Good old Moe’s Sweet Shop, circa 1970.
Four Words That Changed My Life
By Richard Mabey Jr.
I think that it was in the Spring of 1970, that my mom and dad joined the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the National Camper’s and Hiker’s Association (NCHA). Mom, Dad, my sister Patti and I would go on weekend campout trips to various camping grounds throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York State. It was a lot of fun.
There was only one thing about it. Out of all the families that went with us, and there had to be at least a good dozen other families that belonged to the local chapter, I was the only teenager. All of the children were much younger than me. Thus, I took on the role of big brother to all of the many children, whose parents belonged to this local chapter of the NCHA.
I was the only teenager in the group. All of the other children were much younger than me. Thus, I became their adopted big brother.
For the most part, I was very shy. I loved camping. It gave me the golden opportunity to commune with nature and to catch up on my reading. While I did read the novels of Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbech; I have to confess that I still did lose myself in reading the comic book adventures of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man.
For the most part, I was a very shy boy as a teenager. There were times when I felt very self conscious.
In late June of 1970, I completed my junior year at good old Boonton High School. I was looking forward to the summer, just having the time off from school. I would take my collie, Sunday, for long walks down to the old Morris Canal, which was located in back of my house. I loved to play the drums and I would practice playing the drums a lot during summer vacation. Also, this was my last chance to earn my Lifesaving Merit Badge, the last merit badge that I needed to become an Eagle Scout.
When I was a teenager; working on becoming an Eagle Scout, caring for my collie and playing the drums were tops on my list of fun things to do.
Then in late June of 1970, an event occurred that changed my life forever. We were all camping at Swartswood State Park. It was early Friday evening. Mom, Dad, Patti and I had come up to join the other families of our NCHA Chapter, immediately after we finished supper. There was news that a new family had joined our little camping club.
It was dusk on that Friday evening, when this new family slowly drove into the campsite next to ours, in their Ford station wagon. They were towing a pop-up tent trailer. We were all standing around, the entire group of campers, to welcome the newest members of the camping club. And, then without warning, the backdoor on the passenger’s side opened and out came this incredibly beautiful girl. Simply put, she took my breath away.
My dear friend, Penny with my collie Sunday. I remember taking this picture. I was on picture number 12, it was the last picture I had in my camera. Sunday turned around the very moment that I took the picture.
The girl’s name was Penny. I remember that my heart melted the first time I ever saw her. She had long brown hair, a pretty smile and this way about her that sent my heart fluttering. From the moment I first saw her, I was totally smitten with her.
That weekend, Penny and I talked a lot. We went for a couple of walks. The whole time that I was with Penny, I felt like I had green slime all over my face and all over my body. I was just swimming in self consciousness. I remember the palms of my hands being wet with sweat and my heart beating like a big bass drum.
It was in early July of 1970, that I got a part-time job at the local grocery store in my old hometown of Old Beavertown. I worked Monday through Friday from five o’clock till nine o’clock at night. Then, on Saturdays, I worked from nine in the morning till five in the afternoon.
Well, low and behold, in mid-July the NCHA held a campout at a privately owned campground, somewhere in northwest New Jersey. I was totally bummed out because I would not be able to go, because I had to work at the grocery store. My dad saw how depressed I was about it. So, Dad offered to drive back to Old Beavertown and pick me up at the grocery store, when I got out of work at five. I was so grateful to my Dad. I was so happy then. I would get the chance to see Penny!
That Saturday, all morning at work, I kept telling myself that I was going to get the nerve to ask Penny for her telephone number. I was a nervous wreck all morning. I just felt so self conscious. I felt that Penny was just too pretty for me.
High noon came. We used to get 45 minutes for lunch. We used to have to wear a white shirt, a conservative tie and a gray smock when we worked at the grocery store. As soon as I punched out on the old time clock, I began walking down the block to the corner sweet shop, to buy a hamburger and soda for lunch.
The old corner sweet shop, in Old Beavertown, was a popular place for the teenagers to convene at.
The corner luncheonette in Old Beavertown was owned, managed and operated by a wonderful couple by the names of Moe and Rose. They were kind hearted folks, who tolerated us when we were kids, taking anywhere from five to ten minutes to decide which penny candies to buy with our nickel.
Well, I walked into Moe’s Sweet Shop, as it was affectionately known, and I was completely absorbed with getting the courage to ask Penny for her phone number. I can’t explain it. I just felt that Penny was just too pretty, that she wouldn’t want to go on a date with me.
Well, I walked into Old Beavertown’s favorite luncheonette, sat at one of the spinning stools at the lunch counter and dear old Moe came over to me and says to me, “you’re lookin’ good kid.” I said thanks to Moe, in a kind of shy way. And then Moe said to me, “yea, you got a nice tie there. You must have a couple of girlfriends, huh kid?”
I just clammed up. I wanted to crawl under the my counter stool. I got so embarrassed. But, truth be told, dear old Moe’s kind words gave me kind of a boost. I ordered a hamburger and a coke. Moe was a great cook. After I finished eating lunch, I left my quarter tip on the counter and walked over to pay Moe for my lunch. We said our goodbyes and I began the walk back, down the block to the grocery store.
Long story short. That Saturday night, after I ate supper at the campsite, Penny and I took a little walk around the campground. Somehow, I got the nerve to ask Penny for her phone number. She smiled and asked me if I had a pen and paper. Of course, I did.
Well, Penny wrote down her phone number and handed me the piece of paper. For the next two and half years, this very pretty girl was going to shape my life in ways that were beyond my wildest dreams. For she would see the hidden potential within me and challenge me to take on the world.
And, for dear old Moe, there is a respect and gratitude in my heart that reaches beyond time and space.