The River of Time
The River of Time
The River of Time keeps on flowing along, is probably a song lyric someplace. I have just forgotten where. I had pause to think of the notion yesterday. I was looking at some old calendars from 1972. It has been and is my custom to keep a daily log of events since that time. Sometimes the notations were cryptic references to the weather or actions that we had taken. At other times, I filed the rota of family information as it occurred. Births, death, weddings and funerals speckle the journey.
At some bit of doggerel I smile, remembering this character or that and what shenanigans we had been up to at the time. I am mostly amazed at the array of things that we used to cram into a day or two. It seemed like we were always on the move, visiting friends or family in another city of state. Even ay home, the list reminded me that we were on the go from dawn till much after dusk. In some cases, into the wee hours, with old friends from South Buffalo. Where did we ever get that much energy? Is that a function of younger years?
The weather seems to dominate everything here in Western New York. Rain Storms, blizzards and cold weather bedeck the notations over the months. Yet, we always seemed to be doing something or other in spite of the inclement weather. I think the younger you are, the more you are oblivious to the elements and just keep on doing what you are doing.
I was substitute teaching then, at schools in and around the Genesee Valley as Mary finished her last year at S.U.N.Y Geneseo. I was also tending bar at Danny Radesi’s hotel. We had met and married at Geneseo, in that idyllic setting along the hills of the Genesee Valley, in what they then termed ‘horse country.” We later moved back to the “Big B” as I then termed Buffalo, N.Y. I had started as a Welfare Examiner with the Erie County department of Social Services and Mary as a Teacher with the West Seneca School System. Our combined salary was a princely $13,000. That was then a King’s ransom to a couple of starving students.
Our days and nights were full as we settled into our new life. We were driving dilapidated old cars at the time. I read numerous notations about fixing headlights, radiators and flat tires that pepper the record. It all seemed normal then. You did what you had to do to get by. We didn’t have much money then. In one humorous notation while we were still students in Geneseo, it says that we cashed 150 pennies, in three locations, to get gas money for an old Chevie clunker. We were too embarrassed to cash them all in one place. People would have thought we were broke or something. Gas was then $.33 a gallon. Five gallons of gas enabled us to drive to suburban Rochester, where we settled into the comfortable generosity of Mary’s parents’ home in suburban Chili. We were always welcome there and the food was much better fare than we ate at home. Still, we never minded at the time. We managed like everyone else around us. The social register never really enrolled too many people from my neighborhood.
Working in a busy welfare department, in a large urban county, was definitely a life changing experience. However difficult things might have been for people in the old neighborhood, it was no comparison to the daily struggle of people who were really in need. I don’t think I had ever really met people before who were actually hungry or had no place to stay. Most of our clients were women and children who struggled daily for an existence in an environment that was at best hostile and sometimes even deadly. We did what we could help within the rules. It wasn’t uncommon for most of us to slip a desperate client a few dollars of our own for carfare or a loaf of bread. Even bureaucrats feel the pain of those who have nothing. The old people were the most tragic to care for. The bureaucratic jungle was a paper maze to them. It wasn’t uncommon for one of them to have their heat turned off in a Buffalo Winter, with nothing to eat in the house and no place to turn for help. These unfortunates weighed heaviest on my young soul. I knew that I was headed home that night to a warm place with food available and they were not. It wore heavily upon my soul. Still, you go on, happy now and then at wining some battle or other for a client and making their life a little better.
We had friends aplenty and we seemed always to be visiting one or doing something with them out of doors. Cross Country skiing was a great outlet for us and didn’t cost much. Pizzas and fish fries seemed to be our cuisine of choice. I don’t remember ever feeling like we didn’t have much. No one else around us did either. We all just downed a few more beers, laughed and tangoed on. The young can do that, overcome almost everything.
With all of these available triggers, my memories are an endless roll of this and that adventure. The collective antics should provide me with story fodder for the next several months. You never know what interesting memory will surface.
Joseph Xavier martin