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.
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.
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".
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
| 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
| 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.).
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.
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.
Jean-Paul Déry, September, 2008