Saturday, February 09, 2013

The LuLac Edition #2354, February 9th, 2013


Yesterday afternoon I found out about the passing of a person I grew up with in the Junction section of Pittston. Tommy Garretson was three years older than us and mentally challenged. He wasn’t into sports in the sandlot at the park off Cliff Street but could usually be heard critiquing us as he sped by on his bike. 
As we became aware of pop culture, so did young Mr. Garretson. The indelible reach of Television back then had no discrimination as to who it reached and how it touched them. Kids were impressionable. Our neighborhood was no exception. It just reached us in various degrees. 
When the “Tarzan” movies were on TV, Tom would go through the neighborhood doing a yell that might make Johnny Weissmuller green with envy. When Batman came on the scene, Tommy donned a white towel and rode that bike screaming the theme. The Beatles “She Loves You” gave him the opportunity to add to his repertoire. As he walked somewhere with his mother Lulu and father Denny, he belt out the lyrics to “She Loves You”. (By the way, it was 49 years ago tonight that the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan). 
My wife asked me today whether we ever made fun of Tommy in the neighborhood. I’m sure people might have but not in our circle because he could do things we were dying to do. Our parents told us that he could do it because he was “special”. So instead of making fun of him, I think we elevated him to a legendary neighborhood character. When we would get together years later, he always came up in our conversations. Fondly. 
As we grew older, Tommy was still a presence in the neighborhood. But he became much bigger and stronger than us. Any kid with sense knew that it was time to navigate this relationship carefully. One time I was coming out of Draus’ Variety Store and Tommy pulled up on his bike.  He was in a sour mood because someone had made fun of him singing the newest Beatle song, “All You Need Is Love” My sidekick that day, Jerry Fitzpatrick (a good friend and a Junction boy) said, “Change the song. Say to them, “All You Need is Tom”. He thought about it a while and then rode away on the bike singing “All you need is Tom”. 
Years later, (about 1989)  I saw Tommy on Public Square, thin, medicated I think, and sad. Or maybe I was sad thinking back to those days as I saw us as adults. I came up to him and said, “Junction”. He smiled and said, “Junction”. He then called me Fitzie but I never corrected him. It was the last time I saw him but certainly not the last time I mentioned his name. 
When my friend Bruce Prandy e mailed me yesterday  that he had died, the first thing I thought of was those Beatles songs. And as anyone will tell you, with the Beatles, “All You Need Is Love” or in our case, “All You Needed was Tom”. He was 61 and living in Assisted Living. He’ll was buried at St. Mary’s Help of Christian Cemetery on Chapel Street in the Junction. About a stone’s throw away from where he rode that bike and sang those songs.


At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Junction said...

Dave, on behalf of all the other kids who lived during those memorable times I applaud you on your kind words about Tom. I cherish the fact of having such a strange friendship with Tom as most of the other kids had at that time.I can now say that I am proud to have known Tom for what he was. Even though as a young neighborhood kid we did not look at it in that light. That was just "being from the Junction".It is still to this day when people find out that you were from the Junction section(north end) of Pittston they sometimes stepped back a step or two. Maybe they felt that the Junction boys were not to be hassled in any way,till this day.
Long live the fond memories of all this and especially Tom Garretson on his day of burial.

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn Yonki - you nailed it.

Touching, poignant without being sappy.

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, you have a way of making people think they were there with you and the guys. Not sure if you know it but the Walsh Administration rebuilt the park you refer to and gave it a walking track surrounding the newly installed soccer field and small swing type area on the upper side. The walking track also gave the option of walking up the side of the hill making it a cardio walk. Mayor Tom Walsh honored former Pittston Shop Teacher Mr. Clark by naming that park The Clark Park. Mr. Clark was a good friend of my father so I was not just pleased but proud of the park being named after such a great man. Mr. Clark always took time to tell me of the ball games on the Junction flats with my father at his side. There are a thousand stories about the Junction and as the late Spike Collins was fond of saying, "It was The Junction Against the World." Your trip to the past with Tom ranks right up there.
Wil Toole

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every neighborhood had a Tommy Garrison. Ours was Teddy Pope. It is instructive how other kids reacted to the behavior. And it is significant that Mr. Garrison is remembered not as an object of pity or scorn, but as you say with fondness. Apparently those parents of the "non special" kids in the Junction raised all of you very well.

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice... just plain nice.

At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Dave.
We too had a "Tom" character in the neighborhood. Cruel as kids could be, we all seemed to understand that this was a special
situation and a special person. We all, as I recall,reacted well and learned a few lessons along the way. That was back when kids had to go out and experience growing up and life long before personal computers and facebook.
Again, very nice remembrance

At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Marion said...

I agree with the commenter who said, "touching, poignant without being sappy." A lovely tribute to an innocent soul.


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