This entry to the Corvette Blog has (almost) nothing to do with Corvettes and everything to do with life-long friendships!
Next week we will celebrate the birthday of Tom Hontz in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the publication of Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive. This is also the 60th anniversary of our friendship -- Tom and I have been friends since we met on the first day of first grade in September 1953. Born just nine days apart (Tom is older than me, which explains why he is taller!), we lived on the same street in College Park (Edgewood Road). We were fast friends and did everything together. We were in Cub Scouts, then Boy Scouts and I learned all about scouting from his older brother, Jim, and Tom’s grandfather, who was awarded the Scouting award for life-time leadership, the Silver Beaver. We participated in Little League sports (Tom was a better baseball player than me) and attended school together all the way through High Point High.
Unfortunately for our parents and teachers, we cooked up lots of mischief, did some really stupid things, and got in our share of trouble! Once on a Boy Scout camping trip Tom and I went into the woods to get fuel for the fire. I got the big idea to chop down a tree not knowing that it had a huge bees nest in it! Just about everyone in the troop was stung, but fortunately the scoutmaster didn’t kick us out of the Troop. One rainy Saturday we must have been making our mothers crazier than usual so they sent us to the movie theater to see an all-day showing of four or five horror films (like “House on Haunted Hill” and “Pit and the Pendulum”). In the dark theater we were sitting in the front row face-to-face with Vincent Price, practically peeing in our pants, scared out of our minds! A few years later when we were getting our “Survival” merit badges it was just me and Tom alone in the woods. We were supposed to survive for three days by living off the land with nothing but Boy Scout canteens of water and hatchets. Being resourceful, we snuck off to a near-by 5 and Dime for cokes and candy bars. Isn’t the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”?
In the photo below you will notice two little boys sitting in the front row of first grade drawing pictures of cars on a big sheet of paper. That would be me and Tom! In the same photo you will see some of our best friends: Mike Tanguay (of GTO fame) is in the 3rd row, 3rd from the right. In the back row, 3rd from the right is Joe Anderson who owned a red 1959 Corvette (but not in first grade!).
Twice in our lives Tom and I have been separated by distance. We both agree that one of the saddest days of our lives was when my family moved from College Park to Beltsville in the 7th grade. Tom would ride his bike all the way up Rhode Island Avenue and cross the dangerous Route 1 intersection just to visit with me. Then in 1976 I moved to California. Eventually though, we got reunited and have reinvigorated our friendship.
After 60 years it is pleasing to me that Tom and I have shared the longest, closest friendship of my life [Editor’s note: this must be a typo: these guys can’t be that old!]. Even better, he married one of my favorite “girls” from Beltsville, Bonnie Reid, and now we are able to get together multiple times per year. Along with another great friend, Herman Knauer, Tom and Bonnie have graciously hosted many Beltsville Shell Reunions!
Happy Birthday, Tom! Thanks for a lifetime of great memories, buddy; you always have, and always will, make me smile!