I want to document my times with a boy who was once my best friend, a boy who has totally disappeared, making himself totally incognito to me….or dead, for all I know.
I first met Terry in first grade but we really didn’t start chumming around until 2nd. It was during a walk home with my best friend Timmy, (read me), and Terry that I was to experience a life-changing event. I was struck by a school bus. If you would like to read about that incident, I offer it to you here in this story (read me).
After the school bus incident, Terry and I were not friends any longer at Fillmore Elementary. I guess I looked at him with a little bit of childhood animosity and so we each moved onto other friends. After 4th grade, my parents decided to leave the rented home on Goodman Avenue for a larger, 2-story house on Prytania Avenue. I transferred to Lincoln Elementary for 5th grade where I had to make new friends. I had felt very loved and popular at Fillmore so moving to a new school was a big disappointment for me. I went the entire 5th grade without making a friend at school. Luckily, I had made plenty of friends in my new neighborhood of 60 kids (read me).
The friendship between me and Terry was finally rekindled in 7th grade where we were reunited into the same ‘section’. I’ve mentioned the sections of junior high in a few stories, but for the new reader, kids were divided up into groups of about 25-30 based on a test score taken in 6th grade. So unless your grades rose or dropped sharply, and quickly, you spent 3 years of your life with the same 30 kids – for me, that was a great 3 years! For others, I suppose it meant you could be spending your next 3 years with the next Jeffrey Dahmer.
Our section, (1C), must have had the best time of all of them. Not a single day went by without something fun happening or something hilarious being said. When you spend the bulk of your time with the same 30 kids for 3 years, even after 40 years, I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to bring up in my mind most of the kids’ faces still to this day. Some of them are my Facebook friends today and I know that a few of them will be reading this passage, so I direct this next statement to them – I can recall almost every single one of your faces from that period of time. Being able to do this always puts a warm feeling in my heart. Even for those of you I did not spend much time with during these years, I still see you and it makes me smile….but back to Terry.
Terry and I were seen as peas and carrots. There were actually a number of ‘twosome’ friends all throughout junior high – people who were always together every day. Junior high was a time of wedgies, flat tires and your locker lock being turned upside down and turned around. (By the way, a flat tire occurred by walking up behind someone wearing tennis shoes and stepping on the back edge of the heel, causing the rear of the tennis shoe to come down underneath the heel, looking flat). Terry and I were the two in class that each teacher was likely warned to ‘keep an eye on’ because we were indeed always trying to make each other and our classmates crack up. I liked making people laugh – still do. I can’t help it; I’m always looking at every situation or thing that was said and then mentally trying to find the humor in it. I don’t have a logical explanation for why I do this – I just do.
In junior high we two committed so many ‘crimes’ together, all of them petty acts aimed at entertaining ourselves and maybe causing a little disruption. They usually were stupid little things like throwing a screw down a quiet hallway towards the Principal’s office or knocking a small chair down the steps in between classes. Our coup-de-grace prank though was the day we distributed stink perfume in every class. That little act was documented here in this story (read me) and it was a fun day, let me tell you!
Terry and I did everything together, including seeking out our girlfriend relationships. In 7th grade, Terry was the guy who provided me with the coaching for how to ask a girl to go steady. In 8th grade, Terry had a crush on a 7th grader who I can’t remember the name of. Her best friend at the time though was a girl named Valarie. Valarie and I were boyfriend and girlfriend for all of maybe 14 days. The point here is that when we could do things together, we did. We were wedding crashers of Wilson Jr High (in my mind anyway).
At the end of 9th grade, Terry received a unique recognition award for attendance as he had never missed a day of school – ever! (In fact, he also never missed a day in high school or college). On the day of the award, he was told early in the day that he was going to be called to the stage during our annual recognition school assembly. He was told not to tell anyone because they wanted it to be a surprise recognition. He told me however as we were all making our way to the assembly and asked me not to tip anyone off. We were allowed to sit anywhere so usually we all rushed in an attempt to make our way up to the balcony seating where it was ‘cool’ to be.
Towards the end of the assembly, Mr Warman, (if I am remembering his name), made the announcement that he had a special award now to hand out for attendance. “This young man has never missed a single day of school, ever.” There was a lot of junior high school kid buzzing and chatter at that and we were all wondering out loud who he was talking about. Next he asked, “would Terry Staton make his way to the stage?” At that, Terry got up out of his seat and began making his way to the stage. The Principal was glancing around, looking to spot from which direction Terry was coming from. When he didn’t spot him immediately, he called his name once again. It was at this very brief moment of silence that yours truly, always trying to seize the opportunity to get a laugh, shouted out – “he called in sick!” Juvenile? Guilty! Did it get a big laugh? Guilty again! 🙂
And that …….was junior high. After junior high, Terry moved out to the country, out on Highway 27, towards Oxford, Ohio in the Talawanda school system where they had maybe 100 acres (I’m guessing) of empty farm land. Terry and I lost contact with each other for a time until he got a car and started driving. Terry’s dad co-owned a small used car lot out on Route 4 so Terry had access to vehicles from an early age. There’s another interesting link between Terry and myself described in this story (read me) during one of our skating rink adventures. This was the summer of ’74, before 11th grade was to begin.
He had a copper-colored Chevelle for a short time, but his baby was a ’72 “Heavy Chevy”. The Heavy Chevy was a souped up Chevelle, Terry’s was a 402 cubic inch, 4 speed (if I remember correctly). Terry could time his speed and shifting without using a clutch; this he did often on Stahlheber Rd, leaving the skating rink and heading to his house where we often would spend the weekends. His parents’ place had a mother-in-law’s house on the property and Terry had his stereo system and a few beds in there.
Between 1974 and 1977 I must have spent 20-30 weekends out at Terry’s place. He found it a bit lonely there because there was so much space in between each of the houses. I found it ‘fun’ for several reasons – horses, motorcycles and VW Beetles! I own and ride a motorcycle today. I learned to ride on Terry’s land before I learned to drive. He had a Honda 100 dirt bike that he was allowed to ride around on the property and so he taught me how to ride. They also had an old VW Beetle there too. Terry wasn’t really supposed to drive it around on the property; it was more of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy with his dad.
So his dad didn’t ask us about it unless we drove it around while the ground was wet – if we did that, Terry got a heck of a chewing out and extra chores. Extra chores usually meant cleaning out the horse stalls. Yeah, they had horses too. Terry also taught me how to ride horses….and clean up after them. If you’ve never cleaned out a horse stall, let me tell you – it’s a real treat! Imagine working in an ammonia factory. Now imagine you’re claustrophobic and you’ve just been locked up in an area the size of a very large elevator – this is where they make the ammonia. Someone now comes along and unloads a bale of hay in the ammonia elevator room and hands you a pitchfork and tells you to scoop it all out. It was a tedious job and the stench was incredibly strong. But the chores came with all the fun stuff.
On a few occasions Terry would have some cousins over for a sleepover, usually if it was Terry’s birthday or a long weekend. In hindsight, I guess our all-nighters were a boys’ version of a slumber party. We didn’t do each other’s nails or hair and we didn’t talk about boys we liked and didn’t like. We did however talk about girls and the stories were always better than the truth! One night during the summer of ’75, there were 5 of us at one of these sleepovers. Terry’s parents were out on a date that night. We might have been drinking some beers that night, I don’t recall.
Around 9 or 10pm, a few of us decided to go wandering off towards the back of the property while the others didn’t feel like walking. As we got farther and farther towards the back of the property, we began to hear music. “That sounds loud, like there’s a party – let’s go check it out”. The music was easy to follow. We arrived at one of the houses that bordered Staton’s property. The music came from an outside loud speaker, being piped out from a stereo being played by two girls. It turned out that Terry knew these girls and went to high school with them….and they were drunk. One of them had the hots for Terry and dragged him upstairs. They were only up there for a couple of minutes; long enough for a little necking. We hung out for maybe 20 minutes and then decided to head back. Being the tellers of yarns that boys can be, during the walk back we decided to make one up to share with the other boys….and so we did. Being older boys, the details we made up are perhaps a little too graphic for this story. Use your imaginations (and then chastise us for being perverted little brats).
I wasn’t allowed to see my girlfriend Kim during the summer of ’75, (a story for later), so a lot of time that summer was spent with Terry. It was a fun summer of skating rinks on the weekends, motorcycling over ditches, driving VW Beetles down a long empty field, horseback riding on Sundays after church and listening to ZZ Top and King Crimson at night. Everyone should have summers like this one.
High school came and went and we all migrated, wings outstretched into ‘the real world’. Terry and I lost a little touch with each other for a few months as we all tried to find our way in college at Miami University (read about my first day). Sometime during 1977 Kim and I broke up for a number of months and I began dating a girl named Desiree. It was during this time that I attended my worst concert ever (read me) with Terry and his fiancé Mona. Terry & Mona, Des & I double-dated a number of times and then came the wedding. They got married at a small church they attended near Reily, Ohio, a tiny little town off the beaten path. I was the best man. Typically when I’m writing these stories, the memories that were once buried seem to come rushing in at me like a flood, but for the life of me I’m having a tough time recalling where the reception was held. I do remember catching the garter belt, but that’s about it.
In early 1978 Kim & I got back together and soon were engaged to be married ourselves. Terry and I started losing touch with each other as we began moving on with our adult lives. In ’79 I began working for a small family-owned iron foundry in Hamilton; the HP Deuscher Co. Terry, being the entrepreneurial sort like his dad, began trying various avenues of earning a living after he had graduated from Miami. He got his realtor’s license and started selling homes. At the same time, he began buying properties for himself and either trying to flip or rent them. Terry had intimated to me that he was in competition with me…or at least that’s how I felt. I remember his making a comment to me once about my working for Deuscher foundry and that he thought it was a slow route to prosperity. He felt it was better to go into business for yourself. I argued that it would be better to have a long term plan, to get my college degree and to save a little money along the way.
Kim & I went with him to look at a couple of properties, but this was during the time when inflation had driven mortgage interest rates up to 17%, (hard to believe today, isn’t it), but ultimately we were not ready to buy (meaning that we couldn’t afford it). In parallel, he began selling life insurance and tried to sell me a policy. I didn’t think it was a good idea to buy a policy from a friend and honestly I was feeling like he didn’t have my best interests in mind; it was just a feeling I had. My intuition was confirmed when he got a little ‘offended’ when I declined to buy a policy from him. In hindsight, this should have been a signal to me that perhaps he was a little over his head, financially speaking.
I seem to recall Terry had accumulated 16 properties. With the ever increasing mortgage rates, I’m sure cash flow was beginning to become an issue. I can see this today, but I was oblivious then. I thought he was doing great. One day I ran into a girl I knew in high school and junior high at the local Woolco parking lot. Her name was Luanne Nugent and we approached each other to say our howdy’s when she asked me, “how’s Terry, did you hear one of his houses burned down?” No, I hadn’t heard that. I hadn’t seen him in more than a month. She went on to say that arson was suspected and that a deal was stuck where the insurance company offered not to press arson charges if he dropped his claim.
I tried phoning him, but never got hold of him or anyone at his parent’s house. He had disappeared. No phone call, no note, no message….just gone.
A lot of time passed and over the years I made minor attempts to find his parents’ phone number but always came up empty handed. We moved away to Louisiana in 1989 on a job transfer. In ’94 we moved back into the Cincinnati area. Every year we would attend a haunted Halloween walk at Governor Bebb Park. A funny incident happened there one year so if you have time to read, I hope you take a moment.
I guess perhaps it was around 2002 or 2003 we were at the park, waiting for our group to be called into he woods when a pretty red-headed lady approached me and said “Robbie?” I didn’t recognize her because it had been 15 years since I had last seen her, but there was Mona, now a grown up. She was only 16 when she had married Terry. We didn’t have much time to catch up as we got to chat perhaps only 5 minutes. In that short time she shared with me that she and Terry were divorced and Terry was living in the Nashville area. She was remarried and heard from Terry maybe twice per year when he came up to visit his mother (his dad and mom had also divorced). I told her that I had tried to get hold of him a few times and she didn’t understand why he had never tried to contact me. I didn’t have time to probe any deeper because soon Kim had come over to pull me in to the haunted walk. I quickly introduced her to Mona and we were off to the woods. Kim’s sister Traci was cracking up so I asked her what she was laughing about. She said she was able to get Kim’s blood boiling a bit by remarking ‘look how pretty that girl was who was talking with Rob and look how friendly they’re acting with each other’. She said Kim was getting a little jealous and Traci was having a good chuckle over it. (Cute)
Up until the age of 21 or so, Terry was an important thread in my life. Terry pushed me into the street, an act which almost ended my life. He was the 6th grade boyfriend of the girl who gave me my first kiss (read me). He coached me into my first steady (read me). We had girlfriends together in 8th grade, best friends off and on throughout junior and high schools. He tried to get my future wife to skate with him and was rejected. We attended my worst concert together. I was his best man at his wedding, (his first wedding?).
Maybe 6 or 7 years ago I anted up a few dollars to perform a people search and got 2 addresses where I think Terry either lived or had lived. I wrote a short note to each address and left my contact information and said that it would be nice to reconnect. Neither note was returned to sender and neither was replied to.
Did he set fire to one of his properties? Did he file for bankruptcy afterwards? Did he feel ashamed and embarrassed about his predicament? How did this happen? Was Terry just one of many that tried to move too much, too fast, too soon? Is he even alive still? He could find me if he wanted to, it would be easy. My surmise is that he long ago made up his mind to start fresh after the suspected arson. Except for family, it would appear he’s put everyone he once knew just as that – he once knew them.
Or maybe he once knew me.