Monday, October 23, 2017

One Voice

 Another way for Singles at First Baptist to become involved was Choir.  Not just any choir.  But, a Singles Choir.  A group of us got together to start a choir at First Baptist.  We brainstormed names for the choir and settled on "One Voice".  Someone liked Barry Manilow, and that was the title of one of his songs.  The name stuck.  We then thought it would be good to have our own uniforms, so we settled on green polo shirts with blue pants for the guys and blue skirts for the girls.  Our leader was the Minister of Music Jon Blouin.
 We became the concert choir for the church, and we traveled places to do concerts.  One was in Thomson, GA.  We were singing at a church there and spent the night.  Church members put us up in their homes.  I stayed with a family and slept in a child's room.  The bed was too short for me, so I didn't get much sleep that night.  We sang a variety of religious and secular songs.  Two were "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "The Rose".
 Another thing we had to have was a weekly newsletter for One Voice.  I wrote it.  It was one page and had news for the choir, as well as stories and funny things.  "The One Voice" was the name of the newsletter, which sort of had a double meaning.  One girl in the choir objected me using her in one of my funny stories.  I had to apologize to her.  I guess some people don't get the joke.  Anyway, the newsletter was typed by me, and I would take the original to the music office for them to copy off and give out in our rehearsals.
 One concert we gave was at Fort Jackson in one of their chapels.  During the service, they offered communion.  I had seen the priest put Mogen David Wine in the pitcher, so I was a little wary of drinking the wine before the concert.  So where most of the others in the choir.  One girl said she would drink ours, so we all knelt at the front with our backs to the congregation.  We all passed our cups down to her on the end, and she drank them all.  When it got time to sing, she could barely stand up.  We all got a chuckle over that.
 One Voice lasted about 4 years.  We had a good time.  I will write more later about some other things we did and places we went.  Needless to say, we were good.  And, we knew it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wanda's Party

 I was invited to go to Wanda's house for a party.  She lived in a neighborhood in Columbia called Whitehall.  She had a house and shared it with two other girls.  I had no trouble finding the house, and we had a great time.  Getting to the house, it was still daylight.  Upon leaving, it was dark.  Real dark.  No street lights.  No moon.  Just dark.
 I wrote in a story much earlier about the time I got lost in the maze at Biltmore in Asheville, NC as a child.  It was a very traumatic time.  This took a close second.  I had never been to Whitehall before and didn't know the streets.  It is kind of ironic that 10 years later I had two good friends who lived in Whitehall and found my way around rather easily.  But, this was different.  Every street I went on was a dead end.  I couldn't find my way out.  I saw myself staying in Whitehall forever, or at least until it got light the next day.
 I tried to use my skills I learned in Boy Scouts about navigation.  That didn't work too well, since it was cloudy and no moon.  So, I went up one street until it ended, and then tried another one.  I was about to give up, when I saw a car pass by, and I decided to follow it.  It took me out to the main road, and I was home free.
 It was a harrowing night.  I did not have anything to drink.  I was sober.  It was 1980.  I learned something that day...check out the area ahead of time, just in case the neighborhood is a maze.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Church Sports

 One way to get out and do things was to participate in church sponsored sports.  The girls in our Singles Sunday School wanted to organize a softball team.  I volunteered to help coach it.  After all, I am very competitive, and I also like to be around girls, so it was a good fit for me.  Our games were against other churches in the community, and we played at fields all over town.  My main job was to boost the morale of our girls, while tearing down their opponents.  I sat in the stands behind home plate, and I would yell out encouragements to our players.  When the opposing side got up to bat, I would berate them or the umpire.  My strategy was to get in their heads and make them second guess their reason for being there.  It really worked, because our team would win, and the other team would go home crying.  Things went well until one night in Olympia.  I was doing my thing in the stands, and the umpire came up to me and told me that if I didn't stop that I would be thrown out of the game.  I have never seen a spectator thrown out, but he did.  I had to watch what I said after that, because I was getting a reputation around the league.  I could support our girls, but not tear down the opposition.  It just wasn't the same.
 Another sport I participated in was Singles Volleyball.  Every Monday night, we would play in the church's gym which was located on the Fifth Floor of the Ellis Building.  That building was torn down in the early 90's to make way for the new sanctuary, although a portion of it kind of remained--the basement.  In the Ellis Building, the basement was used as the social hall, and it also was designed as a bomb shelter, should we have a nuclear attack.  I don't know whatever happened to the stored food and supplies in case we had to stay there for a year or more.  Anyway, the children's ministry now occupies a portion of the old basement.  But, back to volleyball.  Before each game, a captain was chosen and players were picked.  I was always picked last.  It seemed to be a trend with me since the early days of school.  I was picked last.  I really don't know why, because I was an ace server.  I could serve the ball better than almost anyone else.  I once served an entire game without the other team scoring a point.  I was also good at setting a spiker.  I would put it just at the top of the net for someone to spike the ball.  I also would encourage my fellow teammates if they did a good shot or console them if they missed one.  And for all of that, I was picked last.  I wasn't very good at spiking the ball, but I did it one time and caused the opponent to get a bloody nose.  We played to win.  On one occasion, the teams decided to pick the last player first.  That was the only time I was ever picked first for anything.  It felt good, but at the same time kind of condescending.  I am sure their hearts were in the right place.  Despite the cutthroat games, we would also have a Bible study after the games.  I sometimes led that.
 In the world of Sports, our church would honor the USC Gamecocks Football team before every school year.  I was an Associate Deacon and Usher during this time.  It was 1980.  George Rogers was a member of the team.  It was my job that Sunday to seat the team.  I was standing right behind George, and he turned around quickly and knocked me to the floor.  He was a mountain of a man and all muscle.  It was like being knocked down by a brick wall.  He saw me on the ground and apologized profusely.  I was okay, but I did have the distinction of being somebody knocked down by a future Heisman Trophy winner and not be in a game.
 On a side note, one of my duties as an Associate Deacon was to send out get well cards to our members in the hospital.  Every week, I would get a list of those in the hospital and their room numbers.  I sent a get well card to one woman.  It turned out that she was in the hospital to have a baby.  She did not appreciate the card and complained to the church.  She called for my dismissal as an Associate Deacon.  I told the church that they needed to put the reason why people were in the hospital to avoid confusion.  I don't know if they ever did.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hef

 I am taking time out of my life stories timeline to talk about someone and something that shaped my life for many years:  Hugh M. Hefner and Playboy Magazine.
 I was born just six months before Playboy was introduced with Marilyn Monroe on the first cover.  It was 13 years later, when I saw my first issue of Playboy.  I found a copy in the woods near Five Points and Maxcy Gregg Park at the railroad trestle.  One of my favorite actresses, Sherry Jackson, was featured inside.  It was an eye-opening moment in more ways than one.  Whoever had left that magazine, continued to do so at that spot for me to find.  Some of them had gotten wet with the rain, but they were still viewable, and no I was not reading the articles.  As a big movie fan, I really liked seeing these pictures of actresses.  It became something of an obsession for me.  As stated in a previous blog, I did some shoplifting between the ages of 14-16.  One of my favorite things to steal was Playboy.  I didn't have to wait for the guy in the woods anymore.  I could steal new copies.  After looking at them, I left them in the woods near my house for someone else to find.  They did.  A kid in high school told me his father had all of the issues of Playboy locked in a shed behind his house.  He and I tried to figure out how to break into the shed, but it was a combination lock, so we failed.
 When I was 15, some boys from my church went on an outing to Atlanta.  Our hotel was next door to the Playboy Club.  We got to see bunnies swimming in the nude in the rooftop pool.  Our hotel room was a few floors higher than the club.
 Moving on to college, it was easier to get Playboys, because I could buy them at a local newsstand in Anderson.  One of the actresses featured was Susan Clark.  Shortly after her appearance, I found myself working with her on "The Midnight Man".  While I was "dancing" with her, and she was cussing me out, I could only think about seeing her naked in Playboy.  I even told her that I liked her pictures.  She smiled, but still threatened to walk off of the picture if I had to dance with her.  At PC, I had a centerfold tacked up on my dorm room wall of Playmate Martha Smith.  She went on to play Babs in "Animal House".  The centerfold stayed up until my father came to my room unannounced.
 When I was working at Sanger Harris in Ft. Worth, Hope Olson came to the store for a personal appearance.  She was a Playboy Playmate of the Month.  She was nice and signed a picture for me and one for my friend.
 Another thing Playboy did was to expose (no pun intended) to Americans about James Bond.  I was already watching the movies, but Playboy would publish excerpts from the Ian Fleming books.  So, I started reading those books, and I had complete sets in both US and UK pressings.  They also had their own record company, and I bought all of the Barbi Benton releases.
 There were times when I abandoned Playboy, especially as I got older.  It wasn't so taboo anymore.  But, I did have a close encounter with Hugh Hefner.  About 20 years ago, I got my first computer.  I was on it one night, going through chat rooms, and I found a chat hosted by Hefner.  It was a legitimate chat.  A lot of people were asking him questions about the Playmates, especially the more current ones.  He was polite, but gave one or two word answers.  I finally was able to ask a question, and I asked him about Marilyn Monroe.  He was more than happy to answer my question with a complete sentence.  I then called him "Hef", which was the name his friends called him, and we began a 10-minute chat of just him and me talking about old movies.  He loved film noir, so we talked about that.  I also told him about working with Burt Lancaster.  He was interested in that story.  I messed up though, when I asked Hef if he was going to put Amy Fisher in Playboy.  He got mad and sat absolutely not.  He then went on a rant about her, and he cut me off.  For a while, I had made a connection with Hef.  He was really a nice guy.
 Some people call him a pariah.  Others call him one who changed society.  I prefer now to think of him more of a guy who was one of a kind.  He did things his way.  Although I don't condone a lot of what he did, Playboy and me are the same age.  We are both a bit worse for wear.  Rest in Peace, Hef.
 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

River Race

 A radio station in Columbia in 1980 on a Saturday sponsored a river race down the Congaree in Columbia.  The main rule was that the boat had to be homemade.  You could use wood and floats, but nothing professional.  Those of us at the Census thought it would be fun if we entered.
 We built our "boat" out of plywood and inner tubes.  We tested it out and found that it would float with four people on it, so we loaded it on a car and headed to the starting line which was upstream from the city.  We were on the West Columbia side and put it into the water.  It was also important that this craft held our cooler full of beer.
 As we were floating in the current, it was hot but the beer was cold.  We started drinking and really didn't care anymore about winning the race.  We got into the waters of the Congaree River and quickly ran into two problems.  First, the rocks in the river caused us to get hung up.  The Congaree is not very deep, so we had one of our crew responsible for jumping out and getting us off the rocks.  That was a full-time job.  The second problem was that the plywood was falling apart.  It became clear that we would not make it to the finish line.
 Another thing we learned was that the Congaree did not fall under any local police jurisdiction.  As long as we stayed in the river, we could drink and smoke dope as much as we liked.  The problem was that we had to get off of the river, especially with our "boat" falling apart.  We were coming under a railroad trestle and saw officers taking pictures and making notes of offenders.  We decided to make our landing in a part of the shore we knew the police would not be waiting for us, so we made land in some woods on the Cayce side.
 We gave up on hauling our "boat" up the hill from the water, so we just left it to sink.  We got up the hill from the river and found a guy with a van.  Three of us asked him to take us back to our cars, which were parked at Brookland Cayce High School.  He was nice to do so, especially because we were all stoned and drunk, and we were trying to evade the police.
 I got to the school and proceeded to break into the school looking for a bathroom.  I got in through an open window to take care of business.  When I finished and was walking around the building, my friends were waiting for me in the parking lot.  Just then, a Cayce police car pulled up.  The officer got out and approached us.  He asked one friend, "Son, have you been drinking?"  My friend replied, "No, sir".  He was immediately arrested.  He then asked my other friend the same thing.  My friend replied the same way, and he was arrested.  He then asked me the same thing.  I replied the same way, but he didn't arrest me.  To this day, I don't know why I was not arrested.  He let me get in my car and drive home.  I was scared straight.  I still did it a few times after that, but not binging.  I am just glad that the officer didn't ask about the open window at the school.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

NYC

 I guess it does seem that we did a lot on our afternoons off while in Philly, and I guess we did.  The highlight of our time off was to go to New York City.  We left Philadelphia early one afternoon and rode in the van to the city.
 We were on the New Jersey Turnpike, when our van driver decided he was getting tired.  He didn't want to pull over, because we were following another vehicle and didn't want to get lost.  So, as we were going 70mph, another guy in the front seat said he would switch with him.  The second guy got on the lap of the driver as the driver inched out from under him.  The switch was made while all of us passengers thought we were going to die.  We all had to promise never to tell anyone in the other car what we had done.  We were too speechless to say anything to anyone.  I do not recommend that procedure to anyone.
 We got to the city and began to look around.  One of the sites we went to was the World Trade Center.  This was 1980, and the WTC had not been up for very long.  We went up to the top of one of the towers to their restaurant.  We got to look out of the windows, where one could see several states and the harbor.  We stood on the railings to look straight down on the city below.  After 9/11, I have wondered if anyone working there was killed some 21 years later.  I hope not.
 We left there and went up towards Broadway.  We went to a Theatre shop, and I got an order form for Broadway t-shirts.  After I got home, I ordered 3 shirts.  I still have them today, although one doesn't fit anymore.  The shirts were:  NYC Shakespeare Festival, Beatlemania, and I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road.
 Then, we went to dinner at Mama Leone's in the Theatre District.  It was a beautiful Italian restaurant complete with violins.  We had a 22-course meal over a 3-hour period.  Granted, most of the courses came in small bowls surrounded by the entrĂ©e, but they just kept bringing the food.  After it was over, I could barely walk.  If someone had a hand truck, I would have gladly had them wheel me back to our van.  Just as we were leaving the restaurant, some boys tried to rob us, but we told them we didn't have any money, and they left.  Instead, they just ran away knocking over garbage cans.
 We got back late to Philly from our NYC adventure.  Sleep was easy.  Getting up the next day wasn't so easy.  I hope the kids didn't mind so much.  The puppets were very sleepy, too.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Philly

 As stated in my previous story, the Singles from First Baptist went on a mission trip to Philadelphia in the summer of 1980 for a week.  We left on a Friday afternoon.  The weather report said there was a 20% chance of rain.  Just as we were getting ready to go, the skies opened and poured the 20% chance of rain.  Thankfully, we got most of the stuff loaded up before the storm.
 We drove all night and got to Washington DC the next morning.  We didn't have much time to sightsee, but we did see the Lincoln Memorial.  We headed onto Philadelphia and got there late Saturday afternoon.
 We stayed in an old church that was our home base.  Their electrical system was a little old.  If a girl wanted to dry her hair, she had to announce it, because two hair dryers could blow the circuit.  The guys slept in one classroom, and the girls in another.  One night, I woke up from sleep to go to the bathroom.  I walked into a fly strip hanging from the ceiling.  I got a face full of dead flies.  I waited until morning to go to the bathroom after that.
 One afternoon, two friends and I wanted to walk around the neighborhood.  We were near where they filmed "Rocky".  All of a sudden, we started hearing popping noises coming from behind us.  A guy in a car was shooting a gun toward pedestrians.  We ran to a bank.  I told the security guard that he needed to call the police.  His response to me was that sort of thing happens all the time.  Drive by shootings were common place?  We had dropped into another world.
 Of course, every tourist has to run up the steps at the art museum, just like Rocky did.  I had actually done the same thing years before, when I was in Philly in 1972, but this was different.  We were all Rocky.  The event really isn't all that hard.  It is a lot of steps, but they aren't steep.  Sorry if I burst anyone's bubble as to the accomplishment or lack thereof.
 Another free afternoon, I went into the downtown to go see a movie.  That night, we were going to a Phillies baseball game, and I had to be back at the church by 5:30.  The movie was over around 4, so I headed to the train station to get the train back to the church.  I noticed on the map that there was a red line and a blue line for trains.  I couldn't figure out which line I needed, so I asked a man on the platform which train I needed.  He told me the blue line.  I stood there on the platform waiting for the train, and wondering if he told me the truth, or was he just blowing me off.  I decided that it was really the red line I needed, so I got on that one.  As it took me out to North Philadelphia, my stop was approaching.  The train didn't stop and kept going.  I realized that the man was telling the truth, that I really did need the blue line.  I got off at the next stop and had to run back over a mile to the church, getting there just as they were leaving to go to the game.  I have a problem with trusting people.  We got to the game.  The Phillies were playing the Reds.  The Reds won 14-1.  It was one of the worst losses in Phillies's history.  That year they went on to win the World Series.
 On another free afternoon and evening, we went to Amish country.  They really know how to cook.  The food was great, but the people didn't want their picture taken by us.  One man got very mad and threatened us.  One of the cooks told us that carrot cake was an aphrodisiac.  I don't know if that is true or was she just trying to sell her cakes.
 Our last night there, we decided to do a talent show to amuse ourselves.  There was a record at the church of the greatest Motown hits.  A girl, a guy, and I got together to mime two Supremes songs--"Stop in the Name of Love" and "Love Child".  The girl played Diana Ross, and the guy and I were her backup "singers".  I worked out the choreography.  We won the show.
 As we left the next day, the kids found out when we were leaving.  They didn't want us to go.  We had made a lot of strong bonds with those children.  Some tried to get on our van to get us to take them to SC.  As we drove down the street, the kids ran after our van until they couldn't catch up with us.  I have often wondered what happened to those kids.  I hope they did okay.