Thursday, October 25, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-The Be-Bop Beach Night, Circa 1960

“Josh called, Josh called, Josh called about seven times while you were out Betty,” Mrs. Becker yelled up to Betty rushing to her room in order to get ready for her big date with new romance Teddy. Teddy today freshly met, six hours and fifteen minutes ago freshly met, at the beach, the beautiful, beautiful Olde Saco Beach, formerly just a beach, a too stony to the Betty feet touch beach, fetid at low tide (it stunk, honestly) and on more than one occasion held to be a beach fit solely for lowlife by one Betty Becker. But now beautiful, beautiful since Teddy, Teddy Andrews, had noticed her, had traversed and graced his bare feet on that stony brine in order to introduce himself to her, her Betty Becker, soon to be a senior at Olde Saco High and then, then …fleeting moments of fantasy, Mrs. Teddy Andrews.

Now it was not merely happenstance that Betty Becker was on Olde Saco Beach this July 1960 afternoon, stationed there along with her bevy of summering Olde Saco High School girls (okay, okay three other girls just in case four does not make a bevy) in their sacred sanctified spot between the Seal Rock Yacht Club and the South Saco River Club. This spot had been a dedicated place for the pick (and not so pick) of the Olde Saco High soon to be senior girls since, well, since there was probably an Olde Saco Beach, or at least as far back as anyone, any soon to be senior girl could remember. Reason: reason number one and there was (is) no other reason worthy of mention was this was prime real estate, stony brine or not, to be noticed, noticed in summer swim suits or diaphanous sun dresses, by what passed for the Olde Saco Mayfair set, junior division. In short, future husband or lover material to take a step or two up in the world without much heavy lifting (or so most of these young unworldly women thought).

That reason was moreover of more recent origin, and datable as well, since Lydia LeClair, Olde Saco Class of 1944 and of humble MacAdams Textile Mills mill worker family had snagged Robert MacAdams, a grandson of the founder, and was even then comfortable ensconced in a small mansion over in Ocean City for all to see, and admire. So from that time not only was this spot sacred senior girl ground but the seat of dreams of getting out from under some small white picket fence cottage over on Atlantic Avenue and a pinched life fate like their parents. So daily in the summer, pretty girls, not so pretty girls, even just average girls could be found between those two boat clubs and nowhere else. And heaven help, no better, hell help any soon to be freshman, sophomore or junior girl (one not even need to mention junior high girls) found in that precinct before her time. Come to think of it most days anybody but that select company. (And any others would be well advised to avoid that place what with the preening, the giggles, and the incessant johnny angel, teen angel, fool in love, earth angel, angel baby, endless sleep, music roaring out of those collective transistor radios). But enough of beaches, enough of stones, enough of boat clubs, enough of blaring music back to Betty Becker and her palpable dream.

That afternoon Teddy (father a lawyer for the MacAdams Textile Mills and therefore worthy of local Mayfair swell-dom) had spied her, he said, from the deck of the Seal Rock Club and was compelled, compelled he said, to check out the foxy blonde-haired chick (boy term of art, circa 1960 and forward, for, girl, woman) in the red bikini. Betty smiled, smiled the of the knowing, knowing that she had turned more than one head this summer, older guys too with silly no-account leering looks, with that very revealing bathing suit. Unlike the others though, young and old, that she would have rebuffed if they had approached (some if they had come within a mile of her) Teddy had noticed, saw red, saw sex in big letters, walked over to the bevy of blankets (the other three of the so-called not exactly unbecoming but not blonde and red-bikini-ed and therefore this day not Teddy Andrews temperature raising) told her just that, told her how foxy she looked. And she practically swooned (although already practiced in coy-ship just smiled, obligatory smile responded). A few minutes of off-hand banter and they were dated up for the evening.

Dreamy Teddy, rich Teddy, of the father-bought new Pontiac Star Chief sitting in front of the Seal Rock Club for all the world, all the Olde Saco girl world to see, and that was what mattered, with plenty of zip and style (car and boy)that every girl in school was crazy to get in the front seat of, and with. Teddy of the now forget Josh, forget he ever existed Josh. Josh of the two years standing since the first day of freshman year as her beau, but more importantly, with "what is a girl to do big doings and a big hungry world," walking Josh of the no car fraternity. Blah. And before Betty could hear the faint ring of another Josh call she was out the door and planned to be off-limits, Teddy off-limits, to every Josh in school, including Josh, until somebody came by with a father-bought Cadillac and then maybe she would find herself in the front seat of that automobile. Maybe. Yes, a girl, a working-class girl with good looks, a good personality but a little light on the book smarts, and a lot light on the dough smarts had to look out for herself. Josh, eternally understanding Josh, would understand, wouldn’t he?

Meanwhile Josh, Josh of the infinite nickels, had stepped away from the telephone at Doc’s Drugstore over on Main Street after making that eighth call to one Betty Becker. See, Josh had two reasons for using the public telephone at Doc’s, first, he didn’t want snooping older brothers to harass him over his long Betty craze (they had her figured as, at best, a gold-digger and was just hanging on to Josh until the next best thing came along) and so he would not use a home phone to call her. And secondly, currently, the Breslin residence, due to an out of work father, had no phone with which to call Miss Betty in any case. So he was pushing shoe leather between the telephone booth and his stool at Doc’s where a forlorn Coke (cherry Coke) was waiting on the completion of his errand. He said to himself one more time was all and then he would head home. Doc’s motions made him realize that was his fate in any case as he was ready to close up shop for the evening. Ninth call, no soap, and he left saying a pitiful good night to Doc.

Out on Main Street he walked head down, lost in thought, when a big new Pontiac, two-toned (a couple of shades of green then stylish, uh, cool) passed him by, honking like crazy. He didn’t realize who it was until the car came back to him honking like crazy again. Then he saw Betty and her dreamy Teddy laughing, laughing like crazy at the “pedestrian.” The car stopped, Betty got out and gave Josh his class ring back saying that she was not walking any place anymore, thank you. And then, to add insult to injury, Teddy floored the gas pedal leaving dust all over Josh. He could faintly sense them laughing, laughing like crazy once again as they drove away. (Josh found out later through one of the Betty bevy that she was miffed at Teddy for that last act, although she never said anything to Josh about it then or ever since she avoided him like the plague thereafter.)

When Josh got home he went up into his tiny room (the fate of the youngest brother), closed the door behind him, locked it, and turned on his transistor radio. Rock and roll music calmed him down at times like these. Then he thought over the situation and while he was still hurt he could see that Betty had to take her chance, take her chance to get out from under the Olde Saco rock and while he didn’t forgive her he did understand. What he didn’t understand, and wouldn’t understand for many years, was why she acted that way that night on Main Street after they had just discussed the issue the not making fools of each other under any circumstances the previous week. That previous week Betty and he had laughed at that thought promising eternally that such would never be their fates.

[Betty MacAdams, nee Becker, did eventually find her Mayfair swell, for a while, marrying a great-grandson of the founder of the MacAdams textile fortune, moved over with the rest of the clan to Ocean City, had a couple of kids, was eventually divorced by that great-grandson when he went to live with his mistress, and was last heard from living quietly in Europe on her divorce settlement. For a while, until such things went out of fashion, public fashion anyway, Betty (Class of 1961) was held up as the Olde Saco High senior girl example of the possibilities of summering between those two old boat clubs waiting on the Mayfair swells, junior division.- JLB]

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