By Richard Mabey Jr.
During the Summer of 1969, when I was 15 years old, Thorpe Hall of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church had become my little home base, of sorts. I spent nearly the entire summer painting the upstairs all-purpose room, the kitchen, the back conference room, the entire staircase, and all of the downstairs Sunday School classrooms. This was all part of my Community Serviced Project toward my becoming an Eagle Scout.
I would start painting Thorpe Hall, early morning each weekday and work till about 4:30 in the afternoon. Sometimes, I would bring my lunch consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, three oatmeal cookies, an apple, and a thermos of iced tea. About once or twice a week, I would splurge and walk over to Moe’s Sweet Shop and buy my lunch. At Moe’s I would have a grilled cheese sandwich and one of Moe’s fantastic ice cream sodas, with three scoops. Life was grand and glorious.
About once or twice a week, I would buy a couple of comic books or a Mad magazine at Moe’s Sweet Shop, after I ate lunch. I would read the comic books on my break, that I used to take from painting, at about 3:00 in the afternoon inside of Thorpe Hall.
Toward the back of Moe’s Sweet Shop there was one single round table that could sit six people comfortably and then seven or eight people, if everyone squeezed in. My friends and I used to call this table, “the girls’ table.” Namely because it was the table where a small group of teenage girls would gather to talk and laugh and share “did ya’ hear that….” The girls would mostly meet together for lunch.
I always sat at the counter at Moe’s Sweet Shop, the spinning stool that was closest to the cash register. I would often glance over to all the girls talking and giggling. I never once got the nerve to walk over to the girls’ table and ask them if I could join them. The distance between my counter stool and the big table was only a few feet, but it may well have been the width and breadth of the Atlantic Ocean. It was an unwritten rule, that was just understood.
I am immensely grateful to everyone that sent me an email or a Private Message with positive thoughts about my continuing saga, “The Summer of 1969.” I cherish each and every one of the emails that I have received. Writers, by necessity, live a kind of lonely life.
The one question that I get asked the most, about my writing, is if my stories are reflections of true-life events. I would say that they are about 90 percent true. I often change names, mostly last names, of people. I’ll also change the names of streets. And also, I tend to change the work places of people. In my story, I might have the cool guy who flirts with all the girls at Moe’s Sweet Shop, be working at the corner gas station in town, but in reality he worked at the auto parts store. That kind of thing. But the main thing is that I do my utmost best to stay true to the spirit and feeling of the events in my stories.
I am immensely grateful to Mr. Joseph Nicastro, Publisher of this series of local New Jersey newspapers, for believing in my writings enough to honor me with publishing them. I am deeply honored and greatly blessed to have such a fine friend as Joe Nicastro.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please reference “Thoughts and Reflections” on the subject line.