Even though searching the net for data about an old establishment that once existed in the sleepy little village in which I grew up in Southern California, I accidently stumbled upon a website devoted to my higher college graduating class of 1964.
Intrigued, I decided to quit and take a appear about. What I identified have been names and current photographs of old classmates I hadn’t noticed or even believed of because leaving that town appropriate after graduation. It was intriguing to see how some of them had aged because I last saw them. It was good to know that I am not the only one.
I should point out that except for my greatest friend, I did not preserve make contact with with any of my classmates over the years and never even regarded attending a class reunion.
Two pages that actually caught my attention were the Departed and Memories pages. The Departed web page listed former classmates who had been no longer with us. 1 name that jumped out and caused me to gasp was a guy I shall only refer to as Patrick. I then found a tribute piece to Patrick written by an additional former classmate. While it was a good story about their early friendship, it presented no insight as to what occurred to him when he was only sixteen or how he sooner or later ended up on the streets. Even though it meant reliving a painful memory from my youth, I produced a decision to join the group and post my story on the Memories page. I not only knew what happened to Patrick, I was partially responsible for it.
My earliest recollection of Patrick was when we have been classmates in junior high. Although I cannot say that we had been truly close friends, we did sometimes exchange some friendly banter. He would frequently greet me with, “Hey, Dean…how did you get so fat?” (I was a chubby little guy in junior higher.) I’d reply with anything like, “Gee, I don’t know, Patrick…how did you get so ugly?” That was quite significantly the extent of our connection.
The Irish grandmother of the man who wrote the tribute piece on the Memories web page was quoted as saying that Patrick had a small bit of the devil in him Man, she was correct on! However, I want to make it clear that he was not a negative guy and I never ever knew him to get into significant problems like so numerous our classmates did back in the day. In retrospect, I’d classify him as being mischievous.
Growing up in that town, I frequently tried to fly beneath the radar both socially and scholastically. And, think me, I paid a higher price for both. In the course of my rebellious years, I became buddies with a couple of people who possessed less-than-admirable reputations. A single of those men and women was a guy I shall refer to as Bernie. I never very keep in mind how, but we became pals in 1962 when he was nineteen and I was sixteen. Just to give you an thought of how a lot he was feared by those in our circle of pals, I saw him stroll up to a guy who was much taller and outweighed him by at least fifty pounds and take a pack of cigarettes out of the guy’s pocket whilst staring him down. And the guy neither said nor did anything about it as Bernie walked away with his smokes.
Even though Bernie was reputed to be a hoodlum of sorts, I saw by way of his façade. In spite of his threatening demeanor, he was basically a good guy with a large heart. And, as a youngster, he had suffered from polio and had to put on specially produced footwear or boots to compensate for 1 leg getting shorter than the other. But I never heard him complain about it.
Along with a couple of others who shall remain nameless, I hung out with Bernie for about 3 months and travelled all over the county with him in his ’57 Chevy. I think that Bernie loved that auto a lot more than life itself. And he liked to drive fast I’m speaking about one hundred mph and often higher.
Adjacent to my hometown was a thirty-mile stretch of highway operating north and south that was identified locally as a death trap. A number of men and women, like pals, lost their lives on that stretch of highway in the course of the seven years in which I lived there.
Late 1 evening, we had been headed down that highway and on our way house in Bernie’s Chevy. He was undertaking about one hundred as we swiftly approached the turnoff to our town. I was riding shotgun. Just before I could ask Bernie if he was going to slow down, he stated anything like, “You know, I’ve always wanted to see how rapidly I could take this turn.” And he wasn’t kidding around. He created the turn…on two wheels. I believed I was going to have a heart attack at sixteen.
At this point, you happen to be possibly wondering how Patrick fits into this story. Nicely, I am about to tell you about the incident that forever changed his life…and mine.
One Friday night I was hanging out at the old theater on Primary Street with an additional pal of mine. Although we had been watching the film, a person tapped me on the shoulder and said that Bernie was waiting for me outdoors. I instantly got up and, with my buddy in tow, ambled out via the front lobby and to the street exactly where Bernie was parked directly in front of the theater. When I approached the open window, he told me that he had to drive to an additional town about twenty-5 miles away to choose up his new boots. He then said, “Get in.” As I opened the door, the friend I was with began to protest vehemently. While I stood there listening to his protest, I heard a voice say, “I will go with you, Bernie.” It was Patrick. Standing close by, he had heard the exchange. I then asked Bernie if he minded and he stated, “No. It’s okay. I will talk to you tomorrow.” Patrick got into Bernie’s Chevy and off they went. It ought to be noted that Bernie didn’t even know who Patrick was. He just wanted business on the drive.
On their way back from the other town, Bernie picked up a couple of Navy guys who have been hitchhiking on that old highway that was identified as the death trap. Shortly thereafter, while heading north, he attempted to pass yet another automobile at a high price of speed. However, he must’ve miscalculated, simply because he collided head on with a pickup truck that was headed south. I look to recall that in addition to Bernie, a single of the sailors and the driver of the truck had been killed instantaneously. I heard later that Patrick was thrown by way of the windshield and landed face 1st in a puddle of water. But he was alive.
I heard about the accident on Saturday morning although listening to a radio station. Inconsolable, I must have cried for hours…and not just due to the fact I had lost a friend. The realization that I had come inside a second or two of getting into Bernie’s vehicle scared the living hell out of me. And it was a turning point in my life. From that day forward, I stopped hanging out with folks who did not look to care about no matter whether they lived or died.
I don’t know how long Patrick was hospitalized following the accident, but I recall that he didn’t return to school for numerous months. And, when he did, he seemed very “zombie” like. Though I wanted to talk to him, we never spoke again.
About ten years ago I paid a nostalgic go to to my old hometown. The initial point I did was go to the graveyard exactly where Bernie is buried. I do not know how I did it, but after parking my automobile, I walked directly to his gravesite. After that, I identified and spoke with a couple of old buddies of mine from the neighborhood. One particular of them happened to be with the neighborhood fire department. Throughout our reunion, I asked him about Patrick. He said, “Oh, you imply Pud?” He then went on to tell me that Patrick was essentially the village drunk and had been living on the streets for several years. I was stunned.
Right after leaving the firehouse, I drove about town and tried to find Patrick. I checked the park and a couple of liquor stores where he reportedly hung out, but had no luck. I gave it another shot a couple of weeks later, but again came up empty. I by no means returned.
I’m not totally positive why I was searching for Patrick or even what I would’ve said to him if I had found him. Other than hand him a handful of bucks, there actually wasn’t something I could’ve completed for him. Maybe it had to do with misdirected guilt. After all, if I had gone with Bernie that fateful night — as I was ready to do — Patrick almost certainly would’ve had a completely distinct life and may still be alive right now.
Then again, I have to ask myself…exactly where would I be?