Harmonyville is any small town, anywhere. Here you will find stories about the townsfolk and events in the town. The characters are, of course ficticious. Any resemblance to anyone you may know, or indeed yourself, are not intentional on my part. Should they remind you of anyone or any circumstance you may have encountered is also purely unintentional on my part. Just sayin – if you know what I mean.
Billy Brown – Works as a stock boy and delivery boy for The Busy Bee; tried to break the Guiness Book of Records for pole sittin; Bowser’s his dog; Billy’s around 13 years old; a really good kid.
May Jones – Owner and Operator of May’s coffee shop; makes the best cup around! Best singer in the County; not allowed to enter competition again since she won three years in a row! Church Choir Master.
Hank Brown – The local Florist; Norm Brown’s Cousin; Decorated the Stage for the Talent Competition.
Madge Farquarson – 80 & a half years old ; Lives next store to Billy Brown; Has a Porch settin relationship now with Old Gundersen; Friend to Bowser (Billy’s Dog).
June & Norm Brown – Billy’s Parents…Real nice Folk!
Alice Kemp – A hulking woman; Mother to Jean who got married in June.
Jean Kemp – Got married in June; Only daughter of Alice; Best friends with Suzie Cannington.
Jack Tierney – The Fire Chief
Bobby Turner – The Editor of The Gazette; Inherited the Paper from his Father.
Dick Barrymore – The Sheriff
Elder Gundersen – Lives on the corner of West & Third. Has a dog named Black; He and Madge Farquarson have a tolerable porch settin relationship.
Silly Sally Cochrane – She’s set her Porch on fire in ’46 and darn near burnt her house down.
May Cannington – Friend to Alice Kemp.
Suzie Cannington – Best friends with Jean Kemp
George Lumas – The Mayor; A Horticulturalist; His family had been on of the first to settle the area; A good man who’s heart is with the soil.
Madge Lumas – George’s wife; Wears dresses pitched low enough to warrant arrest; a Social Butterfly!
Bert Barr – An old codger who plays the Fiddle.
Mildred Puse – Teaches ballet and tap to the kids; Owns & operates the local Dry Goods Store.
Doc Jefferies – Old benevolent Doctor.
Janice Buzzy – Owner & Operator of the local School of Hair Design; One of the Talent Competition Judges.
Eleanor Hampton – An Ex-Beauty Queen; A talent competition Judge.
Ross Cunningham – Runs the local Theatre Group; Talent Judge.
Farnham Boyd – Head of the Board of Education; Talent Judge.
Jim Jorgenson – Local Farmer; His barn burnt down during the heat wave.
Penelope Jorgenson – Jim’s hardworking wife
Cameron Jorgenson – One of Jim’s unpredictable kids; wisp of a kid about 7 years old.
Meg Jorgenson – Flaming Red hair! and always has a dirty face; Runs like the wind!; Really mischievous; about 10 years old.
Ralph (The Jorgenson’s Dog) – Ralph and Meg are a dangerous team; Ralph’s ornier than a cornered cat at the best of times.
Jamie Jorgenson – Jim’s 2 year old son.
Paul Upsom – Owner & Operator of UPSOM LUMBER; Donated lumber at cost for the Jorgenson barn raisin; Store located on Harding Street.
Buzz Baker – Manager of The Busy Bee Market….a real nice fella
Reverend Plasket – The local Minister
Josephine Barker – The Librarian
Well that just about does it for now. You never know who else may turn up. If you know what I mean.
Ever since Bobby Turner’d taken over from his Dad I don’t think there’d been a lick of news worth printing. Not since ’46 when silly Sally Cochrane’d set her couch on fire and darn near lost her house if it hadn’t been for Jack Tierney. Gunderson had caused a little excitement, but that incident is merely whispered about in parlors. No, I guess poor Bobby spent most of his time printin about who’s been invited to who’s place for dinner, babies bein born, people gettin hitched and yes, people dyin. He did a real big spread on Jean Kemp’s wedding. It turned out to be real special. The flowers were exceptional that summer and Jean did look the Story-Book Bride. Everything was perfect. It turned out just the way they’d planned it. Miracles do happen.
You know, Bobby really had a way about him just like his Dad did when it came to writin things down the way they were. He used every descriptive word known to mankind and made the most boring occasion sound like ya jest had ta be there. One day I set down to read my daily copy of The Gazette and wasn’t expecting ta find anything exciting when the headline just jumped out at me as it never could. It said, BILLY TO SET GUINESS RECORD! Now what was I ta think of that! I knew Billy pretty good and he always told me everything on our Wednesday night walk home. He was holdin out on me! What could he possibly be thinkin!
Billy wasn’t the kind to go after lots of attention either and goin after a record certainly brought you that! I knew Jean’s weddin hadn’t left him happy either but things like Puppy Love get over quick most times. He was deliverin a lot of free samples to Jean’s house and I noticed he always took the long way home past her place on Wednesday nights but…What had he got in his head? The article said that Billy Brown of Third Street was about ta break the Guiness Book of Records for sittin on top of a Flag Pole. This particular Flag Pole was located in front of the Post Office across from the City Hall building. Volunteers would be needed to keep him company and help was needed in aid of feeding him. Anyone interested in helping Billy reach the record was to call Bobby Turner at the Gazette. I guessed our Billy was about to attract some attention in a big way! I guessed our town was about to attract some attention.
Well, didn’t things start ta buzz really quick! At the town meeting the next night all heck broke loose. There were some who thought he was crazy. There were some who thought his parents June and Norm, were off their rocker just lettin him try. Then there were some who thought that this was our time to cash in. Wouldn’t there just be thousands of people wantin to come and see the sight. They’d come from miles around. The National News would probably be comin. This was the real Big Time! What were we gonna do?
Well, for an average tyke Billy’d just turned the town on its heals. People figured we’d need a committee for this and a committee for that. The local Business Men’s Association were seeing millions of dollars comin in over a week or however long Billy’d be able ta stay up there. What if he stayed up there an entire year! was their thinkin. We’d be rich!
The name Billy Brown was on everyone’s lips. The Busy Bee promised him his job back at the end of his adventure and a raise! They told him he had ta wear a Busy Bee Special sweat shirt saying, “Billy works at the BUSY BEE!”. Yup, everybody was gonna cash in. The Busy Bee even had plans to get a special dog sweater for Bowser sayin, he was Billy’s Busy Bee Bowser. I supposed they were even gonna get the town to let them fly a Busy Bee Flag atop the pole.
Well, Wednesday night after the Tuesday’s Town Meetin I half expected to be walkin home alone from my marketing, but as usual Billy picked up my groceries and we began our slightly detoured walk as we each snapped off a piece of Butterscotch Candy. Billy was pretty quiet that night. I don’t wonder why. I wasn’t about to start askin him questions. I was sure he’d had a lot of people askin him what he thought he was doin. I guessed he had his reasons and if he wanted ta tell me he could. We chatted about the weather, the stars, about Bowser’s Vet visit, school and everything else but what he was about ta do. Billy was thirteen now. Tough times I thought. Maybe his thoughts were best left to himself. Maybe just a peaceful Wednesday nights walk home and talk about nothin in particular was just what was right. He knew he could tell me what was on his mind. I knew he would when he could. But it sure was killin me not ta ask.
Well, the fateful day arrived and the town was buzzin to beat the band. In fact there was a Band for the occasion. People were arriving with lawn chairs and picnic lunches. Dick Barrymore was havin the worst time with the traffic. Dick had never seen that many cars in one place before and you could see it was affecting his blood pressure. Jack Tierney and his Brigade were bringin the fire truck through to help raise Billy to the top of the Flag Pole. Alice Kemp, Jean, May Cannington and Suzie were settin up a coffee and soft drinks stand. I’m tellin ya everyone was gettin into the picture. The Busy Bee Market had a special booth set up to make meals for Billy and to sell sweat shirts in memory of the occasion. The Mayor, George Lumas, who was also an expert Horticulturalist, was decked out in his suitable best and at his side was his wife Madge, dressed in a disgusting floral print dress pitched low enough to warrant arrest.
Well, the time finally came and Jack Tierney wired Billy into some kind of gadget and raised him to the top. The cheers rang out and Bowser started hollerin like heck! I wondered if he’d ever stop!
Billy’d never seemed really happy about the whole thing. You’d think he’d have really played it up, but he didn’t. I watched as the days went by. People got bored and less and less people took interest. Finally one night, real late they say, Jack Tierney was called ta come and bring Billy down. He never did break the record. People never did talk much about it. The Busy Bee took him back but didn’t give him the raise. Bobby Turner played it down in the paper. The first Wednesday night after, we walked straight home and didn’t detour past Jean’s place. Billy was thirteen now, goin on fourty. We all do things we have to do. One thing is that Billy’ll never be accused of not tryin and just that, makes him Hero enough for me.
Madge was just about 80 and a half years old when I met her. She seemed a pleasant sort. You know, she liked people in general, liked the neighbour’s dog and fed him…a lot more than she should, if you know what I mean, and he loved her. He never even considered “doin it” on her lawn. He knew where his bread was buttered and I think there was a lot of understanding between them.
What a couple. He sure didn’t need any tellin when Madge made it to her front porch. There he was a tongue waggin before she knew it. His feathered tail wagging ta beat the band as if he hadn’t set eyes on her in a dog’s age. Yup, I think there was a real cozy feelin between them two. She’d get herself real comfy and set on her big pillowed chair and he’d be a layin real close at her tiny feet, content as a dog could ever be.
Occasionally, when Madge was up to it, Bowser and her would take a stroll to The Gunderson’s house and back. Gunderson’s, you might know, was down three houses and sat neatly round the bend on the corner of West and Third.
Elder Gunderson weren’t no prize, I can tell you that, sure as my names Isaac. I think old Madge only strolled down that way to egg him on! She knew it urked him one hundred ways to Sunday to see her out strollin, particularly on Sundays. Old Gunderson hadn’t removed himself from his porch in some ten years. I’m not sure, but I think Madge and him musta had a thing goin on in their spryer days. No sooner’d Madge and Bowser appear than Older Gunderson would heave hisself up off his rocker and go inside. It was sure funny to look at.
How’d I know all this? Well, my window seat points out kitty corner from Old Gunderson’s house two doors up and I get a pretty darn good gander at both of their places. And I like Old Madge. I kinda watch out for her. If you know what I mean.
So one day Madge Farquarson decides to take a stroll and Bowser’s right there at her heals. I don’t know, somehow it was a comfort to see them together. You’d think a big dog would get in her way, but Bowser, well, I guess he knew. The pup was bright alright!
Bowser was Billy Brown’s pup. Billy was a good kid. Never seemed to get into a lick of trouble. Billy knew somehow that Bowser just took to Old Madge. Billy and Bowser did a whole lotta licking and carrying on together and Billy was a busy boy at The Busy Bee Supermarket bagging people’s groceries after school. I think he was happy just knowing Bowser had another friend to spend time with.
So anyway, this one Sunday Madge is all decked out and takin her stroll down West St. with Bowser towards Gunderson’s house. She’s all a party in pink! Madge sure knew how to deck herself up right. That I can say for sure. Even Bowser was giving her the nod, she looked so good. I guess in the big scheme of things Madge was real important. Not that every Tom, Dick and Harry noticed, but Madge had a certain way about her. I expect she gave a little bit of herself to everyone she met. You know what I mean. She, was one of God’s people. Oh, not in a religious way, if you know what I mean, just God given. A downright ray of sunshine. A magical person. She could make you smile simply by lookin at her.
Elder Gunderson on the other hand was downright crotchety. A real bear. A challenge to the likes of Madge. So was his dog…Black. I guess that’s the only way Black could be. I guess I’d be downright ornery havin to be called by the likes of Old Gunderson. Why, Black would hoot and holler and carry on like crazy when Madge and Bowser’d appear. Good thing Old Gunderson tied him up on a short leash out front. I never once saw nobody playin with Black. I don’t think Black knew how to play, let alone give a big drippin kiss like Bowser would, if you let him.
It had to be 1 o’clock, just after my favourite T.V. Show, when I took a gander out my window. As usual there was Madge and Bowser out for their Sunday walk. As they came up to the corner of Third and West, happy and lookin bright as a sunny day, suddenly Black came a chargin and I mean hell-bent for leather, towards Bowser and Madge. Don’t ya know it scared the life outta me just seeing Black off his tether. How in holy name had he got loose. He was headed straight at Madge and you could tell that Bowser weren’t all that pleased. I ain’t never seen Bowser in a lousy mood before. I guess he was bristling. Things weren’t looking too good. If you know what I mean. Where was Old Gunderson now, I thought.
Well, Madge wasn’t takin to well to the current event. I could see she was a tad nervous seein Black comin her way. Her and Bowser kinda got huddled together waiting for the eventuality. What in God’s name was Black’s problem. I was half watchin and half runnin to help the situation. Things were just happenin so fast. I mean you just freeze up in them situations. It’s like watchin a Movie at the Picture Show. Ain’t nothin you can do but watch. Hold your breath and watch.
Well, the Black keeps comin and carrying on like a crazy. But doesn’t he stop short not more than two feet in front of Madge and Bowser and carry on like a nut case. He just stands there and whines like a baby. Well ya gotta know this was a relief to Madge and Bowser, if you know what I mean. Strange thing tho. Neither one of them ever thought that Black could be a whimperin mush. I mean who’d a thought. But where was Gunderson now?
It was about the same time Billy was comin home from Sunday School. All decked out in his Sunday Best and lookin really spiffy. He took note of all the commotion. Well, Billy never took a likin to Gunderson or Black. In fact, he’d had to deliver groceries to Gunderson’s on more than one occasion and had a bad taste in his mouth for both Black and Gunderson. Black had near tore a piece off his work pants one time and since then he’d been real careful and real scared about takin any deliveries to the Gunderson house. He sure didn’t want to take hell from his Mom over his Sunday Best Clothes being tore by Black.
But somehow Black was different this time. He was still being crazy, but more worried and scared than mean. Well, after the initial shock wore off, everybody, including me, was wonderin where Old Gunderson was. He wasn’t settin in his usual spot and lookin at the house you could see he hadn’t even opened his window curtains that sunny mornin. Could there be somethin wrong? Gunderson lived alone, except for Black, and everyone figured Black and him deserved each other. They sure painted an ornery picture.
Well, Black just kept a howlin and whinin away. Somethin ain’t right was the way everyone was thinkin. Was Old Gunderson finally off his rocker, lettin Black off his chain or was there really somethin wrong?
It was Madge who finally decided to do something. Well, she took herself up and marched right on to Gunderson’s Porch to give him what for! Puttin such a scare into everybody an all! I never seen her so determined. Black’s tail started waggin like a ninny and he followed her to the door. Well, didn’t Madge start bangin on Gunderson’s door and weren’t Bowser and Black howlin and wasn’t Billy right excited! I was talkin out loud to myself and cheering everybody on til I got hold of myself and cursed myself for being a stupid ninny watchin like it was a Picture Show. If ya know what I mean. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so excited. This was a big one I thought! So, I called the Sheriff.
Dick Barrymore had been the Sheriff since nobody could remember. Well I finally got it outta me and Dick said he’d be right over. Dick was nothin if he wasn’t Johnny-On-The-Spot and before I knew it, he was sirening his way down Third Street. Madge and the gang had gone into the house before I got back to my window. Holy Moly! I thought, wasn’t this the BIG ONE! We hadn’t had this much excitement since silly Sally Cochrane had set her couch on fire in ’46. Hadn’t she hit the Gazette!
Bobby Turner’d had a real exciting Newsday with that one! Didn’t I call Bobby Turner right there and then. Stories weren’t easy to come by in this town. Bobby’d be really happy to be at the scene of the crime. Was there really a Crime? Didn’t I run like a bat outta hell to The Gunderson place. Wasn’t gonna be left outta this one! Nope!
Well, by the time I’d run down my porch steps people was comin outta Gunderson’s Place laughing! There was Madge and Billy charring away and weren’t Bowser and Black romping like old buddies on the front lawn. Just about that time Bobby’d pulled up out front of Gunderson’s and we stood there just gawkin like two pigeons lookin for a handout. What in Sunday’s name had turned this horrible crisis into a Sunday Picnic?
Well, I was gonna find out on my own. Didn’t me and Bobby go high tailin into Gunderson’s, passin all the joviality on our way. Well, we stepped through the Front door and Gunderson weren’t to be seen. I hollered for Dick Barrymore and he hollered back from upstairs. Just about then, Jack Tierney’s Fire Brigade pulled up and came chargin in! What in Holy Name was goin on?
Well, there ain’t much left ta tell now. If you know what I mean. Things calmed down. Bowser and Black became hollerin friends. Naturally Black never bothered Billy again. Madge and Gunderson had a tolerable porch settin relationship. Bobby never printed the story out of respect for Gunderson. Things just got quiet again. I ain’t never told anyone what I saw. The Sheriff and Jack Tierney just forgot all about it. But that’s the way of our town. We keep ourselves pretty much quiet.
I still feel all warm watchin Madge and Bowser takin their Sunday stroll and now things are just about perfect on Third and West. Old Gunderson’s actually smilin and chattin and well, Black’s tail never wagged so much. Things, like I said, are pretty much quiet and a lot more warm. How else could they be. You can’t easily forget such a sight! Brings a smile to the corners of your mouth. If ya know what I mean…
Now, Dick Barrymore, like I said, was nothin if he wasn’t johnny-on-the-spot. He knew just about everybody in town. In fact he knew everybody in town, come to think about it. It was his business to know. After all, he was the Sheriff, and a darn good man ta boot. Nothin happened in our town without Dick knowin about it. He had a way of knowin things about people who was outright frightening sometimes. Why I think Dick knew things about people that he wouldn’t dare speak about in public. Everybody trusted Dick. I guess a Body had ta.
Come this one day I was settin in May’s Cafe havin myself a good cup, when Dick walks in with a very serious look on his face. You could count on Dick to make your day with a warm smile and a friendly how’d ya do. So anyways, Dick walks over to May and they’re havin themselves a real close chat so’s nobody could hear what they were saying. There isn’t anything more frustratin than whispers and low conversation in my book. It got me painful curious. I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all if they’d been talking normal, but this set me crazy. I figured May’d fill me in after Dick left. She wasn’t one, as you know, for keepin things to herself, if ya know what I mean. Anyways, after a few minutes Dick about faces, passes me a quick nod and strides out of the Cafe. Now May’s got this serious look on her and I’m about to split with curiosity. She sure didn’t do her usual and rush right over and spill the beans, if ya know what I’m sayin.
Well, doesn’t she just go about her business and leave me high and dry! I called her over and she just acted like nothin happened, like Dick had never been there. No amount of cajolin would get her goin. So I hoisted myself up & got comfy knowin there was more than one way ta skin a cat. I’d get it outta the horse’s mouth if I had ta, if you know what I mean. I paid May for my coffee and with a thankyou very much look I exited the Cafe. No May Jones was gonna have it over me. Good Coffee or not!
Wasn’t I just so curious that I was shakin my head and talkin to myself all the way down ta Main St. Imagine them two thinking they could put blinders on me. What in Holy Name was up I was thinking. I got down ta Main St. and realized I wasn’t goin anywhere. I mean I was just kinda wonderin without a destination, not the usual for me, if ya know what I’m sayin. This sure was drivin me to distraction. I figured I’d better turn tail and go home before Dick had ta pick me up for loiterin. On the other hand maybe I’d make a personal visit to Janice Buzzy’s and set myself up for a New Do, I was just about needin a trim and curl. Her shop was just down the street and it was a real nice day. I had ta pass Hank’s Florist Shop too and so why not pop my head in there too I thought. Justa be neighbourly, if ya get my meanin. Might even buy myself somethin if it took my interest I thought, smilin like I’d never treated myself. And, I thought, if I had the time and the slightest interest I might just make it a day and kinda wander down to City Hall and see what kinda day Dick was havin.
Well, Hank had a jovial and surprised look on his face as I walked into his Shop. Just not expectin ta see the likes of me at an unscheduled time I supposed. It was darn nice seeing him. He looked married I thought, then I chuckled to myself for thinkin such a thing, if ya get my meaning. He greeted me with a smile and seemed a little tense but I wasn’t about thinkin he’d swallowed any canaries. His Florist Table was covered with all sorts of small white boxes. This got me curious but I figured he musta had an out-of-town order or something. Just about then the phone rang & he saw me lookin and blurts out that it was an out of town order & smiles. Musta been a real impatient person on the other end of that phone cause he was wincing and checking his watch like he was late for a date. Anyways he hangs up & starts small talkin but I could tell he had somethin on his mind. Just poppin my head in ta say Good day, I offered. I left with a smile and thinkin the world has its priorities and it didn’t seem ta be me today. Funny I thought how people get so used ta other people’s habits and one thing outta the ordinary can throw them a dozen ways ta Sunday. Chucklin again about how I’d effected him I wondered as I left how Janice Buzzy was gonna take my unannounced visit.
I was kinda feelin a little tingly, felt like a kid playin hookey. On I went to Janice’s. I was still hankerin ta know what in the world Dick was being so secretive about. Maybe Janice’d have an idea. After all Janice had the ear of most of the gals in town at least. As I walked into the Shop Janice was equally surprised ta see me. That was natural I supposed being unannounced an everything, if ya know what I’m thinking. She sure looked busy. All the chairs were filled and the magazines weren’t in their usual neat array on the table. Everyone in the shop turned and looked at me with a surprised, what’s she doin here look. Been real busy I guessed. Well she kinda looked at me and gave me this awkward howdy do and weren’t I just not being my usual self and what did I want. Well, wasn’t that a nice howdy do I thought. She took me at an angle if ya know what I mean and I just said I was in the neighbourhood and couldn’t I make an appointment. It was like askin for the world, the look I got, so I just said maybe I’d mosey along and call her later, if she knew what I meant.
Well, I was so pleased at myself for turning the town upside down with my little walk, that I decided I’d just better go home. Didn’t wanna shock the World by doin somethin a little different. In Holy Name I was feelin kinda put off. Not the kinda feelin I was used to or liked, if ya know what I’m sayin. I just better go home and put my feet up was what I was thinkin. As I was turning the corner at Main, on my way to West, I noticed that there were more than a few cars lined up outside City Hall, but I sure wasn’t gonna be anywhere else and feeling I was disturbing the Order of Things. Off ta home was the best place for me. Dick Barrymore and his secret would have ta wait. As I got to West and turned down towards Third and home I figured I’d at least had a good walk and wasn’t I ready for a quiet lay down on my Sofa. I’d deal with May and the gang tomorrow. Enough was enough.
Well, Bowser was nowhere to be seen. Gunderson wasn’t on his porch and didn’t the neighbourhood look deserted. Oh well I thought, a good rest would make me feel better, I guessed. Gettin up my porch steps I looked around and thought all’s well and weren’t I just so silly thinking somethin was up. All’s well in our little Kingdom, and days would be days, ain’t nothin gonna change that. As I opened my front door and stepped in I was ta have the surprise of my life. There standin in front of me was Billy, June and Norm Brown and Bowser lookin like they’d swallowed the canary. Hurry up they said or we’ll be late. They hauled me back out and into Norm’s car and well, I was in shock. They weren’t sayin a word. We pulled up outside City Hall and hurried inside. While I was tryin ta catch my breath they were herding me in ta The Great Hall all cheery and grinnin ta beat the band. Where was the fire I thought and what in Holy Name’d got into them.
Well, I’ve never seen such a crowd! Everyone was sittin or standin and grinnin and lookin at me. There was Hank and Janice and May. Dick was standin at the front just smilin and grinnin at me too. As I was pushed to the front of the hall I saw a sign saying, “CITIZEN OF THE YEAR”…All our Love…Your Harmonyville Friends!….We Love You! …
Well! Didn’t this beat all! I almost fainted on the spot. I looked at all those grinnin, happy faces. All those beautiful people I cherished as Family. What in the world were they doin presentin me with such an award. All I could think was just how much I loved them all and just what a ninny I’d been thinkin they were hidin something from me. I guessed they got me this time! I guessed I knew Harmonyville was about the best place in the world. If ya know what I mean…
I guessed May Jones was the most brilliant singer I’d heard since I don’t know who. Every Sunday she sings us all in to Heaven, I swear. She’s done a really good job of reaching in and grabbing what she could from the Choir too. I guessed we had the best Choir in the County. Even Alice Kemp sounded tolerable and its a wonder since she went around screamin at her kids most times. It’s a wonder she had a voice at all. After Billy’s voice changed he became a real fine tenor and a credit to the Choir.
That’s a real warm story for me. It was just after he’d come down from the Flag Pole and realized what was goin on in his mind about Jean. No wonder he didn’t have too much to say to me on that long walk home. Its no wonder he didn’t have to much to say to most anyone in the following two weeks after his Flag Pole adventure. He had a lot of things on his mind I guess.
Well…I suppose May Jones’d rescued him in a way. When life hits ya in the face and changes things without your permission, what ya gonna do? May’d caught Billy mopin around drinkin sodas in her Cafe. She’d seen him mopin his way through Church and I guess she figured bein his age was what was wrong.
So anyways, May catches Billy this one day at the Cafe and tells him she could sure use another Choir member. You know, someone a bit younger and with a voice just like Billy’s. I guess Billy’d almost fell off his chair thinkin he might be special to anyone. So May tells him to come to Choir rehearsal the following Thursday night at 7 o’clock sharp. Doesn’t Billy high tail it outta the Coffee Shop and doesn’t he land straight into me.
After apologizing a hundred ways to Sunday he starts rattling on about how he’s gonna sing in the Choir. I’ve seen changes come about in people but never was I so happy ta see this one. So off he goes chargin like a bat outta hell to home.
Billy’d been a regular Sunday School goer since he could walk. Now he was thirteen. Now he was gonna be part of the Church in a way he’d only imagined. To top it off he was gonna be in the Choir! How special could things get? He supposed the Busy Bee’d understand him havin ta go to choir practice Thursday nights instead of stocking the shelves. He’d have ta give up some of his working time. Oh well, he was gonna be in the Church Choir!
Friday morning, instead of staying in I decided I’d check out May’s Cafe and get the details of the night before. Now, I’d just figured that Billy’d be more excited than a Goose at feedin time for his first practice, but the way May described it was something else. Of course everybody knew that May was prone to exaggeratin most of the time and I guess’d that was one reason she got so many customers. She was so entertainin, if ya know what I mean.
Well, I guess Billy’d quit work earlier than necessary so’s he could go home and get spiffed up for the coming event. I mean, he usually started work at 4 o’clock and went until nine on Thursdays on account of havin ta stock the shelves for people’s big shopping days Friday and Saturday. But, seems he’d asked ta leave at 5:30. Buzz Baker, the Manager had reluctantly given him permission all the while wonderin why he couldn’t work til 6:30 at least seein how the Church wasn’t all that far away and wouldn’t Billy have lots of time to get there. It was five minutes down the road. Buzz was pretty smart and Billy’d always gone that little bit extra for him, so…
Anyways, May says Billy’d arrived at 6:30. She knew since she’d arrived just as he was about ta set down on the Church steps ta wait. He was beamin she says but lookin just a little bit outta breath with all the rushin she’d guessed he’d been doin. He had his Sunday clothes on. She thought he’d even spit and polished his shoes. He was a real concern she said. Now I knew Billy was always real ready to please. June and Norm Brown had really raised a fine upstanding member of the community. I also knew that May Jones had a pretty high standard when it came to her choir. As much as she was willin ta give Billy this chance and knew that it meant all the world to him, she was tough.
Now here I was setting there listening to May recount her story of Billy’s arrival and wasn’t gettin just what I wanted, if you know what I’m sayin. Here was May on about his shoes and his Sunday Best clothes and his beaming face, tellin the rest of the customers how excited he was in her very best and loudest voice. I wasn’t sure what to think until May pours herself a cup and sets down next ta me. I supposed May knew why I was there since I wasn’t a regular Friday mornin customer and she knew Billy and I were pretty comfy. So, she leans over her cup and not in her usual loud voice starts tellin me the awful story.
Well, I guess they’d gone into the Church and May’d got Billy busy doin some chores for her, settin out the music and all. Come seven o’clock everybody starts arrivin and talkin and the usual carryin on til May gets to tellin them to settle down for practice. Well, May says she told Billy to listen to the first bit and then she’d have him join in. She gives him his part and doesn’t he open his mouth and let out the biggest frog voice since the beginning of time. Well, she says, everybody just sat there not knowing what ta think let alone what to say. Billy’s face just hit the floor and she says, he darn near started to cry. May’d seen this happen before she says and well she could hardly keep herself from burstin out laughin.
Well, I was settin there listening to old May Jones make fun of my Billy and I darn near grabbed her throat. Before I could leap at her she grabbed my arm and put a big May Jones smile on and said calm down. I guessed she saw me comin. Its lucky the Old Bag had a sense of timing. She leans further into me and starts tellin me how beautiful his voice was. Talk about a turn around. I knew May was a kidder and full of stories but I’d get her back for this one. Seems Billy had a beautiful Tenor voice the likes she hadn’t heard in she couldn’t remember when. I left May’s Cafe thinkin I’d never go back after her raggin me on so, but beamin brighter than a star in a clear blue night, so proud I was of Billy. I couldn’t wait to get to Church on Sunday.
Come Sunday morning I put on my best dress. This was a very special occasion for me and I guessed for Billy. I set myself down right up front wantin Billy ta see just how proud I was of him. The Minister, Reverend Plaskett, was wondering what was up since I never set so close. I just winked at him and smiled. He could ask if he wanted to. I guessed he wouldn’t.
Well, I never sang so loud and was never so moved by a Sermon before in my life. I think the whole event got me going like Church never had before. Billy sang like a bird right down in front of the whole Choir. They sure found themselves a gift in that boy. I don’t know but God sure works in mysterious ways. That’s most of what all I can say about it. God bless May Jones for givin him the chance; God bless Jean Kemp for gettin married; God bless Buzz Baker for understanding the needs of a child; God bless Norm and June for havin him and God bless Billy for bein Billy.
Well, I guess I was pretty darn lucky. I guessed I wouldn’t be sleepin in on Sunday mornin like I sometimes did. May’s Cafe seemed like the place ta go for a real good cup of coffee. The whole darn town took on an even bigger importance ta me and Billy and Me seemed to have a whole lot more ta think about.
Hank Brown, as I said before was Norm Brown’s cousin. The flowers in his shop were always fresh and he knew how ta put together a real nice arrangement. The way he decorated the High School stage for the Talent Competition each year was a sight to behold. He always seemed ta be the number one winner at the County Fair for his displays. Why one year his Orchids made the National News and weren’t we just so proud!
I often pondered on why Hank Brown didn’t move to some big City and become some famous big time Florist to the Stars or something. I guessed he was just as happy ta be right here in our town. He wasn’t one for socializing. I heard he’d gone ta some big high standing school and had a real good education but I guessed the flower business was his only real concern. I guessed it didn’t matter what kinda education ya had just so’s you were lucky enough to be doing somethin ya liked doin.
It seemed Hank was preparing all year for the County Fair. He had a special knack with Roses, I know cause he’d let me watch him sometimes as he took his time pruning them and such. He treated them like children, talkin to them and all the while humming as he went around to each bush.
He had names for each of them. There was Caroline, Rosemary, Katharine and I don’t know what. One year some fella from up north who’d heard about Hank’s Roses had come especially to see him and take photographs of them, seems he was responsible for the beautiful posters of the Roses that were spread around the countryside. Hank’s Roses sure were famous.
Every year the County Fair Board of Directors would attach a theme to the Floral competition. This year it was to be a Fairy Tale theme. Now, each participant was ta keep their display plans a secret until the opening day of The Fair. It made it more excitin that way I supposed. They could choose any Fairy Tale they wanted to. Hank, as I said before was a real smart man and seems Josephine Barker who was the Librarian had watched Hank go through every book she had on Fairy Tales. She had even ordered some especially that the Library didn’t have on hand so’s Hank could do a complete study. Seemed like a whole lot of work for nothin I thought but guessed Hank knew what he was doin and it was all that important to him.
About a month before the Fair Hank became real busy preparing for his exhibit. His shop almost closed down he got so busy with his work. In fact this one year he did close down for three days each week of the month before The Fair and wasn’t it interestin how Eleanor Hampton was spending a lot of time gettin herself all dolled up at Janice Buzzy’s place practically every other day.
Janice had practically had to use a crowbar ta get it outta Eleanor as ta why she suddenly had ta be lookin her best every minute of the day. Eleanor looked real good most times anyways, her bein an Ex-Beauty Queen an all. But the way Janice told it Eleanor wasn’t foolin around about somethin. She’d get her nails done, her toes done and anythin else done that she figured needed fixin. It was terrible interestin.
One Friday morning as I was settin in May’s Coffee Shop I just happened ta mention that wasn’t Eleanor Hampton lookin extra special these days. Of course that’s all I had ta say ta get her on her way. As I said before May was sure one for a story and knew just about everything that was goin on in our town. She was sure entertainin and ya figured you’d get the truth from her in an exaggerated sort of way. Look how she’d pulled my leg about Billy and near got me grabbin her throat, wasn’t I so riled.
Anyways she starts. It was sure peculiar she says how Hank Brown and Eleanor Hampton were just bumpin into each other so frequently of late. Just by accident, if you knew what she meant and just so regular your could set your clock by them. It was all too funny ta watch. One of em would get there first, they never came in together, and before you knew it they’d be sharing a table together, just by accident. They’d get real cozy she says and both of em had a grin on their faces that reached from ear to ear. Sometimes they’d spend near two hours settin there smilin at each other and she figured they never even tasted their coffee. The even funnier part was that they never left together either. As if it wasn’t so darn obvious that they were seein each other. This, she says, had bin goin on for at least a month and she figured it all started this one Sunday at Church.
May, as you know was the Choir Master and she got a pretty good view of the Congregation from where she set. Seems Eleanor and Hank never paid any mind to each other. They both came to Service alone every Sunday and set alone. Neither one of em ever seemed to get involved with the goings on before or after the Service. They’d just come and go. This one Sunday The Reverend Plaskett had given one of his best sermons and more people seemed ta want ta hang around afterwards than was usual. May was chattin up a storm with anyone who would listen to her, when she noticed Eleanor and Hank hangin around sorta cozy in the Coffee Room. Well, she figured that was the beginnin of this whole affair.
As May set there laughin and shakin her head about the whole thing I guessed I had the whole story and was wonderin whether Hank would even make it ta the County Fair this year. Seems he had a lot of other things on his mind. I guessed that was one reason his shop was closed so often. Between trips to the Library and coffee outtins with Eleanor I don’t wonder, if ya know what I mean. I was beginnin to wonder if Eleanor had also been furtherin her education at the Library at certain times when Hank’s shop was closed. Seemed like a good time ta take out a book, if ya know what I mean.
Turns out that Josephine had the same story as May, or close to it. Didn’t they just set there across from each other sorta readin and watchin each other for the longest time. Didn’t both of em look like they’d just swallowed the canary.
Well Hank and Eleanor started meetin with The Reverend and didn’t that just spell it all out. Hank got to the County Fair and did a spectacular job as usual. His Caroline Rose won a special prize. Turns out he’d used Alice In Wonderland as his theme and Eleanor was his Alice. He’d got himself a rabbit and had all the characters from the story mixed in amongst his display. It was sure beautiful was what everyone said. As usual he took first prize.
Hank’s Floral Display
The Weddin took place a week after the Fair and Eleanor looked better than ever. Hank never looked better. I guessed things’d never looked better for both of em. And so it goes……
Every year we have ourselves a Talent Competition. Every year we get the same good- natured Hams wantin to strutt their stuff. I guess there wouldn’t be a competition without the likes of Bert Barr bein there. Bert’d dust off his fiddle and be the first one in line. We all knew that. It was one of them unspoken assumptions that people were always pridin themselves about knowin. I guess I had the Ham in me too cause every year I’d head up the Judgin and God knows it pleased me one hundred ways ta Sunday knowin everyone of them Hams was gonna try anything ta get my attention.
Every first Tuesday Town Meetin in April we’d set down and discuss the Talent Competition. It was one heck of a tradition. I guess I found it right exciting. Every first Tuesday Town Meetin in April was held at the Highschool Gymnasium since nearly the whole town would show up for this one. Everybody knew it and that’s the way it was.
It was funny ya know, cause every year at this time poor George Lucas’d have ta practically move out of his house since his wife, thought she was God’s Gift ta singers. Poor George having ta listen to Madge do her vocalizin in preparation for the Big Event. Not only that, but George naturally headed up the Judging Panel. You can just imagine what he musta had to put up with.
It was a happy time of year for Mildred Puce, since she owned the local Dry Goods Store and her sales just shot up with people wantin material to make their costumes. She also taught Ballet and Tap lessons during the year to the little ones and this was their time ta shine. Yes, I guess Mildred shone brighter than a new penny about now. She was no spring chicken and I sometimes wondered if Old Doc Jefferies didn’t give her a regular lecture on watchin her blood pressure.
Every May 1st, and it didn’t matter what day it was, was the Official Talent Competition Night. It was always held at 7 o’clock sharp. The Talent had ta be there at 5:30 so as the organizin committee could get them sorted out as to their order of appearance etc. This was done by chosin numbers outta of a hat. I always thought that was the fairest way. June Brown’d borrow one of Billy’s baseball caps and cut herself up some numbers and everybody’d draw from there. A special tent was set up out back for the competitors to wait their turn since there was no room in the backstage area for them. Jack Tierney seemed to always enjoy puttin up the tent so that was that. He always made a big deal out of it and it made the nervous Talent feel real special by decorating it up with balloons and things. He always had somethin special to give to all of them in remembrance of the occasion. One year he gave everybody a Commemorative hat with a bright and shiney star on the brim. Jack sure knew how to make people feel special, if you know what I mean.
The Judgin Panel was made up of six people. George Lumas, of course, me, Eleanor Hampton who was an ex-Beauty-Pageant winner, Ross Cunningham who ran the local Theatre Group, Farnham Boyd who was head of The Board of Education, and Janice Buzzy who owned and operated the local School of Hair Design. I was representing the local citizens and I was not heading up anything, if you know what I mean, and I was downright proud to be a part of such an illustrious group of people. I was always fair and I’m afraid a bit generous in my judgin. It was a well known fact on the Panel that I always gave the same mark. Only fair I thought and it kinda balanced things out, in my mind, if you know what I mean.
The afternoon of the competition I always went to Janice’s for a hair do. Not that I went regular, but on special occasions like this one I made a point of lookin as good as I could. Janice always had a way of fixin you up to feel like you were goin to some real special, once in a lifetime event. She knew how ta touch ya up, puff ya up and really get ya goin. She had such a way about her. I’d get outta Janice’s and strutt my way down the road a piece to pick up my corsage that was always made up special for the Ladies of the Panel. Hank Brown, who was Norman Brown’s cousin and the local Florist had the task of decoratin the auditorium stage every year and he sure made up a fine corsage. He always seemed to manage a compliment on my new hair do, which I never minded gettin either. After doin my rounds and takin every compliment I could get I’d head home to press my best and most serious lookin Walking Suit. It was a serious event, if you know what I mean.
Come six o’clock the Judges were to meet as usual at May’s Coffee Shop. May made the best cup for miles around and it was the perfect start to an evening of gruelling competition. May herself had been the winner for three years runnin and was asked not to compete anymore since she also had the best singin voice in the County. She was also, after all, the Church Choir Master. Fair’s fair, if ya know what I mean.
At six thirty on the nose we’d make our way on over to the High School to start the proceedings. At about then people were linin up to get their seats. Looking at the fine crowd outside the High School and feeling just as proud as I could be I felt a tear start tricklin down my face. Wasn’t I just about that lucky to be a part of this town and didn’t they just make me feel that important to be alive, if you know what I mean.