To historians and those folks interested in such things, Philadelphia is famous as home of the Liberty Bell and the Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin doesn’t diminish the city’s reputation, either.
While I’m interested in such things, too, the "City of Brotherly Love" is perhaps more widely known as the home of Dick Clark and American Bandstand, not to mention folks like Robin Roberts, Wilt Chamberlain and Chuck Bednarik. If you’ve not heard of those three, then I’d suggest your head has been buried in the sand for the past half century (or you simply do not care about sports).
I began thinking about Philadelphia again last week.
I get lots of emails – some from friends and family, a few regarding my recently completed book, some from readers of this column, as well as lots and lots of junk.
Last Thursday, however, checking the email sent my mind racing back a half century.
There it was, an email identifying the sender as "Richard Lindenmuth" and the subject as "Old Friend."
Could it be? Could it be the same Richard (or Rich, as he’s better known) Lindenmuth with whom I served in the United States Army at Fort Gordon, Ga. Back in 1966, That’s 50 years, folks, a half century.
Naturally, I went to that email immediately, opened it and to my joy, yes, it was Rich Lindenmuth. Like me, Rich was part of the 95th Civil Affairs Group at Fort Gordon, Ga. in 1966.
In his email, he said he’d looked me up on the internet and hoped the email address was current. He said I might not remember him, but he remembered a few things about me, such as I loved baseball and music.
I answered him immediately and he reminded me that I’d contacted him perhaps 30 years ago. He reminded me that I’d remembered his father was a Methodist minister and that I’d contacted him and he gave me Rich’s address. Rich wrote back on that occasion, but it was the last contact we’d had.
That is, until last week.
I told Rich that he was perhaps most responsible for me maintaining any semblance of sanity during that summer. It may not have been stretching the truth too far.
Each time I think about Rich’s email I remember more about those days at the Army post just outside Augusta.
I remember, for example, how both of us hated snakes, had a fear of them, as a matter of fact. Georgia is not a place to have a fear of snakes, especially when you’re sent out on bivouac to some isolated area of the backwoods. (We solved that dilemma by pitching our pup tent outside, then sleeping on our air mattresses in the back of his three-quarter ton mail truck.)
I remember our many afternoons of tossing a baseball or football back and forth in the narrow alley behind our barracks and I remember he and I being a "team" when we played two-on-two football there. I also remember us winning most of those games, at least I’ll forever BELIEVE we won most of those games.
I remember listening to my many record albums in the barracks, especially the Rolling Stones "Aftermath" album and the 13-and-something-minute song, "Goin’ Home."
I remember his tales of Philadelphia. "You know," he once told me, "all the new dances nowadays come from Philadelphia." And, he was probably right on that as he could rattle off a number of Philadelphia music groups and the dances that were named after their songs (or were the songs named after dances?).
I told him of my family and he told me of his. We shared information about children and grandchildren, and of our lives in the job market over the past half-century.
We spend only about eight months together – April until December – during that period of our lives. In December I was shipped off to Germany, where I spent my final 14 months. I’d come down on a levy for Vietnam prior to being sent to Germany, but those orders were, thankfully, rescinded. Rich, too, came down on a levy for Vietnam, but his, too, were rescinded because he didn’t have enough time left to serve for the Army to send him there. Instead, he was shipped to Fort Stewart, where he helped in setting up a new post.
It was almost as if lightning had struck when I received his email last week.
He said it would be wonderful if we could meet again one day. I share those sentiments and, perhaps one day, Judy and I will travel out his way. He hasn’t gone far. Although he lives in New Jersey, he’s only a half-hour from the center of Philadelphia.
When he signed off on his first email, he signed it with "A Very Old Friend" and when he answered my response, he signed "Friends are Forever."
He’s right. We weren’t war buddies who have a greater tendency to keep in contact through the years. But, nonetheless, we are old friends and friends are forever.