When I began writing this week’s column I had it in my mind, and in my notes, to cover high school stage productions, local law armory and a couple other short pieces. But, as the old saying goes, “stuff happens” (paraphrased for publication) and now I cannot get all I have to say in the 918 words left me.
For many, the following words will not mean much, that is natural where there is no personal connection, so I apologize for that while also hoping that a few readers find the words worthy.
This column is a rambling nod to my old friend Earl Wilson “Rusty” Cassatt. I cannot say that I met Rusty in kindergarten in 1957 because back then at Greenfield Grammar School there were morning and afternoon sessions and I was morning, he was afternoon. But I did become aware of him because of his reputation at that time; he was known as, for want of a better word, a terror. I recall hearing he bit a couple kids, pushed another into the sandbox, pretty rough stuff for a 5-year-old.
Years later he told me as an only child he had no experience sharing toys, or anything else, so when he wanted to play with something he would just take it from another student. I distinctly remember the classroom had two telephones that we talked to other students on (don’t ask me how they did it) and they were very popular. Earl told me he wanted to talk to himself and when a girl tried to take one phone he bit her like a dog protecting a bone. You will notice I alter between “Rusty” and “Earl,” so let me explain.
Because of his blondish, reddish hair his parents called him Rusty; this I found is common to the Scots and that made sense because Rusty’s mother, Mary Wilson Cassatt, was born in and spent her first eight years in Scotland. So Rusty is the name all we classmates and playground mates called him and because his father, Earl Cassatt, was the local banker and his mother worked in the post office, all the teachers at the school — who at that time all were long-time Greenfield residents — also called him Rusty.
It wasn’t until 1963, the sixth grade, when a new teacher to the area called roll on the first day of school and read “Earl Cassatt,” and all of us turned our heads toward Rusty as that was new to us. He was quick with a response: “It’s Rusty, call me Rusty!” I later found that his father Earl was actually George Earl Cassatt, so Rusty was not a “Junior.”
I refer to Rusty as Earl when speaking of him post-1995 when working for Rick Grogan on his maintenance crew during the Fair. Rusty was there and he said he needed a bathroom and we were close enough to the office to use that one so we entered by the director’s room door and as introduction to the half-dozen people sitting around the table, drinks in hand, I said this is Earl and Mary Cassatt’s son Rusty. Again, he spoke up very loudly and forcefully “It’s Earl!” OK, Earl, I got the message.
Rusty was part of the old Fifth Street Gang of late ’50s, early ’60s Greenfield, a dozen or more kids all within four or five years in age who lived on Fifth Street, with a couple from Sixth Street and Elm and Palm avenues. But as an only child with dual income parents, Rusty’s life was a bit different than the rest of us. Many of his clothes came from Cable Car Clothiers in San Francisco, a Scottish shop. San Francisco was a favorite destination for the Cassatts, they would leave on Friday afternoons and return Sunday evenings, did so for years. Rusty knew Disneyland well; his father had a brother who lived close and visits there were numerous.
The Wilson side of the family, quite a number, were centered in Flint, Mich., and most were employed by various factions for the automobile manufacturing industry. After a few auto trips to Flint in his earlier years, Rusty and parents later traveled by train; trains became a life-long love of Earl’s. He knew American rail history and could name a large locomotive and where and when it was manufactured.
The Civil War and World War II were also subjects he could discuss at length, remembering names and dates of battles and generals who led them. His favorite movie was “The Longest Day.” Not limited to the States, Rusty (and Earl) traveled to England, Scotland and France as a youth and later with decades-old friend Stephen Clark and a friend of them both from their college days. Both Steve and Rusty attended Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. While living there, Rusty got to know an uncle of mine from my mother’s side, one of those rare coincidences in life.
The above is where I stopped writing five days ago. It struck as blatantly unfair that I should have a whole column for what amounts to an obituary. After a relative provides pertinent information, I will submit an obituary and pay for it. Soon, I hope. I was in too much grief to think beyond my own life; others have also lost dear ones and don’t have a public forum to express their thoughts.
My pain cannot be any more than Danny losing Linda; and what could Linda’s family and friends say about her if given a thousand words to work with? Claudia was Al and Frances’ daughter, married to Jerry, my Babe Ruth coach. Billy and Bobby lost their mom; Barbara was a big personality to any who knew her.
And, like Rusty and me, all of these ladies were Greenfield rooted and take with them memories of earlier days. Such is life when death happens, we remember the good things.
Take care. Peace.