I didn’t sign up that night to fight the fascists in Spain, although the pervasive power of the man was hypnotic. What I did do was corner Sharral after the meeting and interview him for our weekly high school newspaper, the Washingtonian. I had learned that I could interview people and do a relatively good job turning that interview into a story.
I felt good about the Sharral interview and the follow up story. Somewhere in my files, I still have a faded yellow dipping.
While it didn’t make a helluva lot of difference one way or the other, after my story was published I found out that the American Communist Party had sponsored that Reed College meeting.
As a result of my interview with Robert Sharral, I continued throughout my senior year to follow closely the troubling news from out of Spain.
During those final days of the republic, remnants of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade played a key role in a stubborn, guerrilla defense that held the fascists at bay in Barcelona and the craggy mountains of Catalonia. But it was a losing struggle, In January 1939, Franco and his henchmen took over the country. Spain fell under the fist of a repressive military dictatorship that was to last for more than forty years.
I’ve answered readily to three different nicknames in my lifetime. When I was a small youngster, my family called me “Billy.” In high school and beyond, my classmates called me “By ” Even in college, “Hi, By!.” became a ubiquitous greeting.
A third nickname, “Packy,” came a few years later in the islands of the South Pacific.
My mother delighted in wearing Coty’s Emeraude, a heady, cloying perfume, which -I never liked. Still, on her birthday or at Christmas, I would usually buy her a bottle. That particular gift always made a colossal hit.
One spring, I dated a girl, Priscilla Fisher, who dabbed herself from head to toe with Coty’s Emeraude. Every time I kissed her, it was like kissing my mother.
After the second or third date—that was enough. I couldn’t get myself to tell her why, but I never took her out again.