Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mabel, Violet, Bill and Harold

Lawrence – My Hometown

Mabel, Violet, Bill and Harold

By Richard E. Noble

Jack Sheehy, Frank Duchnowski and me were VIPs at the 5 O’clock Club. We had our reserved seats at the back bar directly behind the cash register. It actually seems like we spent an entire lifetime sitting there. In truth, I suppose that it was only ten or twelve years – and then only the summers. It was kinda the old Nell’s how-to-start-a-corner-theory, I suppose. Sit and hangout and “they shall come.” If it was summertime and anybody was looking for any of us, they knew where to go. We were a part of the art deco. We were the gang from “Happy Days” maturing and drinking competitively.
One of the challenges of our sentry positions behind the cash register at the Five was to sit there each evening drinking continuously from 5 or 6 p.m. to closing at 1 a.m., and then rising from our stools and walking to the front door as if we were sober. That involved a number of pretenses – no stumbling, no stuttering, no unreasonable laughing, no knocking over chairs or tables, and saying goodnight to Mabel, Violet and Harold on the way out without slurring. Bill was usually with us each night at the bar so we already said goodnight to him. I guess we were kinda like the Walton’s of the Five – goodnight John-Boy.
Mabel, Violet, Bill and Harold were the owner family who ran the 5 O’clock Club at Salisbury Beach. They were a wonderful bunch and we had a great time teasing them. I think their last name was Nabhan. Over the years we became friends. I even delivered chickens to their mother’s place out on Seabrook Beach. I owned a little meat market in Lawrence and she said she loved “my” chickens. I tried to explain to her that they weren’t really “my” chickens and I just bought them from John the Chicken Man at S.H. Brennan’s. But she wouldn’t buy that simple explanation. She felt that I had put my touch onto these chickens and they were special. After awhile she actually had me wondering. Maybe it was me? Maybe I had the Midas “Chicken” Touch. It could happen, I suppose!
Harold was the Commander and chief, Bill was an enlisted Air Force man who had married Mabel. Mabel was a challenge; she was very serious. Violet, on the other hand, could have been named Marilyn or Niki. She was very giggly and silly. One could stare at Mabel and get nothing but a curious glance in return. Violet could not take the pressure. If you looked at her, she laughed. Bill was one of the guys. He laughed joked and teased. He caught on to our routines instantly.
Violet, Mabel and Bill were always buying us free drinks. Harold on the other hand was a hard butt. He considered himself to be a reasonable and practical man. He was an officer in the Military and a West Point graduate – and I think he served in the military of the United States of America after graduation as opposed to the French Foreign Legion or something like that. On top of that he was a lawyer. He didn’t practice though. He was too busy tending bar, checking IDs and watering down our drinks at the Five.
Violet and Bill were the best pourers – heavy on the booze and light on the “filler.” Harold, on the other hand, had to be watched closely and coached constantly. “Harold, Harold! You were a little quick on the gin. You want to try that again and this time I’ll count to three for you.”
Harold did have occasion to use his legal expertise though. He told us of one interesting case that he said set a precedent in the Seabrook annals of juris prudence.
Now I may have this a little upside down so don’t sue me Harold, but this is the way I remember it.
Harold who was no spring chicken at the time – maybe in his mid-thirties had, at long last, met the girl of his dreams and fallen in love. Harold asked the young lady for her hand. She accepted and Harold went shopping for a ring. He bought his girlfriend a lovely and very expensive engagement ring. She accepted it and promised to be his bride.
But Harold was of a very suspicious nature. He didn’t get to be single in his mid-thirties by just “jumping” into things. He had been hearing rumors. He was going to hire a detective to follow her around but then decided that he should do it himself. The fact that it was cheaper to do the tailing himself was really not the issue – he explained. This involved honor not money.
Duchy criticized Harold’s approach to the matter. “If you don’t trust somebody, you shouldn’t marry them,” Dutch advised.
Harold smirked, indicating Duchy’s naiveté.
In the weeks and months that followed Harold deployed many disguises and aliases culminating at a second floor bedroom window expose’. It seems that Harold was so shocked at what he saw that he nearly fell off his ladder. His promised bride to be was making mad passionate love to another of Harold’s old girlfriends. Now even as I write this tale I become dubious of my memory but this was Seabrook, a community much ahead of the times.
Harold was so distraught over this discovery that he sued his prospective bride for breech of promise. He wanted his expensive ring returned. Duchy contended that this was not the action of a compassionate man. He told Harold that the ring was a gift to Harold’s chosen bride, someone that he once loved, and it should be forgotten. Harold’s eyebrows rose and his nose elevated. “Really,” he said. “And this is what you would do if you were in my situation?”
“Of course,” Duchy replied. “A gift is a gift. You made a mistake and now you should be man enough to accept the consequences.”
“Well,” Harold said, “returning to the world of reality and the LAW. I took her to court, won my case, and got my ring returned. You see LEGALLY the ring was not a “gift.” It was a contract. The ring was given on the condition of the acceptance of marriage. She failed to meet the understood conditions of the proposal and therefore she was required to return the ring.”
“Yeah but she didn’t say that she wouldn’t marry you,” Jack interjected.
“Yeah, but I ain’t going to marry her when she’s sleeping with my ex-girlfriend for god’s sake.”
“So then YOU broke the contract and she should get to keep the ring,” Dutch expounded.
“No, no, no, no. You can’t be engaged to somebody and go sleeping around with other people.”
“Really, did you guys know that?” Duchy asked.
“Well, all I know is Nancy Mahoney got caught screwing her best man after the wedding in his car out in the parking lot behind St. Patrick’s Church and she didn’t give back her engagement ring or her wedding ring,” Jack said.
“Yeah but the guy Nancy Mahoney married was Freddy Grogan and he got caught with Nancy’s bride’s maid in the lady’s room. He couldn’t really ask for his ring back after that.”
“Not only that, Freddy borrowed the money for the ring from Nancy in the first place. So whose ring was it really?” Jack added.
“Oh my god,” said Harold. “You can’t talk to you guys from Lawrence about anything serious. You guys live in another world down there.”
“Oh yeah? … And Salisbury and Seabrook are in the real world, I suppose,” offered Jack.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you all a round on the house and let’s just change the subject.”
“Okay, start pouring and I’ll count to three the correct way – one a thousand, ahh … two a thousand, and ahhh … Dutch are you timing this with your watch?” Jack asked.
“I left my watch at home,” Dutch confessed sadly.
“Three,” said Harold, “and that’s it.”
You see, one had to be good to work a free drink out of Harold.

Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer and columnist. His local column, the Eastpointer, won the first place 2007 humor award from the Florida Press Association. He has published several books. All of his books can be viewed and purchased on He can be contacted at for discounts and volume sales.

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