Uncle Bob

I read the other day that a TV series is being developed entitled "Uncle Bob." I can't wait to see it because just hearing the words "Uncle Bob" brings back a ton of memories for me.

I know you aren't supposed to have a "favorite" uncle just like you aren't supposed to have a favorite child but invariably, there is a tendency to prefer the company of one uncle over the rest if you had as many aunts and uncles as I did. I won't touch the child thing. Uncle Bob always represented excitement to me as I was growing up because when he was around, something was going to happen. Before I go any further, maybe I should tell you that Uncle Bob would "take a drink." That's the way it used to be expressed. Not that "he drinks", but he will "take a drink." Most of the men I saw consume alcohol when I was growing up, was out of a bottle in a brown bag behind a filling station. The men( I don't remember seeing women drink) would pass the bottle around and each would take a "snort." An individual's manhood would be determined by how he reacted to downing the drink as measured by his facial grimaces and guttural sounds. Honestly, I have witnessed situations where I thought the individual taking the drink was going to die on the spot. Did I mention that only sissies used an kind of a chaser. Enough commentary on Southern folklore; this article is about Uncle Bob.

Based on what I have said above, you can imagine how excited I was when I learned that Uncle Bob was moving into the house next door to us in Raleigh. In my mind, all my boring days were over because Uncle Bob would make something happen or he would be the happening himself. He always had what I thought were cool jobs like a soda jerk, dry cleaning deliveryman and a route salesman for a sandwich company. He had an excellent singing voice and sang some professionally as well as being a solid member of the church choir. I hate to say it but I have seen him sneak out from choir practice on a Thursday night to have a little nip from a bottle he had hidden in his automobile. I never saw him imbibe on Sunday mornings but Sunday evenings were another story.

The most vivid memory I have of Uncle Bob who passed in the early 70's was when he took me to my first college football game. Oh, I had been out to the N.C. State campus and snuck into several games, but I mean he took me to the first game where I would have a ticket and an assigned seat. I knew I wouldn't have to worry about being thrown out of the game because I didn't have a ticket stub.

I really don't know why he chose a Duke game for us to attend, but you have to keep in mind that Duke football had made a lot of friends in the 40's in North Carolina as a result of going to 2 Rose Bowls in 4 years when the Rose Bowl was regarded by many as the national championship game. Duke had played Southern California in the 1939 Rose Bowl in Pasadena Cal. and, going into that game, the Blue Devils were undefeated, untied, and UNSCORED ON. You heard me right. Until the last 2 minutes of the game with SC, Duke had not been scored on and they were leading 3-0 at the time.

The 1942 Rose Bowl game with Oregon State was played in Durham and for those of you who think moving the game from California to N.C. was overreacting, maybe you should make note of the fact that Japanese balloons with explosives attached to them caused deaths as far east as Minnesota. There was much fear about what the Japanese would do next and they weren't about to assemble 100,000 people on the west coast less than 1 month after Pearl Harbor.

I should have known it was gong to be an exciting day when we stopped in Fuquay-Varina (called Fuquay Springs at the time) to pick up one of Uncle Bob's friends and they immediately went behind the filling station for pre-game activities. Nobody was drunk when we got to Duke Stadium and we could smell the BBQ that had been cooking all night before as we walked from the car to the Stadium. I can't remember how Uncle Bob transported his bottle into the stadium but I know he managed to get it by the ticket taker with no difficulty.

Sorta like in the Andy Griffith monologue, before we could get to our seats, we heard the crowd a hollering loud and we ran up to the usher and asked him, "What happened." He said, "Georgia Tech scored on the first play." Well, you could have knocked us over with a feather. To say we were disappointed that we had missed a touchdown would be an understatement. Reasoning that since we had already missed a touchdown, why not go back to the concession stand and get a BBQ sandwich and a big orange. And that's what we did except when we got in line at the concession stand, we heard the crowd a hollering again, only this time louder than the first time. So we ran back to the same usher and asked him what had happened and he said Duke had scored on their first play. We had missed approximately 30 seconds of the game and had missed two touchdowns and hadn't even gotten ourselves a BBQ and a big orange. Bad day was in the making.

The highlight of the game was to be at halftime when I went to the men's room and was greeted by my cousin upon my return with "Daddy got into a fight while you were gone." Naturally, I asked who, how and why and was told that a Ga. Tech fan had engaged Uncle Bob in a learned discussion of the game and somehow Uncle Bob fell backwards down about three rows with his fortified drink spilled all over him. My cousin who was probably about 17, immediately grabbed the Ga. Tech fan, who was about 5'8" tall, no more than 140 pounds and drunk as a skunk, by the shirt and inquired of Uncle Bob, "Do you want me to hit him?" Uncle Bob still residing on his backside, cup in hand and hat knocked sideways responded in almost regal fashion, "No, release him?" I always thought that was the coolest thing to do, particularly when the fall must have been embarrassing to Uncle Bob. By the way, I have an article from Life Magazine on the BBQ at Duke Stadium and it says that around 40,000 BBQ sandwiches were sold at each home game. An average of more than one per spectator.

Driving back to Raleigh by way of Fuquay Springs was a genuine adventure. By the time we got to FS, Uncle Bob was all over the road and scaring the bejeebies out of all of us. When his friend got out, Uncle Bob's son refused to get back in the car unless Uncle Bob let him drive. We only had two problems. One, Uncle Bob was not in the mood to be told that he couldn't drive and two, the cousin didn't have any driver's licenses.

Uncle Bob finally gave in and my friend and I got down in the back floorboard, reasoning that if we had a wreck we would be afforded some protection by the front seats. We got home with no further incidents about 10:00 that night.

The mother of my friend who went with me had telephoned my mother (Uncle Bob's sister) around 7:00 to see if we had returned from the game. When my mother told my friend's mother that we had not returned and she had heard nothing from us ( remember, no cell phones ), her comment was, "Well, I won't worry because I know they are O.K. They are with Mr. Hoggard ( Uncle Bob )." Not everybody knew that Uncle Bob "took a drink" or two or three or more. Strange thing is, I can't even remember who won the game.