IRH - Mistaken Identity

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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David
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IRH - Mistaken Identity

Post by David » Tue July 23, 2019, 7:33 pm

Mistaken Identity
The Williams Boys
1953
by Russ Lancaster
I asked my sister, Fran, to check on my mom… she found her busy in the kitchen and we sneaked out the front door to go find Ray Williams. I needed to ask him something.
Ray and Pete Williams lived in the house on Rice Street in 1953 bordered on the South by the Rice Street railroad bridge and on the East by the Charlotte Court Apartments. All three of us were between the ages of 11 and 13 and good friends.
Pete was the eldest but took time to interact with both Ray and me. Ray and I were closer and bore a physical resemblance to one another. Pete had a model airplane hobby. He would go down to the Firestone Store on East Hamlet Avenue and buy the model kits, paint the plane parts, glue them together and add the appropriate decals. He would then hang them in combat positions from his bedroom ceiling with string. He had an impressive collection. By the way, that Firestone Store did not sell tires, it sold bicycles, model planes, toys and such.
Ray and I both had paper routes with the afternoon Charlotte News. We would bike down to Lenoard Rea’s Esso station at the corner of Marlboro Street and Hamlet Avenue in the afternoons where our bundles of newspapers would be dropped off for us. We had been taught how to roll the papers and tie them with rubber bands for easy and accurate throwing.
I don’t remember exactly where Ray’s route was but mine consisted of Hamlet Avenue and Charlotte Streets from downtown to the Western ends of each street and all the side streets in between. It was an enjoyable afternoon job after school with one day a week off (Sunday).
Saturdays were our rough days. It was the day we also had to collect the money due from our customers (they paid by the week). Most customers were home in the afternoons and paid on time, but we always had one or two that dodged us. We were paid a small percentage of our collections and made very little money but we had a job and enough spending money to take care of snacks and such during the week.
The worst part of Saturdays dealt with the papers themselves. There would be two bundles for us on Saturdays; the regular newspaper bundles and a bundle of inserts. Those inserts were to be put inside the regular paper, directly in the center, for delivery. That made our job twice as long, the papers twice as heavy.
Those inserts consisted of advertisements and the Sunday comics section since we had no Sunday deliveries. You know how it is today, the Sunday papers are always so thick and heavily laden with advertisements, coupons, comics and extra sections. That’s the extra work we had to do on Saturdays and we had no taste for it.
I came home after delivering my papers and making my collections late one Saturday evening in 1953 and my mom was waiting on me. I could tell by her demeanor she was really mad at me. I had no idea why but was to soon find out.
It seems a neighbor, whom I had deemed to be a friend, had told my mom she had seen me dumping my inserts over the embankment near Ray’s house down to the railroad tracks below. It wasn’t true, but my mom believed her friend.
I denied doing any such thing. I even told my mom to call any of my customers and they would verify they had received their entire paper, including the inserts. She wouldn’t do it. She was sure her friend wouldn’t have said I had done such a thing if it wasn’t true.
My punishment: I was to be restricted to home after school until I told the truth. That should have been easy…. I was telling the truth already, it just wasn’t the truth my mom wanted to hear.
For three days I pleaded with her. I refused to admit to something I hadn’t done. I got nowhere with her. She just got madder and madder at my so-called stubborness.
I admit to being stubborn. It is a part of my personality that I was born with. It has helped me get difficult jobs done and, by the same token, has hurt me at times for not backing down. But, I will not back down from the truth – ever, nor did I then.
On the third day of punishment it dawned on me what might have happened. The papers were dumped near Ray’s house. Ray and I looked an awful lot like one another and from a distance could probably be mistaken for one another. That’s when I devised my plan to try to get the real truth.
So, Fran and I sneaked out the front door while mom was in the kitchen. We found Ray in the yard and I asked him point blank if he had thrown away his inserts the previous Saturday. He denied it.
I lost my temper and began fighting with Ray. Even though I was older, he was about the same size as me and a worthy opponent. We wrestled around for a while and I was getting the better of him when he finally hollered, "Uncle"…. The universal code word of the time for kids to say… that’s enough.
He then admitted to being the one who had committed the awful crime of throwing away the inserts. I made him admit it in front of my sister so I would have my credible witness.
Fran and I went back home, entered through the kitchen door area and told my mom what had happened. At first, she seemed upset at having misjudged me but I didn’t get the apology I was expecting.
Instead, she asked how Fran and I had been over at Ray’s house when I was "restricted" to the house. I explained that it was necessary to break the rule to prove my innocence. It didn’t work. I was now in even more trouble for breaking restriction. I can’t remember what that punishment turned out to be but, whatever it was, it was worth it to clear my name.
This incident did not break up the friendship between Ray and me. We still remained friends and I still count him as a friend unto this day.
He got his chance to get back at me that same year at Christmas time. He and Pete received a set of boxing gloves for Christmas. I had gone over to play with them when they brought them out. Pete gave Ray and I the first shot at using them.
I thought how soft they felt and that you couldn’t possibly be hurt if someone hit you while wearing those things. Ray and I squared off and he promptly landed a punch right to my chin and knocked me to the ground.
I saw stars and was slow getting up. It did hurt. Those things were meant to protect your hands, not your opponent’s chin. We may have thrown another punch or two but I quickly got out of that little game. Ray paid me back and both of us declined a bout with Pete.
I know Pete visits this site from time to time and he may or may not remember the incident. I never told him about it. As far as I know, only Fran, Ray, my mom and I know about it.
I think Pete is somehow still connected to the military. I have only seen him once since 1958 or so when he visited Ray at the Yard Office in Hamlet where we both worked. I don’t think he even recognized me.
As for Ray, I hear he is now retired and I wish him well. I am a little envious of him being able to retire and me still having to work. But my day will soon come.
I think back and remember Pete and those model airplanes. I remember the punishment I received for something I didn’t do and think about the times I got away with stuff I should have been punished for and realize it probably all equals out.
I remember that paper route and Ray Williams and I remember them fondly.
But most of all… I remember Hamlet

freddie hassler
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Re: IRH - Mistaken Identity

Post by freddie hassler » Thu August 15, 2019, 9:21 pm

Ray & Pete's house was where Dr. McQueen has his office now 104 Rice St.

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