LARRY & DENNIS
Of all the friends Butchie and me made as kids,
none go back further than Larry and Dennis Schulz. Butchie and
me, first met Larry in late 1950 or early '51. I was either three
and a half or four years old. Remember when halfs, three quarters,
counted? They were trying to make mathematicians out of all of
kids in the dawn of the Atomic age. We were getting braver in
exploring our neighborhood thanks to my sister Gerry and one day
Butchie and me ventured one block west to Jefferson Dr. We usually
stayed on Elm or McKinley within eyesight of our house and even
when we rode to town in the car, Mom or Pop used McKinley. I don't
know who saw it first, but when we saw a windmill just like the
one on the Floyd estate, we decided to investigate. It was just
a few feet off in the woods on the west side of Jefferson Drive.
We were hoping that it might be a sign of another big house and
barns too. We walked in the woods and there were two old wells
there, one square, one round. It was a little scary even though
they were probably dry. I think the square one was covered with
some old boards.
We weren't in the woods a few minutes when we heard someone or something coming. It was Larry and Skippy. I know, your asking this chapter is called Larry and Dennis who's Skippy? Skippy was Larry's faithful side kick, his dog. Dennis was only a few months old then and still holding up at the ranch. Well boys will be boys and in short order we were following Larry through the woods and into his backyard. And wouldn't you know there was a barn in it? A very old barn that "Mister Clark" lived in. He kind of scared me as he never said anything to us kids. He kind of looked like the character that sells Christine to the kid in the Steven King novel, with his long john underwear, suspenders and old fedora hat. He kept to himself in his yard and I never knew of anyone who lived in a barn before. But our friendship with Larry was growing fast and furious. Then in a few weeks it came to a screeching halt. His Dad took a job in Maryland and the Schulz's moved away. We never thought we'd see him again....we were wrong. Just like I was wrong when I didn't see any big houses or mansions near Mr. Clark's barn. Some times in a kids world you just have to wait or venture a little bit further. There would be some great adventures in years to come with Larry and Dennis and the entire Schulz family
KEEPING ME IN STITCHES
There were a lot of laughs growing up in Mastic Beach with my brother Butch, sister Gerry and all the kids. The fact that the Schulz brothers, Larry and Dennis, were our oldest friends and lived there "all year round" and just around the block, may of contributed to why some of these stories still keep me in stitches.
Cowboys and Indians and Rin Tin Tin and Davy
Crockett and all his bunch; Georgie Russell, Mike Fink, the Lone
Ranger and Tonto, Hopalong etc. We played all of the characters
that we watched in B&W on our little TV screens back in the
early 50's. When Walt Disney came along around '54 with his new
TV show , don't you know that Larry and Dennis and Butchie and
Me would be re enacting our version of it the next day.
My father for some convoluted reason, always picked the chore of painting our house every 4 years, during his vacation time. Never thought about it then, other than we had to help with the scraping of the clapboard (UGH BORING) Though this cut deeply into our playtime, I never thought that it couldn't be too much fun for Dad either, who I am sure would rather be fishing in the nearby bay for fluke and flounders. I remember a morning trip all the way into the town of Patchogue, to a Sherwin Williams dealer to get the paint. Why with two perfectly good hardware stores in our town, he didn't go there, saving himself at least an hour driving time, was beyond my analysis. I don't think it could of been price alone.
When we returned, there was Larry and Dennis waiting in our yard. Larry had his six gun on and Dennis was wearing some kind of motley headband with a feather. I think Butchie went in to get his Red Ryder smoke rifle. This one wasn't made by Daisy. It was molded gray plastic deal and used talcum powder and air to stink up the joint with Palmolive. In the meantime my father had set to his work and was already up the ladder preparing the roof trim for the first coat of white. Before he ascended though, he opened a gallon of Sherwin Williams finest pure "Colonial White" oil based trim and was stirring the oil with the official Sherwin Williams free stick they threw in with the deal.
I was wearing the free painters cap they gave us with the Sherwin Williams logo emblazoned on it. The four of us watched as the carmel colored oil blended into the paint and disappeared. It almost looked good enough to eat or drink. Before he headed up the ladder he said "Now you kids go play someplace else ok?" And like the good kids we were, we did....we moved about twenty feet away before Larry started shooting his cap pistol at his renegade brother. I would say Dennis was about 5 years old and he took off running in circles, letting out blood curdling war whoops..... Serpentine Denny....Serpentine. I'm not sure if my father even reached the top rung of the ladder before Dennis kicked the bucket and a cascade of white, freshly stirred paint went flying out over the pine needles and dirt thereby creating a canvas that could of inspired Jackson Pollack. Back then Jackson was only a few miles down the road from us in East Hampton, preparing his masterpiece's for the yet to be built Guggenheim.
Well when my father saw it in real time from his aerial view, he let out his most famous curse. The one he used whenever kids were present.... "JINGO NITTYS!!!" ......Though he may of actually used the true meaning that day, the name of our Lord and Savior. Oh man was he steamed.....All play came to an immediate halt, Larry and Dennis were told to go home. Mom came out and told Butchie and me to get inside. My father drove away to buy more paint. The fact that he returned so quickly with it, led me to believe the replacement gallon may of come from Izzy's or Watrous' Hardware store in town. The one thing I do recall though, was my free Sherwin Williams painters hat. Something about their logo strikes a chord with me as I write this...."WE COVER THE EARTH"
Cowboys and Indians, US Calvary, Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp (Larry's grandmother knew the real Earp) or even later on Zorro, was probably the main game of choice with the Schulz brothers and Butchie and me. They had a fort, actually two of them . The first one was a very crude affair that doubled as a shelter for their dog Skippy. About all we did with that one was pound used nails into the roof. Even Skippy stayed out of it. A few years later their father, who was a carpenter by trade, built them a real good one out of plywood. In fact it was so nice, it could of probably got FHA approval in Mastic Beach. In their backyard however, was Mr. Clark's barn which was very very old. Mr. Clark bought it from the Knapp estate that was built in 1890 and the barn was probably even there then when the Lawrence family owned that property before the civil war.
I think it was around 1953 when Mr. Clark died and his place would remain vacant and semi vandalized, until the Schulz family purchased it at auction several years later. It was a true barn and how he managed to live in it, was something the neighborhood talked about. I don't even recall a door other than the barn doors on the west end of the building. Over the first few years kids got into it and broke windows and the hundreds of medicine bottles old man Clark had in there. The main floor was covered with broken glass, yet the four of us were in there all the time.
Well it was New Years Day, 1954 when this one happened. Butchie and me had gone over to the Schulz's to play. I had my double holster cap guns on that I had got that Christmas. I think Larry had got a Daisy smoke rifle that year. Basically it was a disabled BB gun, that when you put household oil down the barrel, would let out a puffs of oily smelling smoke for a few shots, then you had to pour more oil in it. (A co-operative effort between Daisy to get rid of factory seconds and the Rockefellers to sell more oil?) We chose up sides and it was as always Dennis and Butch and Larry and Me. I think it was a regulation game of good guys and bad guys, with Larry and me determined to bring in the outlaws, dead or alive. Basically its like a game of hide and go seek, but you have a shootout and usually an argument about who got the drop on who. I GOT YOU!.... NO YA DIDN'T!!.....DID TOO!!!. Without real bullets or paint balls it was kind of up to your oratorical skills to determine the outcome.
Butch and Dennis headed for the hills, Larry and I counted up to 99 and started out after them. We looked in several places, the woods, by the fort etc. when Larry said, "I bet they are hold up in Clark's barn". We approached the barn doors which were closed , Larry cocked his carbine, I drew one pistol and each of us slowly opened the doors. It was real quiet as we walked deliberately across the old barn floor. I think I drew my second pistol when Dennis and Butch appeared from up in the loft and started shooting. Larry yelled "Hit The Dirt" There was no cover for us, but I instinctively dove down on the floor returning their fire. When the smoke cleared I felt the pain and looked at my right Keds hi top, which was covered with blood. I wound up in Doctor Remy's office in Center Moriches getting my first set stitches. On the ride up Butchie kept telling me how stitches didn't hurt. He had got his first set from my pedal car fire engine some six years earlier. Yeah.... like he really remembered right?. They hurt..... luckily it was only two.
TWO PLUS SIX
Jump ahead with me to 1961. Oh we will be jumping back and forth all over the place, as almost every day was an adventure, but this story is related to the previous one in characters and content. Missing in action though are Dennis and Butch. Not sure where Dennis was, but we were all at the age when our ages started to pull us apart. Butchie was either working his first summer job at Fischer's market or off riding around with his teenage friends. As for Larry and me, well Larry was born on February 22 (George Washington's birthday) in 1947 and I came along on Mother's Day that year May 11th , exactly two months and 18 or 19 days later . Depending on whether or not 1947 was a leap year. Being an odd number it probably wasn't. So all through our childhood we both shared birthdays that fell on holiday's with mine having to cycle though. As for Larry his childhood was basically free from Nixon's meddling other than Dick as the VP turning up in the news occasionally. However when we finally got tired of kicking him around and he still wouldn't go away and he got the job in '68 that he tried to get in 1960, what does Dicky do. He screws up Larry's birthday, by caving into lobbyists ( a possible payoff? that's certainly plausible) and lumps George and Abe's birthday together. Yeah like he asked George and Abe how they felt about it. Wonder how he would of felt if we made a national holiday of the day he resigned. The whole point of this digression is to say in the summer of '61 Larry Schulz and Ken Joseph were 14 years of age. But if I just said that it wouldn't of been as much fun we would of skipped the history lesson and you would not of known my original last name.
Larry and I both had boats. He had a very sturdy
and practical 14 foot rowboat with a 15 horse '59 Evinrude outboard
on it. I had a 9'10" runabout racer with a 20 horse '56 Merc
that when it went ...went like hell (45mph on the water = 90mph
on land) Only problem is the motor spent more time in Nick Chapman's
outboard shop. Nick had gladly swapped it for our perfectly good
'58 10 horse Evinrude that while only half as fast was 10 times
more reliable. Nick got the better motor and a whole lot of money
in repairs out of us.
Larry had relatives in upstate NY, that lived on a lake I believe and they were into wild antics. He told me they would take hoods off of cars ,flip them over and use them for water skis. This was a fascinating concept and I was eager to try it. We had the perfect car hood for it. It was on a '41 Chevy we sort of jointly owned and were planning to build a stock car out of when we were old enough and could afford it. In the meantime it was just sitting in Larry's yard. Now my boat would of been perfect for the task, but the motor was in Nick's shop. So we tried it on the back of Larry's rowboat. Seeing that he already had the enjoyed the experience (at least that's what he told me) he let me go first. I had never been on water skis before. We took off from a shallow spot and it was a real struggle as his boat barely could move by itself. Though the '41 Chev hood was ideal in that it was pointed and boat shaped, the underwhelming amount of power kept me kneeling on it as Larry's boat threw off this huge wake. He never could get it to plane off. After a few minutes of plowing along, I felt confident enough to try and stand up. I never even got fully erect when I crossed over his wake and went ass over teakettle into the Great South bay. As surprised as I was, that there would probably be no career openings for me in Weeki Wachee or Cypress Gardens, I was not ready for what happened next. Treading water, waiting for Larry to pick me up, I noticed the water around me was turning color. It was going from murky blue green to red. My right leg felt a little strange too. Pulling it up above the surface revealed the source of the trouble. What a gash and blood was pumping out pretty good. The car hood was the culprit, but the lack of common sense was the cause. We got into shore and I used my shirt as a bandage, while Larry ran home about a half mile away. My mother wasn't home, but he came back with his mom who drove me to the hospital and who also had the good sense to alert my grandmother. We got to the local hospital (Bayview) and young Doctor Calabro, told Mrs. Schulz, he could not treat me without my parents permission. Fortunately Mom showed up a few minutes later and I got a tetanus shot and six (count em) stitches this time. Lucky for Larry and me, we were getting older and hopefully wiser, as my stitch total with him by my side was now up 8! A few years later, I was out on a date at the beach and as we were walking along, Roseanne said to me.... " Look at that old car hood, I wonder how that got there."
That car hood washed up on the sand strip directly behind us.
Larry Schulz Running His boat a few years earlier
Butchie & Me in The "Little Chief" August 1960
IT WAS THIS MODEL CHEVY THAT SUPPLIED THE "SKIS"