Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Old Friends

Beltsville Shell You Are What You Drive Reunion # 15

In April we gathered for the 15th Beltsville Shell Reunion.  Once again, Herman hosted the event – the eighth time he has graciously opened his garage to family and friends.

Like so many years before, the gathering was filled with good humor, great food, and unrestrained friendship.  Spring had arrived in Maryland delivering us a nice day for our event.  As we drove up the gravel driveway to Herman’s, the smell of charcoal and barbequed meat filled the air.  Tables and chairs were arranged in two of the three car bays with plenty of food for all.  Nace and Sonny kept their streak going – they have attended every BSYAWYD reunion since 2002.  They were joined by two dozen of the Beltsville faithful.

As much as we share history, we also share a life-long love of cars that endures to the present.  The ultimate experience at a reunion is to bring a cool car for everyone to enjoy.  Best of all, we have been  witnessing the evolution of Herman’s truck – which he has built from scratch starting with bare metal pieces, personally shaping and welding each part, until they have been assembled into a work of automotive art.

I can’t explain why, but a distant memory has come upon me as I contemplated writing about our gathering.  In 1968 I was introduced to the music of Simon and Garfunkel when I purchased a batch of 8-track tapes from Jeff Hughes to entertain myself while driving my 1959 Corvette.  In addition to the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, there was a tape with songs from two guys whose poetry, sense of rhyme, and thought-provoking music spoke to me in a way that no other music had.  I enjoyed everything they wrote, played the songs over and over, and memorized much of what I heard.  Everyone knows their most popular songs: “Mrs. Robinson”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “The Boxer”, “Cecilia”, and more.

I’m surprised that my memory of the song, “Old Friends” has endured.  It now holds meaning that it could not have had in the 1960’s. 

The song begins with Paul and Art observing two old men in a park.

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Their song suddenly turns to themselves, contemplating fifty years into the future.

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Most of the BSYAWYD group are facing the age of Septuagenarians.  We return to Beltsville to see each other, relive the happy times of our youth, remember teen club on Friday nights at the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department, shopping at Boteler’s Store, riding Go Karts unrestrained on Beltsville’s streets, falling in love, cruising to the Mighty Mo on weekends, learning the fine art of street racing, and having days and nights filled with crazy fun. 

The town we grew up in doesn’t exist anymore – except, perhaps, in our shared memories. 

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears

When we get together we savor the past, and celebrate the present, but the thing we rarely speak of is the future.  We have all witnessed the fading of friends, and losses to disease.  There will be other times and places better suited to those thoughts.  

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They're all that's left you…

I think our group is very blessed to have stayed connected in a rich, caring, comfortable way for more than 50 years.  I thank each of you for this wonderful experience and for lasting friendship.

I wonder what Paul and Art would have written about us?



  1. Nicely done! John Lambert

  2. Great Family, great Friends, great career, great cars, great life. You have earned it all. You are blessed