Terry Mosher 3




 The last year I lived in Portville, N.Y. was the 1953-54 school year. I was an eighth-grader and I don’t remember much of it. My mother had died and things went black for me. I do remember we moved back into our old house next door to the white one my father had built. George Nutt had been renting the old place and when he got transferred to Boston, we moved back in it.

 Minerva and her young family moved in with us and kept things running on a similar schedule that my mother had. But it wasn’t the same. Never could be.

 I remember the woman across the street put the hustle on my dad. It was something that none of us ‑ Dave and me and Minerva ‑ enjoyed watching. But it worked. My dad and her got married in August of 1954 and a few days after that we moved out west to Ferndale, WA.

 That also was not enjoyable. I resisted moving. I wanted to stay with Minerva and her family and continue on school there. So did David. My father did not want to leave me behind so he pulled a fast one on me (he denied this later, but I know) by convincing David to move West and made an agreement with him that if he didn’t like it, he could move back to Portville and stay with my sister.

 My father guessed‑ correctly ‑ that I would do what David did. So I did go west. So did David. But after a few weeks, he returned to Portville and finished his senior year there.

 Me? I was left along in a blended family where I was the odd out. Thus began my dark years. I went from being the best athlete in my school for my age, from a top student in my class, to not playing any middle school or high school sports and to sinking to the middle as an academic student.

 I developed friends, all of them like me transfers from New York. All our fathers had been transferred to the new Mobile refinery on Cherry Pt. just outside of Ferndale from Olean (New York) when the refinery in Olean was shut down in August of 1954.

 There was once a time when Oil in western New York and north-central Pennsylvania was a hot ticket. Oil flowed and money was plentiful in the early 1900s through until about mid-century when it became too expensive to bring the oil to the surface, even though it was remarkably good quality oil.

 So the refinery in Olean ­‑ Socony-Vacuum Oil Company ‑ was shuttered and those who wanted to be transferred left for other refineries. Most of them decided on Ferndale. My father later told he could have gone to Australia. I wish he had.

 I developed close friends at Ferndale ‑ all of whom came from Olean. There was Pete, Ray, Leo, Moocher, Adolph, Bill, Joe, Frank, Moses and Jon. Moses is in Kansas City, Moocher in Bellingham (where he continues to officiate high school baseball and girls basketball), Bill in Lynden, and Leo was in Bellevue, last I knew. Pete, Ray, Joe, Adolph and Frank are all gone.

 Adolph and I used to sit in his old Ford sedan and park in front of my house and talk for hours into the late night. The darkness we both felt (he had a dysfunctional household) seemed brighter as we chatted and laughed together in the car. As a result we became real close friends.

 He and Frank left for Los Angeles in 1962 and never returned. But I remained close to Adolph. Then he crossed me up on Dec. 14, 2011 by having a massive heart attack. They pulled the plug on him two days  later while surrounded with his three loving children and lovely wife. I miss him dearly. The world isn’t the same without his keen sense of humor and his laugh.

 I remember the most about my dark years as a teenager playing basketball early mornings and weekends in the Ferndale High School gym. For weekend play, I’d leave a window to the boy’s locker room slightly ajar, which allowed one of us to enter through the window and let everybody else in. Then we’d break out the basketballs and play games. One day the front door of the school opened and we scattered like the wind, leaving the basketballs to find their own save haven.

 I also used to hunt rabbits and ducks with Bill and Pete and Adolph. I never killed anything, thank God. But before I gave up guns, I nearly blew Pete’s foot off when my gun accidently discharged while walking together hunting rabbits in a cemetery. I also shot Bill one winter day while we were hunting ducks near a pond by his house. I saw something move in the bushes and fired my 16-guage shotgun. Bill was nicked by some of the shot. He has never let me forget it. Thank God I only nicked him. Now you see  why I don’t like guns, or like to kill anything, including spiders.

 My years in Ferndale were not real bad ‑ as long as I stayed away from the house. I made sure I left the home early in the morning on school days (to play basketball or softball before school) and early on the weekends to stay out of the oppressive atmosphere.

 I joke that I raised myself from the age of 14, and did a poor job of it. I loved school, both high school and college at Western Washington. It was the safe place to be, and I tried to stay as long as possible.

 But I was a middling high school student and an average college student. I found myself, though, and for that I’m grateful.

 We carpooled ‑ Leo, Ray, Pete, Moses and me ‑ through most of my five Western Washington years. That in itself was fun. You don’t know what it’s like for a protestant boy mixed in with all Catholics. They all seemed more mature than me, and definitely had command of all the swear words that I didn’t. So I got an education while carpooling to get an education.

 One carpool day it was bitterly cold while I was driving in a Northeaster that was blowing snow over the freeway ‑more so because the car window on Pete’s side of the car wouldn’t close ‑ Pete started a fire on the floorboard so he could get warm. Yeah, we survived that, after the laughter died down.

 There were lots of forays to the Up-and-Up Tavern and assorted over drinking holes during those college years. I don’t have to look back and say we must have been crazy. I knew we were crazy while it was happening. But, again, we all survived it. All of us got degrees. I used to tell Pete, Ray, Frank and Moses, who were targeted to become teachers that I would not send any of my future kids to their schools. As it turned out only Ray and Frank became teachers, and Ray died in 1971 and Frank about six years later, so my children were safe.

 I made my dark years more difficult because I didn’t want to do anything to hurt my father, who was a wonderful gentle giant. He loved is second wife and I did not want do anything to mess that up. So I mostly stayed away from the house, or stayed in my room. David had moved back to Ferndale from Syracuse University about 1958 and graduated from Western in 1961. He then joined the Navy (he sat in the backseat of the Phantom F-4 jet) so I was alone most of those years.

 It’s taken me a long time to overcome those dark years. I still cling to some things ‑ like wanting to be alone ‑ but I’m better. Next we’ll see what life is after college.

 Be well pal

Be careful out there

Have a great day

You are loved.