August 26, 1967 was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It was the day I met Alice. She was 17, just going into her senior year in high school. I was 19, home from my freshman year at Drexel in Philadelphia. My friend Jim was dating her sister Barb, who he had met earlier that year. They introduced me to Alice when we went on a double date to a lake in Pinchot Park, south of Harrisburg.
Coop and I were working at the Shop. That’s how our family referred to the family business, MiKar Manufacturing company, named after my brother and me. It was mind-numbing repetitive work. Coop quit working there when he got a better job working for the State of Pennsylvania. That’s where he met Barb – it was in an elevator, or a parking lot, I forget which.
That was one crazy summer. I was madly smitten with Alice from the day we met. She was my first girlfriend. I went back to school in Philadelphia a few short weeks after meeting Alice, but came home most weekends to spend time with her. It was a two hour trip by train or bus, longer if I hitchhiked.
My mom started giving me grief for spending too much time with Alice and told me to stay in Philadelphia and focus on school. I came home anyway, often hitchhiking, staying somewhere else. I remember sleeping on the couch at the house of my best friend Dennis.
In January 1968, I got my first co-op job with Bell Telephone Co. in Harrisburg, renting my own apartment in the north end of town. Alice and I were together frequently for six months. The following September, I convinced her to come to Drexel in Philadelphia. I don’t think her heart was ever really in college, but she and I were together constantly until December.
January 1969, I started my second co-op job in Rochester, NY. Denis, Alice and I drove up there together, and the two of them returned to Philadelphia. She flew up to visit me one weekend. I flew to Philadelphia to visit her on Valentines Day. That’s when she broke up with me.
I was devastated, more crushed than I ever remember feeling. I returned to Rochester and stumbled through life, living in a house with four other guys, working at a job that was not very interesting. It was cold, dark, and I would walk to work over icy sidewalks. All I could think about was Alice. Walking home from work, the ice on the sidewalks had melted, and I would dream that she would be waiting at the house for me. Sometime in March, I received a letter from Dennis saying he and Alice were together. I went berserk.
That’s when I started smoking. I got drunk a lot. Several times I disappeared on weekends without telling anyone where I was going. One Thursday evening, I recall wandering aimlessly in south Rochester, figuring I was going to skip town and disappear. Somehow I ended up in Washington, D.C., probably by hitchhiking. I remember going to visit Fast Eddie, who managed a strip club. Then I went to visit my friend Mike from high school, who was attending George Washington University. Sometime during that weekend, I decided to return to Rochester.
The six months that followed were difficult times for me. Thinking about them is still painful. Even now, nearly fifty years later, as I am writing, I feel these feelings. They hurt.