Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

The Girls from Santo Tomas

Friday, June 7th, 2013

 

 

 

The Girls from Santo Tomas

The war was over; peace had returned to the land.  The soldiers framed their medals and ribbons and hung them on the wall, turned in their arms and turned to the plow, the factory, or school. Mothers came home from the factory and shipyards and turned to the kitchen and office jobs.  Birds were singing again, children played in the streets and all was well in the land.

The government thanked the victorious warriors by sending them to college.  The colleges thanked the government by increasing tuition. All was normal again, capitalism recovered its rightful place, and any pool of money was quickly slurped up.

I got my share too. Returning to Stanford in spring of 1946, I had two quarters to complete, so there I was, living again, with my sister, brother-in-law and three nephews, drawing tuition and some living allowance under what was known as the G. I. Bill.  Though I returned from the war in October, I had been delayed in enrolling, for I had accumulated some one hundred days of unused leave in The Marines but could not use the government assistance until those one hundred days passed.

The house was on Ramona Street in Palo Alto, a half-block fromCalifornia Avenue. At that time California Avenue had a railroad crossing from the west, and a bus route traveled from west of the tracks, east to Middlefield Road,  north to University Avenue, then west through the shopping district, across El Camino onto Palm Drive of the campus, heading for The Quad with that great view of the Stanford Chapel in the distance. I had no car so this was my weekday route to the campus.

Occasionally two girls got on the bus shortly after I boarded, also headed for the campus. They were very pretty, and one, Shirley Silen, was a really sexy blonde with a slim waist, a full bosom pressing against that buttoned blouse, and legs that wouldn’t quit.  The other, Betty, a brunette, was O.K., but that blonde – wow!  We soon got acquainted and I found out they had been living in thePhilippines, where their father, Bert, owned a radio station. When the Japanese took overManila, their family, along with some four thousand other non-natives, was interred in the Santo Tomas University complex.  There they managed to set up their own government, teaching their children, and assigning duties, including some agriculture.  But their captors treated them badly, segregated the sexes, broke up families and many were killed or starved to death. The Allied invasion of thePhilippinesfreed them.

Six months later I was a free man with an accounting job, a new apartment in Menlo Park, a used LaSalle automobile, and a bevy of friends partying every weekend.  I call those my “Salad Days” – a time to play before looking for a wife.  But I kept thinking about Shirley, so one quiet evening I phoned their home and asked for her.  I was told she was not in, and that I was talking with Betty, who asked what I wanted.  I replied I wanted to take Shirley to a movie, with which Betty immediately said she would go with me. What could I do?  I was cornered, so the two of us went out. And a while later we went out again, but when I tried a little smooching, preparatory to necking and who knows what else, I was promptly rebuffed, and told that I should have dated Shirley – “she likes that kind of thing”.

Oh Lord, how could things have gone so wrong?

I took Betty out a few more times; she was more like a sister and I enjoyed her company.  One evening when I arrived for a date, she invited me in.  This was the first time I met her parents.  They were sitting around their dining room table having dessert, with which they plied me.  They had another guest – a wartime news announcer aboard battleships passing on to the troops the developments in the war and at home. He was of moderate build and spoke quietly, but then demonstrated his reporting voice, by speaking emphatically, in an octave lower, and in measured words, as did Edward. R. Murrow.  It was very impressive, as if God was speaking.

He then showed me a device lying on the table – he called it a recorder – a new invention on which you could record voice or music and then play it back. He asked if I would like a demonstration, and turned on a recording he had made a short while earlier at the table. We heard a gaggle of voices, like many people speaking at one time, the clink of wine glasses and laughter. Then the sound of a phone ringing in the distance, and a voice that sounded like Betty’s saying she would get it.

The chatter continued until Betty returned to the room and was asked who was on the phone.  Her reply, “George”.  “Are you going out?” “I guess so”, she answered, “but he is such a bore.”  Needless to say, I turned a brilliant red, and was speechless.  But so was Betty, who had not known the conversation had been taped.

Well, something had to be done about my reputation.  The next time we dated we joined my party friend, David Leonard, a WWII pilot, a bookkeeper with one of my accounting clients, and crazier than I, full of song, patter, and fun. Betty said it was the best time she ever had.

I still think about Shirley

 

George W. Parker

March 6, 2013

Yosemite Reservations

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

 

RESERVATIONS

            “Have you ever been to Yosemite?” she asked.

            “Oh, yes, several times,” I replied. “Once when I was very young, but I don’t remember. My father says we camped there.  But I’ve been there other times that I do remember.  Once, right after World War II, I went skiing there with two friends.  We stayed in a cabin that had a wood stove for heating, and I got a headache from blowing on the fire to keep it burning. Another time I spent a honeymoon there and also went skiing.”

            “What’s a honeymoon?  Is it yellow, like honey?”

            “No, it’s when you take a vacation trip after your wedding to get acquainted.  It’s what you should have done before you got married.  Why do you ask about Yosemite?”

            “I saw a show on television.  I’d sure like to go there sometime.”

            “Maybe your parents will take you when you get older.”

            “I don’t know.  They are always too busy.”

            “Well, you seem to be having a nice summer.  I see you riding your bike up and down the street, and you have lots of playmates.  I saw you trying to walk in high heels the other day.  Where did you get them?”

            “They’re my mother’s, and she was really mad at me.  Tell me about Yosemite”

            “One summer I was working in a logging camp up in the mountains, not far from Lake Tahoe. Have you been to Lake Tahoe?”

            “No, but I’ve heard of it.  Someday we’ll go there my mother said.”

            “Well, I was cutting down trees…”

            “Doris says you shouldn’t cut down trees.”

            “Who’s Doris?”

            “She’s my best friend’s older sister.”

            “Ask Doris if her house is made of wood, and where did the wood come from.”

            “Tell me about Yosemite,” she countered, apparently not concerned with ecology.

I continued my story.  “That summer two new college boy came up to work.  Every summer there was a need for more workers. That’s how I got my job, and because my father was the timekeeper in camp, so I had pull.”

            “What’s pull?”

            “That’s when you know the right people.  These two new fellows must have known the company president.  Anyway, these two fellows were brothers; Jerry and John Chamberlain, from Oakland.  They were both students at Berkeley.”

            “What’s Berkeley?” she asked.

            “That’s a University.  It’s called the University of California, and because it’s located in the City of Berkeley, it is sometimes called ‘Berkeley’, and sometimes ‘Cal’ for California.”  Someday you may go there.”

            “My dad says I’m going to USC, whatever that means.  He says he played football there.  Tell me about Yosemite.”

            “Jerry and John were both very tall, maybe six foot-six, and slim and strong. They were both blond.”

            “I’m a blond. I’m getting my hair fixed Saturday.”

            “Do you want to hear about Yosemite?” I asked, “Stop interrupting me.”

            “I’m sorry.” She answered.

            “These brothers had an air about them, not conceited, but more like assured of themselves, as in ‘born to the manor’, no, don’t ask.  I’ll explain that later. Me, I’m a short, little guy.  I had to use my wits to keep going.”

            “You’re a lot bigger than me.  I like your stories”

            “Going on, Jerry, the younger of the two, told me he had a girl friend from Cal who was working at Yosemite for the summer, and he would like to go see her. ‘The Fourth of July is coming and we’ll have a three day weekend.  Let’s spend it at Yosemite.’  I asked how we would get there, and he replied, ‘you have a car’.  I put to him that the car was a Falcon Knight and twelve years old, and I wasn’t sure it would go that far.”

            She broke in again, “A falcon is a big bird that flies very fast, I saw one on television.  It flew right onto a man’s hand.  Could your car go fast?”

            “Only at night,” I said, but she didn’t get the joke.

            “I suggested to Jerry that we could drive down to Sacramento Friday night…”

            “Where’s Sacramento?”

            “I’ll show you on the map someday, but now I want to get on with the story.”

            “In Sacramento we can stay in our family house, and hitchhike to Yosemite on Saturday morning.”

            “Doris says you shouldn’t ride in strangers’ cars.  They might hurt you.”

            “Doris doesn’t know that we lived in a different world then.  In those days we didn’t lock our house or our cars, and everyone was a friend.”

            “You’re funny,” she said “you’re fooling me.”

            “You want to hear the rest of the story?”

            “Oh yes, I won’t stop you anymore.”

            “Our Sacramento home was only a block from Stockton Boulevard, so named because fifty miles to the south was the city of Stockton.  It was a segment of State Highway Ninety-nine, that stretched from the Oregon border in the north, to the Mexico border in the south, so maybe they should have called it Mexico Boulevard, or Oregon Boulevard.  What do you think?”

            “I don’t know, maybe Mexican Boulevard.  I know the names of all the streets around here,” she answered.

            “Good,” I said,” So I bet you never get lost.”

            “I even know how to walk to school.”

            “Well, we got out on Stockton Boulevard, and stuck our fists up, like this, with our thumb sticking out.  Yes, just like that, but a little higher.  And it wasn’t anytime at all until we got a ride.  A man in a big sedan stopped and asked where we were going, and he said he could take us as far as Stockton.  Jerry got in the back seat where he could stretch his legs sideways, and I rode in the front.  That was a long time ago so I don’t remember what we talked about.  The highway went right through the center of the towns, so we got to see the  stores, and restaurants, and hotels, and movie houses.  There were no freeways then.  It was fun to see how each town differed.  Stockton was big, Modesto smaller, and Turlock, well, it was about like Modesto.  In Turlock, we had lunch at a diner.”

            “What’s a diner?”

            “A diner is a restaurant that also has a counter where you can sit down and eat.”

            “How many rides did you get?”

            “I don’t remember, but when we got to Merced, it took us a while to find the right highway to Yosemite.  It was really hot standing out in the sun.  We had our sweaters draped over our backs and the sleeves tied together over our chests.  We didn’t wear hats and our shaving gear…”

            “I like to watch my Daddy shave.”

            “Does he ever cut himself?”

            “I don’t think so.  He says it’s a ‘lectric razor.”

            “Well, I carried my razor in a little bag in my pocket, with my toothbrush and…”

            “Didn’t you have a suitcase?”

            “Oh, no, we travelled light.”

                        “One, two, three, three, two, one.  See I can count backwards.”

            “Yes, I see, but sit down and stop skipping up and down the steps so I can finish my story about Yosemite.”

            “We got to Yosemite around sundown. It was beautiful, seeing the sun shining on the great peaks and cliffs surrounding us.  We drove along the Merced River, and then past Bridalveil Falls, which we could see in the distance, but the driver didn’t want to stop.  Our destination was Camp Curry, with its hundreds of tents, tent cabins, wooden cabins, restaurants, a lodge, bears, and a big parking lot.”

            “Did you say bears?”

            “Yea, just keep food away from them and they’re no problem. We thanked the driver, who said his family was already there, and maybe we would run into each other again.  We got out of the car and took our bearings.”

            “What were your bearings?”

            “Oh, that just means we looked around to see where we were, and what was around us.  Jerry seemed to know where his girl friend worked, so he took off to find her. While I sat on a bench and watched the crowd of people strolling, running, cycling, licking ice cream cones, talking, laughing, and a few little ones crying.”

            “An hour had passed when Jerry returned.  He didn’t look happy.  His girl friend had a new boy-friend, and didn’t want Jerry around.  He asked her if we could stay where she lived, wherever that might be.  Absolutely not!”

            “She wasn’t very nice. I don’t think I like her,”  she pouted.

            “Our next step was to find a place to stay, so we went to a little office that said ‘reservations’.  We’d like a cabin for two nights, Jerry told the attendant. ‘Ha! said the attendant’, and then Jerry said we wouldn’t mind a tent.”

            “Don’t you know this is the Fourth of July weekend?  Everything has been booked since Christmas.”

            “This didn’t look good, so I asked if we could rent blankets.”

            “No blankets”, he replied “you’d do better to go to Merced.”

“It was getting dark now, so we did some planning.  We would go over into the woods by the cliff, rake up pine needles and cover ourselves.  But first, some dinner.  While eating, some people asked if we were going to watch the fire fall?  Fire Fall, I asked, what is that?

You’ll see, they said, and we followed them to a big meadow where crowds of people were sitting on the grass and some on chairs, they had brought.  It was dark, now, and someone in a loud voice shouted ‘let the fire fall’.  Then, falling off the top of this mountain called Glacier Point, was this fire that kept falling like a waterfall.  It was beautiful and exciting.”

            “Did the fire engines come?” she asked.

            “No, they did this on purpose.  They did it every night in the summer.”

            “Were you scared?”

            “Oh, no, we were a long way off.  It was very pretty.”

            “I want to see it when I go.”

            “No, they don’t do it any more. Doris decided there was a lizard, or something in the meadow that people might step on, so no one could go on the meadow any more.”   

            “I didn’t know Doris was ever there.  She didn’t tell me.”

            “I’m kidding,” I said, “I just used her name because she’s an ecologist.”

            “What’s an ecologist?”

            “That’s someone who wants to save the planet.”

            “Don’t you want to save the planet?”

            “Sure, but I want to have some fun while I’m alive.  After I die they can save the planet.”

            “You’re funny.” She said, “I have to go home soon.”

            “So, after the fire fall Jerry and I walked into the woods by the cliff, and though it was dark, we raked pine needles with out hands into a great big pile. Then we lay down on them and tried to cover ourselves with more needles. It was impossible, impossible.”

            “If Bambi was there, he and his friends would cover you up.”

            “Well, he wasn’t, and we were so cold we couldn’t sleep.  I tried every position, curled up in a ball, lay on my stomach; nothing worked, and Jerry had the same problem; we were freezing. Finally we decided to get up and walk around, maybe we would get warmer.  We walked over by the lodge, and what do you think?”

            “What?” she played along.

            “The door to the lodge was open; we went in, and there was a fireplace with glowing embers, casting their loving warmth into the room.  And there were two sofas facing the fire.  The room was empty, quiet and  dark, except for those beautiful coals.  We each took a sofa and dreamed, until activity in the room awakened us in the morning.”

            “The next morning we toured around the valley.  Mirror Lake ..”

            “Could you see yourself in the lake?” she interjected.

            “Of course,” I answered. “I could have shaved, but the water was too cold.  That was a long walk up to the lake and back, but we were strong, so then we hiked up to Vernal Falls, and then back toward Yosemite Village.  We walked all around the place that day, and then, that night, after everyone had left the lodge, we slept on the sofas again.”

            “Then, the next morning we got up early, got out on the road and hitch-hiked back to Merced, then to Sacramento.  We got in my old car, and drove up to Auburn, then to Georgetown, then, on rough dirt roads, back to the logging camp, and we lived happily ever after.”

            “There’s Joseph on his new bike.  He’s not supposed to ride up here.  Oh, now he’s headed back to his house at the dead end.  That’s a funny word, dead end.  I’ve got to go home now.  I liked your story.”

            “Don’t you want to hear more about Yosemite?”

            “Not now.  Maybe my father will take me there next year.”

            “Well, if he doesn’t, I’ll take you.”

            “Promise?”

            “I promise.”

            And as she skipped down the sidewalk toward her house, she stopped and shouted back, “Get reservations.”

George W. Parker

  ©  February, 2011

Apolonio

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

APOLONIO

I opened the letter, and read the words “one P please”. This is how Apolonio spelled his name, but I had faulted and given him an extra P. We didn’t correspond much; our acquaintance was mostly in person, and my fond memory of him persists to this day.

Ap, I will use this abbreviation of his name henceforth, was a teacher at Sacramento High School. He taught mathematics, but I knew him as a gymnastics teacher. It was routine in physical education classes to get a taste of all the sports, and I took a liking to diving somersaults, flipping around on the horizontal bar and the rings, so I joined the Gymnastics Club.

We met on Thursday evenings at the gym, perhaps fifteen of us. Ap gave us some instruction, but it seemed we learned more from each other and by trial and error. Error is not a good way to learn gymnastics, but we had no serious injuries. Ap was not a good teacher. He knew his subjects very well, but didn’t know how to teach, and had no concept of discipline. I took no math courses from him, but I recall visiting him in one of his classes one day on some matter. His class was in complete disarray; students walking around, talking, laughing, and seemingly unconcerned about quadratic equations.

He may not have been a good teacher, but he was intelligent and artistic. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology around 1924. He told me that his father had been a personal secretary to J.P.Morgan, and he inherited $100,000 dollars from his father’s estate. Sounds good, but the financial debacle of 1929 left him with very little. He said his first job was as tutor to Richard Smart, the son of the owner of the Parker Ranch in Hawaii, and later became a well-known Broadway entertainer.

I have no knowledge of what he did between the Parker Ranch and teaching at Sacramento High. I first met him in 1934. There was a mystery about his past – some rumor that he had been dismissed from teaching for some impropriety with a student, but he had been re-instated.

He had a pear orchard out of the town of Camino, near Placerville, about twenty acres on Cable Road, the road, that often paralleled the Michigan-California Lumber Company railroad, to the cable across the American River. He spent nearly every weekend there, improving it, adding to his house, reading and listening to music. He invited some of us students on weekends, riding up in his Buick convertible. He brought all the food and did all the cooking. He expected some work of us, but we didn’t contribute much. My favorite chore was splitting wood for the kitchen stove. He never finished building his house; it kept growing, another room here, another room there, not at all fancy or proper or sane. Lots of rugs around, lots of beds, lots of books, but apple boxes for book shelves, and no magazines were ever thrown away.

Ap had a strange gait and other body motions– rather feminine, and it took us a while to realize he was homosexual. I don’t know about my friends, but he never made advances towards me. I recall him standing nude in front of the fireplace after showering, toweling off. He was a handsome man with a beautiful body, but I was not turned on. The townspeople were aware of his character, and probably wondered why we young men were visiting.

I enjoyed Ap most when he and I were alone. He exposed me to a few cultural things I didn’t get at home; he painted, rather well, in oils; he listened only to classical music; he had visited Europe several times and showed me museum books he had bought. He listened to the Texaco radio presentation of the Metropolitan Opera every Saturday morning, and I had no option. He never stopped thanking me for placing a radio speaker in his outside work area. It wasn’t difficult –I merely fastened two wires to a certain two prongs on the amplifier tube, but he thought I was a genius.

After high school my visits with him were less frequent. My summers were spent in the logging camp of the company that had its headquarters in Camino. Occasionally, now, I would drive up alone or with a friend for a weekend. One time I arrived to find his sister visiting him from New York. She had spent the week there, while he, in Sacramento was teaching. She was distraught; the windows had no shades or covering. She had tacked sheets and newspaper over them. The house was well shielded by forest, and no other house within a quarter mile and she was alone with no company and not happy. Though little acquainted, I enjoyed her, but she left for Eastern civilization in short order.

On one visit, not having seen him for some time, he was in bad physical shape, and quite depressed. He had answered a personal ad in The Atlantic Monthly, and had gone to Texas to meet the person –he didn’t give me any of the details. He woke up in a hospital, his face smashed and ribs bruised. He said the police found him unconscious in the gutter. Being gay was a dangerous life.

At another visit, I was really surprised to find he was married. This didn’t make sense, and didn’t, even after he explained. One of our friends had gotten a woman pregnant. The friend was still a student in college, while she was an older woman, divorced from an ex-senator of California, and it would have destroyed his life to marry her. So Ap, in friendship, married her. The woman immediately got a divorce and was granted support for the baby. Though Ap continually got court orders to pay, he never sent a dime. The woman and her ex came up to Ap’s Camino house and cleaned it of all valuables.

Ap had a way of defying court orders. A stream separated his property and the water rights belonged to the Larson family farther down. Ap installed a hydraulic pump in the stream and day and night pumped water up to a tank on his property. Court orders told him to stop and desist, but he didn’t. Many years later I met Mrs. Larson at the State Fair in Sacramento, and I mentioned the incident. She didn’t remember, and had only nice things to say about Ap, which pleased me.

Ap was getting older; I was getting older, and married. I took my wife and children to see him, but he had two snarling dogs that cut our visit short. He was becoming a recluse, and probably needed the dogs for protection from vandals. There were other visits over the years, shorter, but I still enjoyed them.

Sometime in the late seventies I took Cari, my current wife, to see him. His house had been torn down and a new one erected. No one was there, but I knew it no longer belonged to Ap. Ap had a cousin, Libby Hatch, who lived near Sacramento, whom I phoned. She said Ap had deteriorated and was in an assisted living home near Placerville. Cari and I called on him there –a depressing residence. And he was even more depressed, though quite rational. He complained there was no one there he could talk with. We knew he enjoyed our visit, and it was therapeutic for me though I knew I would never see him again.

Within a year I received a letter from cousin Libby. Ap had died.

Ap was a combination uncle, friend and mentor to me. He stimulated my thinking and provided recreation for me and my friends. In retrospect, I sometimes think of him as a tormented soul. Those were not good years to be homosexual. Did he have choices? I don’t know. Did he influence others to try same-sex activities? Many years later I became acquainted with a woman divorced from René Coty, of the Coty perfume family. She said that she knew Richard Smart when living on the French Riviera, and that Smart was gay. Did Ap have any influence on Smart and other boys? I’ll never know, but Ap, you had a good influence on me.

George W. Parker
September, 2009

Kenny Beer

Friday, December 18th, 2009

KENNETH BEER

[WATCH THE BALL!

His first advice to me, and one that he repeated many times over the years, was “watch the ball until it comes off your racquet. Don’t worry about where you are going to hit it.” This advice from Kenny Beer never became automatic in my game, but when followed, it gave me a few points.

When Cari and I joined the Peninsula Tennis Club in 1994, Kenny was one of the first I played with. Other acquaintances told me he was famous, but I didn’t know much about him, so I suggested a singles match.

I won the first two games, and feeling that I was taking advantage of our age difference, my seventy five and his ninety, I told him I would take it easy on him. “Don’t you dare,” he replied. We finished that set and the next set without my winning another game. From then on, my play with him was always doubles.

For the next several years I played lots of doubles, not necessarily with Ken, but he was usually out there. One member, Larry Cook, began setting up matches every Friday with Kenny, and selected the players, but after about four years Larry retired to an assisted living home, so I took over setting up the play for the next few years.

Kenny lived alone in his home in Hillsborough, and pretty well took care of himself. However, his two daughters, Fran Kristofferson, of Palo Alto, and Dottie Lodato of Menlo Park (or Atherton) arranged for dinner to be sent to him each evening. His wife, Mavia, who was ailing about the time I met Kenny, had died a short time earlier. He had been very attentive to her care, but now his daughters, son John, and his tennis friends put him into good spirits and increased his playing time.

So, who was Kenny Beer? Born December 9, 1903 in Utah, he received a degree in mathematics from Stanford University. He joined the Army Air Corps and eventually joined Pan American Airways as a pilot, flying the Clipper sea-planes, and later doing training and assignment of pilots. He taught himself to play tennis during lay-overs, but it was after his retirement at age sixty that he took it up seriously. During the next thirty eight years Kenny won some seventy two national amateur titles in his age group, the last one at the age of ninety-eight in Boston.

Shortly after I took over arranging the matches, Kenny had his driver’s license revoked. He would never stop complaining about that “woman cop” who saw him make an illegal turn where there was no traffic. From then on, I would pick him up at his house and drive him down to the club. Usually I could come in an unlocked back door, search him out in the house, perhaps the shower, sit with him in the kitchen while he ate breakfast, usually soft boiled eggs, watch him meticulously rinse his dishes in the sink, find his tennis racquet and one can of balls, and off we went.

He preferred to leave the house through the attached garage door. He would raise it, then press the down button, and we would dash under the descending door, bending double to assure we would clear. It made me nervous, but more so to watch him, though he always made it. There were reminder notes all over the kitchen, written by his daughters, which he frequently forgot to read or follow, but he got along amazingly well. There were problems sometimes. If the back door was locked, I would go around the house knocking on windows and doors, shouting his name. A couple of times I could not locate him, so on return to the club I would phone Fran, and she would apologize for not having told me he was visiting her. Another time, after spending an hour searching for his hearing aids, we gave up, and solved the problem by shouting in his ear during the game.

My next door neighbor, Carol Archer, told me her son, Chris, who worked for KRON San Francisco’s channel 4, was always looking for new and different types of specials. I suggested Kenny Beer, and we arranged for reporter Vic Lee and his photographer to visit us at the Peninsula Tennis Club. Fran and Dennis Huajardo accompanied us on the court, and Kenny put on a good show for the news that evening.

My time with him alone was a pleasure. We talked about more than tennis. He loved to tell of his flying experiences, of flying the mail, of sunning on the beach with Lindberg during a layover in Honolulu, of rebuilding his fireplace to make it more efficient for his evening fires, the wood for which he split himself. His stories sometimes changed in the re-telling, but that’s O.K. We old people have that right.

One day, when picking him up, I saw this massive pile of dry eucalyptus logs on his drive. I asked how he was ever going to split it, knowing that dry eucalyptus was extremely tough. He told me not to worry. The next week the pile was still there, so I challenged him again. He went to his shop and brought out a chain saw, set a log on end and proceeded to saw down with the grain. Now!, I bleed, just looking at a chain saw, and I implored him to refrain. The next Friday I phoned him to verify our game. He said “not today.” His son was there with a log splitter and they would clean up the pile.

One Friday we were walking onto a court when he tripped over an uneven piece of sidewalk. He fell face forward, his right hand trapped under his racquet handle, and his face hit the racquet frame. All the courts emptied as the players rallied to his assistance, women consoling him and staunching and dabbing away the blood. Someone brought an office chair with casters and we rolled him to my car, where, with the top down so he could get in easier, I drove him to Peninsula Hospital. I turned him over to an orderly (you don’t hear that word anymore) while I parked the car.

Inside, it was wait until we had a chance to talk to admissions, then another wait for triage. Finally, when admitted, the nurse asked his age. When he replied, “Well, they tell me I’m ninety nine,” the nurse then spouted “My, you sure don’t look it.” Then she asked how he injured himself. He said, “Well, I was playing tennis.” Without letting him finish, she said, “What! You were playing tennis at ninety nine,” and called nurses and doctors in to see this exceptional man. One more question; “What medicine do you take?” “I don’t take any,” he replied. She repeated the question and he repeated his answer. Rather exasperated, she asked firmly “Don’t you take any medicine?” Calmly he answered “Oh, I take a vitamin pill.” He eventually went in for treatment and I stayed until a friend of Dottie’s arrived to relieve me.

Come December 9, 2003 Kenny turned one-hundred and he was given a great party at the club, with his children, grandchildren, other famous tennis players, and many of his friends from Pan American days. My contribution was singing a song about Ken that I had composed, with my wife, Cari, at the piano.

After his injury, the daughters sent Kenny to an assisted living home in Redwood City. He had told me of his daily practice of hitting the ball against a backboard. I visited his Hillsborough home and discovered a 4 X 4 piece of plywood fastened to his shop. I made him a new one, painted it, and his son fastened it to the fence at his new residence. And here is Kenny’s secret of success – practice, practice, practice. I wasn’t aware of what he could do on that backboard; a hundred, two hundred, and more, hits on the board without the ball touching the ground. He had perfect control of his shots.

At this time we also learned that Kenny would sit in the President’s box and be honored on the court at the U.S. Open in New York that September, 2004. So, again I got KRON to video Kenny using the backboard and talking about his son, John, taking him to New York. Another news feast for viewers.

We played a few more games in Burlingame, but in late November of ’04 I hit a short one to him across the net. He went for it, but stumbled and fell on his face. An ambulance took him to Stanford Hospital. I followed and Fran advised me that he was pretty banged up, but would recover. Recover, he didn’t, for he developed pneumonia.

Ken left the court on December 4, 2004, one week short of his one hundred and one birthday.

Kenny, listen! Here, once again is your birthday song:

KEN BEER BIRTHDAY SONG
12-14-03

YOU’RE THE TOP
I
You’re the top!
You’re the Col-os-se-um.
You’re the top!
You’re the Louvr’ Mu-se-um.

You’re a mel-o-dy -from a sym-pho-ny by Strauss.
You’re a Ben-del bonnet,
A Shake-speare Son-net,
You’re Mick-y Mouse.

You’re the Nile.
You’re the Tow’r of Pi-sa.
You’re the smile
On the Mo-na Li-sa.

I’m a worthless check, a total wreck,
A flop.
But if Kenny, I’m the bottom,
You’re the top

II
You’re the top!
You’re the cat’s pajamas.
You’re the top
You’re a panorama.

You have flown the world, Just skimming above the ocean.
And sometimes so low
You set the waves
In Mo—tion.

You chop wood

For your evening fire,
And it seems
That you never tire.

But tell that guy who dropped
That load of wood
On your drive,
Eucalyptus
Is not the kind of wood
On which you thrive.

III

You’ve got style,
And you really show it.
But, also, guile,
Your opponents know it.

When you drop that shot
Just across the net, it stops.
Or a lob to the base line
They’re sure is out
It’s not!–

I don’t watch the ball
Come off the racket.
And, oh, my serve,
I just can’t hack it

My shots go wide,
My games a crime.
Call a cop!
But Kenny, if I’m the bottom,
You’re the Top!

George and Kenny

Kenny Practicing

Backboard by George

Stanford Magazine Article Nov/Dec 2003

Vic Lee, Reporter Channel 4, and Kenny

Chanel 4 shoot at PTC

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George W. Parker

Burlingame, CA
October 2009