At last, the time had come. In the sights of my .22 caliber rifle that morning was the head of the enemy — that no good for nothing, fake person who had tormented me for almost two years. It was my hope to plant a shell into his brain that I knew would not exit thus, perhaps leaving the man in a vegetative state to suffer the remainder of his days. I knew I would be doing the world a huge favor in pulling the ugly weed from among the flowering plants.
Suddenly, the rising sun’s glimmer from a windshield on Charles Street in Logan produced an image on the brick building nearby that favored that of our Lord and Savior. Surely, I thought, it was a sign from God to bide my time. The demon had to be spared.
Wait just a minute. The first day of spring is coming soon and perhaps I should be writing of a more pleasant time. I suppose I should allow the “Devil’s Story” to be told sometime when I’m in a grizzlier mood. So, let’s talk about something more pleasurable like — the “Porch Sitters.”
For those who do not know, the “Porch Sitters” were a group of mostly kids and teenage guys who claimed the concrete porch of the Island Creek Company store at Verdunville as their own domain. Day or night, there seemed to always be someone from No. 16 coal camp or other neighborhoods that graced the concrete front porch of the two-story wooden structure whose upstairs was used for Boy Scout meetings, Verdunville Woman’s Club gatherings and, sometimes, even for a community dance.
With a telephone booth on the porch that even Superman would admire, Porch Sitters generally didn’t do much around the store itself, only occasionally setting off the fire alarm during evenings when the store was closed. Store manager Dow Thompson or the store’s butcher, Don Moore, would consistently come and turn the noisy alarm off. Following their departures, the Porch Sitters would always return to the dimly lit location.
Looking back at our gatherings there, maybe it was just consistent meetings of great minds, a sharing of thoughts, making plans for the next day, or perhaps the porch just served as a launching point for dastardly deeds.
The nights of tossing hub caps behind vehicles to make the drivers think they had lost a hub cap, only for them to be made fun of when they stopped to retrieve it, had ended. Even tossing balloons filled with water onto a passing vehicle’s windshield from a nearby cliff no longer was of interest. Some of us were growing up and, like a small bird, soon would be leaving our nest, only to be replaced by another — just as we had taken the seats of those “Porch Sitters” who came before us. The days of placing a coin on a rail to get it flattened by a passing train and of traveling to a nearby mountaintop called “Big Rocks” were coming to an end.
When a couple of guys turned 16 years old, made their operators, and were fortunate enough to use their parents’ vehicles, some of us became passengers and made it a mostly weekend habit of “cutting the block,” which simply meant the driver would come to Logan and motor down Main Street and circle back on Stratton Street before usually heading off to drive-ins like Morrison’s, Mecca or Penny’s. However, for some of us, even that became boring.
The following true accounts of some of the escapades of a few of the Porch Sitters would today likely land one in prison or a mental health facility. So, just keep your eyes glued to your cellphones and, in the meantime, I thank God that we didn’t have any back in the day when we created our own bizarre fun. As always, the names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.
It was a brilliantly sunlit summer day, as I recall, when it was truly too hot to fish or to stick around in an un-air-conditioned house. So, while sitting on the company store porch getting nothing accomplished but a sunburn, I was quick to accept the offer from my friend Kermit to “take a ride” down the road. It was a blessing to get into the vehicle simply because the windows being down would allow the wind to cool me off.
Granted, I like to have fun as much as the next guy, but Kermit can never qualify as the “next” guy, at least when it comes to having what he thought was fun. On this sweltering day, it made perfectly good sense to visit the local Dairy Queen for an ice cream. As has generally been the case, the fair maidens of the Holden road location have always been young girls, and that particular day was no exception.
I had no idea what was about to happen when Kermit ordered two vanilla ice cream cones. As I stood behind him, the sweet little girl with a mixture of ice cream stains on her once-white apron handed Kermit his order. Taking an ice cream cone in each hand, he suddenly began gouging his eyes with the cones, all the while making some awful screaming sounds.
The poor girl was frightened nearly to death and, as I followed my crazy friend out the door with him insanely laughing the entire time, I glanced back to see the dazed look on her young face. I’m fairly certain that was her last day of work at the DQ.
If you believe in “guilt by association,” then so be it, but I truly just wanted an ice cream.
On another occasion, I was not even present as Kermit and a fellow I shall refer to simply as Blade concocted a plan in which Blade, who wore what we called “pop bottle” glasses, and Kermit — always the driver — would head down the road looking for a hitchhiker, which was a common sight back in the day.
The duo would travel past the guy, pull off the road out of his sight, and Blade would get out of the vehicle. Kermit would then head back up the road, turn around, and stop to give the hitchhiker a ride. On down the road, Blade would pretend to be hitchhiking and Kermit would stop to give him a ride, Blade taking a back seat.
With Kermit pretending he didn’t know Blade, he would ask him his name and where he was going. Blade, who had a voice one would not wish to hear in a church choir, would say he was going to Logan and that he had just gotten out of prison. When asked what he had been incarcerated for, the answer was always “murder.”
Shortly thereafter, Blade would mumble something about robbing Kermit and his front seat passenger, and killing them both. At that point, Blade would place an opened pocket knife to Kermit’s throat and tell him — in that growling voice he possessed — “I’m going to kill both of you bastards.”
Kermit, begging for this life, would manage to pull off at some wide spot, where invariably the front seat passenger would always sling open the side door and immediately take off running, Blade screaming at him to come back. Kermit and Blade had many victims of their deranged plots.
On another occasion at what some people liked to call a beer joint, or beer garden, Kermit and Blade decided to get their “kicks” at the expense of two women at a hole-in-the-wall type beer joint at Mt. Gay, simply called Fortuna’s. There, like many places back then, proper identification was not required to purchase a beer.
One rainy afternoon the bored dim-wit duo of Kermit and Blade walked into the beer joint, which always kept its screened front door open, proceeded to the empty bar stools, and ordered two Stroh’s’ beers from one of the two Italian-speaking ladies. As the two women communicated back and forth in Italian, probably discussing just who the boys in front of them were, Kermit and Blade quickly chugged their long-neck bottled brews.
Upon standing up, Kermit suddenly fell backwards into the dusty wooden floor and began flopping like a chicken whose neck had just be wrung. Blade began to scream at the women, “You’ve killed him. You’ve killed him.”
In broken English, the women were ranting and raving, and the only words understood were “Don’t let him die inside here.” Blade then appropriately drug poor Kermit outside to the parking lot, while the women, one with a broom, stood at the door watching. When Kermit jumped up suddenly and started wildly laughing at the women before he leaped into his vehicle to leave, words that were undistinguishable, but surely not appreciable by the Pope in Rome, were spewed from the mouths of the two dark-haired women.
Yes, there are plenty of stories of interest that involve many other of the “Porch Sitters,” but their tales will just have to wait. After all, there is only so much space in this newspaper.
In the meantime, let me warn you. Blade died many years ago, but Kermit still exists. Therefore, I wouldn’t be hitchhiking anywhere near Logan. After all, all of the “Porch Sitters” possessed pocket knives, and all were sharpened on the concrete company store porch.