Every close friend I ever had throughout childhood (with the one exception of David Rosenberg) was at some point “sent away.” Meaning reform school, juvenile lockup, a mental institution or facility for wayward boys. I’m talking about a dozen or more of my best friends, from the entire 12-year prison sentence called school. Does this reflect something about me? I was never actually sent away myself, but there were some close calls. In some cases, I was crushed, losing a best friend who I would never see again. Like Joey V in fifth grade, a psychotic pyromaniac and arsonist. A male twin of The Bad Seed, I’m now most grateful he was sent somewhere for the criminally insane. But at the time I enjoyed his friendship immensely.
On the sweeter side were the Stember Brothers, Allan and Steven, both adopted by a World War II vet and his WAC wife. Both parents remained steadfast 1940s Americans, unable to yield to late ’60s youth culture. Their sons were hippies to the hilt. I haven’t had contact with either since 1972. Neither turn up anywhere in web searches, so I don’t know if they are dead or alive.
In the coming weeks, I will scan childhood letters from mental institutions, notes from girls in 1960s schoolrooms, and this, from Steven Stember in 1970:
© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman