Larry E. Holcombe (1942-2000)
In an earlier blog entry a few days ago I mentioned my friend Larry, who I jumped through an opened car window of his yet-to-meet future wife Sheila.
Larry’s name was Larry Eugene Holcomb. He was born April 10th 1942 and died July 3, 2000. He lived 58 years.
He was a good friend of mine that I ran around with since childhood. I was almost a year older than Larry. Our back yards touched.
When we were around 7 or 8 or so we played cowboys a lot. Our back yards were an opened cattle range. The old leaning chicken house in our back yard was a salon when it wasn’t a ship sailing the high seas. Whatever mode we were in, we knew to report back home at 4:30. Four thirty was the time The Long Ranger came on the radio. We were faithful fans. We had Long Ranger’s badges we sent off to Maretta Bread for. Larry wore a Long Ranger’s black mask. I felt fruity with mine on, so I lost it.
Across the street from my family’s house was Larry Bell Park. Larry Bell, named of the CEO of Bell Bomber that eventually became Lockheed was huge sports complex that had tennis courts, softball fields, baseball fields, Little League Fields, and much more. It also had a creek going down the length of it. On our side of the creek was all just about wild growth. At one time they made three level plateaus for tennis court but just never developed it beyond the three levels. That was another opened range we would put our sticks between our legs and gallop over looking for evil bad guys with pencil thin mustaches.
Larry’s mother Jackie made him do his homework at a certain time everyday. I forgot what time was homework time but it sure put a damper on my playing.
On Saturday mornings we went to the movies. A.M. Saturday morning movies were targeted towards us young adolescents. His younger cousin Tate would meet us up at the theater and sit with us. After the movie was over and we left to meet the bright glaring sunlight our biggest project was to lose Tate. Sometimes we did, sometimes he managed to keep up.
Larry’s next door neighbor was Cliff White, who was also his uncle. Cliff had his hand in local politics and after a while of living next door, Larry’s father decided to get into local politics also. He went to see my father who was chief of the Marietta Police and asked for his support when he ran for councilman of our ward. I don’t think Daddy committed one way or the other. He frowned on Gene I think because Gene was showing signs of drinking a lot, and then Cobb County was a dry county.
Gene ran for councilman and won, without Daddy’s help. Later he ran for State Representative and won that too. I thought Gene looked like Lash Larue. Cliff went on up too. He became Deputy Commissioner under Commissioner Herbert McCollum. It was under Herbert McCollum that we lost our fine old stately courthouse and the county changed with the times: modern buildings and hands under the table deals. Jesse McCollum, Herbert’s wife was my 3rd grade teacher.
One time or another Larry enlisted into the Air Force. I forgot in what stage of life his life he was in at the time.
Larry and I ran around with the same bunch in high school. Sometime in the later years of high school Gene got caught with his hands in the till. He was treasurer of the State Fireman’s Fund, whatever that is, and he was caught embezzling the money. He was sent to prison, where he died. I never spoke brought it up to Larry, but he did to me several times.
Before Gene was caught he built up a lucrative juke box and pinball machine business. He had machines in all the private clubs in Cobb County that sold booze. It was still a dry county, but as long as it was a private club and no killings the law stayed away. These private clubs also had gambling with slot machines and poker games.
I should mention by then my father was out of the picture. Although when he was in the picture he and his men raided the world famous Aunt Fanny’s Cabin Restaurant in Smyrna, and shocked the elite How dare him?!
For Larry’s family to survive he had to keep the coin operated machines up. Once a week he would go to each club, take the money out of the machine, count it out, show the person in charge and rake off half of it to them. No need for paper work – no taxes.
At times I went with Larry to help him. He had an old truck we would to from place to place in. I suppose it was the company truck that was also used to deliver new juke boxes or whatever.
We went to a club that looked like a big plantation-style house on the 4-Lane, aka Cobb Parkway*. What is a big mansion looking house doing on the 4-Lane which wasn’t even a road until about 1950? I don’t know, but this house is close to Barclay Circle. In Civil War times the Fletcher family (that owned the famous Kennesaw House in Marietta where Andrew Raiders spent the night before The Great Locomotive Chase) had a summer home on Barclay Circle. They stayed on Barclay Circle when Sherman came to town in 1864. They were wealthy, so I suppose they had a big house of the times there, which as I said, is probably less than a quarter of mile through the woods to this club with a colonial-style house. If it did have historical significance it doesn’t matter. After the club moved on Strother Ford had their dealer ship there and the big building was their sales office. And, in time, it no longer served the needs of having a modern look, so it was probably bulldozed away. It is no longer there. Progress.
I wandered off the subject. Getting back on track, we went to the club I mentioned above, got all the money out of the machines, counted it, showed the manager, then raked off half of it and gave to him his share. Larry raked his part into a white cloth sack he carried for that reason. We got into the truck, drove down the road a short distance and Larry looked around and no white cloth sack. We pulled over and looked all over the truck. It was not in the truck.
Larry said he must have left it at the club we just left. We returned and went in. The few people playing poker at a nearby table and the manager and bartender all said they haven’t seen it. I bet at least one of them did. There was about $200 in the sack.
When we left I was really teed off at some unknown dishonest person in there. Larry didn’t say a word against them but he blamed himself for leaving the sack available.
Most of us in our late teen years and early manhood years would drink socially. Larry didn’t drink alcoholic beverages at all. He was right in the middle of it but he didn’t touch the stuff but had nothing ill to say about drinking. I think he didn’t drink because both of his parents were heavy drinkers. One time he told me Gene and Jackie left the Elks Club and stopped at a convenience store and Gene went into buy cigarettes. Jackie, under the influence, forgot her husband was in the store, and scooted over to the driver’s side and drove home. The state representative had to walk in the middle of a cold night home.
One time Larry bought a black 57 Chevy from another childhood friend Bobby. It had a soup up engine and loud muffles. It rumbled when it idled – it sort of reminded me of a big black animal growling and ready to pounce on something when it idled like that.
Right after he bought it from Bobby, at Varner’s, he and I rode around in it a while. It was late at night. We were going down Cobb Parkway (aka 4-Lane) and was in a desolated part of the highway at that time, at the bottom of the hill in front of what would become White Water Amusement Park and the engine cut out and went dead. We tried pushing it off the road when we heard a big truck up near the top of the hill. Then we saw its lights getting closer and closer. We both decided the truck was destined to hit the car at a high rate of speed and we ran. I thought about the brake lights. If the truck could see the red brake lights it would warn him. I ran back to the car and jumped in and put my foot on the brake petal. By now the truck lights lit up the whole back window. When I pressed the pedal the truck began to make all kinds of squealing noises and almost went by us sideways with dust and gravel flying…. But it kept on going by us and continued its journey. I was a fool.
I forgot what we did to get his car home, or how we got home.
My re-found childhood friend Walker reminded me that he worked with Larry at Atlantic Steel for a few years. That got me thinking about poor Larry. Larry left Atlantic Steel and went in business for himself selling advertising specialties. He sold ashtrays with company names on them, matchbooks with companies names, balloons, calendars, etc. He had a territory he worked from Marietta to Rome, Georgia, 50 miles away.
We would call each other about every week to 10 days and share gossip of our friends we grew up. Both of us were naturally nosy and had a good rapport sharing information.
Larry and Sheila had a daughter and a son. I saw them at Larry’s funeral They both grew into two nice looking adults.
Larry began to come down with various ailments. He was a sick man. He could not handle his company any more and sold it.
He lost his health insurance plan when he sold his company so he had to find a job that offered insurance. He went to work for Krogers.
I never heard him complain… although life has treated him pretty badly. He never quit going to Crestview Baptist Church where we went as kids.
He mostly worked the video department at Krogers. Every time I went in I the store I would walk over and talk to him. One time while we were talking the two huge brothers I keep seeing that I call “Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum” on my blog were checking out videos. After they left I asked Larry what was their story. Larry shook his head and said it was a bad situation and he was about to tell me and a customer wanted help. Then suddenly his line backed up for people checking out videos. I told him I would talk to him later. That was the last time I saw him alive. He left me with a cliff hangar.
He called me about three days before he died to tell me the latest on our friends and added that he fell and broke his leg and the doctor prescribed some pain medicine that did not agree with him. It sure didn’t.
At his funeral the local Masons that he was part of did a ceremony with aprons, poles, flags, and whatever else to make it look mystic. His sister, Peggy, was so sick with some kind of MS disease and woozy over medicine that she could hardly walk to the grave site. I had to hold her up as she slowly took one step at a time. I remember when was a lively little ball of fire. Now, she looked utterly confused and was crying. She was the last of her family. She and Larry buried their mother Jackie a year or so before.
Although she had a husband and grown children, I bet Peggy felt very alone that day.
*You can always tell a native if a person over 50 is a native or newcomer to Cobb County. If he says “Cobb Parkway” instead of “The 4-Lane” he is a newcomer carpet bagger.