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.

 

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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.

Posted in Richard's Maple Tree, Winter | Leave a comment

Remembering The Lincoln Park Museum

A photo of myself standing in front of the Lincoln Park Museum.

Remembering The Lincoln Park Museum

By Richard Mabey Jr.

At the dawn of 1996, at the age of 42, my life took on some new and exciting beginnings. It was at that time that I left the comfort and safety of working as a writer and editor in the Public Relations Department of a large telecommunications company. To save myself from being sued, I will call the company Amalgamated Telecommunications. I had worked there for a little over a decade. Truly, it was time to move on.

At the time that I worked at AT (Amalgamated Telecommunications) I moonlighted, working part time for a local regional weekly newspaper. I wrote mostly feature articles and human interest stories. So, when I left AT, my Editor at the paper was very happy to increase my responsibilities at the paper, thus increasing my weekly paycheck. It was all falling into place.

As if the odds were ten million to one, a volunteer job that I had been doing for a couple of years, turned into a paying, part-time job. And, that was the job of serving as the Curator for the Lincoln Park Museum.

The exterior view of the Lincoln Park Museum.

The Lincoln Park Museum was once the town’s library. When they built a larger library, around 1967, they converted the little library into a town museum. It is still a museum to this day.

I loved working at the Lincoln Park Museum. I learned the process of professionally framing pictures and documents. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, from one in the afternoon till five in the evening, I would open the museum to the public for tours. I gave all the tours to the people who would stop by and visit the museum. Amazingly, I did get a lot of people to come to visit this quaint and charming museum.

A view of a portion of the interior of the Lincoln Park Museum.

Also, I would give tours to groups. Over the years, I must have given well over 50 group tours. This included group tours for Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, grade school classes, church youth groups, and one time the town Little League did a group tour of the town museum. I think the children and adults who took the group tours had fun and learned about the history of Lincoln Park. I got a significant number of thank you letters from various organizations who took my group tour.

I learned a lot from my years as Curator of the Lincoln Park Museum. I served as Curator for the museum from 1996 till 2005, when I left Lincoln Park to move to a small town in Central Pennsylvania. I dearly cherish my memories of the Lincoln Park Museum.

Posted in 1996, Accomplishment, Acts of Kindness, Amalgamated Telecommunications, Believe in yourself!, Destiny, Determination, Dreams, Encouragement, Faith, Finding Your Purpose in Life, Lincoln Park Museum, Memory | Leave a comment

The Scouting Journal

The front page of the first edition of the legendary “Scouting Journal.”

The Scouting Journal

By Richard Mabey Jr.

“The Scouting Journal” was the official newspaper of Boy Scout Troop 170. The first edition was printed in November of 1982. The paper was published for a little over 10 years. I had the distinct honor and privilege to the Editorial Advisor of Scouting Journal for the entire time of its publication era.

Scouting Journal was written, edited and financed completely by the scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170. It was published monthly. The first edition was four pages in length. Within a short time, the paper increased in size to become an eight page newsletter. Within two years, SJ had become a very respectable Boy Scout publication and was 12 pages in length.

I was so very proud of the scouts who worked on Scouting Journal. They were a great inspiration to me. We would meet every other Saturday morning, from eighth o’clock till 11 o’clock. Our meeting place was the dining room table of the old Mabey Homestead. I think that the scouts who worked on SJ learned a lot about writing, editing and running a newspaper. It was such a fun thing to do.

Some of the scouts wrote articles. Others drew cartoons for the paper. Still others worked on the layout. And then some of the scouts sold ads to local merchants. It was like a real newspaper in miniature.

I think it was in 1985, that I received a letter from the Chief Scouting Executive of the Morris and Sussex Counties Council of the Boy Scouts of America, complimenting the scouts on what a great job they were doing in publishing The Scouting Journal. The scouts who worked on SJ were deemed a very high honor. The Chief Scouting Executive used Scouting Journal as an example of an outstanding troop newsletter in training programs for scout leaders. This was quite a milestone. I was so very proud of the scouts for earning such a high degree of respect from the top scout officials of the Morris and Sussex Counties Council.

I look back now with great pride of the scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170. They were such great scouts. I miss those glory days very much. I was a young man then. I was very honored to pass on my knowledge of writing and the insight of how a newspaper is run to the scouts.

Nearly 35 years have come and gone since the publication of the first edition of The Scouting Journal. In many ways it seems like yesterday. For me, it was a great labor of love. I cherish my memories of being the Advisor to the scouts who wrote and managed the great Scouting Journal.

Posted in 1982, Accomplishment, Boy Scout Troop 170, Boy Scouts, Creative Writing, Destiny, Determination, Dreams, Encouragement, Faith, Finding Your Purpose in Life, Giving, Homecoming, Humility, Journalism, Leadership, Life's Dreams, Scouting Journal, Spiritual Lesson, Stand Tall, Wisdom | 1 Comment

Remembering Lisa, Chapter 3

Dear old Boonton High School. The very setting for this true-life story

Remembering Lisa, Chapter 3

By Richard Mabey Jr.

There comes in the life of each and every one us, a hurt. A hurt so deep that time cannot heal the sting. From time to time, it will haunt us. It is as eerie as the sound of a squeaking hinge in the middle of the night. As empty and lonely a feeling as the cry of the sole whippoorwill at dusk. It is the echo of the hurt of the elderly man, sitting alone on a park bench in the middle of the day. It is that thing which, for some unknown reason, allows people to be cruel and mean to one another. It is as senseless as the deaths of all those men at the Battle of Gettysburg. For myself, nearly 48 years later, this moment of hurt still resonates a certain sting upon the chambers of my heart.

And so it was. I had been blessed to have the perfect timing, to come out of Mrs. K’s geometry class, in Room 210, the exact same moment in time that Lisa exited Room 209. I got the nerve to simply say hi to her. She said hi to me. She really didn’t know me, except as the kid who said hi to her when she left Room 209 and walked out to the hustle and scurry of the parade of students rapidly walking to their next class period.

And so it was. Lisa and I walked along the corridor of the second floor of dear old Boonton High School, to the staircase. I was so nervous. Butterflies rampaged my inner being. I trembled inside. My heart was beating like a big bass drum. My temples pounded. My palms were sweating. I made Barney Fife look cool, calm and collected.

As we climbed down the steps, I dug deep to find the courage to ask Lisa to the sock hop that was going to be held in the school gym that coming Saturday night. I remember glancing over at her long brown hair. Lisa was so incredibly cute. I fought an inner battle. A voice deep within myself kept echoing, “what the heck are you doing, Rich? This girl is way our to your league.”

I can’t remember what we talked about. I think it centered upon teachers, the weather, I struggled to find interesting conversation. Finally we reached the cafeteria doorway. I remember Lisa waved to one of her friends. Lisa’s friend came over to talk to Lisa and to walk with Lisa to the line to the cafeteria food service.

I remember struggling to keep the energy alive between Lisa and myself. But, alas it was fading. And fading fast. Lisa was lost in her conversation with her friend. They were talking about a boy they both knew. Don’t ask me why, but I remember Lisa’s friend saying this to Lisa.

“He’s a junior. I found out he’s a junior. And, I found out he’s Tom Sycamore’s cousin. I know Tom, he’s my neighbor. Maybe you’ll finally get to meet him.”

My heart sank. My heart sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. A sadness came over me that could never be put into words.

We finally got to the point in line, where you would grab a tray and tell one of the cafeteria staff members what you wanted for lunch. Lisa and her friend, grabbed their trays. I was right behind them. As if I wasn’t even there, Lisa’s friend whispered to Lisa, “who’s the kid you were talking to?”

“I don’t know just some kid,” Lisa replied.

“Oh. Lisa, I think he likes you,” Lisa’s friend whispered to Lisa, totally unconcerned that I may be able to hear their conversation.

“Oh, him. He’s a nerd,” Lisa replied.

Then both girls giggled. They laughed. And then they laughed some more. My heart sank. I nearly cried. Those words, “Oh him. He’s a nerd,” left me with the feeling that someone had just plunged a dagger into my heart. The pangs of young love.

The next day, I returned to geometry class. But no longer was I distracted with thoughts of Lisa being in the next classroom over. No longer was I thinking about something clever to say to Lisa, if I saw Lisa after class let out. My mind was now on geometry. My mind was fully focused on geometry.

Ron probably doesn’t remember this. But when we all sat down at the start of the class, that very day, Ron sat down and smiled and said to me, “hey Rich did you get problem seven? That was a doozy.”

I looked over to Ron and smiled, “I’m not sure if I got the right answer.”

Slowly but surely, as the days passed, then weeks passed, then months passed; I forgot that Lisa was in the classroom next to Room 210, during my geometry class. There came a time, a moment if you will, an awakening, a revelation that I had been using the principles of geometry for years and never realized it.

You see, when I was a kid, from about the age of eight, I loved to build tree forts. I built four tree forts in my backyard. My grand masterpiece tree fort had three levels to it. I also built five or six tree forts in the woods, in back of my house. Some of them I built along the tow path of the Morris Canal. And, in building all of them, I used the principles of geometry to build each and every one of them.

But, alas, here is the whole bottom line to this story. Before June of 1969 rolled around and geometry class was over. I developed a secret crush on someone else. No doubt you’ve guessed it. I don’t know if it was a crush, but a feeling of deep appreciation. And, of course that crush, that feeling of appreciation was for none other than Mrs. K.

It’s been brutally painful to write this story. You would think that after 47 years had passed, that would not be the case. But, what can I say? It was and still is.

And the final word would not be complete without a word of thank you to Ron G. Without his encouragement, sitting next to me in geometry class for that year, I am sure I would have flunked geometry for sure. I can still hear the echo of Ron’s voice, “hey Rich, did you get problem seven. Man, that was a doozy!” So better late than never. Thank you Ron G. for your words of encouragement in my struggle with geometry class!

Posted in 1968, Acts of Kindness, Baseball, Be Strong!, Believe in yourself!, Boonton, Boonton High School, Boyhood Days, Broken Heart, Childhood Friend, Classroom 210, Compassion, Creative Writing, Destiny, Determination, Divine Protection, Dreams, Encouragement, Faith, Finding Your Purpose in Life, From boyhood to manhood, Geometry Class, Healing, Humility, Kindness, Lincoln Park, Lisa at BHS, Love Story, Memory, Moving On, my geometry teacher, New Jersey, NJ, Nostalgia, Ron G., The Old Tree Fort, Tree Fort, Wisdom | 1 Comment

Remembering Lisa, Chapter 2

It was in the hallowed halls of Boonton High School, back in 1968, that I was to feel the pangs of young love.

Remembering Lisa, Chapter 2

By Richard Mabey Jr.

My fateful walk from Room 210, down the hall, down the staircase and then down the hallway to the school cafeteria, with Lisa was a most fateful and painful walk. Even now, after over 47 years have passed, it is still painful to think about. Still painful to write about. It’s an odd thing. A very odd thing.

I’ve done five rewrites of this portion of this true-life story. I need to do yet another rewrite. But, in reflection, there were so very many factors, so many elements of this story. It seems that the odds of all of these elements; the people, the timing, the places, coming together like they did, were probably a million to one.

Ron G. was the home run king. He was undoubtedly one of the best baseball players in dear old Boonton High School.

One of the key people in this true-life story, is my classmate Ron G. Ron and I were very different people. Ron was the home run king. I was one of the kids who got cut from the baseball team. Ron was outgoing and confident. I was shy and introspective. But Ron and I had one thing in common, struggling through Mrs. K’s geometry class.

The Pythagorean Theorem was the essential breaking point for me, in Mrs. K’s geometry class.

I think the breaking point for me, in geometry class, was the Pythagorean Theorem. I remember this as clear as the crack in the Liberty Bell. Dear, wonderful, Mrs. K. began explaining the Pythagorean Theorem. I remember this so very well. Half way through the class, I thought to myself, “what the heck is Mrs. K. talking about?”

In high school, I was quite shy and introspective.

In high school, I was quite shy and introspective. Ron was outgoing and confident. We were very different types of people. But, somehow and someway during our struggles in geometry class, a sense of brotherhood unfolded.

Ron and I sat next to each other in geometry class. Somewhere and some time during Mrs. K’s explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem, I remember turning to Ron and whispering to him, “I have no idea what she’s talking about. I’m totally lost.” Ron chuckled a little bit, turned to me and whispered to me, “me too, brother.” At that point in time, I felt a bond of brotherhood with Ron.

It was in Room 210, that two very different people, were a source of encouragement to each other to climb the wall of truly understanding the Pythagorean Theorem.

In grade school, I had a lot of friends from my neighborhood, from church, from scouts, from Lincoln Park whom I had known since the First Grade. But the good Lord provided me with a new friend to encourage me to make it through my struggles in geometry class. Ron was from Boonton. I was from Lincoln Park. Prior to being in Mrs. K’s geometry class, I really did not know Ron beforehand. But Ron turned out to be in the right place, at the right time, to give me encouragement to come to an understanding of the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem. Something for which I am still grateful.

I’m having a tough time writing the second part of my true-life story, “Remembering Lisa.” By now you probably figured out that Lisa and I did not trip the light fantastic at the old high school dance. “Remembering Lisa” is a painful memory to me. But part of being a writer is to struggle and win over the painful points. And for some reason, even though it’s over 47 years later, “Remembering Lisa” is still a painful story for me to write.

Mrs. K. was a great teacher. She truly was a wonderful geometry teacher.

I’d be remiss without saying this. Mrs. K. was a great teacher. She was a wonderful teacher. I was just too distracted with my infatuation with the freshman girl, in the next classroom, to fully appreciation Mrs. K. at the time. It’s kind of sad in a way.

And, to Ron G. there are no words to say thank you, to him, for his kind words of encouragement through the course of our geometry class. And, to all my good readers, I promise that I will get through the process of writing the conclusion of “Remembering Lisa.”

Posted in 1968, Accomplishment, Acts of Kindness, Baseball, Be Strong!, Beavertown, Believe in yourself!, Boonton, Boonton High School, Boyhood Days, Broken Heart, Childhood Friend, Compassion, Creative Writing, Destiny, Determination, Divine Protection, Dreams, Encouragement, Finding Your Purpose in Life, Geometry Class, Giving, Good Neighbor Sam, Healing, Humility, Journey to Truth, Kindness, Life's Dreams, Lincoln Park, Lisa at BHS, Love Story, Moving On, New Jersey, NJ, Nostalgia, Ron G., Sacrifice, Small Town America, Spiritual Lesson, Stand Tall, Wisdom | 2 Comments