Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 2, 2013

Some friendships are never put on hold

Now and then, someone asks if The Famous Company of Myrtle Beach Golfers still makes its annual trek to The Promised Land of Golf.

Sadly, we don’t. Our last trip was in Y2K.

I was the youngest by at least 10 years — in some cases, it was 20 and 30 — and only Charley Horse and I still live here. The others have passed on or moved away.

Digger has relocated to North Carolina, and once over the phone he told me he had noticed that all of the statues honoring Civil War heroes were facing north.

He said he asked some of the locals why this was so, and they just chuckled and said nothing, as if they knew something he didn’t — which is understandable; he is, after all, an expatriate Marylander and therefore a Yankee.

“They’re facing north,” I explained, “because that’s where the enemy came from.”

The men of The Famous Company were what you’d call professional types — lawyers, businessmen, a banker, a funeral director and so on — who were married to very nice ladies.

We left town on Friday morning and came home on Saturday of the following week, which gave us all of Sunday to recuperate.

Long about Thursday, I usually noticed that my comrades’ conversations included an awareness that they would have to start cleaning up their language before being reunited with their wives.

This was amusing to me, because I was an old-fashioned newspaperman who worked in an old-fashioned newsroom, and the nature of my language actually had improved.

Here are two examples of what I’m talking about:

One night, all eight of us ordered steaks, which were served on metal plates that — for what should have been obvious reasons — sat atop wooden trays.

“Be careful,” the waitress admonished each one as she brought our vittles. “These plates are hot.”

Before she even finished laying down the steaks, Pauline cut loose with a loud and colorful expression that you’d expect to be associated with a sudden and severe pain event, and he began to vigorously wave one hand.

Mother was sitting directly across from him, and he got up to lean as far over the table as he could in order to get in Pauline’s face.

“You dumb (word I have heard him use in front of his wife, although not often)!” he hollered. “Didn’t you just hear her say that plate was hot?”

That done, Mother sat back down to dismantle his own steak. Almost immediately, he let out a warhoop that echoed word-for-word what Pauline said — only it may have been louder — and began waving his hand.

This was the cue for the rest of us to chorus, as if we had rehearsed it, “You dumb ****! Didn’t you just hear her say that plate was hot?”

This generated considerable amusement among the neighboring diners and our waitress.

Truth is, we probably provided free entertainment for a lot of folks.

After the waitress brought us our food in a German restaurant, Digger took one look at the bounty of sausages and sauerkraut on our plates and suggested that each of us put $5 in a pot, with the money going to the first one who experienced what seemed to him the inevitable gastrointestinal consequences of eating such food.

A woman at a nearby table asked him, “Can I get in on that?”

Although the makeup of The Famous Company changed occasionally, there always were eight ... until the final year, when there were only four. When you do something for more than a quarter of a century, time has a way of catching up with you.

We also had an honorary member: George Lovenstein, a mutual friend from Cumberland who moved to Myrtle Beach in 1982. He would fill in if somebody wanted to take a day off from golf, or just hung out with us at other times.

George was better known to us and his other friends (who were like Abraham’s heirs, in that they surely were as numerous as the stars in the sky) as “Lovey.”

When the PGA began holding a senior tour golf tournament in Myrtle Beach, The Famous Company saw it as good reason for a road trip and included it in our calendar.

Lovey was a volunteer worker, and we always met up with him on the course. He occasionally snuck us into places where we probably shouldn’t have gone, but nobody seemed to mind because we were with Lovey.

He always was as glad to see us as we were to see him, and even though months may have passed, he made us feel like our friendships had never been put on hold.

Lovey was the happy, jovial type you immediately wanted to adopt as a friend, and that’s what he and I became years ago when the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament was held in the Allegany High gym.

It was three days and nights of hard work, great fun, high school basketball at its finest (we saw future college and NBA stars) and a chance to make new friends for everyone who was involved in any way.

Lovey was the official scorekeeper and sat at the same courtside table with our sportswriters — Suter Kegg, Jimmy Day, Gene “Goody” Goodrich, Mike Harvey and me.

We covered each night’s games in shifts, shared hilarious stories and stuffed ourselves with jelly beans (Day preferred licorice-flavored, which nobody else liked, so we gave ours to him) and freshly made soft pretzels, washed down with hot chocolate.

Except for those occasions in Myrtle Beach, I ran into Lovey only once after he moved away, and that was by chance a few years ago on the street near the newspaper.

Most folks think time travels only in one way — forward — but that’s not true. For far too brief a period in what then was the present, Lovey and I went back to revisit events that created and reinforced our friendship.

After reading one of my recent columns, his daughter told me that Lovey and I shared a birthday: January 20.

She said he and her mom were living nearby, and I promised to go there and visit him sometime.

Unfortunately, I won’t have that chance. All I can do now is offer my condolences to his family and tell them what an absolutely terrific guy he was. I expect they will hear the same from a lot of other folks.

Pauline, Digger, Whizzer, Mother, Sweetie, Jeemy, Marshmiller, Charley Horse, The Monsignor, Gramps, Kenny, Frankie, Goldy and, especially, Lovey:

Then, now and forever inseparable, our own small band of brothers ... The Famous Company of Myrtle Beach Golfers.

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