Albany, Georgia – My Home Town. About 1960 or so. A place where the city fathers had gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a number of entertainment venues for our fun and pleasure but we were spoiled and selfish and drummed up a myriad of different ways to entertain ourselves. We didn’t need any help.
One way was to get a clean gallon jug and go by The Four Points Drive-In and get it filled with cold beer straight from the tap. Now this may have happened after it was renamed ‘Little Ben’s’ or even later when all the different establishment names kind of ran together and, in fact, I really don’t remember all the names it had over the years.
I do remember Johann and I were flush because we had been working and we had found a five gallon demijohn in the old barn down from my house. I didn’t know it was called a demijohn. I always heard old people call it a jimmy-john so that’s what I called it. Anyhow it’s just a five gallon glass jug.
So we went by the drive-in and our man of the moment, Bruce the Juice, filled that five gallon jug with five gallons of draft beer and just charged us five bucks. What a deal.
We were off to the Arctic Bear Burger joint hang-out. We rarely would hang out there because we had other places we liked more but the Arctic Bear had the best food. Located on the corner of Slappey Boulevard and Oglethorpe Boulevard its high visibility was not a quality we were seeking because we were too young to be drinking cold beer out of a five gallon jug, or any other jug for that matter.
We were not greedy with our beer and as pals and buddies came by we would fill a cup for them. Pretty soon there was a pile of young guys milling around the parking lot. I don’t know where they came from but it was a peaceful and pleasant Sunday evening until a woman also appeared in the parking lot.
Someone said later she had been drinking but I found it hard to believe people would go out drinking on Sunday in Albany, Georgia. Not in my home town.
Anyhow she and some of the young guys commenced jaw-jacking back and forth. It was all friendly banter at first but then someone threw harsh and crude remarks into the friendly mix and their voices became angry and she said a few things to the guys and then the guys said a few things back to her and before you can say, ‘You’re soused,’ the guys had formed a big ring around her and were chanting old Irish ditties of scorn and derision for her benefit.
The gentleman who managed the Arctic Bear (I think his name was Mr. Freeman) saw fit to dial up the police. There was also a cop patrolling the mid-town mall with a large police dog who came over to join the festivities.
If you remember Albany in the late fifties and early sixties you will recall The Albany Police Department had done an excellent job of reinforcing their squad car strength with a fleet of Nash Ramblers. A Nash Rambler looked tame and lame when the boys in blue tried to squall sideways up into the Arctic Bear parking lot but when the officers leaped out and began to toss the guys into the back of the cars the sight of their guns more than made up for the comic appearance of their cars.
They brought three or four cars but they didn’t bring enough. Pretty soon the rear ends of those old Nash Ramblers were leveling out the rocks in the parking lot.
Johann and I were standing off to one side and I’m pretty sure we could have left and gone home but the night was early and I thought it would be fun to ride downtown with all the guys so I said to Johann, ‘I think I’ll go with them.’ Johann said, ‘Are you just damned nuts or what……..I think I’ll go too.’ So we lined up outside one of the Nash Ramblers and waited our turn to load up.
Suddenly I hear a bark and a howl of anguish. Now I was not getting loaded up in the car from where all the noise was coming but I felt pretty sure one of the guys just got chomped on by that big German Shepherd police dog. I’m not sure if the dog bit Marion or Marion bit the dog but there was a whole lot of hell raising going on in the next car over.
Sure enough old Marion did not move fast enough for that dog. The truth was there was not enough room in those cars to fit us all in and when Marion backed out of the car a little so he could take better aim at the door, the dog thought he was an escapee and bit him.
Marion was in excellent physical condition and played football on our state championship team so I knew he was fast and agile but that meant little to the dog. The dog did not know Marion and he was not aware Marion was in such good shape and could move real fast.
Anyhow they finally got us all packed into those little squad cars. I insisted on riding shotgun because I knew those cars were dragging and I convinced my driver that too much more weight on the rear end and the whole car would collapse or the gas tank could blow up and fry us all. Sure enough when the car ahead of us pulled out onto Oglethorpe the rear end was scraping the road and sparks were flying every time he hit a little bump. They had to slow down. We looked like we were in a funeral procession we were moving so slow.
When we got downtown you have never heard so much bitching and moaning in your life. I’ll bet there were 25 or 30 guys milling around all loudly protesting and saying they were innocent and they hadn’t done anything and demanding a phone call and telling the police they wanted to call their mamas and their daddies and their lawyers and their doctors (I think Marion was demanding a doctor).
I stood off to one side with Johann and we enjoyed the show. I was right. This was way more fun than a movie or play but it didn’t last long. Officer Red Gore who was a long time city policeman came over to me and said, ‘Come with me.’ I followed him into the rest room and when we got inside he turned and said, ‘Can you get all these crazy little bastards out of here?’ I said, ‘Yassuh Mr. Red, I sho can.’ (Red Gore’s son Dean Gore was our classmate at AHS and Dean was also an Albany City Policeman for many years).
I walked out into the lobby area and told about five or six guys, ‘Let’s go, we’ve been told to leave and we’re getting out of here right now.’ I didn’t have to tell anybody twice. We poured out of the city jail so fast we looked like a bunch of guinea hens being chased by a fox.
I don’t remember what happened to Marion but it was no time before Johann and I received subpoenas to appear in court from the City of Albany because Marion’s Pop was suing the city for siccing that wolf-dog on him.
We went to court. Marion’s lawyer was making his case on the assertion that there had been no disturbance that evening that warranted a call to the police so there was no reason for a cop to come over from the mall with a big old wolf-like animal that wound up teaching Marion how to move even faster than normal.
Classmate after classmate sat on the stand and testified there was no real disturbance that Sunday evening.
Then it came time for me and Johann to answer the same questions. Both Johann and I chose to tell the truth. It looked like a pretty good sized crowd of rowdy boys raising hell to us.
Paul Keenan was the city attorney and in his summation he said the only two people who told the truth on the stand was Ben Swilley and Johann Bleicher. The City won the case.
Outside the courtroom one of the guys rushed up to me and demanded to know how much of a bribe did Johann and I accept from the city in exchange for our testimony. He wanted to know if we got some new shoes or a new suit.
I let it go. The guy was obviously delusional and years later he eventually drank himself to death.
Back at school the next week. I don’t recall any more harassment from the guys. If there was any it must not have lasted over thirty minutes because I don’t remember any at all.
I do still have questions that arise in my mind (where else would they arise?) from time to time about that whole episode. All the worry and consternation was over Marion’s wound but my main concern was the dog.
After the dog bit Marion I think I saw a piece of Marion’s ass hanging from the canine of the canine. I wonder if anybody ever cleaned that dog’s teeth. I wonder if the dog lived after biting Marion.I do sometimes wonder if Marion is afraid of dogs and I think one of his close friends told me he howls at a full moon ever since that dog bit him.