I mentioned one of my old friends the other day, and today I'm wishing a happy birthday to another one, Fred Williams (that's him on the left; he looks just the same now), who happens to be a couple of year older than I am. I don't know exactly when Fred and I became good friends, but it was probably around 1955 when we were both attending the meetings of the Methodist Youth Fellowship on Sunday evenings. It wasn't that we were extremely religious guys. There were other attractions.
After MYF and church every week, a bunch of us Methodists would pile in cars and drive to The Lake, which was our name for the Fort Parker State Park. The attraction of The Lake was the clubhouse, which had and inside dance floor and a dance pavilion. You can see a bit of the pavilion in the photo. It had a wall on three sides, and a speaker hung over the center of it. The speaker was wired to the world's greatest jukebox, or that's what I thought it was.
I wasn't much of a dancer. Fred was a lot better, but he wasn't much more aggressive with the girls than I was. So we spent a good bit of time sitting on the wall, watching other people dance, listening to the small lake waves lapping on the shore while the Platters sang "Twilight Time," and talking. We both liked to read, we both liked rock 'n' roll, and we both felt a little sheepish about sitting on that wall.
Another thing we discovered was that we both liked to play a domino game called 42. So did a couple of others in the group, Bob Tyus, whom I've already written a little about, and Richard Perkins. We played a lot of 42 at The Lake after that, although not on Sunday nights. We'd go out there on other nights and play 42 in the room you entered to get to the dance floor of the clubhouse, which is where we'd hang out on Sunday evenings when the weather was too cold to go outside. There was one small table just right for 42 in the entrance room, and the people who ran the little snack bar in there had dominoes we could use. Those Sunday nights and the 42 games were some of the best times of my life.
Fred and I did get dates now and then, and I've written about how he and a girl he was dating got me a blind date with Judy. If Fred had never done anything else for me, I'd be in his debt forever just for that.
Fred and Bob and I bonded even more when we discovered the Kingston Trio. We loved the sound of that group, and like thousands of other kids at that time, we bought guitars, learned three chords, and started picking and singing together. We weren't much good and either the picking or the singing (Fred was the best), but we had a great time. We even performed a few times for local civic clubs. Our comedy act was great even if our singing and playing weren't.
When Fred went off to college, we wrote regularly, and he came home often. When I went to UT to grad school, Fred was already there, on his way to getting his doctorate in management. He and his cousin Paul used to come over to Judy's and my apartment on Sunday afternoons to watch the Dallas Cowboys and drink Mai Tais. After we got our degrees and went our separate ways, we stayed in touch through old-fashioned letters, and now we're emailing almost daily. We don't see each other in person often, but I think we're as close as ever. One of the things that makes me happy is that friendships like ours can endure for a lifetime. Happy birthday, Fred!