Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Story Re-run

I've told this story  before,  but I think about it every year at this time.....

Little Bill

My first job was working at Charlotte’s only independent radio station, WGIV in 1951. Independent meant that WGIV didn’t have a network like CBS or NBC to depend on for its programs.

Everything that went on the air at WGIV was locally produced; meaning disc jockeys played records all day long. Which, with Television rapidly becoming America’s entertainment King, music was what people wanted to listen to on the radio anyway.

Since I was only 15 years old at the time, and WGIV was way out South Blvd on Toomey Ave… father had to drive me to work each afternoon. The station was located in a tiny little house right next to the Charlotte Dump. The station wasn't much to look at, but it certainly fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, which would never be confused with the Myers Park
section of Charlotte.

In addition there were lots of ragged little kids (urchins) playing around the station
all the time.

They seemed to naturally gravitate to my Dad even before he began bringing them candy from time to time.  He became very fond of those kids, especially Bill, the youngest and probably the smartest of all of them.

My Dad called him “Little Bill.”

Even after I began driving myself to work, my Dad continued to drop by the station on a pretty regular basis. He enjoyed watching the inside operations of the station as well as watching all his little friends playing outside in the big yard next to the tower.

Typical Newsboy circa 1900
Christmas was always a special day for my Dad…but I’m not sure why. I never heard him say a word about what his boyhood Christmases were like, but knowing how much his earnings as a  young newspaper boy meant to the very existence of his family, my guess is that they were pretty bleak.

Anyway, every Christmas eve, beginning in 1951, he would go to Stanley’s Drugstore and buy up most of the toys that had not been sold, and old Doc Stanley would usually throw in an equal number for free. And on Christmas morning, he would bring those toys to the WGIV parking lot and give them to the kids.

He continued doing this even after I had left WGIV and gone on to college.

In fact, It was at UNC when I was called out of class one day in the late fall of 1957 and informed that my father was very ill and the family had requested that I return to Charlotte immediately. He was alive, when I got there, but in a coma, and the doctor had no idea if he would ever come out of it or not.

In the weeks that followed we tried hard to find little signs that perhaps meant that he was improving, but to no avail.

We were having our Christmas Eve dinner when the hospital called with the urgent request that we come over as soon as possible….because my father was dying.

It was too late. By the time we got there, he had passed away.

If any day is worse than any other to deal with grief AND trying to take care of the many details
associated with the death of a loved one…it is Christmas.

I was on the phone almost constantly that morning.

Just before noon it rang again…….and a very small voice at the other end of the line

wanted to know ”…..why Mr. Myers hadn’t come over.”

It was Little Bill.

My heart was broken for the second time in just under 12 hours.

I regret to this day that I didn’t have the foresight and presence of mind to think of those kids and
substitute for my Dad that day.

It would have been a wonderful tribute to a kind and thoughtful man who no doubt, knew first hand the disappointment that Little Bill and his friends were feeling that Christmas morning.


I Found Little Bill

My Dad died almost 60 years ago, but I've never truly forgiven myself for letting those kids down that Christmas of 1957.

But thanks to modern technology and the internet, I found "Little Bill."

He didn't come right out an say that he had forgotten all about that Christmas disappointment, but did say that he only had fond memories of my father.

"Wow what a surprise...Yes I am the Bill from Toomey Ave. and I do have vivid memories of your dad and actually I remember you too.  Some neighborhood kids and I used to hang around the Studios a lot back then.  Toomey Ave memories are some of the fondest memories that I have from my childhood.  I really liked the DJ's at WGIV.  Genial Gene was one of my favorites.  I would drop by and see him early in the mornings and he would always mention "the barefooted kid from across the street" and my mother would have a fit when I got home. 

One of my vivid memories of you father is him always taking me to the store up the street on Remount and buying me a pint of Pet Peach Ice Cream."  I have often run into many of the friends from Toomey over the years and have wondered what happened to you."

My Dad was right about Bill being "smart as a whip."   Big Bill is retired now from several successful careers, among them Electronic Engineering for several large firms, 23 years in the US Navy reserves, active duty from 1965 - 69 (Chief Petty Officer), he spent 30 years as a volunteer Firefighter and EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). He's been married to the same woman for 45 years and they have 2 sons.

I sent Bill that story I wrote but he probably wasn't too happy with my description of him and his Toomey Ave friends, ("urchins," etc.) but hopefully he understands that most good stories usually  contain a bit of exaggeration, called "poetic license."

I was seriously thinking about sending him a "Whamo Frisbee" for Christmas this year. That was the most popular toy of 1957.

But I've decided against it. That just might be my ticket to the
"rubber room palace" before I'm quite ready to go.