Scenes from the movie Grease or more accurately, Blackboard Jungle could have been shot at my high school in Middletown, NY. It was 1956 and there were fights on many days, but most days there were just ducktails, Elvis Presley and banality. I was fourteen and on a number of occasions I told my folks that as soon as I turned 18 I was leaving Middletown. Had no real plans, just was going to leave because I was that uncomfortable.
In the middle of my sophomore year dad, who was a production manager in the garment industry, took a new job at Alligator Rainwear, a famous raincoat manufacturer at the time. In the late 1940s and early 50s, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the top US physicist was often photographed in a long flowing raincoat. That was an Alligator. The company’s logo line was, “Alligator: They never leak” Ever time my dad said that line, one of my brothers would mutter, “And that is what makes them so mean.”
We learned Alligator was in St. Louis and we’d be moving immediately. I was leaving Middletown and that is all I thought about. Even the trip that took a week in our aging Kaiser was no problem at all. Mom couldn’t take more than 200 miles a day on the road so we poked along.
In a couple of days after arriving in St. Louis, mom found a house in Clayton, Missouri, an exclusive and predominately Jewish community. It was in St. Louis County and one of the best places to live. Mom was always good at making sure we lived nicely even though we had little money. “Class,” she would remind us, “has nothing to do with money.”
It’s didn’t take my brother Craig and I long to acclimate to our new environment. We were from the tough, juvenile delinquent east coast and a bit of an oddity. Craig was asked one time if he had ever been in a rumble, and he said, “Only in the back seat.” I loved that joke. Me? I had a mouth on me that any military man would admire. Made the guys laugh because they did not speak with any attitude at all.
After a few months one of my friends, Stanley Plocker said that he was amazed at how I was able to become one of the guys so quickly. I loved Clayton High and everything it had to offer. Smart and caring kids who wanted nothing more than to succeed at what they chose to do.
In a game of Password, Sheldon Shapiro, my partner, gave me the word “conniption.” Everyone else in the game knew the answer but I was foggy. I heard the word before, however I struggled to find the meaning in my brain. Maybe 30 or 40 seconds ticked by yet no one jumped in to disqualify me. Then I blurted out “fit.” The room erupted in laughter and cheers.
So mostly it was the warmth and acceptance I felt at Clayton High that helped me become who I am today. From graduation on I learned to look for and associate with people who behaved like my friends did in high school. That was a better world and I always strive to live in such a place.
Just recently I met a young man named Davis Bauer who is the marketing director for the UA Campus Pantry program. He’s a junior in the Eller School of Business and wants to incorporate One Can A Week into his class projects and the University’s initiative to “take care of its own.” (Here is a link to the program. http://uanews.org/story/campus-pantry-to-open-at-ua)
Davis rode with me while I did my Sunday rounds a week ago and I made part of the conversation about my earlier business and schooling experience. Of course, I mentioned my life altering adventure at Clayton High School where I learned how much fun it is to think … and what a delight it is to be around smart folks.
At the end of my rounds I drove Davis back to his fraternity which was just 6 or so blocks away. He told me it was on the next corner and pointed to the house. When I looked up I was startled. It was the Sammy house. (Sammy is the endearing name for Sigma Alpha Mu, a Jewish fraternity.) I mentioned I had been at a number of Sammy parties at Missouri University and let it go.
A few days later we met again in the afternoon. At the end of our meeting I told Davis that my Clayton High saga was just a personal story and I had no idea that I would end up at the åAM house. Davis said he understood and added that for me it was probably “like coming home.”
One Can A Week has been so good for me … just like Clayton High.
When it rains …
Mary, my friend and client, asked me if I would like to have her SUV for One Can A Week when she buys a new automobile. Although the SUV is running well, her mechanic suggested she consider moving on.
No, I have a wonderful pickup now and that is all I need. But I said she might think about giving the SUV to someone who is active in the community, a bus rider and able to afford insurance and minor auto repairs.
I believe people who are good at managing finances like Mary, should also consider investing in people when an opportunity presents itself. For instance, imagine a person who has little money and few complaints in life but thinks it important to volunteer as a Senior Companion or a school crossing guard. How much more could he or she do with reliable transportation? It is always the large cash payment or a down payment that keeps folks riding the bus.
And if help from above, as it were, became the norm here in Arizona how many more people would turn to helping others if their good works and good behavior could possibly be rewarded in this lifetime? Just thinking.
We collected a total of 162 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $32.00, a $25.00 check and $7.00 in cash.
See you Sunday,