Saturday, October 31, 2009


Lawrence – My Hometown


By Richard E. Noble

Jimmy Rowland had a 1953 Mercury. He lived on Spruce St. and I lived one block over on Chelmsford. I met Jimmy in my early Walter’s Variety Store period. I think I may have been guilty of teaching him how to smoke cigarettes.

I can still remember the afternoon when Dickey Bolton taught me how to inhale. Very shortly thereafter, I was puffing out smoke rings and filtering smoke out through my nose. If only physics or algebra gave me the same thrill.

Jimmy got his faded blue ’53 Merc just in time for our junior year at Central Catholic High School. He had a plan for the interior but only got so far as to remove the bolts that secured the front seat to the floor.

Jimmy was always late. I was always late too, but Jimmy was often even later. I would sit out on my front porch waiting as long as I dared for his Merc to turn the corner. By two or three minutes after eight I had to start hoofing it, Jimmy or no Jimmy.
Most often by the time I hit Arlington St. or DeSantas’s Variety on Spruce St., Jimmy would race up beside me and honk. I would jump in the front passenger side, voicing my relief and discontent. Jimmy would apologize for being late. He would put his cigarette between his lips and grab onto the steering wheel with both hands, then laugh and hit the gas. Without fail the front seat would flop backwards, and I would go ass over tea kettle into the back seat.

Every damn morning, it was the same thing. I still can’t believe that I could never realize what was going to happen and brace myself accordingly. I was always so worried about being late and getting 11 years in room 22 from Vice Principal, Brother Herman Georing or whatever his name was. He had replaced Brother Richard who was great. This new guy and his pal, Principal Huge (Adolf) Ephram or whatever, Brother George’s replacement, were, in my opinion, responsible for the pussifying of Central Catholic High School.

They were trying to turn it from a rough and tumble Lawrence neighborhood school into some kind of fancy conservatory or Ivy League prep school. I was totally opposed to the reconstruction.

The orchestrated cheering practices with the cheers actually spelled out on a piece of paper were too much for me – Rah, rah, rah, sis boom bah. I couldn’t believe it. Today they even have “girls” attending Central Catholic. My God! Total pussification!
I don’t know where Jimmy got his wardrobe but he had some wild ties and shirts – and he wore them to school every day.

He had a variety of Hawaiian, multi-colored pastel shirts – sky blue, turquoise, pink, sunset yellow, pacific green and several other bright “pretty” colors splashed randomly over the fabric. He would top this type shirt off with a wide flaring tie – usually sporting a girl in a bikini or a guy on a surfboard. He had some ties where one could turn the tie this way or that way and the girl would change bikinis or the wave would crash on the surfboarding guy. I don’t remember if he had any ties that glowed in the dark or lit up in psychedelic colors – but he may have.

The brothers always took note of Jimmy’s choice in attire but no one said anything. Hawaii was a state, you know. I suppose it could have been considered unpatriotic to criticize. Jimmy’s dad could have been an admiral stationed at Pearl Harbor or something – you never know.

Brother Joe, the freshmen football coach, caught us coming down the second floor gym corridor “almost” late one morning. Brother Joe noticed Jimmy’s shirt and tie and seemed to be displeased. He stopped Jimmy but to my surprise only asked that Jimmy tuck the shirt into his pants. He made no comment on the hula girl tie or the blazing sunset shirt. Jimmy sighed deeply, tucked in the front of his shirt but not the sides or the back and hurried off.

Brother Joe was not entirely satisfied with that response. He grabbed Jimmy by the back of the shirt and slammed him up against the cold, cement block wall. With his nose nearly touching Jimmy’s nose he said in a quiet determined anger, “What do you think you are a smart guy?” Brother Joe sounded very much like Edward G. Robinson in one of those gangster movies or Clint Eastwood in a “make my day” sort of way.

“No Brudder. You said to tuck my shirt in. So I did.”

“You did huh. Is that how you always tuck in your shirt to attend classes here at Central Catholic High?”

“No Brudder, but I was in a rush. We’re a little late today.”

“Tuck in the shirt properly,” Brother Joe threatened while releasing his stranglehold on Jimmy throat.

Jimmy followed instructions and was released but the warning bell sounded. By the “rule” everybody had to be in their homeroom by the sounding of the warning bell. If not, a possible 11 years in room 22, standing at attention and staring at the back wall, if caught by the Gestapo.

I had scurried into our homeroom. I was safe. Jimmy was late and suddenly there stood Brother Herman Georing at our homeroom door. Jimmy was done for – but not quite. He snuck up behind the Brother and waited. With a little luck maybe he could sneak passed.

The Brother had his arm stretched across the doorway. When the Brother turned his head to the left, Jimmy swayed to his right. When the Brother turned his head to the right, Jimmy swayed to the left. Everyone in the class was aware of the situation – even our homeroom brother, Simian, the school bus driver. The class began to laugh and mumble and everyone was looking toward Brother Herman Georing standing in the doorway with his shadow, Charlie Chaplin, bobbing and weaving behind him. The assistant principal finally got the message and he turned slowly to the left to see what might be going on behind him. As he did Jimmy slipped into the room via his right. Brother Georing did a complete pirouette but discovered nothing unusual. The classroom was in an uproar, even Brother Simian was laughing. Jimmy was safe and already fumbling with the combination lock on his locker.

Jimmy was also a lady’s man. I can still remember the time he had one steady girlfriend at the front door of one of our beach cottages while entertaining another semi-steady girl in the kitchen. On that occasion he escaped via the bathroom window. The two steady girls passed one another at the door both looking for Jimmy but never met or spoke – and were none the wiser.

Now I’m telling you all this in preparation for graduation night. I could have simply said that Jimmy was a funny fellow or a clown of sorts but that wouldn’t have painted the proper picture. You should have Jimmy in your sights by now. So let us now return to that fateful evening in the Central High gymnasium.

We had practiced for this event a hundred times. There really was no reason for a problem. We knew who would be first and who would be last in each row. There should have been nothing to it. We had lined up on the gym floor. We all knew who was to be on our right and our left. We knew what direction each row would take on their path to get up and onto the stage where we would receive our diplomas. We even practiced taking our diploma in our LEFT hand and shaking hands with our right. We had gone through all of this, time after time. It should have been a piece of cake. And it was a piece of cake for the entire graduating class … except for one individual.

There was only one thing that we hadn’t practiced. We did not practice with the actual folding chairs lined up on the gym floor. It was considered superfluous, I imagine.

Jimmy was supposed to be in the end seat on my row. But for some reason one clown in our row didn’t scooch up to the guy next to him. When Jimmy attempted to assume his position in the last seat on the aisle in my row there was no space. Jimmy tried to push the kid who was standing in front of his folding chair in a bit but the guy wouldn’t budge. Jimmy had to think and move quickly. The audience of parents and admirers was seated up above on the floor that looked down onto the gym. Everybody – all the parents and relatives – could see everything. They had an elevated bird’s eye view of the gym floor.

Since the guy in front of Jimmy’s seat wouldn’t budge, Jimmy had to push his way into the line entering the row behind us.

I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. Jimmy was now sitting off to the right behind me.

“That F’in butt hole wouldn’t push in,” he whispered, terror struck.”

“Yes, I noticed that,” I whispered looking straight ahead.”

“I’m going to kill that son-of a b—ch after this is over. What do I do now?”

“I have no idea.”

“Everybody is going to get the wrong diplomas. Jez -zus F’in H. Christ! Can you believe this sh–t?”

I turned my head slightly to look at Jimmy’s face. I had never before in our career together as friends seen Jimmy with such a distressed look. For reasons beyond my control a tiny sputter of laughter began to well up inside of my stomach. It felt kinda like a burp or gas or something. I tried to hold it down. But slowly it began gurgling out. I began sputtering in my seat. I kept my mouth closed but then my cheeks would puff up with suppressed chuckle and uncontrollable little noises began erupting from me. I couldn’t stop them from coming out. I tried burying my face in my hands. I kept thinking that this could only happen to Jimmy Rowland.

The guys on both sides of me started elbowing me. “Come on man! Our parents are here watching this. This is important you screw off.”

I looked over to my left. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my buddy Peter. He was scrunched up onto one little folding chair with some other, big fat guy. He peeked down his row and saw Jimmy sitting there in the wrong place, then he looked over at me. When he saw my face, my condition spread to him. His cheeks began to bubble up and then we were both sputtering and backfiring as we shook and rattled in our folding chairs.

I could feel Jimmy glaring at the back of my head. I turned and peeked ever so cautiously. Jimmy’s face was extremely red. He tried to maintain his frowning temperament but looking at me it became difficult.

“This is not funny,” he whispered with a slight giggle and a half grin that vanished almost before it started.

“I know, I’m sorry but I just can’t help it,” I whispered in return.
I realized that I couldn’t look at Jimmy. I kept looking straight ahead and concentrating on the ceremony.

Next, I heard a small commotion behind me. I peeked over my shoulder for a second time and Jimmy was gone. I turned to my left and there was Jimmy crawling along the floor in the row behind me. All the guys in my row were now seated in their proper chair. Jimmy’s end-of-the-row seat was miraculously vacant. Jimmy decided to get to his seat commando style. But he had a long crawl ahead of him. He had to go to the end of Peter’s row and sneak around the corner into our row and then crawl all along the entire row of about twenty or thirty folding chairs, over everybody’s spit-shined shoes, until he reached his proper seat at the other end.

As I watched him crawling down the aisle towards me on two knees and one hand – the other hand holding his graduation cap onto his head, I nearly went into a convulsion. I was sure everybody in the entire building could hear me gulping and puffing. I tried pretending that I was coughing but it was a strange sound.

When Jimmy finally arrived at my chair, he stopped and looked up at me – on his knees, one hand bracing the floor and the other holding his graduation cap to his head. The golden tassel dangled down between his eyes and over his nose. He tried to puff it out of his line of vision. It didn’t budge. I thought I was going to die. I exploded. I turned my explosion into a rather strange sounding sneeze followed by some severe coughing and hiccupping. Students from all over were turning to look at me but it was beyond my control.

When Jimmy finally slid up onto his rightful seat at the end of our row with two dirty knee spots on his graduation gown, his face and neck traffic-light red, and glanced down in my direction, it was all over for me. The remainder of my graduation was a blur of tears, deep breaths, and failed attempts to control the “giggles” and the sputters. I remember nothing else from that afternoon. I don’t even remember going up to the stage to get my diploma. I don’t know who gave it to me. My whole graduation is Jimmy Rowland.

I never again saw Jimmy with as frightened and frustrated a face as he exhibited on that graduation day. Even at his wedding, he was less flustered. The only image that remains with me today of that entire graduation event, so important to everyone’s life, is that of Jimmy Rowland crawling past me on the gymnasium floor and stopping to look up at me in utter desperation. If I only had one of our modern digital cameras, I could have captured the “look” of a lifetime. That one look made up for a thousand early morning tumbles into the back seat of that darn ’53 Merc. Oh brother, I’ll never forget my high school graduation! Thanks for the memory, my friend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Health Care Story

The Eastpointer

Your Health Care Story

By Richard E. Noble

I was "surfing" the web the other day and I hit onto this site that was asking people to tell them their health care story. I felt that I didn't really have a health care story, so I moved on. But since that time I can't stop thinking about my health care story.
When I was just eight or ten years old my favorite uncle, Uncle Joe, died. He had to have his appendix removed. It was supposed to be a routine operation. My Uncle Joe was a World War II veteran and he served in the Pacific. He came down with Malaria when he was in the jungles over there and as a consequence they discovered that he was allergic to penicillin. For some reason the folks at the hospital where he was having his appendix removed, missed that detail. A week later he was dead.
A few years after my Uncle Joe passed, my dad complained one evening of having chest pains. He was very worried. His father had the same problem and died before he reached the age of fifty. It seems that he was complaining about chest pains also. They found him laying dead in the doorway of a storefront that he ducked into on his way home from work.
My dad called the local Doctor. The Doctor came to your home in those days. He told my dad it was probably just indigestion. My dad bought some Rolaids but they didn't help. Finally he walked up to the local hospital. But, they weren't as knowledgeable about heart problems back in those days. They gave him a quick once over and he picked up another package of Rolaids on his walk home.
That evening I heard my dad talking with my older brother at the kitchen table. He felt that he was probably going to die and he was giving my older brother advice on what to do when he was gone. The next morning all us kids woke up to the screaming panic of my mother. We all got to watch my father take his last breathes before the Doctor and the priest arrived.
My mother was doing pretty well until she got into her sixties. She started to have some sort of heart valve problem. All us grown kids had a family meeting. My older brother had spoken to the Doctor. The Doctor told him that my mother would need a heart valve replacement operation or she would be dead within six months. My mother had no insurance and none of her kids could afford to pay for such an operation. We told my mother what the Doctor had said and she said that she would just have to take her chances. She didn't have the operation.
My mother was very lucky. The Doctor's prognosis did not come true. She took some kind of heart pill for the rest of her life but she lived well into her seventies.
My older brother was a unique case. He had plenty of insurance - maybe too much insurance. It seemed that he was having some new procedure done every year. Finally he had a heart problem. He had bad valves just like my mother. He managed to survive the heart operation, but like 94,000 other Americans, he caught something while in the hospital. He got an infection - septicemia. He died a few years back. He was sixty-six when he died.
My sister is still alive but she has had some big problems. She has always worked in the medical field and lucky for her she has always been insured by her employers. A number of years ago she had a brain tumor. They had to cut a section of her skull out. She survived and only ended up losing her sense of smell.
Next, her Doctor prescribed some type of cholesterol medicine. Suddenly she was a cripple in a wheel chair. There was a large class action suit against the drug company who manufactured the cholesterol medicine that she had been taking. My sister would not join the suit. She had worked all her life in the medical field for doctors and in hospitals. She felt that it would be immoral to sue the people who had provided her with a living all of her life.
A few years have now gone by and she is walking again and getting herself around. She just turned seventy.
I don't want to get into my wife and myself. I don't want to jinx us. We just go with the flow, think positive, and keep our fingers crossed. I told my wife the old Satchel Page story.
Satchel Page had no birth certificate. Consequently he never knew how old he was. He used to say; "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you really were?"
I told my wife that when we were fifty we were not worried about any of this stuff. So why don't we just be fifty once again. So that's my health care story. And my wife and I are both very happy to be fifty once again.

Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble, a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for over thirty years. Both books are available on If you would like to stock my books in your store or business, contact e-mail me at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Father Kelly

Lawrence - My Hometown

Father Kelly

By Richard E. Noble

My wife constantly accuses me of having a moral conscience. She has learned over the years about all my friends, my family, relatives and whatever. She has come to the conclusion that none of the above contributed much to the development of my “moral conscience.” She suggests that the only influence in my life that could be responsible for this moral conscience that she thinks I have, must be the Roman Catholic Church.
For the longest time me and my street corner buddies went to Confession every Friday night. If St. Mary’s Church had two hundred people inside on a Friday night waiting to tell their confessions to a priest, 90% of them would be lined up at Father Kelly’s confessional. Father Kelly was a very kind and forgiving man and in his role as a priest he was equally generous with God’s graces. No matter how grievous a transgression you may have confessed, Father Kelly would say:
“Are you truly sorry that you have committed such a deed?”
“Yes Father, I am.”
“As your penance say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys. Go in peace, my son.”
This, of course, was the reason for the long line at Father Kelly’s confessional every week.
On this one particular Friday night a priest who was waiting alone and lonely inside his little cubicle on the empty side of the church, stepped out of his anonymity and gave a speech to all us reluctant confessors.
He accused us of cowardice. Certainly we all couldn’t have committed such outrageous sins that we were afraid of an objective consequence or penance. He advised us to remember that all our penance and suffering here on earth would be to our credit once we arrived in heaven. He also insinuated that all priests were forgiving and compassionate by nature. No one should be fearful of having his confession heard by any priest.
Several older people rose from their pews but instead of walking over to our admonisher’s side of the church, they walked out the side door. They could come back later after things cooled down a little and reposition themselves at Father Kelly’s station.
The chastising priest shook his head in disgust and returned to his stall.
I sat there thinking about what the priest had said and I concluded that certainly with my little, dinky sins I should not be afraid to kneel before any Roman Catholic priest.
After about fifteen or twenty minutes of analysis and soul searching, I left the safety and security of my pew at father Kelly’s station and meandered over to the other side of the church.
Naturally there was still no one there, so I stepped right up to the plate.
As a part of my confession, I admitted to this priest that I had been stealing penny candy from Dube’s Variety store which was on the corner of Chelmsford and Center Streets. He was shocked. He wanted to know why I did that. I stuttered and stammered. This had never happened at father Kelly’s station. He never said boo. He never asked “why” I did anything. He would say, “Three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys” and that was the end of it. Now this new guy was asking “why?” What was this? Is that a fair question for a priest to ask in a confessional? Was this a pop quiz or what?
“I don’t know why I took the penny candy Father. I guess I just wanted it.”
“Well son, as your penance I want you to go back to Dube’s Variety store. I want you to apologies to Mrs. Dube and I want you to pay her back for all the candy that you stole.”
OH MY GOD! What had I done? I was certainly heartily sorry for leaving father Kelly’s station. And certainly, I will never do that again! But now what do I do?
Would it count if I went back over to Father Kelly and told him the same sins over and got three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys - like I knew he would give me? Would I have to tell Father Kelly that I had been across the way to this other priest?
I went back to Father Kelly and he did just as I suspected he would, but yet the whole situation plagued me. Finally one day I gathered up all my pennies and went up to Dube’s Variety. I was trembling as I entered through her screen door. As usual it took her five minutes to get to the counter. I could have stolen a pocket full of candy by then - but I didn’t.
When she got to the counter, I laid down all my pennies and confessed. Mrs. Dube stared at me like I was a kid who had just landed on the planet earth from outer space. She scooped up the pennies and eventually sputtered, “You are an admirable young man.”
All the way back to my house I questioned if it was better to be a known thief and an “admirable young man” or to have remained anonymous and said three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys.
From that day forward I took my errands to Walter’s Variety on the corner down the hill on Center St. How could I ever face Mrs. Dube again, the little thief from down the block on Chelmsford St? I never stole anything at Walter’s. I wasn’t about to go through that again.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published six books. Two of them with Lawrence as their setting, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. A Little Something is a book of poetry - parts of it inspired by life in Lawrence. Hobo-ing America is a workingman’s tour of the U.S.A. The Eastpointer is selected pieces from his award winning column about life in a sleepy fishing village in the Florida Panhandle and Noble Notes on Famous Folks is History – with a bit of humor on the side.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Billy Kaeton

Lawrence - My Hometown

Billy Kaeton is going to Hell

By Richard E. Noble

Billy Kaeton looked like a normal kid. He had wandered down from north of the Howard. He was actually from Methuen. Kids from Methuen were OK. We had a number of guys in the Corner gang who were from Methuen.
Methuen kids weren’t like the regular Lawrence guys. Some of them didn’t even live in a tenement house. They actually lived in a house where nobody other than their immediate family lived. Methuen guys were considered more wealthy and somewhat pampered and spoiled compared to us Lawrence kids. But us guys from Lawrence weren’t bigots. We were an equal opportunity gang.
Billy Kaeton’s dad was a doctor and they lived a few blocks north of the Howard Playground in a single family ranch home. One day I walked him home. He stopped at this fancy styled ranch house that was surrounded by a split rail “designer” fence. When we got to his place, he invited me in. I thought he was busting my chops. Nobody in our gang lived in a house like that. Everyone I knew lived in an apartment. And everybody’s apartment was pretty much alike. I figured he was pulling a fast one on me. I decided to call his bluff. I figured by the time we reached the front door, he would come clean, we would both have a big laugh, and then go to his real house.
We got to the front door and he opened it and walked inside. I nearly flipped out. I still figured he was busting chops and he had just opened the door to this strange rich person’s house. Now we would really be in trouble. He motioned for me to follow him. I didn’t move. I stood outside the entrance and gawked at the inside like a stray cat exploring new, untested territory.
“Come on! Let’s go to my bedroom and play with some of my toys,” he said.
What in the world was this kid talking about? Let’s go to “his” bedroom and play with some of “his toys.” What was this, the land of Little Lord Fauntleroy, or what? This kid had his own room and he had toys in his room?
I came to the conclusion that he actually lived there. I followed but very tentatively. The inside of the house looked like something out of a storybook to me. I felt like an aborigine who had just dropped from the jungle into Grand Central Station. I was looking everywhere except where I was going. I kept bumping into everything.
We walked through a fancy entranceway and then into a big room. All the floors were covered in thick carpeting – even the hallway. I kept thinking I should take my shoes off or something. Billy kept chanting, “Come on! Come on!”
There was someone reading a newspaper, sitting in a big leather chair in front of a huge fireplace. I had never seen anything like this in my life.
The man in the chair peeked from behind his paper and over his reading glasses. When he saw me, he folded up the paper and called out to Billy as he stepped in front of my path and latched onto my arm. He smiled as he escorted me back to the entrance and scooted me back out the door. I felt like I had just got caught by the usher at the Palace Theater after sneaking in the back entrance.
He closed the door. I was standing outside by myself. I heard Billy inside whining to his father that I was his new friend and he brought me home to play with his toys in his bedroom. I heard his dad say, “I want to meet any new friends you make before you bring them home. That boy is obviously trouble. All I need is one look and I know that. What is the matter with you?”
I didn’t wait for Billy to come out and talk to me. I just figured his dad was pissed. I walked back down to the Howard and then down the hill to Nell’s Variety.
I didn’t tell any of the other guys about the incident even when Billy showed up down at Nell’s the next day. I think I was a little ashamed that his father just looked at me and thought that I was trouble. I thought that I looked pretty much like all the other guys.
The first thing Billy did was apologize. He said his dad was just grumpy. I told him that was what I figured. He proceeded to make friends with some of the other guys. Everybody liked him. He was very friendly and outgoing – but Billy was different … really different.
He had been hanging around at Nell’s with us for a couple of weeks when someone mentioned that most of us usually met at King Tut’s on Sunday mornings before we headed off for the eight o’clock mass at St. Mary’s or the Immaculate Conception. He then mentioned that he was not a Roman Catholic but an Episcopalian.
Oh my, the silence was deafening. None of us could believe it. We all looked him over more closely – and with great sympathy. Not a one of us had ever seen a live person who we knew was definitely going to hell. There was one hope. Maybe he was like those pygmies in Africa or someplace who had never heard of the one true Church.
Someone squeaked out squeamishly, “Did you ever hear of the Roman Catholic Church?”
“Of course I have.”
Ought oh! Bad news! He knew about the one true Church and he didn’t care. It was over. Unfortunately our new friend Billy whose father was a rich doctor who lived in a fancy house up in Methuen was going to Hell. Wow! Ain’t that something, we all thought. It’s just like we were taught in St. Rita’s. “What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and end up losing his soul.”
I don’t know which one of us it was who broke the news to Billy but somebody had to do it.
“You do know that you are going to Hell.”
“I am not.”
“Oh yes you are. You know about the Roman Catholic Church and you refuse to join. That means you are going to Hell.”
“Other religions can all go to heaven besides Roman Catholics.”
“’fraid not, Billy boy. Whoever told you that one?”
“The priest at my church.”
“You ain’t got no real priest at your church. If he ain’t Catholic, he ain’t no priest.”
“He is so!”
“Sorry buddy, the priest at your church is an imposter. He’s going to Hell too, you can bet on that.”
Billy got really, really upset when he learned the truth. None of us thought all that much about it. We had to tell him. When a kid is going to Hell, he should know about it.
Billy returned the next day fortified with information that he got from this phony priest who belonged to this phony church.
He started telling us about these popes who were bad guys in ancient times. We told him that we knew all that crap. And we knew about Episcopalians too. “You’re church was started by this whacko King of England who wanted to divorce one of his wives. He was a big, stupid, fat guy. All he wanted to do was eat and screw pretty Queens. When the Pope wouldn’t give him a divorce, he started his own phony church and chopped his wife’s head off. You mean to tell us that you are going to put your faith in a nut cake like that?”
He babbled on about the Pope and burning people at the stake and all this ancient history stuff. Who cared! That was all a long time ago. And most of all this anti-Catholic garble was made up by a bunch of clowns who just didn’t like keeping the commandments and living like respectable Catholics. At one time everybody was a Roman Catholic until all these perverts like this King Henry came along, we told him.
The next day when he came back he told us that his priest had told him that Roman Catholic’s were crazy and they hated everybody and wanted to destroy all the people who didn’t think like they did.
We laughed. “That is ridiculous. Listen, if you and your whacky priest want to go to Hell, go ahead. We were just trying to help you out because we like you and you seem like a nice kid. But if you choose to go to Hell, go with your eyes open. Don’t fool yourself.”
“Well, Father Bob says that Roman Catholic’s are dangerous and they have guns stored in all the cellars of their churches.”
“Oh wow! Father Bob is it? Well tell “Father Bob” that we will bring him down to the cellar of any Catholic Church and if he finds anything other than scribbled over, losing bingo cards and cake crumbs from the last bake sale, we’ll buy him a free season ticket to Canobe Lake Park.”
Billy got all red in the face. He didn’t know what to say but what could he say? It is tough to have the truth thrown right in your face. Unfortunately, Billy will just have to deal with it, we thought.
We watched him walk up the hill towards the Howard. We felt really sorry for him. He never came back to the corner and we never saw him again. But he was the only kid that any of us ever met, face to face, who we knew for certain was going to Hell.
Since that time I have met many, many sad, uninformed souls who will be going to Hell. Unfortunately one of them is my wife. She says that she is a Methodist. I have asked her what method the Methodists believe in. She doesn’t know and she doesn’t really care. She says that she liked being a Methodist as a child because of the sauerkraut suppers and the “nifflies” that they served up in the cellars of their churches. Nifflies are boiled noodle dough drenched in real butter and salt. I asked her if she thought that Catholics had guns in the cellars of their churches. She said she didn’t think so.
I have never told her that she is going to Hell – though I must admit, I have come very close many, many times.

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 bookstore discounts and volume sales.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The Eastpointer

Welcome to Mississippi

By Richard E. Noble

We were hobo-ing our way through Mississippi. We stopped to enjoy the view from the banks of yet another beautiful Mississippi lake. While we sat on this giant boulder enjoying the scenery and wondering where they ever found a rock this size in Mississippi, a young man pulled up in a dilapidated pickup truck. He grabbed his fishing gear from the bed of his truck and strolled up beside us and started fishing. We chatted for a bit and then decided to hit the road once again. As we walked away the young man said, "Well, welcome to Mississippi. Have yourself a good time here and ya'll come back and see us again sometime."
When we got back to the van, I mumbled to the wife somewhat sarcastically, "Who the heck was that guy - the grandson of the guy who owns Mississippi?"
Being raised in an inner city slum, it would never occur to me to welcome a stranger to my hometown. I certainly would never suggest to anybody that they return. My goodness, that would certainly be adding insult to injury. Nor do I ever remember having the feeling expressed in the song "New York, New York what a wonderful town!" I never felt ownership of my area of the country. This kid in Mississippi felt that he was Mississippi. He was a roving, unappointed ambassador for the State of Mississippi.
In a K-mart parking lot in California, a lady came to her car that was parked next to ours. She smiled at us and said, "I love your orange juice." She had noticed our Florida license plate and felt the need to compliment us on Florida orange juice. I felt like saying, "Yeah, well pick up a gallon on me next time you go to the grocery store. When you get to the cashier, just mention my name – everybody in Florida knows me." What the heck is this lady talking about - she loves my orange juice! Here was another one of those who felt because a person lived someplace, they owned that place.
This nice lady then proceeded to invite us to follow her back to her home where she said that we could camp in her driveway and met the whole family. She explained that she and her family did a lot of camping and traveling and they had always wished that somebody would extend to them such an invitation.
Once again my city slicker background said, Is this broad nuts? We could be Bonnie and Clyde or two serial killers. It also occurred to me that she could be a member of the Manson killer family or one of them people-eating kind. Sure, why don't you join us for supper? Yeah right! Here she is inviting two strangers she just met in a K-mart parking lot to come back to her home and meet her family? What am I missing here?
Next we were at a campground in Michigan. We were cooking our breakfast over a wood fire. A camper who was camped up on a rise above the lake spotted us. He came wandering down to speak with us. He was fascinated by the fact that we were using wood to cook our breakfast. I showed him the bundles of wood that we picked up before leaving any campsite and strapped to our spare tire. We did this to save on Coleman fuel. He thought this was the greatest idea since sliced bread. He left and returned an hour or so later with his wife.
"Hey, hop in the car. We will show you around our town."
We climbed into the back seat of the vehicle and went on a tour of his hometown.
He took us over to see his parents. His mom and dad cooked us all breakfast. Then we went driving all over heck seeing the sights and meeting more of his friends and relatives.
I must admit, I have never felt this sense of ownership anywhere that I have ever lived. I still don't quite understand it but I know I liked the feeling when people bestowed this welcome on me. I remember every instance from my travels where this happened.
As a result of these experiences, every time I now meet a stranger, I become an ambassador. If they are from a foreign country, I welcome them to my country - just like I own the place. If they are from out of state, I welcome them to Florida and wish them an enjoyable stay. If they are from someplace else in the State of Florida, I welcome them to Franklin County and tell them to have fun. I do this not because I now somehow feel that I own America or Florida or Franklin County but simply because I remember the good feeling it gave to me when other people performed this rather strange ritual.
The next time you meet a stranger passing through, try it. Every time I do it I suddenly feel like I am the mayor of America or something. It is strange but, I don't know, it gives me a kick.

Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. He has published 5 books. They are all for sale on If you would like to stock his books in your store or business he can be contacted at


Lawrence – My Hometown

Jasper Smith

By Richard E. Noble

Jasper Smith was the only black kid I ever knew growing up in Lawrence. Willie Laird has recently informed me that he was a Hispanic – I guess he still is. Willie’s mother was supposedly the first Hispanic woman in Lawrence, arriving sometime in the 40’s. I knew Willie’s mother spoke a foreign language but so did my grandmother. Most of my buddies had a parent or grandparent who spoke some “jibber-jabber” also – who cared.
We had no black problem in Lawrence when I was growing up, nor did we have a Hispanic problem. We really didn’t have any racial or ethnic problems – not us kids anyway. For our parents, it was not so easy.
Though my Polack mother would never acknowledge it, my Irish father was shut off from his siblings because of his marriage choice.
I met Jasper at the St. Rita’s school yard basketball court. It was very dark. The streetlight in front of Plonowski’s Funeral Parlor was out. It was so dark that I was only shooting lay-ups. I saw a kid walking through the school yard from Arlington St. He was silhouetted by the streetlight on the corner of Arlington and Hampshire. With the light at his back, all I saw was a figure. When he got to the court he asked if I wanted to play a little one on one. I said sure and tossed him the ball. As he dribbled the ball with his back to me, I noticed that he had funny hair. When he spun around to take a jump shot, I saw he was black. This was the closest that I had ever been to a black person in my life. I was in the sixth or seventh grade. I was eleven or twelve years old. That would make the year 1954 or 1955. The modern day Black Civil Rights Movement was just getting started. I had seen black people on TV but never had I seen one up close and personal.
It turned out that Jasper lived at the end of Arlington St. towards Broadway. Since I lived on Chelmsford St. we walked home together. We passed my pro-model Voit basketball back and forth and dribbled up the center of Arlington St. The Voit basketball had that hard leather sound when it hit the pavement. I didn’t like the balls that had that spongy rubber sound – very unprofessional.
It was dark with a streetlight working here and there. Kids often threw rocks at the dangling, streetlight bulbs putting them out of commission. When they were busted they buzzed like a giant cricket. The city finally caught on and covered the bulbs with a difficult to break, hard, glass dome cover.
There were no cars and no people on the street. It was after 9 o’clock – it was late. My new buddy told me on our walk home that his name was John Smith but that everybody called him Jasper.
I remember being very curious. Every time we got under a streetlight that was working I took a closer look. I can still remember how fascinated I was to see a person whose skin was actually black – I mean black, not brown or tanned or olive. Jasper had dark black skin. It was shocking to me. I could hardly believe it. I don’t know why I felt this way but I remember these feelings distinctly. It was kinda like discovering that Frankie Squires had six toes or Nancy Sullivan had an extra “baby” finger.
The next day when I went to school, the nun gave us a serious speech. None of the other kids knew what she was talking about but I knew right off.
She spoke of “different” types of people and how all people are to be treated equal. She was very serious and it was clear that she was nervous. Specifically, she mentioned that we would be having a new kid in our class and this kid would be “different” from the rest of us and that we should treat her with kindness and respect. The little black girl in my class was Jasper’s younger sister. I don’t remember her name. Jasper was a grade or two above me.
Jasper’s sister stayed at our school only a day or two – I think she felt smothered. All the other girls doted on her as if she were a celebrity. Jasper loved the attention so he hung in at St. Rita’s. Everybody wanted to be Jasper’s friend. He had a party.
He played on the grammar school basketball league as we all did. What I remember most was his underwear. He didn’t wear jockey shorts. He wore similar type shorts but they were longer. When he ran around on the court his underwear would slip down below his uniform trunks. Nobody else in the entire league had an underwear problem like Jasper’s. But nobody said anything. Everybody noticed, but nobody said a word. Jasper was the toast of our little white kiddy world – and he loved it.
He hung out at Nell’s with us on the Corner. Whenever the cops would come and start taking names and Jasper told them that his name was John Smith they would get extremely upset. The rest of us would always come to Jasper’s defense. “He ain’t lyin’. That’s his name, John Smith. And he never met Pocahontas either.”
On occasion the cops wouldn’t believe us and they would take Jasper over and throw him into the back of the cruiser. But while they continued taking our names one of us would always sneak over to the cruiser and “bust” Jasper out. Jasper would take off running and they could never catch him. After a few months most of the cops accepted “John Smith” as legitimate and went along with their usual and customary intimidations.
He would come over to my house and play basketball in my back yard with the rest of us from St. Rita’s Pintos, Ponies or Mustangs. My uncle Ray had set up a basket on the top of the garages behind our tenement. We would open the garage doors under the basket so that we could drive in for lay-ups. My uncle didn’t always have all the garages rented out, so that stall was usually empty. I will never forget the expressions on my relatives’ faces the first time they saw Jasper playing in their back yard. To say the least he stuck out like a chocolate in a bowl of marshmallows.
Jasper was also a boxer and everybody seemed to know him. A bunch of us were walking home from the boy’s club across from the Common on Haverhill St. one night and as we passed the St. Mary’s auditorium just before Hampshire St. a man came popping out the door. There was a special event going on. This man called to Jasper.
“Hey, Jasper, you are just the guy I’m looking for. One of my fighters didn’t show up. How about you filling in for me?”
The rest of us didn’t know what was going on. He was asking Jasper to fight in the Silver Mittens or some such thing. Jasper really wasn’t interested, but we all went nuts.
Because we got Jasper to volunteer for this guy, the man let us all in for free to watch the fights. This was the first “professional” boxing match that I had ever seen.
Jasper won on a unanimous decision and we all cheered like crazy. His opponent was really terrible. He danced around the ring for the entire first round and Jasper had to chase him all over. Finally Jasper caught him with a good one. The other kid got totally offended. He put his boxing mitts onto his hips, stood with his shoulders back and his chin jutting out and said, “Oh, you want to fight huh?” Everyone in the audience turned and looked at one another and then burst out laughing. But from that moment on he was chopped meat. He dispensed with all he had learned and began running into Jasper with his arms flailing. Jasper stayed cool and boxed the hell out of him.
Jasper eventually moved out of Lawrence and went to Lowell or Haverhill. He was still just a teenager when he got killed in a terrible car accident. He was messed up so badly his parents kept the casket closed.
The funeral parlor was filled with white and black people. Jasper had as many white friends as he had black buddies. He was a super friendly kid. He was only a snapshot in my life but his brief appearance remains bright and clear in my reverie to this day – and we are talking over 50 years past. He was certainly more than a pair of drooping underwear. We did many things together and shared many laughs. He laughed constantly.
After the first encounter at St. Rita’s I don’t ever remember thinking about his black skin in the same way. It didn’t go away or rub off, but all in all he was just like the rest of us in Lawrence – all the same yet all quite different.

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 Contact Noble Publishing for bookstore discounts and volume sales at

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Capitalism and Socialism


Does it really Work?

Or Is It Socialism in Disguise

By Richard E. Noble

I am, and always have been a born and breed Capitalist who has done his best to pursue the American Capitalist dream of financial independence and hopeful luxury.
I believe in my rights as an Individual; I believe in democracy and in the Bill of Rights; I believe in my right to own property, to start my own business, to have money in the bank and to get rich - if at all possible. BUT, I don’t believe that people anywhere should starve to death or that anybody anywhere should work for nothing. And I especially don’t believe that the above such things should happen to other people because of my aspirations to become a wealthy Capitalist. I want everybody to live a comfortable life in a just man-made rational Civilization.
I don’t trust government - any government. But I have a dilemma - I don’t trust businessmen either. I have been in business. I consider myself a business-mined type person. And to be totally honest with you, I don’t trust business any more than I do government.
I have never worked for a boss who I like or admire. And the really sad part about that last sentence is that I have been self-employed for the greater part of my working career. When my wife was in my employ she went on strike several times and quite on multiple occasions. She orchestrated both walk-out and sit-down type strikes. She never resorted to picketing but I did think of locking her out several times. We finally negotiated a verbal contract that we both could agree to and live with. I was not entirely happy with the final agreement but neither was she - and, of course, this is what makes for a truly happy marriage. I only wish that I had been smart enough to negotiate such a contract when we first got married. But as you all know, love is not having to negotiate a contract. So where does that leave me? In my opinion that makes me a typical American. I think that is what being an American is all about - not trusting anybody.
I have been studying and reading about Capitalism ever since I can remember. But before we get into that, let’s say what I think Capitalism to be.
Capitalism is where the means of production along with the natural assets of a nation are owned by people - individuals. Corporations? Stock holders?
Capitalism had its birth in the Industrial Revolution - as I understand it. Before the Industrial Revolution there was no such thing as a “Capitalist.” There were rich people and Kings etc., but no Capitalists.
Capitalism, via industrialization made possible by individual invention and personal investment changed the economic world. It changed the whole structure of things. But has it been successful - did Capitalism work?
I don’t think so; and I’ll tell you why. It might take me a few pages here but bear with me.
Let’s start out with one of the first major Industrial enterprises - the textile industry.
The textile industry started here in the U.S. in the northeast in the early part of the 18th century.
It began rather surreptitiously with some of our enterprising citizens going over to England and stealing what they could of British ingenuity. But it was for a good cause - they wanted to get rich. Actually their intentions were more noble than that. They wanted to get rich and they wanted to screw the British. All in all though they were well intentioned, most of the early pioneers in the U.S. textile industry were good, conscientious Christian types. They wanted to make the world a better place. I think one of the very first entrepreneurs was a wealthy Quaker and he offered to give the entire mill to the British citizen who knew the industry well enough and would stab his homeland in the back and come over here and set up what he had learned over there. This was against the British Law at the time and any man who did so was considered a traitor. Getting rich was not against British law; they just wanted people to get rich in England only. The penalty was death. But one man did the dirty deed nonetheless. He is in our history books but I don’t think he got even honorable mention in the British history books.
In Lowell Massachusetts the first textile mill employed mostly woman and it was designed to be spiritually beneficial and uplifting to all the poor farm girls who came to work there. And for awhile they say that it was. But then as the Capitalistic system dictates, one free enterprise led to another free enterprise and pretty soon we had not only women working at the mills but children also. Pretty soon the local farm girls had enough and the mill owners began to import immigrant laborers from overseas. And as the foreign laborers flowed in, the wages got lower and lower; the working conditions got worse and worse; the housing became deplorable and all these people began dying - the workers that is; the owners and investors became extremely wealthy. A few foremen and some higher-ups got some pretty good wages also. But all in all things got so bad that social upheaval erupted. Police and militia had to be called in and lots of folks were machine-gunned, murdered and killed. Overall from the Society’s point of view, I would say the textile industry was not working.
Now the few people who owned the textile mills disagreed. They had arguments very similar to the tobacco industry of today. They denied that working in a textile mills was hazardous to anybody health - even though most textile workers were dying before the age of thirty; even though children who started working in the mills at nine or ten were dead before they were twenty or twenty-five.
The bi-products of the textile mills was air pollution, water pollution; housing shortages, overcrowding; poverty; disease; and overproduction. But on the other hand, a man of modest means could buy a pretty neat suit of clothes at Brooks Bros. for a reasonable price and the ladies could buy some nice calico prints cheaper than ever before.
In any case for better or worse the textile mills spread all over the northeast and then the Midwest. When they had finally worn out their welcome in those areas they left. They didn’t pack up and leave - they just left. They left all the pollution, all the garbage, all the disease, all the destitution and poverty, all the dead bodies; all the dying people - they even left miles and miles of old redbrick buildings. They took most of the machinery but they left the rest for the taxpayers or the society or the community or whoever it is that is left when these people go. They took the profits and their fortunes - and they left. And now they were “Capitalists.”
At first they just went a little further south - but they did the same thing there. And after awhile most of them left the South and went even south-ER. They went to South America.
In South America they conducted their business exactly the same as they had done in North America.
Today they are all over the world - in Asia and in China - everywhere. And the same thing that happened in North America in the 1800 is happening over there.
But on the other hand we can all buy T-shirts and underwear at a very reasonable price.
The question is as Dr. Phil would say - Is this working for you?
Well, it is working very, very well for a few; it is working very well for some others; and it is working well for a good many others; but then it is working poorly for several millions of others and it doesn’t look like it is ever going to change or be any different. Is this a “good thing”?
In the United States of America I would say that the Textile Industry was a failure. It didn’t work. For one thing, it is gone; and it left a mess. The individuals and stock holders of that industry took the profits and the taxpayers and the citizens of the United States paid the costs. It was Capitalism for the owners of the textile industry but it was Socialism for America. We the people socialized the cost, while they, the Robber Barons, Industrialists, and super wealthy Capitalized the profits
Now let’s look at another Industry - the mining industry.
I don’t know if mining in America began with the 49ers but it seems like a good place to start. Nothing could have been more egalitarian than a mule and a bearded Gabby Hayes type prospector setting off to find his treasure. This led to a lot of “regular” guys becoming very wealthy. It also led to a lot of regular guys getting killed, beaten, robbed and whatever - but that has always been the romantic part of the American Spirit of freedom and independence - so what the hell.
But somewhere along the line mechanization, invention, organization and the Capitalist and Industrialist - and bankers - got into it. It wasn’t long before Gabby Hayes and his mule were a part of the nostalgic past and punch clocks, foremen and business mangers had taken over the pits and holes of the wild, Wild West and elsewhere.
It wasn’t long before everything that I just attributed to the textile industry was now part and parcel of the mining industry - only worse.
The miners were of the independent, rugged type and they didn’t just wander off someplace and die peacefully - they fought back. Colorado was a war zone. Utah and Idaho weren’t much calmer. The mine managers had the militias and the federal troops along with the governments and the legal system - but the miners had courage, blood and guts.
The mine owners couldn’t just move their operations south or to another country - so they fought it out. They killed, framed, murdered, lynched, castrated, slaughtered and starved a good many troublesome miners to an early grave. They bribed, cheated, finagled and infiltrated the Governments - local, state and federal. And eventually they got what they wanted.
They got the land from the government basically for free; they got the gold, silver, copper, coal, and whatever out of the ground at the cheapest possible labor cost; they had no obligations to the land, the environment, the streams, the rivers, the mountains, the hillsides, the country or to the people of the United States.
But even so, eventually most of them left the United States and brought their same tactics to foreign lands where the people were less sophisticated and could be duped more readily. Today these industries are busy doing the very same things in Bolivia and China that were so successful for them here in the U.S.
Strangely enough the people who did these horrible things here in the United States are dead and buried and many of the folks who are carrying out the dastardly deeds of these ancient entrepreneurs are not even descendants. They are a new breed of like minded modern day folks - often homegrown in their own nations. The descendants of many of the murders and killers who had loyal everyday patriots machinegun everyday people right here in America - are now involved in philanthropic trusts, building libraries and funding institutions of higher learning - and some are even running for the Senate and the presidency of the United States of America. And so it goes.
But philosophizing aside, the bottom line is once again, the people of America were left with the pollution and the holes in the ground, the bad memories and the dead bodies, and the managers, investors and Capitalists got the profits. The American Businessmen “capitalized” while the American People Socialized.
From an “individualist” point of view I suppose one could say that this “capitalization” or privatization of natural resources worked. Some individuals did become very, very wealthy. But from a national or democratic perspective; form a societal or national perspective, I wouldn’t say that “we the people” did all that well. I would have to say that mining as well as the textile industry was a failure. They provide few in America with a living today and we the people are still paying for the cleanup or worse yet living with the pollution and ill health effects that these industries left as our “legacy.”
Strangely enough we all - 300 million of us still wear socks and underwear and we still can buy copper tubing at the hardware store - it is just that fewer Americans make any money from the deal. If you use the patriot’s war analogy we could say that all those working people who fought, were starved and died for your right (and my right) to earn a better living here in the U.S.A. - gave their lives in vain.
Let’s quickly review another industry - banking. Banking is a business and it could be considered one of Capitalism’s prime movers.
Banking started off very primitive. In the beginning banks were just that - they were banks. They were vaults and safes situated in secure buildings where people paid a rent for the privilege of having their gold or silver watched over under armed guard. There was no trouble with a bank being a bank; it was when banks got into “banking” that the industry began to stagger.
The problem came with the notion that a banker could have his cake and eat it too. It was not with the idea of being a “savings” institution that brought on the problems. It was when the banks became “savings and loan” institutions.
Even good old Jimmy Stewart was hard to believe when he tried to explain to people in the movies that their money was there in the bank when it really wasn’t.
It wasn’t disgruntled employees that wrought havoc by picketing and striking the banks - it was the bank’s customers. They called this type of uprising a “bank run.” People ran down to the bank and said; “I want my money.” This wasn’t all that problematic until lots of customers started showing up at a particular bank at the same time. Very quickly the bank in question was forced to refuse the depositors their money and lock their doors. They could not return to the depositors the money that they had loaned out to their clients because they didn’t have it any longer! People just didn’t understand this.
The first solution that banks devised to deal with this problem was to form co-operatives - a number of banks joined together. They pooled their reserves and when one of their member banks had a “bank run” they rushed cash over to their aid.
But if a run persisted and spread into a “panic” - the party was over and once again everybody had to “lock out” their depositors.
Banking co-operatives got bigger and bigger but so did the runs and panics. Finally during the Wilson administration the bankers got the government involved. Mr. Wilson was a college professor but he admitted that he was no banker - but nevertheless the American people ended up with what was called a Federal Reserve System.
Suffice it to say, it was not only President Wilson who didn’t understand the Federal Reserve System because in 1929 the whole thing came tumbling down - Federal Reserve System and all. The banking industry collapsed - it failed. The financial heart of the Capitalistic system flopped. Once again the Capitalist idea had failed.
The catastrophe was finally solved by adding to the Federal Reserve System the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This informed the customers who deposited their money in a bank covered under this program that even if your bank doesn’t have your money when you want it - we will give it to you. “We” being the Government ... you and I ... the taxpayer. In more political terms, the banks were socialized.
And even today we had two of the biggest socialistic bailouts in our history - the Savings and Loan disaster followed by the Commercial Bank disaster. We even bailed out Mexico and Japan and if we don’t continue to bail out the banking systems around the world, the whole system could have a total collapse. Every banking system in the world including China and Russia, are tied into the “Dollar.” Now I’m not complaining about this Socialism, I would just like to know what “we the people” are getting out of all of this. It looks to me like we are getting lower wages, fewer jobs, higher taxes, inflation of our everyday costs, more poverty, more homeless and Wal-Mart - and Wal-Mart is the best part.
So once again we have an industry that keeps the profits when things are going well and “we the people” absorb the loses when things go wrong. In fact, they charge us (the people of the U.S.) for the privilege of borrowing our own money from them. It is a real good business. Many very, very smart people love the banking business.
I personally don’t mind that we keep this industry solvent and secure but shouldn’t “we the people” get a kick back here, there or somewhere - as opposed to paying a service charge?
Next let’s take a gander at the railroad industry.
In most of our history surveys we will read briefly about how the railroads opened up the West; how the railroads built towns and communities; how the railroads built factories and technology and on and on and on. But the deeper one delves into the history evolution and eventual demise of American railroads - the bigger the horror story grows.
Some historians are truly optimists - they almost always see the glass as full to the brim. I can imagine the historian of a thousand years in the future writing about the Nazi Holocaust and pointing out its advantages to curbing the over expanding population growth and all the new discoveries that were unleashed in the gas and pesticide industries - not to mention, oven technology.
But let’s try to call a spade a spade here - railroads must go down as one of the most corrupt endeavors in American History. The land grab alone by the railroad barons was off the charts. These guys were given enough land around their proposed railroad tracks to start whole countries. Almost all history books will mention this fact.
In relation to their workers they are right there with the textile and mining industries. Workers were killed and maimed on a daily basis by the hundreds. They were used as long as they were strong and healthy and then discarded - to be picked up by charity and the good will of their fellow workers.
The railroads competed themselves right into the ground. They had more dirty bond issues, stock market crooked deals, inflated shares and unscrupulous financial chicanery and political corruption than one could list. On top of everything else they were totally subsidized by the government and for the most part, they still are today. Without further ado or elaboration I think it could be objectively stated that the railroad industry was another capitalist failure. It was more than a failure it was a disaster. Just start reading about it and find out for yourself - don’t take my word for it. It is all over the pages of your own history books. Even the laying of the railroad tracks was an abortion for the workers involved and the taxpayers. When you read historians that can fluff over all these things you realize how brainwashed we all are.
If it weren’t for the government (socialism) from the beginning to the present day - the railroads would never have come about. And what did “we the people” get out of it? We got miles and miles of dilapidated track stretched across this country; we got old abandoned depots; we got below sustenance wages; we got thousands of dead and injured workers, woman and children; and a modest amount of multimillionaires - most of them the exact same folks who prospered from the banking, textiles, and mining.
Once again while the Capitalists capitalized the profits, the American people socialized the costs. We paid for their losses, we paid bonuses for their inadequate tracks; we paid for their cutthroat competition. We paid to get them started and we paid for the clean up when they were done. My God! The American dream!
Where do you want to go next? How about steel? how about oil? how about insurance? how about pharmaceuticals? how about health care? what about automobiles?
Steel and automobiles and oil have been traditional failures in the classical manner that I have just described above. Insurance, healthcare and pharmaceuticals are failures in the making. They are failing right now and my guess is that they will be bailed out in the same old, well-fare (welloff-fare), socialistic manner - “we the people” and the population at large will pay through taxation and inflation while these industries will skim off the profits and leave the losses and the social consequences to us.
At this moment I really don’t see any alternative to socialism. Socialism is what is. It really cannot be denied. It is the a priori fact of the matter. But we should do it all the way not just in the well-fare tradition; “we the people” should also share in the profits as well as the costs and the losses. I would be in favor of a better idea than socialism - but I haven’t read about any such thing nor have I been able to think up an improvement. Communism is not good and as we have seen around the world, it is not working. I have read many books offering various alternatives. But when you study these alternatives they are invariably socialist in nature. The so called capitalist alternative invariably amounts to a good life for the few at the expense of the many - here and around the world. It is like Socialism is the Capitalists security blanket or “idea bank” of last resort. It seems that what we here in America call Capitalism is really a bad joke – and the joke is on us.

Lawrence – My Hometown

The English Social Club

By Richard E. Noble

The English Social Club was one of a million such places in Lawrence: the French Social, the Polish National, the Irish Social, the German American, the Sons of Italy and on and on and on. Needless to say, these were all barrooms of one nature or another. Barrooms and churches, corner variety stores, sandwich shops, pool rooms and back alleys, mills and smoke stacks, penny candy and 10 cent Bea’s sauce sandwiches - Lawrence, my hometown.
There was a small duckpin bowling alley in the back of the English Social, five or six lanes I guess. How the "gang" and I incorporated ourselves as the official pin boys at the English Social Club is a matter of debate.
My recollection is that me and some of the guys were playing stickball out in the back parking lot. Jimmy Bowan was pitching to Busty Royle. Busty had brought it to a full count. Jimmy says, "Okay, now this is getting serious." He takes off his T-shirt and drapes it over the trunk of a parked car. He returns to the mound and proceeds to go through all the motions and shenanigans of a major league pitcher. He zings one right down the pipe. Busty swings and fouls it off. Jimmy gets the ball back and commences in a Bob Feller manner. Busty decides to throw him off balance. He holds up a hand indicating a break in the action. He steps back from the plate and pulls his T-shirt up over his head and tosses it over on a section of broken telephone pole that was lying over by the back of the garage that we were using as a backstop. Busty returns to the plate. Jimmy winds up, then bends over and stares down towards the plate - pretending to be getting his signals from the catcher.
"Wait a minute! Wait a Minute!" Jimmy says stepping off the mound. "I ain't throwing another pitch until you get that damn rat off your shoulder."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Busty inquires, dubiously.
"I'm talking about that damn raccoon or whatever it is that you got covering your damn shoulder. What the hell is that damn thing?"
"You mean this?" Busty says pointing to what looks to be a beaver pelt or some kind of animal flopped over his left shoulder.
"Yeah! That's right. Whatever that is, get it off your shoulder. It's distracting me. You can't have a damn dead cat over your shoulder while a guy is trying to pitch. That's against the rules."
"This ain't no dead cat. And I can't take it off my shoulder. It's a birthmark."
"Birthmark, my ass. That's a birth territory, or a birth continent. A birthmark is a small dot, a pimple or a little splash of color. A birthmark don't cover two thirds of someone's body. Stop breaking chops and get that fur coat off your shoulder or I ain't pitching."
"It doesn't come off. Now come on and just pitch."
"Oh no! Oh no, no, no, no! ... Sheehy!” Jimmy screams to our honorary commissioner of behind-the-garage stickball. “Check that thing out. If it ain't real, make him get it off there, or I ain't pitching."
Jack Sheehy strolls over to the plate. He examines Busty’s shoulder. He looks it over very closely. "It's the real thing, all right. It’s a mole or something. It is a giant, goddamn mole or something."
Jimmy Bowan drops the ball on the mound. "It can't be. I don't believe it. I gotta see this." Pretty soon there is a crowd around Busty. Everybody is ohh-ing and ahh-ing. Nobody can believe their eyes.
"You know Frankie Speers has six toes on each of his feet. Did any of you guys ever see that?"
"Six toes? You’re kidding? Nobody can have six toes. God doesn't do things like that."
"Didn't you ever see one of them freaks at the circus?"
"That's baloney! They just make them up to look like that. It's a trick. It's all phony."
"Well what is that slab of goop on Busty’s damn shoulder then?"
"That's something Busty just put there. I'll bet it peels off. Look, grab a piece of that thing and pull."
At just about the time that one of the guys was about to grab hold of Busty’s birthmark and rip it off, a little bald-headed guy poked his head out of the back door to the English Social Club and said; "Any of you kids want to make some money?"
We all rushed to the back door and pushed and shoved our way in behind the short, fat, bald-headed guy. He led us through some swinging doors and into the bowling alley. We were all excited. We were not only excited about the thought of earning some money but about being allowed into a barroom. There were too many of us for the number of alleys so we decided to take turns. We would each set up one string and then sit out and give another guy a shot at setting up a string.
We started walking down the center of the alley and instantly all the men began yelling at us. "You gotta walk down the gutters. You can't walk on the lanes, you boneheads. Them lanes is all polished up. You'll get 'em all scuffed. Don't you guys know nothin’!" We all scurried over into the gutters. Some of us guys even took off our shoes.
This was exciting. This was almost like a real job. There were rules to it and everything. That's what makes something important, you know - rules. Things with rules to them are more important than things without rules. No walking down the middle of the alley - that was a good one. Like it mattered to this group of “professional” duck pin bowlers if the lanes were polished or not. In an hour or two of 10 cent beers any of these guys will be lucky if they can roll a ball and hit any one of the several different lanes never mind a pin – with or without a kid’s sneaker print scuffing up the polished finish.
Okay, so there I am at the bottom of a bowling alley. The pins are all lying in the hole behind me. On the lane in front of me are a bunch of round black circles. The circles are set down in the shape of a diamond. Very simple - put the pins on the circles. Then you jump up onto a bench that is behind the hole. The guy up at the front of the lane throws the ball down the lane. The ball hits the pins. The pins fly all over hell and you learn to duck and cover your head. I figured that was why they called them "duck" pins. Every time the ball hit them, the pin boy had to duck.
As the men who were bowling got drunker and drunker, it seemed that they purposely tried to catch the pin boy before he got out of the hole and up onto his perch. You had to put that last pin onto the black spot and then run for your life. There was no dallying around in the "black hole." If you weren't paying attention or you dallied too long, you'd be ducking duckpins right and left. They were heavy suckers too. If you wanted the job you couldn't bitch about getting hit by the flying pins - that was all a part of it. If you wanted that ten cents a string you had to tolerate the drunken shenanigans of the fathead bowlers, too, after all, they were the adults. If you complained, they called you a sissy and told you to go home. Home was never the place that any of us guys wanted to be.
In retribution for the bowlers throwing the bowling balls at us ninety miles an hour and trying to catch us in the pit behind the alleys, we stationed some of our little people up in the bowlers’ territory. It was the duty of these “scouts” to steal glasses of draft beer off the various tables and hide them under the line of folding chairs at the back of the hall when the bowlers weren't watching. Between all the pilfered glasses of beer under the chairs and the half-full glasses left on the tables at the end of the night, we had a party each and every night. I can still remember the taste of that first beer. It was strange, bitter, warm and flat – but at least it had no cigarette butt floating in it. Nevertheless, it was the fruit from the forbidden tree. And it was ever so sweet, especially when followed by the sinful, exotic, smoky flavor of a Lucky Strike or Camel cigarette. If I close my eyes, I can taste and feel it all. Ah yes, those were the days. How I managed to live this long, is the 84,000 dollar question.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Ma. and is now a freelance writer. He has published six books. All his books are listed on Amazon. For discounts and special offers contact Noble Publishing – buy four or more books and receive a 40% discount on the retail price. Shipping and handling included.