The Last Ditch Effort

Richard, Summer of 1972

This photo is a photo of myself from the summer of 1972. I remember this moment in time very well. I paid a quarter to have this picture taken of myself at the Two Guys Department Store on Route 10 in Parsippany. For a quarter you got four pictures taken in the old photo booth. I think that they now charge you 50 dollars to have four photos taken in one of those photo booths.

The Last Ditch Effort

By Richard Mabey Jr.

In the summer of 1972, things were looking dim for me. While I had just finished my first year of college and had managed to get good grades, there was a pressing matter at hand that concerned me very much. Penny would be going to Rutgers University in September. And, we were fading fast. I could just feel it. There was a distance falling between us.

All that Penny would talk about was “Rutgers this” and “Rutgers that!” She started beginning her sentences with “I this” and “I that.” The word “we” seemed to have been totally removed from Penny’s vocabulary. The writing was on the wall. Well, let’s not just say writing, it was more like a neon light was flashing in the midst of a midnight sky. Plain and simple, I was losing Penny.

I used to love to go to Two Guys Department Store to buy 45 RPM records. They were 68 cents each. All the one-hit wonders that you’d ever want were at the Two Guys Record Department. This was the summer that I worked full time at a local grocery store. I also worked part time, writing feature articles for the old Lincoln Park Herald. So, every once in a while, I would have enough folding money in my wallet to buy an entire record album!

Between my working two jobs, Penny getting ready for Rutgers, and things not being as harmonious as they once had been; I had moments when I cried myself to sleep. Simply put, I’d walk on cut glass for Penny. I was so hopelessly in love with her.

I remember this like it was yesterday! One night, after working all day at the grocery store, I stopped at Two Guys. Originally, I went there that night to buy a record. But then I saw that they had notebooks on sale. So, I bought some notebooks, instead of buying a record album. On my way out of Two Guys, I remember taking a quarter out of my pocket and splurging to have four pictures taken of myself. For some crazy reason, in the four pictures, I showed off my new notebooks.

That night, after supper, I wrote a beautiful letter to Penny. It was now late June. In the letter I asked Penny if she would like to go with me to travel to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. I had this idea to write a big feature article about the living conditions of the Cherokee Indians. My hope was to get the article published in a big daily newspaper or even a magazine.

As a background note, I had written a series of articles in my college newspaper, Youngtown Edition, about the living conditions that the Native Americans had to tolerate on the Cherokee Reservation. I got very good feedback from my editor, from friends and from a lot of the students that I hardly even knew. I thought I was now onto a great idea.

I enclosed three of the four photo booth pix with my letter to Penny. The next morning, on my way to work at the grocery store, I mailed my letter to Penny. A couple of days later, I phoned Penny and asked her what she thought of my idea. In a nutshell, she thought it was a dumb idea. I remember this so very well. Penny then recited a 20 minute monologue on “Rutgers this” and “Rutgers that!”

This is very humbling to admit. It was a Wednesday or Thursday evening, when we had our famous “Richard, it’s a dumb idea” phone conversation. Well, I asked Penny if she wanted to go to the Burger Chef and then catch a flick on Saturday night. Penny’s response hit me like a big punch in the gut. I remember it so well.

Penny simply replied, “Richard, my mom’s taking me shopping Saturday. I’ll need a lot of new outfits for when I start Rutgers. I think that we’re going to be out all day! Mom, said that her and I could go to the diner after shopping on Saturday. Look, I gotta go Richard. I want to show Billy my Rutgers catalogue. He should be here in a few minutes!”

“Penny, who’s Billy?” I panicked.

“Look, Richard, I gotta go. The door bell’s ringing. I think it’s Billy. Bye!” Penny replied and hung up.

I hung up the phone. I went to my bedroom. I cried my eyes out. Man oh man, I cried me a river. I knew it was over.

Well, I thought for sure that my cute photo of myself idealistically holding my notebook would save the day with Penny. I thought the shining enthusiasm in my eyes, that the Two Guys photo booth caught, would rekindle the flame of our love. But deep down, I knew it was over.

The next morning I went to work at the grocery store. That night I wrote a story about Boy Scout Troop 170’s plans to hike the Appalachian Trail. I also wrote an article about an upcoming social event that my church youth group was having. I had the next day off from work, so I hand delivered the two articles to Mr. Marino, the Editor-in-Chief of the Lincoln Park Herald.

I did still see Penny that summer, from time to time. Somehow it just wasn’t the same. September was coming. For me, it would be like hitting a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour. Penny was going away to Rutgers University. For all practical purposes, it was all over for her and I.

This entry was posted in Boy Scouts, County College of Morris, Determination, Dreams, Faith, Finding Your Purpose in Life, Friendship, Giving, Humility, Lincoln Park Herald, Love Story, Memory, Newspapers, Penny, Small Town America, Spiritual Lesson, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

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