While driving past what used to be the Halbruner and Hanson Ford dealership it reminded me of a time when I waited there with my mom to get our car serviced. My mom was on her way to our relatives’ house in Millville but had to get the car serviced first. I played hooky that day and went along for the ride. Our car was fairly new, a 1958 Fairlane 300, tan and brown. I liked it more than the Fairlane 500 model, even though the 500 was an upgrade. I sat there patiently, but anxiously, tolerating the time but also anticipating getting out of there. Thanksgiving was approaching, and I loved the four-day holiday from school it would cough up. The ’59 models were out, and several sat in the showroom. I remember staring at the grills, with four-sided stars seemingly suspended in midair in neat rows. Flat black paint became empty grill to anyone a distance away.
Probably everyone remembers insignificant times in their lives that became etched vividly and permantly in their minds for one reason or another. I remember an early summer day when my mom sent me to the store for a few things. Riding back on my dark green Schwinn, a paper bag in one arm, the memory became permanent for no apparent reason. The weather seemed perfect and the shadows from the sycamores blanketed the street. Life was good!
Days in Vietnam generally blended together, but certain times seemed more important than others. One evening, about ten o’clock (22:00 Navy time) our boat headed out of Danang Harbor for a run up the coast to one of the rivers. For some reason, just about the entire crew was out on the deck on a dark but clear summer night, and the Vietnamese fishing in their sampans waved to us as we went by. Usually, most of the crew not on duty stayed below, catching some zees, but that night we all felt something different in the air, for no specific reason. It never happened again.
My friend, Rocco, and I, worked a slide ride for countless days and nights over a period of several summers. The one, specific incident we both remember, almost 52 years after it happened, was the “Either she do or she don’t,” occurrence during an afternoon in 1963. The answer was, she never got to find out if she did or she didn’t. Oh well, we both remember the guy’s appearance and the weird gesture when we told him no, she couldn’t try out the ride to see if she liked it. After Rocco told him to ask me, working the top, he asked the question again. When I obviously didn’t understand what he meant, he expounded a bit and said, “Either she do want to go on the ride, or she don’t want to go on the ride.”
It’s easy to remember events out of the ordinary, as when Robert tagged me in handball and sent me into the curb, splitting my chin, or when I broke Dick Lange’s window with a tennis ball. The ride in the 8-foot pram around the bell buoy, or when Johnny’s grandmother kept asking me, “Why you no hava the fif-eh-ty cents?” to help pay for a broken window.
What’s more difficult to understand is why I would remember certain times sitting on the front porch, but not necessarily others. Long before the Brothers Four released, “Try to Remember,” I spent part of my life trying to etch in my brain certain times that were not particularly pleasant, but not really bad, just so I would remember being there and wish I could go back. I’d love to go back to that time when I sat there impatiently in the showroom, or when I sat in the pew at mass thinking about the donuts and pastries I knew my grandfather would buy before going back to the house.
I remember boot camp, and how we thought we’d never get out of there, and later, how we all had short-timer’s calendars in Vietnam. I thought that four years in the Navy would never go by, but next thing I knew, I was out. Maybe they weren’t all good times, but I was young, healthy, and most of my relatives were still alive, but are now long gone.