Tag Archive | North Little Rock Northeast

Not fade away

NE Chargers

We’re the best of all you see – we’re the class of ’73!

I’ve been mulling over how to write about or respond to our high school reunion Saturday night. In thinking about it, and after watching Not Fade Away Sunday evening, followed by the season finale of Mad Men, I’ve gotten sidetracked by a theory about baby boomers, at least the mid- to late-’50s-born ones.

We’re the generation raised on “Not Fade Away,” which makes us the generation that won’t fade away – a criticism we get from those who say baby boomers are self-centered ex-hippies who won’t grow up and won’t get out of the way for younger generations.

We can’t help it, at least those of us whose hearts beat in 4/4 time (with a strong back beat). buddyhollyIf you want to point fingers, blame Buddy Holly, who released his much-covered song before my 2nd birthday. 

Some of my first memories are of sitting on the floor in front of the television watching kids dance (the girls in saddle oxfords and long skirts) on American Bandstand. I especially remember them doing the stroll to Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans” — of course that was a long time ago, and maybe they strolled to “Blueberry Hill,” but in my mind, it’s the former.

Dick Clark started many of us on the rock ’n’ roll, well, sidewalk, because it was pretty tame. But we hit the R‘n‘R highway in the 1960s and never looked back.

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand started many of us on the rock ’n’ roll, well, sidewalk, because it was pretty tame. But we hit the R‘n‘R highway in the 1960s and never looked back.

Then, as the movie Not Fade Away strongly points out, the British Invasion brought American blues and rock ’n’ roll home to roost in the 1960s, with fabulous covers of old songs most American kids had never heard.

A little about the movie is required here: We rented it partly to pay our respects to James Gandolfino (even though we never really watched The Sopranos on a regular basis. Side note, though: My kids’ friends in the navy did call me Carmela, Liz says, because we were both little, angular-featured, um, “feisty” blondes, I believe is how she put it. Might have been “bossy.”). But we rented it mainly because I’ve wanted to see it for months and after reading about it on the box, John did too.

The characters were several years older than I am and a few older than John, but could we ever relate. And the soundtrack is a great trip down memory lane. The movie is solidly enjoyable (at least if you’re a music nerd), though a bit ambitious in story lines – without giving anything away, I’ll just say some of them fizzled out without resolution or left us hanging.

But when the credits started rolling, to The Beatles “I’ve Got a Feeling,” my heart leaped with nostalgia – and pure love. When Bobby D.’s “She Belongs to Me” followed it, I almost cried.

It’s not age; music’s always done me that way.

Sally Draper on Mad Men is one or two years older than I would have been during the episodes, so it’s like watching my life, minus the extreme drinking on the part of the adults, and the cheating and the wealth. But you know what I mean. Like reliving my youth, watching that show is. Makes me philosophical like Yoda it seems.

Anyway, we came to Mad Men late, though my sister had told me for years we’d love it, and binge-watched to catch up season before last, I think. Maybe this season. Can’t remember. I don’t want to give anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, so just let me say that when the credits rolled to Judy Collins’ cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” yeah, yeah, you get it.

I played that one on the piano as a young teen. Sigh.

And that brings me back to the reunion, which I’ll bet you thought I’d forgotten. Nope.

It was fun. Though some of us looked different, none of us had changed much. We’re the kids who don’t grow up, the ones who grew up being told not to trust anyone over 30. We got past that (my kids are over 30!), but we’ve stayed pretty young, compared to previous generations.

Some of my closest friends didn’t come, but others did. Seeing my long-lost beloved Gina McDonald (now Wilkins) made me tear up for a sec – we visited most of the night and our hubs hit it off well. Seeing long-lost Al Martin tickled me so. Seeing Linda and Paula felt like coming home to Indian Hills and happy days.

And it’s always good to see the regular crew I keep in contact with. In fact, it was good to see everyone who was there. High school years for me were happy days.

But they can’t beat today.

One-two-thre-four …

Am.Bandstand

Oh, here are a few more favorite “Not Fade Aways” for your listening pleasure.

The Rolling Stones

Stevie Nicks

Tom Petty

Hot fun in the summertime

It never takes much to set off a reverie of the hot fun in the summertime we Indian Hills kids had, but what started this one was really two-fold. A. Tonight is my 40th high school reunion, NLR Northeast Class of 1973. B. Yesterday I got a message from Greg Jones, fellow IHer, who told me he’d just learned that we were cousins of some sort!

Seems our moms  had made the Tackett connection years ago at a party at Mary Frances Cole’s house (where I spent years babysitting Mike and Mark in the summer while Mary Frances went to college) and neglected to tell us. And since Mary Frances hasn’t been a Cole in years, they’ve known for a long time indeed.

But in those days of old, she was, and Buddy Cole was my dad’s best friend. He used to pick me up early in the mornings to babysit, so early the boys would still sleep for hours and I’d watch the classic movies shown on KATV, Channel 7. blue dahlia (I’m sure that’s the right station. If it’s not, I plead a long time ago.) Loved them and learned so much about cinematography and life.

And I read. One book in particular stands out – one morning Buddy tossed me a copy of the new, sensational Everything You everythingWanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), saying, “Here, you should read this. You might learn something.”

Did I ever! Another clear memory is of Daddy’s face when he came somberly to me with his and Mother’s copy of the book and said, “Your mother and I have read this and we think you should, too” – to which I replied, “Oh, I’ve already read that. Buddy gave it to me.”

In retrospect, I can understand the look on his face.

And of course the pool is always a deep subject to explore. We had so much fun there and almost total freedom after a certain age.

I’m not sure if it was the day after school was out for the seventh grade or eighth grade, but Pam and I decided to have a sleepover and day at the pool. We decided we’d each invite one other girl – Carolyn Huff was Pam’s pick, Gina McDonald mine – and somehow we talked our parents into letting us sleep in Pam’s stepdad’s boat, which was parked under a tarp between their house and the Jennings’ next door.

We stayed at the pool all day and had a blast, but the main thing I remember is how sunburned Carolyn got – it was frightening and she was ST37 literally sick from it. Daddy was so concerned he drove to the pharmacy in Sherwood and got our magic elixir for sunburn, S.T. 37. We doused her with it. Don’t believe we slept in the boat – after sweltering with flashlights a while, we had to get our poor burned friend under the air conditioning.

Don’t ask me why this came to the forefront of my mind, but another memory stirred up by Greg’s message is a vivid one of Rob Fisher, our redheaded neighbor boy (he and Cathy are the same age), dancing like mad on our front porch and singing, “Roly poly, roly poly” along with my 45 of “Mony, Mony,” which I had blasting in the living room with the window open.

Pretty freaking cute in retrospect, but I teased him mercilessly about getting the lyrics wrong. Sorry, Rob – you know I love you. But music was serious business in my world. Even bubblegum pop like “Mony, Mony,” which was kind of feeble for Tommy James and the Shondells. (Billy Idol covered it in the ’80s, oddly, so it did have staying power.)

One more memory chain, then I must fly. Can’t find any pool pictures – they must be at Mother’s, if they exist, but I can remember summers by bathing suits. The first year we were on Blackhawk Road was the last year I could wear a little girl’s suit. It was a two-piece, white with ’60s neon-color mod flowers all over it. I tanned through the white and had reversed-out flowers everywhere else.

I won’t go through them all, but, again in retrospect, I’m kind of surprised my parents let me get that canary yellow ruffled bikini at 13. I know there’s photographic evidence of it somewhere because I remember Garth taking the picture. The summer pictures I did find (below) all show the joie de vivre of those days.

I hadn’t yet become camera shy. Life was a gas, man, and you can see it in the smile.

And now time to stop to get ready to go back to the past. Forty years. Crazy.

Thanks, Greg, for getting me going again on the Indian Hills train.

This is 14-year-old me and Linda Lowe, who will be at the reunion tonight, posing at the Cole's house when I was babysitting. Don't know who wielded the camera.

This is 14-year-old me and Linda Lowe, who will be at the reunion tonight, posing at the Cole’s house when I was babysitting. Don’t know who wielded the camera.

So this is me and dearly departed Tom Bennewise, who refused to cooperate for the picture, which I think my sister took. The short hair is the result of the home perm gone bad that made all the longer hair fall off.

So this is me (just turned 15) and dearly departed Tom Bennewise, who refused to cooperate for the picture, which I think my sister took. The short hair is the result of the home perm gone bad that made all the longer hair fall off.

With my beloved cat Ben (yes, that's my son's name, too). Approaching 16 and with the addition of braces, which didn't stop the smiles.

With my beloved cat Ben (yes, that’s my son’s name, too). Approaching 16 and with the addition of braces, which didn’t stop the smiles.

In the backyard, which extended for miles, since Blackhawk was the last street in North Little Rock in those days. Cuddling Ben again. Wet hair, no makeup, no worries.

In the backyard, which extended for miles, since Blackhawk was the last street in North Little Rock in those days. Cuddling Ben again. Wet hair, no makeup, no worries.

Blow, wind, blow

One of our favorite Jude moments happened when he was just a little guy of 2. At 5 he’s so tall and already sounding out words to write poems and jokes phonetically. That makes 2 seem so long ago.

He was sitting in between Lolly and Pop in the red swing on the front porch of their Melrose house when a strong wind started swirling the trees. Jude’s eyes got huge.

“It blows!” he said. We agreed, that, yes, indeed it did. “I LIKE blows,” he said enthusiastically. We agreed again.

John and I both like storms and don’t think each other is crazy for running outside to look at the sky instead of for cover when the tornado sirens go off. And that’s what this post is really about: tornadoes I have known.

Side note: What I really, really don’t like is the word “tornadic,” which weathermen and -women so breathlessly toss about. Tornadic activity just sounds ridiculous. (And reminds me of the North Little Rock Northeast varsity/faculty basketball game in about 1972, when a mischievous biology teacher printed “Nads” on the teachers’ shirts. That enticed the crowd to yell, “Go Nads!” Get it??)

Tornadoes blew around the edges of my life in the early years – you can’t live in Arkansas without at least one close encounter. Then for a spell, they got really close. As in hunkering-for-cover-in-the-eye-of close.

The first and so-far biggest encounter happened in February of 1975, on George Washington’s birthday – hardly tornado season, though in Arkansas, well, you know. I was 19 and in college but living at home, Cathy was a sophomore at Northeast, and Mother and Daddy had built their dream house, which was move-in ready the previous fall.

It was a rare Saturday afternoon that found everyone at home. Cathy was watching an old movie. Mother was resting, having had surgery earlier that week. Daddy was probably watching sports or working from home. I was sitting at the table in a corner of the kitchen, deeply engrossed in Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter.”  

I’d been extremely interested in scary Charlie Manson and his people since the night the Sharon Tate murders were announced on the news (I was babysitting in a different neighborhood), and a good book could totally absorb me.

So when Cathy came in to tell me we were under a tornado watch, I impatiently told her to leave me alone. When she came in frantically telling me she’d opened the window and could see it approaching, I told her to leave me alone.

When Daddy came in and thundered, “Laura, get up and get in the hall now,” my attention was definitely startled. The look on his face scared me, and up I jumped. We all did the tuck-and-cover tornado crouch when I realized I’d seen my cat, Chamaco, frozen in a classic arch on the back of the chair in front of the window facing the approaching tornado.

The air pressure was intense, and I was flat-out frightened by then, but, heart-in-throat, I ran in the den and yelled, “Chamaco! Come now!”

I ran back, tucked and before I could even get in a good ball, all the air sucked out of the atmosphere. Chamaco ran yowling down the hall, but that was the only sound as the pressure built. Suddenly we felt a huge release and heard sounds no one wants to hear coming from their new house. In seconds, milliseconds, it was over.

We all stared at each other. “I’ll go look,” I said – I was closest – and got up and walked to the den. The roofless den with the detached back wall. Oddly, that wall never fell over – just stood upright about an inch from the rest of the house. All the books had fallen off the bookcases, but Daddy’s ceramic Mickey and Minnie Mouse, which he’d gotten in the late ’30s, stood alone on a shelf, unrattled. Tornadoes do wild and amazing things

“Well, it got us,” I remember saying. Mother moaned. One by one they came in the den, Daddy, Cathy, Mother and Katie, our dachshund. Chamaco was in deep hiding for a few days.

Our screened-in porch was gone – I found it a few minutes later wrapped around and around itself and through our neighbors’ garage roof, like some kind of cheapo rocket. The French door from the kitchen to the screened-in porch had exploded into pieces. Rectangles of safety glass were embedded in both walls of the corner where I’d been reading.

A two-by-four was embedded in the wall right where my forehead had been. My book was unruffled on the table.

Cathy had saved my life by heeding the weather announcement on television and looking out the window to see it coming. When the poor kid saw that piece of lumber, she went into shock, medically speaking, I realized years later. In all the excitement, we missed that detail, though when she fainted in the front yard, we should have realized she probably should see a doctor.

Moments before she collapsed, I’d been leading her around — she had a death grip on my forearm – as she said over and over, “You almost got killed. You almost got killed.” I almost did, and she did save me. Thanks, baby sister. I love you. Sorry I was mean at first about you interrupting my reading.

Neighbors arrived almost immediately, followed by police and firemen (we had a live wire down, hopping and crackling and shooting sparks in the back yard of our corner lot) and just as the torrential rains started pouring into the roofless kitchen and den, we began moving furniture.

Adrenaline gives you super-strength,we learned. My friend Kelly’s brother, Lindsey, and I moved a hide-a-bed couch from the den to the living room. Normally we couldn’t have budged it.

Within hours, it was snowing like mad, and we were all dispersed to other places (except Chamaco). Mother and Daddy were at the Carithers’ house (Kelly’s parents). Maybe Cathy too. I went to my boyfriend’s parents – his sister Kathy was one of my best friends and was happy to share her room with me.

We forgot the goldfish, but my dad called and asked Jimmy and me to drive over and get him so he wouldn’t freeze. Transporting a fish in a bowl of water in the bucket seat of a ’68 Camaro was interesting, but we managed — after we persuaded the police guarding our street that we weren’t looters. 

We moved back in in late spring, after all the damage was repaired. The next tornado came shortly thereafter. I drove home from my boyfriend’s apartment very late in my little yellow 1971 Super Beetle under the damn thing – I just knew the car was blowing from one side of the road to another.  When I got home, the biggest tree in the front yard was laying on the house.

Damage was minor, but the window I always left open for my cat had created intense suction, and my snow-white bedroom was covered in dirt and sticks. Mother was not happy about that.

Later that May, Kelly and I headed for Ft. Lauderdale in my yellow VW (another story for another time). We had a great trip. Why that’s relevant is that on the way home just outside Lake Village, we looked across a field to see three identical black columns – not funnels, but perfectly straight, Romanesque columns – speeding across the field.

I floored it. Neither of us said a word; we just held our breath and held on. We outran the whirling dervishes in a Beetle that was supposed to go 75-80 tops. The gas pedal was on the floor, but we didn’t check the speedometer.

We didn’t care how fast we were going as long as the wheels were on the ground. We’d watched “The Wizard of Oz” together almost every year since we were 3, We knew we could end up over the rainbow if our luck didn’t hold.

The third time was the charm in 1975. And tornadoes still blow me away.

Tommy, can you hear me?

 Tom Bennewise was one of the wittiest, funniest and most brilliant people I ever knew. It’s no wonder I fell head over heels for him the summer after the ninth grade, shortly after meeting him at the Indian Hills pool.

Luckily for me, he fell just as hard. We were inseparable, or as inseparable as we could be with my parents’ rules on how much time we could spend together the two summers of our romance (we only lived two blocks apart, so that was a hard rule to enforce).

Attending different schools determined how much we could see each other during the school year. He was at Catholic High. I was at North Little Rock Northeast.

But we were always thinking of each other. I’d love to still have the voluminous correspondence we wrote – every day, at least for a while, we’d document the activities of our school days, our thoughts and feelings, whatever came to mind, in notes to each other.

Sometimes he’d address them to “Missy Laura Lea Cartwright.”

He’d either come by to make the exchange or Pam and I would walk to Don’s grocery store in Sherwood, where Tom worked as a stock and bag boy.

His young manager, also named Tom, came to my Tom’s funeral in February. It was good to see him again.

It’s possible I tossed those notes in a fit of pique after we broke up, but I suspect they were tossed by my ex-husband, who destroyed many things from my teen years. Fortunately my photo album was safely at Mother’s.

I found this card from Tom just this morning!

Tom and I played wicked games of Scrabble – sometimes he’d win, sometimes I would. We were a pretty even match, but he liked that I was competitive and would cheer for me when I won. Same thing at ping-pong.

Though I’d always been interested in photography (got my first little blue camera at 7 or 8), Tom taught me the ins and outs of 35-mm film photography. I was his favorite subject to shoot for a while.

Photography became his career – he was young Gov. Bill Clinton’s photographer for a while, then ran CameraMart until its demise. When it came time to buy my son’s first Minolta, I took him to Tom. We remained friends throughout adulthood because we also really, really liked each other.

Quick Tom memories:

• Once he brought me a giant bouquet of tiny tea rosebuds in a giant Campbell’s Tomato Soup can. I don’t know whose yard he took them from – sorry, whoever you are – but they were delightful, and ever so Andy Warholish.

• Another time he took care of our dachshund, Katie, and my cat, Ben, when we went to my cousin’s in Ft. Worth for Easter. When we returned, he’d decorated the house with a “Welcome Back/Happy Easter” banner he’d made and other touches. He’d left me an Easter basket, too.

• I used to make these yummy oatmeal-raisin bars called “Raisin Mumbles.” Tom always joked about them by mumbling the whole time I was mixing them. Sounds cheesy, but it was funny when he did it.

There are so many more. He was thoughtful. We thought we’d spend our lives together, even though we knew we were very young, and spent lots of time talking about what we’d do in the future. We spent lots of time listening to the great music of 1969-1971. He gave me my “Aqualung” album.  (Not too romantic, but I dug it.) And a book of Ogden Nash poetry.  And his heart.

But just as school was starting for my 11th grade and his senior year, he came over with some news. His mother had decided he could only continue seeing me, a Presbyterian-raised pseudo-protestant, if he dated Catholic girls from the Mount as well. She didn’t want his senior year to be eaten up with Laura.

I cried hysterically. He cried almost as hard. I told him no way, no how would I agree to that. It was me and me alone or no me at all. His tears convinced me he agreed and I won the battle, but thinking back, I’m not sure he ever fully conceded.

We had that conversation in the dark sitting on the end of Pam’s driveway, I remember.

Things continued the same for a while, I thought, with a few adjustments. He said he had to go to ballgames with “the boys,” and we could see each other on Saturday nights. I was oblivious until my good friend Gina McDonald heard a girl gushing over “Tommy” at the state fair, turned around, and was shocked to see Tom with another girl – a Mount girl.

Gina told me at school, of course, and I let him have it with both barrels. The note I wrote probably singed his fingers or self-combusted after he read it. He didn’t even know he’d been caught until then. He tried to reason with me, but I wouldn’t back down. We were through. Brokenhearted, but through.

A few months later, on April 22, he turned 18, and within days showed up at my house. Whether he’d reasoned with his mother or just taken a stand I don’t know, because I’d already moved on. It was too late.

I’d met the redhead (well, strawberry blond) of my dreams, the one I thought was THE great love of my life, until I met my husband, John, who is not jealous in the least. (Our wedding song was “In My Life,” because our relationship doesn’t negate what came before. Listen to the lyrics, if you don’t understand.)

As I said, Tom and I remained friends, but we didn’t see each other very often – just the random running into each other after CameraMart was gone, though his sister, Charlotte, and I manage to run into each other fairly frequently. So the news of his death surprised me. I can’t say shocked, because the last time we’d visited, he was rather a mess.

I got the news from my old friend Linda Lowe Apple, who grew up near Tom on Osage and introduced us that first summer. She came down from Springdale, and we sat together at the funeral.

In my mind, he’s the brilliant, creative boy whose Boys’ State T-shirt I wore with pride. The one who shared and kept so many of my secret thoughts and plans. I miss him being alive, even in the distance.

I wish he could have found a way to carry on.

Just before the Catholic High Christmas party/dance at Riverdale Country Club, which is now a soccer field, I think. It was torn down years ago. Mother made my outfit. She had a green one from the same pattern.