Last Thursday, at high noon at the Freeland Café, I had the pleasure of sharing a great brunch, a little time and a lot of sarcasm with four gentlemen whose combined ages exceed 357 years.
I felt like a kid in a wisdom store.
Not only were these guys sharing incredible anecdotes about themselves, they were sharing stories about Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and Red Skelton, just to name-drop a few.
Who needs Wikipedia when you are sitting around a table with a living American history text?
You could name this luncheon seminar after that Richard Brautigan poem, “Old Farts at Play.”
It’s much easier to laugh with vegetable soup in your mouth than a cheeseburger.
I wish I could remember everything that I heard, but then I would not be able to enjoy the same stories next week.
In addition to hearing, mobility and other health issues, this front foursome of fearlessness has several things in common.
They are all bright men.
They are all successful fathers.
They are all honored veterans of World War II.
This four-pack of life experiences includes gentlemen who are light-hearted, but not heavy-handed.
They have all traveled the world.
They have replaced the expression “been there, done that” with “have I told you the one about …?”
They have all eaten lots of Spam and oatmeal.
All four of them still eat oatmeal.
On this, the first day of spring, I want to honor the many of you, who, like the four horsemen of oatmeal, still have a little spring in their step.
While the 1906 American expression “spring chicken” is derived from the 1730s’ English phrase “she’s no chicken,” I saw no slowing down in this quartet of quintessential storytellers.
At least, not until we all tried to see who was going to pick up the tab.
Five customers, five checks.
Thank you, Ursula.
That meant five separate trays as well.
It is surely no coincidence that we honor these four local legends on the first day of spring, for the durability of these men reminds us of the great Tom Spring.
If you weren’t around in 1824, Tom Spring was the English heavyweight champ whose “punch could not dent butter” but whose swift left jab knocked out Irish champ Jack Lanagan in the seventy-seventh round at the first championship fight that utilized “boxing stands” for the spectators.
The Spring-Lanagan bout, held near the outskirts of Worcester, England, seated 4,000 fans at 10 shillings a seat, with another 20,000 standees watching.
Spring’s take for the seventy-seven rounder was the equivalent of $27,000 plus five grand for his share of the grandstand seating revenue.
That works out to about 1,710 schillings per round, plenty of loot for Tom Spring’s chicken feed.
When Spanish-born philosopher and poet George Santayana gave his final lecture at Harvard, he stopped mid-sentence as he noticed a forsythia beginning to bloom in a patch of muddy snow outside the classroom window.
Stopping abruptly, and with a noticeable spring in his step, Santayana picked up his gloves, hat and walking stick, and headed for the door.
Before exiting, the professor turned to address his students: “Gentlemen, I shall not be able to finish that sentence. I have just discovered that I have an appointment with April.”
Make that March, George, make that March!
Jim Freeman can be reached at email@example.com.