Christmas Day, 1964

            At eight o’clock on Christmas evening, WCAO radio returned to rock and roll from holiday, schmooze music. Well, this song was more a spoken poem. Imagine! A song title using the Beatles drummer’s name, but it wasn’t about that Ringo. The first time I heard “Ringo” by Lorne Greene, the gray-haired Bonanza man, I liked it, but knew I’d hate its overblown sentiments before it left the record charts.
            Nevertheless, I liked the simple choices “Ringo” presented in its cowboy dilemma. If only I could figure out my problem as directly.
            Damn! It’s Christmas night and I’m mad. I hear voices singing downstairs, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and my mother playing the old upright piano. I should be down there laughing and enjoying the holiday, but I just can’t!
            How would you feel if the admissions dean at Ignatius College said, “You have shown insufficient application. We have no place for you?” I thought with two state merit scholarships, even a dunderhead would overlook my erratic high school record and let me in.
            “Hey, grumpy.” My older brother came into our bedroom. “You’re missing some great treats. If you don’t come down soon, Barbara and Clara will eat what’s left.”
            “If it’s so great down there, Kenny, why did you come up?”
            He closed the door, then let the winter chill in when he cracked open a window. He lit a Marlboro, then blew the smoke to the outside.
            “Dad’ll kill you if he knows you’re smoking.”
            “True, yet,” Kenny took another drag, “he smokes and I sell them at the drugstore.” He took the pack and hid them under folded clothes in our closet.
            “If he finds them in there,” I pointed out, “we’ll both be in trouble.”
            “No way. He never comes into our room. If anyone finds them, it’ll be Mom and she’ll just tell me to be not to smoke in the house.” Kenny got a thoughtful look. “What’s so important, keeping you up here?”
            “Not much. I’m just sick of the holiday spirits.”
            “And.” Kenny rolled his hand, urging me to tell him more.
            “And I have English paper due the day we return to school. How to use logic in daily life? I’m trying to figure out how to get into college and out of here.”
            “I thought you were a shoo-in for that Catholic place.” Kenny finished the cigarette and put the filter in a small metal Chicklet box.
            I wasn’t about to tell him that fell through. “I’m having trouble writing the essay.”
            “You always do well in school. You’ll figure it out.” He opened the door. “But if you can’t, you can deliver newspapers full-time.”

Applying Logic to a Personal Problem

by Chester Almon


            If I had been accepted into Ignatius College, I would be set. Out of Patapsco, where strength was a man’s measure and into a world where brains mattered.
            Let me see how I can use logic to solve my problem—to get into college and out of the house.

Initial Attempt

            There was this character in a Perry Mason mystery that I read when I was thirteen who impressed me. She would lie in bed at night and go through in her mind what she wanted. Then she’d figure out what everyone else might do and make her plans before the others even started. In that way, everything was peaches for her.
            I tried to think my friends through in that manner. But I didn’t get too far. None of my friends, except Luke, had plans. It’s all for fun and, if something happens, react to it.
            Luke says that he’s going to a couple of business classes at Chesapeake Junior College. That way he can help his dad by doing the books while he learns plumbing on the job.
            For all my thinking about my friends, all I learned was that I couldn’t come to any conclusions that would solve my problem. I don’t intend to stay trapped in a nowhere place like Patapsco.
            Unfortunately, I don’t have a powerful psycho-historian like Hari Sheldon of Asimov’s Foundation to project my future. Instead, I hear Lorne Greene singing about Ringo’s one decision that fixes his problem. If only I could find that make-or-break decision for myself.

Second Attempt

            Let me try the great method of geometric proofs.
            GIVEN: A high school senior is successfully completing his courses. He has a checkered record. Sciences and maths in the 90s. English and social studies in the 70s.
            FIND: His future after high school.
            STEPS:                                                 REASONS:
            1. Apply to be science major.                 1. Normal for type.
            2. Take SAT and grades.                        2. Excellent SATs, earned credits.
            3. Interview with dean.                          3. School req’t.
            4. Show scholarships.                           4. Proof of smarts.
            5. Complete admission papers.             5. Refused admittance.


            No wonder I only got a 98 in geometry. I can’t construct a winning logic. My next logic step is to give up the impossible dream and accept what is inevitable.

Jan. 5, 1965

It was 26 degrees with a brisk north wind when I got off the bus across the street from Lincoln’s store. Instead of heading home immediately, I went over to our hangout to warm up and see what was going on with my pals.
A jangle of bells greeted me when I swung open the corner grocery’s door. Mr. Lincoln half stood up from his stool, saw it was just a kid, and returned his attention to a sheet with numbers on it. “Downtown” was playing on WCAO. Ace gave me a nod, then shot a ball into the pinball machine.

Classic Bingo Style Pinball Machine

I went over to watch Ace’s game. He needed the land the ball in the 16 slot. That would give him five-in-a-row, adding 96 games to the 8 he had already earned. Lincoln paid off at 100 games with 5 cents per games earned.
Trying to land the 16, when the ball hit the elastic bumper, Ace popped the machine edge with his palms. But the tap was too hard. The game tilted out. Over. His chance for 5 bucks history.
“Damn machine,” he said. “He’s made it tilt too easily.” He shrugged his head toward the store’s owner. “Say, you got a dime? I need a Coke. That was my best shot all afternoon.”
I shook my head. “All afternoon. You didn’t go to school?”
Ace shook his head. “What are they going to teach me I can use? I know how to read and write and count my winnings. What else is there?”
Telling Ace about my C+ paper wouldn’t help. “I’ve got a similar problem. What to do when school ends this year?”
“For me, that’s easy. Got me a jackpot that’ll keep me flush. Course, got to stay out of jail and find a delicious squeeze. For you, figure it out yourself.”
When I got home, I pulled out my essay to see what red comments Mr. Royal made. On the last page, he clipped on a note.
            Mr. Almon, a good effort but short of the mark. You’re too absolute in your intention, then didn’t consider alternatives, but gave up. Very few students get full scholarships with room and board. Use your partial scholarships at a local college or a community college. Live at home while you can. Your other goal can then be pursued.
            Your geometric style intrigued me. However, if you use that perspective in another assignment, you must write complete sentences in paragraphs.

a_banner1 Patapsco Days

2 thoughts on “Ringo

  1. Now that was a fun read!
    It reminded me of my corner drugstore where I saved my allowance and newspaper delivery tips to buy Davy Crockett cards. Not by the packet but by the boxful, in hopes of getting the complete collection.
    I would use the duplicates to play ‘closest to the wall’ in hopes of winning a card or two to complete any in my missing set. While waiting for the newspapers to arrive one day (prior to us folding them for our bike delivery), little did I know I’d be up against a pro who wiped me out!

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Danny. I didn’t know you delivered papers and used your earnings for important, frivolous pursuits, too. My routes were walking ones on city streets.

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