As I’ve mentioned previously, when I was growing up in Richland, Randy was one of my oldest friends. As it happened, he had a lot of cousins in that town. A lot of cousins.
One of whom was Philip.
Philip was three years older than we were, and he was what you might call an activist. He always had a project of some sort going.
I remember one time when I stopped in at the Snack Bar where Philip was working part time (it was owned and operated by his grandfather), I was one of the few customers in the restaurant at the time and Philip began telling me about his latest project.
It involved piggy backing tractor trailer trucks onto flatbed train cars for quicker transport across the country. The idea was to save transportation costs and increase the speed of transport, as well as being a win-win for both the trucking and railway industries, although he said that the truckers were opposed to it.
He even had visual aids as he whipped out a notebook with pictures from behind the counter.
Philip’s enthusiasm for the project was infectious. I can still hear the excitement in his voice as he spoke about it.
He was a good public speaker and so was invited to address the congregation at his church, the one on Church Street that we always called the Reformed Church but which I think is more accurately known as the United Church of Christ.
Afterwards, my mother, whose beauty shop was ground zero for town gossip (or more accurately, one of the three or four ground zeros for town gossip, there being that many beauty shops in Richland), told me that he had gotten up in front of that congregation and started preaching atheism.
So I asked Randy about it. No, Randy replied in an exasperated tone. He had talked about taxing the churches. Whether Randy was exasperated with Philip’s choice of topic or with the way many of the folks had reacted to it, I didn’t know, and I didn’t ask. I don’t know exactly what Philip may have said, but the idea of churches paying taxes, whether on the millions of dollars of property that they own or mega-millions that the huge consolidated churches rake in, has been floated many times but never takes hold. The idea is not to penalize the Little Brown Church in the country, but— Well, I digress.
During my orientation week at Penn State, Philip called me up and invited me over to his off campus apartment. He was in his final year and gave me some tips about campus life, etc.
During the course of that year he would occasionally call me up, whenever he had another project going, and ask me to help out, distributing flyers or whatever. After all, he was still an activist.
Now this was 1967, but don’t get the idea that he was a hippie. Look at his picture. He still wore close-cropped hair, and while I don’t recall precisely what his projects were, I don’t recall them as being of the counter-culture variety.
Anyway, after that year, I never saw or heard from him again.
Yesterday, I began to wonder if I could find him, so I sent out some queries, but to no avail.
This morning I did a quick search and to my great surprise, in two quick clicks I had an address and phone number of someone who seemed age appropriate down to the birthdate with a few other details that meshed as well. Which is why I’m not including his last name in this post. He’s much too easy to find.