One of the joys in life is the fast comeback, the retort, the off-the-cuff remark, the improvised (“improv” in our modern lexicon) statement. Growing up in Easton, I was fortunate to have all around me quick witted and smart and wise people who could dish up all of this almost all the time.
I love to tell how, especially when I was a freshman and sophomore at Boston College, I would engage and regale my schoolmates with Easton stories. Not difficult to relate entertaining stories when you grow up among so many entertaining characters and entertaining comments.
I shared in this space once how Brockton native and Oliver Ames High School coaching legend, Willy Nixon – still going strong and very active at 84, by the way – told how in the mid 1950s, and new to the town, he was attending an Easton town meeting at the gymnasium at what was then OA High School, and which are now the Schoolhouse Apartments.
So, anyway, as Mr. Nixon related the incident, there was some important town issue discussed, and a resident who was supporting one side of the issue cited the opinion of an “expert” – to which, a crusty Easton townie, on the other side of the issue, got up and loudly sniffed and responded, “Hmmm, an expert … huh? Who's that, someone from out of town?”
Of course, one of the true legendary characters in Easton history was Connie Spillane, who graduated from Oliver Ames High School in 1927. Connie would later move to Brockton.
Connie Spillane lived a long and philanthropic life; he died on Thanksgiving Day 2003, at the age of 92, less than a week after he was inducted into the inaugural class of the OAHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Mr. Spillane gave immensely of himself to local amateur athletics, launching, 60 years ago, the Easton Huskies, an organization of football, basketball, and baseball teams that competed in the semi-professional Cranberry League. Mr. Spillane became particularly well known for his contributions to local amateur and semi-professional baseball, and most deservedly became known as “Mr. Baseball.”
Connie Spillane was was also well known for his quick wit, eloquence, dapper dress, immaculately quaffed hair, and a cigar on which he puffed. Mr. Spillane was a devout Catholic, but that didn't stop him from often uttering a form of, well, sacrilege in the line, “For cripes sake.” Indeed, Mr. Spillane and his “For cripes sake” became something of his signature.
So, it was, in the early 1970s; it was winter night, and Mr. Spillane and some of his Easton buddies, were in a car exiting the Brockton High School campus after a basketball game. Mr. Spillaen was in the passenger seat. I don't know who was driving.
Anyway, for one reason or another, whoever was driving the car went the wrong way on a busy one-way flow of traffic on the Brockton High School grounds. An exasperated Brockton police officer held his hand up to stop the car, and then, when the driver rolled down the window, said to the driver, “Didn't you see the arrows?”
To which, Connie Spillane, leaning over, uttered an old quip that was just so perfect for the moment: “Arrows? For cripes sake, we didn't even see the Indians.”