“Floridays” and a Festive Flock of Old Friends

Author’s Note: This picture made its way to me through email, the Simmons Family, formerly of Monterey Drive: Mother Doris, son Max, and daughter MaryLu…. their exodus from SAHS was in the early 70s. Their father, Paul, passed away many years ago. We had a special connection as I grew up, and he is the subject of the below poem, “Heroes.” Around ’82, my graduation date, he wanted to see Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson in concert. He respected and was a fan of their song writing talent, but was no longer comfortable making the drive. I nervously took on the task. Because of my inexperience he had to climb more stairs than necessary, and had to rest before we made it to our seats. That hurt me. But we ultimately had a wonderful time and the memory, like so many others, is cherished. Peace, A.S  

2014-12-25 Simmons crew

Josh (Maggie’s husband) and little Max, Maggie, Max.
Second row–Jan with Madeline, Doris, MaryLu and Alex Kinlaw and Rob (Maggie and Rob are Max and Jan’s children).
This will be the first opening day you’ve missed since 1911.
You with your infinite wisdom – me just a boy who thought Mays was the one and only.
But you had seen them all – Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle…
I had seen the Reds once and could remember Rose # 14 through heavy binoculars, and it stuck with me… like a dream that wouldn’t die.
I remember walking down our street when I was young, fireflies glowing, crickets chirping, and there you would be, always, listening to your little transistor – to the game – smoking cigarettes, maybe having a beer.
We’d talk pennant race, those dreadful Dodgers, or basketball – West was always the greatest.
I acted like I knew everything – so you gave me a Guinness Book of World Records and Sports Almanac 1974  to get my facts straight. This just fueled my fire.
Your son was my idol too, he played hoops like a lion, fearless yet graceful – I hoped I would rate.
Ultimately though, it was your daughter’s music that we both gravitated to… as I grew up and you grew old.
You wrote songs though the music was in your head, poems sometimes as long as Kubla Khan, and stories that would make Twain smile like a river pirate in a stolen boat.
Though you eventually quit, cigarettes haunted you till you were like a skeleton fighting the wind. Seeing you gasp for oxygen hurt, and I became aware that death hid like Satan himself in the burning white sticks you always held.
I’ve been to many parks and stadiums now: Kansas City, San Diego, Denver, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Charlotte, New Orleans…
But I’ll never enjoy a ballgame more than I did listening to the Big Red Machine: Bench, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, Foster, Griffey, Geronimo…
Swatting mosquitos, sitting on the porch with an RC, laughing under a summer moon, with you, Simmons.
By Andrew Spradling
First printed, The Kanawha Review 1991
Printed Shelton College Quarterly 2014

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