Wildwood Daze – The Button Master

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1979-1980

There was a little unique shop on the boardwalk called The Button Master. My friend, Wolfie who was in a band with me at the time used to call the place, The Button Bastard. (I don’t know why, but why not?)

The shop was nothing but buttons. This was a trend in the mid to late 70s. They had all kinds of cool phrases on them and they could even make custom buttons for you if you brought them an image.

I always had a few buttons stuck to my green army jacket, which had the logo of my band on the back, The Union Jacks. I also had several buttons on the black guitar strap for my guitar. They were one of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, (Read the book by Anthony Burgess in 12th grade in American Lit class and loved it but hadn’t seen the Kubrick movie yet because it was no longer out in theaters and they would never show something like that on TV back then!) I had a button that said; I Want It All, Total Control, and a custom button I had made of Farrah Fawcett. (Because I LOVED her back then)

The owner was never there and I only met him once. But there was a guy who was in his 20s from New York named Tom Duke who worked there. He was a nice guy and would always let me hang out there and talk about rock music. Which I loved. I would sometimes just go up there on my day off and just browse the buttons and chat with him. They were all super cheap. Maybe a buck apiece.

I think Tom lived there, because there was a mattress on the floor in the back room, and I assumed he crashed there all summer. He was skinny and sort of gaunt, so he may have been a random drug user who didn’t seem like a person of means. But he had vast musical knowledge and I loved talking about rock with anybody who knew what they were talking about back then.

He was a big, YES and Genesis fan, and told me he knew some of the guys in those bands which I thought was super cool. (Could have been a lie, but who’s checking?) He liked that the latest Genesis album was entitled, Duke, because that was his last name. Just a weird coincidence I suppose.

Sometimes he had beer and we’d drink and chat and make it a fun night laughing it up in the store. Alcohol was new to me back then and I could get a nice buzz from 2 bottles of Bud. I remember Tom going out the back door of the store once and peeing right off the edge of the boardwalk into the parking lot below. Somebody yelled at him to stop, but he just laughed and shouted, “What? It’s my F*cking parking spot!”

I thought that was hilarious.

One night I was hanging out in the store and it was getting late. I knew he’d be closing soon and I’d be going home. I was just hanging in the store and talking rock with him, and helping customers find different buttons. I had spent so much time in that store I sort of knew where everything was. Just sheets hung up around the room and thousands of colorful buttons pinned all over them. Pretty simple setup and cheap inventory with low overhead.

This couple came in and they sort of looked like hybrid hippies. In their late 30s or early 40s. Like, maybe they used to be hippies but cut their hair but still had that hippie vibe to them.

I noticed the guy had an iron-on of Wile E Coyote on his yellow T-shirt. But I’m pretty sure this wasn’t an image licensed by Warner Brothers. It was Wile E, in a diving position with his mouth open and the message said: Muff Diver.

I’d seen that image before, but it just seemed kind of creepy even back then. We only wore fun images and rock band names on our shirts, and here was this old guy with this weird awkward shirt on.

I pointed to the wall of buttons and asked him if there was anything he was interested in. His response was:

“Other than f*cking?”

Okay, that’s weird.

So then, what I’m assuming was wife starts flirting with me right in the store. I’m getting nervous because her husband is right there on the other side of the store. She’s touching me and rubbing my back and stuff. I’m 17 years old and still pretty naive. I’ve been dating girls since I was 14 years old, but this was some new adult ground for me back in 1980. But I have a couple of beers in me, so I’m not having an anxiety attack.

She says she wants me to come back to their motel room for some fun. She was kind of hot and I was debating whether I should do it, but something was telling me I shouldn’t. I was experiencing some classic stranger danger. I didn’t know these people. What if they took me back to their room and killed me? I liked horror movies and my mind went right to that image.

Her husband was sort of just standing off in the distance watching all of this. He was smiling and nodding his head. I’m thinking, is this something these people do? Hunt young teen guys for their kinky debauchery? I wasn’t stupid and I’d heard of people who were swingers but I hadn’t encountered anything like this before.

So, Tom Duke says, “Why don’t you two just go into the back room and have at it. I felt a little better about that idea because he was there and if anything weird went down he could come and save me.

But, here’s the thing, they were in agreeance only if her husband could join in. I was like… No way. No three-way with an old dude. His wife continued to stay close to me and rub my back like I was some sort of pet.

I told them I appreciated their offer, but I just wasn’t into that sort of thing. They were nice about it and just laughed. She turns to her husband and says: “I think it’s just a lack of experience.”

I protested that I was hip to all things like that but just wasn’t into that particular thing. But they knew. I did lack experience. But in all honesty, there was no way I was fooling around with a lady and a man in some sort of sexy tryst.

They smiled, said goodbye, and left the store to go hunt down some other hapless teen. I hope they didn’t find anybody.

The next day I went and told my boss Louie on the Golden Nugget the whole lurid story. He told me I did the right thing by declining their offer. I’ll never forget what Louie yelled to me over the noise of the ride.

“You could have been screwing the lady and then all of a sudden, you feel some guy getting you from behind!” (add expletives and profanity from your imagination)

Just another crazy summer night in Wildwood.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

Here’s my latest book. There will be a book about my summers in Wildwood coming Memorial Day 2023!

You can check out all of my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

New Book: LAWNDALE – Now Available on Amazon!!

For those of you who don’t want to listen to my long-winded speech… You can get it here!

Just in time for my birthday, my new book is finally on sale! It’s hard to believe, but I’m 60 years old today! I think my brain still thinks I’m 18, but I’m definitely getting older.

When I worked as a Branch Manager at the 10th and Snyder Branch of First Union in South Philly in the 90s, I had a customer who I became friends with who lived right across the street. That customer was Jean Bruno, daughter of the late Angelo Bruno. Jean was a lovely woman who became a friend of mine. (I’ll save those stories for future blog posts) She used to say to me that she never wanted presents for her birthday. She would give presents to other people on her birthday to let herself know that she was still around to give and help other people. I never forgot those words and wished I could be like that.

So, today for my birthday, I’m presenting the Lawndale book to you all to enjoy on my birthday! It’s my gift to you all!

Anyway… on to the business at hand!

It’s been a long time coming, but the Lawndale book is finally available on Amazon!

Let me start with another quick story. The book was supposed to come out on the first day of summer, just like all of my previous books. I was born in the summer and I’ve always felt like June 21st was always important. School was out or ending and it was the first day of summer. That meant going down the seashore and having a great time in Wildwood, NJ. So there’s the tie-in for me wanting to release my books when I do.

But the Lawndale book was stalled. I wasn’t finished editing it and writing some of the stories that I wanted to include. I was busy cranking out freelance writing assignments and it looked like the Lawndale book may be delayed. This would be the first time a book I ever wrote was late.

I hate being late. I used to get grounded by my father for being late. He would say, “It’s not that you were late getting home… It’s that we agreed on 10 o’clock and you broke your word. Your word means nothing if you don’t keep it.”

That is some heavy stuff right there. But I’ve always been punctual for the rest of my life and see the importance of being on time. Especially now that everyone’s connected by the internet and phones and navigation and time. There’s almost no reason to be late. Except if the person simply can’t manage their clock or the calendar.

So it bothered me that I might be late on this book.

But then it struck me. Why does it have to be the first day of summer? It doesn’t matter, and most of my readers may not even be expecting it. I decided I need to ease up and just release it sometime this summer.

But then it hits me. A realistic deadline for this book is August 9th. My 60th birthday. Who knows if I’ll even make 70, so let’s get this sucker out for the 60th!

So that’s how that happened. It makes sense and next year’s Wildwood book needs to drop Memorial Day weekend. Because that’s when the summer really kicks off in this country.

So I do all the things I’m supposed to do to make this book happen. Last week I decide to send my sister Jane a postcard that says, “Greetings from Philly” and is a picure of our skyline. Who sends postcards anymore?

I do.

Just like I wrote letters to people in the 70s.

I’m gonna send my sister a postcard and write a note to her about how the book Lawndale is now LIVE on Amazon.

But when I sent that postcard it wasn’t yet. It was still in post production and review at Amazon. At that point it may not be available for another 72 hours and if there’s a problem or two… it may not publish on August 9th.

But I thought back to an old friend of mine. Chris Yurkow, the president of the school and champion quarterback at Frankford High School in 1979. I was standing in the school store with him after lunch one day. He would work there after lunch a few days a week. I told him how amazing it was that he had led Frankford High’s football team to victory and became city champs. I complimented him on the jacket that he was wearing that signified that accomplishment. Heres what he said to me….

“I actually ordered the jackets that said we were city champs before we even played the game.”

“Why, Chris. What if you lost?”

“I knew we couldn’t lose.”

Right. Don’t worry about failure or delays. Believe in the work and it’ll come out. I created this book and there won’t be anything that can stop this from coming out on August 9th.

So I mailed her the postcard and told her it was live. (I knew it may take a few days to get to her so that bought me some time) I just crossed my fingers and dropped the card in the mailbox.

But low and behold I heard from her Saturday and she told me that she got the postcard and was surprised.

But here’s the weird part. She texted me the day before and told be she looked on Amazon under my name and saw that Lawndale was live. I didn’t even know it was live yet! I was busy working and hadn’t checked any of the updates from Amazon. So my sister Jane is the one who told me my book went live… BEFORE she had ever gotten the postcard from me telling her the book went live. When I sent the card to her it was still in post production!

A wonderful psychic moment between me and my closest blood relative on the planet.

Anyway… Let’s move on.

I’m sure there are more stories to tell about the old neighborhood, but I’ve done the best I can to remember and collect as many as I could for this book. I was surprised how much everybody loved some of the stories I told on my blog Phicklephilly last year.

Due to the pandemic, what began as a lack of content became something wonderful. I never thought I’d be able to remember enough stories to fill a whole book! But here we are and it’s yours to own on Amazon.

I want to thank everybody from the old neighborhood for all of their comments and likes when a few stories were published last year on some of the great Facebook Groups about Philly! I’m really grateful to the administrators of those groups for allowing me to share my stories on their platforms.

I appreciate all the support, and your words really kept me going to keep writing and generating new fun stories about our collective past for this book.

Even though the stories are from my perspective and many of these events happened to me, I think we can all see ourselves in some of these situations.

When I write on my blog, I use the whole language and tell my stories, warts and all. Normally, when I publish a book I want it to represent what I saw and what I felt during any of these situations. But I decided for this book, I needed to clean it up a bit. I didn’t want to sound as though I had a bad childhood or anything. I decided to tread lightly on some of the more personal memories.

Several people I spoke with about this said they’d prefer to read a book that contains all the gory details. But as I edited the final draft for this work I just didn’t feel that it was that kind of a book. Our minds normally cleanse all the bad aspects of our lives and retain the good ones. Who wants to read a book about endless suffering? Nobody!

Putting together a book like this is new to me. My first book, Phicklephilly was just a collection of stories from my blog. It was just an attempt to collect a bunch of loose stories from a medium I knew little about. But I felt that as much as I needed to write the blog it all seemed fleeting and disposable. I would write a story and tomorrow it’s replaced by a new one or the next chapter.

I wanted to have it somehow preserved forever. My thoughts, words and experiences captured. Because I knew my own life was fleeting and I was getting older. The blog could go away, but a book was forever, right?

Nothing is forever. But I thought if I could publish then at least my words and memories would be left behind for someone to read it and maybe know and understand me.

I kept writing the blog with all of its dating and relationship advice, and stories from my own adventures. But it always felt like something was missing. If I could just get to a point where enough people would read and follow my blog maybe I could write about the things I wanted to write about. I felt like the recording artist that has to record and play the songs the management and the record company want him to play because that’s what the fans want.

But at some point if he gets enough people to listen to him maybe he can make the records he wants to make. Write the songs he wants to play if for no one else but himself just to get some peace of mind.

I hit that point during the pandemic, with over 350,000 page views and 2,400 subscribers all vieing for my voice.

It was time to make Phicklephilly what I had always wanted it to be. A weekly forum where I could just create stories about anything I wanted. To write for myself and anyone else who cared to listen. Not clickbait to get more page views, subscribers, or advertising revenue for the site.

I decided this summer to not renew my premium plan on the blog. I was paying $300 a year to have 24-hour customer service, advertising on the site, Google Adsense, and all of the other bells and whistles that come with the premium plan.

What I realized last summer when there was an outpouring of love from Philly and Wildwood about stories I wrote from my memories. I realized what I do has nothing to do with how good the plan I have at WordPress or Google.

It was about the content. It was about the words I was writing that was bringing people from my generation a little joy and solace. Moments of nostaglia from our collective past. Stories we could all relate to from the same place and time in the world.

A place long ago where we all came from. That response from you all meant more than subscribers, page views, or ad revenue. I decided to let my premium plan lapse and just let the site go back to its orginal version as a free site.

I realized the best part of Phicklphilly was the stories that actually touched people. And for that, I’m grateful to you all. Thanks for the clarity 40 years after all of the things in the Lawndale book happened. You helped me identify my purpose and my need to create and to leave something of value behind in this world.

Building a book is a chore. First of all, you have to write the darn thing. But that can be a beautiful transformative experience, so that’s the fun part. It’s hard to do or everybody would do it. But there are so many aspects when planning a new book. This is my 7th trip into the publishing world, and it gets easier and the rush of making something that never existed is exquisite.

Do I do a Dedication? Who do I dedicate the Lawndale book to? Who is the most significant person I met in Lawndale? Who should my book about my childhood be dedicated to? Is there any one person who touched my life in such a profound way in Lawndale that I should dedicate the whole book to them?

Then I had to write the Introduction. Non-fiction books require that. You have to get the reader into the world you’re creating with your book. I had to set the stage for all the stories. So if a person that had no idea about the 60s or 70s, or Northeast Philly, might get what this book was about. So that became another important aspect of the book. I also wanted to have a moment to speak with everybody from the old neighborhood in the introduction. Just to say… “hey, remember this guys? This all happened when we were kids. We were there! We lived through all of this!”

The Acknowledgements had to happen. I wanted to thank everyone that reached out, liked, commented, and followed my work, and heard my voice during the pandemic. I reached inward and pulled out some stories and people listened and responded. I realized I’d touched a nerve. I was shocked and overjoyed when I got so many texts, messages, and phone calls from people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in over 40 years. I hope I haven’t missed anyone!

I cobbled this book together between work, writing freelance articles, and everything else that life tosses my way. But I was determined to get it created and out to the people who wanted to read it. To maybe recapture a few of those lost moments from childhood when life was so much simpler but seemed so much harder.

The funny thing is… the best part of all of this is the time leading up to the release of the book. The anticipation. Remember the song by Carly Simon they used to play over the Heinz ketchup commercial?

Anticipation is the best part. I’ve done all of the work. The book is done. It’s in post-production at Amazon. Everybody’s waiting for it and so am I. It’s those moments and days before the book comes out that are the best. Knowing everyone is out there waiting for it. I’m just waiting for the US Library of Commerce to assign me an ISBN number for my book. Will it publish on time? Will something go wrong? A million things could go wrong.

But I quell my anxiety with the warm thoughts of what the book is about and how much everybody’s been waiting for it.

I made this. I’m about to put something there that wasn’t there before. Ever since I was a kid I liked making things. I like to create. That’s my favorite thing to do. But that moment before you show your work to somebody is the best. That rush of excitement that something you made is coming. It’s perfect because it hasn’t happened yet, but you know it’s on the way, like Christmas morning.

I made this and it touched a lot of people. It’s simple stories from my average childhood in a little suburb of Philadelphia. But it meant a lot to all of us that lived it.

Sure, growing up is a challenge for any kid, but we all had pretty nice childhoods back then. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew and what they could provide for us.

We played outside, hung out back the railroad tracks, built forts, explored nature, played games in the street, and knew everybody in the neighborhood. It was a wonderful time to be a kid!

I wanted this book to be something anybody could read and not be offended or sad. Just a nice collection of stories from my childhood and adolecence that everybody could relate to on some level.

I’m pleased with the finished product and I hope you are too. Because all we really possess are our memories… and our childhoods were pretty sweet growing up in Lawndale.

Thank you one and all.

You can get your copy of my book here.

Finally!!!

I was going to place the video for “I’m in a Philly Mood” by Daryl Hall here, but this song just seemed more apropos.

There will be a book about my summers in Wildwood in the 1970s

coming Memorial Day of 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, and most of all Follow Phicklephilly. I publish every week on Tuesday.

You can see all 7 of my books here.

LAWNDALE – The 312 Magee Avenue Playlist

The Lawndale book is just one week away from being published!

While writing the Lawndale book I started to think about all of the music we listened to growing up in the house on 312 Magee.

There was always some sort of music playing somewhere in the house at any given time. Whether it was my mom listening to Andy Williams on the record player in the dining room while she did her housework, or us kids listening to our records.

My father always loved music and would listen to classical and operas in the basement while he worked or read his books.

We had the jukebox on the porch that had been loaned to us by a couple that my dad was friends with and we loved that thing!

There was the the 8-track player in the 1969 VW minibus that we all rocked out to on trips on the road with dad.

We listened to the radio in the kitchen and would hear all the new popular songs of the day.

I would sometimes bring a little record player to the dinner table and sit it on the seat next to me. My dad wasn’t home, and it would be just my mom and my sisters. I would put little 45 rpm records on and we would all sing to them. It was a riot!

I got into listening to some of my favorite songs and bands recently on Spotify and thought about creating a playlist of all the music we heard in our house growing up as kids. Not just the music we owned, but all the theme songs from our favorite shows that were on TV in the 60s and 70s.

At first I thought it would be cool to share it with my sisters for nostalgic reasons. But then I thought, wouldn’t it be great to share it with all of the people who might remember some of these songs from their past as well.

So I’ve decided to add to the anticipation of the Lawndale book coming out next week and share it with everybody as a soundtrack to the book.

Some of the songs you may not recognize but some will make you smile and take you back to a simpler time. This is an eclectic mix of music and themes from the 60s and 70s that were alive in our house at 312 Magee growing up.

I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you’ll listen to it in the background while reading my book! (Don’t worry if you don’t have a Spotify account. It’s free and you can just go on and check it out!)

Here it is! The 312 Magee soundtrack!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/5nQ0QYz4dBIphiU7hiIZR4?utm_source=generator

I hope you all enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I’d also be happy to add any songs I may have forgotten!

Enjoy!

LAWNDALE the book will be available on Amazon next Tuesday on August 9th!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, and most of all, FOLLOW Phicklephilly! I publish every week on Tuesdays.

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