Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Famous Green Raincoat

     Chance encounters, with objects as well as people, often lead to the best memories.
     I was taking some bedding from the washing machine to place on the back porch railings to dry (our dryer has decided to stop heating the air it puts out), and I had to walk through the room the porch connects to, a storage room of sorts.
     In that room, among old toilet fixtures and coffee makers for which accessories are no longer made, is a metal clothing rack on wheels, about 5 feet high, with some classic items on it; most notably may be my wife Val’s beloved Sweet Home High School letter jacket.
     But what caught my attention was the dark green rain coat that I inherited from my late father Edward, and I believe that he bought it new, which means it could have been any time from the late 940s, after he graduated from Grover Cleveland High School, or the early 1950s, after he returned from his U.S. Army Korean War service. After I hung up the laundry, I had to go back and check out the coat again, a coat which I pressed into service mainly for two destinations/reasons.
     The first thing I did as I took the coat off the hanger was look for and find the inside pocket patch, which reads “Hengerer’s The Store for Men.” While a bit stained and in need of dry cleaning, the coat at least no longer has the cigarette smell it took on from my time wearing it to the Continental; for those of you not from Buffalo, the Continental was the number-one punk, new wave and alternative night club for both live and DJ music at 212 Franklin Street. I loved wearing the coat, because it took on a real cool dark green/black sheen in the less-than-ideally lit Continental, and several people at times said it gave off a Mod look, surprising because if anything, I was more of a rocker or punk, although in reality really a nerd or geek.
     As I put on the coat, which still fits remarkably well (and I didn’t even have to inhale to make it fit), I remembered the first times I wore it in public, not for regular wear at the time but on stage in musicals at Lancaster Central High School and the Lancaster Summer Playhouse. Particularly in high school, the shows we performed were 1940s-1950s influenced (“On the Town,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Bye, Bye, Birdie”), and this was something that looked right in place and actually impressed some of the directors.
     I also remembered that my mother Sheila was the first person to recommend I wear my father’s jacket, as well as some suits, in my high school musicals; as just about every male high school student in the 1970s would do, I hemmed and hawed and thought it would look stupid, and had to sheepishly agree with my mother how good and in-period they looked. While my father sometimes had difficulty being overly expressively with my late brother Brian and I during our adolescence (and I assume with my sister Heather as well, although he could say he was leaving that to my mother), he later came up, smiled, and said that the suits and coat did look good on me, and that regardless of how they looked, my mother would have won the argument.
     If I can get a decent photograph of the coat, or me wearing it, I will post it here.


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