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Lawrence Lawson

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04/30/19 06:51 PM #1    

Robert Sheridan



Lawrence Lawson.  You will not find Lawrence Lawson in our yearbook, though you will find his picture.  The name you'll see with it is "Richard Lawson."  Both are, in their own way, correct.  I think the name he had been given at the font was Lawrence Richard Lawson, and the Richard was important, giving rise to his sobriquet: "Dicky."  I never knew Lawrence Lawson.  But Dicky I came to know very well. 


We came to meet up with each other at Oakton School--1956 I would guess, maybe '55.  Dicky was unusual.  He was, as it were, a challenge to the world as I knew it.  One of my earliest memories of him was digging up a neighbor's front law, declaring that he's heard that there was buried treasure there.  After that we became close friends.


The summer before we were to start at Nichols, I was trying to run a newspaper for the far south end of Evanston--Callan Avenue, where I lived, Mulford, Hull Terrace, around there--but news was slow.  So Dicky contrived to invent a "mad bomber," igniting smoke and stink bombs in the doorways and vestibules of houses and apartment buildings.  This was of course a journalistic feast, and since I was forewarned as to where the phantom would strike next, I was always press ready.  The police were finally called in, and Dicky covered our escape and was taken.


The complainant was a man named DeCabot--which he insisted on pronouncing "de-cha-bo."  He was incedibly old, perhaps 50.  The situation looked bleak, but he arranged to have everything dropped if (1) these villainous attacks would cease and (2) we would submit to be lectured on the dangers of incendiary devices.  Even Dicky readily agreed to these easy terms, and we were all placed in this man's living room to hear (as Dicky would later describe it) him spout his spiel.  Mr. DeCabot warmed to his task, dilating on how we should be in jail, and unless we mended our ways, would doubtless be so presently.  But that he was not one to ruin a young life and boys would, of course, be boys.  And he had been a boy once too and as he recalled his own youth, ultimately confessed that, when he was about our age, he had burned down a neighbor's barn, although whether he had done so by accident or design was not altogether clear.  So we thanked him for his talk. 


That should have been the end of the matter but my mother was broken hearted and my father was absolutely furious.  The upshot of the whole thing was that the parents conferred and it was agreed that one of the two of us was bad medicine, and that the world would be a better and safer place if our association was ended.  And so it was, mostly.  Dicky and I were in the same home-room at Nichols, but it wasn't the same.   We continued to see one another in class, but business was at an end, and finally we drifted apart.  It was the only time in my life that I was ever strictly forbidden to associate with a friend.  Except for a really bad girl from Senn High School, but that was later.


After seeing his name appear on the school list, I looked to see if I could find out anything about him, and how he'd spent the last half-century plus.  Drew a blank.  Not even an obit.  How did we learn of his passing, I wonder?  Somebody must have reported his going anonymously because I see that his page was completely devoid of any comment or information.   This not altogether surprising.  Many of Dicky's associates wished to remain anonymous, as indeed did I myself did on one notable occasion.


It was, I think, sixth grade, and Dicky was running for class president.  As was his wont, he had an unusual campaign approach.  He had secured a large supply of chewing gum, which he had re-wrapped with new labels reading: "Stick with Dick."  The promotion, as a promotion, was wildly successful, and Dicky supposed that the demand for these treats somehow reflected a positive view of his candidacy.  This was not, however, the case.  He was devastated by his defeat.  Even now it is painful to recall the scene.  It is my recollection that, having generously voted for an opponent, he received no votes at all.  I should have voted for him, I was his friend.  But frankly I was afraid of being found out as the supporter of an unpopular cause.  There are no truly secret ballots (or secret anything else) in grammar school, and eleven-year-olds are so cruel.  But I've always felt bad about that pusillanimous betrayal.  Dicky gave me some of the richest memories of my childhood, which I never appreciated until much later in life, and for which I never thanked him.  So now he has a flower next to his name.  I think I owed him that.


05/01/19 04:49 PM #2    

Robert Lindner

I recognize the face and I must have known him, but I don't recall the unusual goings on that would have been in my neighborhood since I lived on Brummel Street across from Brummel Park and also went to Oakton and Nichols. I started at Oakton when I was in 4th grade. We moved from the Lakewood area in Chicago. I feel sorry that I can't recall enough about him to add a memory. I lived near Richard Winokur, maybe he will remember Dicky. He sounsd like a very interesting character to base a novel or short story on.

05/02/19 10:51 AM #3    

Susan Spiegel (Pastin)

I dated Dick Lawson in high school.  He helped my intellectual development greatly - especially the ability to question authority.  I remember at a dance we went to at the Women's Club in Evanston, he called my attention to the fact that all the "help" were black.

We could sit and talk til 3 am on dates!

So I was anxious and excited to talk to him when I was tracking down lost sheep for our 55th Class Reunion this September.  (It's my first time on a reunion committee, now that I retired last May 31.)  I reached his wife - only to learn that Dick had taken his own life the year before.  He was an inventor and writer,  but frustrated when he didn't achieve what our society commonly defines as success.



05/03/19 12:07 PM #4    

Marty (Martin C. ) Campbell

to Robert (Sheridan) & Dicky & borrowing from Susan: this is the most dear simple human loving obit i have ever read.  is that the work of a lawyer?  or a writer about a fellow writer & inventor?  bless your friendship.  how sad that it was taken away in our dependent years.  what an homage to us all.  thank you dearly for taking the time and heart to compose this morsel for all us morsels in the world to hope to find in this haystack life.  marty to Robert, unknown eths soldier to unknown eths soldier in solemn memory of all us known n unknown soldiers in life here on earth

05/04/19 10:09 AM #5    

Robert Sheridan

Marty—thank you truly for your very kind words.  And Susan, for letting us know a little more about our friend.  Talent and imagination are sometimes a mixed blessing, and he had a full measure of them both.  Ernest Bramah, in one of his Kai Lung stories, wrote: “In shallow waters, dragons are the laughingstock of shrimp.” Sometimes that explains everything.

05/04/19 12:29 PM #6    

Alice Rosengard

Robert, I agree wholeheartedly with Marty's response to your obit. You have captured the essence of a compelling person (whom I did not know) and of your hilarious hijinks in your youth. What a beautiful piece of writing. It's so moving to learn from Susan how he illuminated the world for her.

05/05/19 09:33 PM #7    

Marty (Martin C. ) Campbell

Susan, I wonder if we could get a piece or two of Dick's writing to share here among us classmates, or references or links as to how to get copies for ourselves.  Us writers (and inventors) live on in our work.  I would sure love to read some writing by Dick on any subject, in any genre, even technical—i'll bet he snuck himself into it even when he mightn't be spose to.  Robert's writing has me very curious as to what his friend might write as a writer.

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