This story is based on real people; I've taken some literary license with the characters and events.
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For four years I had the best job I've ever had. It's been about two years since I left it and nothing I've done since compared. I'm currently a 26 year old teacher and as a career it is fulfilling, rewarding, and enjoyable but it doesn't compare fun wise to my previous position. I have moved on as circumstances dictated and while cleaning out a storage unit at my condo I came across a box with mementos, pictures, and souvenirs of that time in my life and of that job.
I'm moving into a new house and have to decide what goes and what gets thrown away. Taking a few minutes I remember those years and the good times with a nostalgic fondness as I go through that box of memories.
James Nelson O'Connor is my name. As if the name didn't clue you in I'm of Irish extraction and really proud of it. There are a lot of Irish in St. Louis and my family immersed themselves in all the holidays and special celebrations. The Irish have an old adage or saying "Don't be too proud or too happy because the devil will find you and slap you down. I've paraphrased it some but that's what happened to me.
My parents were killed when our house caught fire and was destroyed late one night and I was suddenly on my own at 18. I woke up coughing from the smoke and disorientated. My dad rushed into my room yelling that the house was on fire and to get out. I jumped through the window in my bedroom as my dad yelled that he was going to get my mom. That was the last time I saw him or my mother; they never made it out.
I was lost and alone; there were no other family members to help. After the shock, after the funeral, and after the realization that I was truly alone, I moved in with a friend for two months. His parents were very nice and told me I could stay with them as long as I needed to.
Great people, I mean really great, but I couldn't stay with them forever; it was a financial strain on them and too much of an emotional strain on me. It was a loving family but it wasn't my family and every day it reminded me of what I had lost.
My dad's attorney contacted me one month after the funeral; I didn't even know that Dad had an attorney. He told me that my parents had a will and suggested a meeting for the reading of that will and explanation of finances. At the meeting I was told that insurance policies paid off both the first and second mortgages on the house and the funeral expenses.
All additional expenses or debts were paid and after all the dispersals of money I was left with about nine thousand dollars and the long standing wish from my parents that I go to college and make something of myself. I also inherited my dad's vintage 69 Mustang Mach One. The family car had been destroyed in the fire but the Mustang had been in a separate garage at the back of our property. My dad left the Mustang to me; for transportation to school and to attract a few young ladies according to his statement in the will.
I had transportation and money to go to school, now I needed a job to pay for a place to live and other expenses. A warehouse/shipping company needed a man on the loading dock and I got the job working Monday through Thursday, 8 PM to 6 AM. I was a big kid at 6 feet 3 and I could handle the hard work on the dock.
Those hours would allow me go to school and leave a little time for winding down. I decided to go to Harris Teachers College; the costs were reasonable and I could stretch the money from my folks into a four year education and a degree. Teaching wasn't my first choice as a career but once I had my degree I could teach, earn a living, and continue my education in whatever field I opted for.
I found a studio apartment near the school; a studio apartment is like a room at a bed and breakfast but without the breakfast. I had one big room that was a combination kitchenette, living room, and bedroom. It wasn't fancy, but it was clean and inexpensive.
My freshman year in school I joined a fraternity, Lamda Beta Lamda. If you remember the crazy Delta Tau Chi fraternity in "Animal House", you have a good idea of our group. We paid more attention to our education than they did but we partied like the Deltas on the weekends. And like the Deltas, we seemed to frequently be in some kind of trouble with the school administration.
I never hooked up with any special girl but I wasn't without female companionship. Apparently my size, the dark hair, and the piercing blue eyes all contributed to my success with the fair young coeds of our school. I was seldom without a date when I wanted one. Working four, ten hour days gave me time to study during the week and at least one day a weekend to party if I wanted to. I wanted to; I was at school to get an education but that didn't mean I had to be a monk or hermit.
Our school was relatively small; we weren't a high dollar school like Washington University or St. Louis U. Most of our students worked at least part time jobs while attending classes. None of the frats or sororities could afford a house and most students lived at home or shared apartments.
My frat brothers decided that even though we couldn't afford a frat house we needed somewhere to party on the weekends that there wasn't some frat or sorority sponsored dance or mixer going on. We thought about apartments but there were few places that would rent to a bunch of rowdy drunken college students.
After my pledge semester Chuck Long, the president of Lamda, and I continued to search for a place that the fraternity could call their own. I had an inspiration one evening as I was hanging out at one of the clubs on Gaslight Square. The Square was a thriving entertainment district that could be compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It ran for four blocks and was a haven for musicians, artist, poets, and sometimes ladies of the evening. Numerous bars, clubs, galleries, and restaurants lined both sides of the street.
There were always people enjoying the different businesses seven days a week from around noon until 2 AM when the bars closed. There was even a real honest to goodness old fashioned bordello at the end of the block. The whole area was only about two miles from the college; providing easy access for the fraternity.
Sitting at an outdoor table in front of a coffee house I saw a for lease sign on a two story building across the street. I wrote down the phone number and called for information the next day. I learned that a dance school had been leasing the second floor and had gone out of business.
I explained who I was and what I wanted the place for and the leasing agent offered to show it to me; she wanted to regain an income from that property very badly. Chuck Long the president of Lamda went with me to meet the agent and we knew we had found our "frat house" as soon as we saw the space.
The only question remaining was could we afford it. The agent let it slip that there weren't many takers for an apartment this size; I think she was new and didn't realize that she shouldn't have told me how much trouble her company was having trying to lease the apartment. I was able to negotiate the terms for a one year lease, security deposit, and utilities. Maybe I should go into sales or purchasing I thought because I got the frat a sweetheart of a deal.
A showing for the rest of the frat was arranged and we told the agent that the fraternity would have a meeting to discuss the terms before looking at the space; that way we could make a decision on the spot after the frat members inspected the place.
The financial arrangements were explained at the meeting. We had 40 active members in the frat plus another 10 or so that were on academic probation for this semester, in addition some of the alumni could be counted on for financial assistance.
The initial cost would be $100 per fraternity member; this would pay first and last month's rent and the security deposit for the lease which included utilities. The cost after that would be $30 a month to any of the brothers that wanted to use the "house". If you didn't pay you didn't use the apartment, not even as a guest.
The brothers were blown away when they saw the size of the "apartment" we would be leasing. The apartment took up the entire second floor. It had a huge room in front with a kitchen/dining area in the middle and three bedrooms and two baths at the rear. The large room was 40ft by 75ft with concrete floors and walls so we couldn't do much damage to them. It was perfect and Chuck signed the lease representing the fraternity.
The frat needed someone to oversee the apartment and I was offered the use of the master bedrooms and a small salary to basically take care of "Lamda House". I also got the use of the parking space in the basement garage; so my Mustang had a new home too. My duties included collecting the money, paying the lease, cleaning up after parties, and keeping the "house" presentable; this included the two other bedrooms with all the expenses paid out of a slush fund. If we would have had a real house, I guess I would have been the "house mother".
.... There is more of this story ...