Ettore, we hardly knew ya...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/06/21 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

Blazingly non-technical, you know the drill....

Today (June 21st) is a day that I will probably always remember.

It was because of June 22, 1985.

I'll explain....

It was one of those days at the Beechmont Country Club caddy shack when there was just enough of a stumble in the weather that over half the caddies were stuck in the shack.

Like many of the others, I played Tonk pretty furiously in the 'shack, and we all played for money. Even though I was still at the early time in my Tonk career (such as it was). Because you see, on

a four hour stint of Tonk while waiting for the afternoon loops could easily make more money than the $0-$24 the above would net. And in those early days I was good enough to be regularly winning but still able to make it look like I didn't know what I was doing and ascribe it all to luck (the easiest way to do that was to hang on to a very low hand rather than going down when I could and catching whoever went down; then it was never an overt act on my part that made me win -- I just looked like someone afraid to play boldly!).

I had a very innocent face at the age of 14, but was already fairly well into an evil phase, I think.

Before the summer was over folks caught on to me, and it proved to be harder to fleece caddies of their "extraneous" cash through acting innocent -- so I just played straight like the oldtimers did. But that still paid, and caddying still paid well on its own, too. You could easily do 36 holes if you showed up early enough to guarantee a morning loop, and on a really wild day you could do 45 holes and that last crazy dude who wanted a quick nine at the end of the day would often pay as much for his one bag as the two guys paid for both bags just 4 hours prior....

Anyway, where was I before that massive digression?

Oh yeah, June 22, 1985. It was a Saturday, I probably should have mentioned that.

Although now, over 25 years later, I am wondering if it was Sunday (the 23rd). It was that weekend, for sure.

I hadn't sat down to play Tonk yet.

I was waiting for one of the guys to be out who was about to be down to his bus fare home (he must have started light, no one plays higher stakes that early in the morning than 25¢/50¢ and it has to be a weekend afternoon with a bunch of highrollers off $50-100 loops from the morning to play $1/$2 or higher stakes games -- I can't believe that Wikipedia article suggested stakes were usually 5¢/10¢, who the hell would waste their time?!?).

He was about to be out and although I was anxious to get in the game (and make up for no morning loop since if memory serves my dad was playing and had a late tee time and I was too lazy to walk to thye bus if I could get a ride). I was by then at least smart enough to not act too eager; I was just killing time, looking at an extra bit of the paper someone had brought in.

And then I saw it. In The Plain Dealer.

Ettore "Hector" Boiardi, who you may know as Chef Boyardee, had passed away on Friday. He had been living in Parma.

I suppose I could look in The Plain Dealer archives to find out the exact date, now that I think about it. But there isn't time right now, and this blog is time sensitive!

I called this fact (his passing away) out to the remaining caddies in the shack, and we all had kind of a moment of silence.

We had some conversations about the merits of the Chef's stuff vs. SpaghettiOs and so on. Some people liked one better than the other, and so on. And I finally got to play some Tonk.

Then in the afternoon when it got a little sunnier and we got loops, I asked Jerry (the caddymaster) if we could fly the flag (which was just being raised since the rain had stopped) at half-mast. For the Chef.

I will never forget the look he gave me. He had long before worked out with my parents and the guy on the committe in charge of caddying that I would be allowed to caddy even though my family belonged but I could never ask for special treatment and that he should never treat me different from the other caddies. And I never did (I just like the money better there than Oakwood and the distance better than Canturbury and the golfers/money better than Shaker). But I don't know if he truly believed it, because he still did give me what looked like preferential treatment sometimes.

And at the very least, Jerry did fly the flag at half mast that day, after I asked.... :-)

When I went out on my loop, walking down the long fairway of the 5th hole (a legitimate Par 5 with an out of bounds on the left that even I had hooked into once myself) kind of with the whole group since their balls were fairly close together on the fairway and one of the guys in the foursome who I was carrying for (his bag was on my right shoulder) asked if I knew what was up with the half-mast flag (he had seen Jerry putting it up on the way over to the practice green earlier).

I explained about how we were just showing some respect for Chef Boyardee, who had just passed away. You know, how maybe someday it would be fancy food we'd be into but I was 14 and the Chef was all I needed these days....

They were all kind of surprised but I was very earnest in my little soliloqouy and the other caddy nodded reverently, so no one laughed. A few nice things were said about his pasta, but obviously things were pretty reverent.

It all lightened back up by the 7th hole when a rather crazy slice became as point of focus, and we moved back into cheerier interaction. I remember being relieved that we weren't going to act like the whole loop was a funeral march, and the other caddy was also relieved (no want wants depressed golfers when the time to get paid rolls around!).

At the end of the loop (light bags, good golfers -- one of mine shot a 77 and the other a 79 -- and the day was not too hot, all and all it was minimal effort required) I got an extra hundred dollar billover the money I expected for carrying the bags including tip (between $30 and $50, and it was $50) -- so at $150 this was the single largest amount I had ever received up to that date and the larget amount ever outside of a big money game or tournament game, with no real reason given beyond a few kind words he said to me about the little speech on the fifth hole fairway. And that golfer had never tipped me that much, before or since. The $50 would be much more typical for this particular golfer....

Back at the caddy shack I told the tale and showed the money, and some people figured it was because I seemed so mature about the death thing.

Others though it was to cheer me up.

And then some others thought it was an accident and that the bill was supposed to be a $20, but it was on top so I doubted that. I didn't go back to offer him the $100 back; he was at least a two-comma guy with one of those expensive cars in the lot and I figured he could spare it.

Perhaps you recall me mentioning I was kind of evil at the time, though I didn't look it!

I made a bit more playing $2/$4 Tonk for a few hours (some old sharks were hoping to relieve me of that tip but they failed in their quest watching a few good streaks of mine and gave up, deciding I was going to stay lucky that day!), and then I went home.

It was a very profitable day, considering I had easy golfers. And between Tonk before and after (the high stakes game especially!) and the 18 and the tip I went home with nearly $200, all tax-free.

Not bad for an easy day as a 14 year old. Minimum wage was like $3.35 then, so if I had been working that long at most jobs I'd have no cash to take home and a measly $20 extra in my paycheck to show for it all the next week.

When is the last time you tipped someone at Chick-Fil-A? :-)

That day, my thoughts were not on the money though, they were still on Ettore "Hector" Boiardi, who I had never met.

Not the first time I encountered death, but he was the first person I had some kind of connection with (his pasta!) but died before I ever really found out anything about them. Too late to change that, I consoled myself with the fact that I would not have known how to go meet him if I magically knew he was about to pass on. So there was no way it would have gone any differently.

I don't really remember if I mentioned the Chef Boyardee when I got home or not. I mean I vaguely recall my mom having one of those "where did that come from" looks on her face but I was inspiring that look often enough that I can't be sure it happened on that date in particular.

I am pretty sure I didn't talk about the money. I didn't want to miss out on getting money for stuff like movies because they figured I could use my own!

Anyway, June 21st was quite a day in the life of me.

I remember it a lot more vividly than I do a lot of my caddying days (there are a handful I remember very well, this is one of them).

So when I saw it come up on the calendar while looking at the blogs, I pushed aside the blog that was going up (it will be there tomorrow, never fear!), and wrote this, instead.

I hope I didn't bore anyone too much.... :-)

John Cowan on 21 Jun 2010 8:36 AM:

My wife's nephew is a manager at a Chick-fil-A, and the reason he works there (other than that they paid for his college tuition at Berry College) is that he sees it as a great opportunity to witness for Christ, especially among his employees.  This is typical of the company: see the Wikipedia article.  It's a good thing for me that I don't like Chick-fil-A sandwiches at all.

Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jun 2010 1:30 PM:

I just like the food -- the only thing I don't like about Seattle is that there is no Chick-fil-A!

Gwyn on 21 Jun 2010 1:55 PM:

A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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