A gruesome scene scene from the bus on the way to school. And the Wheatstone Bridge.

10th grade started in early September 1970 at Gulf Comprehensive high school in New Port Richey Florida. I took the bus for the 6 mile trip to school. I would wake up and shower and dress. Then get my homework together for the day. Then go to the kitchen and eat breakfast my dad had fixed. Then I said goodbye and made my way down the street towards the front of Leasure Beach.

Brian Bateman and Cindy Ponti and I would meet around 6:30 in the morning in front of Bob’s grocery and deli to wait for the bus.

The bus would arrive and we would enter. The bus was always chaos. A concaphony of sound and movement as the kids conversed with one another. You could not hear yourself think even if you tried! I did not like the bus. My parents would not allow me to ride my motorcycle to school. However I had just purchased a car. I worked out angles of logic in my head to propose to my parents in the near future. Perhaps I would be allowed to drive my car to school soon.

The bus made its way up Congress street. We were about a mile from school at this point. There was a slowdown ahead and the bus crawled ahead at about 2 miles an hour in the early morning light. There had been an accident at the corner of Congress and Massachusetts. It was a bad accident.

A Krispy Kreme truck

Some seniors heading for school had run the light at high speed and ran into a Krispy Kreme truck. The occupants of both vehicles were ejected from their vehicles. The drivers of both vehicles were dead. The teenage driver of the car was hanging half out the drivers side window. Half of his face was gone as well as some of his scull. His brain was visible. The accident had just happened. Help had not arrived yet. The bus continued to crawl ahead at a painful pace while the grisly scene was indelibly etched into all of our minds. We all watched with our faces pressed to the bus window as the bus slowly went by.

The incident affected us all. Instead of the usual madhouse of conversation and bedlam, there was absolute quiet mixed with hushed whispering. I don’t believe any of us ever forgot this.

I made a new friend in 10th grade. Martin DeMoulpied is his name. Back then everyone called him Mope. He was in my drafting class and was in 11th grade. Mope has a great love of music. We still jam together. He has numerous guitars on his wall.

A garage band in the 70s

In the summer of 1971 we formed a band called Wheatstone Bridge. It consisted of Marty Demoulpied, John DeFasio and me James Culpepper. Marty had and still has a vintage Rickenbacker electric 6 string guitar. John played drums. And boy did he play them! Watching him play was a visual delight! I had brought my Farfisa mini compact organ and amp down from Michigan. As in Michigan with the band Wheat, we had no need for a bass player as I played the bass notes on the bass keys on the Farfisa organ.

A model D Mini Moog Synthesizer

We were about as progressive as a garage band can be as we did not play other peoples music. We wrote and preformed our own music. And then I added one more instrument. A model D mini Moog synthesizer. It was all the rage those days with some top groups using it. Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer come to mind. We rehearsed in John DeFasios garage.

A typical high school dance in the 70s

We landed a gig at a Gulf High dance. We were delighted that we got the gig and a little surprised. We were not a dance band. We considered ourselves more sophisticated and far from the top ten genres. During one of our brakes during the Gulf High gig a student approached us and asked if we could play some dance music. We could not. However I believe most of the attendees enjoyed our unique music! I also enjoy that Marty and I still jam to this day!

Maggots and 650 hours of work equals a 1968 Rambler American

It was the Summer of 1971. I had turned 16 in May and had passed my driving test and now had my drivers license.

As mentioned earlier, I had a job at Rickey Restaurant in New Port Richey Florida. The work was not hard and the employes were friendly.

Richey resturant was a small diner that sat around 20 people. It had a small pond out back with a rather large aligator in it. Fanny, my boss, would after the diner had closed, dump scrapes out for the creature. It’s a wonder she was not eaten alive by the monster! I was a bus boy and earned a whopping 1 dollar an hour. My duties included keeping tables clean, bussing dishes to the sculley for washing, keeping the restrooms clean, and whatever my boss Miss Fanny wanted me to do.

I was allowed a meal free on my shift for work and a half hour to eat it. Richey restaurant had the best tasting hamburgers because they were ground fresh daily from top grade sirloin. That is what I usely got along with a plate of steak fries until one day as I decided to clean out the meat grinder in the kitchen….

I unscrewed the wing nut of the grinder, removed the die and blade, and pulled out the meat auger out. To my horror out came dozens of maggots too!

I never ate anything made of hamburger at the restaurant again. I would only eat things that were either boiled, fried, or roasted. But never ground.

My desire and need for a car increased. Especialy after riding to work in the rain on my motorcycle. So I began to hint to dad that I was about ready to start looking. I had saved up 650 dollars so far. Dad said to save up another $150 and that we would then start to look.

So I contuniued to work the 150 hours to make up for the deficit. Soon I did just that and one summer Saturday we got in the car and started to hit the dealers in the area.

We stopped at a number of dealers in the area. Out came the salesman with their fake smiles on and the firm handshakes. To tell you the truth I liked all the cars! Dad did not and we walked away from numerous dealers without a car. We made it as far south as Ridge Road and to the Volkswagon Dealer there. They had a nice collection of cars. I was not looking for a high performance car. I wanted one that would sip gas, be safe, and be friendly to my sparce wallet! We looked at used Honda’s. We looked at used Fords.

And then we saw a 1968 Rambler Amercan 2 door coupe. It was clean and had low milage. It had a streight 6 engine with 3 on the colume. I was in love and wanted it so bad I could taste it! The salesman wanted $800 for it. I had $800 dolars in my pocket and I would have given the whole “wad” to the saleman to have the car!

Dad tried to tamp me down and motiond me to stay quiet. He looked and looked at the car. “Tires are not in the best condition. Some dings on it too. We will give you $500 for it.” The salesman shook his head. “We can’t let this fine car go for so little.” “Okay.” said dad. “We will just have to look somewhere else.” and he motioned to me to follow him out the door. I was in a panic! Way was dad doing this? Then I found out why dad did this. The salesman said “Wait! Let me go tell my manager your offer. Don’t go away I will be right back!”

So we waited. Dad looked at me and winked. I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest! “Steady son. Let’s see what happens.” Presently the salesman came back. “My manager says he could lower the price to 700.” Not low enough said dad. Thank you for your time.” “Wait!” said the salesman. “Let me see if my boss will go any lower.” He want to his bosses office. Dad leisurely walked around looking at the new inventory. I paced like I had a wife in labor! The salesman came back and said “We can go to $650 and no lower.” Dad said “If you also pay the tax and licensing fees you have a deal!” The salesman told his boss this and we had a deal! I took a deep breath and began to relax.

So after all the paperwork was signed I was handed the keys to my first car. I was in heaven! Dad got in his car and I in mine and we made our way home north up US 19 to home.

A new friend. We build a fort in the woods and I lose my legs.

A greaser. Exactly what Pat was.

One Saturday in late November 1970 I made a new friend. His name is Patrick Conoly. He lived a couple of streets over from me. Brian and I met him as we were cruising the neighborhood. Pat was rough and tough. He grew up in Levittown New York. He was a bit of a street fighter if you know of the type of person I am talking about. He greased his hair back. He wore his cigarette pack rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve. He wore what he called “street boots”. They were somewhat pointed. I admired Pat. He was somthing that my upbringing would never allow me to be. He drank beer. Hey could swear in a way that would make a sailor blush. Pat attended 10th grade for awhile then dropped out of school entirely. He was tough and he looked tough. He fascinated me!

Pat immediately took the roll as leader in our group of three. The three of us formed a small group that Pat named “The Leasure Beach Bombers”. We would roam the streets at night in Leasure Beach like tough demons from hell.

A typical fort in the woods

Brian and I along with Cindy Ponti had begun to build a fort in the woods. The three of us searched our garages in search of building supplies. We managed to collect some plywood, two by fours, and various bits and pieces of supplies.

Cindy and I dragged our supplies over to Brian’s house. We then piled the stack of floatsom and jetsam on Brian’s wagon and pulled it down the street. We pulled the wagon to the dirt road and headed down it. We pulled it back of the cement processing area (Leasure Beach was still under construction at the time. Only around 20% of the lots were sold.) and past the waste water processing area. On the west side of the dirt road is a pond and just past that a clearing.

We stopped and dragged our building materials into the clearing. Then we began to dig. Our intentions were to dig a basement and then cover the hole with the building materials.

So we dug and we dug and we dug and we dug. We dug out a space aproximently 10 feet by 6 feet. We kept digging and around 5 feet down we hit water. We did not know that the water table is very high in Florida. Anywhere in Florida you only need to dig a few feet down to hit water.

So we stopped digging. The rectangular hole was only about 4 and 1/2 feet. That would have to do. We laid plywood on the floor so at least we would have a dry floor. Then we went home with the intent on meeting here again tonight after dinner. It was a friday night and our minds were full of ideas.

We met back at the fort around 7 PM that night. Pat Conoly came along. He had brought some beer and some joints. I had tried alcohol at that time but never had tried marijuana.

So all five of us sat around the pit that we had dug with our feet hanging down in the pit. The joint was passed around and me, not wanting to seem like a greenhorn, which I was, took a big drag on the joint and passed it on.

After the coughing subsided I began to feel this feeling of euphoria sweep over me. The joint came around full circle and was again handed to me. I took another big hit from the joint and passed it on.

The feeling of euphoria increased. I looked down at my lap and noticed that my legs were missing! I started to laugh uncontrollably! I blurted out. “Where are my legs! I can’t find my legs!!” This started the others laughing. I could not stop! I laughed and laughed and laughed! Finally Brian, who was sitting next to me said to me whilst wiping tears from eyes “Look! Your legs are down in the pit!” I looked and that brought on another wave of laughter to all of us! I was indeed very relieved that I had found my legs!