Sunday, April 26, 2015
Early cowboy period
My thumbing adventures didn’t end with my 1964 NYC to Florida to Arizona hitchhiking odyssey. In early 1966 I I needed work more than school so when my buddy Jim Walters asked me to help him open his Village Inn Pizza Parlor franchise in Fort Lauderdale I jumped. Jim had been my boss at the original Village Inn in Tempe for a couple of years and we’d become good pals. He suggested that I meet him in Dayton, Ohio where he was training then we’d drive to Florida with his wife Sandy and their toddlers Jimmy and Michael.
I lacked dependable wheels at that particular moment. My grill deficient 1954 Oldsmobile with mismatched tires could barely make it from North Tempe to Tempe proper. That left me the option of hitchhiking east in a borrowed ASU letter jacket. My roommate at the time, the swashbuckling Vance Dernovitch, thought I’d have better luck masquerading as a jock than a hobo. He loaned me his basketball playing brother Rex’s jacket, a garment we had used to great effect in gin mills throughout the Valley of the Sun.
It took me three rides to get to the outskirts of Dayton where Jim picked me up. The first ride took me from the north side of Phoenix to Flagstaff where Pat Conley, an All-Big 10 linebacker at Purdue, took me to Fort Wayne with no stops. We traded driving shifts, had a quick beer and I got a ride to Dayton within ten minutes. Pat told me that he wouldn't have stopped but for the jacket with the big gold A.
The garment sure did the trick. I got from Phoenix to Dayton as fast as if I’d driven straight through in twenty some odd hours.
Alas I have no photographs to burnish the hitchhiking part of the tale but do have a photo taken by brother Dernovitch just after I returned to Tempe at Christmas of 1966.
We were shooting north of Phoenix when Vance caught me with the moustache that triggered a wagon train of trouble.