John Corson's Blog

WRITING & RANTING
for November 14, 2020

Jay Perkins and Friends

I was an awkward and somewhat ugly twerp when I was a kid. It didn't improve while moving into the teenage years. My awkwardness kept me from having a large, or even moderate amount of friends. In fact, I don't ever recall having more than two friends at a time, until late in my high school career.

As a first grader with fine red hair that made some kids think I was the devil or one of his agents, I had just one friend, Bobby Turbyfill. We just mainly hungout together as he, too, had red hair and was considered weird looking like me. As a six or seven year old, I did have one crush - Martha Ellen Haynes. She was a cute little blond girl with the nicest smile ever. She didn't like me and, in fact, was turned off by my hair and my overtures to her. Two boys, one a very stout and strong kid named Ricky Rickover, and the other was just a little fist-fighter who looked like dried up dog-poop with eyes and teeth, took up for her and beat my tail more than once and would warn me to stay away from her.

In the second, third and fourth grades, my closest friend was Steve Paradis, whose Greek family took me in as one of their own. He lived a couple of blocks from my house and each weekend was "hangout time." He was just three months older than I, but because of the school starting periods for 1st graders, he was a year ahead of me in school.

My family and I moved from the East End of Newport News up toward the Hidenwood section of the city while I was in the middle of the fourth grade. Needless to say, I had to transfer to a different school and, as the newcomer, was kept at a distance by the kids there. I started to make a few friends by the time I was in fifth grade, but, again, they were few and far between. I never got close to anyone of them. Up until the time I started high school, only Steve Paradis was in the loop as far as having close friendships are concerned. Although I had moved some 10 miles up the road, Steve and I would still rotate visits to each other's house at least once a month, but the distance had its negative affects and we just stopped hanging out together.

It wasn't until the spring of my Sophomore year that I was able to develop what I consider my first best friendship. By the time I entered high school my hair went from being short and stringy to curly and wiry. I was given a new name by kids and teens around me: "Brillo Pad." When I let my hair grow a little too much, I was called "Tumbleweed." Even the teens at my church (about 20 or so) thought of me as awkward, weird and too boisterous.

In January of my 10th grade year, Jay Perkins and his mother, Dallas Mounts (yes, that was her name), joined my church and within a few weeks, he started to develop a friendship such as I had never had since. Jay played the guitar, loved to play basketball (although he was too short to play on the high school teams) and he was a member of the Warwick High School Debate Team and as a Sophomore, he went to the state tournaments and was considered an "All-Stater."

Then came the cross-town busing desegregation order from the Federal Courts and every kid attending public schools in Newport News was thrown into chaos. I was uprooted from Ferguson High School, Jay from Warwick - but we both ended up together at Menchville High. Our Junior and Senior years were filled with adventures in like singing in the school and church choirs, performing comedy acts at school functions and musicals (we were known for our Smothers Brothers skits), and double-dating. Yes, by my eleventh grade I finally had a girl friend (as hard as that was to find). Even though I was going steady with a girl named Phyllis Bales in my junior year, it wasn't until we broke up and I started dating a girl named Suzanne Perry, that Jay and his girl (Cindy Longacre) would team up with us to double date.

I dated Suzanne for about seven weeks and then, she broke up with me saying that she was only using me to get her old boy friend jealous to where he would take her back. And they did get back together. I was broken-hearted all of 6 seconds as I never really let her in to my life. Then Cindy's good friend from Maryland came down for a couple of weeks and she put us together. I don't remember her name, but we went out two or three times and really enjoyed the time. Nevertheless, I ventured into my senior year, without a steady girl and buried my head into radio and baseball. When Cindy and Jay were not out together, I was with Jay. We were very good friends and could tell each other our deepest and darkest secrets.

Talking about girl friends and dates: I did have a somewhat active social life. In eight grade I went with a tall, skinny girl named Kathy Lewis. We were together for about six months, and not having a driver's license at that age, we mostly went to football games, movies and did a little ice skating. Of course, one of our parents had to be the taxi driver. In the summer going into my ninth grade year, I did something totally foolish that made every teenager I knew (or would ever meet back then) laugh. Because I dearly loved and admired my pastor, Wendell Baggett, I tried to emulate him. I even went so far as to cut my hair like him - a Flat Top! Yes, I maintained that old-fashioned hair style for about six months into my freshman year and a whole lot of kids got a laugh at my expense. That was alright for a while since the adults at my church loved the cut. At least they were not laughing. Wendell was a tremendous influence on me up until my last year in college. People would comment that to see me preach was to see Wendell preach. I had his mannerisms down pat, his facial expressions, his dynamics and style. By the time I was in my last year in Christian College, learning the art of preaching and Bible interpretation, I had decided to go a different way. I went to Seminary (which Wendell did not do) and the further into my education I went, the more I wanted to teach on the college or graduate school level. Needless to say, that was not Wendell's wish for me. He wanted me to graduate Bible College and get a two or three year youth ministry under some experienced pastor and then take a small church somewhere and work to build it.

Anyway, back to my freshman year, I let my hair grow back by Christmas time and as long as I didn't let that wiry hair grow out too far, I would get the attention of a girl or two. One such girl (who was actually eight years my senior) are Arlene Watson who, for some unknown reason, liked me and seemed to always follow me about. She was long graduated from high school, but we met in my church. She would always try to sit near or next to me in church. I thought it was strange and felt very uncomfortable around her as the other teens my age were watching and wondering about an older "woman" having me in her sights. Some even made fun, saying that I was dating my mother, or older sister. Strange as it may seem, Arlene was kind of like a mother in that she was always giving me advice and trying to turn me into some socially acceptable young man. No, Arlene and I never went out on a date and I certainly wasn't interested. Anyway, Phyllis came along in the summer going into my Junior year and basically saved me from a single life.

Back to Jay Perkins ... The two years we were best friends were the best I ever had with anyone other than my wife. We read each others thoughts, played music together and worked on skits and comedy routines. He also got me interested in debate and sponsored me onto the Menchville Debate Team. I had to drop out though due to my work schedule and other obligations.

The one thing that stands out about 1971 to 1973 was Popcorn, Sweet Ice Tea and Rummy. Occasionally, there was Monopoly too. Jay and I spent many hours playing gin rummy and we couldn't really focus without popcorn and tea. Jay would pop the corn and I would boil hot water with five Lipton's Tea bags inside the pot, then pour in the sugar, stir it up, let it cool down and then, back to the game. Jay was into David Gates and the band known as Bread. He had all their albums, in fact, I bought all of them for him for his birthday and Christmas. If we were at his house, he would put Bread on the turntable - all five albums. If we were at my house, I would play Top 40 or Jethro Tull and Yes. By the end of our senior year, Jay got into the Beatles. They had already broken up over 3 years before, but Jay got this bug biting him in the ass for the Beatles.

Then, came college. I was off to Georgia and Jay off to the University of Richmond to study pre-law. He was aspiring to become an attorney (which I think was inspired by his years on the debate teams). I, of course, was off to study for the ministry. We drifted apart. Although we caught up to each other over Christmas that first year, we didn't see each other until the summer when I came home for about ten weeks. Sometime between Christmas and that summer, Jay had been in a terrible auto accident in which the couple he ran into were forced into a concrete embankment and killed. Whereas the accident was unavoidable, Jay ran up an insurmountable legal bill to defend him against litigation from the family of the deceased. He had to drop out of college and about a year later, ended up in management for the Wendy's Fast Food Chain. I last saw him Christmas of 1976, while he was working and he treated me and my mom to Wendy's burgers, fries and a drink. I had taken Mom Christmas shopping as she didn't drive and I was her chauffer.

I never saw or heard from Jay again. A good friend of ours told me back in the mid 80's or so that Jay had worked his way up to District Manager and moved to northern Virginia and later I learned he was Regional Manager and moved to Maryland and then to Ohio. By 1990, neither Sammy Bridgeman or Gary Burch (both of our mutual friends from the teenage years) had not heard from or about Jay.

Jay is not on Facebook, does not have a Twitter account, cannot be found by classmates who are already working on the 50th class reunion coming up in 2022 or 23. No one knows where the heck he is. I even went to the website findagrace.com to see if he had died and was buried somewhere, but to no avail. Where are you, Jay?

Since my leaving for college, I have had a few close friends. There was my roommate Byron Duncan, a strange guy who played football and was from Cornelia, Georgia. He dropped out of school and I only heard from him once afterward. That was when he and my wife's once roommate's sister got married and my wife sung and played for the wedding and I was in the wedding party.

In Seminary I had a couple of friends with whom I had breakfast, classes and roomed with in the college dorms on Tuesday Nights when I had to stay over for early classes the next day. David Beavers was one such friend. He was much older than I and actually knew my preacher from when they went to college together back in the late 50's. David got me hooked on old-time radio shows from the 30's 40's and 50's, especially "Suspense" and "Escape." We would listen to E. G. Marshall's CBS Mystery Theater beaming down to Central Illinois from Chicago's WBBM with the lights out in the dorm room and afterward would talk about other mystery shows from the past.

When I moved to Maryland, my closer friends were church members, Marty Coffey, Larry and Billy Cornett and two fellow pastors Roger Marvel and Charles Dunleavy. Marty, Larry and Billy were bachelors (Marty would later find a bride) but the brother Larry and Billy, along with their two older brothers John and Arnold, Jr. were confirmed bachelors and still are to this day. Roger would move to Chesapeake, Virginia in late 1982 and I would catch up to him three years later when I moved there to pastor a church in the city. Charles was also a bachelor, originally from Portsmouth, Virginia and he would move back there to work for his father until I left a church in Norfolk and recommended him to take my place. He had just gotten married when he went to preach for the Ocean View Church of Christ. The marriage has lasted but his stay at the church did not. He ended up leaving the church about a year later and had split it in half. Later, I would go back to pastor to the remaining members, only to leave about a year later myself. The church closed up three years after that.

Roger's ministry with his church at Geneva Park in Chesapeake ended up on the skids and he was asked to leave. That contributed to his marriage failing and a divorce. We lost contact soon after. Strange thing though, Roger remarried and ended up back at that church as has been there for the last thirty years.

I have rarely let anyone close or near to me since I left the ministry the first time in 1993. The truth be told, church people cannot be trusted with the frailties of a pastor, who, like all people, have feet of clay. They do not understand how a man of God is not perfect. But, I will save this topic for another time.

Jay Perkins knew everything about me and I about him. And rather than judge each other over our faults - which were many - we would laugh together about those faults and move on. That's what friends do. The mutual respect for each other is unconditional. Something that in this political world in which we now live, is next to impossible to find. I am sorry I lost contact with him. I hurt over this loss. And, OH!, by the way, that fist-fighter that looked like dried up dog poop with eyes and teeth? You know, the one I said that beat the snot out of me over Martha Ellen Haynes - That was Jay! My how the world turns!

Jay Perkins, where are you?

Blog for November 13 Blog for November 16

Blogging

Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.