When Chuck Allen Met Mr. Gomes
A time when cultures collided in Easton.
One of the nice benefits of writing this column is that I can just kick back sometimes, and not have to do any heavy cerebral lifting, and not have to piece together a tight-fitting and cogent and unassailable argument, but rather just relate fun stories, missives, anecdotes, and remembrances from Easton of yesteryear.
And in doing this, I submit that this column serves a valuable purpose.
We will never slake our desire for nostalgia, for the aching of times past. During the holiday season, I suspect we feel that ache most acutely.
So, here is one story I had in my head tonight, from Easton's years past.
It is around 1970 or '71 or so, and the Allen family – with parents, Chick and Carol Allen, and the kids, Angela, Chuck, and Lorraine – move to Reynolds Street in the heart of Swedeville in North Easton Village. And who do the Allens share a backyard with, but stalwart Easton stock in the family of Al and Martha (MacAfee) Gomes and their nine children, who are residents of Jenny Lind Street (yes, named for the Swedish Nightingale).
Chuck Allen, who would graduate from Oliver Ames High School in 1976, became buds with Chuck Gomes, who was in the same grade. The boys were 12 or 13 or so at the time.
Actually, the two Chucks, Allen and Gomes, were close compadres of my older brother, Creig, who was in their class. Chuck Allen and Chuck Gomes and my brother started hanging out together. The Muscato clan lived on Andrews Street, also smack dab in heart of the “Village.”
Chuck Allen and my brother were the starting guards on the '75-'76 OA boys' basketball team that went undefeated until losing to Dorchester in the Eastern Massachusetts Div. 2 South Final. When my brother coached the boys varsity hoops team at OA many years later, Chuck served as an able, gifted and successful assistant coach in the program.
But I digress. Let's get back to Chuck Allen and Chuck Gomes and the roots of their friendship.
So, one day, not long after the Allens had made their residence on Reynolds Street, young Chuck Allen, who wore his hair long and to his shoulders, was hanging out at the Gomes compound.
Al Gomes, the culturally conservative patriarch of the Gomes family, said to his son, Chuck, whose hair was long but nearly as long as Allen's, “Let's go, it is time for you to get a haircut.” And then, Al Gomes looks at Chuck Allen and says, “You know what – you're going to get a haircut too.”
Al Gomes walks the boys over to Main Street, which is about two stone throws away, and along which over a stretch of maybe 80 yards, there were three barbershops – Kevin Jackson's, Connie Galvan's, and Carl's (not sure of Carl's last name).
Whatever barber was chosen, Al Gomes presided over the boys getting their hair cut short and presentable.
Maybe an hour or so later, Chuck Allen returned to his family home on Reynolds Street, and, Chick, his father, looks at his son, who now has closely cropped hair, and asks, “What happened to you?”
And his son looks back and says, simply, “I met Mr. Gomes.”