The Summer of 1969: This Be, Thine Heart

By Richard Mabey Jr.


Our true-life story so far: On the sixteenth of July of 1969, I had attended my swimming lesson at the Paterson YMCA and hence had missed watching the launch of Apollo 11 on television. Upon arriving home, Mom and I found Aunt Helen and my sister Patti in the living room watching TV. They were both very excited about having watched the Apollo 11 send off. Mom, my sister, Aunt Helen, and I eat lunch together.  After lunch, I walk down Mabey Lane by myself, rediscovering Mr. Bligh’s old woodshed that stood in the forest path along the lower third of Mabey Lane. It is now the morning of the seventeenth of July. 


It is now Thursday morning, the seventeenth of July. I awake at 6:30 in the morning. Dad has already left for work. Mom, my sister Patti, and Aunt Helen are all sound asleep. I quietly walk down the stairs to the kitchen. I have a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice. I pack a lunch, consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, three oatmeal cookies, and a thermos of iced tea. I leave a note for Mom, telling her that I’m walking down to Thorpe Hall to finish my Eagle Scout project of painting Thorpe Hall and all the Sunday School classes at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church.


The walk down Main Street filled my heart with a deep loneliness. A sadness seemed to flow through the chambers of my heart. All I needed to do today was to paint the molding on two of the downstairs Sunday School classrooms. Then, my Eagle Scout project would be completed.


I brought my camera with me, to take photos of all the rooms that I had spent hours and hours and hours painting. A sense of accomplishment filled my veins. But, at the same time, a certain feeling that an era of my life was passing right before my eyes.


I thought of Mary Tafano. How cute she was, sitting at the big, circular girls’ table at Moe’s Sweet Shop. Sadly, I could feel my painful crush for Mary evaporating from my heart. Mary was the definitive pretty girl of my class. There was no way I could ever compete against the older boys who were the cool cats of my high school. And, even some of the boys, who had already recently graduated were head over heels in love with Mary. Along my walk down Main Street, as I passed Mary’s house, I came to the painful realization that Mary was out of my league.


As I walked down Main Street, that early morning in mid-July of 1969, I thought of my swimming instructor, Lisa Ann. She was so pretty and so kind and so understanding. But, she was three years older than me. Lisa Ann was a college student! To Lisa Ann, I was just a boy in high school, just one of her many students. But to me, Lisa Ann was an enchanted goddess. But I knew that Lisa Ann and I would never go to the church ice cream social together, never go to the State Theater in Boonton to see a matinee movie.


As I approached Moe’s Sweet Shop, I looked into the big picture window in front of Lincoln Park’s landmark luncheonette. There were four or five older men sitting at the counter, drinking coffee and eating their breakfasts. The big round table, toward the back of Moe’s Sweet Shop was empty. I had thought of that table as “Mary’s Table.” For it was at that table that Mary and her friends would all gather in the afternoon and drink ice cream sodas and talk and talk and talk.


I finally reached the outside parking lot of Thorpe Hall. I climbed the outdoor steps to the back door of this monumental meeting place of Boy Scout Troop 170. Once inside Thorpe Hall, I saw there in the center of the room, the old canvas that I would place on the floor so as not to get any paint on the floor. There was one single can of eggshell while paint perched upon the folded canvas. Then there were the two paint brushes, one big brush and one smaller brush, carefully balanced upon the top of the paint can.


By the time the afternoon would roll around, I would have completed this magnificent and unyielding Eagle Scout project. A certain sense of great accomplishment filled my heart. While at the same time, a certain sadness loomed in shadows all about me.


To be continued.


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.

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