1972: the Easter break

Kentucky State College Concert Choir

Robert Yates.Aaron Yates.Audrey
Robert, Aaron, Audrey Yates on Easter Sunday (April 2), 1972 at 29 Ackley Avenue, Johnson City, NY, home of Les and Trudy Green

In the 1972 annals, I had totally forgotten that the Okie came home with me for Easter break, beginning March 28. She drove us from New Paltz to Johnson City, near Binghamton. She met our family friends the Pomeroys.

The next day, we went to my old high school, Binghamton Central, and talked with my friend Carla [we’re still in touch] who yelled to me from a third-story window until a teacher closed it. Also, Amy H. [recently reconnected] and others [who I’ve lost track of]. Saw one of my favorite teachers, John Kellogg [RIP].

March 31 – My good friend Carol and her then-beau drove the Okie and me up old Route 11 from Binghamton to Syracuse to see the new movie The Godfather. [Was it not yet playing locally? Possibly.] Other films I had seen in March 1972: The Importance of Being Earnest; Gimme Shelter; Billy Jack; 2001: A Space Odyssey; and Performance, which I described as “weird”.

April 1 – My cousin Robert Yates, his wife Audrey, and their two-year-old son Aaron came to visit. Robert was my mother’s first cousin. But she was born in 1927, and he in 1946, so he was actually closer to my age. Robert, Audrey, my sister Leslie, and I went bowling at two different venues, in JC and the Vestal Plaza, a total of six games.

Easter Sunday

April 2- A bunch of returning college students, including me, were acknowledged at church. Inspired sermon by Rev. A.C. Bell. After dinner, lots of card games (whist, hearts) with Robert and Audrey, who returned to NYC that day, my parents, the Pomeroys, and me. The Okie also left for her parents’ house.

[Young Aaron was murdered – shot or stabbed, I understand – when he was 18 or 19. This devasted his parents, of course, but Robert became a great father figure, not just to his nieces and nephews, but to kids in the neighborhood. He died in 2016.]

April 3 – I was “supposed to meet some people @ Bing. Pub. Library… but no one showed. Someone mistaking me for an employee I assisted w/ card catalog.” [I did work there as a page two or three years earlier.] Saw familiar faces, including Vito [RIP, 1991], Michael Butler, Don Wheeler, and others.

Later, I interviewed my father for my economics paper.

April 4 – participated in a memorial for MLK, with participation by my church’s choir. Later, my mom’s bowling team won the championship. The US recognized Bangladesh.

KSCCC

April 5 – Adam Clayton Powell died yesterday, and baseball DIDN’T start today.

A concert by the Kentucky State College Concert Choir (KSCCC) was held at First Presbyterian Church. Rev. Roberts, the father of my HS friend Catherine Carson, gave the invocation. The Broome County Urban League officers, which probably included my father, were introduced.

“Guys in black tuxes with white shirts. Gals with pink blouses and light purplish long skirts. They sang four very beautiful classical numbers; I liked to listen to them with my eyes closed. Then a Slavic song and a chant-like song they had done last year. Males sing semi-spirituals and a female soloist sang an operatic song and another piece…

“Mom and I noticed that dad didn’t applaud at all for Motherless Child. Perhaps it means too much for him.” Someone announced that my sister Leslie “has won a scholarship to KSC.” [No, she did not end up going there.]

“Four spirituals with African drums… After the standing ovation, they sang Ain’t A That Good News (like it’s supposed to be sung) and The Battle Hymn of the Republic with a piano intro full of discords, which dad dug.”

Afterward, some co-ed seemed to be flirting with me, which was both awkward and nice. “Leslie auditioned sans choir as the audience like I had last year. [I have no recollection of that happening in 1971.] She sang a capella I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free rather well. She went with the KSCCC to a party at the Treadway Inn.”

Note that KSC, an HBCU, became Kentucky State University in 1972.

1972 – the surprise party

New Hampshire primary

Awkward
From TheAwkwardYetti.com

Mar 5 – After playing pool with Uthaclena, I stopped at the vending machine. I took off my boots to keep my roommate’s floor clean. One of my socks came off. I walked into my room. I saw a stranger, the Okie’s roomie, then my father near the window, and my sister Leslie near my roomie’s mirror. SURPRISE party! Shocked was more like it.

Marcia, Mom, and of course, the Okie and the roomie were there. My family brought Kentucky Fried Chicken, cake, and some beverages. The roomie made a general birthday page in the dorm, and a few people came by. Leslie took her friend Joe to the bus station, then returned. The Okie’s mother and baby sister visited.

I got from my family two rolls of Scotch tape, a bottle of Stridex, 24 8-cents stamps, underpants, a nice blue shirt with a strange VOTE button, and some albums:
Color Blind – the Glitterhouse
Stoned Soul Picnic – the Fifth Dimension
Santana III
There’s A Riot Goin’ On – Sly and the Family Stone
The Okie was worried I wouldn’t like the Leadbelly album she bought me, but I did, especially Bourgeois Blues and Gallows Pole.

The Okie’s father arrived before my family left. Apparently, he was nervous to meet them for some reason, the Okie told me later.

The Okie and I went to see the movie Last Summer, which she found very upsetting, relating to Cathy Burns’ Rhoda. (Burns, who died in 2019, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.)

After the party

Mar 6 Yesterday must have really thrown me because I was so disorganized. Couldn’t find my checkbook or notebooks. Forgot the meal ticket booklet, the fact that one of my classes was canceled, and that my gym stuff was in my laundry

Mar 7 My 19th birthday. Also, the day of the New Hampshire primaries. According to WNPC: Muskie 42%, McGovern 34%, Yorty 8%, Hartke 4%, with votes for supposed non-candidates Mills (5%) and Kennedy (1%). (Official numbers were slightly different.)

Did three loads of laundry. Uthaclena gave me the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.

Later, I suddenly became very depressed, in part about off and on communication with the Okie.

In general

A lot about snowball fights, doing schoolwork (I really like my Basic Economics II class), Uthaclena reading comic books (e.g. Green Lantern/Green Arrow 89), the Okie’s unreliable car, writing letters, and eating ice cream sandwiches.

Feb 24 – Uthaclena received the Bangladesh album. I gave him Absolutely Live – the Doors. A couple of days later, he bought Pictures at an Exhibition – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
Feb 26 – Bruce Goldberg had said on WNPC (college radio) that Muhammad Ali was going to meet the kangaroo boxing champion of the world. Apparently, MSG was going to sue Bruce for defamation of character over what was a joke.

1972: A Hole In The Bucket

other implements of destruction

me and Leslie, Feb 1972

My diary notes a fight I had in February 1972 with my girlfriend at the time, the Okie. It involved the song A Hole In The Bucket.

The tune has a bit of history in my family. My father used to sing it, playing both the put-upon Henry and the, er, strident Liza. But by the time we were teenagers, my sister Leslie and I had taken over the song in the Green Family Singers shows. It was our tour de force. I did the cowering bit so well that once, I nearly rolled into a pond at a campground. And Leslie was also very good in her role.

I suspect I had in my mind our version, or maybe Dad’s, or Harry Belafonte and a female singer. Here’s one with Odetta. The Okie’s rendition couldn’t compare. I’m guessing that I was wrong here, overly and unnecessarily critical. One does get a certain version of a song in one’s ear. BTW, here’s a Sesame Street take.

And other things

Besides going to class at SUNY New Paltz and the like, I used to write letters, to Leslie and to several friends I had gone to school with at Binghamton Central High School. I played 8-ball quite often; you’d think I’d get better at it, but not appreciably so.

To no surprise, I listened to a lot of music this month, Led Zeppelin III, Beatles, Donovan, plus whatever was on the college radio station, WNPC.

Feb 4 – read Ms. magazine cover to cover, even the ads
Feb 5 – The Okie tried to teach me to drive her Saab. The manual transmission did me in.
Feb 6 – The Okie, a guy named Steve and I went to see the movie Carnal Knowledge, which I thought was a good film
Feb 7 – the assigned readings to Intro to Black Studies were Before the Mayflower [which I still have], Blues People [ditto; it’s by Amiri Baraka, then Leroy Jones], Soledad Brothers, and an anthology
Feb 8 – I put a check in the bank to put my checking account $4.39 in the black
Feb 13 – Saw the movie Yellow Submarine
Feb 14 – I bought as Valentine’s Day presents two Kris Kristofferson albums, Me and Bobby McGee, and The Silver Tongued Devil and I
The Sunday News (NYC newspaper) editorial thinks this “Women’s Lib” has gone “far enough” and that we need to get back to “normalcy”; no female at Annapolis, e.g.
Feb 17 – Leslie took the bus from Binghamton to visit me; on the 19th, she went on the bus to NYC. [The out-of-focus photo is from that trip.] Later, the Okie’s car got hit, although not seriously. Leslie and the Okie’s roommate slept in my bed, with the Okie and I sleeping on a sleeping bag on the floor. “A lot of laughing and joking for quite a while.”

The snow event

Feb 20 – Digging out several cars after yesterday’s snowstorm. There was a community spirit, but also the more cars we got out of the parking lot, the more additional vehicles could be freed. Where the Okie’s car had gotten stuck the day before on Route 299 was a huge pile of snow. But eventually, we [Uthaclena, the Okie and her roommate, me and my roomie] dig into the pile with our buckets, sticks, and “other implements of destruction.” [Yes, I quoted Arlo.] But we discovered the car wasn’t there after all.

We went to the police station. The older guy there Uthaclena thought was going to keel over, and frankly the Okie and I agreed. He said the car was at Tantello’s Texaco, so the Okie wrote a check for $15.75, but we looked and the car wasn’t there.

It was actually at Uppy’s Gulf. After the woman there told the Okie how to spell Uppy’s, she announced they didn’t accept checks. So we pooled our money to pay the $15 towing fee and the $2 for “parking.” [I have the Uppy’s voided check in my diary.]

The way-too-detailed diaries

The General

diary.Burgwyn.1862.Civil War.NC
diary of Burgwyn, 1862, Civil Wa r.NC

Some years ago, I thought I would share some items with y’all from my diaries after 50 years had passed. I initially found one notebook from March 1972, but since then, I found one that starts on November 23, 1971.

The problem is that my way-too-detailed diaries haven’t yet gleaned much info to blog about. For instance, my father must have picked me up from college at New Paltz on 11/23. Then I went to my old high school and saw a plethora of students, former students, and teachers, all named, with some discussions dissected. Other parties in January are cited with a wealth of names interesting only to a very few people.

Hey, it was snowing in Binghamton on 11/25. I watched the Baltimore Bullets beat the Atlanta Hawks on 11/26. In fact, I have likely documented every single television show and movie I watched, and with whom. I hated the movie Fellini Satyricon.

I wrote or received letters from people A, B, and C. I did homework X. Cramming for a calculus exam in 1/1972, I amazingly passed. Then, there are the details I’m not willing to share because it affects still-living people, some of them significant.

Also, there are people mentioned that I have ZERO recollection of. Three of my friends and I went to Woodstock to the 18th birthday party for some young woman, who was taking care of a four-year-old developmental disabled child. (I used the word “retarded” because that’s what I knew then.)

Worth sharing

But there were some revelations. The Okie brought up the idea that we should get married way back in mid-January of 1972 when we had only gone out for four months. I was surprised; I thought she’d be disinclined because of sexist marriage laws. Also, she didn’t want to alienate her parents if we were to have lived together. I did not remember this info at all.

My parents were in the process of moving from 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton to 29 Ackley Avenue in Johnson City. It was quite stressful. I noted on 1/22/72, “I knew this intemperate unreasonableness would come in moving.”

My dad had recruited friends to help fix up the new place. When he got into the task mode, my sisters and I used to refer to him as The General. “The General, a side that [a couple we all knew] had never seen, is obnoxious and is annoyed easily.”

I have about 15 notebooks of various sizes filled. The oldest volume I found is #3. I lost about half of them from a flood in an apartment in the 1990s. This pained me greatly at the time, but now I have a sense of relief; I don’t have to read them all! But periodically, I’ll leaf through the surviving books and generate more posts. I do know there will be some share-worthy events when I get further into 1972.

 

Non est scriptor coegi licentia

no car memory

no drivers licenseWhen I posted on Facebook a link to this post about trying to get from Binghamton to Albany, it generated a fair amount of conversation.

One buddy of mine asked: “Not that it’s any of my business, but curiosity is killing me: Why not drive?” I replied, “Because I have no license.” Or according to a translator: “Non est scriptor coegi licentia.”

This is true, as far as it goes. But more accurate, I suppose, is that I’ve NEVER had a driver’s license. Not ever. And while it’s just the way I am, it’d be disingenuous to think it wasn’t peculiar to most Americans. So I suppose it’s time to take a deep dive into that fact.

So I started free-associating and came up with over 1800 words. This means I’ll have to break this up into three chunks.

I don’t “get” cars

My parents both drove. My sisters both drive. It was never that important to me, except for a couple of brief times, which I’ll share with you eventually.

I have no car memory. That is, I didn’t care about cars growing up. I don’t know what model of cars my parents owned except one, I think, was a “woody,” with a faux wood exterior.

And I didn’t keep track of what kind of models each car maker made. I mean Chevrolet had the Chevette and some other “ch” lines. Ford had the Fairlane and the Mustang. But that’s about it. To this day, when I see a car model category on JEOPARDY, I respond exceedingly poorly.

Moreover, I never daydreamed about driving a car. I got around pretty well on foot, going to school and church, even walking three miles each way on Sunday afternoons to go to a second church. I had my bicycle, and occasionally, rode the bus.

In fact, my recurring nightmare was being in the back seat of a car, and the vehicle crashes through the side of the bridge, sinking rapidly into the river. (It was probably the Court Street Bridge into the Chenango River in Binghamton.)

The ex-husband of a friend of mine would ask me, “How do you not drive?” And since I never did, I had no good answer.

Ridin’ thumb

Even before I went to college, I started hitchhiking, from Binghamton to New Paltz, where my girlfriend at the time was attending. I took that stretch of road several times.

Speaking of which, the most serious car accident I was ever in happened when I was getting out of a car after a ride. A woman who had some physical limitation was unable to apply the brakes and plowed into that car while I was halfway out. I swore I’d never be like the driver in a situation like that.

I spent two days in the hospital, a week resting at home, then, when my right shoulder gave out, four weeks of physical therapy.

At some point, I got what was the first of seven driver’s permits, the document one needs to try to learn to drive. I think my first lesson was in the Okie’s Volvo? Saab? In any case, it had a manual transmission, and she screamed at me because I was going to burn out her clutch. And that was the end of that.

Later, she had a red car with push-button automatic transmission. Once I tried to drive it around the parking lot of the Colonial Arms apartments in New Paltz. It was uneventful until I accidentally went in reverse, knocking over a Dumpster! Surprisingly, the car appeared OK.

During this period, my good friend Uthaclena once tried to teach me to drive. I must have been quite terrible since he STILL shudders when he talks about it. I thought I was doing fine.

More soonish.

 

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