They will be trekking back soon…the “lost boys”…those the University never quite understood. Back to Never Never Land. An Oasis clustered in West Philadelphia, a place most had no clue existed. A space set apart. The ‘Ship’ is still moored down by the river, keeping the ice in her hold. It was and is the stick in the eye of grand plans to grow the U/P. Albatrosses are to be eliminated. But one can’t touch the ‘Ship’ in Never Never Land, not while the “lost boys” keep her in their sights.
You want assimilation? The boys were spackled from Canada, New England, Illinois, Minnesota and other out state locations. Canadians, lads who Americans have always taken for granted came. People proud of their heritage, willing to assist the U.S. in its ‘escapades.’ You want intelligence, savvy, reflection, accomplishment? Community? Throw the ‘Lost Boys” together and you will find they produced, stood hard and long, laughed, drank, searched, thought and grew. They demonstrate a resounding will to live and a resounding demonstrative interaction most could only hope for.
They first came to Never Never Land when they heard the expressive flute music It beckoned them to come, to contend, play, and experience. Planted at various times, called to take in the scope of this wonder viewed as the stepping plate to adulthood…yet the “lost boys” kept the juvenile layered in .
There will be a lessening of responsibilities as the table is readied and the bodies begin to fill the long table at the New Deck Tavern. Lady Mary, ‘Wendy,’ and her family will be about to welcome the “boys,” as her father had done 45 years earlier. It was the New Deck then, so the sign said. But all referred to it as The Deck. Most “boys” passed on route to or from the ‘ship.’ The Deck was a square planked building adjacent to a Drug store on the corner of 3400 Walnut St., bottomed in white chipped brick up to window level. It was home to two, then three of the “boys,” on the third floor.
It was special. Smokes had the reputation as well as the skirts. The Ryans were always caring. Most “boys” had carved their names in the dark wood somewhere in that darkened cave-bar. Stevie welcomed all and poured like it was the last night allowed. Pong was the first video game of sorts with the long shuffleboard table always in use. The Deck was quieter, but never quaint. It had its genesis with Irish mirth and charm stroked in care by Mike Doyle. He with a young family but always there to listen. Tough practice? Hard game? One got swallowed up in the the light of appreciation Mike gave; could feel they counted.
This was the time of the early 70’s. The war was skidding to a close, the froth of the sixties rhetoric had blown off and all were groovin to something beyond themselves. First Class studies…no lay ups, excepting “Rocks for Jocks.’ That class was filled with “boys.” But there weren’t too many others, if any, that helped the grade average. Stat, Econ 1., Econ 2 … small parts of the illustrious Wharton Business School. There were no short cuts in the College either. Senior thesis’ be damned. Red topped stools, some cracked, offered condolence. And a cold beer or three.
Throw in the Onion and a few other peripheral watering holes and the “lost boys” found places to rest their souls. Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly, and The Twins all found comfort from their nemesis…”growing up!” It was at the Deck, Smokes and the others where the ‘fairy dust’ was sprinkled. The years ticked by. ‘Peter’ thinned them out each year. They left to adventures that spread Coast to Coast, North and South. Success found them taxing the runways of varied advocations. They became as those who had let them slip the moors of youth and make the journey to ‘Never Land.’
Success. It really was not a special quality beyond the competitive ability to make it part of the adventure. It followed each at its own pace. And the “boys” felt it come.. and go. In Never Land it was alway around. As Tinker Bell. With her laugh and her sulkiness.
They will gather. What Hugh started and Bobby milked in his silky penmanship and statesman craft; it is a generational harbor of good will and memories. A remembrance of a time when the shower water flowed over dreary heads and balmed away the aches of a tough practise or a hard fought loss. In victory the water was a sweet moment of contentment. The ‘ship’ had filled, the band had played, and the “Red and the Blue” was belted out in euphoric triumph. Never Land quivered in excitement and pleasure.
The years swept by and the “boys” slipped away. A few each year only to be exchanged for younger blood. It was good. Now the return brings back not what was but what is, lost youth that respects what occurred, is thankful for the adventure, the challenge, and the lessons, both in class and on Locust Walk.
But it was on the ‘Ship,’ and the places to reconcile the day’s events with the patterning of friends, shipmates, that is to be remembered this weekend to come. The “Lost Boys” are returning, those that can, and they will enjoy. The ship will beckon. The ‘dust’ will be applied and the stories will be exhumed and bantered about. It’s expected. It is what’s anticipated. It is what should be.
Never Never Land. What a place, a time, a journey.