The Wonderful, Incredible, Life Changing Issue

The famous October 1967 issue.

The Wonderful, Incredible, Life Changing Issue

By Richard Mabey Jr.

Growing up in the small town of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, life was actually a bit boring at times. There was the steadfast feeling, the comfort, that down home feeling of knowing just about everyone in town. But, on the other hand there swelled in my heart and mind, a calling for excitement. A gentle breeze, the sound of a train going by, the roar of an 18-wheeler speeding by my old farmhouse on Route 202. All of it called me. It was as if it was calling me to another time, another place. A place where life might not be as stifled, as conservative, as rigid, as the lifestyle that was afforded me in my little hometown of Lincoln Park.

In October of 1967, I had just turned 13 and was adjusting to my freshman year of high school. I was painfully shy.

In the dawn of October 1967, amidst the changing of the colors of the leaves of the maples, the elms, the oaks and they sycamores, I was to come to a crossroad that would forever change my life. As the leaves of the trees were going through a metamorphosis from various shades of green to lemon yellow, bright orange and burnt red; I too was to go through a metamorphosis that would forever change my life. From which, I would never be the same. This was to be a giant step in my journey from boyhood to manhood.

The old Moe’s Sweet Shop, where we would go to buy comic books, Mad magazines and candy bars.

For it was in the dawn of October 1967 that I had just recently turned 13. I was getting acclimated to high school life. And one day, after school, what began as a simple thought to buy the latest Mad magazine, turned out to be a life changing event. Still now, 50 years later, it brings a certain joy, a kind of firecracker excitement to my heart, mind and inner being. For this is a story of one boy’s monumental step from boyhood to manhood. From which, he would never be the same again.

The newspaper and magazine rack at Moe’s Sweet Shop was truly a magical little corner.

It was in the back of Moe’s Sweet Shop, where the comic book rack was located. On the wooden platform beneath the big display of comic books and magazines was an incredible array of newspapers. There were the big daily New York papers: The Daily News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Tribune. Then there were the big New Jersey dailies: The Star-Ledger, The Herald News, The Daily Record, The Bergen Record, The Trends and three or four other daily papers. Then there was my all time favorite, which at the age of 13 that I wrote for, The Lincoln Park Herald, our town’s weekly paper.

Comic books, magazines and newspapers were cleverly displayed in the back of Moe’s Sweet Shop.

There are moments in our lives, from which we will never be the same. There is the strange and almost unexplainable moment in time when two people, so very different, cross paths for just a few minutes. And, from that few minutes, there is a most illuminating, amazing and incredible result. As if the odds were 10 million to one, of these two people meeting, crossing paths, and sharing a monumental, unforgettable moment. Such was a moment in time, for me, there at the comic book and magazine rack at dear old Moe’s Sweet Shop. Standing there, overwhelmed with the decision to buy a Mad magazine or two 12-cent comic books with the one quarter in my pocket.

And, then it happened. Big Lou came into the sweet shop. He wore a white T-shirt and blue denims. He kept a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his T-shirt, above his left shoulder. Big Lou looked as though he has a quart of motor oil in his hair. Lou had dropped out of high school to become a mechanic at the corner gas station, just down the street from Moe’s Sweet Shop. Big Lou was cooler than cool. He was a living legend to all of us kids living in Lincoln Park.

Well, Big Lou entered the sweet shop and said “hey Moe,” to Moe. Moe returned the greeting. Big Lou was smoking a cigarette. He walked up to the magazine rack, took a puff of his cigarette and flipped a few ashes unto the tile floor. With no hesitation, no shame, Big Lou brazenly grabbed the latest issue of Playboy and began flipping through the pages as he clenched his lit cigarette with his lips, in the corner of his mouth. He purposely held the magazine waist level, to give me the opportunity to see the photos in the magazine, as he checked out each page.

I knew Big Lou fairly well. He had been my Patrol Leader when I first joined scouts. He taught me how to swim, how to cook and how to tie all the scout knots. Still, there was a certain fear factor that went into high gear in Big Lou’s presence. Big Lou took the cigarette from his mouth, let out a big puff of smoke and then said something like, “I’d like to have just one night with her. Hey kid, wouldn’t cha? Just one night with her, huh kid?” Then Big Lou let out a wise guy laugh that came from somewhere in the inner fibers of his diaphragm.

Well, I grabbed my Mad magazine. Big Lou clasped the Playboy magazine his right hand. We both walked to the front of the luncheonette, to pay Moe for our respective magazines. I paid for my Mad magazine and turned to the front door. As Big Lou reached into his denim pockets for his money, he called out, “hey kid, hold on, I need to talk to ya.”

Yikes, Big Lou wanted to talk to me! I shuttered. I replied with a sheepish, “okay Big Lou.” As a kid, you knew never to call Big Lou by anything else but Big Lou. It was simply understood.

Moe put Big Lou’s Playboy magazine in a brown paper bag. Big Lou and Moe exchanged friendly “take cares.” Then Big Lou and I exited out the front door. Just outside the front door, Big Lou threw his cigarette butt onto the sidewalk and crushed it. He took out another cigarette from the pack rolled up on his right shoulder. He lit his cigarette. Then he simply said to me, “here kid! Don’t say I never gave you nothing!” And then he handed me the brown paper bag with the Playboy magazine in it.

“I gotta get back to work,” was all that Big Lou said as he let go of the brown paper bag and walked on down the street, back to the gas station. I grasped that Playboy magazine with a death grip. I was in total amazement. Total amazement. The October 1967 of Playboy magazine was mine! All mine! It wasn’t some Playboy magazine that one of my older cousins had hidden in their clubhouse. It wasn’t some Playboy magazine that one of the older scouts had hidden in his knapsack, bringing it to a campout. This was my Playboy magazine. All mine! Totally all mine!

The October 1967 issue of Playboy featured the lovely Reagan Wilson. At 13, I fell off the Empire State Building, in love with her.

Well, the featured model of that issue was a wonderful lady by the name of Reagan Wilson. I kept that issue of Playboy magazine hidden in a wooden box in my tree fort. At 13, I fell off the Grand Canyon, in love with Reagan Wilson. I thought that Reagan Wilson was even more beautiful than Julie Newmar, Batman’s Catwoman. I was never to be the same!

Posted in 1967, Acts of Kindness, Batman, Big Lou, Boy Scouts, Childhood Friend, Comic Books, Compassion, Destiny, Dreams, Encouragement, Finding Your Purpose in Life, Friendship, From boyhood to manhood, Journey to Truth, Kindness, Life's Dreams, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Park Herald, Memory, Moe's Sweet Shop, New Jersey, Newspapers, NJ, Reagan Wilson, Small Town America, The Old Tree Fort | 1 Comment

The Changing Face of Newspapers

Journey to Truth

! ! ! ! Kid selling papers

The Changing Face of Newspapers

By Richard Mabey Jr.

There is a new trend in newspapers. Maybe it is just a Central Florida thing, I don’t know. The physical size of the daily newspapers has been cut down, both vertically and horizontally. Local feature stories no longer fill the inner guts of the local newspaper. You know, the kind of stuff like, “Jim Thompson Awarded American Legion Scholarship,” or “Suzie Wilmont Makes Dean’s List at Central State College,” or “Mabel Maguire Receives Church Award for 50 Years Serving as Sunday School Teacher.”

Instead, the inner guts of local newspapers are filled with tid-bits that you find on the Internet. Nothing wrong with that kind of thing. But the reason that editors use this stuff is because they have laid off so many of their writers, that they get this stuff on the Internet and fill their newspapers with it.

For…

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Reflections of the Old Independent News

Journey to Truth

Richard writing at LP Museum

When I was a young man, I wrote for the famous Independent News. Often I would write my articles in the old historical museum in Lincoln Park.

Reflections of the Old Independent News

By Richard Mabey Jr.

For well over 10 years, mostly during the decade of the 1990’s, I wrote articles for the famous Independent News. During these years, I also held down a full time job, working in the International Public Relations Department of AT&T.

The Independent News was a great regional weekly newspaper that had a circulation of well over 50,000 copies a week. It was circulated throughout over two dozen towns in northeast New Jersey. I was blessed to have a significant amount of artistic freedom in the area of themes and subjects that I wrote on.

One of my all-time, absolute favorite themes to write about was on the subject of the history of northeast…

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To Debbie Brown, Wherever She May Be

To Debbie Brown, Wherever She May Be

By Richard Mabey Jr.

I wrote this poem when I was 20 years old in the Summer of 1974. I was living in Spartanburg, South Carolina in the famous Spartan Villa Apartments. I was nearing the completion of my first year of chiropractic college.

Debbie Brown lived in the apartment across from me. She had long blonde hair. She had blue eyes. Simply put, she was beautiful. Debbie was older than me. She was 25. We dated during the summer of 1974. In early September of 1974, on the morning of my 21st birthday, she told me she had found another man. Nice birthday present.

I confess that today I did do some slight editing of this poem.

Alas, here is my poem that I wrote in the Summer of 1974.

To Debbie Brown, Wherever She May Be

Trapped in murky stagnant water,

my spirit is low.

Long lost the desire to fight her,

the love hath lost its flow.

 

Empty stores with remembrances,

bring her back in my imagination.

In romantic, slow dances,

lost in the depth of infatuation.

 

She touched me when

I needed her touch

way back then

I needed her so very much.

 

Pretensions shed

in a long walk.

In quiet bed

with low talk.

 

In her dimly lit bedroom,

by the moon’s soft light.

Like the sweep of a broom,

love’s depth took flight.

 

And us, by each other’s side,

the darkness of the night,

the gap becoming wide,

and love promises doth take flight.

 

And she looked me in the eye,

and simply said,

with a deep regretful sigh,

“another man now knows my bed.”

Posted in 1974, Broken Heart, Debbie Brown, Destiny, Friendship, From boyhood to manhood, Happy Birthday!, Journey to Truth, Love Poems, Love Story, Moving On, Romance, Sherman College of Chiropractic, Spartan Villa Apartments, Spartanburg, Wisdom | 3 Comments

Reflections of Walking Distance

Reflections of Walking Distance

By Richard Mabey Jr.

I don’t think that there is any other half-hour of television broadcasting that has affected me as deeply as the Twilight Zone episode entitled, “Walking Distance.” It stars Gig Young, who portrays Martin Sloan. It is a thinly disguised autobiographical episode reflecting the thoughts and feelings of the late, great, genius, Rod Serling.

I am by no means inferring that I am anywhere near being in the same league, as a writer, as that of Rod Serling. But what I am saying is that I can identify so strongly with this episode of Twilight Zone.

Martin Sloan, played by Gig Young, pulls into a rural gas station.

Martin Sloan is at his wit’s end with his job at the ad agency. He pulls into a rural gas station and tells the attendant, in a voice tone that overflows with frustration and a bit of anger, “yesterday I just got in the car and drove. I had to get out of New York City. One more board meeting, phone call, report, problem. I would have jumped right out of the window.”

A photo of myself at my desk at the ad agency.

I know that frustration all too well. I spent five years of my life, working in the Editorial Department of an ad agency. There is a thread of insanity that runs through an ad agency. The absurd deadlines, the inconsistent thinking of the big shots, the ridiculous expectations put upon writers, the hard core pressures that are put upon editors and copy writers, the fury, the short-tempered attitude of executive row.

Martin Sloan at the counter of the old fashioned drug store.

In this Twilight Zone episode, Martin Sloan returns to his old hometown of Homewood. He goes to the old drug store soda fountain counter, which he remembers from his childhood and youth. It is a place of solace and refuge for him. It is so very eerie and haunting, how much I identify with Rod Serling’s retreating to go to the old soda fountain counter and have a chocolate soda. For myself, in the midst of the insanity of working in an ad agency, I often found solace and comfort in returning to Moe’s Sweet Shop. To sit at the counter on a rotating stool, as I had done so many times in my childhood and youth.

Moe’s Sweet Shop, circa 1967, where I sat at the counter when I was a child and teenager.

If you have never seen the Twilight Zone episode, “Walking Distance,” it is well worth watching. I believe it is one of the best Twilight Zone episodes of all time. It has a very eerie feeling to it. Over the years, I must have watched it well over a hundred times.

 

Posted in 1967, Accomplishment, Ad Agency, Boyhood Days, Cold Hearted Ad Agency, Creative Writing, Destiny, Dreams, Encouragement, Faith, Finding Your Purpose in Life, From boyhood to manhood, Healing, Homecoming, Journey to Truth, Lincoln Park, Memory, Modern Life, Moe's Sweet Shop, Moving On, My Old New Jersey Home, Mysteries of Old Lincoln Park, New Jersey, New York City, NJ, Nostalgia, Old Beavertown, Old Gas Station, Old Lincoln Park, Rod Serling, Small Town America, Television, The Old Rexall Drug Store, The Unexplained, Time Travel, Twilight Zone, Walking Distance, Wisdom | 2 Comments

To Climb A Mountain

A rare photo of my climb up Steinhauser Mountain.

To Climb A Mountain

By Richard Mabey Jr.

In the early summer of 1966, I had completed the seventh grade. I was 12 years old. I had just spent one entire year of my life, in and out of the hospital, battling a serious bout of rheumatic fever. It was in late June that I was once again allowed to walk.

By late August, a certain anxiety loomed inside of me. For I was about to turn 13, in early September. And, I was about to start the eighth grade. What brought on greater anxiety in the marrow of my being, was the thought that for one full year of my life, I did not step into good old Chapel Hill School. For one full year of my life, I had not seen the old gang.

It was late August and my old friend Stuart and I were walking in the woods at the foothills of the highest point of Hook Mountain. There was a precipice that stood over two stories high. Its jagged rock edges ran straight up and down, practically perfectly perpendicular to the ground it ascended from.

This precipice was known as Steinhauser Mountain, named after Stuart’s family who had lived on the property for many years. Upon reaching the top of this jagged, dangerous precipice, you could see for miles and miles. Historical legend had it that General George Washington, himself, commissioned a tall tower be built upon the surface of this precipice to keep an eye on any invasions of British troops to the area.

I had climbed this jagged rock cliff many times. But this would be the first time, since my recovery from successfully battling rheumatic fever. I was scared. Inside, I shook like a leaf. For when you looked from the ground surface, up to the very top of Steinhauser Mountain, you could see the danger. It was as if an eerie moan called from the rocky cliff, daring any passerby to attempt to climb the ragged rugged precipice.

What made the climb even more dangerous was that the ground surface was covered with huge rocks and boulders. Such that with once slip of your foot or hand, a fall could mean serious injury, maybe even death. This was no joke.

I remember, in that late summer morning, Stuart and I were looking straight up to the top of the high precipice.

My good buddy, Stuart Steinhauser climbing the rocky cliff of Lincoln Park’s famous Steinhauser Mountain.

“Come on, Richie, you can do it,” Stuart said to me with a flexion of challenge in his voice.

“I don’t know Stu, I just don’t know,” I modestly replied.

“Come on Richie, you’ve got to at least try! You can do it! I know you can,” Stuart called out to me with a certain “let’s win one for the Gipper,” attitude in his voice.

Well, long story short. Both Stuart and I began the challenging climb. I was scared out of my skull. One slip, one missed step, one careless error; and it really could mean curtains.

As we ascended our climb, Stuart continued to call out to me, “don’t give up now, Richie! Come on, you can do it!”

There were times when fear nearly overcame me. But I knew deep inside that I had to remain strong and courageous. With intense focus, I found the crevices in the craggy rock to place my foot. There were roots, tree branches and jagged rock to grab hold of. Still, this was no game, and courage was the key to success.

I still remember that immense feeling of accomplishment when I reached the top of Steinhauser Mountain. It was as if I had won the Daytona 500. It was as if I had single handedly knocked out the Joker, without one bit of help from Batman! The old feeling of confidence was once again flowing through my veins.

The view from atop Steinhauser Mountain was breathtaking. From the very top of this high precipice, a person could see for miles and miles! The moment was mine. I had earned it. The joy, the wonder, the splendor, had all been well earned.

That was over 50 years ago, when I conquered my fears and climbed Steinhauser Mountain, shortly after recovering from my long-term battle with rheumatic fever. I often look back at that moment in time. There are times when fear wants to seep into the marrow of my being. There are times when thoughts of self-doubts begin to pop into my head. There are times when I question my talent as a writer. It’s those very times that I look back at my courageous climb up Steinhauser Mountain. It’s then that I dig deep into my heart and realize, courage is the key to crushing fears and self doubts.

Posted in 1966, Accomplishment, Acts of Kindness, Be Strong!, Believe in yourself!, Boyhood Days, Childhood Friend, Compassion, Determination, Divine Protection, Dreams, Encouragement, Faith, Finding Your Purpose in Life, Friendship, From boyhood to manhood, Giving, Healing, Heroism, Homecoming, Hook Mountain, Humility, Journey to Truth, Kindness, Leadership, Life's Dreams, Lincoln Park, Memory, Never give up!, New Jersey, NJ, Nostalgia, Old Beavertown, Old Lincoln Park, Sacrifice, Small Town America, Spiritual Lesson, Stand Tall, Stuart S., Wisdom | Leave a comment

The Old Maple Tree in Winter

The Old Maple Tree in Winter

By Richard Mabey Jr.

Its leaves have fallen to earth,

along with hundreds of maple seeds.

Gone now, Summer’s joy and mirth,

the heart and core of a child’s needs.

 

This tree holds such value and worth,

a child’s hunger for adventure, it feeds.

Deep lies the truth, known from birth,

each skyward branch, to Heaven leads.

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