Chapter 41- Billy and Dorothy Visit New York

March 1, 2012

This is a Leap Year and yesterday was the big day. Folk lore says that on February 29, women may propose marriage to men. We won’t name any names, but there is a certain young lady in town whom we all hope took advantage of the custom!

Mayor Combs is back on the job and he invites everyone to come to the next Town Council meeting. There will be a special announcement about the Post Office and the restoration of the WPA mural.

The Excelsior Book Club will meeting next Wednesday at Flossie Wentworth’s house. This month’s book was The Help. Sherri Brown will also lead a discussion of plans for “Walnut Shade Reads” for this fall.

Lance Graves, director of the Aeolian Acting Company, reminds local thespians that auditions will begin April 2 for the 2012 season. This year, the Company will stage Romeo and Juliet and A Very Potter Musical.

Two big community dinners are coming up in the next few weeks: the Erin Go Bragh potluck on the 17th and the Wizard of Oz dinner on the 24th. Dorothy Westover reports that our old friends, Connie Dover and Kelly Wertz, will provide music for the EGB dinner.

Harry Morris was spotted at the Miller County landfill last week, looking for items for his big art show at the Kemper Museum in Kansas City in May.

Inez Harris had a meeting with Governor Brownback in regard to the arts funding he is trying to delete from the budget. Inez reports that he is rethinking his decision. He may be the Governor, but Inez is Inez.

Dr. Cramer gave a lecture at the Vet School at K-State on treating chronic urinary tract infections in rescue animals.

The Barnett household was the site of a rather large party on Saturday afternoon. The final regular season game between KU and Mizzou provided immense drama and entertainment and ended as these thing so often have with a one-point difference in score, in overtime, no less. Everyone agreed it was a great game.

Gretchen Watkins called her parents on Sunday to let them know that she has been offered a post-doctoral fellowship at KU to continue her research on Transcendentalism in eastern Kansas before the Civil War. She’ll be moving to Lawrence with the start of the fall semester.

Glenda Singleton is hard at work on a new book of essays that highlights the contributions women made in education during the years just after the Second World War.

Principal Shannon Jeffries reminds parents that the spring elementary band concert will be held on Sunday, March 11 and that students are asked to wear western-type clothes in keeping with the musical theme of “Rodeo.”

The Willing Workers 4-H Club met on Monday and enjoyed a visit from Rhonda Graves, K-State’s International Exchange Coordinator, who told them about the opportunities to host a student from abroad. Several families in Walnut Shade have expressed an interest in hosting, perhaps this fall.

Lori Mendenhall has recovered from her bout with the flu and was able to join Anna Brady and Ruth Stanford to play Mahjong on Tuesday at Walnut Rest. This week, however, Ilene Wick was not feeling well, but hopes to be back with the girls in a week or two.

Hazel Bradford has bounced back from her cold and is making cookies for the Erin Go Bragh dinner. “Eight dozen, so far,” according to Millie.

Hazel, if there is nothing but your cookies at the dinner, that will be enough for me, but until then…

I remain…

Your Faithful Correspondent


I was sitting in Shirley’s on Tuesday morning with Mike O’Rourke and Ralph Thompson chatting about the KU-Mizzou game this past Saturday and whether it is last one we’ll ever see, now that Mizzou has departed for the SEC, when Billy Thornton walked in wearing what we used to call a “Full Cleveland”: polyester faux-denim leisure suit, white belt and white patent shoes.

“Ah, it’s a wondrous thing, it is,” Mike said in his unselfconsciously-affected Irish brogue (despite the name O’Rourke, Mike’s family was actually Greek; it seems that when his grandfather reached Ellis Island in 1902, the immigration official misunderstood him when he said that his name was Oriakus and wrote O’Rourke on his documents, so the family has been O’Rourke ever since and Mike has enthusiastically embraced his bureaucratically assigned nationality).

“Billy, Halloween isn’t for six month. What in the world are you doing in that get-up?” Ralph asked, laughing, after he finished wiping the coffee from his chin that had come spewing out seconds before.

“Dorothy and I are headed to the airport. Going to New York for a few days.” Billy began. “We haven’t been there since 1978. We went to Studio 56, you know.”

“I think that was Studio 54,” Mike said, also wiping coffee from the front of his shirt. “You went to Studio 54? And I’ll bet you wore that same outfit.”

“As a matter of fact, I did. Nobody gave me a second glance, there.”

“I suspect you are going to get a few strange looks this time around. New York has changed a bit since disco days.” Mike and Joyce, before they moved back to Walnut Shade in October, had lived in Brooklyn for several years where Mike was a policeman and Joyce worked at The New Yorker in Manhattan. Mike had risen to the position of captain in the 75th Precinct when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After thirty-five years in the big city, he took his retirement and they decided to move back to the “Little Apple” where they had graduated high school, but then Joyce’s mother died and left them a house in Walnut Shade that belonged to Joyce’s grandmother.

“Joyce had no idea that her mom owned the house here or who her real grandmother was. She thought her grandmother had died when her mom, Grace, was born. Apparently, her grandmother and her grandfather split up right after the birth and Grace was raised by her stepmother. Joyce’s mom found out who her real mother was sometime in the late 1950s. At the time Margaret Hart had been living in Walnut Shade since 1949. Grace and her mother reestablished their relationship and when Margaret died in 1962, Grace began taking care of the house, eventually renting it to Bill and Sandy Boyd until they moved to Walnut Rest last year. That’s when we found out about it and decided to move over here to make sure the house is preserved.”

In a few weeks, I’ll fill in the details of this story, but for now, let’s just say, “Ah, it is a wondrous thing, it is.”

But back to Billy for a moment.

“Dorothy is going to that big beauty supply convention she won on Facebook and I’m going to explore the city. We hung out a lot in Greenwich Village when we were there. Saw Elvis Costello at CBGB. Patti Smith was sitting in the back with… what was his name?”

“Robert Mapplethorpe,” Mike volunteered.

“Yeah, that’s right. Weird guy. But they were all weird,” Billy said, with a little bit of a grimace on his face.

“So why are you going back, especially looking like that?” Ralph asked.

“Oh, those were good times. Dorothy was a wild chic back then.”

Ralph almost did another spit-take, and he and Mike looked at each other in amused amazement, if there is such a thing.

“Billy, as long as I’ve known you, I’ve never heard you talk like this. What’s gotten into you?” Ralph was seriously perplexed.

“Well, you know sometimes, you just need to pretend you’re twenty-five again. Walnut Shade’s a great place to be seventy, but not a great place to be seventy going on twenty-five. People look at you strange.” Billy had a wistful tone to his voice.

“I guess we can all identify with that,” Mike said.

“I wish you old geezers would stop talking like that and just drink your coffee. You’re making we feel old,” Shirley said, refilling our cups for about the sixth time. Refills are free so we take advantage.

“Why, Shirley, you don’t look a day over…” Ralph began.

“Watch it; I’ve got a pot of hot coffee in my hand.”

“I was going to say thirty,” Ralph said, grinning.

“I knew you were losing your memory, Ralph, but now I know you’re losing your eyesight, too. But I appreciate the compliment.”

Shirley returned to her spot behind the counter and we all just kind of looked at each other, sensing there wasn’t anything else to say. We got up silently and left, walking as carefully as we could because, you know, at our age, broken hips…


News from the past:

Fremont, May 18, 1928 — Harry Willard, a mechanic at the Ford dealer, was slightly injured when the car he was attempting to steer into the company’s garage hit a rock and broke an axel on the way down the hill to the garage, throwing Mr. Willard from the car. The car then veered off and crashed into Mrs. Edythe White’s living room. Mrs. White was not at home at the time, but one of her cats was slightly hurt by a Fiesta pitcher which fell from a shelf and broke. Chief of Police Chester Pollard classified the incident as a “routine calamity.”

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
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