Larry and the Cross

I was sitting in the locker room putting on my street clothes when the new kid in school pointed at my Blues Magoos t-shirt and let me know how hip he thought it was. Their just-released album “Psychedelic Lollypop” included a psychedelic stencil that I’d ironed on the front of a plain white t-shirt. Psychedelic t-shirts didn’t exist at this time, at least not in central Illinois, and buying that album was the only way to get one. (I still have that t-shirt today, believe it or not, as well as the leather jacket I wore through most of the ’60s, although the stencil has all but disappeared and the shirt is now yellow.) I noticed something significant right away. Around his neck hung the secret sign from my Leal School gang days (see “From Violent Steetgangs to Merry Pranksters”).

We got to talking, and I discovered his name was Larry Green and he’d just arrived from Baltimore, which I could relate to having come a few years earlier from Boston, via England and Germany. Very few kids in the school were hip to psychedelic garage rock. In fact, I thought I was the only one. Larry introduced me to Doug Blair, who soon became famous for having the longest hair in high school. Much more important, Doug had started his own legal radio station from his bedroom and was broadcasting garage rock to a significant portion of the town of Urbana. The signal was easily reached from my house as well as Larry’s.

Larry Green and Doug Blair backstage at the UHS auditorium.

That’s them in the above photo, Larry on the left and Doug on the right. At the time, both Larry and I wanted long hair, but long bangs was as far as we’d gotten. It would take a huge confrontation for me to get control over my hair (see 1966). Larry soon became the first hang-out-everyday sidekick I’d had since first grade, when Bobby Davidson and I became best friends in Arlington, Massachusetts. Larry was a devout Catholic at the time, which I understood, since I was still going to Lutheran Sunday school and Saturday school. One day, however, I got to talking to my older brother and discovered he and his friends at Uni High (the smartest kids in town) had all come to the conclusion religion was a fairy tale. I remember I got so mad at my brother because he hadn’t told me immediately, and allowed me to continue wallowing in the darkness.

Pretty soon, I told my parents I wasn’t interested in going to church anymore, something that was greatly reinforced when the Pastor showed up at our house one night after dinner, attempting to arm-twist my Dad into making bigger contributions to the church. He wanted 10% of my Dad’s salary, and I remember how proud I was when Dad laughed that suggestion off saying, “No, I’m not giving you that much.”

I made a deal with my parents. Since my confirmation was only a month or two away, once I got confirmed, I’d never have to go to church again. And I didn’t. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Urbana High football coach, Smitty, was a member of that Lutheran congregation, and his only son was in my confirmation class, although we seldom spoke. Much, much later in life, Larry came to visit me and handed over the cross he’d worn in the ’60s, an icon both of us had invested magical powers into at one time. Larry felt it belonged with me for some reason.

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