Beltsville Shell Book Reviews

 "BELTSVILLE SHELL  ... Read the first sentence of any chapter and the reader is hooked, the people are real, the details bring it to life, writing is smooth, the ironic conclusion is poignant.  You are an historian and sociologist, your analysis of the 1950s generation (and lasting until 1970) is genuinely profound.  The tone is always right – good humored, serious but light-hearted, intelligent, ironic.  A time and place comes to life."

—Professor George H. Callcott, History Department, University of Maryland


"About five minutes ago I finished reading BELTSVILLE SHELL ... I do an enormous amount of reading and I am rarely moved.  Right now, right at this moment, I am moved.  This thing that we do, this relationship with cars, our cars, runs so deep in us that it lasts a lifetime.  What are you doing now that you were doing as a teen-ager?  What interests did you have as a young man that is as strong or stronger today as back then?  This car thing can really get a grip on you.  I wanted to send this note of thanks for sending me back over thirty years to such a wonderfully rich time in our lives.”

—Pete La Barbera, Owner, The Rod Shop


"The Board of Directors of the Prince George’s County Historical Society sincerely appreciates the contribution of your book, BELTSVILLE SHELL: You Are What You Drive to the Frederick S. DeMarr Library of County History.  This book fills a niche of social history that is all too easily forgotten.  Gifts such as these help the Society continue its mission of fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rich culture and history of our county."

—Sarah Bourne, Prince George’s County Historical Society



By Bob Wallace, Editor
VETTE Magazine, a Primedia Publication

BELTSVILLE SHELL: YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRIVE By Cary Thomas What would you get if you crossed American Graffiti with Bruce Springsteen, then wrapped it in a paperback book cover? If you said BELTSVILLE SHELL: YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRIVE, Cary Thomas' paean to fast cars, rock and roll, and adolescent testosterone in the tumultuous'60s you'd come pretty close.

Beltsville, Maryland is now an anonymous northeastern suburb of Washington, D.C., but in the '60s and into the '70s, it was one of the small towns nestled along US Route 1, then a main corridor between D.C. and Baltimore. Beltsville Shell was a service station, back in the days before self-serve (or pay an extra fifty cents per gallon to have a surly slob do it for you), when the gas was not only pumped for you but a usually courteous attendant washed your windshield and at a minimum gave the car's tires and vital fluids a cursory check. Beltsville Shell was, thanks to a somewhat understanding and open-minded owner, also a local hangout for a group of car-crazed teenagers, a place to for them to work on their four-wheeled alter egos and, for a lucky few, their first job.

Cary Thomas was one of those kids, and BELTSVILLE SHELL is his warm and gentle, raucous and rowdy remembrance of that brief period when muscle cars ruled, when a high school kid could actually afford to buy a few years old Corvette, and before the war in Vietnam claimed the lives of over 50,000 young Americans and divided the country to a degree unseen since the Civil War. It's also an ode to the Corvettes of yesteryear and one particular clique, 13 teenage guys with tetraethyl lead in their veins.

The 184-page book is divided into 41 concise chapters covering topics like "Racing in the Snow," "Midnight Auto Supply," "Girls," and "Mishaps" to "The $15.00 Car" (the author's first car, a '56 Bel Air two door sedan) and "My First Ride in a Corvette." ('I was stricken not only with the Corvette mystique, but also with the adrenaline rush of drag racing. I would never be the same.') Chapter 13 will make most grown men get a little weak kneed as the author relates buying his first Corvette, a Roman Red '59 fuelie (with a carburetor replacing the Rochester F.I. system) and optioned with factory metallic brakes (RPO 686), close ratio four-speed (RPO 685), a 4.56:1 Posi rearend (RPO 675), and radio delete-an all together very serious then-seven year old car-for the magnificent sum of $1,200!

BELTSVILLE SHELL should unleash a flood of memories for anyone who grew up in the '60s and early '70s. It's not, however, purely an exercise in warm and fuzzy nostalgia, filtered through rosy-tinted glasses and three decades. The joys and exhilaration of street races are recounted, as is the emotional body blow of the deaths of three different friends in two violent, high speed crashes. Cary Thomas sold his '59 Corvette in June of 1973, but never his love affair with America's Sports Car never died, and 40 years after that first memorable ride in a friend's '62 Corvette, now living on the West Coast, he bought another Corvette. Some things in life come full circle.

I enjoyed the book, a lot, and heartily recommend it.


Book Review
Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive

Book by Cary Thomas
ISBN 0-9745757-0-4, 184 pages

By Ted Ladd
The Beltsville News

Beltsville Shell is the story of author Cary Thomas and his friends, all drawn to working on their cars, in many cases Chevy Corvettes, to improve performance and appearance. It drew them into close and enduring friendships. The book's sub-title, "You Are What You Drive," gives a clue to their orientation. He and many friends worked part time at Beltsville Shell, at the time located at 10410 Baltimore Avenue, across from Sunnyside Avenue. This became the headquarters of their informal club, referenced in the book as JTRAMFGS. You will have to read the book to discover the meaning.

If you live in Beltsville and start reading Beltsville Shell, you probably won't be able to put it down until you finish the last page. It starts with a three-page description of the town, and from there consists of short stories, each with a main character from the period 1965-70. There are photos of each of them from that era. Some stories are about drag racing in Beltsville, usually on Old Gunpowder Road, or Sunnyside Avenue. These are interspersed with descriptions of "cruising" between the Mighty Mo in Queenstown and a drive-in Hot Shoppes in Langley Park, and some hi-jinx at High Point High School, which earned the author a one-day suspension. Included are historic pictures of Boteler's store, the Beltsville Fire Department, a trolley car, a Driver's Education class at High Point, and many classic cars. Readers are reminded of Randy's Dari Delight, the Beltsville Drive in theater, the skating rink at the south end of town, and Friday Night teen-club meetings at the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department.

Beltsville residents will recognize many characters in the book: Sonny Boteler, Dan Holbrook, High Point Vice Principal Fred Novak, Charlie Hopkins, Bris Rightmeyer, Johnny Wozney, Webster Gross, Jimmy McEvoy, Sharon Cox, Wayne Armiger, John Bradley, Dexter Drake, Brenda Fisher, Nace DeLauter, Jeff Hughes, Michael Tanguay, Jimmy Becker, Jim Brakefield, Wayne Thomas, Albie Peterson, Frank Porto, Peewee Thompson, Darryl Richards, Carl Schinner, Charlie Wooster, Jimmy Mayo, Dana Moore, Joe Corbin, Larry Reeves, Gary Scaggs, Frank Bollinger, and Linda Kolsky.

Author Cary Thomas grew up in Beltsville, graduated from High Point High School in 1965, and received a BS in Information Systems from the University of Maryland four years later. He went on to receive an MBA from the University. Thomas and his wife Nancy now reside in Carlsbad, California. Thomas serves as Chief Operating Officer of the Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center in La Jolla, California.

Thomas traces every character through to the present. You will discover not only what they did in their youthful years, but also where they are today. The book is a tribute to Beltsville and a tribute to true friends. You can find information regarding the book at Copies can be ordered by mailing a check or money order for $16.95 to Nancy Paul Thomas, 3581 Seaview Way, Carlsbad, CA 92008. Include a note if you want the author to autograph a copy for you or a friend, in case it's a gift.


Book reminisces about growing up in Beltsville

Feb. 19, 2004
By Meghan Mullan, Staff Writer
The Gazette

A Beltsville native has written a tribute to a time in history when teenage boys loved nothing more than their American-made muscle cars and hanging out together at the local gas station.

Author Cary Thomas graduated from High Point High School in 1965, then the University of Maryland. He got married, moved to California and decided to write a book honoring his childhood town. That fruit of his labor is a self-published novel, "Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive."

"One of my high school friends died a couple of years ago," Thomas said. "Before I lost anymore friends, I wanted to write about the fun and crazy things we did."

Thomas, who is 56, said the 184-page book was a labor of love. "I'm a complete novice," he said.

Thomas did not write the book for financial gain. It was a testimonial to a town and an era he can't stop thinking about.

The book includes local history and chapters that tell tales about Beltsville residents. One of Thomas's friends and a character in the book is Sonny Boteler, who is the third generation owner of Boteler's Store in old Beltsville. Boteler, who has read the book, said that it was an unusual experience.

"A lot of people stayed friends for a long time," Boteler said. "That's what the book is about."

He found the book amusing because of the stories in it that he remembers from being a teenager. He particularly enjoyed the story about the beer cans that the group of boys who hung out at the Beltsville Shell threw up on the station's roof. The Beltsville Shell, where Thomas worked as a teenager, was located at the corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Route 1. Thomas said he and his friends threw their beer cans up there to get rid of the evidence. When high winds hit the town, it was like a beer can tornado. The source of the cans remained a mystery.

Most of the book is about cars, which was the obsession of Thomas and his high school friends. The book includes hair-raising stories about drag racing, out running the police and dating girls.

Phyllis and Bill Herndon of Hyattsville lived in Beltsville about the same time as Thomas. They remember one of the boys in the book particularly well, Charlie Hopkins.

Hopkins was a whiz with auto-mechanics and much of what he knew he learned from Bill Herndon who owned old cars.

Bill Herndon remembers Hopkins coming around to help him with his Model T and Model A. "It was an interesting relationship," Bill Herndon said of the time he spent with Hopkins. Hopkins was 10 or 12 and Bill Herndon was in his 40s but Bill Herndon said they were "like contemporaries."

Apparently, Hopkins learned a great deal about cars from Bill Herndon and went on to teach other boys in Thomas's circle.

Phyllis Herndon said she enjoyed reading "Beltsville Shell" because she is interested in local history.

The book includes a map of Beltsville in the 1960s, old high school photographs of the main characters, car photographs and a wonderful picture of students taking drivers education at High Point High School.

Thomas grew up in Beltsville, and received a bachelor of science in Information Systems from the University of Maryland in 1969. He went on to receive an master's in business administration from the university. Thomas is the chief operating officer of the Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center in La Jolla, Calif.

Copies of "Beltsville Shell" can be purchased at Boteler's Store at 4808 Prince George's Ave. in Beltsville.

Books may also be ordered by mailing a check or money order for $16.95 to Nancy Paul Thomas, 3581 Seaview Way, Carlsbad, CA 92008. Include a note if you want the author to autograph a copy. For information on the book, visit

E-mail Meghan Mullan at


Cast of Characters in Beltsville Shell

 Every character in the book, Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive, was a well-known personal friend of the author.  Each one had a unique personality and an amazing car.  After all, you are what you drive!  (Taken together, these cars today would be worth more than $1 million!)

Here they are listed in alphabetical order:

Jimmy Becker (Deceased)  1966 Ford Fairlane GTA, 390 cu. in., Tan.  Jimmy returned from military service in Vietnam and began working in the construction trades.  To entertain himself at night, Jimmy worked part time at Beltsville Shell.  He raced his GTA Fairlane in "C" Stock Automatic.

 Clifford "Sonny" Boteler (Deceased) 1966 Corvette Roadster, 327 cu. in., Rally Red.  Sonny worked at his family's grocery store, Boteler and Sons.  Although he never worked at Beltsville Shell, Sonny was a regular visitor to the station, and would rendezvous with other guys at Beltsville Shell before cruising to the Mighty Mo. 



John R. Bradley 1967 Corvette Roadster, 427cu. in (435hp), Silver Pearl with black "stinger" and side pipes.  Johnny followed his Dad in the plumbing business, and achieved "master" status quickly, including attending a training program with Purdue University. Johnny nicknamed his car "Bad Bascom".  When not working his full-time job Johnny would occasionally work part-time at Beltsville Shell. 

Ralph Bull 1957 Chevrolet 2 Door Sedan, 327 cu. in., black.  Ralph was a few years younger than most of the Beltsville Shell regulars, but as soon as he purchased his 57 Chevy he fit right in with the crowd. He eventually worked part-time at the station, replacing some of the older guys, and bringing us a new perspective on cars, racing, and life.

Sharon Cox 1962 Corvette 327 cu. in. Fuel Injected (360 hp), Honduras Maroon and 1962 Corvair, 2 Door Coupe, 140 cu. in. (102 hp), Nassau blue.  Sharon is the person who introduced the author to Corvettes when he was just 15 years old when she arranged for a ride in Jim McEvoy's new Corvette.  It was a ride that changed the author's life forever!

Howard Ignatius "Nace" DeLauter 1962 Chevrolet Impala, 2 Door Hardtop, 327 cu. in., gold.  Nace considered Beltsville Shell his "home away from home".  Although he technically never was employed there, he spent lots of time helping out, fraternizing, keeping us all entertained, and encouraging mischief. 

Dexter Drake 1966 Plymouth Satellite,  2 Door Hardtop, 383 cu. in. (325 hp), Dark Green. Like Nace, Dexter  considered Beltsville Shell his "home away from home".  Whether on nights or weekends, Dexter's appearance always meant good laughs and Budweiser beer.

Hugh Charles "Charlie" Hopkins Austin Healey, 2 Door Roadster, Ford 302 cu. in., Silver. Charlie was the main man at Beltsville Shell. He was a master mechanic and a skilled machinist. If Charlie liked you, you could count on him to help with any problems you had with your car.

Jeff "Brakes are for Sissies" Hughes  1962 Corvette Roadster, 427 cu. in. L88 (450 hp), Roman Red. At one time Jeff and the author had matching 1959 Corvettes.  A friend from Wheaton, Maryland, Jeff would drive around the Beltway to visit us at Beltsville Shell, frequently going to Sunnyside Avenue for speed contests.

Frank "Big Frank" Porto (Deceased) 1967 Chevelle 2 Door Hardtop, 396 cu. in (375hp), Mountain Green.  A resident of New York, Big Frank was a student and fraternity guy at Maryland U when he first stopped by Beltsville Shell for some work on his Chevelle.  He liked the people he met, and became a regular customer, and the first of us to have a professionally sponsored race car. After college, Big Frank settled in Beltsville and lived there the rest of his life.

Darryl Richards  1954 Ford Mainliner 2 Door Sedan 6 Cylinder.  Darryl was an employee at Boteler's Store while in High School earning about $21.00 per week.  Even on this meager salary he was able to amass enough money to buy his first car while still a high school student.  Darryl went on to become an officer in the Prince George's County Police Department and was the "Guardian Angel" of  Beltsville Shell. 

Mike Tanguay (Deceased) 1965 Pontiac GTO  2 Door Hardtop, 389 cu. in. with "three deuces" (360 hp), Teal Turquoise.  Mike was a member of the High Point High School Class of 1965, and a regular customer of Beltsville Shell.  His family drove Rambler cars, but Mike graduated t the GTO right after graduating from high school.  In a real sense, Tanguay was the spark that resulted in the book Beltsville Shell.

Cary Thomas 1959 Corvette, 302 cu. in., Roman Red.  Cary worked at Beltsville Shell while attending Maryland U.  Memories that last a lifetime; friendships that will last forever!

John "PeeWee" Thompson (Deceased) 1958 Corvette, 327 cu. in., Cadillac Firemist Blue.  PeeWee attended trade school and graduate to a career in sheet metal fabrication.  He worked on many of the large Washington DC construction projects, visiting Beltsville Shell on nights and weekends.


November 30, 2000: I Remember Tanguay

It was on this day, November 30, twenty years ago when the spark that ignited "Beltsville Shell: You are What You Drive" was lit.

That night I sat down at my computer and wrote the remembrance to my childhood friend, Mike Tanguay.  I shared the remembrance with mutual friends.  Many of them encouraged me to write more stories and the more I wrote, the more I remembered.  And a few old friends connected me with more old friends.  And eventually the book just started writing itself.

 Here is how it all started:

November 30, 2000

I Remember Tanguay


It was about this time last year, when I was checking addresses for the annual Christmas card mailing, that I found out that Michael Tanguay had passed away. He had endured a few tough years physically and finally died in his home in 1999. I would have given anything to have known promptly because I would have looked into the eyes of his widow and child and said the following things:

I first met “Mike” in September 1953 on the very first day of Mrs. Brock’s First Grade class at Hollywood Elementary School in College Park Maryland. Mike was the first person to talk to me as I entered the scary world of school. He said, “You are in the wrong room – Kindergarten is next door” (I’ve always been short). Once I convinced him I was in the right room, he became an instant pal, a relationship that lasted a lifetime.

Mike lived a few blocks from Hollywood Elementary in a neat older home with his Mom and Dad. Mike always called his Dad “Frenchy”. The family had a very close relationship. Mike’s Dad was very handsome, and Mike took after him. With blue-gray eyes, and light brown hair that was slightly wavy, he had the good looks all of us wanted as we became teenagers. Mike dressed well, always in fashionable clothes, but I think the only shoes he ever wore were penny loafers – he was quite the handsome dude. He loved baseball, softball, and marbles (I think he won ALL of my marbles at recess one day).

From the very beginning, Mike was a carefree soul, always appearing with a new joke or funny saying. At High Point High he was about as popular as you could be without being captain of the football team. Our friendship became closest after graduation, our bond wrapped around fast cars.

Frenchy drove a Rambler and Mike was allowed to use the family car soon after getting his driver’s license. He wasted his time trying to convince the guys that there actually WAS a Rambler Racing Team. The first car he could claim as his own was a 53 Plymouth he inherited from his Grandfather.

Mike called me one afternoon while I was working at Beltsville Shell to tell me that the brakes on the old Plymouth felt “soft” and could I help him? The suggestion I made nearly killed him. I said if he would drive the Plymouth to the Shell station, I’d do my best to try to fix it. Little did I know that a brake hose had split and he would have NO BRAKES for the 3-mile drive to the station. About 10 minutes later, as I’m pumping that expensive 24.9 cents-per-gallon gasoline into customers’ cars, I hear horns honking and tires screeching on Route 1 as everyone is swerving to miss this huge Plymouth that is ignoring the stop sign at Sunnyside Avenue and crossing four lanes of 45 MPH traffic at a brisk rate of speed. There is Mike, white-faced, swooshing past the gas pumps, then BOOM the Plymouth mounts the two-foot wall at the edge of the Shell parking lot. The happy ending is that no one was hurt and the only damage to the Plymouth was a scraped bit of bumper (those early 50’s cars were built like tanks). It cost just a few dollars for a new brake hose and a re-fill of brake fluid. We laughed about this adventure many times.

Mike’s first “real” car, and the one that got him accepted into the “Beltsville Shell JTRAMFGS” Car Club was his Pontiac GTO. 


(Note: the distinguished Webster Gross, African-American street-racing legend from Beltsville, once said Beltsville Shell was  “… nothin’ but a Jive Time Raggedy-A$$ M----- F------ Gas Station”, thus the acronym JTRAMFGS.)

The “club” included some impressive people and cars. There were MoPars owned by Dexter Drake and Willie Anderson, the Fords of Charlie and Glenn Hopkins, Chevys like Ralph Bull’s 57 and Nacy Delauter’s beautiful gold 62 Impala, Chevelles owned by Frank Porto, Jimmy Noll and Chip Theis, and the Corvettes -- Johnny Bradley’s 427/435, Pee Wee Thompson’s 58, 59’s like mine and Jeff Hughes’, my brother Wayne’s 57, and Stingrays like Stan Moore’s and Sonny Boteler’s. But only one GTO, and none of the cars were any nicer. In a way the car reflected the owner – unique, spotless, stylish.

Together we had enough horsepower to launch a space shuttle, and individually we paid so much money in traffic fines that I’m sure we were a line item in the Prince George’s County Police Department annual budget.

Anyway, the GTO was really fine and today would be worth BIG money. Mike and Frenchy found it on a used car lot and instantly negotiated the deal. It was spotless, blue in color, had the extra-sexy chrome hood scoop, three two-barrel carbs (that went BA-WOOOOP when you floored it), 3.90 posi-traction gears, and 4-speed close-ratio Muncie Trans with the Hurst shifter. Upon acquiring the GTO, Mike’s name changed to “Tanguay” and that’s what we called him thereafter. The car was “Tanguay’s GTO”.

The members of the JTRAMFGS Car Club were known to engage in tests of acceleration on public streets. I think Tanguay enjoyed this as much as any of us. He could make that GTO burn rubber halfway down Sunnyside Avenue and could snap that Hurst shifter with the best of ‘em. As long as he owned it, I don’t think he ever put a scratch on the GTO. The same could not be said for me; Tanguay was with me the day I got a little too aggressive in the rain on Route 193 in the 59 Corvette and I scrunched the bottom of the car as I slid across a center median. Tanguay said nothing about my stupidity, and helped me get the Vette towed to the Shell Station for repairs.

Every Saturday he executed the same regimen. He would wash the GTO at home, drive it dripping wet to the Shell Station (to “blow it off”), dry and polish the paint while wearing blue jeans, the shirt of the day, and old penny loafers, fill the gas tank, check the oil, then drive home. After showering and getting his hair looking just right, he would return to the Shell station looking and smelling very nice, wearing fashionable slacks and shirt, new penny loafers, smoke a cigarette (he could imitate a movie star with his smoking gestures!), tell me a joke or funny story, then head off for his Saturday night date.

The Beltsville Shell crowd could be as brutal as their cars, but Tanguay was someone we all loved and none of us ever had any dispute with him. When the GTO drove onto the parking lot, someone would yell out “Tanguay’s here” and we all knew we would be treated to his warm humor. I was grateful that he kept me company during those years when I had to work part-time and go to Maryland full-time. You couldn’t ask for a better friend nor could you find one. Tanguay was best man at my wedding and after I moved to California in 1976 our only interaction was the annual Christmas card. Now I don’t even have that.

My life was richer having known Tanguay and a bit empty knowing he is gone. Still, every time I see a GTO, or notice a nice pair of penny loafers, a warm set of memories pushes aside whatever I was thinking about bringing a smile to my face.

I bet he was a wonderful husband and father.

 Cary Thomas, November 30, 2000

Beltsville Shell Reunion #17

 For the seventeenth time in the past eighteen years, and for the tenth time at Herman's Garage, many of the Beltsville Shell faithful attended a reunion on Sunday, October 25th 2020.

Back Row: Tick Magnum, Annie McFarland, Steve Anderson, Malcolm Van Kirk, Herman Knauer, Nace DeLauter, Steve Van Kirk, Sonny Boteler, Tom Hontz, Brian Lister, and Bonnie Hontz

Front Row: Pat Anderson, Cary, Bill Goodwin, Canon, and Nan

Present but not in the photo: Al Becke, Mary Jane Goodwin, Doug Keys, Nick Southern, Bonnie Williams, and Tammy Yokum


Cautiously and respectfully we navigated past the COVID-19 threat to come together again in camaraderie and friendship.  Attendance was lighter than in recent years, as anyone would expect.  But neither the pandemic, nor the chilly arrival of Fall, could temper our spirits.

Herman's Garage is the perfect venue for the BSYAWYD reunions because there is ample space, lots of interesting cars and projects to look at, a rural setting (so if we get slightly rowdy the neighbors won't care), and, best of all, it is in Beltsville!  

Herman and Tammy arranged the tables in the garage with social distancing in mind.  


Herman played our favorite oldies. Musically I'm trapped in a period from about 1957 to about 1972.  A tune played that I had not heard for a very long time bringing back fond memories -- Wild Weekend by the "Rockin' Rebels" (1963).  A classic High Point High School Class of 1965 Instrumental!

Wild Weekend

Everyone bought their favorite dishes -- Tom Hontz' brats, Nace's deviled eggs, Malcolm's celebratory cake, and much more. 

Herman treated us to a delicious grilled sirloin tip roast and brats, and made his famous "Beltsville Ribs".  Hopefully at next years' reunion Lynn (Moore) Stephens will make her famous "Saint Louis Ribs".  Sounds like a cooking contest to me!?

Tammy's daughter Bonnie Williams and her boyfriend, Nick Southern, helped with all the arrangements.  Thank you!!!

It seems that every time we have a reunion, no matter what time of year, there is a birthday to be celebrated.  This time it was Bill Goodwin, who came with his wife, Mary Jane, from Delaware.  

Other people who crossed the Chesapeake Bay to attend were Tom and Bonnie Hontz and Steve Anderson.

Herman has been entertaining himself by fabricating many things.  In addition to his famous 'built from scratch" truck, he has recently designed and constructed a Go Kart and a MiniBike.  I was hoping to test drive each of them in Herman's back yard, but the weather deprived me of those joys.  Maybe next year?

Nan went to a lot of trouble in 2020 to order custom made Beltsville shirts for everyone -- and everyone repaid her labors by wearing their shirts to Herman's.

Here is a photo of the people who have attended the most BSYAWYD Reunions: Nace, Sonny, and Cary - all 17, and Tom 15 out of 17!

This year there were two newcomers Pat Anderson, Steve's younger brother, and Doug Keys, one of Herman's neighbors.  There was also a surprise guest -- Canon!  Everyone has suffered through me bragging about Canon for years.  On the flip side, Canon has listened her whole life to my tales about all my Beltsville buddies, sprinkled with stories from our youth.  Everyone got a chance to visit with Canon and I was so happy to overhear the sharing and laughter -- it was impossible to tell who was happier in these initial encounters.

We find ourselves in the season of illness and of losing friends and family members.  As I looked around the room I saw a few specific, recent examples of such losses.  These special friends understand the importance of living every day to its fullest, and delaying no kindness for another day. Any disagreements, grudges, or disputes we may have had in our youth have sublimated with the passage of a half century.  

If all of the above wasn't enough to sour your mood, we were all enduring this years' difficulties -- an impending contentious election, the pandemic, social unrest, economic stress, and a Country enduring internal strife.  In some magical way we managed to leave 2020 in the parking lot for a few peaceful hours together.

Thinking back now on that special Sunday, the words of a Beatles song come to mind -- the words that mark the early pages of Beltsville Shell

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

Too soon came the time for the party to end.  Gradually people departed, but everyone promised to come again next year.  

Annie and Tick promoted the idea that next time we need dancing!  I like that idea even though I can't dance.

Until we see you again in 2021, and hopefully in person, please be safe and healthy.

Herman and Cary