For several years, Billy, Kerry, Jimmy, Willy, and I used to meet up together and drink, play cards and laugh about things we did on a daily basis. We'd sit on a homemade bench which was made of several planks of two by fours on upturned buckets. We had one of those large manilla rope reels for a card table and an old bullhead lamp that we stole from one of the southern pacific owl cars. The ocean used to lap against a seawall that once stood here, the end of the road terminated in a half loop that would send cars around us. We never stayed out too late, the police tended to wander our direction late into the evening and depending on who was walking the beat, they would either join in on a beer and a hand of cards or we would have long disappeared.
By 1924, all five of us owned a house on the street that we lived in with our marital spouses. But although we didn't take dinner with each other anymore, we still met up afterwards to play cards, joke around and be jovial and drunk. Although prohibition changed the way we would supply the nightly supply of beer, the police still came to drink with us. When that law came around, the officers who used to crack down on us for public drinking softened up and even joined our little club. Within a few years, The membership went from five to twelve. Us, the originals, two of our neighbors who usually supplied better beers, and five police officers. We carried on in this way until the end of prohibition, when we no longer had to smuggle in our alcohol. But night after night, we sat on our rude benches watching the boats pass along in the evening tide.
In 1939, we celebrated Billy's 40th birthday, him being the youngest of our club. But within a few weeks, he caught a cold and died. This was a shock to us. He had long been a pillar of our club. In his memory, we erected a concrete chair. A simple one with low, sloped arms and his name and date of death inscribed in the front of the seat. We decided to elect a president and at our meetings, he would sit in the Billy chair. After the second world war, rationing had taken its toll when two of the officers had died as well as the two old neighbors who had died. So it was four out of the original five left and three of the old beat cops. In their memories, we extended the billy chair with similar looking chairs attached to the sides, but two wide, and a gentle arc of a semi-circle.
The fifties had proved fruitful with many G.I.s coming home, our club found three new members. PFC Egmont, Sgt. Willis and Captain Seneca. But we were oldies and less frequented the club, turning out only once a week and soon, we found ourselves in the funeral garb more than once before the end of 1954. Willy, Kerry and Jimmy passed away that year, the three cops and the three new members moved to Los Angeles. I was the only one left. Investments in IBM proved good and with a little bit of extra cash, I had a new bench built in memory of everyone. But I was 60, I couldn't even remember all their names being struck down with Alzheimers. The mason looked at me and asked. "Do you want me to put their names down? What should I put?" I only looked at him, and smiled and said: "My Dumb Friends"
My own story in dedication to the "My Dumb Friends" bench in Alameda.