly like Gert. One time when we were having Sunday dinner at our house, someone asked Gert if she wanted any peas. She said, “A couple.” Les spooned exactly two peas onto her plate.
Even now, decades later, I experience a mix of mortified embarrassment, amazement at his passive aggression, and a mild amusement over his literalism.
I have to think a lot of that animosity came from Les’ male ego. He was living in a house, 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton, owned by his mother-in-law, where he was paying, as far as I know, no rent, just the utilities, since the house was paid off. His mother and stepfather lived upstairs and paid minimal amount of rent to cover the taxes.
To be fair to my father, though, Gert’s tales, some designed to scare her grandchildren into submission, could be irritating. Her sister Deana, who unfortunately died in 1966, was often my ally, and at least one one occasion said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!”
My dad was SO thrilled when he and my mother bought a house at 29 Ackley Avenue in nearby Johnson City in 1972, when I was off at New Paltz. I even lent them some money for the down payment from the money I had been saving for college, since my Regents scholarship covered my first-year tuition.
Les and Trudy and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. As Gert was alone and aging in Binghamton, it was clear she could no longer live on her own. Leslie and I “kidnapped” her and took her down to Charlotte by train in January 1975, where she had a room in Trudy and LES’ house until she died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982.
I began writing about how I had started kindergarten in early February 1958 at Daniel S. Dickinson school in the First Ward of Binghamton, NY, named after a 19th-century politician, located at the intersection of Dickinson Street and the curved Starr Avenue.
But then I came across, on one of those Binghamton-specific Facebook sites, this peculiar newspaper article, slamming the neighborhood that I grew up in, while holding up my school as an oasis from whatever scourge existed on the streets. And it wasn’t my experience, for the most part. What I ended up writing, will be in four parts, each titled from a line from my first alma mater.
If my mom didn’t work, at McLean’s department store downtown, first as an elevator operator and then as a bookkeeper, the trajectory of my life would have been quite different. Since we lived at 5 Gaines Street, between Front St and Oak St, I probably would have gone to Oak Street school for K-6.
Instead, the school district used my maternal grandma’s address at 13 Maple Street, between Prospect St and Cypress St, only a few short blocks away, as our address. That’s where my sisters and I went to lunch each day.
If I had gone to Oak Street, I might have met Karen and Carol and Bill, who I’ve in touch with in 2018, or Bernie or Lois, who I’ve seen in recent years, at some later date. Probably we would have been together in junior high, also at DSD, or certainly at Binghamton Central High School. As it is, February 2018 marks 60 years of friendship, which is very rare indeed.
Starting school in February, as well as September was, as I now understand, a peculiar system that almost no other district used. The kids who were turning five in the winter would begin school then. This is why I STILL remember some of their birth months.
I started kindergarten in Miss Cady’s class with Carol, Bill and David T. (December birthdays), Lois, Irene, and Bernie (February), Karen (like me, in March), and Diane (April) and some other kids, including Mary (April) and David D.
We had clocks that had Roman numerals; I recall the four was shown as IIII rather than IV. My rug for taking a nap on was yellow, which I passed on to my sister Leslie, a year and a half later. One time, I clearly remember waking up at 11:45 when everyone else had gone home for lunch one time.
I have no recollection of what I actually DID in kindergarten. When I went to Karen’s mother’s wake in 2012, Karen’s sister told me how I complained on a local kids’ TV show that Karen snapped my suspenders. I had no recollection.
We had eight teachers between first and fourth grade, in large part because some of teachers went on maternity leave. One in first grade, was Mrs. Goodrich, and one In fourth, was Miss Erickson, maybe? Mrs Waters, in third grade, I remember, came back and taught Leslie.
In second grade, we danced the Minuet in G. I think Karen danced with Bill, and Lois danced with Bernie. I know I danced with Carol.
Also in second grade, some sixth graders forced me to fight a kid named Danny, who was my sister Leslie’s classmates, so about a year and a half younger than I was. We were supposed to make it look good, lest they beat us both up. I inadvertently hit him in the nose and drew blood. I felt awful, but the older kids were thrilled.
I joined the Cub Scouts in third grade. Ray, who ended up in my class in second grade was, in the pack, as was David D. Ray’s mom was our den mother. When Ray married Pam in 1976, I got to escort Ray’s mom to her seat.
Was I an overly sensitive kid? One time, some kids on the playground were playing “keep away” with my hat. I got mad and went home. Legend has it, though I don’t specifically remember, that I hopped a ride on a Crowley’s milk truck. Did that really happen?