Mongo’s Pilfered Party Palace

I was running with a bad crowd.

That is, outside of my friends in the music department, there were friends of friends, and, well, you know how that can go.

One such “friend” was a towering, lantern-jawed kid named Chris Menning, aka “Mongo.” Mongo was stoned 24/7. Some time in April 1977 he was kicked out of his family home and shacked up in the upstairs garage apartment behind Matt Berry’s house. It was sort of sad, but also vaguely inspiring. Here was a high-school kid freed from the shackles of family and home. Truly something to behold.

I’ve mentioned John McDaniel before, and my friends Greg and Mike (Mike, to my right in above picture, having a “mock party” at Steve’s house in 1977), but there were “other influences.” Barrel-chested, Roman-beaked Mark McCurdy was one of them, who lived with his family on Three Points. Mark’s parents owned the Navarre Cleaners, where he worked part-time. Mark was always up for a party night out.

That April was unseasonably warm. During weekdays, kids soaked up the sun in the school courtyard between mods. People were getting silly. Friday, April 1, the day the April Fools edition of the Smoke Signal hit the stands, Sara Beck was playing “fake drunk” in the hallway. There was a test in Geometry, but no Speech, so a bunch of us goofed around in the band room.

After school, Kim called. Even though we had broken up two months before, we often talked on the phone. These were the days of party lines, multiple extensions and no answering machines. When Kimmy called, I’d hole-up in Dad’s office. Must’ve driven the folks crazy. “Mike’s talking to that girl again,” I’m sure they muttered to each other.

Truth told, Kim was seeing a guy named Dave Derkin, but that didn’t stop her from flirting with me long distance. I was probably making myself too available, which in the end doomed us to more misunderstanding, at least at the level teenagers understand anything about love and relationships. I don’t know. I do know that she was on my mind a lot, and that probably informed the poor choices I was soon to make. Two nights in April illustrate: Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 2. Let’s take the former first.

On that day, the diary says, Dad rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Indianapolis. Grandma Maupin was hospitalized with late-stage colon cancer. I can only now imagine what Dad’s state of mind must’ve been. He was always closer to his mother than his father.

The Navarre Drive-In Theater opened early for the season, and even with the unusually warm weather, we didn’t go that night. I was hoping to see Kim again. She decided to go to a party her friend Kim P. was throwing at her parents’ house on Woodend Shores.

Steve and I hit a field kegger on Saga Hill. There we ran into Chad Moore, a sophomore stoner, and our friend Mike with his girlfriend Liz. The diary states I “didn’t get wasted, just buzzed,” and so Steve and I left to crash Kim’s party way on the other side of the lake. No word on how Kim responded to the intrusion, but we didn’t stay long. Stopping in at the Soda Fountain, we ran into Skeeze with Vince. Some people had just come from the drive-in.

April 2. Mom and Dad hosted an informal party at our house—my cue to borrow the car and go get lost. Steve and I headed over to a party Mongo was having at some house just past Fagerness Point off North Shore Drive. A lot of my friends lived out that way, Eric Miller, Greg Eidem—and my Valentine’s Day crush, Lisa R.

The party was at a tiny wood-paneled summer cottage that I later learned Mongo had broken into. If I’d known that at the time, I would’ve high-tailed it out of there. There was drinking, smoking and someone got it in his head to give Lisa a call and invite her over. Chad also had a crush on Lisa, so we fought over who was going to pick her up. Lisa’s friend Sara rode along, after we picked her up at her babysitting gig. From the diary: “Lisa, Sara and I went back to [Mongo’s] party [and] got slightly buzzed. After dropping Sara back at her babysitting place, picking Steve up and driving Lisa home, I got a good-night kiss from Lisa.”

Enter enraged boyfriend Dale.

No sooner had Lisa’s feet hit the driveway, Dale came flying out the front door, waving his arms and shouting. I jammed Mom’s Dodge Dart into reverse, squealing rubber to get the hell out of there. We went back to Mongo’s party and tried to calm a distressed Lisa—and furious Dale—over the phone.

Eventually I made it home, dazed and totally confused.

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~ by completelyinthedark on February 19, 2012.

3 Responses to “Mongo’s Pilfered Party Palace”

  1. oh man this is good stuff Mike…You didn’t miss a single beat man. So glad you wrote that all down….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brought back some memories! Thanks Mike!
    Does your diary go back as far as Mr. Aamodt’s 9th grade play?
    I still have the program somewhere…
    Christopher Robin (Eric Ellingson)

    Liked by 1 person

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