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190624 June 24, 2019

Jobs and Birthdays
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

I had a birthday last Friday and I thank all of you for your great wishes. It is little known that my journal did not stop at graduation, but I actually kept writing in it for the rest of 1964 and kept another one for a part of 1965. I have not written much about it here, since my move to Memphis on June 3, 1964, the day after becoming one of the first graduates of Lee High School in Huntsville, basically ended my day-to-day interaction with most of you.

My move to Memphis was very emotional, and I experience the worst case of homesickness I ever had to endure. Leaving so soon after graduation I felt I had no closure with all my friends and was afraid I’d go the rest of my life and never see any of them again. A week later, on June 10th, I bought a bus ticket from Memphis to Huntsville and went back to say my goodbyes properly. I stayed in Huntsville for three days, and then went back to Memphis feeling a lot better than before. It was time to get on with my new life, and that meant finding a job while I awaited starting Memphis State University in the fall.

After many attempts at finding a job of any kind in Memphis, I found I was repeatedly disqualified because I had no experience in working before. I had tried for retail jobs at Sears and other places, and bag boy jobs at many grocery stores with no luck. Finally I sat down one evening and asked myself “What do I have experience doing?” The answer came back “camping.” On June 15th I went downtown to the main Y.M.C.A. looking for a job at their day camp.  There were no openings for the day camp, but they did need counselors at their weekly camp at Lake Pickwick. Emphasizing my Boy Scout qualities and my skills at water skiing, canoeing, and my lifeguard experience I sold myself to them was offered a full time job for the rest of the summer. I wrote in my journal, “I’m going to be a counselor at Camp Pickwick – which is only about a mile from the houseboat. I’ll get all my expenses plus $75 for four weeks.” Since the camp sessions ran for two weeks at a time, I would work for the final two sessions, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. Doing the math today, that worked out to be about 11-cents an hour. But I did get room and board, and I did get to spend four weeks skiing, canoeing, swimming and sailing. I think I’d have to pay to do all that today.

This is not only following my "job" progress, but is also leading up to a connection between my 73rd birthday last Friday, as compared to the birthday I celebrated in 1964. Here are my journal entries for that day.

June 21, 1964
173rd Day - 193 Days to Follow
Clear Weather

    Happy Birthday to me! I’m 18 now. Got up at 7:30 A.M. Ate a good breakfast then went to sweep off the pavilion where they have church services. At 9:00 A.M. went to the service. After that we had a swim.

    Found out I’m in charge of the canoes. I’m also a life guard on Tuesday. After supper we had another swim. My sinus started hurting and I went to bed, but another counselor came and wanted me to go on a campout with his cabin with him.

We went across the river in a pontoon boat to a small beach. I built a fire with one match while everyone else took a swim in the nude. Another counselor and I sang for about an hour then we all went to sleep on the beach. They gave me a cake for my birthday.

Looking back at it, I think I did more when I was working than I do now. Even though it was classified as “work” today it looks like a fun type of work. There was one main draw back to working all summer at a boy’s camp; it was a “boy’s camp.” We had no females there and with our work schedule, there was no chance to meet any.

Still, I had just turned 18. I was in a job I got on my own initiative, and even if the pay was not good, it was the introduction to the Y.M.C.A. and the beginning of a job skill which I took advantage of while I spent my four years in college. My last paycheck from Camp Pickwick came four years later, in 1968, when my first wife and I worked the summer awaiting my orders to active duty in the Air Force.

        Memphis, TN -  I had hoped some of you might share some stories on your first jobs. I am the Eternal Optimist I suppose and each day I look at my email for the stories I know will never appear. Until I hear from some of you, you will be doomed to read about life as I knew it back then.

Found on Facebook
Jim McBride Posts Health Update

    (Editor's Note: I know many of you do not trust Facebook and therefore do not have an account there to keep up with some things. Jim recently posted this update, and I am sure he would like the rest of his classmates to read it.)    

    Life is good indeed! 

    My first day home from the hospital, I sat in my front porch rocker and noticed a few changes around me. The sky above me was a prettier blue, the grass was greener, the white clouds were almost blinding. It was if God had “touched up” his already beautiful handiwork.

    A week earlier, Jeanne was praying and doing everything right, exactly as the EMTs and the hospital said must be done immediately. Our neighbors, the Hills, who came to help Jeanne before medical help arrived, also played a part. Brandon Burgess and his EMT Team did an awesome job, also helping save my life. They have a free lunch coming soon. The Heart Trauma Team at Huntsville Hospital is wonderful. Jeanne did a great job helping take care of me in CCU. She went on many missions to get me whatever I thought I needed. I had some great nurses but she was my “head nurse.” She did a good job of updating too. When she would make a short trip home to check on things, my sister Teresa “assistant nurse” would fill in. 

    I hope you all are still reading because here is where I thank you for your concern, good thoughts and especially your prayers on my behalf. I know there were fervent prayers from so many who love and care about Jeanne and I. We appreciate you including her in your prayers because I put her through a very traumatic experience. I hope to never do that to her again. Life is good and God is Great. I love Him and my family and friends more than ever before. I appreciate you more than ever before. I’m feeling good and believe, with God’s will and Jeanne’s love and watchful eye, I may get to see a few more years. 

    Thank you all from the bottom of my heart and Jeanne’s too. God bless us every one. 

Surf Medley

Something I Found on Youtube
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

        I was listening to my Ventures channel on Pandora earlier this week when I heard a song I had never heard before but it knocked my socks off. I've always liked the Ventures, but this one was done by a guy I had never heard before named Junior Brown. I had to look him up on youtube to see exactly how he was getting the sounds he was making in the song. When I looked him up on Wikipedia I found out "In 1985, Brown created a new type of double-neck guitar, with some assistance from Michael Stevens. Brown called the instrument his "guit-steel". When performing, Brown plays the guitar by standing behind it, while it rests on a small music stand. The top neck on the guit-steel is a traditional six-string guitar, while the lower neck is a full-size lap steel guitar for slide playing." He is identified as a country music artist - which threw me as well.

        I thought you might enjoy this music as much as I did, so I will share it with you.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Last Issue

Spencer Thompson

LHS '64

Great job on the M and M boys. It brought back great memories. I was in the band with Joan she was a great saxophone player. I am sorry to hear that she passed.

Subject:    Next Reunion
Jim King
LHS '67

    Tommy, when is the next reunion and who would I speak with about the Class of '67 becoming a part of your reunion group?