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Friday, June 24, 2005

Memories of Pop

So I went up to my attic, trying to find some memorabilia for a project I’m working on, about which I will tell you about soon. I didn’t find the memorabilia, but I DID find 10 notebooks I used as diaries between 1979 and 1987, which will also be helpful for that aforementioned mysterious project. But it IS rather painful to read about your immature, self-absorbed thoughts from 25 years ago. (As opposed to my current MATURE, self-absorbed thoughts.)

One of the things I re-discovered was the death of my grandfather a quarter century ago this week. I knew he had died sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but the precise date had fled my memory.

Pop is what we (my parents, my sisters and I) called my father’s father, McKinley Green. Everyone else called him Mac. My nuclear family lived downstairs in a very small two-family house in Binghamton. Pop and his wife, my Grandma Green, Agatha (and it was A gath’ a, not Ag’ ath a) lived upstairs. This was one of two houses owned my mother’s mother, Grandma (Gertrude) Williams, who lived about six blocks away. (HER death I remember quite well: Super Bowl Sunday, 1982.)

Pop was a janitor at WNBF-TV and radio; eventually, the TV station was sold, but he maintained his job at the radio station. I’m not quite sure just how old was, but he was well past the age of retirement, yet the station kept him on to work as long as he wanted, and as much as he wanted. He was such an amiable man that people liked him to be around.

He used to bring home albums (LPs) that had been discarded by the station. Most were "beautiful music" with no artist even listed, or in later years, obscure rock bands that I had never even heard of, but three discs stand out in my mind.
  • "50 Stars, 50 Hits on two great country albums!" That’s the way it was advertised on TV, and I was thrilled when Pop brought a copy home. It featured Buck Owens, George Jones, Minnie Pearl, T. Texas Ruby and many more -46 more, to be precise. In Binghamton in the 1960s, you could get these clear channels (not to be confused with the conglomerate Clear Channel) at night, and I could get stations in New York and Cleveland. I could also reach WWVA in Wheeling, WV, a country station, and I probably listened a couple nights a week for four or five years.
  • Gary Lewis and the Playboys Greatest Hits- Jerry’s son’s band doing The Loser (with a Broken Heart), Where Will the Words Come From, (You Don’t Have to) Paint Me a Picture, My Heart’s Symphony, and my favorite, Jill.
  • The soundtrack to the movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968). I saw this movie with my high school friend Carol and HER friend Judy, on whom I had a tremendous crush (though nothing ever came of it.) The film, starring Britt Eklund and Jason Robards, was the film debut of Elliot Gould and served as the final film for Bert Lahr. It started with Rudy Vallee saying: "In 1925, there was this real religious girl. And, quite by accident, she invented the striptease. This real religious girl. In 1925. Thank you." It also featured songs like "Take 10 Terrific Girls, But Only 9 Costumes." For a 15 year old, this was really hot stuff, even though the "striptease" in the movie lasted a nanosecond, so getting the album was quite fine.

    Pop was an avid hunter. He provided the vast majority of the venison I’ve ever eaten in my life. The only time I ever used a firearm was with Pop. We went out to the woods somewhere, and he gave me his rifle. I fired. Naturally, the recoil left me sitting on my butt. Pop also liked to bowl, work on cars, and especially go to the track, particularly in Monticello.

    I used to go upstairs and play gin rummy with him while we watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. In the later years, I’d beat him about 50% of the time. On a bulletin board, he had a faded newspaper clipping of Ed Marinaro, the Cornell running back, who was the son or nephew of a friend of his; Marinaro eventually played Officer Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues.

    From my 6/26/1980 diary: "Pop was a very dark-skinned man with grey hair, thinning, but more prevalent than mine, combed straight back… I recall a certain twinkle in his eye, though I hadn’t seen him in a year and a half or longer; he was never home when I dropped by. I probably should have written more often, but he never wrote back...I would have called if had [had] a telephone, but he refused… The phone company would have required a deposit in switching service from Grandma Green’s name [she died in the mid-1960s] to his, even tho’ he had been paying the bills, [so he had the phone taken out.] He was stubborn that way."

    I was going to write about Pop’s death, and I will soon. But it was nice to write a little about Pop’s life.
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Hi Roger,

    Yup, the same McKinley Green.

    I came to know your Grandfather quite well. I remember he had that Thunderbird with the convertible hardtop that didn't retract very well. I helped him out one day to readjust the hold down so the cover would close up properly. It only took about 5 minutes, but your Grandpa couldn't have been more appreciative.

    He asked me to come down to his apartment once down on Gaines Street, if I remember correctly, to show me his shotgun that you've probably talked about on your blogs.

    He would always tell me about his adventures at the race track of course and I always thought to myself, with this guy's knowledge of horses, I could make a fortune!

    He also talked about going to the Bloomsburg State Fair in Pennsylvania and how he would always go down to the stables to look the horses over before the races.

    I was also really amazed that he constantly smoked those "Fatima" cigarettes, and how it never seemed to affect your Grandfather's health in any way, since he told me he had been smoking since he was a little boy.

    I have an original "Sun Bulletin" newspaper from when WNBF moved over into the Sheraton Inn location and it has many pictures of the staff and your Grandfather's photo was included. I'm trying to get a copy of the newspaper made. It's several pages in size, but I'm having some difficulty finding a shop that can copy that size format safely enough for a newspaper that's rather brittle. If you email me I'd be happy to send you a PDF of the newspaper when I'm able to find a copier.

    There were several people that I have grand memories of from WNBF/WBNG and your Grandfather was one of those people at the top of my list. I mean that with all sincerity, because I can't remember him ever saying a bad word about anyone. And I'm sure he had many opportunities.

    Growing up and living in Binghamton for most of my life was a pretty interesting experience. I think the Black population at that time in the City was about 1 or 2%. I had a rather close friend that I went to Saint Mary's school with who was black, and really the only other person whom I became close to was Mac.

    It hit me a little hard when I heard of his passing, and I went to his wake. I remember simply going in to say a prayer in front of the casket and being the only white person, wasn't quite sure how I would be greeted. I just remember nodding my head to everyone in attendance, but one person stood to shake my hand and thank me for coming. I'm not sure who that person was, but I could readily feel Mac's demeanor in his voice and manner.

    I have to say, God didn't make a better guy than Mac. I'm sure he was an inspiration to grow up around. I'm sure he's missed by you and your family. I will always remember him.