By John Casey
of Alton and formally from Tunnel Hill
(Editor’s note: John Casey grew up in the Tunnel Hill. Danny and Phil Albritton lived for a while in Tunnel Hill and later moved to Vienna. They graduated from Vienna High School. According to Mr. Casey, the Albritton brothers were well-mannered and loads of fun to be around. Danny still lives in Vienna. Phil died a few years ago.
John Casey’s mother, Edith Casey, and dad, Randolph, raised eight children in Tunnel Hill. John was number five and the fourth son. He graduated from Vienna High in 1958.)
The Albritton brothers, Phil and Danny, were childhood buddies of mine. They lived next door and were always ready for an adventure or a game, especially Danny who was a year older than me. Phil also enjoyed playing games with his younger sibling and kids in the neighborhood.
One cool day after a game or two of kick-the can and no-gun-cowboy, mom called me to come home for lunch. As soon as lunch was over I headed back to the yard. Everyone except Danny had left. I asked him if he wanted a piece of apple pie that my mom had just baked. He said, “Sure.” I raced back home and asked mom for a piece of pie to take to Danny and she gave me a good slice and back I ran. I gave Danny the pie and expected him to eat it with his hands as I often did. He said he couldn’t and had to take it home. Why, I asked and he told me that one piece of pie was not enough, he had to cut it in two and share it with his brother. “Huh?” I had three older brothers and had never heard of that. At home when there were not enough pieces to go around, well, someone got left out. However, mom always made sure that she cut the pies in enough pieces for everyone. Sometimes, if a missing son was not at the table when the pie came out, someone got an extra piece.
Danny said that his mom insisted that her two sons share everything and if there was a need to divide something, it was done. He said when he and Phil shared a candy bar whoever broke the bar the other brother had the first choice. It was important to break the candy bar in the middle every time so each would get an equal share. That’s why Danny took the piece of pie home so that his brother could cut it in two pieces and he could eat his share. I never forgot that act of kindness, but admit it didn’t work that way at my house.
Last week when I was in a bank a small boy, perhaps 4, was talking to his mom in the teller line next to me. The boy was excited and the teller asked his mom why he was so happy. His mom explained that they were going to Germany to see the exchange student who had lived with them while attending school in Alton.
Her boy had become attached with “his big brother” and was happy to be going to see him. She added that her son liked money and knew she was getting some for the trip. The boy said his friend liked American money and he was going to take him some. When my transaction ended I traded a paper dollar for a dollar coin; a gold colored Luther B. Hayes presidential coin.
I asked the boy’s mom if I could give him the coin and she answered affirmative and I gave the boy the dollar and asked that he to give it to his friend. He graciously accepted it and said, “I will.” His mom also thanked me.
It was a good moment for all of us. It wasn’t generosity that prompted the act it was a simple act of kindness so easily done. From time to time I’ve seen other acts of kindness that were unexpected and always improved the moment.
A compliment also has a good effect when it is sincerely given. “That’s a beautiful red dress you have on.” “You look terrific in your red dress.” Which statement is the compliment? It’s the second one of course because it is directed to someone and not a thing. It’s the way you say something that makes the difference.
I heard my mom say, “I can live a month on a single compliment.” I quickly gave her one knowing sooner or later I would need her kindness in dealing with me when I said, “I didn’t mean it.”
On a visit to Las Vegas years ago my wife (ex) and I were walking down a hallway after attending a stage show and who did we see walking towards us but Rodney Dangerfield, the star of the just finished show. I spoke to him; “Mr. Dangerfield, I really loved your show.” He smiled and answered, “You don’t mean it, you don’t mean it”, and continued to walk on. His acknowledgement was perfect because he stayed in character. I enjoyed the encounter and thereafter when I saw him on TV say, “You don’t mean it, you don’t mean it.” I recalled the encounter, as well as mom.