Ruby was our pal. His real name was Wayne and he should have actually been called Ruby junior but it just sounded so clunky and anyway we knew who we were addressing or talking about.
Wayne’s dad was also called Ruby and Doris was his mom. I do not know how but we never got confused. He had a beautiful sister, Debbie. She was a blonde and a knockout. She was a couple years older than most of us except George. Their last name was Rubenstahl so you see where we got the name.
Ruby’s dad was a printer and worked the next town over. His routine was the same every day. At work by seven, home by four, off to Canton public golf course by four
ten during the season. Turning onto Secret Lake Road the first thing in sight was a
Triumph, BSA motorcycle dealership and just after this the golf course on the left and the right.
Secret Lake had a seedy reputation and I don’t know why. The homes were built long before most other developments springing up. I would bet their construction was pre war. Maybe this is the reason. There were no manicured lawns or large lots with big side yards. Everything in Secret Lake was compact and condensed. In some cases you could almost shake hands with a neighbor from a window.
A mile down the road, Georges’ house on the left, another fifty feet a left turn and you arrived at Ruby’s house. The lake was at the end of the street.
It seemed every one was drawn to this house. I could never talk to my parents but talk to Doris I did. George, Russell, Jo Jo, B.F. and many others did as well. Jo Jo was dating Debbie and had been with her a long time so he was always there. Doris was one of the warmest people I ever knew.
There was nothing you could not say to her and she always made you feel at home, welcomed and comfortable. She was not beautiful and probably not even pretty. She was five feet tall and always wore a house dress. I don’t think I ever saw her any different. But there was ten feet of respect here.
Russell, Ruby and I were only sixteen but many Fridays we would sit in the yard or kitchen. Doris would hand us a beer or two and just chat. There was no big deal made of having a beer. Doris always made sure no one would leave if tipsy except of course, George. He was only fifty feet away and never listened to any one any how.
I am sure though if Doris wanted his attention she would have it. Amazing how you fit so much power into such a small package.
Russell was the mechanic and driver of our group. He lived at the very end of Secret Lake, their house in the shadows of a cliff and private. His dad owned a gas station and Russ picked up his skills. He would buy junk cars and fix them up. He actually made money with some of these. Some he raced on the street away from prying eyes. He usually made money at this as well.
He was a natural driver. Hell I can only remember three accidents with him. He must have been a good driver because there were no seat belts or airbags then. So in these rollovers and high speed spinouts we came away relatively unscathed.
We always had confidence in him. He never let us down although these cars did not fare as well.
Russ, Ruby and I spent most of our time together. Ruby even dated my baby sister, Janet for a little time. As does many times happen, these, relationships evolve and transform. It usually had to do with girls. We moved apart a bit not all together. One of us would end dateless or girless and get fixed up by another of us.
This was one of those periods when I spent more time with George. We would date girls from other towns a much needed change. Our town was small, only twenty five hundred population, the high school of seven hundred. How tiresome that became.
It was around this time I had turned eighteen and had joined the Army. I was the only one to do so. Vietnam was ramping up and I was an idiot!
I had been stationed at Fort Devens, close to my Connecticut friends, just a short two hour hitchhike home.
I remember so clearly this Friday night. It was a beautiful spring night and had just stopped raining. I had gotten a great ride from a very pretty girl on her way home from college for the weekend. I was seriously considering asking her out.
It was two minutes after nine.
We had just turned right onto Main Street from Troutbrook Drive in West Hartford.
Suddenly my heart stopped, my breath stolen from me, my brain seemed to drop to the floorboards and massive chill settled deeply, profoundly into my very being.
WDRC news came on the radio.
Wayne Rubenstahl of Secret Lake, Canton, shot to death in Georgia. The loss of this friendly wonderful kid changed life for so many.
The next time I saw Doris and Ruby it was like looking at strangers. The life just pulled from them. I simply am unable to describe the desolation I saw. It is forty years gone by and thankfully the pain and bottomless sorrow gone at least for them.
God Bless you Ruby, I know you are at peace .