Turning Back the Hands of Time

This recent Memorial Day, Susie and I did something we haven’t done for years. In a very real sense, we Turned Back the Hands of Time! Let me give you a little background….

In August of 1986, Susie, Billy, and I moved to our new (to us) house at 40 Fairfield Avenue in Mineola, NY. About 3 months later, our family of 3 morphed into a family of 5 when Billy’s sister and brother Krissi and Kenny were born. For the next 31 years, we called 40 Fairfield our home and the Village of Mineola the place where we lived. When Billy was in first grade, he along with several of his school friends wanted to join Cub Scouts, so off we went to Cub Pack 246 that met at Mineola’s First Presbyterian Church. Billy’s friend John’s Dad, Andy McInnes, volunteered to be Cubmaster, and as I remembered my great experiences being a Boy Scout, I volunteered to help in anyway I could, and I became the Pack Treasurer. Starting that first year, in May of 1987, Billy and I joined Pack 246 and marched in the Mineola Memorial Day Parade. For the next 28 years, with and/or without our sons Billy and Kenny, I continued to march in that parade…first with Cub Pack 246, and eventually with Mineola’s Boy Scout Troop 45.

Whatever happened on that year’s Memorial Day Weekend, marching in Mineola’s Parade was a given. In the early years, we’d go to see fireworks at Bar Beach in the Town of North Hempstead on Friday night, and then many times head down to the Jersey Shore for Saturday and Sunday, and then head back to Long Island for the parade. Starting in 2005, when we bought the house in Ocean City, NJ our routine changed. Now instead of Fireworks on Friday, we’d head down to Ocean City, and spend the weekend at our house with our Ocean City friends! Some weekends we had kids and their friends with us, and some weekends we were alone, but every year, we’d set an alarm for 5 AM on Monday, throw clothes on, and head up the Garden State Parkway, to Long Island and our parade.

In 1998, our good friend Steve Grosskopf became the Scoutmaster of Troop 45 (I talked him into taking the job), and starting that first May, we gathered at their house and he fed the boys breakfast with the help of his wife Pat and my wife Sue. Eventually the breakfast morphed into an after-parade gathering for the Scouts and the families of the Troop at their house, and we were always there! We’d arrive home about 9 AM, I’d change into my Scout uniform, Susie would get herself ready, and we’d head over to Pat and Steve’s house for the parade. After we all headed off to the start of the parade, Susie and Pat would settle on the house’s front porch, and watch the parade pass by, yelling their support for the Boy Scout contingent!

It was a tradition of long standing, that continued through 2015! Then something changed… I retired from WABC in January of 2016, and now since I was no longer working, there was no reason not to extend our celebration of Memorial Day at the shore. It was very strange for us, that something that had been a part of our family’s life since 1987 was no longer there. It only got stranger when we sold the Mineola house in 2017, and now we really had no connection with the village! We might not have been there for the parade, but it was still a part of me, and every Memorial Day, my Facebook posts were filled with pictures of the Scouts of Troop 45 carrying flags and marching in Mineola’s parade!

So since that first May in 2016, our Memorial Day Weekends have been centered in Ocean City, but we have fondly remembered our time in Mineola, our friends in Troop 45, and years and years of parade participation. For six years that was our MO, but not this year. This year, we grabbed that clock and turned back the hands of time, proving once again that you can go home!

What is different? Well, our friend Steve Grosskopf announced that he was in his last year of being the Scoutmaster of Troop 45. 24 years of work and dedication, and of making Troop 45 one of, if not the best Boy Scout Troop on Long Island, had not been easy, but Steve had done it, and now it was time for him to pass the torch to the next generation. A couple of weeks ago, I got a crazy idea, and one day I shared it with Susie. “You know, we were there for Steve’s first parade, what do you think about being there for his last?” Susie liked the idea, and for the next week or so we batted around the idea. We really wanted to be there for our dear friends Pat and Steve, but wondered if we’d feel out of place and would we know anybody? After all, the last time we’d been there for the parade was 7 years ago in 2015! On Sunday afternoon, I sent him this text message, “Just checking in with you…How are you doing? Are you all set for the parade?” His answer to that text took away any doubt we might have had. “All good thanks! I know this will be my last one, so it is bittersweet. Wish you guys were here having cocktails on the porch.” Game On!

On Sunday we picked out the clothes we were going to wear, made sure our overnight “to go” bag was fully packed, and filled the car with gas. A shower before and an early bed time, and we were ready to go! The alarm woke us at 5:15 Memorial Day morning, and by 6:25 we were backing out of the garage and on our way to the Garden State Parkway! The trip back to Mineola is just under a hundred and 20 miles, and since we were on the road early, traffic was not an issue. The parade was scheduled to start at 11 AM, and we were in great shape time wise. At about 9:15, we rolled down Westbury Avenue, and parked the car around the corner from their house!

Activity was already in full parade mode as we walked up to the house, with Scouts and Adult Leaders gathering flags, and preparing for the after-parade party. As we came around the corner, and walked up to the front of their house, Steve came off the front porch, looked at us, and said, “Oh My God…what are you two doing here?!” We exchanged hugs and told him, “We were here for your first one, no way we were missing your last one!” Mission Accomplished! Pat was equally surprised when she came downstairs, but thrilled that we were going to be there for the day! She insisted that we spend the night, and we gladly agreed.

As the 11 AM hour got near, Steve and the Troop moved over to the parade starting point around the corner, and Susie, Pat, and I settled in on their front porch. Something new for me this year…for the first time since we first marched in 1987, I was going to see the parade, and what better place to see it, than Patrice and Steve Grosskopf’s front porch, a location on which the 4 of us had spent many, many enjoyable hours over the past 20 years they’ve owned the house! Promptly at 11 AM, the parade set off from Mineola’s Wilson Park, rounded the corner of Union Street and Westbury Avenue, and sailed by our front row seats! Lots of memories and lots of folks we recognized from our 31 years in Mineola, and we enjoyed all the groups from the Boy Scouts to the Mineola High School Mustang Marching Band (which all 3 of our kids were members of), and from the Mineola Fire Dept to the Portuguese Dancers and their castanets, and everybody else!

The parade route is 1.8 miles through the village, ending at Mineola’s Memorial Park for a brief service of remembrance and placing of wreaths. Steve was the MC for the event (I wrote his speech), and from all accounts it was a brief but meaningful reminder what the day was all about. Just after 12 noon, the Troop started to arrive back at the Grosskopf’s house for what has become a Troop 45 Tradition over the years, the Troop’s Memorial Day Parade after-party! The men of the Troop immediately went to work grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst, while the boys changed out of uniforms and into proper attire for the pool and games. Troop Families showed up, and a great time was had by all!

Susie and I looked at each other several times during the afternoon, and commented about how the 7 intervening years since we’d last been in Mineola for a Memorial Day seemed to melt away, and how easy it was to fall back into old routines. A lot of the people we knew over the years are not still involved, but the folks of Troop 45 are always like family..old or new. We were welcomed back and made to feel at home, and were so glad we were there for Pat and Steve, and Steve’s last Memorial Day as Scoutmaster. All in all, it was a great plan, and worked out perfectly! As TR used to say, “BULLY!!!!”

South of the Border

img_1352-1If you’ve traveled up or down the East Coast of the United States on Interstate 95, and crossed the North Carolina/South Carolina border, you know about South of the Border!  Famous for it’s mascot Pedro, and for their advertising signs up and down I-95, it’s been a staple of our trips, as children, as parents when our 3 kids were young, and as retirees running away from the northern winters!  What you may not know is the history of this long time fixture at the North/South Carolina border.

Located in Dillon, South Carolina, like me, it was born in 1950 as South of the Border Depot. It was originally a beer stand adjacent to what was, at that time, one of the many dry counties in North Carolina.  Known as the halfway point between Florida and New York in the early days, as the years went on, the business was expanded with Mexican trinkets, and then added a cocktail lounge, gas station and souvenir shop and, and in 1954, a motel.  In 1962 they added a firework’s store, capitalizing on the fact that fireworks sales were illegal in North Carolina!  By the mid 60s, South of the Border had a barber shop, drug store, a variety store, a post office an outdoor go-cart track and other outdoor recreational facilities including a miniature golf course. 

In 1964 it was announced that the route for the under construction Interstate 95 would pass right by South of the Border, and its place in Americana History was assured.  From as far away as 200 miles, you see billboards alongside I-95, many featuring the South of the Border mascot, Pedro.  

 

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While many have called the SOB mascot Pedro culturally offensive, politically incorrect or racist, South of the Border has dismissed the criticism , saying that Pedro is a light-hearted joke. An interesting fact….today all South of the Border employees  are referred to as Pedro.  

As you approach the 350-acre compound along the east side of I-95, the first thing that you see in the distance is the 200-foot observation tower with the sombrero shaped observation deck .  

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As you come upon the site, the miniature golf course, truck stop, 300-room motel, multiple souvenir shops, campground, multiple restaurants, amusement rides, and Fireworks stores come into view.

 

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Unfortunately, in recent years South of the Border has fallen on hard times, as less and less families travel via car, and many, more modern facilities have opened along I-95.  Every time we’ve driven by in recent years, the place has looked very empty, as opposed to the times we visited in the late 80s and early 90s when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little kids.  Times change, and perhaps in the near future, South of the Border, mascot Pedro, and the roadside billboards will go the way of Berma Shave signs….just a memory of a time when we all were younger.  

PS – In 2016, shortly after I retired, we made our first retiree winter trip down to Florida. On the second day of our trip, we passed the North/South Carolina border, and South of the Border.  In that blog, I told the story of a much earlier trip to Florida, with three little kids, and of our adventure at SOB.  Check it out….

https://wordpress.com/post/rnewadventures.com/44

 

July 3rd, 1977

This blog is called R New Adventures, and its purpose is to document our lives together as we move into our next chapter, retirement.  That’s all well and good, but if something hadn’t happened 39 years ago today, there would have been no chapters in our life and no blog. That’s because  July 3rd, 1977 was a monumental day is Susie and my life.

imageThe summer of 1977 found me working as a Vacation Relief Engineer at ABC, but July 3rd found us in the middle of a 5 1/2 month strike by our union (NABET) against the American Broadcasting Company.  That meant that rather than being in MUSICRADIO 77 WABC’s Studio 8A with the likes of Dan Ingram, George Michael, or Chuck Leonard or in 95.5 WPLJ’s Studio FM-1 with Pat St John, Tony Pigg or Carol Miller playing music, we were outside the ABC Building picketing 3 times a week!  Meanwhile, Susie was working as an RN at Glen Cove Hospital, covering the evening charge shift in Pediatrics.

So, on Saturday July 3rd, 1977 we were both invited to an early July 4th BBQ at our friends’ Maryanne and Bill Epperhart’s house.  I knew Bill from WCWP and Susie worked with Maryanne at Glen Cove Hospital.   Years later, we discovered that the purpose of the whole party was to get the two of us together, but on that day 39 years ago, all I knew was that I was able to attend a Saturday summer party at a friend’s house, because we were on strike and I didn’t have to work!

I’ll tell you something that did work…getting the two of us together!  Susie had some fireworks she’d brought back from a road trip visiting relatives, and I was imagedesignated to be the one to help her ignite the display.  Something besides those fireworks ignited that night!  Frankly, it was love at first sight and of course I wanted to see her again!  The next weekend, we went out on our official “first date”.  One of the elements of that date was dinner at a favorite Chinese Restaurant.  My fortune cookie told it all that night.  “You will marry your present lover and be happy”, was what the little slip in the cookie said, and it couldn’t have been more right!

So 39 years later, we still celebrate this day as a milestone in our life together, and every night I give thanks for meeting the most wonderful person, the love of my life, my best friend, and person that I have shared every adventure in this life with!  Love you Susie and am so thankful that July 3rd, 1977 happened and gave me my life!!!  You are the best and the key to our adventures!

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