Joe was the new kid in the neighborhood. His family came from New Jersey. Joe’s family moved to a new house on my paper route.
I noticed Joe while I was delivering newspapers on his street. He seemed to be about my age. I wondered why I hadn’t seen Joe in school.
Somehow I found the courage to ask Joe, “Hey kid, don’t you go to school?” “Of course I go to school. I go to Saint Joseph’s”, he replied. I asked, “Is that a school where the teachers are called nuns?”
By now Joe had become tired of the conversation. I think he thought we were never going to be friends. He was wrong.
We were as different as two kids could be. Joe was from New Jersey, I could not have found New Jersey on a map. He went to Catholic School, I went to public school. Joe loved the New York Yankees, I loved the Saint Louis Cardinals.
We learned to like each other. It wasn’t easy. One day I invited Joe to accompany me on my paper route. He agree to come along. The next day he was waiting for me to ride along again. It was very few days that Joe didn’t “help” me deliver papers after that.
Joe and I became buddies. We did everything together. We went to movies. We played baseball, never on the same team. He was a Yankee, I was a Cardinal.
Joe started public school in high school. We were finally able to go to school together. At public school, Joe was everyone’s friend.
Joe worked at a fast-food hamburger restaurant during high school. One of the benefits of the job was that Joe was able to buy his meals at a discount. Joe let his “friends” use his discount. Joe’s ”friends” were more than happy to charge burgers to Joe’s meal account. Several paydays, Joe actually owed the restaurant more for “his” meals than he made that week. Joe didn’t mind, his friends were hungry.
Joe and I planned on attending a one particular high school football game. We were going to go to the game after I finished my shift at the restaurant I was working at; I was a meat cutter at the restaurant. The restaurant brought in 1/4 sides of beef. It was my job (along with another guy) to cut up the beef and grind it for burgers.
This particular Friday night, my workmate cut his hand prepping the sides of beef. I had to transport him to the hospital for stitches. I told Joe to go to the game without me. Joe told me he was going to wait. When I got back from the hospital Joe was grinding the meat. He didn’t want us to be late for the game.
I didn’t see Joe much after high school, If I may quote Joe’s favorite baseball player, Yogi Berra, “when you get to a fork in the road, take it.” That’s what we did, Joe took a fork, I took another. We ran into each other a few times over the next 35 years. I can’t explain why, but we never were close again.
Last week Joe went to play ball with Yogi Berra. Breathe easy my friend. Joe Hall RIP.
Our crazy lives