“Striking Out” with Miles, Inspired by Darrow, and Advice from Spock
By Pete Eikenberry
Sue and I married young at 21 and 24 and our first child David was conceived in that wonderful first year of our marriage. The wedding in Ridgefield, Connecticut, on August 30, 1958 was on my father’s 55th birthday. It was small with just family, a few of Sue’s family’s friends from Ridgefield and my high school classmate Bill Willis as best man. We honeymooned for a weekend at Old Mystic and ate our first meal at the Red Barn. Afterwards, we flew from New York to Columbus to take jobs with me gawking out the window (one of my first airplane flights.) We started work the day after Labor Day, with Sue working at an experimental home for disturbed children, and I teaching a class of 12 teenage boys with IQs under 50. I loved those boys and remember their names and the experiences with each.
We lived in an efficiency apartment with a Murphy bed in the living room and a tiny dining space and kitchen. Sue’s grandmother “Momo” gave us a card table, two lawn chairs, and two “candy store” chairs, with a green wooden box our only furniture aside from the bed. I built bookshelves and we subscribed to the Saturday Review of Literature, the Reporter and the Atlantic Monthly or Harpers. The apartment building on Neil Avenue in Columbus had eight identical apartments – four on top of four; the outer four were occupied by four different spinster ladies and the middle four by recent graduates from OSU. My fraternity brother, Chuck, and his wife Mary Ellen (“M.E.”) Angeletti were our next door neighbors on the top floor. Chuck was a jazz trumpet player. Their wedding had preceded ours by one week and the reception was held at the Club Gloria – a large nightclub where Chuck played five hours a night as a part of the OSU jazz band.
Once or twice a month, there was some great band or group in Columbus and we always went with Chuck and M.E. We saw Duke Ellington, Count Basie, the Miles Davis Quintet, and Billy Eckstein and Sarah Vaughan, necking in front of one of the bands as they sang. I talked to Cannonball Adderley on a smoke break asking if Miles’ group would play at our school, and he gave me a matchbook with Miles’ rooming house telephone number. I called him and made my pitch but after hesitating, he said, “Nahhh … I don’t think they’d dig it.”
Sue and I particularly got a kick out of jazz singer Nancy Wilson singing her signature song, “Guess Who I Saw Today,” about an unfaithful lover, while Nancy looked to be eight months pregnant. An artist, Georgie Rapkin, also lived in the apartment house. She painted a full length portrait of Sue in a yellow rain slicker that Georgie entitled the “Maverick.” About seven or eight years ago I got Georgie’s contact information from Chuck to try to buy the painting but Georgie did not remember Sue, me, or the painting.
On Labor Day weekend in 1959, we left Columbus after one year for Canton, Ohio, where I had been hired into a training program at Republic Steel. We lived on the 3,000 block of West Tuscarawas, a major street where Canton guys usually “burned rubber” at the traffic light in front of our apartment house. We painted the apartment and awaited our first child’s arrival and were pretty lonely. We joined the Great Books Club at the library, where the Democratic leader of Stark County, Robert Griffin, gave a talk on Clarence Darrow. I told him that I had just read a bio of Darrow and said that I had always wanted to go to law school. He said, “Why don’t you?” At that moment, I decided to go. (It is pretty remarkable that just four years later, after Labor Day 1963, I was hired by White & Case to start in January 1964.)
Mid-January we traveled to Columbus for David to be born, but he failed to cooperate and we returned to Canton after the weekend. I remember overhearing one of the interns remark, “Are we going to pop Eikenberry tonight?” but they did not. We went out for dinner after and returned to Canton without me paying the bill. We returned next weekend and Sue was properly “popped.” (I then paid the restaurant tab.) I had a long wait in the hospital dining room. The doctors brought David out for me to see within seconds after his birth with blood smudges over much of his body, but he looked healthy and happy.
Because of a doctor’s advice, we were not feeding him enough and he cried every night around dinner until the doctor gave us some purple pills and we at last could enjoy our meal. Then we bought Dr. Spock, the bible for babies in those days, and it turns out that we were just starving him. Once we fed him more, he was a lot happier at dinnertime. After about a year, the steel industry had overstocked in anticipation of a strike but the government used the Taft-Hartley law to enjoin it. With no strike and an oversupply, the steel business “went to hell” and I was laid off.
Back to Columbus we went. I taught school again and got my grades up at night to get into law school. One year later, after Labor Day, I started law school. Sue and I left David with Momo every day, and Sue looked very good driving off to work in our sporty little black Saab to be visiting teacher at the school for developmentally disabled children where I had taught. We lived again on Neil Avenue in a duplex apartment across from a gas station. It was hard to put David into shorts because he contended that the guys at the gas station did not wear shorts. He could eat three hotdogs. When we gave him watermelon, we took off all of his clothing and he just ate watermelon naked until his belly looked to break. (David and Momo bonded strongly and it broke my heart to leave her behind in Columbus.) All my buddies in law school knew David well, and when I played basketball with them, he cried – apparently in fear that I would be hurt. After two years of law school, Douglas was born and David’s tour of only childhood ended.