(click here to listen rather than read)


JP

Howie

Don

JP.... Howie...& Don..................

     Three men sharing one soul, is how it felt to us....  Howie is gone now and all that is left of the Terrible Trio is Don Morgan and myself.   At the time of this writing, i am 73 and Don is 74  so it is not certain how much longer either of us will last.  Old age is starting to creep in and do it's thing on us both and the little failings of the body are becoming more apparent with each year that passes, so, i want to document our story while i still am able to tell it to you all.  I got a wake up call in February of 2008, when my health took a nose dive and my mortality was showing through.     Don is also feeling the effects of his advancing age on a lesser scale.  So here, for all to see is  our story.  Which begins in back in 1954.

 

     My last three years of school were spent at E.C. Goodwin Technical High School, in New Britain, Connecticut, where i was raised.  I lived on the south west side of town and Howie lived in the north east, so we never did 'hang out' together before the summer of 1954, when we met officially in New York City, during an outing by our english class.  Mrs. Rawlings was our English teacher and she had talked the School Director to let us all go to New York and visit the United Nations complex which at that time was not all that old, actually it was quite new to the city and it was a great chance for somebody like me, who never enjoyed school until my senior year, to get away from the books and things and have a little adventure, away from school. 
     At that time, the legal drinking age in Connecticut was 21, however in New York City, the rulers of the Big Apple allowed youths to drink at the age of 18, the thought being that if they were old enough to be drafted and die for the country, then they ought to be able to have a beer if they wanted to, so it was a rejoicing for those of us, who liked to have a beer and do it legally, right out in front of everybody.    The school was what we call a "Trade School", and the State of Connecticut,   being a large industrial state even for it's physically  small size was very aware that early training in a trade was essential for a healthy economy, training young people in various trades so that when they got out of school, the job market would be much larger for them and chances of getting a good job were increased.  Connecticut supported 35 of these schools through out the state, and E.C. Goodwin Tech was one of them.   I was going to be a machinist / tool maker, and Howie was in the Electrician's program, learning that trade.  I would see him, and i knew some of his friends, but we never did hang out much due to the geographic location of our respective homes which were at opposite ends of the city.  It was a 45 minute walk to Howie's house from my house on the edge of the city. 

     Howie and i were both rebels of a sort, and full of mischief, so when the bus let us off in the heart of NYC, Mrs. Rawlings gathered us all on the sidewalk and gave us the lecture about conduct while in New York, the things we could do and the things we could not do, the big talk about being ambassadors from the school, and how to conduct our selves, blah, blah, blah, she went on and on, while i fidgeted in the warm late morning sun, eying the nearest pub which was only a few doors down from where we were getting our lecture from Mrs. Rawlings.  I inched my way, farther and farther from the group, until i could duck into the bar unnoticed, which i did.  I was going to exercise my right to have a beer legally and i ordered a bottle of Schaeffer's which i liked at the time.  I was sitting in the bar looking out the window at the throng on the street, listening patiently to the teacher give her rules to them all, while i gulped my beer down in the darkened coolness of the bar.   It was not half gone when the bar door opened again and in came Howie.  He too had eluded the group and ducked into the bar too, with the same idea as i had, to tip a cool one.   When we saw each other, we both laughed, and the bond was started right there.  Here we were, two kindred rebel spirits, sneaking away from the main body of our tour group, and drinking beer while the rest of the class stood out in the sun, getting warm and getting tired of hearing the rules dictated by the teachers, but  too timid to do anything about it except wait it out.   Howie and i introduced each other officially for the first time.  He knew me, and i knew him from school, but we had never passed more than a "hello" between us until this day in the summer of '54'.  We had a great time that afternoon and rejoined the group at the appointed hour for our tour of the U.N..  We sat together and chatted all the way back to School, where we were all dropped off again when it was over.

     Howie had a car at the time and i did not even have a driver's license, nor did i know how to drive.  I either walked, or took the bus any where i needed to go, and though my friends could not understand how i could get by without one, it was easy because i never had a car and i did not know what i was missing.   Howie's car was what you might call a clunker.  It was a 1942 Packard with a "straight-8" engine, so the hood was the longest i had ever seen on a car, because most of the 8 cylinder cars of the day were V-8 engines, half the length of the old, inline straight-8.   Howie's car was dubbed the "Douzenberg", and everybody called it that.   It had some problems, such as no breaks, and it drank oil almost as fast as it drank gasoline, which was only 16¢ cents a gallon at that time.  (oh for the good old days.   It is over $3.50 a gallon today.).    I can remember the times we all pooled our money and only came up with a few dollars for gas to put in the car when we wanted to go some place.  
Because the car had failing brakes, due to leaky brake cylinders, what Howie did was to remove a part of the floor boards so the access panel for the master brake cylinder was visible between the driver's seat and the passenger's seat in the front.   The road was also visible beyond the brake cylinder and when it was wet, outside water would splash up through the opening where the access panel had been removed, and sprinkle us a bit.   When we would pull up to a red light, Howie would unscrew the cap on the master cylinder and pour in a bit of brake fluid as fast as he could before the light changed, and then i would screw the cap back on and we were all set to be able to stop at the next light that required more fluid.  It was quite an adventure riding around in Howie's Douzenberg..   The car also burned oil like a furnace, and so because the oil flowed through the engine and out again, so fast, Howie never bought any good oil for the car but instead he would go to the garages and collect their old oil that they drained from other cars while doing an oil change on them.  This old oil was dark and full of crap but we would run a few gallons through a fine mesh screen before we left on any of our adventures, and like the brake fluid, we would stop periodically and check the oil, adding some  each time it needed it.  We would go through a few quarts every evening we drove around.

 

     When we graduated from Goodwin Tech in 1955, i went to work in the small tool and die shops that littered New Britain, which was once dubbed, "The hardware City of the World", because at that time, almost 75% of all diversified manufacturing  in the New England States, was done in New Britain, Connecticut, and the little shops that supported the larger manufacturing plants were too numerous to count so jobs for a machinist were  plentiful.  Howie also found work as an Electrician, and we still hung around together, like we were blood brothers or something.  Where any body found one of us, the other was bound to be near by.   One day after work, as Howie and i were driving around in his car, he told me  something that really was significant to our adventures.  He told me that while doing a job in a near-by town of Mildale, Connecticut, he saw a boy scout come in to the bar selling raffle tickets to something or other.  As the boy scout was talking to the owner, who was purchasing some tickets from him, the kid ordered a beer, and to Howie's amazement, NIck gave him one.  The kid still had on his boy scout uniform, but Nick gave him a beer any how.   HOT DOG!!,  We had a place where we could go to drink under aged.  So we went out to Mildale to check out the  Duck Inn, as the place was called.   We each ordered a beer and were not questioned at all, but the bartender dropped two beers in front of us.  And this began a new adventure that we used to call, "Taking the car for a walk".  
      Howie and i would drink enough beer to get a good buzz, and then drive out to the New Britain Reservoir and he would put the car in first gear and let the idling engine alone power the vehicle.  We would then exit the car and walk along side of it, instead of driving it from the inside.   Howie would reach in through the open window from time to time to correct the steering and keep the car on the road, while we walked the car around the reservoir road in the late evenings.  We were both big folk song fans back then also, and we both knew hundreds of tunes, so we would happily walk along beside the Douzenberg and sing our songs together.  We could sing for hours and not sing the same song twice.  It was a very  happy time for us.  No obligations to worry about, except maybe getting drafted into the armed service.  Back then when a young man reached the age of 18 he had to register for the Draft.  A conscription process where citizens were called upon to serve in the military, and it was not an invitation, it was a command and backed by a federal law, so it had to be done or go to jail.  Many of the young people moved into Canada to escape the draft in those days, and they were known as "Draft Dodgers", and scorned by all, except the hippies, who made up most of the draft dodgers ranks. 
As time went on, i finally turned 19 and got my own automobile.  I bought a brand new, out of the show room, Nash Rambler Deluxe.  It was a pretty little car, powder blue with a darker blue top.  It would get around 35 miles to the gallon of gas, which was a far cry from Howie's old clunker that only got around 12 miles to the gallon, so we used to drive around in my car after i acquired it.  It had a standard transmission with over drive, which is where the gas economy came from with that low gas consumption.  It would go 100 miles per hour and i often drove it that fast to show off for my friends.  I was a big show off and it is a wonder how i never got myself killed back in those wild days.
  

    

 

    One week-end a friend of mine in a neighboring town of Plainville, CT, had a visit  from a pen pal, with whom she had been communicating for a year or so.   As Howie and i pulled up outside Myrtle's home, she came rushing out to greet us, and tell us of her visitor, from Port Arthur, Texas.  She warned us that this girl, who's name was Gabbie, was so beautiful, but i never figured out why she did that, other than she did not want us to faint or something, i don't know.  However when we got inside, we saw what she meant, and Gabbie was the most beautiful young woman i had ever seen in person and she still is, 60 years later.  I have never met anybody like her.  She had a body that women would kill for, and a face of an angel.  She was a rich girl, well bred in a wealthy family and educated.  She was attending the Juliard School of music at the time and took a little vacation to see Myrtle, her pen pal in Connecticut.   Howie and i were both awe struck with this girl.  
      Gabbie had never been to New York city, and so Howie and i invited them to take a little trip there the next day, which was a Saturday and neither of us had to work.  So we got all dressed up in suits, to match the splendor that Gabbie projected with her beauty.  She had an aura about her that turned heads left and right as we passed by.  Everybody would stop and stare, dropping jaws and drooling over Gabbie..   Well, we only got as far as the West Rock tunnel, in New Haven, Connecticut, before my car broke down.  My front end had been shimmying for a while but the shaking grew very strong as we exited the tunnel and so i drove down the ramp to a little garage at the bottom of the hill.  A good thing too, because when i applied the breaks to stop at the garage, my left front wheel's, "A" fame, broke in two, and the wheel folded up like it was retractable or something, tucking itself under the car.   We were not driving any where in that car.   I only had $50 on me but Howie had been prepared and had around $200, so we bought four train tickets to New York, and rode the rest of the way.  We drove around in Taxi's and saw the sights.  We went up to the top of the Empire State building, and to a lot of museums, and finally took the train home.   We went through all of Howie's money and mine but we had a marvelous time.   Howie would not take any money from me after we got back  again, so what i did instead was buy most of the beers for a month or two after that.

 

     Later on we made a new game for the monday nights, we would go to the Duck Inn, and order a dozen beers each. All at the same time, lining them up in a double row in front of us.  Then we would drink them as fast as we could and leave right away.  We would drive until the beer caught up with us, and we were getting drunk.  We would then park my car, where ever we happened to be, and walk around, singing folk songs until we had our fill of singing and walking.  Next came the fun part, because we never remembered where we left my car.  We would have to do a lot more walking before we usually found it again, and by that time we were pretty much in ok shape to drive.  At least Howie was, i used to get a little more tipsy than he die and he often ended up driving me home.  
     Here is the kind of friend that Howie was:  I never had a friend like Howie before, who put me ahead of himself, in most matters.  For example, when he would take me home drunk, he would haul me up the stairs as quietly as he could, so as not to wake my mother, and deposit me inside my door on the third floor of the house.  He would then, Walk home, clear on the other side of town, in the snow, with out even borrowing a jacket before he left.  He did this many times, trudging through the snow in his loafers and shirt sleeves, because the plan had been for me to take him home, but i got drunk instead.   I often told him that when he took me home, then keep the car and park it at his house.  I would get a ride to work with my dear friend and mentor, Ed Tanguay, and pick the car up the next day, as our route home went right by Howie's house.  But for some unknown reason, he never did that, but chose to walk home 45 minutes through the cold wind and snow.  Howie was a saint whom i never really appreciated at the time for all he did on my behalf.   And now he is gone.   Howie was never what anybody might call a ladies man,  he usually was the last one to have a relationship with a girl, and except for the one he married, i don't ever remember him having a real girlfriend.  I usually was the one who ended up with the girls.  Although we both had a lot of friends who happened to be girls, they were not girl friends in the romantic sense of the word.  And we would spend a lot of time up in "the Project" hanging out with them most of the time.   Howie and i were inseparable and we had many more adventures, half of which i probably have already forgotten. 

Howie and JP  at the quarry  in 1957

Here is a shot of Howie and me taken in 1956, down at the Brown Stone quarry in Portland, Connecticut.  We used to go to the Quarry to swim and snorkel around with spear guns trying to catch fish.  There were some pretty large carp in that quarry from the time that the connecticut river over flowed and dumped a bunch of fish into the quarry where they seemed to get along just fine.  The locals would fish there all the time.The Quarry had many cliffs of different heights and the lowest one was around 6 feet above the water, while the highest one, "Silver Street" as we called it, after the street which went past that cliff.  Silver Street was some times called silver streak, and it was 104 feet high.  A person jumping off that cliff would be going around 57 miles per hour when they hit the water.  I don't know how many of you out there ever water ski but those who do, know that at nearly 60 miles an hour, water is almost solid.  HItting the water at that speed is almost like landing on the side walk.    Don was the only one in our crowd who was brave enough to jump Silver Street, but once was enough for him, he never tried it again.  One day we were all down at the quarry and Don said he wanted to Jump Silver street.  We all thought it was a pretty "ballsy" move and decided that when he was to jump,  we would all swim over

to the base of the cliff and place ourselves in a big circle to help him if anything went wrong.  The next thing we knew was that Don was on the other side of the quarry, standing on top of Silver Street cliff and he called out to us, "Hey, What will  you give me if i jump?"   We all laughed, thinking he was kidding, and i hollered back, "I'll give you a cigarette.", Don did not smoke, by the way, so i was making a joke.  But to our surprise, he said, "Ok, Deal." and he stepped off of the face of that cliff to plummet 104 feet (31.7 meters) to the water below, and he landed with a Splat that was heard all over the quarry.  We all jumped into the water and raced over to where he landed, but he was up and swimming toward us long before we got half way.   I Don't remember if he took the cigarette or not.

 

      I remember one after noon when Howie and i were going to go to the Stock Car races in Riverside, near the Massachusetts border and my mother had told me that if i wanted my favorite lunch in the morning that i would have to buy a jar of Pea Nut Butter before i came home.  Since i was on a pea nut and jelly sandwich kick at the time Howie and i stopped off at the grocery store on the way to the races and i bought a big jar of pea nut butter.
We had a ball at the races, with all the noise, and excitement of the stock car races, rooting for our favorites and just enjoying ourselves.   When we got back home again, i had convinced Howie to take my car, (i guess he finally had enough walking home) however i forgot the pea nut butter.  And as i started toward my house, Howie hollered out of the window, "Hey, Ain't you forgettin' something", and he held up the peanut butter in the brown bag from the store that was in the back seat.   I used to forget everything but Howie never did.   I told him to toss it to me, however as the package came hurling toward me, i misjudged and dropped it on the side walk with a sort of squishy thud.   I was afraid to look, but i peeked into the bag and sure enough the bottle was shattered, however it was still held together by the peanut butter inside.  It was too late to replace it so i brought it upstairs with me, and put it on the kitchen counter where my mother would see it in the  morning.  Thinking to my self, ha ha ha  a good joke on my mom when she sees the broken jar.
      My mother never said a word about it and when i went to work the next day, i had my lunch as always.   When lunch time came, i sat down with my friends at work and we started our lunch.  I took a big bite out of my sandwich, and stopped cold.  Something was wrong, the jelly was there but so was something else that was not peanut butter, and i opened the sandwich to find a piece of paper that my mother had written upon over and over until it was covered with the word, Peanut butter.  My mom had a great sense of humor too.

 

 

     The years came and went and Howie and i remained the best of friends, doing things together all the time, visiting friends, and just hanging out together, as best buddies do.  We used to go to Howard Johnson's for something to eat, after a night of drinking in the bars, and Howie always got the same thing.  It was a Howard Johnson's 3-D, a triple decker burger on a sesame bun and an order of fried clams.  I too would order the same thing however i never could ever finish my 3-D because after eating my clams which i loved, and half of the 3-D Howie would eat the rest for me because i would be full.  He sometimes even ordered a second 3-D for himself and eat that too.   Howie could drink me under the table and eat me under the table as easily, he had an enormous capacity for food and he never put on weight.  For that matter neither did i back then, i only weighed 136 pounds (61.7 kg) at the time. and i was five feet eleven inches tall (1.8 m).  I looked like a walking xylophone with my ribs sticking out like a skeleton's if i removed my shirt.
     I changed jobs a few times, and finally went to work for CECO, a branch of Pratt & Whitney, corp, in West Hartford.  I got a job as a tooling maker in the tool room of their shop and i prospered, learning my trade with a precision and skill that few others in the shop possessed at my age.
Don also worked for Pratt & Whitney but he worked in their machine division, running a "turret lathe" and i didn't meet him until our boss in the tool room decided that if he had his own turret lathes, he would not have to have things made elsewhere and he could also control the manufacturing time better as well, so he requisitions a half dozen turret lathes and when them came the operators to run them.  You guessed it, Don was one of those new guys in the tool room running the turret lathe.  I met Don one after noon at lunch time and we became fast friends instantly.  We both saw something in the other that clicked like Howie and i clicked.   The terrible trio was on their way to being formed.  Howie and Don did not know each other, as Don lived in a town of Portland, Connecticut and Howie and i lived in New Britain at the time.   So during the day time, it was Don and i having the adventures and after work, it was me and Howie having the fun but as the poem goes, "...n'ere the twain did meet..."  At least until my time to be inducted into the military was drawing near and i did not want  Don nor Howie to miss me too much when i went into the service, so i  figured it was time to bring them together.   Which i did, and it was no surprise that they hit it off together just as they both had with me.  The triad was formed, and became a solid life long venture of friendships.

 

     Don lived in Portland, Connecticut ,when i met him and  he introduced me to the quarry where we spent so much of our leisure time.  Because Don was such a conscientious provider for is family, a wife, a son and a daughter, that he almost always had more than one job, and some times he had three jobs, so his time with his wife and family were pretty important to his wife and family.  The only time he wife, at that time could get him to do things like painting and repairs, etc. was the weekends some times if he was not working over time.   His wife did not like me too much, i represented temptation to her for her husband and she knew we were rivals for his time.  
I recall one saturday morning it was a beautiful summer day, not a cloud in the sky and i had a cooler filled with beer in my trunk and nothing to do, so i headed out towards Portland to see if i could talk Don to come with me to the quarry and do some skin diving for eels and carp.   Don's home was on a street  that was a little higher than the land behind Don's house.  So, even though his front door was on the street, his back windows were around 12 feet higher due to the drop-off in the land there.  His back window faced a Garage and Gas station, and over looked their parking lot.  I pulled up behind his house and looked for Don in the back windows.  There he was setting up ladders and paint cans, and such to do some painting for his wife, who was trying to get him to paint for a month already but there was not a chance with all the jobs he had, so finally she got him alone to paint the living room in their home.  
      I  softly called to him, so his wife would not hear, and he came to the window.  I told him i was headed for the Quarry and it was too hot to paint.  He looked pained but told me that he had to paint today because his wife had been waiting for so long already that he was sort of in trouble with the little woman.   I opened my trunk, to show him two sets of swim fins, two snorkels, two face masks, and a case of ice cold beer....   As we drove off in my car, i could hear the frantic screams of his wife bellowing like a bull moose, "DERY, !   You bring him right back here this minute!", as the screaming faded into the morning breeze, we happily popped a cold one and headed for the old swimming hole.   He never told me  how much trouble he was in with his wife when he came back to finish the painting job, and i never asked.  I was in as much trouble with her as he was.  

 

 

   The shop that Don and I worked at paid their employees with cash rather than check, and they paid us at 9:00 am in the morning on thursdays i think it was.  I will  have to check with Don about this.  Any how, on payday, we had our money before lunch which meant that we never brought a lunch on payday but went instead to the corner bar and grill, and had big hamburgers which we washed down with pitchers of beer.  Each hamburger was  good for only one pitcher of beer, and on two hamburger days, we would have two pitchers of beer each at lunch time, which was hardly conducive to putting us in the mood to go back to work.  So we would call our respective bosses and tell them some really ridiculous lie that was so obvious that they knew we had been drinking.  I remember one after noon, Don told his boss, Henry Greco, that there was a parade going by and we stopped to watch it, when an elephant stepped on his car and he was not going to be able to make it back to the shop that after noon.  At the same time i was talking to my boss Eddy Kiewlick, and telling how a submarine torpedoed my car in the parking lot  and Eddy would then beg me NOT to come back, because he knew that i was loaded and might screw up what ever job i was working on, or worse, hurt myself on the machines trying to work under the influence of that much beer.   So then it was party time for us.   We would order two more pitchers and drink them down, in preparation for our adventures.
    One after noon, I remember hearing a knocking sound, as if somebody was tapping on my car window.  I awoke, and saw that both Don and i were asleep in my car.  I thought it might be raining because the water was pouring down my windshield in sheets, and i could not see out of the front window.    However, looking over at Don, sleeping peacefully in the passenger's seat, i could see out of his window and it was a beautiful day.   Again the rapping sounded to my left and i turned to see the face of a woman standing by my car.  She was knocking on my window and asking me if we were OK....   I rolled down my window a little and told her that we were fine but just fell asleep.  "On My Lawn?", she questioned, and i looked around, shaking Don awake as i did, to see that there were skid marks across her lawn and we were parked right in the middle of it with her sprinkler spraying my front windshield.  I looked at the skid marks coming from the road, over the sidewalk and onto her lawn, where they stopped under my wheels.  I looked at Don, i looked at the lady, and said, "Oh, yes, thank you i am fine, have a nice day." and i drove off leaving her standing there  wondering what the hell just happened.
       Below are a few shots of Don and I down at Doors Pond near my home.  We used to come here to work on my car and just goof around like we are doing here in these photos from 1958.

JP Indian style
Don & JP balancing act
Don, Just hanging around

 

 

     On another of our, two hamburger lunches,  we decided to fix the governor on my Rambler.  The over drive unit had a little centrifugal device that let the transmission know when it was going fast enough to engage the over drive, however mine was broken so i had no over drive and i bought a new governor.    After Don and i finished our lunch and our beers, we drove to my home in New Britain, and went down to the pond that was only a few hundred meters from my house.  I did not have a jack that would lift the front end of the car high enough to change out the old governor so i just drove it up into an embankment, making the front end climb up the little hill and stop with the front wheels around two feet higher than the back wheels.  Now i had plenty of room to get under the car and exchange the governor, only with the car tipped that much of an angle, the fluid in the unit was no longer level.   Well, for some reason Don insisted on holding my ankles while i worked under the car, on my back.  I think we decided that if the car started to roll off the hill that  he would quickly pull me out from under the descending weight of the automobile.  Well, i slithered under the car and Don got a good hold on my legs, as i unscrewed the old governor and pulled it out of the transmission case.... where upon, to my suprise, with the car tipped at such an angle, all of that warm transmission oil started to pour out of the hole and down over my  head...  It was like warm honey, and it felt so good that i quickly fell asleep... 
Eventually, i think Don also fell asleep too, and i don't know how long i was under that car with my buddy holding on to my ankles, and fast asleep, but we awoke around the same time, and i popped the new governor in and took Don back to his own car so he could go home to his family.

 

     There is a little hot dog place in my home town, called,"Capitol Lunch".  They make the best hotdog's i ever tasted and it is because of the special sauce that they make for their hot dogs.  It is delicious and any time i ever get near New Britain, i always go in to the Capitol Lunch for two or three of their dogs.  Well it was a favorite place of mine and Don's as well as Howie's, and one night after Don's "moonlighting" job at the hospital, i picked him up from work and we drove down to the Capitol lunch.   Don was going to drive and i was going to go in and get a bunch of hot dogs for us to gobble up.  So, driving my little Nash Rambler, Don dropped me off in front of the place and went around the block to wait for me to come out with the food.  Well, he was pulled up in a little side street across from the Capitol Lunch, and where that street entered Main Street, there was a rotary.  A bunch of "Go right" signs placed in a big circle directing traffic from that little side street so that they would not turn left too soon into the on-coming traffic.   I guess Don must have been inspired by a racing movie or maybe a gangster movie and thought he was driving a getaway car.  His intention was to come squealing out of that little side street when he saw me coming out of the hot dog place.  He planned to come screeching up to the curb, i would supposedly hop in and he would make the big getaway.   Well, the minute i  was spotted coming out of the place he stepped on the gas and peeled out of that little side street like a rocket, running right into the rotary and knocking signs left and right as they scattered from the impact of my car running into them.  He just barely stopped in front of me and i hopped in to see a very shaken Don Morgan.  I was laughing my butt off and Don was almost in tears with remorse, regret, and any other guilty feeling you can think of.  My left headlight now shown around 3 feet in front of the car and was looking downward at the road.   Other than that there was no real damage, except to poor Don who could not stop saying how sorry he was and he would pay for everything, and on and on like that the rest of the evening.  I don't even think he enjoyed his hotdog's. 

 

 

     The time went by fast and i did not want either Howie nor Don to be missing a best friend when i went into the service.  I was over 21 years old by now and they were going to draft me any time at all, i was three years past the age of 18 and i had my draft card for three years already without having to serve in the military.   So i finally got around to introducing Howie to Don.  I cannot even remember where it was but i think that i got Howie to come with me one time to go cliff hopping at the quarry with Don, and it may  have been there that i introduced them to each other.   They quickly became best friends also and i was confident that when i went into the service, my friends would have each other's company and they would not miss me as much as i was going to miss them.  They represented the two best friends i had in the world. 
      I had some SCUBA gear, back then and i gave the two tanks, regulators, wet suits, weights, etc. to  Howie and Don before i went into the Navy and they took classes and learned to dive.  While i went into the US Navy for four long years.  The friendship grew all this time between Howie and Don, and they became best friends and spent a lot of time together.  For one thing, Howie was married by then and that made Don's wife very  happy.  Her hubby was not hanging out with a rowdy, single, crazy man any more, he had a stable friend with a family.  While i was away, Don bought a piece of land in Tolland Connecticut, 15 or 20 miles north of Hartford.   He and Howie, and other friends from work would get together and help Don build his new home.  By the time i got out of the Navy his home was done and it became the meeting place  on Friday Nights, when all of us who could play music, would gather at Don's place and play our hearts out during these "Hootenanny's" as they were called.   The Kingston trio had brought about a folk song revival that sorry to say pissed off Burl Ives so much to listen to this "New Slickem Folk", that he stopped playing folk music and went into pop and rock.   Burl Ives was Howie's and my hero and we knew just about all his tunes.  I had learned to play the Guitar while in the Navy and when i got out i taught myself to play the   5-String banjo.  There was Don with his guitar, and usually some neighbors or friends of Don's would also come by.  We often invited our friends from the shop as well and they would drive out to Tolland to join in the "Hoots".  Life was sweet, and we were once more all together, only better now because i could play four instruments now; The Guitar, the Banjo, the Diatonic Accordion and the harmonica, and the music was much more varied.  The bonding and the friendship grew...

 

 

     Don's father-in-law, owned  some apple orchards and in the fall he hired high school kids to pick for him, but this one year i guess he was having  problems getting help because Don approached me at work one day and asked me if i would like to help him pick some apples and have some fun.  Our mutual friend, Denny Violet, the expeditor  & stock boy for the shop also agreed to help us pick, however  he had to work on Saturday so he would not be able to come up until Sunday.   I told Howie about the job and he said it was fine with him, as long as there was enough beer.   Don had assured me that the one thing there would be plenty of, was beer.  We would work picking apples for free, however we could have all the beer we wanted  while we were picking.   I did not see the other orchards at Stockman's but i understood that he had a dozen kids picking in them, while it would be only the three of us picking the orchard to which we were assigned.
      So i packed up my banjo and my guitar, and my buddy Howie and we drove out to Don's place.  He showed us how to get to the orchards and we were off to pick some apples.   Don had an old Mail Truck that he had fixed up into a camper, before there was such a thing, and he had four bunks i think, a sink, a coleman stove, and all the essentials for a great time, camping on his Father-in-law's place and picking for our beer.   The owner's brother was the "Straw Boss" for the operation and it was his job to drive around between the orchards and make sure that everybody was doing a good job.    The evening that we got there, it was too late to pick so we just hung out in the house playing music and drinking beers. 
      Rudy, the boss drove us, and a cooler filled with beer out to our orchard, and dropped us off in the morning after breakfast.  There were stacks of empty crates piled through out the orchard, and our job was to fill them as fast and with as little bruising of the fruit as possible.  We Popped a breakfast beer, and went to work.  We each had a ladder, and a picking container, which was strapped across our shoulders hanging in front of us.  It had a canvas bottom that folded up to secure the big bucket like device.  When it was full, then we would climb down our ladder, and grab an empty apple crate to fill.   Unfastening the  hook on the canvas bottom of the picker, we would then gently lay the open end in a crate, and ease the apples out of the picking bucket through the bottom.  This way we could fill the boxes without any damage to the apples.   If an apple is bruised then it's value is ruined.  The picking buckets were around a foot and a half wide, and  a foot wide in the other direction.  They were around a foot and a half deep also, when the canvas sleeve attached to the bottom edge was folded in the closed position.
We went to town with those apples, and by the time Rudy came back again to check on us, we  had a stack of apple crates waiting for him.  We were picking fools that day, i can tell  you.    But the funniest part is that every so often we would stop and have a beer.   We would pick like crazy for an hour or so and then sit down on the apple crates and drink a beer.  The only time that Rudy ever came around to check on us he found us not picking at all, but sitting on apple crates and drinking beer.  He never once caught us working, and if it was not for the filled crates stacked up all over the place he never would have  known that we were doing anything except drinking beer and sitting around telling jokes and laughing.  We picked more apples that week end than the dozen high school kids in the other orchards, and our apples were free from bruises while the had a lot of bruises in their apples.   It would not fail however that each and every time we decided to stop and have a beer break, we would hear the old truck coming up through the trees, and there would be Rudy, only to catch us sitting around again.
      That night, we did an "odd" man out  coin flip to see who would be doing the cooking for the rest and i lost, so i had to make supper, which was going to be hamburgers, if i made it.  Don had bought a couple pounds of hamburger meat and i went to work on the burgers.  I only made three of them, but i used the entire 2 pounds of hamburger meat, so they were really good size burgers and other than using up to night's meat in one shot, nobody complained about the size of the hamburgers, not even  Howie, who probably could have eaten two of them with out any problem.   The next day, was Sunday and Denny joined us for the picking.  Now it was Howie, Don, Denny and myself working the remainder of the orchard.  We picked like crazy men, piling up crate after crate of apples and wowing Rudy, who still could not figure it out, how come we were always sitting on our butts loafing and drinking beer when he came around but we were filling our crates faster than the kids in the other orchard who outnumbered us 3 to 1.
      Denny did not stay over after the days picking, but the terrible trio hung in there and after picking on Sunday, we decided to go for a swim in the little pond next to Don's camper.  We had forgotten that it was Harold's trout pond where he was raising trout to stock ponds and lakes etc..   We completely forgot it, and we really tore the place up.   The water was freezing cold, and i did not want to even go in, but when both Howie and Don came after me to toss me in, i had to "bite the bullet" and take the plunge.  It was freezing but we got used to it and started to play.  Don scooped up a hand full of mud from the bottom and heaved it at me, smacking me good with the mucky bottom from the pond and then he dove in and started to swim under water over to me where i was standing on the other side of the small pond.  I saw him coming and i scooped up a huge clump of mud and sea weed from the bottom, and stood there waiting for Don to emerge again.  The heavy clump of weed and mud must have weighed at least ten pounds and was slimy and dirty.  Just as Don started to come up for air, i let him have it, right in the face.  He had not even time to take a breath before that morass of crap hit him square between the eyes.   Howie howled and i cracked up myself laughing, as we watched Don Standing there with out a face.  Where his face once was there only was a big clump of muddy sea weed and he was pointing at is demanding with his finger and yelling, "Who did this ?"  Ha ha ha,  like he didn't know already.   From then on it turned into a mud fight, with all three of us trying to toss more mud and we were hit with, and we had a wonderful time of abandon and hilarity.  Until Don remembered what the pond was, a breeding place for Harold's trout, and we had traumatized the fish with our mud and sea weed fighting.  The mood changed instantly as Don announced, "Hey, guys, we might be killing fish here."   And like criminals not wanting to be caught, we sort of slinked away to the Camper and got dressed  and ready for the evening's entertainment in the Stockman's kitchen, where we played music and drank beer the rest of the evening.  Needless to say we did not speak of the fish  pond at all that night......
      This was the single most fun i ever had with my friends, and the weekend was the hi light of my year, and of many  years after that.  We had so much fun, that it was no wonder Rudy could not figure it out, how we could pick so many apples and still be sitting around each time he came out to check on us.  I was almost sad when it was over and we had to go back to work on Monday.   I would have loved to go back and pick some more, but we had pretty much cleaned out the orchard that we were assigned to, so it was just as well.  Good times cannot last for ever and we all had to work for a living, so we were content with all the wonderful memories of the weekend.  We made quite a site, when we drove up to the house in Don's old mail truck.  Howie drove and Don and i climbed up on top of the truck, sitting on the roof and playing guitar and banjo as we rode up to the house, looking, and sounding, like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies, and the people standing there laughing at the site, and clapping in time with the music.  It was quite an entrance, and it was quite a weekend.

 

 

 

   Don was the hardest working man i ever met.  He always had a day job, a part time job and some times even a night job.  He was always working and since New Britain was a town noted for all of the small machine shops, it was good fertile ground for ambitious young men who wanted to make a little extra money.   I used to go and visit Don when i knew he was working in town and bring him a six pack or so.  I was also a tooling maker, and machinist so i would take his place at the machine while he took a break and had a beer.  Well, that was the plan any how, but some how it usually turned into me going out for more beer and both of us sitting around drinking beer instead of working.    I don't know how he kept that job.  I can imagine what the boss would think when he would come to work in the morning and see how little production Don had done during the night.  I am thinking that some nights there would be more beer cans in the trash than finished parts sitting on the bench.   Luckily we were both very good machinists, so at least the work quality was good, even if the amount of work was below expectation.    I guess by now you have come to realize that i was sort of Don's, Svengali, and a really bad influence on him.  But the way i looked at it back then, i was saving him from a life of "All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.", so i was not being a bad guy leading him astray, i was helping him.  Hee hee (evil laugh.).
     Back in those days Howie and I had a friend who's name was Raymond Jackson.  Raymond was the first of all of us to go into the navy and when he had to travel  to New York one time he asked Howie and me to drive him there in his father's car, and then we would bring his dad's car back to New Britain again for him, which we said we would do.   Don was working in a little automatic-screw machine shop at night  back then and the night we were to take Raymond Back me and Howie hatch a diabolical plan to kidnap Don and drag him off to New York with us when we took Raymond back.  We knew doggone well that Don would put up a fuss about going that far.  He did not mind stopping work for a beer break but to spend the rest of the evening driving the 100 miles to New York City and back was not an option for him, so we Nabbed him and took him any how.  Once we got him in the car with a cold beer in his hand, he had forgotten about the shop, which we did make sure was locked before we absconded with our friend.
      We dropped Raymond off at the Gray Hound bus station in Manhattan and took off to do some more bar hopping our selves.   Things get a little fuzzy here, because i was pretty Swacked by now after downing a bunch of drinks at the bar next to the Station with Raymond before he had to leave, and then i think we stopped at another bar as well.   But what i do remember is Howie making a U turn on the parkway and driving over the center park separator and up the road in the opposite direction.  He had spotted a bar's sign shining between the trees as we drove in the other direction,  so he decided it was time for another drink and he turned around in the most illegal move i have ever seen anybody make, we went bump bitty bump bitty over the curbs and terrain to emerge going south again toward that light coming from the other side of a stand of trees that Howie has spotted.  He pulled off the road at a break in the guard rails, and actually drove through the woods, with no road, and through the trees to the little bar, where we went in and had a few more.  
      I am pretty sure i threw up all over the side of, Raymond's father's car because i awoke one time to see Howie had parked the car by the side of the road and was out in the rain, wiping down the vomit off of the car, before it ate up the paint job.  Don was asleep in the passenger's seat the whole time we were stopped by the roadside. Howie was usually left with my responsibilities as well as his when ever he went out with me.  I was a pretty high maintenance friend, but he never complained about taking care of me when i had been stupid enough to drink too much.  Howie was a saint to me.

 

     The years rolled on, and Howie's family grew, Don's family increased by one son, Russell, and i even got married, and divorced and married again, and divorced again, and married again.  While all the time keeping in touch with my friends who by now were scattered all over the place.  Howie had bought a home in Southington, Connecticut, and Don had moved to Maine.
  I myself, proved to be the biggest rover of the trio, and i went as far west and south as one can go and still be in the USA with dry feet.  3,000 miles from my dear friends of the terrible trio days.  My brother had moved to Vermont, and built a home there also.  I visited my brother, Noel,  and my mother, who was still living in New Britain at that time.  She had a little apartment of her own in a nice low income facility that was really nice, clean and secure.  One year i decided it was time to get the trio back together again, it had been so long.
     It must have been around 1986 or so by this time and so i got in touch with Noel and told him of my plan to all get together at his place in the fall.  He thought it was a good idea and i contacted Howie and Don. back in Southington and (i forgot where in Maine Don was living at that time)  and told them the plan, which clicked with every body.  So we all got together for a weekend , or a week, i have forgotten by now.  It was a marvelous time together with the dearest friends i have ever known.  We played music and sang the old songs, we took hikes and watched the leaves turn through all the bright colors of autumn, and felt the "nip" in the air, foretelling of the cold days to come.  It was a beautiful time, but sadly for me the last time for a long time that i would see or even hear from my dear friend Don.
      Howie and i still kept in touch over the years, and Howie and Don Kept in touch with each other, over the years, but for some reason that i never knew, Don never wrote to me or let me know where he was living for ten years.  I did not know why, and i still do not know why, but he has told me that he will tell me some day, and that is good enough for me..        Howie is a victim of diabetes, and he has had it most of his adult life, so it has been working on him for a long time.  Eventually it slowly damaged most of his vital organs in some way.  He developed leukemia, and kidney trouble liver problems and eventually blindness, and dependence on a dialysis machine.  I would make CD's for him when he went blind.  I would talk to him and play music for him, tell him stories, and such on the CD's.  He often told me how much he treasured them when in the wee hours of the morning, awake, and not able to sleep, he would listen to my CD's and it would be like i was right there with him.  Every time Howie would get a new address for Don, i would try to reach him but  i never got any replies for ten years of searching for Don and reopening our communication links once more.   Finally i got a nibble from one of my tries, and i got a response from Don. 
      Don told me he had divorced also, and remarried, and he was living up near Bangor, Maine with his new wife Valora.  His daughter Cheryl was married, as was his youngest son, Russell.  He invited me to come  up and see him, and the Communication between the not so terrible trio now, was restored once more, after 10 long years.

 

    The calendar's pages kept changing and advancing and  the years kept on going by, until we both began to realize that none of us was getting any younger, and we had friends all over Connecticut, whom may not be with us much longer.  Howie was on the top of that list with all the things that were wrong with him, and to top off every thing, his daughter brought him home from the hospital one day to find his dear wife, Arlene, dead on the couch.  Our dear friend was not only blind and invalid but now he was alone, except for his youngest daughter Carol, who became his care giver, and took care of him for the rest of his days.
Don and i started to count up all the old friends we missed and who may not make it much longer.  Dear old souls like my precious mentor, Ed Tanguay, and also Charlie Uznanski, were both getting on as well as Howie.   There were places in my old home town i wanted to visit one more time, as well as the dear old friends.  So Don and i planned a little journey to see our old friends, and the old places where we had spent so much time enjoying in our youth 
     I flew to Bangor and Don met me at the airport, and took me home where we planned out our schedule of who we wanted to see and where we wanted to go.   Unfortunately and such a disappointment to Howie was that he had an attack and ended up back in the hospital during our visit so we only saw him two times, before we moved on to Canton, Connecticut, and Ed Tanguay's place.  Ed was my mentor, and i loved Ed with all my heart.  He was weak and feeble now, but his tears showed us how much our visit meant to him.  We contacted Charley Uznanski also who lived in Wallingford and we all had dinner at Ed's home, in one big reunion of the old shop workers from CECO.  There we were, Charlie, Ed, Don and myself, all co-workers from 30 years ago, sitting around the table like we used to at lunch time, and telling the old stories again one last time.  Ed had tears in his eyes as he told us all that he loved us, and was so happy that we came to see him one more time.
      We drove Charlie home, as he was dropped off at Ed's place by  his wife who had to go  home again.  So we had our navigator and did not need our maps.  We spent the night at Charlie's and the next day,   We drove to New Britain and i took Don around to the places of my  youth.  I showed him the "Tarzan Tree" and we went to Capitol Lunch a couple of times.   The only really old friend i did not visit was my very oldest one.  Not that she is old, i mean i have known her longer than any other friend.  She was only a few days old when i met her for the first time.  Her name is Karen Pio, and although we came with in 12 miles of her home, we did not stop in Bristol to see her.  Mostly because we were already stuffed with Capitol Lunch hot dogs, and it is impossible to visit Karen and not stay for supper, which usually is Stuffed Lobster or some equally tasty delicacy.  And also because this was a trip to see mostly those who may not make it much longer, and our travels had taken us through all the New england states except Rhode Island and maybe New Hampshire. 
     The strangest twist in our journey was that while we were still in Connecticut, and just days after we went by Karen's home, it was Her Husband, Carlo, who died.  The only one we did not visit on our spiritual quest to see those whom we may never see again, is the one who died, and not only did he die but he died while we were still there.  Carlo, came home from work. lay down on the couch and died and we were on our way back to Maine or Vermont when it happened.   As it turned out, Howie and Ed both died within a year, so we saw them for the last time.  They only live in our hearts now. 
      My time is getting close i am thinking, as just in the first week of February in 2008, i suffered from a stroke, a heart attack, and three surgeries., a pretty busy week for an old codger of 72.  But i am pretty tough, and highly spiritual also, and i can assist my body some what in healing so i may live longer than i think i will.   My dear old mother, is still alive as of this writing, and she had her 100th birthday in June of 2008.  So i have good genes, and i look forward to our trip to Maine each year to see our friends, Don and Val, Morgan.  We will continue doing this for the rest of our lives, until there is only one of us left of what was once, The Terrible Trio.

Jean-Paul Déry,  September, 2008

 

(Home)