Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

An Old Friend has Passed Away….

hbichmanI got the sad news yesterday after teaching a workshop at my college.  I checked my e-mail before going to lunch and noticed a short note from my old High School buddy Gordon Sherland.  “Harry is Dead.” What?  Harry Bickmann! The guy I hitch hiked through Canada with in 1970 after graduating Holy Family High School and sunk a canoe with while paddling like a mad man down Skinner’s falls trying to save a cooler full of beer. The High School football star, the guy I cut school with, smoked cigarettes with in the  bathroom between classes, played softball with those hot summer evenings in St. James (he could really kill that ball) and the guy I rode motorcycles with cross country from Long Island to L.A. in 1974.  I also went to Las Vegas with Harry and lost all my money in 3 days playing Black Jack.  Harry and I went to the same college in Old Westbury, New York. He was the big fraternity guy at New York Tech and I was the long haired hippi learning film and photography.  nytechbw72Once he got involved in fraternity activities I didn’t see him much.  We always had a special connection and I hate that he died at such a young age.  Man…so many of my childhood friends are gone.  It’s a reminder for all of us to live life to the fullest and try not let the little stuff get us down.   I heard he was going through a divorce.  I just wish I had a chance to talk with him before he passed – he posted to the blog a few times during the elections to my surprise – he loved this country and was a great guy and friend.  I am posting a story I wrote about High School days on my Story Page and dedicating it to Harry.  The following is an excerpt from that story – to read the entire story click here.

“Catholic High School was a whole new world for me.  Students wore uniforms and stern looking nuns in long black habits roamed the shiny locker lined corridors in search of any infractions of the school rules.  If a girl had her plaid dress hiked even slightly above the knee it was first a stern warning and then off to the Principle’s office if it happened again.  Guys absolutely could not let their hair grow over their shirt collars although with long hair the style of the decade, we kept the nuns very busy – busting us for long hair on a daily basis.  It got to the point where they softened their stand on the hair rule.

The bus trip to Huntington was more of a daily excursion – taking as long as an hour to get to school some days.  I started to make new friends during those long bus rides.  Friends that eventually pulled me away from my rougher neighborhood crowd. At first I kept to myself because I quickly noticed that many of the kids on the bus knew each other from other neighborhoods or had attended Catholic primary school together.  I didn’t know anyone except Michael Scriber who lived behind me on Maple Avenue.  He was a brainy geek who sat in the front of the bus so he didn’t count.  I soon got acquainted with a few kids from the ‘dumb’ class who also rode my bus.

We took our role as dumb kids seriously and wore it like a badge of honor.  Harry Bickmann and Pat Coyle were both in Group Sixteen and neither wanted to attend Catholic school either, but were in the same boat as I – they were given no other option.  I quickly developed friendships with Harry and Pat who in turn introduced me to some of the other kids from their respective neighborhoods. There was Gordon Sherland, Eddie Warren, Linda Draghi, Liz Biccina, Kathy Hershe and Jim Morressy who all attended Catholic primary together.  It wasn’t long before I was included in the silly antics on the back of the bus.  The back of the bus was where the action was – where the cool kids sat and devious plans were hatched.  We even sneaked smokes by lighting up under the seat, taking big drags and quickly blowing smoke out the window when the bus driver wasn’t looking.  It actually got to be fun riding the bus to school. .  In fact…it was one of the best parts of my day.  There was always enthusiastic talk about the latest bands, songs and singers.  All the girls were crazy about the Beatles – especially Paul McCartney.  The guys liked John Lennon, George or Ringo, The Dave Clark Five, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.”


5 comments on “An Old Friend has Passed Away….

  1. Gordon
    June 23, 2009

    He was loved by many and will be truly missed. At least we have all the great memories and there are so so many of those.

  2. keoughp
    June 23, 2009

    Yes Gordon…Harry was a very special guy and will be missed…at least we have those memories. I dug up some photos of him from some of our adventures and will send your way when I get them scanned. His death was a wake up call to say the least. I’ll contact you next time I get to Long Island to see my folks.

  3. Mary Flanagan
    July 4, 2009

    I was totally shocked to her that your old friend Harry passed away!!
    Found out about it while visiting the folks on Father’s Day weekend. I am so sorry for you and all your old friends, Childhood friendships are the strongest and the most memorable and I do know that your connection with Harry was strong. The many adventures that you shared with him, for instance, the planning of your Wild West Trip on motorcycles.
    I remember it well, I was just a young teen, but how exciting it was to see you and Harry packing up your bikes in our garage, and seeing the worried looks on our Parents faces, they never let you know how worried they were!! I’m realizing now, at this crucial point in my life, that we are not in control of our destiny, here we are middle aged people, trying to plan our futures,doing everything by the book. Hey, wake up people!!!!! we are not in control!! A FEW WORDS OF WISDOM ” IN GOD WE TRUST”
    Love and Peace to you my dear brother, I am truly sorry for your loss. Love Maryann

  4. Pingback: Easy Rider Revisted « KeO BLoG

  5. Troy Bickmann
    June 28, 2013

    Hi patrick, this is Troy Bickmann, Harrys son, I was looking across the web when I stumbled across this blog, if you could, contact me as soon as you get a chance, I would love to hear more stories about you and my dad.

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This entry was posted on June 20, 2009 by in Keough Journal.
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