A man and a woman are walking down the middle of a snow covered city street. She has her head on his shoulder and is looking directly at the camera . . . smiling. She is wearing a knee length winter coat and black leather boots. His eyes are averted and is looking down at the snow. He is wearing jeans, a black belt, a brown jacket, which has the two top buttons buttoned, but not the two lower ones. His shoes are practical, black leather work oxfords. His hands are in his pockets. His hair is windblown. At the very least, it must be chilly, if not downright cold. He doesn’t seem to care. The weather is just one more thing he’s putting up with. His mouth is slightly open. Breathing? Talking? Singing?
This is the image I saw on the album cover in the backseat of a friend’s car in 1964, the year I graduated from Clover Park High School. My friend, Ken Armitage, who graduated a year before me, was joining me for the commute to Olympic College. The following year I attended the University of Puget Sound and lost my connection to Ken.
I saw the album, but didn’t recognize the artist, Bob Dylan. I asked Ken about the album, and his response was “You wouldn’t like it.” Bob Dylan was the man in the street of course. I did like Dylan’s songs: Like a Rolling Stone, Boots of Spanish Leather, and The Times They Are A-Changin.
I met Ken in “advanced acting” at Clover Park. Of the four boys in class, I was the only junior, the rest were seniors. There were more than fifteen girls in class. I always liked good odds. Mrs. Virginia Heidbreder was our teacher. She was also my speech teacher. She also was in charge of the Senior Class Plays, one of the lead rolls in The Matchmaker went to Ken in 1963. There was an all school musical that year, Frank Loesser’s Most Happy Fella. I drove around Lakewood putting up posters and also did a guest spot on one of the Clover Park radio station shows. I sang a bar or two of Most Happy Fella with an Italian accent. I signed up for the Studio Skills class at Clover Park Voc/Tech at the first meeting of the drama club. My buddy Dave Gordon (it was his show) learned about radio broadcasting, while I learned about video production.
Ken was the student director of Most Happy Fella. He worked with Mrs. Heidbreder, and Ron Mellom. Mr. Mellom was the director of the concert band and orchestra. I played baritone Sax for band, and alto Sax for orchestra. In my Senior Class Play I had the Humphrey Bogart part in My Three Angles. Both Mrs. Heidbreder and Mr. Mellom gave me fantastic letters of recommendation to Pacific Lutheran University, but unfortunately, the vocational school had a major fire and my grades were not available for transcripts. My GPA without vocational grades didn’t make the cut at PLU, so I attended Olympic College with Ken. In the 1990s I met up again with Mr. Mellom while I was president of the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8. His wife, Georgine, was a member at Clover Park Rotary, where I frequently visited. He died in 2009 at the age of 77. Mrs. Heidbreder passed away at the age of 92 in 2014. They remain two of my favorite teachers.
The final assignment of the advanced acting class was to write a one-act play. Ken’s farce The Secret, was chosen. In addition to Ken and I performing we were joined by Penny Watson, Ron Trimble, and another Ron from the class. I think it was performed during the Lakewood Summer Festival. A photo appeared in the Lakewood Journal.
While waiting for my wife Peg last week I listened to NPR. The discussion was about the Bob Dylan song The Times They Are A-Changin and how it has become an anthem for a new generation over fifty years after it was written.
“When thousands of young people descended on the National Mall earlier this year for the student-led March For Our Lives, Jennifer Hudson ended the event with an emotional rendition of the song, backed up by the local Destiny Road Choir.” – npr.org/2018/09/24/650548856/american-anthem-the-times-they-are-a-changin –
As I hummed the song and wrote this article I paused and thought about Ken. I had looked for him before on Google and Facebook and found nothing. I searched again and found him on Facebook. The picture didn’t look like Ken, but after fifty some years, I no longer look like Don. The search showed “Florida.” I clicked on the link and smiled. The page showed “From Tacoma, Washington.”
I sent him a message and his response was “Wow!” We are now Facebook friends. We will continue to communicate. Here is a brief history of what he has been doing. “Great to hear from you! . . . All is good now . . . Joined the USAF in 1965 and retired after 26 years, 7 months and 12 days . . . worked for a defense contractor for a couple of years after that and then got hired to teach high school in 1993 . . . taught AFJROTC and American History . . . retired from there in 2012. Got married in 1970 and still married to the same girl . . . have two sons, the oldest lives in Orlando and has two sons and the youngest lives here in Pensacola and he has one son and two girls. I resumed my acting while stationed in England . . . the base I was on had a community theatre and we performed in local competitions and on base. Continued here after I retired in 1990 and been fairly active since then.”
Fifty-four years have passed since I first saw the album in Ken’s car. I still like Bob Dylan . . . and sometimes play his tunes on the piano . . . and just walking around in everyday life or listening to the news a Dylan lyric pops into my head: “Oxford town in the afternoon, everybody’s singing a sorrowful tune, two men died by the Mississippi moon, somebody better investigate soon” . . . or I find myself humming or singing . . . “Honey, just allow me one more chance, to get along with you” . . . “I’d love to spend the night with Peggy Day” . . . “There’s a battle outside And it is ragin’. It’ll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin’.”
The times may be a changing, but it looks like Ken and I stayed true to some of our roots. He is the president of the Panhandle Community Theater in Pace, Florida. I don’t act, but Tacoma Opera once asked me to play the drunken jailer in Die Fledermaus. My wife Peg and I review plays from Olympia to Seattle and I enjoy working with Chris Serface from Tacoma Little Theatre and John Munn from Lakewood Playhouse. Two long time friends Tim Hoban and Scott C. Brown are still acting. My cousin Lavinia teaches drama at Wayne State and we are working together on a play based on the life of Seattle artist Dr. Johnny Wow. The Domans have produced and directed hundreds of local cable productions and I still shoot video and edit for clients. I write for The Suburban Times, so I guess articles for those times . . . are a-changin.