This is a book of fiction although some of the events in the book are real. The Kennedy assassination was a monumental event in the history of our great country. We do not wish it to be considered that the FBI or it’s director had anything to do with the death of the President, only that some people considered it a real possibility at the time.
The Sheppard’s and the Myers’ did (do) exist and comments concerning them are for illustration purposes only to convey the attitudes of this town at that time in history.
Jimmy is my brother and the part of the story about him is based on the truth. And I dedicate this book to my brother.
Friday the 28th of November in 1963 was what is now annually referred to as Black Friday. It is now called Black Friday since the Friday after Thanksgiving Day witness daunting crowds shopping for Christmas at the malls. In 1963 people still shopped downtown, the malls were new-fangled idea that was just starting to gain popularity. But that Friday, that day after that Thanksgiving, was indeed a black day as the country was mourning the loss of a beloved President. Thanksgiving Day was different from a normal Thanksgiving Day as well. People still had their turkey dinners and watched football and the parades on television, but the churches were filled with mourners, and the commentators on television were sobering and stoical instead of lighthearted and frivolous.
That Friday was a day off of school as well and young Jimmy Johnson, a pudgy twelve year old with dirty blond crew cut hair and corn cob teeth, intended to take full advantage of that fact. Rising early, he packed four turkey sandwiches from the left-overs of yesterday’s meal, two for himself and two for his friend Tommy Mack. Tommy, who was already thirteen, was a tall and lanky youth with somewhat Italian looking features despite the fact that his ancestors that he knew of, grandparents and a few great-grandparents, all claimed to have come from either Germany or Northern Ireland. Normally he would not hang out with Jimmy, but he occasionally made an exception because of the money. They were off to Jimmy’s dad’s soda bottling plant to get a few hours of work in at $2.05 per hour. That was a gold mine for two young boys. Arriving at the plant they discovered that the delivery drivers had already left for the day, so the building stood empty. Jimmy and Tommy worked through the returns, sorting the bottles into the various sizes and purposes, checking each for foreign objects and breaks or chips that would render them useless. Every time Jimmy did this job he recalled the time when he found a man’s thumb stuffed into one of the return bottles, he related the story to Tommy. Tommy said he hoped he’d find something like that in a bottle, maybe a finger with a diamond ring on it.
As they worked they had free access to all the soda that they wanted and each of them had sucked down two Big Top Cola’s and a chocolate soda so far and it wasn’t even lunch time yet. After the returns were sorted, the feeder conveyor belt needed to be loaded to match the needed items for Saturdays bottling run. Jimmy had a list from his father: thirty six cases of twelve ounce bottles; forty cases of sixteen ounce Diet Cott Soda bottles; thirty six cases chocolate soda bottles; twenty cases of Big Top bottles; a dozen cases Lovie bottles; and the big run of the day was the white grape twelve ounce bottles. There was no room on the conveyor for the last group so Jimmy staged as many cases as he could at the end of the line without blocking the aisle of course.
They broke for lunch, eating their turkey sandwiches, both boys had eaten so much turkey the previous day that they had sworn they would not touch a single bite of turkey again until at least Christmas, yet both boys made both sandwiches disappear in a blink, washed down with a Black Cherry soda for Tommy and a White Grape for Jimmy.
General cleaning was next on the list, it was always good to give the truck bays a good cleaning while the trucks were out on the road, so they swept them and took a hose to the floor and then they went to the office and swept the floor and dumped the trash into the outside dumpster. The bottling room was next, not only did they need to sweep the floor but they also had to bring in the high pressure hoses and wash everything down with a cleaning mixture that Jimmy’s dad had prepared containing bleach and ammonia and a few other products that Jimmy was instructed were to be used sparingly and to be immediately rinsed away so as to not hurt their lungs. Tommy did not care for this part of the job but for $2.05 an hour he’d of taken a bath in the junk. Are you kidding me $2.05 an hour, he’ll be rich.
It was 3 PM when Jimmy’s uncle, Jimmy’s dad’s partner in the bottling works, arrived as scheduled. He grimaced when he saw Tommy Mack at the facility. He knew that Tommy was bad news, always just this side of serious trouble, yet it was always those around him the got hurt while Tommy Mack just seemed to slip on through without a scratch. Jimmy’s uncle inspected the work, and was pleased. He made a quick journal entry and then broke open the cash box from the office safe and paid the boys.
The money, fourteen dollars and thirty five cents , rattled in each of the boy’s pockets as they made their way to downtown Hanover Pennsylvania. Stopping at an Ice Cream Parlor, the MauDra – a teenage hangout, they purchased banana splits, Tommy got his with extra pineapple, for a dime more. Afterwards they checked with a few of their friends as to what might be going on that could be fun, only to discover that the few things that might typically be available for kids to do were canceled because of the Kennedy assassination. They checked the Evening Sun and discovered that To Kill a Mockingbird was playing at the Hanover Theater and Lilies of the Fields was at the Park Theater. Both boys turned their noses up and their thumbs down to that selection. Besides Friday night was date night at the movies, and they didn’t want anyone thinking that they were dating. ‘That would be just awful, I’d have to break a lot of noses if people started talking like that,’ thought Tommy. Finally it was agreed that they’d go to the hotel and shoot some eight ball, Tommy was certain he would win some of Jimmy’s money.
[+Chapter 2 +]
The Huffman’s Hanover Hotel sat on Center Square in Hanover Pennsylvania. Built in 1851, the building has undergone many changes in its nature over the years. Early on, its ballroom saw the likes of James Buchanan, dancing with his cousin at the wedding reception of a close friend, Nathanial Hawthorn spent a night while traveling home to Massachusetts after a visit to Baltimore, and Abraham Lincoln had reserved a room in 1863, as a back up to stay while on his way to Gettysburg to deliver a speech dedicating the Cemetery there, but at the last minute he simply delivered a preview of his speech, which the people of Hanover considered insufficient for the occasion, and Lincoln travelled on to Gettysburg to spend the night.
But the years were not kind to the old structure and now the grand hotel was a flea bag boarding house, and the ballroom was a pool hall.
Since beer was served in the sandwich shop next to the pool hall, the Pennsylvania Liqueur Control Board mandated that only those twenty one years of age or older were allowed to occupy the pool hall. This was okay with the Hoffman brothers, Reggie and Alex, as they really didn’t want a bunch of teenagers running around in their pool hall, teenagers would not respect the property nor would they spend very much money, and they would tend to keep serious pool shooters away. Tommy Mack was exempt from that rule, not by the LCB but by the brothers as he was their nephew, so he and his guest were allowed to shoot pool, and every now and then have a beer as well.
The pool hall at the Huffman’s Hotel was not just any pool hall. It had thirteen tables, all of them solid oak and of the finest quality, with solid slate – one inch thick, quarried slate – tops covered in the best felt available and they were maintained to the very best possible condition. The walls of the old ballroom were splattered with photos of famous pool shooters: Billy “Cornbread Red” Burge; Willie Mosconi; Cowboy Jimmy Moore; Alvin Clarence ‘Titanic Thompson’ Thomas; W.C. Fields, Rudolf Walter ‘Minnesota Fats’ Wanderone, and many others too numerous to mention, and all of the photos were taken within the very walls upon which they were mounted. Reggie Huffman was in fact a former Nine Ball World Champion, winning the title in 1959 and then again in 1961, after which he retired. Yeah, right, a Nine Ball Champ that retires.
Tables cost a dollar to rent for a session and twenty five cents per rack regardless of the game played, although most played either Eight Ball or Straight Pool. Minnesota Fats had faced Mosconi for the 1955 World Championship in Straight Pool at the Huffman’s Hanover Hotel, but the match was played to a rare drawl, and both were eliminated from the championship, after which no serious competitor would come to play at their hall in a championship game as it was now considered to be bad luck – pool shooters are a very superstitious bunch. There were several other places in the Hanover area where a young person might go to shoot pool, but these places were far inferior in many respects. So it was off to Huffman’s Hanover Hotel for our two young lads with their money starting to feel like lava flowing in their pockets.
It was a short walk from the ice cream parlor to the pool hall, but the late November sun had already set and the temperatures were dropping rapidly. The pint and a half of Ice Cream that each of the boys had just eaten as their supper was now causing both boys to shiver more than they cared to admit. Each boy tugged at their lapel of their coat to get a bit more protection from the cold, Jimmy pulled his Newsboy cap down as tight as he could get it, wishing he had the one with ear flaps. They made the turn at the end of Baltimore Street on to the Center Square, the hotel stood directly in front of them and they hurried their steps to get into the warmth of the pool hall. Jimmy spotted a fellow sitting in a pale green with white trim Ford Edsel parked by the edge of the Square and the man had just leaned out of the passenger door and had vomited into the gutter. “Looks like he had too much to drink already,” laughed Jimmy. Tommy shook his head at the plight of the poor man as he slammed the car door and the car sped off heading east out Broadway. Then suddenly, Jimmy stopped short and said, “Lookie there!”
He was pointing at a sign in the window of Myers Pharmacy advertising a raffle that was giving away a Lionel train set, and just below the sign was the actual train set that could be won. Jimmy was mesmerized, this was the most beautiful train set he had ever seen, and he could not believe that someone would be giving it away. It was the Lionel Chesapeake and Ohio Cannonball Express, a nine car set that included a coal fired steam engine, a coal car, two sleepers, a caboose, four box cars, one a US treasury transport car complete with Secret Service Agents, twenty eight feet of track including two over passes, and three buildings, plus sundry people, signs, street lights and a transformer designed to operate the whole thing. The sign stated that entries required no purchase and that the drawling would be held on December 20th at 5 PM. Jimmy saw that as an omen as that was his birthday, he was certain that he was going to win that train set.
On the bottom right corner of the sign was a statement that the set could be purchased for $89.95 plus state sales tax, a number that Jimmy considered to be a fortune but if he had that kind of money he’d be sure to buy this beautiful set. Of course he didn’t have that kind of money, and saving that much between now and Christmas was unlikely even with the money he could make at his dad’s plant. Winter was not big soda time, sales did go up a little right before Christmas but it was nothing like they were in the summer months.
Tommy Mack turned to Jimmy and said, “Well, let’s go on in a fill out an entry.”
Just then a gust of frigid wind skirted along the building facade causing both boys to duck their heads to protect their eyes and face from the frosty slap they were about to receive. As they turned their heads, Jimmy spotted a lump lying on the ground just below a park bench positioned in front of the drug store, near the curb. Curiosity was Jimmy’s middle name, well actually it was Patrick, but Jimmy was curious to the point that he would get into trouble by noising around stuff that he had no business noising around, so no matter how much he needed to go into that store and complete that entry form , he needed to see what that lump was first.
Without a word, Jimmy turned, walked over to the bench, bent down and grabbed the lump, which to his surprise it was a wallet, a fat wallet in fact. A second later Tommy appeared over Jimmy’s shoulder asking, “What you got there?”
Jimmy looked about at the shoppers who were briskly walking about the Center Square to be certain that nobody was paying any attention to them , which it appeared that they weren’t, and he said, “It’s someone’s wallet.”
A spirited Tommy yelled with glee, “What’s in it?”
Pressing his hand downward to indicate that Tommy should keep his voice down, Jimmy replied in a hush, “Don’t know!”
Tommy got the message and whispered, “Well damn, let’s find out!”
So Jimmy flipped the wallet open, took a second glance around, just making sure that they weren’t being watched. He thought, ‘Shit, what if we’re on Candid Camera.’ And without another thought he pealed back the money compartment and revealed a very large wad of cash, which he pulled from the wallet. Counting it took a few seconds and it was three hundred and eighteen dollars in all. “Man, it’s three hundred and eighteen bucks,” he told Tommy.
“Well, let’s go spend it! What are you waiting for? We can buy a train for each of us, and still have a bunch of money left over. ”
He was not exactly sure why, but Jimmy thought that spending the money would be a sin. Sticking the money back into the wallet and the wallet into his coat pocket, Jimmy turned and said, “Let’s just see if we can give this back, maybe we’ll get a reward, I’ll split it with ya, okay! Now let’s go and enter to win that train, and then go shoot some pool.”
Tommy was not as big as Jimmy, but he was a star athlete, captain of the basketball team, quarterback for the football team, and homerun hitting leader for the towns little league. He could and had many times before for much less reward, taken the pudgy, out of shape Jimmy down, but he chose not to, sensing that somehow Jimmy was right. It was agreed, unspoken, but still agreed that the money would be returned, Jimmy patted the wallet in his jacket pocket and said, “My Dad will know what to do!”
Saturday morning Jimmy showed his dad the wallet and told him about the three hundred and eighteen dollars, and asked him what he should do. Taking the wallet, Jimmy’s dad opened it and examined the contents. Indeed, the money grabbed your attention, but Jimmy’s dad dug a little farther, finding some identification documents: a Kentucky driver’s license and a library card for the University of Kentucky, both in the name of Jamison Tate. “Well, looks like this Tate guy is the person who owns all this money. All we got to do is find him. Not likely he’s from around here with a Kentucky driver’s license. Can’t say I ever heard of that name here in town, but I’ll check around and let you know what I find.”
Later that day Jimmy’s dad headed for the Republican Club, where Jimmy’s father met up with Max Strawbaugh. Max was the loan officer at the Farmer’s Bank of Hanover. Max, in Jimmy’s father’s mind, knew everybody in Hanover, and everybody who did business in Hanover. It was his job to know that kind of stuff and he was good at it, but he didn’t know anybody named Jamison Tate. “I’d just drop a line to the address on the driver’s license. That should do it,” said Max, and as far as Jimmy’s father was concerned the investigation was done. On Monday morning at his regular job, Jimmy’s father dictated a short letter instructing Jamison Tate on how to get his wallet back and had his secretary mail it to the address on the driver’s license.
Jimmy’s dad told Jimmy about the letter he wrote, to which Jimmy had but one question. “What if?” The answer was simple, “It’s all yours after thirty days! That’s what I told the guy in my letter.”
Jimmy did the calculation in his head, six days after Christmas.
At night, Jimmy would visit the wallet, stowed away in the night stand by his bed, and he’d dream of spending that money in a thousand different ways. But in the end, he’d come back to one item, the train set in old man Myers’ window. He’d counted up his money that he had saved, also kept in a small box in his night stand table, and he knew how much pay that he’d be getting from his dad. No matter how he did it, he’d always come up about fifteen bucks short the price of the train set. His only hope was that the guy would turn up soon and give him thirty dollars or more as a reward – he can’t believe he promised half to Tommy, Tommy ain’t doing nothing – that should put him over the top and he could buy the train in time to put it under the tree on Christmas Day.
Once Jimmy slid forty dollars out of the wallet and took it with him along with the money he had saved to Myers Pharmacy. He was going to buy the train and then just tell the guy when he showed up that the smaller amount of money was all that was in the wallet when he found it. But by the time he got to Myers’ he got cold feet and simply filled out another entry blank and left. Returning the money to the wallet and hid it back in the drawer of his night stand. And then he belittled himself for not having the courage to get what he wanted.
One side of Jimmy really believed that it was fate that he was to get that train, yet there was another side that told him that the only way he’d get it was to buy it cause that box up at Myers was a good two foot by two foot by two foot cube and that was big enough for a ton of entry blanks, so what were his chances, maybe a million to one, at best a thousand to one. He’d never win
America was a country in flux in the summer of 63 or so it seemed to many. The Cuban missile crisis and the fiasco called the Bay of Pigs shook the American psychic. After World War II we were convinced that America could not be defeated, we were the new Rome, but a Rome that could stand forever because we were built on principles of fairness and justice and liberty, ethics that made us different, better than Rome. Yet great threats lay just around the corner. An extended, pointless war in Vietnam and the conspiracy laden murder of a President, especially one loved as much as John Kennedy was loved, seemed impossible, yet these events would alter America like only a few other events in history had done.
Hanover too was a community in turmoil. Hanover was caught half way between being a Little City or a Large Town, and just like many other towns and cities around the country the effects of the Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System was having a positive and a negative sway on local activity. Yes it was now far easier, faster, and safer for Americans to get from Miami to Philadelphia, or Chicago to Saint Louis, the intended goal, but it was now also possible for a person to live forty miles away from his or her job, which allowed for the great urban flight and the decay of center cities, an unintended result. The rise of shopping centers robbed downtown merchants of customers, the spread of Interstate Commerce allowed for distribution centers to flourish and no longer did communities need to have a local supplier of many goods and services as these could now be provided from afar. This drained local jobs away from downtown areas. Merchants in these downtown areas were slow to react to the changes, having had things their way, so to speak, for many years, thanks to their convenient of location in the center of town and the cluster of merchants offering the customer limited choice but some form of handiness. But shopping centers offered greater choice and had free parking and were near, in many cases, the Interstates.
Downtown Hanover was still king of the hill in 1963, but the mall north of town was putting more and more pressure on local merchants, some more so than others. One that was indeed feeling the pressure was Myers Pharmacy. The Rexall Drug Store at the mall was slowly but surely leaching customers away from Myers. And Ira Myers was going to put a stop to it
It was Wednesday, August 7th, a few minutes past 10 PM, and Ira is fretting over the decline in sales that his establishment has suffered over the past few years. The Rexall at the shopping center was slowly sifting away his customer base. It wasn’t awful, yet. He was still able to make a profit, pay his bills, take a week-long vacation in February to visit with his brother in Boca, life was good. But he hated the Rexall. They made a mockery of the pharmacy business. They sold candy and greeting cards and cheap toys in aisles next to aspirin and bandages and worse of all they sold tobacco products. Didn’t they know that tobacco products hurt people, or was that their plan, to make their customers sick so they’d need to buy more medicines?
Never-the-less he needed to turn the tide and he needed to do it soon. His wife, Evelyn, had been after him to modernize the store, add some character and bring it up to date. Ira had resisted her chiding, saying that he liked the store just the way it was, it had character and was full of tradition, but in truth he just didn’t want to be forced to do something by people like those who put in the Rexall.
Ira studied the drawings of a new store design that his wife had prepared for him, back at the beginning of the summer, and Ira rejected them at once, claiming that business was about to turn around with the Centennial celebration of the Battle of Hanover at the end of June, and Hanover Days Celebration, which were to take place from the ninth till the nineteenth of July, during which every night but Friday and Sunday had an event planned; including a parade, a variety stage show right on the Square, and a new car raffle. But there had been no noticeable upswing in business, in fact, despite indications that there may have been an increase in foot traffic in the store, sales dipped slightly.
Actually, Ira liked the design his wife had made, he kind of wished he’d been the one to come up with a lot of the great ideas. Ideas like custom sized shelves, a raised platform pharmaceutical preparation area with slotted shuttered windows that would allow privacy for the pharmacist while still permitting a full view of the entire store, a double bow window at the front of the store that would allow for ample advertisement and yet large enough to allow lots of outside light and a clear view of the activity on the square and a steel door designed to look like a country cottage door but on hinges that allowed the door to swing both ways. The plan also allowed for non-pharmaceutical items to be sold, but the plan was to have them be seasonal and of very high quality or very unusual. Some of her ideas had to go, of course, like the paint having lavender highlight trim against gloss white walls, the upside down candy gum drop shaped hanging lamps, and the new sign for the front of the store changing the name of the store from ‘Myers Pharmacy’, a good and trusted name for nearly twenty years, to ‘Ye Olde Pharmaceutical Company’, that just wasn’t going to happen, old with an ‘e’, she has got to be kidding. The best part of her plan was the way she staged the work such that at no time would the store need to be closed to business. It was a touch of genius.
When Ira Myers finished his redesign work, he had had limited success over the Thanksgiving Holiday, which he wrote off as being due to the death of John Kennedy and the subsequent events with Jack Ruby murdering that Oswald fellow. America had come to a stop, well actually the country slowed down considerably, but everyone’s attention was on the Kennedy’s and little Caroline and Jack Junior were the darlings of the whole world, with their mother just one step behind them. Ira kind of liked John Kennedy, despite the fact that he was a Democrat and a Catholic, he thought that the man did make a good President, especially on the subject of the economy, but the mess he made in Cuba was unforgivable, thank God he didn’t vote for him, of course Richard Nixon would have never blotched anything as badly as what Kennedy had done. Christmas was another matter altogether; nobody would allow the doings of the Kennedy Assassination to interfere with their Christmas.
Ira loved Christmas, always his favorite time of year. He had big plans for his seasonal department for the Christmas Season. Hand painted ornaments from Germany and France would be offered, stuff you couldn’t get anywhere near Hanover. Hand-made Christmas Wreaths, with local pine and silk flowers, silk flowers had just not been available before this in Hanover. He convinced Lionel Trains to allow his store to have exclusive rights to sell their Chesapeake and Ohio Cannonball Express. He was able to convince them by purchasing fifty of the sets, the total allocation that the Lionel Marketing Department had assigned for the York and Adams county area for that set for the ’63 year. Ira would sell the sets at his cost and he intended to give one away in a drawing that he had planned for the evening of Friday December the 20th.
The day Jack Kennedy died, a bit of America died along with him. Word of Alex Huxley’s death on the exact same day set about a belief that the Brave New World complete with Big Brother was just around the corner. The youth of America, the baby boomers born in the financial and technological explosion following the Second World War, and raised on a steady input of broadcast television, suddenly became disenchanted with their fragile and fickle existence.
But America had been at this cross road for some time. Mass transit and the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was only one of the many factors pulling at the fabric of the culture in the United States: television; Detroit; the Music Industry; sports; Hollywood; and many other dynamics were in play. People like Dave Garraway, Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley were trusted friends invited into our homes daily with subtle messages about the expectations that we should be living with. Then there was Detroit, which was producing the best cars in the world. American know-how was on parade and we thought that the king would never die, yeah the Japanese were building cars and the Germans had the Mercedes Benz and the funny little Volkswagen, the Italians had the Lamborghini and the Fiat, but these were specialty markets and no threat to the juggernaut known as Detroit and we thought that it would stay like that forever. The Music Industry was not yet ready for the British Invasion but the explosion known as Motown was taking place and as a result the young people in this country were taking a very serious look at race relationships and how things just didn’t seem fair. It wasn’t fair that white artist like Pat Boone would be allowed to steal a hit from a black artist and turn it into a gold record and the black artist got nothing for that effort. But slowly black artist gained radio airwave time and their music got out and the young people loved it. Sports also contributed to this turn in social conscience that was slowly starting to sweep through the country. Black athletes like Willie Mays and Oscar Robertson, were becoming heroes and role models for many of the young people, both black and white. This gave raise to many young blacks looking for their fair share, things like being able to ride wherever they wished on a bus or eat at whichever café they chose. And although many whites opposed these actions, many also supported it and this fostered other social defiance to garner liberties. Movies also started to portray blacks in leading roles that were not the slap stick roles that had been previously reserved for blacks. Likewise Hollywood and television to a subtle yet lesser degree was introducing America to a subculture based upon the big three: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The message was if it feels good then do it.
Hanover was no different
In 1963 Hanover boasted two hundred and twenty four industries, while the vast majority of the industries were small, hiring less than twenty workers; many of them were large, hiring many workers. You had Keystone Wire Cloth; Hanover Wire Cloth; Acme Industries, makers of quilts and bed spreads; Warehime Canning, producer of Hi-C drinks; Middleburg Industries, children clothing; Hanover Canning, the green bean and kidney bean canners; Revonah Mills, manufactures of fine carpeting; Pentex Box Company, makers of packing and shipping materials; Pitts Wood Heels, supplying heels to the shoe industry; Doubleday Press; Utz Potato Chips; Snyder Foods; Wege Pretzels; Freeman Shoes; and the granddaddy of them all Hanover Shoe.
When Harper D. Sheppard, the marketing specialist, and H.C. Myers- no relation to Ira - a master shoemaker, shook hands in 1899 and created the Hanover Shoe Company, they turned Hanover from a sleepy little agriculture center to an industrial powerhouse. Their concept was to produce a quality yet affordable shoe for the working class person, and they did so by eliminating the middlemen. Their plan was to manufacture, distribute and sell the shoes themselves at the inexpensive price of $2.50 a pair. In twenty short years, they had established dominance in the shoe market from Boston to Richmond and from Philadelphia to Chicago. By 1963 the price of shoes that they sold had indeed gone up to just about $10.00 a pair, but they were still a fine high quality shoe that no other similar quality shoemaker could match for the price and they had saturated that market area, but success had its cost. First and foremost was that it was increasingly harder to hire and keep good workers who were willing to work for wages that would keep the cost of their shoes low. The success of their operation attracted other entrepreneurs to the area, some to support the shoe industry, others to compete directly against them by hiring away skilled and trained workers, while others were just looking for a place where people were known to be hard workers. The people that lived in Hanover Pennsylvania were hard workers.
Take the example of Pius Dunlap. Pius dropped out of school in the eighth grade to go to work to help support his family. He was fourteen years old and was a strapping lad with a good intelligence and a strong back. He was assigned a position at the end of a production line where he would assemble wire cloth into shippable quantities. This required him to measure the wire cloth as it came off the line to match out bound order ticket. When sufficient lengths were reached, Pius would roll off a tare percentage of extra cloth to assure that the customer would always be certain that their order was complete, then he would cut the cloth, bound the roll with strips of baling wire tag it with an identification number, weigh the bale and record the weight on the ID tag and stage the bale for removal to the proper storage or staging location within the factory. Pius was so good at that job that he continued to do it for the next sixty years, retiring at the age of seventy four. Sixty years at the same position. During that time the measuring devices were upgraded with newer technology but the operator remained the same. And in sixty years Pius missed work for other than holidays and vacation – 5 days per year – only eleven days. During those sixty years Pius married, and he lived for six years with his wife’s family on High Street in Hanover which required him to ride his bicycle to work each day. But he and his wife saved their money and he purchased a house on Fulton Street about two blocks from the factory, where Pius and his wife raised their family and for the next fifty four years Pius walked to work, would walk home for lunch break every day, regardless of the weather.
The family would rise every Sunday and they’d dress in their Sunday duds, and walk the four blocks to Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church. They owned a car, throughout most of this time but it was always an older used vehicle and used sparingly for shopping trips or emergencies, or an occasional Sunday drives into the countryside around Hanover to enjoy a gentle spring day, with a picnic next to a lake or a stream in the area
When Pius retired he was given a gold pocket watch and a check for $3200.00, which he used to purchase a cranberry red Olds Cutlass, the first new car that he had ever owned. Pius had family that lived in Texas and he and his wife made plans to go visit and they would do so in his new car. Maps were marked, plans laid out for a trip to Dallas, with a stop- over in Nashville Tennessee, where they would visit The Grand Ole Opry. Pius did the driving since his wife, like many other women of her age, had never learned to drive. They arrived at their destination and were greeted with a large meal, and then were shown to the guest room where Pius and his wife retired for the evening only to have Pius suffer a stroke during the night which resulted in him being rushed to the hospital where he stayed for the next ten days. Pius recovered from the stroke but was unable to drive. His son flew to Dallas and got his parents on a flight home and then drove the car back to the little house on Fulton Street where it sat un-driven for the next four years, except for a few trips to the inspection station to keep the car’s inspection current or to get gas as nearly every day, at some point in time during the day, Pius would go to his car and start the engine and he would listen to the sound of the engine for a few minutes and then he’d listen to the radio for a few more minutes before shutting the car down. He did that until the day before he died. Neighbors said that they suspected that old Pius had passed when they realized that he had not visited his car in over 24 hours.
Pius was a rare breed of man, hard worker dedicated family man, true to his job and his country and his God. Hanover had many more people similar to Pius.
Hanover Shoe wanted to expand its operation, and yet they were facing increasing pressure for wages. For years the Sheppard’s had kept a firm hold on the people of Hanover. When outside influence threatened, perceived or real, to bring new or radical ideas to town, the Sheppard’s did all that they could do to squash them, for example when the YMCA started a chapter in Hanover in 1938. They, the organizers of the YMCA chapter, came to town and rented a building on York Street just across the street from the McAllister Hotel. The building was a derelict, but they went to work to fix it up, even had plans, as membership grew, to install a swimming pool and basketball courts. The folks at Hanover Shoe saw this as a negative influence bringing in outside ideas that might have an adverse effect on their workers, so the next thing you know the Hanover Youth Club was born. A building on Carlisle Street only a few blocks from both the High School, the Junior High School, and the Shoe Factory was selected, and it had a pool and basketball courts as well as squash and handball courts, tennis courts, bowling alleys, the works and membership cost was half of that of the YMCA, and if your parents worked at the Shoe Factory, it was only half of that. The YMCA shriveled up and left town. Then, six months later, The Hanover Youth Club, closed its doors, and six weeks after that the building reopened as the Republican Club.
But the Sheppard’s could not shut down one major influence from outside, television. By 1963, 93% of the homes in Hanover had at least one television set, and over 10% of those had two sets, a handful even had three. These televisions were bringing in outside news, from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and, worst of all, New York. News of the outside world, and images of how that all worked was being streamed into Hanover every day. This in turn put pressure on wages, the good folks of Hanover saw what people in other parts of the country had as a standard of living and they wanted their piece of the pie. The Sheppard’s were not planning on sharing the pie with anybody that they didn’t have to.
The Interstate Highway System that was now spreading across the country but it bypassed Hanover. York, Chambersburg, Carlisle, and Harrisburg were all connected but not Hanover. Hanover Shoe remained stuck with the rail system that they had had since 1900, and in an increasingly competitive market, that simply was not good enough to allow them to expand their markets. A team of junior executives was formed by Lawrence Sheppard- grandson of Harper - which included his son and two son-in-laws and they were assigned the task of finding a new location from which to manufacture and ship shoes. The facility in Hanover was declining, and pressure for higher wages made it simply not worth the expense that would be needed to keep it up to date. They would keep the old factory working temporarily, supplying the customer base in the northeast, but the mid-western and southern markets would be siphoned off to a new facility that would have less competition for labor cost and better access to the Interstate system, once the new locality was stable, all production would be moved to that facility. Several locations fit the bill, and Lawrence himself made the final decision, the new facility would be in Paducah Kentucky.
And thus enters Jamison Tate, a twenty five year old graduate of the University of Kentucky. Jamison was a former collegiate wrestler at the 145 pound weight class, and had a cauliflower left ear to prove it, but otherwise the man did not look much like a wrestler or any kind of athlete at all, his curly blond hair covered a round pudgy face with soft blue eyes and a pouty lips, his shoulders were hunched and he had developed a bit of a beer belly since graduation. He had tried to enlist in the military as an officer after college, but was rejected due to a ruptured disc in his lower back that he was not even aware that he had. Jamison had a degree in Transportation, and went to work for a local trucking company as a sales rep after the military rejected him. It was a job that he hated, but it paid his bills, and allowed him to pursue Rebecca Ballard, of the Louisville Ballard’s, one of the finest families in the state of Kentucky, S. Thurston Ballard, former Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky was her Great Uncle. It was this political connection which attracted Lawrence to Jamison and thus to Kentucky and as Jamison was born and raised in Paducah, and Paducah was on the panels list, the choice seemed perfect. Jamison was brought to Hanover under the guise that he would be working at the new distribution center that the Sheppard’s were planning to build in Hanover, the one that they would build to support the distribution into the northeast once the production facilities in Kentucky were fully operational and they could shut down the old facility in Hanover, but in fact he was intended to be the traffic manager for the Kentucky distribution facility.
Jamison Tate arrived in Hanover by Greyhound on August 18th, 1963so that he could report to work at the corporate offices on the following day. Reservations had been made for him to stay at the motel above the Aero Oil Station at the corner of Walnut and Carlisle Streets, basically across the street from the corporate offices of Hanover Shoe, and within walking distance to the factory and the center square. It was very plush, with an in room refrigerator, an in-room pond with a water fall next to the sitting room in the front, a color television set, stereo record player, and a bar stocked with whisky, rum, gin, and vodka, plus a variety of mixers. The first weeks lodgings were on the Sheppard’s, after which Jamison was put on a per-diem account of thirty two dollars per week. The weekly rent at the motel was a staggering seven dollars and fifty cents per day, not counting the cost of the liquor if opened, meaning Jameson would need to contribute to his living expenses out of his two hundred and thirty dollar a week salary, something he had no intentions of doing. He had been put on notice that Lawrence Sheppard was a tea-totter and disapproved of his executives drinking or partying, unless of course it was business related, in which case it could be allowed but only to a minimum. But Jamison had developed a taste for partying and drinking during his employment as a sales rep for that trucking company. It was amazing how many traffic managers were willing to give their company’s business to the firm that offered the best food and drink and ‘other’ services to them, rather than the best service to their company, and since rates were standardized by the ICC, it was hard for any auditor or accountant to determine that a better option could be or was available. Jamison couldn’t wait until he had his own little empire and he would play one trucking sales rep against another to have all the partying he could handle without it costing him a red cent.
After the first week in Hanover, Jamison moved to the Huffman’s Hanover Hotel on the Center Square, two doors east of Myer’s Pharmacy. Huffman’s Hanover Hotel was a rat trap, literally. The rooms were dark and dingy, with lousy lighting and no television sets, and only a pay phone in the hallway of each floor. The joke around Hanover was that the Hoffman Hanover Hotel was such a dump that that was the reason that General Kilpatrick’s horse, from the statue that sat in the middle of the Center Square, had its ass pointed towards the hotel. But they did have a kitchen on the main floor that made good, not great, sandwiches, and they had a billiard room with thirteen of the best pool tables that Jamison had ever seen. The photos on the walls of the billiard room were amazing, showing so many famous pool-shooters right there where Jamison was shooting pool himself, it was as if he were connected to these great shooters.
After work Jamison would rush back to his hotel room, maybe grab a quick nap, then he’d descend on the pool room, after snatching a sandwich and a beer from the little kitchen, he’d secure a table and work on his game, taking on a challenger every now and again, trying desperately not to be hustled. His game was good, but he lost a lot, their game was better. But the Huffman’s Hanover Hotel only cost him twenty eight dollars per week, and a beer and a sandwich was a buck and a quarter, the pool tables were free to guest, except for the racking fee of a quarter. Cheap living and he was having fun, and the extra cash from his per-diem was worth the down grade in living conditions, who was afraid of a few rats anyway.
One night in early-October, a girl shows up at the poolroom. She was young, say twenty one, maybe twenty two at the most. She had her own pool stick that she carried in a case. Jameson was impressed, ‘a girl with her own pool stick’. He watched her shoot and she was good, better than him for sure, maybe better than most the guys who had been taking his money over the past few weeks. She was tall for a girl, maybe six foot, five eleven for sure, big advantage for a girl to be tall to shot pool, very thin, barely any breast at all, hardly any hips, reminded him a bit of Olive Oyl from the Popeye cartoons, except she had a prettier face, at least pretty enough, not as pretty as Rebecca, but that would be hard for anyone.
Someone told Jamison that her name was Sandy, and he struck up a conversation with this tall pool shooter, “You’re pretty darn good with that pool stick, would you mind giving me a few pointers?”
He was surprised at how comfortable he was with spending time shooting pool with her. She had a gentle way of coaching him, without sounding like she was a ‘know-it-all’, although she did know a lot. She told him she had been shooting pool for eleven years, but she had never competed in any contest to see how good she was against other pool shooters, and she would never bet on a pool game, or any other kind of game as far as that goes. She said, “Games are supposed to be fun, and betting would just take all the fun out of it, that would make it work, and I would rather have fun than work any day.”
Jameson understood, he’d rather have fun as well.
The following night she returned to the pool room and again she and Jameson spent the night shooting pool and talking. At the end of the night he walked her to her car which was parked on Frederick Street just past the Sears and Roebucks Store. As they walked the few blocks to her car, he reached out and grabbed her hand and held it for the remainder of the walk. When they arrived at her car, he pulled her towards him and gave her a kiss. Just one and then he said, “I’d like to see you again.”
She was more than willing, and showed it by giving him another kiss. By the end of the week, he had her in his hotel room and they were no longer just shooting pool.
It was now the middle of November and Sandy had been excessively troubled. She’d sit and cry for hours on end, even missed work because she was simply too upset. Fortunately, she worked for her father and even though he didn’t like the idea of her not showing up for work, he wasn’t going to fire her, or even dock her pay. He thought the whole thing was just dumb on her part, but that was the way women were, overly sensitive, overly sentimental. But Sandy started to think that there was something else wrong, accompanied by the fact that her period was about three weeks over due, she took herself to Doctor Davidson’s office on Baltimore Street. Doctor Davidson was not her family doctor, but she could never go to her family doctor if her fears were correct. Fears, well not exactly, she was not afraid to have Jamison’s baby, she loved Jamison and he had told her that he loved her, and girls her age, many of her friends from high school already had children, some more than one.
Sandy was pregnant, a little over six weeks, certainly not showing or anything even as skinny as she was. Now she had to tell Jamison, she was sure that he would be excited and receptive about the news. She made reservation at the Hill Tavern for Friday night and picked him up at the square and drove him to the restaurant about five miles east of town. She told him that she felt that they needed to have a special date and that it was on her, and the Hill had the best Prime Rib around. Jamison was always up for a good meal, he’d been on a steady diet of meatball subs and beers so Prime Rib sounded like a feast to him, especially since he wasn’t buying.
The meal didn’t go as Sandy had planned; in fact the entire evening did not go as planned. Word out of Dallas of the killing of the President had shocked the nation. Sandy, who had worked the Kennedy Johnson Election Center on Carlisle Street in Hanover and actively went door to door asking people to vote for this Catholic Democrat in a Lutheran Republican town, was especially troubled by the event and had cried most of the day. But she had more pressing concerns and she willed herself to put the Kennedy Assassination aside to face this most important event in her life to date. They arrived at the restaurant, and were ushered to their table. Drinks were ordered, Rum and Coke for Jamison, Seven Up for Sandy, and they placed their orders, Jamison got the Prime Rib while Sandy ordered the Trout, stuffed with Crab. The drinks came, and Sandy said, let’s hare a toast, and Jamison raised his glass to her and said, “To us!” and they clinked their glasses, and Sandy added, “All of us!”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, it means,” she paused and curled her lips into a sly grin, “That there are now more of us. I’m going to have your baby!”
Sandy saw him pale, as he said, “That’s not possible, we’ve been safe. You can’t be pregnant.”
“Oh, I assure you I am. The doctor confirmed it on Wednesday.”
“Well you got to get rid of it. I can’t be a father.”
Sandy was not ready to hear that and she allowed herself to cry, then she pled, “But you’d be a great father, and a great husband, and we’d have a wonderful little family.”
Jamison slammed down his drink. Looking around the room, he could sense people were noticing their conversation. Actually most of the people in the room were focused on the little television set in the bar area of the restaurant, listening to Huntley and Brinkley as they covered every aspect of the news coming out of Texas and Washington DC. But he didn’t wish to continue this conversation at this time nor did he want to spend another second pretending that he had affections for this woman. Anything that might put a strain on his relationship with Rebecca Ballard could not be tolerated. “I need a smoke, I’ll be right back.”
Even though it was perfectly acceptable in 1963 to smoke in a restaurant, Jamison chose to step outside to have his cigarette and to clear his mind. He had to come up with a strategy that would get him out of this jam. ‘Good one,’ he thought, ‘Jam, that’s what Rebecca calls me when we get playful. She’d not think this was very playful!’
The evening air was cold, actually crisp, and it allowed Jamison to focus his thoughts. Traffic of commuters and shoppers coming from York roared past on the road in front of the Tavern, but he barely heard a sound, locked in thought and deep concern.
He lit a second cigarette and took a long deep drag, holding the smoke in his lungs, then forcing it out through his nostrils. This normally helped him think, and he was quickly formulating a plan of attack. He decided that he needed to go along with this, for now, but that he would quickly and assuredly convince her that they both are not ready for parenthood, and that they needed to become better prepared financially before they made that kind of commitment to another human being. After she had an abortion, he’d break up with her, and by spring he’d be back in Kentucky and would never see her again.
His plan worked, there was lots of crying, and promises made that never were intended to be kept, but his plan worked. Err, except for one small problem, neither of them knew anybody who could help them end the pregnancy.
The following Monday, everyone was abuzz about the going on in Dallas. A fellow named Jack Ruby had killed that Oswald guy right in front of the police and the television cameras, for the whole world to see. It seemed like a melodrama from a bad soap opera was playing out in front of everyone’s eyes. But Jamison had urgent business that needed to be attended to regardless of what ever had been going on in national news, so he approached a production foreman that he’d come to know and disliked because of the man’s lack of couth. He figured that if anyone would know who could provide abortion services in this town it would be him, but to Jamison’s surprise the man simply said, “This be a Christian town, we do not abide with that type of thing here.”
As Jamison walked away from that confrontation, Teddy Shoemaker, a skinny lad with long greasy pitch black hair with three cowlicks and a complexion that accompanied that type of hair, a roman nose and deep set dark eyes, approached and said in a hushed voice, “Hey, Mister Tate, I might be able fix you up with someone.”
Jamison instinctively did not like the person to whom he was confronted, “I’m sorry, but who are you?”
“That’s not really important is it? What’s important is that you need to find someone who can perform a certain service, and if the conditions are right, I might be able to find that person for you.”
“And what conditions are they?”
“First, are you a cop of any sorts?”
Jamison shook his head.
“Good, now you got twenty bucks?”
Again he nodded, yes this time.
“Alright, here’s the deal. Twenty bucks gets you an introduction, after that you’re on your own, you make your deal with them, if you can’t make the deal, you don’t get your twenty back. Understand?”
Jamison had a sinking feeling deep in his stomach, it was starting to dawn on him that abortion was a dangerous and dirty business, and he also realized that he had little choice but to associate with people like the unsavory lad that stood in front of him at that moment with his hand out waiting for a twenty. Reaching for his wallet to retrieve the twenty, holding it in front of the lad, he asked, “When can we do this?”
“I get off at 3:30, meet me at the corner of Franklin and Park then, and I’ll take you to someone who can help you. The twenty please.”
Jamison followed Teddy down Park Street to High Street, where they approached Buffington’s Market, alongside the market was an alley that led to the rear of the building, where another building that looked like an oversized garage stood. Up a flight of wooden steps on the outside of the building, they came to a wooden landing. Teddy knocked on an old wooden screen door, and a voice on the other side called out, “Who’s there?”
“It’s Teddy Shoemaker, Misses Wisebrod, I brought you a customer.”
The wooden door the other side of the screen door cracked open an inch or two, but it was too dark inside for Jamison to see anything.
“You sure he ain’t no cop?”
“I’m sure, he works at the factory, been there for about three months, I asked him if he’s a cop and he said no.”
The wooden door open a few more inches, “Well he don’t look a cop, kinda pretty boy, you asked me, what he do get his secretary knocked up?” She laughed.
“No, but I do have a girl in trouble and it needs to be taken care of.”
“Three hundred bucks.”
Teddy spoke up, “I’m done, this is up to you guys now. Can you find your way out?”
Jamison nodded to Teddy as he departed, then asked the lady, “When can you do it?”
“You get me the money and bring the girl here and it is done.”
Jamison had over four hundred in the bank that he had saved for a trip home over the Christmas holidays, he had hoped to buy his mother a very nice Christmas present, and of course Rebecca would expect something very nice as well. He had hoped that he might be able to buy her a pre-engagement ring. But this was more urgent, he’d deal with that all later. “Okay, how’s Friday night?”
“Like I said, you bring the money and the girl, it will get done. I’m here Friday night, don’t come after eight.” The door slammed shut.
Peoples Bank was five hundred feet away from Huffman’s Hanover Hotel, just past Myers Pharmacy, across Baltimore Street and next to the J. C. Penney Store. Jamison selected it for his savings account because it was close to the hotel, and he considered it a good choice, because of the remarkable beauty of the building, with its red stone exterior, large slate steps, and the triple towers, four and a half stories high, it made the building look like a fortress or medieval castle, it just felt like it was secure. After work on Friday, Jamison left the plant and walked to the bank, with his paycheck in hand. The weather had turned bad, with a cold wicked wind blowing from the north and mounting clouds, it seemed as if it would snow any second. He cashed his check and then withdrew three hundred from his savings account. Then he headed back towards the hotel where he paid his weekly rent in cash. It was here that it was agreed that he’d meet up with Sandy at 5 PM. He hoped the weather would not prevent her from coming. The foot traffic on the Square had already picked up with shoppers coming to and fro from the various stores looking for just the right gifts.
Jamison had about forty five minutes to wait, so he decided to grab a couple of hotdogs and a beer at the Famous Diner. People had told him about the great Texas Wieners that the Famous Diner offered, so he decided to see what they were talking about. The Famous Diner was a scrubby little hole in the wall, with half a dozen tables, three booths in the rear and a counter that sat eighteen, in all about fifty some seats, and yet the place was packed at 4:30 on a frigid Friday afternoon, and a line of people stood out into the entrance way, waiting for take-out orders. Jamison was impressed and notwithstanding the fact that the Famous had the distinct odor of underarm as one entered the front door, he’d give it a try and grabbed a seat at the counter. After eating his meal, two Texas Hot Dogs, fries and a Rolling Rock, which had an altogether satisfying taste, he walked back to the hotel, and noticed that the combination of onions, mustard and chili sauce was not sitting well on his stomach, or maybe it was the thought of the fat hairy Greek looking man that he just saw with a stack of about a dozen hot dogs, two of which were his, stacked up his bare hairy left arm, while his right hand was busy distributing the condiments necessary to turn a normal hot dog into a Texas Wiener. He knew that he was a bit nervous about the plans for this evening, this was breaking the law, and young girls died all the time from these back alley abortions, and this was a back alley abortion, no doubt of that. He saw a concrete bench in front of the drug store and decided that despite the declining weather conditions, he’d sit there and wait for Sandy to arrive. Watching the shoppers rush around would be an adequate distraction, one that the inside of his hotel room could not provide.
He sat down on the cold concrete seat and crossed his legs, and as he did, his wallet slipped from his pocket and landed next to one of the concrete legs supporting the bench, unnoticed by him. His wait was but a few minutes until Sandy arrived. As her Edsel pulled up to the curb Jamison noticed that she was in tears and looked white as a sheet. Jamison quickly went to her car, and climbed in the passenger seat, he needed to assure her that they were doing the right thing. Instead, the warmth inside the car hit him like a punch to the stomach. Texas Hot Wieners; the stress of a crying woman; the thought of breaking the law; and the heat of the car all worked on him at once, he pushed open the door, leaned out and threw up into the curb. Embarrassed by the situation, Jamison yelled at Sandy to drive away, which she did, heading east on Broadway, past the Famous Diner.
Jamison directed Sandy around to the location where he had met with Old Lady Wisbrod. The hovel was creepy in the daylight but one could easily magnify the creepiness by a hundred at night, add in a cold wind howling down the alleyway, rattling trash cans and whipping the trash in the alley around in small eddies, and you have yourself the opening of a bad horror movie. This was a scary place and Sandy wanted nothing to do with it and refused to exit the car. Jamison worked on her for about a half hour before he could ease her out of the car and up the steps.
He knocked on the door and waited. Footsteps inside could be heard and he waited as the steps came closer and the door opened a crack.
“Who the hell is it? Oh, it’s you, the pretty boy from the shoe factory. I see you brought your pigeon, did you bring the money?”
Jamison reached for his wallet and was aghast when he discovered that it was missing. He patted himself all over thinking he may have placed it in one of his coat pockets by error. “I, ah, I had it!” he muttered. “It must be in the car, I’ll be right back.”
He left Sandy standing on the platform, Wisbrod said, “Don’t come back until you got the money.”Then she slammed the door shut against the girl standing there all alone.
Jamison searched the car as best he could using the dome light of the Edsel and could not find his missing wallet. He heard Sandy crying uncontrollably, and at his wits end he yelled for her to “Will you shut the hell up!”
Thinking back he remembered that he had used his wallet when he paid the rent on his room, then he recalled paying for his meal at the hot dog stand. ‘Yes, it must be where I left it,’ he thought. He yelled, “Shit, shit, get in the car and drive and stop that damn crying will you!”
He had her drive to the Hot Dog Shop, told her to park at the cross walk next to the restaurant, and wait for him to return. He rushed off leaving her to defend herself against the angry shoppers who were fighting the cold weather and now had to deal with a car parked in the crosswalk. Shouts and jesters were sent her way and she was tempted to drive off and go around the block and see if she could park somewhere but just then Jamison exited and returned to the car, telling one upset pedestrian just exactly he could place the middle finger he was waving his way.
“It’s not there. Someone must of grabbed it and instead of turning it in they saw it had money in it so they kept it. Just what I’d expect to happen in this one horse town.”
Then he recalled that he had sat on the bench along the Center Square. He told her to drive to where she had picked him up and to stop the God Damn crying.
Sandy drove as best she could with tears running down her face and found a parking spot just a few feet away from the bench. Jamison jumped out of the car and raced over to the bench. Again nothing could be found.
“Shit, shit, shit. Okay, get out of the car,” he yelled at Sandy.
She gave him a ‘what?’ look.
He walked back to the car and bent towards the open driver’s window. “I said get out of the car. We’re going up to my room. We’ll take care of your pregnancy there, somehow.”
Sandy realized, at that moment, that this was all wrong. That he was wrong, he was no more in love with her than he was with the statue of General Kirkpatrick sitting on his horse there in the center of the Center Square. Gathering herself as best she could, with this new realization, that Jamison really did not love her nor did he have any interest in ever having a life with her, he only wanted off the hook for this baby that he created inside of her, was tearing her apart. It suddenly became a battle inside her heart. Did she love Jamison more than she loved her unborn child? Without any reservation what so ever the answer was clear, crystal clear, the child was more to her than Jamison could ever, or would ever be. Mustering all the strength that she could, she looked up at Jamison and she said, “This is never going to happen no matter what you say. And you don’t have to worry about it. You’re off the hook, I’ll raise my baby by myself and I’ll be fine. Now get away from me.”
She drove off leaving Jamison standing there, never to see her again.
Sandy drove around town in a self-inflicted fog for about an hour. Then she headed out east of town into the Pigeon Hills, a foothill of the South Mountains that sits between Hanover and York, and turned down Beaver Creek Road, driving until she arrived at the triple lakes. The triple lakes are a series of manmade lakes created by damning up Beaver Creek, it had once been the reservoir for the town of Hanover, the upper lake is the largest and the only one accessible by automobile, a spillway leads to the second and then finally a second spillway to the third and smallest. She had always loved triple lakes, they were a favorite picnic area as a small child, with a dozen large picnic tables, swings and sliding boards for the children to play, several wood-burning cooking pits, diving boards and monkey swings for playing in the lake and a small sandy beach where sand castles could be built, it was a very special memory from her childhood. The place did not look like she had remembered it, the trees were now all bare and the water on the lake had a grey blue shimmer of water near turning to ice and vandals had struck, destroying some of the tables and cutting down the swings, breaking the other toys, painting cuss words on the out buildings, making it so very unattractive that Sandy was not gladdened as she had hoped.
She just needed to be alone for a while, long enough to figure out what her next move was going to be and how in the world she would be able to explain it all to her friends and family. ‘Oh my God,’ she thought, ‘I need to tell my mother! How in the world can I ever do that?’
She cried hard, so hard that she thought that she had cried herself out of tears and then she cried a bit longer, allowing herself to feel every bit of anguish that the betrayal of Jamison Tate had produced. And suddenly she shook herself back to reality. He was an evil person who had deceived her, this sin was not on her but on him, and he would someday answer to his maker for his deceit. As for her, well she would simply have to make do, her child would depend upon her, and she needed to be strong. She knew that her parents loved her and that they would not be happy about this but they would love her child no matter what and they would help her as much as they could. As far as her friends were concerned, well some would judge her and show disdain, and that would be their right, but others would not and would support her and they would remain her friends.
She wiped the tears from her eyes, fixed her makeup in the dim dome light of the Edsel, and drove to her home.
Sandy’s mother, Henrietta, Henny to most, loved to trim everything in gold-leaf. The living room in their stylish home on Grant Drive has a collage of photos along the far wall as one entered it from the front foyer. Each photo was in a golden frame of some sort or another plus the large room was decorated with many mirrors, and several vases and other knickknacks all golden. This gave the room an ethereal appearance especially at night with the flicker of the television off of the various golden clad objects. Otherwise the living room was very average, a floral printed traditional style sofa, two Princess Anne wingback upholstered chairs, a Louis XV desk with chair, and of course the RCA counsel color television set with an RCA radio and record player built in with stereo speakers, along with a variety of coffee and end tables, made up the contents of the room. This evening her parents had cracked a bottle of Cabernet wine and had sat back and were enjoying an episode of Route 66, one of Sandy’s father’s favorite shows. They had agreed that they needed to just relax and forget about the troubles beset the country with the murder of the President and the obvious cover up, most likely by the FBI, and J Edgar Hoover. If it was Hoover, and it sure felt like it was, then he had a damn good reason and there would be no way anyone would ever pin anything on him. So it was best just left alone and move on with life.
Kenneth, Sandy’s father, sensed a problem as soon as Sandy entered the room. She had not been herself for several days, but he had simply written it off as melancholy over the death of Kennedy. He knew that she had worked hard to help get Kennedy elected, although he did not understand exactly what she saw in the man, after all he was a Democrat and a Catholic. Rising out of the sofa where he had been sitting, he strode across the room to the console and reduced the sound, then he turned, and simply looked at her. Sandy broke down and cried again. “Oh, Daddy!” It had been the deep throated, high pitched, mournful cry like that of a little girl having just found her beloved pet cat dead under a bush in her back yard.
Her father approached her with his arms extended to try to give her a hug, but she shuttered and turned away from him and he backed off, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. Her mother was still sitting on the sofa, her mouth agape, not knowing what to do, and afraid to say anything yet sensing that she must. Finally, she blurted out, “What in heaven’s name is the matter, sweetheart? Did you have an accident in your car?”
Sandy turned and faced her mother and caught her breath, tears gushing down her face, she knew she had to take control of herself and talk to her parents but every time she tried to think what to say the situation got worse and so did her reaction to it. Finally, she blurted through her tears and said, “I’m pregnant!” And then she dropped her defenses and turned and grabbed her father who in turn held her tight while her mother gasped, “How did this happen?”
Sandy’s father gently patted her on the back and said, “Now, now everything will be all right. You don’t need to worry about telling us about anything.” He smoothly guided her across the room to one of the Princess Anne chairs and allowed her to sit. Then he presented her with his handkerchief from his hip pocket saying, “It’s clean.”
Sandy took the cloth and dabbed her eyes and suddenly the love she felt and the reassurance of the familiar surroundings eased her mind and she slowly gathered her wits and continued, “And the baby’s father wants me to have an abortion.”
Henny first reaction was of shock that the word abortion was even mentioned in her home, and then she was struck with the fact that she was about to become a grandmother and she knew that she was way too young to be a grandmother. A grandmother was what her grandmothers had both been, stately, saggy, greyish old women who only had a short time left on earth, and that was not her. And at the same moment she was filled with love for this person that she has never even met. Rising from her seat, she walked over to her daughter, bent and gave her a gentle and loving kiss on the check and said, “No matter what, we love you and we will never let anything bad happen to you. You can have this baby and your father and I will support you and help you in every way. Do you understand?”
The family composed themselves, and moved the conversation to the kitchen, where all family business was conducted. Question were asked and answered. Sandy told her parents about this handsome man from Kentucky that she had met at Hoffman’s Hotel when she was shooting pool. And how he was different than the others at the pool hall, he was sweet, funny, educated and he worked at Hanover Shoe as a Manager Trainee, and that he was going places with Hanover Shoe. She told of how he would ask her for help with his pool shooting as if he was truly interested in her as a person and not just a pick up. But when she got pregnant and he told her that she needed to have an abortion she knew that it was wrong but he made so many promises that she almost went through it earlier that evening, but a last minute snag caused a delay and in that delay he revealed his true intentions and they had nothing to do with her in his future. So she left.
Kenneth was quick to ask if she wanted to keep the baby or would she want to give the baby up for adoption. Sandy replied that she wanted to keep it, that she loved the baby and wanted to be a good mother for it. Her father said, “Then it settled, we will have the basement finished and turn it into an apartment for you and the baby to live in as long as you want to live with us. You can have your baby and your mother and I will be here to help you every step of the way. Alright?”
Sandy cried again, but this was a tender cry of appreciation and love.
It was Sunday December 15th, ten days until Christmas and a light snow has fallen. Jimmy was elated by the prospects of a White Christmas. He and his brother had been awaken by his mother and told to get their butts in gear and get to Mass. The church was seven blocks away and was an easy walk. Jimmy sang the whole way. Every Christmas song he knew and some of them twice. Anywhere slush had built up in the streets, Jimmy would jump in with both feet sending the slush in a cascade onto everything around including Jimmy’s brother.
‘The singing is bad enough, now I get slopped in slush as well,’ thought his brother. They arrived at church about ten minutes before Mass and the lines for the confessional were oddly short for only a few days before Christmas and Jimmy amazed his brother by going and getting into the line. After Jimmy delivered his standard list of recent sins, receiving his standard list of prayers as penitence, he found the pew where his brother had sat and began to pray. But he was not praying for forgiveness of his sins but for deliverance of a train for under his Christmas tree.
After church Jimmy’s brother headed for home. The Colts were on television today. Jimmy’s brother was a big football fan and he loved the Colts, even though the rest of his family were Steeler fans, you almost never get the Steelers on television, and besides the Steelers have never been any good and probably never would. Jimmy however went north on Baltimore Street after Mass, the extra prayers and the grace from the confessional were telling him that he needed to complete another entry blank.
So off he went on his own, singing, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the one’s I used to know,” off key and at the top of his lungs.
Ira Myers had arranged for Mayor Hammond to be his official drawler, and for Thomas Benton of radio station WHVR, to be present to broadcast the live drawling and to act as the judge of the drawling assuring that all was up and up. Kevin Marcacio, cub reporter for the Evening Sun, was on hand to document the event as well. Ira had carefully removed all of the entry forms from the box he had collected them in and placed them into a large chicken wire cylinder provided by the Pennville Fire Company which they used for similar drawings.
Mayor Hammond cranked the cylinder with the handle about twenty times, as Tom Benton described the action into his microphone wired to a truck parked at the curb in front of the store, which in turn was sending the signal to the station on the north side of town, which in turn broadcast the event to all of the Hanover area, and finally said, “Well, I believe these tickets are sufficiently mixed up. Do you all agree?”
Heads nodded in agreement and the Mayor laughed, then said, “Alright then, one more spin for good luck.”
He brought the cylinder to a stop with the trap door facing upward and raised his right hand to the clasp which held the door shut, he turned to Tom Benton and said, “Well here goes. Good Luck to all of you out there.” And without any further delay he stabbed his left hand deep into the bin and pulled out the winning ticket.
Except the Mayor had not pulled just a single ticket out of the bin. Pressing his thumb against the tickets that he had removed, as Kevin snapped a photograph of the drawling, he revealed that he had in fact removed three tickets.
“They all stuck together!” he said. “What’ll I do now?”
All eyes went to Tom Benton. He was assigned to be the judge, a job that no one thought was going to be needed, but here it was a judge was needed.
The Mayor continued, “Maybe I’ll just drop these back into the bin and spin it again and redraw. What do you think, Tom?”
Tom craned his neck, and for reason that later he could not recall why, he asked to see the three tickets that had just come from the bin so that he could inspect them.
The Mayor was more than happy to hand them over to Tom, as Kevin snapped a few more photos of the mess up. He could see the headlines in the Saturday paper, ‘Mayor Screws Up’. The Evening Sun was not his biggest fan any way and this would be fodder to them.
Tom Benton looks at the three tickets and with great glee announces that there will be no need for another drawing. “All three tickets have the exact same name, so I declare that person the winner. So let’s get the winner on the phone so that all of Hanover will know who is going to have this lovely train under their tree come Christmas morning.”
It was Friday December 20th, at 6:45 PM. Jimmy’s family had just finished dinner, and since it was Jimmy’s birthday the family would have cake and ice cream a little bit later. The kids were excited as today had been the last day of school for a full two weeks because of the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday. Jimmy’s mom was cleaning away the table after the meal and had a cake baking in the oven. Jimmy’s dad was in the living room with the television tuned to the CBS Nightly News with Walter Cronkite. Friday night was not normally a family’s favorite for television, they’d not be allowed to watch the Twilight Zone at 9 o’clock since it was too scary, and after the Twilight Zone was followed by the Friday night fights at 10 PM, which the children were definitely not allowed to watch. But tonight would be different, tonight the Bob Hope Christmas with the Troops Special would air with Bob Hope and all the regulars, Jerry Colonna, Phyllis Diller, Tuesday Weld and Anita Bryant and this year there will be a very special costar in Bing Crosby.
Jimmy had gone up to his bedroom after eating and was excited about his party, but he knew not to be too excited as it was only four days until Christmas and his birthday presents would be meager again this year just like every other year. Suddenly there came a knock at the door. Jimmy’s father answered, finding a blond haired man with pouty lips standing on his porch, and a few seconds later he called up the stairs for Jimmy to bring the wallet down.
Jimmy never thought that this moment would actually come. He believed that the wallet would never be claimed. In a way he was glad that it did come because now he’d get the recognition that he believed he deserved. No longer was he the black sheep of his family, for now he was the guiding light, the beacon of truth, the moral high ground, and half a dozen other platitudes that need not be mentioned. And he’d get his cash reward that would put him over the top for his train purchase, the train for under the tree on Christmas morning. He fumbled through his nightstand drawer, pulls the wallet out and rushes down the steps. The stranger in the living room had a cross look on his face, as if he thought that Jimmy had done something wrong, or at least it made Jimmy feel as if he had done something wrong and he said to the man, “All the money is still here, Mister.”
The return is completed, Jimmy with a sheepish grin of expectation mixed with a bit of fear on his face, handed the wallet to the blond haired stranger with a scowl on his face. The stranger flips open the wallet, dances his fingers through the bills and discovered that in fact everything is intact. Yet he is ungladdened, he shakes his head, as if in argument with himself an argument he had just lost. He shrugs and half-heartedly says, “Thanks.” Turning for the door, he steps back into the night.
As if he’d been slapped in the face, Jimmy turned and ran up the stairs to his room, realizing that his hope for a train under the Christmas tree was gone. ‘What a jerk,’ he thought, and he wasn’t sure who the biggest jerk was, that man or himself. He pulled out his cigar box were he kept his cash and gazed at it while he sat on the edge of his bed, fighting off the desire to cry. A fight he was about to lose. Jimmy’s mom was busy trying to finish her cake, hoping to get the family to the table and sing Happy Birthday in order to lighten up the mood in the house. Just then the phone rings and Jimmy’s sister, who was certain that the call was to be for her, answered.
“Call for Mister James Johnson, is he available?”
“Ah, yes. Ah who’s calling?”
“Is Mister Johnson there, this is Myers Pharmacy calling and this call is being broadcast live on radio station WHVR 1280 AM. May we please speak to him?”
Holding the phone receiver out at arms-length towards her mother, Jimmy’s sister yells, “Mommy, it’s the radio station calling for Jimmy!”
Jimmy woke on Saturday morning at 5 after 5 and was dressed and downstairs shortly thereafter ready for breakfast. His father would want Jimmy to work at the bottling plant today, so Jimmy’s plan was to be out of the house before his father got up. A bowl of Frosted Flakes and Jimmy slipped out the side door and into the early morning dark and cold. He walked to the center square and peered into the widow of Myers Pharmacy only to see that the train, his train, was no longer displayed and had been replaced by an ad promoting an athlete foot preventive.
He stood there shivering wishing that there were someplace that was open where he could go and wait until it was time to claim his prize, but he could not think of any such place except maybe the church. ‘What the heck, there are worse places to be than church, at least it’ll be warm,’ he thought. So off he trailed the three blocks to his church. To his surprise as he pushed open the big wooden doors that led into the naïve of the old building, he saw that there was a Mass being conducted. The priest had mounted the dais to deliver a sermon to the congregation, just a moment before Jimmy arrived, a total of fifteen souls not counting the altar-boys. There was no turning back now, so into the church he crept and placed himself into a rear pew and joined in the ceremony. When Mass was over everyone left the church and Jimmy had decided that he needed to go a tell Tommy Mack about the events of the day before and how the man with the wallet had not given any reward, in fact he barely even thanked him for returning the wallet, but it didn’t matter since he had won the train set from Myers Pharmacy.
Myers Pharmacy typically opened at 9 AM Monday thru Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday the store did not open until 10:30 AM, allowing the employees, specifically Ira Myers, an opportunity to sleep in and relax a little bit on the weekend. Ira didn’t like the fact that he had to work on Sunday but the Rexall at the mall was open Sundays and therefore he was forced to provide equivalent store hours. But Ira was running late today, he had been at the store late the evening before with the drawling and the festivities around that, and the necessity to convert the window display away from the Christmas theme and back to everyday business. Ira was very concerned about the effects that the stores redesign and the seasonal merchandising was having on his business, so he did some intense research into sales, profits, foot traffic, and the like. And there was one other thing that had bothered Ira. ‘How in the world did the mayor drawl out three tickets out of all those tickets with the same name on each?’
So he dumped all of the tickets out of the bin and he went to work sorting through the hundreds of entry blanks from the bin. At first he was sifting through to find those with the name James Johnson on them, but as he did he noted that there were other tickets with duplicate names, so he started to stack them in various piles by the first letter of the last name and then he would do each pile and organize the tickets by full name and he used a ledger sheet and marked the names and then the count of tickets on behind each name. To his surprise the name James Johnson came up forty seven times. This explained the fact that all three tickets had the same name of the three hundred and eighty eight tickets, forty seven were the same, and this represented over twelve percent of the entry blanks. Then Ira noticed another remarkable fact in his count.
As a result Ira was a bit late opening the store on that Saturday. But he had but one customer waiting when he arrived. It was a teenage boy with a black eye.
When the boy identified himself as James Johnson, Ira laughed and asked, “Where’d you get that shiner, son?”
Jimmy just grinned and said that he had a fight with a buddy.
Ira said, “His name wouldn’t of happen to be Thomas Mack would it?”
Jimmy was shocked that the man knew the name and wondered what kind of trap this might be. ‘How could he know?’ Standing there unsure of where this conversation was going but certain that he didn’t want to mess anything up now to prevent him from getting the train he decided that he needed to answer the man and be truthful. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Just a lucky guess, you see I did a count on the entry blanks entered to win the train and I found that you had entered quite a few, in fact forty seven, which really cut your odds down, but there was one name in the box more times than yours and that was Thomas Mack. So I guess he wanted the train as much as you and when you went to rub it in his face he bopped you in the eye. Right?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
When Jimmy returned home, after carrying the train in the box that it was packaged in, the mile and a half back to his home, he was surprised to see his father car was still parked in front of their home as he was certain that his father would be at the bottling plant working and that he would have to face the music for not working later, but it would have been worth it he thought because he had his train. Now he was not so sure. He decided to go to the side of the house to make his entrance since that door led to the kitchen and there was a good chance that his mother would be in the kitchen and that would delay his punishment for a little while at least. He pushed open the door and then struggled to get the box into the house only to discover that the only person in the kitchen was his father.
“What’s you got there? Woah, what happened to your eye?”
“Tommy Mack sucker punched me when I told him I won the train and that he wasn’t going get any reward since I didn’t get any, and this is my train I won.”
His father took the box from him and held it up such that he could see the display on the top of the box showing the train. “Very nice. Okay, let’s go.”
Jimmy’s heart sank. He didn’t want to go down to the stupid bottling works, not today any way. He wanted to set up his train and see it run, even though there was no tree to place it under. It had been a long held tradition in the family, as it was in many other families to get their tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve. The whole family would participate, furniture would be moved, the tree positioned in a prominent location in the living room where Santa would be certain to find it, lights would be strung – this was the father’s job as safety of the lights on the tree was paramount – then ornaments were added and finally the tinsel was applied. Meanwhile mother would be baking cookies and preparing the hot cocoa for everyone to enjoy before bed and of course to be placed by the youngest child in front of the tree along with a carrot for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy a snack during the long trip around the world.
Jimmy shrugged as his dad gently placed his prize on the kitchen table. They went to his father’s car, got in, and drove off. But instead of going east towards the plant they headed south, out the Westminster Road. Jimmy wondered, ‘Where are we going?’ But he knew not to ever question his father, he’d find out when he got there. They drove about six miles and then the turned right and headed west when Jimmy realized that the only thing out this way was Sterner’s Tree Farm. They were going to get a tree, just him and his dad and it was still four days until Christmas. Jimmy thought, ‘This is the best day of my whole life!’
When they pulled up in front of the sales office and parked, Jimmy’s dad got out and walked to the back of the car and opened the trunk and took out a saw, then yelled to Jimmy, “Come on! Let’s go find a tree that will look good enough to have your train under it.”
Sandy had made her father promise that he would not do anything to harm Jamison. As much as she would have liked to see him pummeled for what he did to her, and she was certain that her father could pummel Jamison, she would not condone violence against anyone for something that she was at least partially to blame. But that didn’t prevent him from speaking to his good friend Lawrence Sheppard. Sandy’s father owned and operated Soft Hide Leather Inc. a major supplier of leather for making Hanover Shoes, and he provided Hanover Shoe very fine quality leather at cut rate prices. Two weeks later Sandy’s father made his way to Lawrence’s office unannounced and lodged a formal complaint against Jamison Tate. It was a very non-specific complaint on the matter that he considered Tate to be “of low character.” That was enough for Lawrence, that plus local governmental regulations restricting plans for building and operating a new factory in the Paducah area had already forced Lawrence to reconsider his decision to move the facility to that location. Now a negative report on the character of one of the key links to the Kentucky location and Lawrence was swayed. The new location for his factory would be the second choice of his review team. He told his secretary to make travel arrangements to this new location, he needed to get conformation from the Town Council on tax deferrals and wage caps for the workers. He made a note to deal with Tate upon his return.
With a favorable deal struck and when Lawrence’s returned he heard of the rumors that Hanover Shoe was going to open a new facility in another town. Word had slipped out from the vaulted executive offices that a new facility was in the planning. But the scope of this venture had not been divulged; everyone assumed that it would simply be a distribution center somewhere in the western or southern part of the country. Speculation ranged far and wide from California to Florida, a lot of people thought Dallas and some said Denver. Jamison was asked for his thoughts by one of the other workers and he casually said that he didn’t know anything but that he had hoped it would be in the south like maybe Tennessee or Missouri or even Kentucky and that way he could transfer back closer to his home. Jamison congratulated himself for being crafty and not spilling the beans that he knew that the facility was going to be in Kentucky, then he chuckled to himself at how easy it was to fool these stupid people from Pennsylvania.
When the call came for him to report to Mister Sheppard’s office Jamison thought that his lucky day had come, he would get his transfer early and be out of the awful small minded town. This plus the fact that earlier that day his father had called from home and told of a letter that had come to the house about a lost wallet and he now had the address where to pick up his missing wallet. Things were indeed looking up, he could now go home for a Christmas vacation, have the money for all the things he needed to do and look for an apartment and start his life of being a traffic manager for a major company that would have all the perks that he wanted. He went to the men’s room and checked his tie making sure that his suit was lint free, and then he took a deep breath to relax himself, puffed out his chest and strode into the executive suite. Confident that he was on the way up, he whisked past the secretaries and Lawrence Sheppard’s personal secretary and directly into the bosses office.
“Close the door Tate. This won’t take long.”
“Yes Sir, Mister Sheppard.” The door closed firmly giving a slam as it settled into its frame.
“Tate, we have decided to go in a different direction. Paducah turned out to be a bit, shall we say complicated, so we will not be needing your services any longer. You may pick up your severance package in payroll on your way out of the building. Good day.”
“What? Are you firing me?”
Lawrence who had in his mind already moved on to the next issue at hand, looked back at the young man, and saw a glimpse of the low character that he had been told about, and said, “When we fire someone they do not get a severance package, we are parting like gentlemen, you will get four extra weeks’ pay and travel money back home. Have a good rest of your life. Now please leave so that I can get back to running my business.”
Tate turned and opened the door and stepped out, then turned and looked back over his shoulder and said, “You’ll be sorry you did this.”
But Sheppard was reading a press release that one of his staff had produced to go out about the new facility and did not hear the retort.
The rule was clear, very simple, easy to follow, and applied to everyone. No one, for any reason, was allowed to go down the stairs on Christmas morning before 6AM. Jimmy had, of course, on a previous Christmas broken this rule, descending the stairs at a much earlier hour, only to be encountered by his father and even though he had opened one of his presents under the tree by the time his father had caught him, he received the standard punishment. He was not allowed to open or play with the rest of his presents until after the family returned from Christmas Day Mass. So it was a lesson learned and like everyone else in the family Jimmy now knew that the rule was the rule and this Christmas Morning he stood in his bed until the appropriate hour and then he scurried down the steps to find his presents.
But this year it was different, Jimmy did not rush into the living room and rip open his presents. No, instead he went straight for the train transformer, he grabbed the plug, pushed it into the nearest outlet and cranked the throttle full ahead.
The little train responded at once rushing into the first curve and under the overpass that the figure eight track used as a crossover. The little train gathered speed, headed for the portion of track under the tree and at the next bend the entire unit flew off the track and crashed into the wall, breaking part of the smokestack on the engine away. A quick inspection and Jimmy realized that the damage to his train was minor, something that could be fixed with a little Elmer’s glue, so he reloaded the unit on the rails and sent it off on its loop, only this time a bit slower.
As the train made its journey around the track, crossing gates raised and lowered, and lights would flash on and off, people would move about at the station house. It was all very magical. Jimmy forbad anyone from operating his train, a decree that Jimmy’s younger brother protested and Jimmy’s father overruled, “If the train is there then everyone who wants to operate it can do so.” Jimmy stiffened while his younger brother took control, but to everyone’s surprise Jimmy did not make a fuss, but simply stepped back and stood there looking at his train as it sped around under the decorated tree, and he assured himself that this was the most beautiful Christmas Tree that the family had ever had, as it was the perfect tree to show off his beautiful train set.
Farther south, in Paducah Kentucky, Jamison’s Christmas morning was not as special. In fact it was downright awful. Rebecca had learned, it was nice to have relatives in position of import, of Jamison’s indiscretion and how he had been terminated from his job in Pennsylvania, and not that he had quit as he had told her when he called to ask if he could come see her on Christmas morning. The real truth was that she had been seeing other men, some very exciting, and Jamison was already starting to lose her interest, so a child in Pennsylvania that he would be paying child support to for years and his lies about his job, well those were simply not forgivable. What other indiscretions could she be expected to encounter from this man in the future? So when he arrived at the house, she met him at the door and told him that she had decided to break up with him before he could produce the half carat diamond ring he had spent all of his savings on.
The door was slammed on his face and Jamison was crushed. He saw his whole life crumble. All that he could think was, ‘How?’ How could she be so cold? How did she find out about the job? How did she find out about the baby and the child support order, it wasn’t even official yet and he had a lawyer working on fighting it?
He tugged at his coat the winter closed in on him quickly. There had been a snowstorm a few days before and the remains although mostly shoveled away were still all about. The morning temperature was just a little above twenty degree Fahrenheit, which was of no consequence during his walk over to the Ballard’s house. But now it was cutting him to his core. He shivered until he cried and the tears fell down his face. Twenty six years old and he was a failure and had little prospects that suggest that he could turn his life around. ‘If I were half a man,’ he thought, ‘I’d go back and knock on Rebecca’s door and when she answered I’d throw this big old diamond ring in her face and let her know what she was losing.’
But he didn’t. He simply walked on home and told his parents that he had broken up with Rebecca, as she was no longer the woman that he had once thought that she was, and he went back to bed where he stayed for two days.
Jamison did however get his life back together again. He took an assistant manager’s job at a new restaurant that was gaining in popularity called Kentucky Fried Chicken. He sold the ring, he was able to return it to the Jeweler for about sixty percent of what he had paid for it, and he used some of that money to buy stock in his new company. That stock had gone up in value over thirty times what Jamison had paid for it in the next three years. He was able to make his very small child support payments. Later, he met a woman and they married, but he never told her about his child in Pennsylvania, a child that he never saw or had any contact with. As he advanced in the company, he ultimately becoming the distribution manager in 1974- KFC had their own trucks so he was never able to play one trucking company salesman against another to get the perks that he had seen so many others receive-but it was a good stable job and he stayed with it for nineteen years.
Jamison died of a heart attack in the spring of 1993, two months later a redheaded girl with an infant in her arms, knocked on the door of Jamison’s house and when his widow answered the girl asked for Jamison. In the ensuing conversation it was revealed to the lady that the girl was Jamison’s daughter and that she was now married and had a daughter of her own and she wondered if he might be interested in seeing his granddaughter.
The train under the tree at the Johnson house ran for another six years. Jimmy went into the Marine Corps when he was nineteen and left the train behind. One day shortly after he left for boot-camp the family was away and a small fire broke out in part of their attic. Neighbors noticed the smoke coming from the house and were able to call the fire department who quickly responded saving the house but the contents of the attic, at least the part where the family stored their Christmas decorations, was a total loss. Insurance claims were filled and paid, and the train was listed amongst the loss, but no train was ever purchased to replace the lost one. It simply was of no interest to anyone in the family.
The memory of the night that they discovered that Jimmy had won the train and the visitor who failed to even consider a reward for a service of finding and returning his wallet was all that anyone including Jimmy, needed.
If you enjoyed this read you may find reading The Hunt For Gettysburg Gold as well. Thank you for reading my work.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving Day in 1963 a young man finds a wallet containing over three hundred dollars laying on the ground in front of a drug store. The drug store is giving away a beautiful toy train set as a Christmas promotion. The boy could buy several of the trains with the money in this wallet but he decides to try to return the wallet to its owner. The events that ensue will have major affects on the lives of many.