Sitting Pretty On My Picnic Table Nashville TN Feb 17 , 2005
When I was 11 years old , I used to have two of those little plastic cars that you see in the picture above. That would of been in the fall of 1958 and the pair of them came from a Sears Christmas Catalog. I can still recall that they cost 59 cents a piece and I remember distinctly the day they arrived in a package of stuff my Mom had brought home from the Post Office. Mastic Beach did not get home delivery till 1959. The reason I recall it so vividly was I had a new friend ride his bike over to my house that late fall Saturday. His name was Walter Seiler and he lived over on the west side of town. He had just started in at William Floyd school that year. Walt was in 8th grade and I was in 7th but we shared shop class together. It was during the second period and taught by Mr. Hyland who was more of a shop teacher that year than the full time Drivers Ed teacher he became later on.
Anyway Walt and I just hit off in shop and we became pretty fast friends. Our friendship and several adventures are chronicled somewhat in my Buzz & Pee Wee short story series that is on this site.Well there we were in my back yard sitting on the picnic table by the apple tree. when my Mom came out and handed me the cardboard box Sears shipped my cars in. Walt really liked them and by the time he left there was only one car on the picnic table.....one of them was in his pocket. I'm pretty sure I just gave him one but there may of been some bartering involved..... if there was I couldn't tell you what I wound up with.
As time marched on that year, I discovered that Walter had as much taste for skipping out of classes as I did and many of our sojurns were planned in that second period shop class. It got so bad after awhile that when one of us turned up absent, Miss Ostroski / Mrs. Doraska would check to see if the other one was in class that day. Our skipping school adventures transcended her timeline of going from Miss to Mrs. She was mainly the school nurse, but truant officer was one of the other hats she had to wear. I recall lieing down on one of her cots one day feigning an upset stomach or something that was good for at least missing one class, when I heard the distinctive voice of my homeroom teacher on the the other side of the cubicle. His name was Ronald Ringhouse and he was fresh out of college. He said something to effect of "Walter Seiler told me that he and Ken Joseph have jobs in Patchogue that they have to catch a bus at noon ...are they really old enough for that?" Miss Ostroski laughed and said "Joseph is laying down in there why don't you ask him directly!
In my eight grade year we really hit our stride. Many times we would just meet before the first bell and then head for The Fire Break Trail....This was an old path through the woods that ran from just south of the school all the way to behind the Post Office. It allowed us to go almost all the way back home undetected. We called it the fire break trail because we thought the Fire Department had cut it in there. Actually it was middle one of the three original colonial roads that started at Montauk Highway and went south and south easterly to the Smith, Pattersquash and Floyd estates. Had we known that, we probably could of picked up extra credit in history class!
But talk about dumb moves we did far too much skipping school in winter and were forever looking for ways to stay warm. We would head for Tony's coffee shop in town which was good for a half hour or so but he would always lecture us for not being in school. One time we were holed up in a 50's something Buick that a summer resident had near Walter's house on Maywood Drive. The radio still worked (and this before Die Hard batteries were around) There are certain songs whenever I hear them take me back to sitting in that car trying to stay warm. The one I remember the most was Greenfields by the Brothers 4.
By the time I got into high school, Walt was going half a day to auto mechanics in Bellport and that put a stop to our hookey playing together. During that time he became a closer friend of my brother Butch. We still were friends but he and my brother were thick as thieves. In 1962 Walt and Butch whose real name is Walter too, quit school and joined the Navy on the buddy plan. Before he left for basic training, Seiler gave me his tool box full of S-K tools to use when I started in at auto mechanics that fall. I always thought that was mighty generous of him. My brother came home early from the Navy because he could not learn to swim but Walt stayed in for the full four years.
We were living in Patchogue by spring of 1964 and Walt would drop by on leave every once in awhile. His tools got robbed out of my stock car in 1965 the very first night I ran at Riverhead Raceway and he took the news pretty well. I offered to replace them but he just said that's ok ....... I only saw him a time or two after that and my brother said he moved to Pennsylvania.
In 1991 I found the little plastic car you see in the picture in an antique shop. It immediately took me back 33 years to that day Seiler first pedaled his bike over to my house. This past summer at my 40th High School Reunion , I discovered that Walter had another hookey partner from those days in one Frank "Butch" Capola. Frank asked me if I heard anything about Seiler and I said last time I saw him was probably 1968 and last I heard he was in Pennsylvania. Last week for some reason I wrote to my brother asking if he ever heard from Walter and if so that I'd like to talk with him about some of our Field Trips we used to take. Yesterday while doing some routine research, I came across a smalltown newspaper file that was linked to the keywords William Floyd School.... when I clicked on it I found this.
Sometimes research is good, sometimes it's not much fun. Which I guess also supports the old saying Ignorance Is Bliss.... Today I took the little car out to my picnic table and listened to THIS SONG, then came back inside and wrote these words. The photo below is from the 1960 Yearbook and might be the only one Walter was in. Not having the 1961 book I can't say.... But they had his name typoed as M. Seiler....... Walt I fixed it for you in Photo Shop... it's least I could do.