For Music's Sake

For Music's Sake

by Carrie Potter-Devening


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456752774
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 04/08/2011
Pages: 268
Product dimensions: 10.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

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For Musics Sake

Asbury Parks Upstage Club and Green Mermaid Café The Untold Stories
By Carrie Potter-Devening


Copyright © 2011 Carrie Potter-Devening
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-5277-4

Chapter One

From the Falls to the Shore

The 1919 flu epidemic saw the untimely death of Thomas Perry Potter's first wife, the mother of his first daughter Ruth. They were living in Canada at the time. Later, he met Ella Josephine Chamberlain and married again. They had two more children, a son named Peter Thomas, born October 4, 1922, in Niagara Falls, Canada, and a daughter named Hazel. In 1926, the Potter family moved to America when Hazel was two. In time, some of the Chamberlains and extensions of the family migrated to the area as well. Thomas and Ella lived in Asbury Park at 514 Monroe Ave and in Neptune where they lost their house to the depression. They finally settled in Ocean Grove where the house they bought, located at 75 Mount Carmel Way, was turned into apartments where they lived on the first floor. The family remained rooted there until the 1970's. Thanks to the historical preservation of the entire town, the house still remains today, and is still used for apartments. As owners of a barber shop and beauty salon, they raised their children on the shore. The children were students in Asbury, where Tom played the clarinet in the school band and became an excellent art student. They spent their summers on the beach and the boardwalk like so many children before and after them.

Both sides of the family were well known, respected, and active in all sorts of community activities and frequently mentioned in the area newspapers social pages. Soon after graduating from high school, Tom tried to enlist in the Canadian military, but was too young to be accepted. Hazel went to beauty school and married a man named Robert Winder. Determined to be of service in the war, Tom and several of his cousins and friends hitch-hiked to New York City and joined the United States Army, once again making the headlines, although the names were misprinted in the newspaper. While in the service, he attended the parachute school, completed the enlisted communications course, as well as tank destroyer school.

"Tom Potter and my father (Jay Sterner) were best friends as teenagers, and remained so after the war. My father became an English teacher at Freehold Regional. Tom (and his succession of younger and younger wives,) were regular visitors at our house as I grew up. I'd sneak downstairs and watch as the two of them got drunker and drunker on Chianti, and I'd listen as they recited their 'beat' poetry to one another in the black-walled living room that my father had covered with murals.

My father died of cancer at the young age of 39, and Tom was one of his pall-bearers. I remember him saying that he was going to wear a brightly colored panama shirt and a straw hat to the funeral, as that's what my iconoclast father would have wanted. He didn't of course, but I loved him for even thinking about it. Just writing this is making me get a lump in my throat. I've got some photos of the two of them with a mutual friend, the night before they enlisted; as well as a newspaper clipping from the Asbury Park Press. They made the paper because they'd hitch-hiked to enlist and were so young that they'd had to get their parents' permission. Tom once soundproofed his apartment by covering the ceiling with painted egg boxes which had been opened up like books and stuck on every square inch of the surface in regimented rows. He painted the main part of the insides of the boxes black, and the 'spikes' that cradle the eggs gold. It was amazingly effective, and more a piece of installation art, than anything else. Tom Potter was quite something." - Jay Sterner's Daughter

During one of his trips to Fort Hood, Texas, Tom attended a party on the base where he saw a stunning young woman named Mary Jane Lowe. A local newspaper reporter for the Cameron Herald, as well as a beautician, she was of average height, dark haired, slim and curvy, with a waist Tom could put his hands completely around. She had an outgoing disposition. Speaking to a friend standing nearby he said, "Do you see that woman over there? I am going to marry her." As told by Mary Jane, "He came right up to me, convinced me to dance, and told me, 'I'm going to marry you'. I thought he was crazy, but he sure was handsome." While they danced, she jokingly accepting his proposal. The night ended, and she went home forgetting about the incident. Mary Jane was in the middle of a romance with another beau at the time of the party. She took advantage of Tom's persuasive attentions, attempting to make the other guy jealous. Three weeks later, Tom, who was convinced he could woo her into forgetting anyone but himself, showed up at her door ready for matrimony. She was swept off her feet, and they were married right away in Texas on March 7, 1943. They spent their honeymoon night on her mother's living room floor. Shortly after the wedding, Tom volunteered to become a paratrooper, but was seriously injured in a terrible parachute accident. He was hospitalized for a concussion, and experienced hallucinations. He was eventually diagnosed with a "nervous condition," before being honorably discharged from the Army on March 15, 1944, at Nichols General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. He rose to the rank of corporal during his time in the army, and earned the American Campaign Medal, as well as the World War II Victory Medal. He did not receive any wounds in action, although it was noted that his physical condition was poor at the time of discharge.

Returning to live in Asbury Park, he went to Beauty School at Wilford Acadamy in Newark. Hazel had attended the same beauty school in 1942. Together they worked in the family salon for several years. Hazel mainly curled hair, earning "hair bender" as a nick name from her big brother Tom, "the stylist." Mary worked alonside them, modeled in Steinbacks occasionally, and Tom even had a cruise chartering business in 1946 with a boat known as the Barracuda. The children would spend the winter jumping off the roof into the snow banks and snooping through the ocean grove tent city during the summer.

On April 5, 1947, he enrolled in the Southwest Photo-Arts Institute in Dallas for a 34 week course. As a veteran, the GI bill paid for his photographic education. In addition, he owned a fix-it shop in Cameron, Texas. He later attended the School of Modern Photography and Germain School of Photography in New York.

Tom's sister Hazel and her husband Bob eventually moved to Nashville in early 1951, where they raised their two children Linda and Tommy. After their father died on March 6, 1951, Tom sold the shop in Jersey, moved Jane and their two sons, Geoffrey and Gregory, to Nashville, and began working at Chester's Salon in 1954. While in Nashville, he enrolled in several art classes, including oil painting, at the Watkins Institute. Life went on, but the marriage was soon in trouble. After three separations between the years of 1951-1958, they finally divorced.

Tom's next chapter in life was with a woman named Eva. They had met much earlier at Chester's Salon where they worked together for some time. Towards the end of his marriage to Jane, he began living with Eva, and they were married a short time after his divorce in 1958. As much as Tom tried, the obstacles between them proved to be too much. Eva already had two children of her own, and combining families was not easy for her. After barely a year and a half, Tom made the choice to return to Asbury in 1960. He continued his career as a beautician, throwing himself into his art and work, while juggling responsibility for his children.

Chapter Two


The year 1960 was a hard one for Tom and his boys. Since his days in the war he often turned to his good friends, Jay and Edna Sterner, for advice, throughout his various life's trials. They never knew where his next letter might come from, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee, even Europe! With his best interests in mind, they consoled him for his marital losses, and prayed for him to meet the right woman to get him back on track, but knew he was inclined to follow his creative yearnings. Business associates from the beauty industry also knew him to be a striking character on a mission. In spite of the stress of his back-to-back divorces, he produced some of his best art, including some fictional literary pieces. One short story, "The Crying Man Dies," intended to be a fictional mystery, is clearly a soliloquy based on his own life. The dates for most of his works are unknown, but various newspaper and magazine articles report that at some point between going to college for Art and Photography during his first marriage to Jane, he had art exhibitions in Tucson and Nashville. The "Crying Man Dies," is the closest thing to a memoir Tom wrote.

"I liked and admired Thomas very much because he is an individual, willing to risk something to be a person aside from the general run of people" - Letter excerpt from business associate Christina White

"We sit here thinking of you ... and it seems fascinating. You sure do lead an interesting life." - Letter Excerpt from Jay and Edna Sterner

The Crying Man Dies A Short Story

By Tom Potter

The sky was gray, an endless gray that went from where he sat to eternity. A nor easter warped the sea into a frenzy of motion that turned the water to color only a little darker than the sky. Thomas Piper peered through the fine salt spray racing across his face. His head was dripping and his dark brown hair was plastered against his forehead. He was alone, slumped on one of a long line of green benches marching along the deserted boardwalk. He pulled his coat closer around his neck against the sharp February gale and gazed glassily over the foaming ocean and thought," What a hell of a place this is in winter, or any other time for that matter." He wondered why he had come here to make such an important decision. Then, the answer came to him. He saw himself as a skinny, unpopular youth, standing, hands planted far apart on the iron rail at the edge of the boardwalk. Now he remembered why he came. In his melodramatic school high school days, he had come down to the sea to get over some lost girlfriend or to struggle with his pride for hours after being left out of some activity at school that he particularly wanted to be in. Tears ran down his gaunt, hungry cheeks, mingled with salt spray, and dripped off, lost forever with the rain through the cracks in the boardwalk. The mind of this crying man wandered aimlessly through his miseries, catching a glimpse occasionally of their meaning. One part of him would say it was all his fault, and the other part of him would scoff and insist that he had been the victim of circumstance.

The muscles in his neck pinched against his windpipe and the stinging at the back of his eyes became unbearable. Still, he fought it back, trying harder than ever to hold back the choking sobs that wracked his shoulders when he let it go. He was ashamed, at his age, he could not hold back the tears, that he cried when his emotional problems became too much bothered him almost as much as the trouble itself.

Thomas Piper shifted his position on the unyielding bench to ease the stiffness in his legs. The long boardwalk came in view, shiny from the rain and thousands of strolling feet. He could see the shabby hotels lined along Ocean Avenue, gingerbread embellishments dripping water from millions of little knobs. A wind buffeted fisherman trudged along the rail, oilers glistening and hip boots clomping like a tiny Paul Bunyan with a long surf casting rod instead of an axe.

None of these things made an impression on his brain. The panorama of nature's movement, streaked with color, vibrating with sound, passed by his eyes. He saw nothing, heard nothing. In the awful struggle to concentrate, his tired mind short circuited all else. His cigarette, soaked through by rain, went out. Sharp and weedy to the taste, he threw it into the sand below.

"It was a mistake to come here to decide. Couldn't have picked a more depressing spot if I'd looked the world over," he thought, hating Ocean Grove and everything it stood for with its blue laws and old grouches who came here to die. Ocean Grove, New Jersey, had been Thomas Piper's home before the war and now in desperation for a place to run and hide from his unhappiness, he had returned to sit in the wetness by the sea, trying to draw strength from the driving, pounding rain. Now with almost physical effort, Thomas Piper grasped his brain and cranked it backwards to October 1942. He was away to the army, away to war, with Jay Turner, his best friend, to save democracy from the vicious fangs of fascism. It was exciting, adventurous and patriotic. Oh, best of all, patriotic. There was Texas, Tank Destroyers training, and then corporal all in six weeks.

His mind cleared slowly as he concentrated on that one phase of his life. "Sometimes it seems like only yesterday, and then again it must be a thousand years since I first saw Jane in the U.S.O. at Camp Hood. A fast time it was; everything happening so fast. I could hardly think. I didn't feel what I thought I felt, or did I? How can you know after fifteen years what it was? How can you know? God, how I loved her. I wonder what it would have been if I hadn't been gripped so by that Cadre job, that I just had to volunteer for the paratroops to get away from it. If I just hadn't taken her away from her folks and transplanted her to New Jersey? What's the good of wondering? But I've got to start somewhere if I'm ever going to figure it out." He argued with himself. "Love went," he said out loud as though to lend conviction to his thoughts. That's for sure. Now when did it start to go?"

Through the blowing mist and hollow thundering of the breakers came the psycho ward and the hospital bed into view. Sitting there reading that letter from her. "I can't stand it anymore. I want to go back to Texas. There is something missing between you and me." Yes, that had been the first hint of it. Before that, everything had been all right.

"That's when the crying started. I remember the psychiatrist didn't want to let me go. I cried and begged him, pulled at his sleeve and pleaded for leave to go home to see what the matter was. He would only shake his head and say, "You never could be sure what would happen with a concussion." The sharp edge of Thomas Piper's jaw quivered and, as muscles tightened up to resist, he stopped breathing. He stiffened his whole body. His brain reeled dizzily and all thinking faded in his effort to quell the tears. If he was ever to find the happiness he knew was there for him, he must learn control and to take command. He struggled back to reason it out. "The times I'd ask if she loved me ..."

"I don't know," she said, low-toned and tragic-like, almost as though she said it just to see what I'd say. But how was I to know? It tore me up to think that she didn't love me - that I couldn't think of all the reasons she might say she didn't. The whole thing seemed hopeless to him. It shouldn't matter to him because his love for Jane had died ... a natural death, long, painful and miserable, not short and instant, like love murdered by infidelity.

Any love, untended and without nourishment will fade, leaving only bitterness or pity or perhaps compassion drifting around the room between them like whiffs of stinking garbage. Thomas Piper knew it had all gone through him before and now it was happening again. The one thing in life he could not face, loving and not being sure his love was returned. With Jane he had loved as young men do with all his heart, but now at thirty five he loved a woman with everything that was him. All there was that could be seen or heard of him and all that there was inside of him. These visions of his past unhappiness were real to him at this moment, permeated with the same emotions he felt then, not dulled by time, but sharpened by elimination of all the small side issues that tend to mollify the hurt at the time it strikes.

Like a bright, luminous stone on the end of a string streaking around inside his brain, the wild thoughts blurred, came into focus and blurred again. Nothing, nothing at all had any more meaning any more to Thomas Piper except as it touched Eva. His whole life, it seemed to him hung on a thread and Eva could cut it or not as she pleased.


Excerpted from For Musics Sake by Carrie Potter-Devening Copyright © 2011 by Carrie Potter-Devening. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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