Sometimes we can actually recall events that occurred long ago… like even 52 years. This is one of them… as if it happened yesterday.
The summer of ’70 was literally like no other for this writer, a young college student at the time. My real love, besides that of women in general, was football. My school, Brooklyn College, was ready to field our first varsity team in over 15 years. A few months earlier, in April, right before Easter, my cousin Michael and I took a short trip ( long for us) of 6 hours by car to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Someone at school had told me how beautiful the place was with its picturesque beaches. I couldn’t handle a stick shift yet, so Michael drove his Volkswagen Bug the entire trip. We left NYC at 1 AM and arrived in Virginia Beach at a little after 7. The whole town looked so ‘ Un New Yorkish’, just a pleasant, seemingly quiet place. We found a pancake house and asked the lady cashier if she knew of a cheap motel. She gave us the name of a place, right on the beach, called the Carolina. We checked in and soon found out why it was so cheap. Hah. The owner was quite a character, Bob Grayson. He had a deep southern drawl for even Virginia. Called me Philip and Michael was ‘ Cousin’. The following afternoon we were sitting in the lounge with him when Bob yelled out to his chambermaid ” Caroline, bring me a beer, and two for the boys.” We got into a discussion about beer, since Bob had all the trappings of an alcoholic, and Michael made a comment about a brand of beer, saying it tasted like piss. Bob took the can out of his mouth and shot back ” Well, I just wouldn’t know… Never drank piss before!” When our weekend was up and we were leaving, Bob said ” I’m gonna make you two Yankees some homemade southern fried chicken, like you all never had before.” We stood in his kitchen and watched him, methodically, fry the chicken pieces in a black frying pan. He was correct- To this day never had such fried chicken in my life!
When summer came Michael and I packed our things and headed back to Virginia Beach. When we arrived we booked into the Carolina until we could find ourselves an apartment for the summer. When we ate again at that pancake house, we asked the lady cashier, Mrs. Hadjkakos, if she knew of a nice place. She told us we were in luck, her tenant had just moved out of the one bedroom furnished bungalow at the back of her house. We made the deal for a month to month and rushed over to get settled. The bungalow was a one minute drive to the beach and actually had an old record player. Now, this was 1970, so we actually packed a few albums with us for our vacation. Michael also bought some hashish, ‘ White Opiated’. It was supposed to last us the whole summer, but being the gluttons that we were, it lasted about one week! What a week! Imagine, that old victrola playing The Beatles Abbey Road album sounded like a $1000 stereo to two guys floating on hash. Our favorite was IWANT YOU SHE’S SO HEAVY as we would sit there trying to guess when the song would end from the repeated riffs.
Michael and I spent our days at the beach throwing the football, swimming and flirting with girls, but we needed jobs to pay our bills. We found part time employment at the mini amusement park, me working the basketball shooting game, and Michael directly across as a short order cook. I was on straight commission, receiving five cents for every quarter I got from the customers. I had a microphone, which was a joy to this dramatics major, and a big apron to keep the quarters in. My shift was from 6 to 10 PM, similar to Michael’s. Each evening he would sneak over with a sandwich for me, then run back inside. Well, I blew the deal when I figured that 20% commission was not going to make it. So, I would make one quarter for my lady boss, and then one for me. Since the old lady didn’t trust me by parking her ass at the coffee shop window, I had to be careful. So, when a customer gave me a quarter for three shots at the basket, I would fake placing it inside the apron and then, a moment later, sneak it down my pants pocket. This all worked out for about a week, until, one evening she strolled over to me, picked up my apron and slapped at my pocket. ” What ya have in there boy? My money? I just took off my apron, handed it to her and walked away. Michael kept his job for the time being.
We needed to save money to get through the remainder of the summer. Shopping helped us achieve that, or should I say Shoplifting? We had it down to a science. Michael and I would put on jeans and loose sweatshirts, regardless of the hot summer weather, and of course shoes and socks… always socks. At the supermarket we would go down the aisles and either A) buy this or B) take that. We would buy milk, juice and bread, eggs, butter and fruit. We would ‘ take’ steaks, bacon, chicken, canned food ( that’s where our socks came in handy) and slowly make it to the cashier counter with our booty. The steak, bacon and chicken would go down our pants, front and back. This was a weekly tradition with really no problems. Imagine if we were caught in Virginia, but to 20 year olds… until disaster struck. I was wearing a white pair of pants, as my others were in the wash. Michael pushed a package of chicken parts down the back of my pants, as I already had a steak down the front. We walked up to the checkout and suddenly employees seemed to be staring at me. The manager came hurriedly over, and man, was the jig up? We were ready to get into a police wagon when the manager said ” Sir, I do believe you all are bleeding from your posterior.” The chicken! When I probably leaned back at a counter in the aisle earlier, it must have broken the chicken package. My white pants were getting red stains moving down my leg. My cousin, being the quick thinking Gemini, just matter of fact shot back at the manager ” Oh, he has a condition.” The manager responded ” Well, sir, not in my store!” He then asked if we needed him to call for an ambulance or a taxi for us to go to the hospital. Michael assured him this happened quite often and I would be OK. We were practically rushed out, with our groceries in tow.
This is where Huck comes in. We met Huck one day at the beach. He still had that short military style haircut. Huck had just come back from his one year in ‘ The Shit’ as the Nam was called then. He was a draftee that had no choice but to go. We were lucky as Michael and I were 2-S , student deferments. Huck had only wished he could have made college in his hometown in Ohio. He came from a factory town he told us, and all they offered were dead end jobs. He said if it wasn’t for weed he didn’t know how he could have gotten through that year. He had some money from the service saved and he rented himself a whole house nearer than we were to the beach. Huck bragged that he ran into some hippy commune from Georgia and let them crash at his place. ” Couple of nice looking chicks, so why not?” We told him how we did our shopping and I promised we would have him over for a steak dinner one night. After that, we didn’t run into Huck for a week or two.
Michael and I continued to find part time work, and enjoyed the beach every day. I was able to run along the shore , in addition to organizing two hand touch games on the grassy promenade. In 5 weeks I would begin football practice and wanted to be in top shape. Michael found a waiter’s job and I did an overnight at a 24 hour coffee shop by the beach. That only lasted one week, as I couldn’t handle staying up from 10PM to 6 AM. We both met lots of girls and had good times… maybe too good. I had to go to a doctor and was diagnosed with VD. That put me out of action for awhile. That’s about the time when I ran into Huck again. He invited me over to his place to sample some of his ‘ Acapulco Gold ‘ weed. He said the hippies had left for a Johnny Winter concert in Atlanta and would be back maybe that evening. So, I spent a few hours that afternoon sitting in his parlor, smoking and listening to The Animals Sky Pilot. Huck had a top rate stereo hookup and the blend of marijuana and Eric Burden was amazing! At about 4 O’clock I was going to head home. I invited him for that steak dinner we had talked about earlier, gave him our address and left. Well, Huck never showed up. He didn’t seem like a guy who would not just show up ( no cell phones in those days folks ). Michael and I had our steak dinner and chalked it up that Huck must have had to stay with those hippies who he said were due back that afternoon.
We never did run into Huck at the beach. It was late July and we were going to return home to NY in a few days. I was walking along the avenue across from the beach a day later and there appeared Huck. What in the hell happened to you bro I said. He laughed and told me that I must have been some ‘ Stepped in shit’ New Yawker. He said that about a half hour after I left his place the hippies arrived in their VW bus. No sooner were they inside his house when gun drawn cops were barging in. ” Bro, they had been waiting for the hippies to return while YOU were sitting in my parlor smoking my weed to The Animals. They didn’t want to do anything until the hippies returned. You lucky son of a bitch!” Huck then told me that he had to retain a lawyer ( ” Not cheap either’) and plead out. ” I can’t leave town for one full year bro. My military service bought me a break. The hippies weren’t as lucky… they were going away for a few years each for dealing. You would have had the **** book thrown at you , being a student and from up North.” We exchanged phone numbers and addresses, but knew that this would be the last time we would ever see or hear from each other. The ‘ Summer of Huck’ was over.