Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Vault

 My summer job in 1974 was working at Bankers Trust in Columbia.  I had worked there during the summer of 1972 in the parking lot, but I got upgraded to an inside job in the vault, which was located in the basement of the bank..  My official title was "Assistant Vault Comptroller", but that just meant that I had to watch the vault when the Comptroller was away.  My duties were pretty mundane.  I rolled the coins with a machine that kept breaking down.  Twice a day, we had to balance the vault with the money inside.  Also, I had to open the vault for those folks needing to look at their safety deposit boxes, or those from the Trust Department needing to look at some stock certificates.  I also had to take money up to the tellers, or remove money from their drawers, if it got too much.  My last duty was to change the film in the cameras that watched the bank lobby.
 One thing about the vault was that there was no AC, and it got stuffy down there, so I took advantage of any opportunity to go upstairs and get some fresh air.  Another thing about the vault was that there was a lot of down time, so I read books and listened to a cassette player they allowed me to bring.  I was able to keep any weird coins I found like foreign money, as long as I replaced them with good coins.
 A cool thing about the work was that I got two hours off for lunch, because the bank was closed between 1 and 3.  There was a movie theatre nearby, and I would go to see the movies during lunch.  Most of the time, I would get in during the middle of the picture, so I would have to wait until the next showing to see the beginning of the movie to figure out what was going on. 
 I spent the first two weeks there trying to figure out how to rob the bank and get away with it.  Since the vault was audited twice a day, that meant that it would have to be done quickly.  I figured that 10 men with shotguns could do it, but then they would have to rush to the airport and get a flight out of the country.  Since Columbia didn't have any international flights, that would make it more difficult.  I gave up on that idea.
 Another job I had was to carry large checks from one bank to another.  The checks couldn't be cashed by just anybody, as most of them were State checks, but I often times would walk down the street with millions of dollars in my pocket, and no one knew.  I also became insensitive to money.  I once was walking down the street, when I saw $10 on the sidewalk.  I walked over it.  A guy next to me picked it up and asked why I didn't.  I told him that it wasn't my money.  That philosophy worked well later for me, when I worked in retail.
 As one of my jobs was changing the film, I had to do it in the dark in a closet.  This was before videotape, so the film was 8mm film, which could not be exposed to light.  I had a hard time doing this, so I would crack the door just a little to see.  By doing this, I exposed the film and ruined it.  I'm glad we weren't robbed during my tenure there, because the film would not have been much use.
 Toward the end of the summer, we were moving our bank two blocks away to a larger building.  One of my duties was to prepare the files to move.  Wells Fargo came to take the files and stock certificates to the bank, and I was responsible for seeing they got to the truck.  It was only a few feet from the front door of the bank to the truck, but I had to make sure they got out okay.  Another joy I had was to haul a safe to the new bank.  The safe was only about 4 ft. tall, but it was made of steel and iron.  They gave me a hand truck to do this job.  When I got to the corner, I had to take a running start to be able to cross the street, and pray cars would stop.  Thankfully, they did.  It was very heavy.
 The offices were cleared out.  One man and I were charged with going through all of the offices and make sure everything had been taken.  We got to an office that had a phone still hooked up, so I decided to try a prank.  I had the phone number to The White House in Washington, and I called.  I told them that I was with Strom Thurmond's office in Columbia and wanted to get an appointment with the President (Ford).  I was transferred to several secretaries, until I got the Congressional Appointments secretary.  She asked me why Thurmond wanted an appointment with Ford, since the two of them were traveling that day together to Chicago.  I made up an excuse that the Columbia office can't coordinate Thurmond's schedule with his Washington office.  I didn't know that they were tracing the call.  I got scared and hung up.  A few mins. later, my co-worker came into the room I had been in, and the phone rang.  He picked it up and said, "This ain't Strom Thurmond's office.  This is a bank."  I was afraid I was going to get arrested, but I was thankful that was my last day working for the bank.  I never talked to the Secret Service about that.  I hope the statute of limitations has run out on prank calls to The White House.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


 I had a lot of encounters with famous people at PC.  Most were brought in as lecturers, but some were artists.  The artists included the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Lester Flatt, Mac Wiseman, and Uncle John's Band.  The lecturers included Alex Haley, Reg Murphy, Edna Rostow, and James Dickey. 
 Alex Haley had just published "Roots".  He was a little stuck-up but interesting to talk to.  Reg Murphy was the publisher of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper and had been kidnapped at one point.  He was easy to talk to.  I guess he liked talking with anybody after his ordeal.  Edna Rostow was a trip.  She and her husband were influential in American foreign policy during the 60's.  She came to one of our convocations, and was supposed to only speak 30 minutes.  Apparently, she had forgotten her watch, because 30 minutes went to an hour, and an hour went to 90 minutes.  During her rambling, some of the students in the audience developed coughing fits to try and get her to stop speaking.  Then, there was a contest by some students to see who could win in drink can races by rolling the cans down the auditorium and through the seats.  She kept on talking.  Some students pulled out books and started to read them.  After about 90 minutes, she stopped and said "Well, I guess I've talked long enough."  She got a rousing cheer and a standing ovation.  She thought it was for her.  We were just glad it was over. 
 James Dickey came to our Modern Poetry class for a lecture.  He was pretty famous for "Deliverance", as well as for all of his poetry.  I got to sit next to him at lunch, because I had known him from when I was in high school, and my senior English teacher was a good friend of his, and she introduced me to him.  He knew I wrote poetry, and he gave me some great advice on the subject.  Jim had been drinking that morning, which he did a lot of in those days, and his breath knocked me over at lunch.  I ran into him again, when I lived in Ft. Worth, as he spoke at TCU.  We caught up on old times.  I later went to his memorial at USC after he died.  I miss Jim.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


 I went to PC to study serious Drama work.  In between my Junior and Senior years, my Drama professor went on sabbatical, and the school brought in a temporary teacher named Skelley  Warren.  Skelley was really more into the technical aspects of the Theatre like Lights, Sounds, Sets, etc.  His expertise in directing actors was a bit different, but I learned a lot from him.  One thing was that he would stand on my left during rehearsals and yell things into my ear to try and break my concentration.  Some people couldn't do it, but I was pretty good in ignoring him.  It taught me a lot about how to focus. 
 In the Spring of 1975, it was announced that we would be doing a musical.  The Theatre Dept. was to combine with the Music Dept. to do this musical.  Even the Art Dept. was going to contribute to the production.  The idea didn't sit well with us serious actors, but we had to go along with it.  It was also announced that they would have open auditions for anyone on campus who wanted to participate.  We all thought that the key roles would be done by the acting students, and any crowd scenes would be done by other students.  The musical chosen was "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum".  It had a large cast.
 So, the auditions were held in the school auditorium on campus, where we would do the play.  I was up for the part of one of the leads, who was a slave.  It was the same role played by Zero Mostel in the movie.  During my audition, I was to be called by my master, and I got the bright idea to wear knee pads under my pants and come in sliding on stage on my knees from 10 feet away from the master.  The first time that I did it was well received by the others there, since no one knew what I was going to do.  Everybody laughed.  The idea came to me, and it wasn't in the script.  So, they asked me to do it again.  This time, I got up more speed backstage and then slid further on my knees.  They loved it.  Just to see how I would do in another part, I auditioned for the role of the old father, which was played by Buster Keaton in the movie.  I just half-heartily did that audition, because I knew I had the slave role sown up.  When the announcement of the roles came out, I got the old man named Erronius, and a guy with no experience got the lead slave role.  I was not pleased.  After all, I was a Theatre major.  I was in the Drama fraternity.  I had been told I had a lot of talent.  And, I got cast in a supporting role.  As it turned out, most of the real actors had supporting roles.  That didn't sit too well with us either.
 During rehearsals, we had to do it in sections, because the cast was so big.  Skelley's wife was into Yoga, so she was in charge of getting us to exercise and get into shape for this musical.  There was a lot of physical stuff that we had to do.  She taught us that doing exercise would help us be loose for our work.  One of the hardest exercises was to lay on your back and try to get your legs to bend over your head, so that your toes touched the floor behind you.  Some were better than others with this feat, and I was about to go about 3/4 of the way.  She also had us roll our shoulders, and dance around.  There was some dancing that we had to do in the musical, so she taught us the steps.  Most of us didn't have much coordination, but we learned.  We also got some vocal coaching from the Music Dept., since we had to sing in front of the audience.  Thankfully, I only had to do a brief solo in the opening number, and the rest was choral work.
 When we go to the performances, it was pretty tight.  The main slave took the business that I had done in auditions of sliding across the stage.  The audience howled.  It was my idea.  They doused me with baby powder to make it look like dust, because I had to run around the 7 hills of Rome, and I ran through the stage at very strange times during the play.  The powder caused breathing problems for me, and it made it very slippery backstage.  One actor slipped and fell backstage and hurt his knee.  He carried on, because he was a trooper.  During a dress rehearsal, they brought it some students from a special needs school to see the play.  They laughed at everything, even the stuff that wasn't funny.  We knew where the laughs should be, but we were able to use that experience to expect the unexpected.
 Our reviews were nothing short than amazing.  One told me that she had seen the musical on Broadway, and ours was better.  We took numerous curtain calls.  It was a great success.  It may not have been a serious work.  We had an orchestra that did good.  All of the actors, even those with little or no experience, did well.  It was the hardest I had ever worked on a production, and it paid off.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ivey Towers (part 2)

 As I wrote previously, the PC Dean of Students and I didn't get along.  Dean Ivey wanted everything to be the status quo, and I wanted to shake things up.  He had a dog, which was a beautiful brown Labrador.  One afternoon, I was walking across the campus, and his dog began to follow me.  They say that dogs are very instinctive as to who likes them, and I petted his dog.  The Lab followed me into my dorm and started up the four flights to my room.  I had to tell the dog that he couldn't come with me, and the dog looked puzzled.  Apparently, I was more of a friend to him than his master.  Maybe his master didn't show the attention to him, but I did.  I am really not a dog person, but this dog was special.  He belonged to Dean Ivey.  I saw the dog several times after that, and he was always nice to me.
 Dean Ivey had a house along a street across from campus.  It was behind the student building and across the tennis courts.  One night, some friends and I decided to play a trick on Dean Ivey.  We called a tow truck company in Clinton and pretended it was Dean Ivey calling.  The fake Dean said that there was a car parked in his driveway, and he didn't know whose it was, but he wanted it towed away "NOW!".  It was around 2am.  We sat in the bleachers across from the tennis courts and watched what followed.  The tow truck came and hooked up the car to take away.  As he was hauling off the car, Dean Ivey came running out of his house wearing his pajamas, and yelling "Wait, that's my car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  It was very funny.  Dean Ivey got his car back, and as far as I know, he never found out who did it.  It could have been a fraternity prank.  He had more enemies than just me.  My friends and I had the most fun that night.  Ivey is not on Earth any more, so sorry Ben (wherever you are).