Jason and Rob's Early Adventures
As related by Rob Tarcell
(Note: Rob Tarcell grew up on the same street as Jason and the pair were fast friends from a very early age. Jason was four and Rob six when Jason's mom invitied Rob over to watch television on their Magnavox. At that time Rob's parents didn't own a tv. Their favorite show they always watched was "Willie the Worm" which featured a puppet worm and his cohort Newton the mouse.)
Jason had just turned eleven years old and decided to get a nice corn cob pipe with some cherry tobacco. He’d been able to get a pack of Chesterfields a few days earlier by faking a few tears at Davis’s, claiming his mom would be upset if he returned home without them for her.But acquiring the pipe would require some additional creativity and after thinking about it a while Jason felt he would have a better chance at Sheas with a note from his father. He’d have to waste a few cents on aspirin, but it was important to be credible.
In the late morning Jason composed the following note after making a bike trip to Narberth train station to get the telephone number of a pay phone there. Adding the phone number was a sudden inspiration Jason had to make the note more convincing. It probably wouldn’t be used, but if it was the pay phone down at Narbeth train station would ring with no one answering Mr Shea the druggest would think the pay phone numer would be Jason's home number. In the unlikely event that the druggest called no one would answere and it would be thought no one was home. The note read as follows:
Dear Mr Shea
I am home sick in bed and have asked my son, Jason, to bring home a bottle of aspirin. Since I am sick and not able to shop I need Jason to purchase a corn cob pipe and cherry tobacco as a birthday present I want to give to my friend who is coming over for dinner, today. If there are any questions you can call me at 937-2514. I also need a pack of Camels.
After writing the note Jason added the part about getting a pack of Camels. It seemed a little out of place, but might as well go for it.
Jason rode his bike down to Sheas with his note firmly in one hand and a Chesterfield dangling from his mouth. Hed brought some of his birthday money, but this is what birthday money was for. He parked his bike, entered the store, and located a small bottle of aspirin. He spotted a corn cob pope on a nearby shelf and took that, but the cherry tobacco and Camels were behind the counter only reachable by the clerk.
"Can I help you?" The pharmacist asked, his voice hinting of suspiciion.
"Err, yes. I need a pack of Camels and some cherry tobacco and this stuff. Jason placed the corn cob pipe and the bottle of aspirin on the counter. "
Were not allowed to sell tobacco products to children. Mr Shea replied.
But, I have this note from my father. Jason shoved the note towards the clerk and began to wonder if he could actually pull the scheme off. Maybe he should have used some other plan, but it was too late now. His heart was pounding and he thought to himself that he could bolt out the door and get to his bike if things turned sour.
"So you're Jason? "
Well, your father was in here this morning to buy a paper and he wasnt sick then.
Uh-oh. This was colossally bad. Jason began to perspire. His fingers were ice cold. His legs ffelt shaky.
"Well, he is sick now. My mom thinks its something he ate. It might have been the scrapple he had for breakfast."
Jason hoped Mr Shea would like the sound of his explanation.
"Well aspirin wont work with a sick stomach . Besides, I cant imagine a sick person wanting a pack of Camels. Maybe I should call this number here."
"Yea, go ahead and call," Jason said, hoping no one at the Narberth train station would pick up the phone
Jason was committed now. There was no turning back. He kept a stoic face as the clerk dialed the number. It rang a few times, and thankfully, no one down at the train station answered.
Well, your Dad’s a good customer here and we don’t want to disappoint him. Since he wrote the note I guess it’s ok.” And with that the clerk rang up the bill and put the assorted items into a bag, aspirin and all.
Jason took the bag, paid cash, and left the store elated. Hopefully the clerk would forget about the purchase and not say anything to his father. Jason, in his hurry to leave the store, had forgotten to take back the note.
As Jason peddled home he lit up a Came to celebrate. After a few puffs he hid the cigarette behind his back because he saw his father heading towards him in the their 55 Ford.
His father stopped to give Jason a quick message. “Tell your mom I’ll be home in a moment after I pick up some razor blades at Sheas.”
As Jason’s dad pulled away Jason was in a panic. He’d worked too hard to acquire his pipe and the tobacco for it to have them lost now. Not only would they be taken he’d have some punishment to get through as well. As he peddled home he tried thinking of various strategies to deflect some or all of the coming storm.As he arrived home he had a story for rescuing the Camels. He would simply say he didn’t like them and had thrown them away. The pipe was going to be a harder problem. He entered the house, told his mom that his dad would be home shortly, and went to the basement, wracking his young mind to come up with a plausable explanation. The last thing he wanted was his dad getting angry but even worse was the upset it might cause him mom. It was believed she had a weak heart and could actually have a stroke if she became too upset.
Jason sat in the cluttered basement and tried to stop his mind from racing. He tried not to think of his mom having a stroke and having to be rushed to the hospital. He tried not to think of his dad's normally pale face turning purple, and in the silence and dampness of the basement he strained to come up with an explanation.
Meanwhile, Jason’s Dad had parked the car and had walked in to Sheas for his razor blades. He hadn’t been in the store longer than 5 seconds when:
“Woa, you’re Mr. Bell, Jason’s dad?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Are you ok? Jason was just in here. Said you were sick. Said you’d eaten something that upset you. He’s bringing the aspirin home to you now. You look ok anyway.”
“Aspirin? No, can’t be right. You have my Jason confused with someone else.”, buy at some preconscious level Mr Bell knew. Oh yes, he knew.
The clerk went on to describe Jason and the fact Jason had just left the store on his bike. “He came into the store with this note from you”. The clerk showed the note that was still on the counter.
Mr. Bell read the note and said nothing. He was deeply embarrassed, forgot about getting razor blades, and left the store thinking, Hell, the kid doesn’t even know his own telephone number. What had Jason been thinking? There would be a lot of explaining to do.
Jason knew he didn’t have much time. He hid the opened pack of Camels andthe unopened pipe cherry tobacco under the steps. He was still frantically trying to decide what to do with the pipe when he heard his father’s car pull into the garage.
“I just came from Sheas. The clerk reported your being there. Buying tobacco? Whatever for? I saw the note. Sheese, you don’t even know your own telephone number? You’re making it very hard for me and your mother. What are we going to do with you? Where are the cigarettes and pipe you just bought? You’re going to be severely punished young man!”
“Well, I also bought you some aspirin.”
“The pipe. It was to be a surprise gift for you!”
“What? I don’t smoke a pipe. What would I want a pipe for, especially a corncob pipe?
Jason had planned at this juncture to look sad, maybe look like he was going to cry for having such an ungrateful father. But he couldn’t pull it off. All he looked was scared.
"I don't know, dad, but I have some cornsilk drying for you in my sock drawer."
That did it.
“ You have cornsilk in your drawer? Good Lord. Do you realize that cutworms could hatch in there? Give me the cigarettes and tobacco!," His dad demanded.
“I don’t have them. On the way home I threw them away!”“You what? Where is the pipe?”
“I threw the pipe at a squirrel to get it out of the way of my bike so it wouldn’t get run over.” Jason marveled at how quickly he was making it all up as he went along; it sounded like a good story. His dad thought otherwise.
The large artery on the left side of Jason’s father’s neck was pulsing. He didn’t believe a word Jason was telling him, but he didn’t know how to handle it. "That's not even close to being a credible story, Jason."
Jason looked sheepish and shifted back and forth from foot to foot. while it seemed his dad's face was changint color.
“Well, young man. No TV for you for a week. I want you to think about what you have done and the disgrace you have brought to this family.. We'll talk about this further over dinner with your mother. Just wait until she finds out."
Atthis, Jason inwardly relaxed. He’d been caught, but the pipe and tobacco were still in his possession. He didn’t watch much TV anyway and he could always go over to a friend’s house to see anything he particularly wanted to see. As his father left to complain about Jason to Jason’s mom, Jason made his way down to the basement, recovered a camel, and after going deep into the lot at the back of the house, lit up.
His one remaining fear was that his mother would become so upset and overwrought over the matter that she's have a stroke, or possibly a nervous breakdown like some of his friend's mothers had. He didn't know waht it was, but it sounded pretty darned bad.
And of course there'd be an uncomfortable discussion during dinner in which his dad would deliver a longwinded lecture about smoking and telling lies while Jason had to sit and listen attentively, or pretend to. It wasn't the worst thing in the world, although his dad's lectures were just incredibly boring. They should best be left for bedtime as a kind of sleep aid.
Jason desperately wanted a cowboy belt with two holsters for two Roy Rogers’ cap pistols. As he puffed his corncob pipe and casually glanced through the girlie magazine he imagined himself boosting the holster set from Mapes.
He’d lifted the girlie magazine from the Narberth News Shop, a facility owned by a fat guy named Paul that lived on Jason’s street. There, Jason had used the ploy of making his presence appear legitimate by purchasing a Tom Mix comic book while having stashed the girlie magazine in his coat.Ripping stuff off was a thrill for the young Jason; the adrenaline rush of nearly getting caught, but making it was becoming a strong addiction.
Pulling off the holster raid on Mapes would take some planning. He could enlist his neighbor buddy, Jeremy, to create a distraction while, he, Jason, lifted the holsters. Also, since it was late Spring he’d wait for a rainy day when a rain coat wouldn’t be out of place. It was supposed to rain tomorrow so he went over to Jeremy’s house to discuss his plans and get Jeremy’s help.
After Jason rang the door bell Jeremy appeared. They discussed the plans. Jason would enter the store first with a few seconds delay for Jeremy. Jason would head right for the holster that was towards the back of the store while Jeremy would stop around mid-store with Jason’s corncob pipe clenched in his teeth. Jeremy immediately realized he could get into trouble, but Jason assured him he would escape ok, his parents would never find out, and as inducement Jason offered Jeremy a pack of Chesterfields as payment for making the distraction.
The next day at 4:00 pm Jason connected up with Jeremy and clad in their shiny yellow raincoats they rode their bikes to Mapes through the rain. Jason puffed his pipe as he rode to keep his nerves under control. Jeremy was extremely nervous about the whole thing so Jason advanced the Chesterfields to Jeremy, and Jeremy smoked one as they made their way to the store.
They parked their bikes outside the store. Jeremy faced his bike away from the store for a quick get away, and then Jason passed his corncob pipe to Jeremy. Jason unbuttoned his yellow raincoat, entered first and made his way to the back of the store. Jeremy followed moments later and paused around mid store to light up Jason’s pipe. As he was doing so a girl customer in her mid-twenties began to yell.
“Hey! You can’t smoke that in here! Besides, you’re too young to smoke!”
"Ahh, get lost. Even Ronald Regan the actor smokes," Jeremy declared in a shaky voice.
As Jason predicted the sales lady at the back of the store walked briskly towards the front to see what the disturbance was about. Jason knew he had at most 15 seconds to make the lift, but it was more than enough time.
Jeremy was getting ready to bolt as the sales lady approached. He was glad he had parked his bike away facing away from the store for a fast get away. Jason slid the holster set under his raincoat as Jeremy bolted for the door. As Jason neared the front of the store he was suddenly accosted bythe sales lady. His heart was already pounding and he began trembling. This wasn’t how it was supposed to play out. His dad would really be enraged this time. No telling what he might do.
“I saw your friend in here with a pipe he was trying to light up in the store! You tell that no good delinquent that he needs to stay the hell out of here. And what’s wrong with you? You are as pale as a ghost?”
Jason made a quick comment to the effect he didn’t really know the pipe smoker and quickly left before anything further could be said.
He met up with Jeremy back at Jason’s house where they both admired the holster and gun set. Jason laughed with relief that the ordeal was over and he advised Jeremy to stay away from Mapes for a few weeks. Then, Jeremy pointed out that Jason needed caps for his pistols.
'I've got your caps". Jason's friend Rod worked his way down the rail-road embankment to the small flat area under the Rockland avenue bridge. Jason and Rod often met there to throw stones at the freight trains, to smoke, drink socially, plan future shoplifting activities, and to peruse the countless girlie magazines that they'd boosted.
As Rod approached he noticed with approval and a happy smile that Jason was wearing his Roy Roger's dual holster and pistol set. Jason had been reading the recent issue of the girlie magazine just boosted from the Narberth News Shop. The center fold of Playboy was always a treat they looked forward to. Jason kept his stash of the magazines hidden in a spot under the bridge where they would stay dry.
"Here, let me give you the money for the caps."Jason carefully put the magazine and his corncob pipe down and stood reaching into his right side trouser pocket.
"No, no!, No need. I got them compliments of Mapes." Rod explained how he had boosted a Life magazine from Narberth's News Shop and then immediately walked into Mapes with the magazine asking for a 'refund' that he promptly got. The salesman at Mapes front counter had initially eyed Rod suspiciously until Rod quickly fabricated a tale that his mom had purchased it from Mapes earlier not realizing her husband had already bought the magazine. The 'refund' was enough for a pack of Chesterfields and 10 rolls of caps. Mapes was an easty store to ripoff, but much of the merchandise wasn't of much interest to the boys.
Jason pocketed the caps and the two sat together as they looked at the naked women with pendulous breasts featured in the magazine. The magazine came out monthly and Jason alternated turns with Rod ripping off the News Shop. It was their preferred store to shoplift because the help for the store was hardly ever near the front where the magazines were kept. Ripping off stuff was easiest after school when kids were playing the pinball machines about mid store providing a noisy distraction to what was occurring at the front of the store. If there was no distraction, Rob and Jaon would easily enduce some kid to provide one in exchange for tobacco products or a girlie magazine.
After browsing through the magazine with several 'ooohs' and 'ahhs' Jason put the magazine on the top of the stack he had been hoarding. Then, Jason loaded the caps into his two pistols while Rod went down to the tracks and put a few pennies on the near rail. Every half hour the Paoli Local passenger train traveled the rail outward bound from Philadelphia on the near side track. The old bridge provided perfect cover for the kids
Jason and Rod had experimented with placing several denominational coins on the track. The trains squashed the pennies better than the other coins because they were made from copper. They were also cheap. Jason had also discovered that the squashed pennies could be used as slugs for pinball machines in place of nickels. Sometimes the flattened nickles could be passed off as quarters to some store clerk who was particularly stupid. The kids made a point of observing dumb salespeople and kept a notebook which listed them.
As Rod climbed up from the track Jason commented, "Everybody smokes, my parents, your parents, most the adults we see. At school we were told that smoking isn't good thing. But I saw this doctor on TV saying Kent cigarettes were good and safe because they have some kind of special filters on the ends of them."
(link to video Kent TV ad)
Rod thought about Jason's remarks for a while and began to smile. He was always doing that and sometimes it annoyed Jason, but Rod usually came through with what at least sounded like a plausible answer.
"As far as I know smoking isn't bad even without the filters. I think people that don't like it make up reasons why it is bad. And the same people tell us that ice-cream is bad, candy and gum rot your teeth, and so on. They then tell us that cauliflower is good, brussel sprouts are good, and spinach. You know that's not true because it tastes lousy. The farmers grew the stuff and nobody wants it, so to sell it they have to say it's good so our mom's buy the junk."
As Rod expounded his theory he took out and lit a Chesterfield. "Maybe the next year the farmers get smart and grow things people actually want to eat like peanuts or potato chips.or something people really like a whole lot ".
Jason tapped his pipe on the bridge abutment and began to refill it with strands of what looked like silk. Jason had what looked like several handfuls of the stuff lying on a newspaper. Seeing Rod's interest, Jason said, "This cherry tobacco smells good but it tastes awful. We had corn last week and I took a lot of the silk threaded stuff that was on the corn. My mother asked me why I wanted it and I told her it looked like something to make a birds nest with. She asked me if I was going to make a birds nest and I told her it would take some experimenting. I dried it on top of the oil burner in the basement so it'll burn. Maybe it will smoke better than the tobacco.. I think farmers smoke this stuff in their corncob pipes". As he filled the pipe with the strands of corn silk he paused a moment. "I hear the train!
The two watched as the train came and ran over the pennies and scattered them everywhere. Jason pulled both pistols out and shot towards the engineer. Some train engineer or other had previously seen the boys down at the bridge putting things on the track to be run over, complained, and a rail-road official had gone house to house to warn the parents to keep their kids away from the tracks. Jason and Rod did stay away for about a week and then felt it safe to resume their exploits, but now always on the look-out for some rail road official unexpectedly showing up.
After the train left they both went down to the tracks to find the squashed pennies. Rod told Jason to stay away from Ricklin's hardware for a while. He explained he'd been in the store boosting a swimming mask and had been challenged by Mrs. Ricklin as he was about to leave.
Mrs. Ricklin was owner of the 'mom & pop' store and could be heard throughout the store always yelling in a horribly shrill voice at everybody. Years later Jason heard from a high school buddy that the name she was always shouting out, "Lou Wiener" was her husband, though she wouldn't take his name. She treated him like shit, as if he were some lowlife indentured servant. The store was as disorganized as Mrs. Ricklin herself. The customers couldn't find anything by themselves unless they accidently stumbled into it. Consequently, Mrs. Ricklin was always running back and forth retrieving items that only she knew where they lay. To make shopping there more complicated, she kept most of the store lights off to, "save money". It always looked like late dusk in there on even the brightest days. But what immediately struck any visitor to the store was how phenomenally cluttered it was.
Rod told a furious Mrs. Ricklin that he'd only been going out the door to check the clarity of the mask in the sunlight since it was always a little dark in the store. Mrs. Ricklin obviously didn't believe Rod and shaking her arm at him she threatened to call the cops. Rod said he didn't want to buy the mask after all, put it hastily on the check-out counter, and quickly left the store before Mrs. Ricklin could make good on her threat. Mrs Ricklin's anger was much worse than Jason or Rob's mother's anger. Mrs Ricklin, as small as she was, could be very very scary.
While they gathered the pennies they also filled their pockets with some lime stones that were piled in neat rows parallel, and on both sides of all four tracks. Jason said, "The freight train will be coming soon and maybe we can dent a few cars with these stones."
Rod wanted to experiment with the squashed pennies, saying to Jason, "I think these pennies will stick in the wood of the box cars if I throw them hard enough and they hit on edge." Jason doubted it, but didn't say so to Rod. Rod knew a lot of things Jason didn't, like about smoking, but sometimes Rod did stuff even Jason knew was crazy.
The freight train came and both boys hurled rocks as hard as they could. The stones rattled against the tankers with a pinging sound similar to when rocks would hit the overhead wires for t he Paoli Local, and the rocks made a satisfyingly solid thump against the box cars. Rod flung his pennies at the box cars as hard as he could, but none stuck. When it came to striking railroad cars, the guys threw the biggest stones they could find as hard as they possibly could in order to inflict maximum damage
After the train had gone by the two boys rested. Rod smoked two more cigarettes and gave two to Jason. The corn silk made a lot of choking smoke that tasted even worse than the cherry tobacco. Jason told Rod he would try to lift a different pipe tobacco and they both decided Davis's was the best bet. Sheas was out for a while since Jason had been caught buying tobacco there. Rod hadn't ever had to forge a note to buy tobacco at Davis's and he offered to pick something up for Jason. Finishing their cigarettes the two boys departed for their separate homes for a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Maybe that afternoon they would go swimming at the flooded rock quarry where they'd been repeatedly warned against going.
The next day the two met under the bridge again. Rod had brought a jar with about three ounces of whisky and a bottle of vanilla extract he had taken from the kitchen. "There is a strong smell of vanilla, but even so you can smell the alcohol in it", and they both took turns swigging the bottle until it was empty.
Previously, Rod had brought a jar with a few ounces of whisky. Unfortunately, Rod had gotten in trouble not realizing his father had marked the bottle. When his father challenged Rod on the missing whisky Rod tried to blame it on his younger brother, but to no avail. Jason asked Rod if he had used the 'tea trick'. The idea was to first take out some whisky and to then refill the bottle to its original level with tea, the same amber color as the whisky.
"Yes, I used your idea and did just that! My Dad dilutes the whisky he drinks with Seven Up anyway and he isn't likely to notice."
Under the Rockland avenue bridge shielding them from the hot summer sun eleven year old Jason and thirteen year old Rod sipped the whisky and viewed the girlie magazines again while they smoked their Chesterfields and waited to pelt the next freight train to come along.
(Link to George Thorhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyhJ69mD7xI