***Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- Girl Meets Our Lord Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night Boy- For Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, King Of North Adamsville Schoolboy Night - Class of 1964
Yes, I can hear the snickering, cyberspace snickering if that is possible anyway, between them now, just like in the old days, although I did not always know what it meant then but now I do. I do after Frankie’s, Francis Xavier Riley’s, recent desecration of this space to tell his wild and wooly story, Boy Meets Our Lady Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night Girl, about how he and his ever-loving middle school and high school sweetheart, Joanne, came together as a couple through their adventures at the 1959 Saint Patrick’s Day parade over in Southie, South Boston that is. In case you were not aware, painfully aware by now, Frankie, king of the be-bop late 1950s and early 1960s schoolboy be-bop night in our old, mainly Irish, working class neighborhood in North Adamsville and his “ball and chain”, Joanne, Joanne Marion Murphy, decided as part of their Southie caper that three was “one too many” and that neither would ever cry, cry out loud about it. And the three, or third, was me, Markin, Peter Paul Markin, Frankie’s then (and now, now maybe) faithful retainer during his reign. I decided to go to school instead of “skipping” the day as they did. Thankfully I am resilient and such childish things as snickers by just barely teenage co-conspirators are so much, well, so much.
But that is not the end of it, not the end of it by a long shot, although you and I will wish that I had not taken the genie out of the bottle, at least I will. Now one of the beauties of the high tech age we live in is that long forgotten friends and acquaintances are “findable” in short order, at least those who have left enough traces to be found. The same holds true for the use of cyberspace, as used here, as something of a public diary about the back-in-the-days times of the be-bop high school 1960s night. Now I had not heard from Frankie for many years, maybe forty or so, as our paths went in very different directions at some point. All that is important right this minute is that Frankie, king Frankie, heard that I was writing, writing relentlessly, about the old days, and about his lordship. I will give you the details of the hows and whys of how he got in touch with me some other time, maybe. What you know, if you have been attentive is that Frankie has been spewing forth (sorry there is no other word, other appropriate public word, for it) to one and all about His take on the old days as my guest commentator.
Here is where the genie out of the bottle part comes in. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, is not the only one who knows how to work the marvels of cyberspace to get his “party line” out. Now, and christ I’ll be damned if I know how she found out (although I suspect my ex-wife, my first ex-wife that is, who was not part of the old North Adamsville scene but knew all about it, knew, as she said, “where all the bodies were buried”) Joanne, Joanne Marion Murphy (I will use her high school name here just to keep things from getting any more confused than they already are), has actually been following this space, especially since Frankie has “come on board.” And what she wants, no, what she insists on, is “equal time,” equal time to tell her side of the story, the 1959 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade story. She said that Frankie left a lot out, a lot that would make him a little less cocky (her word) if the world knew certain things. Also that Frankie had it wrong, half-arsed wrong, no, full-arsed wrong about her Irishness sensibilities and where they fit into her young schoolgirl life.
Can you believe that? What is more she says there are some other“inaccuracies” in Frankie’s other stories, mainly the ones I wrote. Well, those are fighting words in my book, and as Frankie can tell you, would bring some fists out in our old-fashioned values, mainly Irish working class neighborhood. Those were the old days and I was going to, really going to, just let old Joanne, old ever-loving Joanne twist in the wind on this one. But here is where you have be careful about people, well, okay about women because after I sent her an e-mail on my decision, about thirty-six seconds later I got a return e-mail. And that e-mail asked, pretty please asked, acidly-etched pretty please asked, didn’t I want to know about whether it was true or not that she was“smitten” with me back in the days. What? Who? Well that puts a different perspective on it and perhaps I, in the interest of hearing all sides should allow her this one opportunity to “put things straight.” Besides like I used to say in the old days I like to give the other side an opportunity to speak if only to hang themselves.
Joanne, Joanne Marion Murphy, comment:
Yes, one Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley (Christ, Markin has got me saying it now), and one Markin, Peter Paul Markin, were thick as thieves from the time Markin came over to North Adamsville Junior High School (yes, I know just like Frankie and Pee-pee, my pet name for Markin, know it is now called middle school) from the Adamsville projects over the other side of town in the middle of seventh grade. That part is true, and you can take my word for it. And the part about “Joanne was smart, check, pretty, check, had a winning smile, check, and was universally kind out her religiously-derived social sense, check.” Everything else that this pair has written about the old days, well, why don’t we just say“take it with the grain of salt.” Okay. Now I do not know how much old Markin, dear truth-at-any-price Peter Paul, is going to cut out (edit he calls it) so I want to make sure you know about three things: my opinion of Markin in those old days; the real story of Saint Patrick’s Day 1959; and various inaccuracies about what I did, or didn’t know, about Frankie’s girl flings after we had our little disputes (what he called “misunderstandings”). If I don’t get these points all through Markin’s(and maybe Frankie behind it, as well) meat-cutter please contact me at email@example.com.
Frankie thinks he had Markin figured out, and figured out easy. Just throw him a morsel of an idea and he’ll jump through hoops for you. Well, where do you think, and who do you think gave Frankie that idea? Didn’t I have it right, and here I am speaking "truth to power" about it as proof, on how to get Markin to let me write about the old days in his “space.” All I had to do was throw out the words “smitten" and "Joanne” and he was hooked, just like in the old days. And Frankie never would believe this then, and probably will not now but I was, I won’t say smitten but definitely attracted to Markin from the time he came to our school. No, no the looks, Frankie had them, no question. No, not the be-bop pitter-patter (weak stuff anyway as I will discuss later). No, not the clothes or “style” (Christ, Markin always looked about two inches from a hobo-on the good days-sorry). But Markin had something Frankie never did have, and never will have, his love of ideas (or morsels of ideas), and his love of sharing them with all and sundry.
Frankie just kind of used ideas as a pillow, as something convenient, as something for the moment. Markin would draw circles in the air around them, as if to keep them safe from harm or abuse. See, who do you think was “holding my hand” when old Frankie and I had our problems (sorry Frankie) and we would read poetry or something, or discuss books to make the Frankie-less times a little less hard. So when old Markin says he wouldn’t jump off a bridge for me, don’t you be fooled (or you either Frankie) by his deception. Notice how Pee-pee was talking about “looks”- ask him about intellectual companionship, or discussing books, or reading his inflamed poetry. [Markin interjection: well, yes, of course, which one]. So when Markin (or Frankie, for that matter) goes on and on about Joanne "ball and chain,” or "Joanne didn’t (or couldn’t) do this or that," or even "three’s one too many" that caused plenty of tensions, and caused Markin and I to be sometimes stiffly civil in Frankie presence from seventh grade on just remember what I said here.
Yes, after reading the Frankie screed about how we met in the seventh grade and how he swept me off my feet on Saint Patrick’s Day and after reading as well Peter Paul’s various defenses of his “king” I can confidently say this. The fact that we were all in the seventh grade in 1959, and that we were all in the same school at that time is true. Everything else that this pair has written about me, or about the Frankie-Joanne romance should be handled, well let me put it gently, with a cattle prod. The king and his scribe may have been familiar, in passing, with the idea of the truth, but the truth itself is as Markin was fond of saying in high school a book sealed with seven seals. Let me put you straight, if I can.
Sure I was attracted to Frankie, well, attracted, is probably too strong a word on the first day anyway, let’s call it intrigued. A good-looking (yes, even then twelve years old girls, and maybe, especially twelve year old girls, had their rating systems and Frankie rated pretty high among us girls in that department in those girls’ lav moments when we talked of such things), blondish-brown headed guy with little curled sideburns as was the style then, blue eyes, wiry, medium-built who also came into class wearing brown flannel shirts in September, black chino pants (without cuffs, as they both will endlessly tell you at the drop of a dime, if you just ask them), clunky work boots, workers' work boots, and his midnight sunglasses.
Especially the sunglasses, day and night, night and day. He called them his midnight sunglasses. I do not think that Frankie or Peter Paul mentioned the various battles over those sunglasses in school (and in my house when mother Doris and father James saw him midnight sun-glassed one night). Either selective memory, forget memory or something but what do you think- that a twelve year old kid walking into a working class junior high school in 1958, in the heat of the despised beat movement, was going to go unchallenged on wearing what did not appear to be prescription glasses in school. Well let them, or one of them, tell the whole story, I’ll just say that a compromise (parents, etc. present in principal’s office) was reached and said sunglasses were treated as regular eye wear. Yes, intrigued was just about right, and from the first day. Okay.
Okay, except no way, no way was I going to run with his crowd, especially when I heard, heard from somebody that I remember that I trusted, although I cannot remember her name just now, that Frankie swore, and swore a lot as part of his be-bop pitter patter (as he called it). These guys made fun of me here, and back then even worst, about my being pious, pious at least for public consumption, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like to hear swearing). Not because of some religious scruples but just because my father, and lots of people in the neighborhood, always felt free to swear, swear loudly and whenever they pleased, and it offended my so-called "lace curtain" sensibilities. But we, Frankie and I, were in the same class together and I kind of got used to his pitter-patter and actually, as least as far as I remember, he didn’t swear when I was within earshot. And earshot was the way I kept it for the first few months, maybe closer to the first half of seventh grade. But then I saw that some girls, some girls, some of those girls that Peter Paul called "not so bright" and he was right, that told me they would never go near Frankie and his awful clothes and those weird sunglasses started to hang around his table at lunch, and follow him during class passes. I even saw a couple of girls, a couple who were supposed to be friends of mine and even more pious, really more pious than I was, walking homeward with Frankie. And meantime I was starting to like the look of him. Although something inside still said "stay away."
Then one day, one January day maybe, Frankie cornered me after school, after school and on my way home, and started going on and on about religion, our Roman Catholic religion. I still am not quite sure what he was trying to get at but he went into all kinds of things that I knew were wrong, although the way he said them was nice. Still I thought he had gone off the deep-end rattling on about this and that, including theology that he did not know anything about. I dismissed him out of hand as a nice guy but not for me, not for me unless he showed me a better face.
And then he actually did that. During the February vacation I was working on a project at the old Thomas Crane Public Library on Atlantic Avenue, the one they had as a storefront before they built a better one up at Norfolk Downs across from our Sacred Heart Church. As I was leaving I saw Frankie come up the street. I swear, I swear on the Bible, that I tried to walk pass him as fast as I could and just gave him a friendly nod. But then he started to talk his pitter-patter talk, but this time talking about the Book of Kell, and Ireland, and the old days of struggle against the "bloody English." I found out that he had found out that I was interested in Irish history, and the Irish history of the Church, and stuff like that from my grandmother, Anna, Anna Maude Mulvey, nee O’Brian, who was very close to the people who fought in the struggles against those same "bloody English" in Dublin in 1916. Had relatives over there (some now here) and so on.
So I listened to him, and he sounded better than in January. And that sounding better got him a date, although when he asked me out, asked twelve year old me out, I thought like with other boys it would be, I don’t know, a movie or a dance or something. But, no, Frankie, had to push the Irish card to the fullest. He wanted us to go over to South Boston, along with his new stooge (my term) Peter Paul Markin who was hovering around him like crazy and trying to imitate his "style," unsuccessfully I might add, the stooge was to keep things "on the level," I suppose, for the upcoming Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which was on a Wednesday, I think, a school day in North Adamsville. I said no way, no way because I didn’t want to miss school, and my mother would not have let me miss school for such a thing.
But Frankie was persistent, and every day he would add to his bleeding Ireland pitter-patter and, of course, I liked that he did it but still there was the mother factor, the mother factor, the pious, lace curtain Irish mother who had along with grandmother, so she claimed, had taken great pains, great pains as she said more than once, to get our family away from the heathen, half- heathen anyway, "shanty" Irish that overran South Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day (and every day as she, revealing her real position, also later mentioned more than once). What I did not know then (and didn’t find out about until a few years later was that her shanty Irish applied to Frankie, Peter Paul, and all other North Adamsville shanty Irish who lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and that was literally the wrong side of the tracks not just a figure of speech in that town. More than that she hated, purely hated the idea, the very idea, and fumed over it more than once right in my face about it, that I would go anywhere, anywhere at all with a heathen, or half-heathen, half-breed like Peter Paul who had a Protestant father, can you believe that a Protestant father (although I, and lots of other people, lots of other Roman Catholic to the manor born Irish like Frankie's father, and mine, liked Peter Paul’s father, Prescott, a lot).
And maybe Peter Paul knew this, or knows this now, but at the time when I was rolling the rock up the hill trying to get Doris to give in and let me go with Frankie to the parade when he said he couldn’t go, or wouldn’t go, that actually was when dear mother started to relent. But it was a struggle, no question. Then about two, or three days before that parade, Grandma Anna came over and talked to mother, and talked to her in no uncertain terms about the educational value, the Irish educational value, of going over to see my kindred, and the representative Irish stuff and all of that. And Grandma said she would take Frankie and me over herself. What mother didn't know, old sweet mother Doris, and she was sweet when you didn’t cross her little lace curtain Irish plans to become, I think, just regular Americans, not Irish-Americans like we, meaning my family and others around us call ourselves now, and not carry the baggage from the old days and the old country in our brains every minute, was that I had in desperation called in the “big guns,” Grandma Anna.
That is the term, "big guns," Markin always used whenever some dispute came up with his mother (Arlene, nee McNally) and she called in old Prescott to back her up. I had, in any case, sobbed to Grandma about my plight, about mother not letting me learn about the old country and show Irish pride.“Stop it,” she said. And then blasted out “You just want to be with that boy you’ve been mooning over for the last few months, Frankie, away from home a little and who knows what else, don’t tell me it’s all about Irish history although that doesn’t hurt either.” “But that will be our story, anyway,” she added. I admitted to her, and it is no telling tales out of school here, that I got a little faint when Frankie was around me, and looked my way. She didn’t say anything to that, she didn’t have to say anything to that but just gave her knowing little chuckle. And so grandma law prevailed and Frankie and I were on our way.
Later, a couple of weeks later, after she had taken us over to the parade in her car and them left us to ourselves when she told us she had some “business”to attend to (thanks, grandma,) she said, and I wish maybe I had listened a little more closely, watch out for blarney men, and watch out with both eyes. (Thanks, grandma again although then it was too late). I think Frankie already told you about the parade, and if he didn’t I can’t help much in describing those things because my head and heart were so full of Frankie that day, and about how he really had to be sweet when he went to all the trouble to learn about the troubles, the Irish troubles, just for me and about how I hoped that he would kiss me and that I would be his girl and not one of those other “less bright” girls that were still hanging around his table at lunch and were all moony over him. I know Frankie told you that he did kiss me, and kissed me more than once, and giving me Irish history kisses that I was thrilled to get, even if we both were giving and taking awkward twelve almost thirteen year old kisses. Yes, so if anybody is bothering to keep count, including old Peter Paul whose posed the question, yes I too proudly have a big A (for absence) on my North Adamsville Junior High School attendance sheet for March 17, 1959. A big Irish-kissed A. And what of it.
P.S. I wanted to make sure that Markin didn’t “delete” my telling of the story of Frankie and my first date so I didn’t put anything in about the errors in Frankie’s and Peter Paul’s other stories. This probably won’t make it through the Markin censor machine but if it does then here is the real scoop on old lover boy Frankie’s “love affairs” when we had our later “misunderstandings.”Okay? When Markin told the story of how Frankie went and tried to be the king of the teen age dance club and Frankie fell all over himself over what Markin called that Grace Kelly look-a-like girl whom I was friendly with and had a class with in school and who wouldn’t give him the time of day on the dance floor that night these two, showing definite male vanity, cooked up that part where old Grace Kelly said she was smitten with Frankie but that she wouldn’t mess with him because she was my serious boyfriend. Old Grace didn’t care one bit for Frankie, thought he was a silly old beatnik past his prime and thought it was juvenile in the nth degree to wear sunglasses in school in the hope that it would attract attention, her attention anyway. She said Frankie was“square,” very square and what she said about Frankie's scribe (self-described, Peter Paul self-described), cannot be repeated here (she knew how to swear which I didn’t like, as you know). Also she was not related to me in any way, although she was more than happy to snub old Frankie for me while I was away on summer vacation with my family. E-mail me if you want her full description of Frankie’s “approach” to her that night, it is a riot. We laughed about it for weeks.
More serious though, and this one really has to be straightened out was Markin’s story about another “misunderstanding” time with Frankie and me when Frankie and he were down at the Adventure Car Hop and Frankie picked up my cousin (yes, that part was true, second cousin) Sandy, a car hop there. Yes, Frankie did take her home at his insistence, and yes, he stayed the night. On the sofa. By himself. Sandy was lonely okay, her husband was in the service and wanted more company than a screaming baby to while away the night. And Frankie seemed cool to her that night, and was friendly as well. But when the deal went down she was “true blue” to Rick (her husband) who would also, no question, kill her, maybe literally, if he ever found out and he would. You and I know that too, it’s not that big a town. According to Sandy, Frankie didn’t press the issue, although I do find that part hard to believe but needed to stay at least until dawn to cover his story. A couple of days later Sandy, after finding out that I was Frankie’s honey, called me up with the straight story so I know it’s true. Yes, Frankie, Peter Paul, and I met and hung out together in seventh grade in 1959 and after but beyond that fact if you believe anything this pair has to say, then or now, do so at you peril.
[Markin interjection: Old Joanne, old Professor Murphy, has gone off the deep-end. I would not dream of cutting one word of this little Joanne “take” on our old times. I like to give everybody their say, give everybody enough rope to hang themselves, and she has.]
Labels: EASTER 1916