3 Friends

by Arnold Nelson


A friendship that has spanned over 50 years.

This is a story about my friends, my friend Bill, my friend Alan, and me. The three of us have been friends for over 50 years. I met Bill in 1963 we were starting at Cope junior high school ( now called Cope middle school.) We were in the seventh grade. We had just graduated from elementary school. You never saw two different people. Bill was one of the biggest kids in the class. He was at least a foot taller than me and probably weighed twice what I did. I was one of the smaller kids in the class. I've often wondered how people become friends. Bill and I had almost nothing in common yet we became friends and we still are best friends.

I remember one time and in gym class. We have some extra time so coach let us pick wrestling partners. I picked Bill. He got down on the mat I got above them and when the coach blew the whistle. Bill flipped us over. He was laying on top of me, I could not move. I think it was the shortest match in wrestling history.

I was remembering another gym class. I was captain of the basketball team and Bill was on my team. We played for a while and this black kid kept cheating and getting me upset. Finally as I was about to tell him off. Bill whispered "Take it easy Arnie, he'll beat you up." It finally got to the point where the black kid said "Do you want to fight?" I didn't even think about it I just said "No, you would probably beat me up and you would still be a liar." He did not know what to say, so that ended it.

In 1966 we were starting high school and there was a new kid in town. His name was Alan. He was about average weight and average height. Alan was what they call today a "nerd." we got along very well, I spent a lot of time at his house. I got to know his parents pretty well and his little sister. I almost never had anybody at my house because I came from a big family with very little money and I guess I didn't want people to know how bad things were at my house.

In 1968 they had the world's fair in San Antonio Texas. Alan wanted to go to it in the worst way. He wanted me to go with him and do part of the driving. We talked about it several times but I was never that interested. One of the reasons was because I never had any money. I think the talks ended one evening when Alan's father talked to us. He said "Alan you have had a lot of practice driving in city traffic, Arnie has only driven around the small city, I don't think it would work too well." so that put a stop to Alan's ideas.

One time Alan got this new close-up camera lens. He told me to stand against the wall he put the lands right up to my eye and told me to close my eye. I did, he wasn't happy with that. He said next time close your eyes as slow as you can. I did and he said was one of the neatest things he's ever seen.

One time Bill came up to me all excited. He said "Arnie I learned to smoke." I said "What's so good about that?" 50 some years later Bill told me I was right there is nothing good about smoking. Bill still smokes and wishes he could quit.

After high school I got a job as caretaker for a lady that live just out of town. It was not much of a job and I was not much of a caretaker, but it lasted until I went in the Air Force. During that time Alan like to go to Los Angeles and he liked to have me come along with him.

I remember one trip, we had to stop at a shopping center on the way. Alan was a big Dark Shadows fan and he did not want to miss it. So he pulled a chair up in front of a TV in the shopping center an sat down to watch Dark Shadows. I don't remember what the people working in the store said or thought. I just walked around and looked at other things while he watched show.

Another time Alan wanted to get one episode of Dark Shadows. This was long before VCRs, DVDs and CDs. We went to the office of the people that owned Dark Shadows. They refused to sell him one episode. I'm sure he has the whole series now. He always thought he was part vampire.

Another time Alan wanted to stop at the NBC studios so we did . As we walked in he whispered to me "Just act like you belong there." We walked in walked around no one said a thing to us. We walked through one door and all of a sudden we were at Johnny Carson's tonight show studios. It was pretty neat walking around on stage there.

Another time I was busy so he went by himself. I sure wish I could've gone with him that trip. That was the day he met Angela Cartwright. All the boys who were born in the early 50s were madly in love with Angela. Alan got his picture taken with Angela. He showed it to me when he got back.

July 1970 came and Air Force called and said they had room for me. So I was shipped off to San Antonio for basic training and in Wichita Falls for tech school.

When I got back in March 1971 I was stationed at Norton Air Force Base just a few miles from where I grew up. I got back in touch with Bill and Alan. There were going to Valley college then. Alan was making a movie, he got his sister involved and he got a few other Valley kids involved. The seven of us used to hang around a lot and have a lot of fun together.

After Bill and Alan left Valley, Alan went on to college in Northridge California and then finished his education in Boston Massachusetts. Bill just sort of disappeared. I found out later he was in a drug scene in San Francisco California. Friends had gotten him into having sex with other men. After a few years Bill was able to crawl out of the drugs scene. He was putting his life back together. He told me it wasn't until years later when he found God, that he gave up having sex with men. Unfortunately Bill's only brother got involved with drugs too. He was not able to get himself out. And the drugs killed him. He was only 47.

Bill had a big apartment in an old house on Grant and Olive. He worked for an antique dealer for a while and anything that dealer didn't want he brought home. He had an apartment full of antiques. That apartment building has a lot of memories for me. My grandparents used to come out for the winters and one year they stayed in the same building. Another time one my sisters and her first husband rented the same apartment for a couple months. The owner wanted to tear down and rebuild it. The city said no, its a historic building we can't let you tear it down. So the owner just let it sit there. Last time I saw the building it was leaning and just about to fall down. Bill told me he was the last to move out. Bill told me recently that the city came up with some money and are putting a new foundation on the building and they're going to get the building back up code again. He said that if they make apartments again he would love to move back in there.

Bill now lives in a mobile home that belonged to his mother and he works for a rest home. I believe he handles the books for them but I'm not sure.

I am almost got married once but it didn't work out. It turned out she was never divorce from her first husband. After she left me I got stationed in a place called Goose Bay Labrador. I kept in touch with her little sister. She is the one that told me my x was pregnant with twins and I was a father. I was ecstatic. I love kids and to find out I had two of my own I couldn't think of anything better. The next letter said the babies were born they were twin girls and doing fine. About six months later I got a phone call one night from the little sister. She said the state was taking the kids away and could I come down to see if I could do anything. So I took an emergency leave flew all day. Got to Sacramento about two in the morning. Got a room got about four hours rest and got on the first bus headed north.

I was up at her mother's house about 10 in the morning. Were they glad to see me! Her mother took me around to the caseworker. The caseworker showed me everything they had. I said "I agree with you completely." She said "If you knew what kind of a mother she was why didn't you do something." I said "I've been stationed out of the country for six months I have about five more months to go. I was planning to do something when I got back." Then the caseworker said something that broke my heart. She said that the girls' mother put on the birth certificates that the man she was living with was the father. In the 1970s the father didn't have many rights when it came to babies and she just took away the few rights I did have. I got to go to court the next day. All they could talk about was the son from her previous marriage, how much they would like to have him back, they did not seem to care at all about the girls. So the girls were put in foster care, I left right after that decision. The boy was no relation to me so there's no reason for me to stay. They lost all three kids which is what I expected. The foster family gave me a chance to see the kids. I saw the girls once just before I left the area. I tried to take some pictures but my camera would not work. So I never got pictures of them. They were left alone in the foster home next to a swimming pool and they both fell in and drown just before their second birthday. I lost those girls, but I am a very happy man, God in his infinite mercy gave me two more girls. In 1990 I became godfather to my niece's daughter. That was one of the best things I've ever done. A little over two years ago she had her own daughter. I get to call her my granddaughter. So now I have two girls again.

When I got out of the Air Force in July 1974 Alan was going to school in Boston. My first stop after my discharge was Boston. I spent a few days up there with Alan, we had a great time. Then I went to Disney World and then came back out to California. It is not easy starting life all over again after four years in the Air Force. But I survived. I am retired now. I never stayed long enough to get a retirement so all I have a Social Security. It pays the bills but not much more. My brother gave me a place to stay is not much but it's a roof over my head.

After Alan came back to California. He got married. They had four kids. A girl, a boy, then two girls. That marriage fell apart a few years after the last girl was born. He married another girl in Phoenix. Alan called me one night just before he was going to get married the second time. I guess he wanted his son to be best man, but his son wanted nothing to do with the second wife. Alan asked me if I would be best man. I agree. It was a nice wedding, I enjoyed myself there. They have a boy of their own now and they are very happy together. Alan spent his life working with computers. Now he is starting to have problems with Alzheimer's. He still working but I don't know how long he'll be working.

Bill, Alan and I have been through so much together in the last 50+ years it just amazes me. Our friendship is just as strong today as it has always been.

I love you both, Bill and Alan. I could not imagine my life without you. Thank you for being there and thank you for being my friends all these many years.

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