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Boy Howdy!

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That’s an expression I’ve always used; seems to me I first heard it said as a kid in Texas.

Much later, in Naples, Florida, some of my friends and I culminated our series of bands with a lineup of John Klingler and Don Spicer on guitars, Mike Collins on drums, and yours truly on bass. We all contributed vocals and other folks came and went as time went on. We called the band Boy Howdy and we played rock, blues, Dylan, Cream, Allman Brothers and Mountain covers and whatever else we could handle.

We played the Naples Teen Center and some parties, but our regular gig was at Al Bolton’s Aquarium Bar on the Trail in East Naples, so named because he had a couple of large built-in freshwater aquariums with a giant Oscar fish in each.

The clientele was an uneasy combination of migrant workers, kids and bikers. Sometimes fights broke out and the bouncer, a gentle giant named Pabst, would settle things by falling on the miscreants like a felled oak tree. The bar was in an old Quonset hut but the acoustics were good. We played a couple of nights a week.

The Boy Howdy Band, or part of it, is shown in this photo recently sent to me by my still-best friend, John Klingler. He’s the one on the left in this photo, the drummer is Mike Collins, and I’m on the right on bass, with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth! John’s sister, Jean, found the photo somewhere.

 Taken on the evening of June 9, 1973 as we celebrated John’s 21st birthday; notice the Boy Howdy drumhead and period posters!!!

That’s why the Robert Crumb-created Boy Howdy figure is at the top of this blog. We saw that drawing as the mascot for Creem magazine and decided we’d use it, too.

John remembers some Aquarium bar madness:

Patrons of Al’s might recall an air hockey table very near the stage with a black light over it. The puck would glow, which was quite disconcerting in its own right. I shudder to think of the number of times that puck would fly off the table and hit me while we were playing. And I was on the opposite side of the stage. BTW, not present in the photo was the other guitar player in the group, Don Spicer.”

A Pascagoula Christmas!

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These are probably the first photos I ever took, using my Dad’s Kodak Signet 80 camera, which was Kodak’s highest-end camera at that time. It was a 35mm rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses. My dad picked it up in Mexico City when someone there stole his Nikon rangefinder from his hotel room. At that time, of course, SLR cameras were quite rare; Nikon didn’t offer one until a year or so later.

The Signet 80 was a great camera and totally silent, unlike the clunk-producing early SLRs and I used that camera well into the 1970s, even after I had Nikon SLRs and medium-format cameras of my own.

So these were taken in Pascagoula, Mississippi in 1958. I was in the first grade. The Christmas Festival that year was a big deal for me, because my dad flew Santa onto the river with his float plane, and a little boat picked Santa up from my dad’s plane and brought him to the docks. Mr. John Quinn, my dad’s friend who owned the menhaden plant mentioned earlier, lifted me up onto a 55-gallon drum because I was little. Mr. Quinn is in the dark-blue-black-and-white checked shirt in the second photo, and his wife, Jane, is standing next to him in a red-and-black checked shirt. Here comes Santa on the small boat.

In this crowd scene, you can see the Puss ‘n Boots cat-food factory in the background. That’s where I learned to ride my bicycle; there was a big concrete area in front of the factory which was vacant on the weekends. I had gotten a seven-transistor radio from Western Auto (it was sapphire blue) and I taped it to the handle bars of my bike so I could listen to WTIX (Tiger Radio!!!) from New Orleans as I rode around. They played Elvis and Chuck Berry and especially Buddy Holly.

In this photo, you can see the Pascagoula High School Marching Band. Hard to believe these lovely young ladies would be in their 70s today.

The Pleasure Was All Mine

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When I was in high school, I was recruited from a two-week stint at Winn Dixie to Publix Supermarkets (Where Shopping is a Pleasure!) by Bob DeVille, who managed the Naples store and was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. He came to our house and told my mom and dad I would be better off working for him. I ended up spending 14 years at Publix, though I often got frustrated and quit. Mr. DeVille would wait a month or so and then call me up to see if I’d calmed down and was ready to return. I usually did.

I got into the produce department because I had read that an agricultural job could keep you from being drafted and sent to Viet Nam. After I while, I was transferred to Tampa and eventually I got my own produce department in a tiny art-deco Publix on Nebraska Avenue. I loved that store and the staff and customers. Patty and I were just married, and I was happy to have a job during a tough recession.

I’d work hard to make creative displays, using hand-lettered signs and the contrasts in colors and shapes of the produce to create excitement and interest. Fresh produce wasn’t a big deal at that time, and most of the unusual stuff I tried to sell didn’t. I’d have recipe cards and samples available but folks didn’t want to know what a Kiwi fruit was or to give a carambola a try. I was lucky to sell half a case of romaine to every twenty cases of iceburg lettuce.

Working in a supermarket was a great way to learn what ads worked and what ads didn’t; what displays moved merchandise and what displays didn’t, and I was lucky enough to work for a store manager who let me try anything that I dreamed up. I’d draw little graphs of where people stopped in my little department, what they put in their shopping cart and what they didn’t.

On the side, I’d do freelance writing, photography and graphics, and when I made more money one year doing that than I did at Publix, I left for good. But I learned a lot and met Patty there, and consider myself most lucky for the experience.

Café Du Monde, 1965

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We continue our review of old color photos with one of the New Orleans of 1965.

When I was a kid we lived in Louisiana for a few years, and going to the Café Du Monde at the Farmer’s Market in New Orleans was always a big treat. The puffy and powdered beignets with the strong coffee in teeny cups was something I looked forward to. The location, then as now, was by the levee and the old Jax Beer factory.

In this photo are my mom, me with the glasses and my younger brother, Jeff. The nifty beige car behind my mom is a 1961 Plymouth Savoy.

It Floats!

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My dad was a nut about airplanes like I am about guitars.

In 1958, we were living in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Dad bought a brand-new Piper Super-Cub, had it fitted with pontoons at the Piper factory, and then had a ramp built on the Pascagoula River complete with a gas pump and turntable platform above the ramp so the plane could be easily swung around. I can’t imagine what that whole setup cost or why he felt the need to do it.

You Can Go Home Again, Thanks To Google Maps . . .

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Google Street Views is so cool! Thanks to it, I was able to find the house we lived in over 50 years ago, as seen in these two photos.

The photo on the left is from 1961, with my first-grade brother Jeff in the foreground. On the right is the Google street view, present day. The three-car garage has been modified to what looks like living space, but otherwise it looks much the same.

Leaving The Station With A Lunchbag In My Hand . . .

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For the train buffs out there, here’s a photo from 1961 showing our cub-scout pack bravely going off to camp.

Behind me (I’m the kid being scolded by his mom) is the Kansas City Southern’s “Southern Belle” passenger train, which provided service between New Orleans and Kansas City, and the Pullman car shown is the “Siloam Springs” double-bedroom sleeper.

My mom was the most nervous den mother the Scouts ever had! I’ll never forget her trying to teach our pack how to make a Play-Doh Thanksgiving scene. She finally wigged out when it came time to teach us how to make a covered bridge out of toothpicks.

My little friends and I were shocked when she grabbed the toothpicks and paste and threw them into the trash, saying “To Hell with it!” while lighting a cigarette. Those were the days!

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