Memories of Bob

Bob's Facebook profile picture (with my border). Although he had an account on Facebook, he didn't really do much there, and didn't have any other pictures of himself up there. This will have to be the way I remember him.


I, like much of the country, was really upset and depressed after our national nightmare of November 8th, 2016, when Donald Trump was elected to be the next President of the United States. For several days I walked around in a funk, not being able to get this horrible, history-shaking event out of my mind. I didn't watch any TV; I couldn't stand to hear the phrase, "President-elect Trump," or see images of him or his family or cronies plastered across the screen, or hear the sound bites about what went wrong. I feared for the future of our country after seeing its hateful underbelly exposed. I needed a distraction.

And the distraction came on Friday, November 11th - in the form of a Facebook post which showed up on the wall of my Facebook friend Bob Martin, an old friend from high school who I hadn't seen in over 40 yearsnote. Here's the post, posted by Bob's friend Paul:

I was shocked and had to think a minute as to whether this was the Bob Martin I knew or maybe some other Bob Martin. But I quickly realized, knowing Paul and Bob were good friends, and, in fact, they lived near each other in Washington state, and were both artists, that it was the Bob Martin I knew. And even though I hadn't seen Bob in so long, it hurt me badly. As I write this on November 13th, Bob's death has become the distraction I needed, moving my thoughts about the election far away and on to something else; nevermind that the something else was a different sort of, much more tragic, tragedy. So now I've been thinking about him and all the great times we had way back in the '60s and regretting the fact that I never got to reconnect with himnote. So I thought I'd just jot down a few short little vignettes, perhaps meaningless and uninteresting to anyone other than me (but hopefully not), from that time with Bob.


Bob and I were close friends in high school. He was several years younger than me, but that didn't matter at all. A lot of what we had in common was our love of music, especially folk music, and, while I was just learning to play the guitar, Bob was quite proficient. I learned a lot from him.

I lived with my parents and brother in a small two bedroom apartment, small enough to never have friends come over to visit. Bob, on the other hand, lived in a nice big house, with a family room that was perfect for our music sessions. Besides Bob and me, our friends Scott and Chuck would often meet up at Bob's house to make music together. I played guitar, Scott played an upright bass, Chuck played the banjo, and Bob played just about any stringed instrument we could get our hands on; instruments like the mandolin and auto-harp.

Me, Scott, and Chuck playing during a service at Scott's church. We performed "This Little Light Of Mine" and "Jesus Met The Woman At The Well," which Bob normally performed with us. Bob would've been there with us, but being a good Catholic, he couldn't take part in this Lutheran church service, so we had to go on without him.

We weren't really that good (and, well, not really that bad, either), just a bunch of teens goofing around, but we made music, and we had fun!

I learned a lot from Bob. Several of the songs I still play today are songs I learned from Bob. He could hear an intricately finger-picked song on a record and quickly learn it right down to the last notenote. He had the gift, the perfect wiring in his brain which allowed him to play guitar along with the best. And he was only in his teens!

I know Bob kept making music. (It would've been a shame if he hadn't.) In his only Facebook Chat message to me, he wrote, "I'm still playing most weekends in a better than average country band...." I'm pretty sure if Bob was in it, it was way better than average.

Like me, Bob was a big Bob Dylan fan. When Dylan's "Blonde On Blonde" double album came out, I bought a copy. We took it over to Bob's house and listened to it over and over and over. We would often do that when we found music we both liked. I wore out a lot of records that way.

Music was a big part of our lives. All these intervening years, whenever I'd pick up my guitar to play (which isn't that often nowadays), I'd always think a little of Bob and those years of our youth making music together. And now I will even moreso.

"Wait 'til The Wind Dies Down"

Bob and I occasionally went down to Montrose Harbor (above) on the shore of the Lake Michigan in Chicago. It wasn't too far from where we lived, maybe a 20 minute drive, and it was a nice place to relax, spend some time just walking around, and view the Chicago skyline.

One night, it was late and it was dark, as we stood on the shoreline of Lake Michigan viewing the beautiful lights of Chicago across the water, both of us commented that we had to pee real bad. We stood there in silence for a few seconds, looking down at the lake, then both, in perfect unison, blurted out, "Wait 'til the wind dies down!" It became a mantra for us, repeated often through the years for no special reason other than to remind ourselves how we just clicked together. And as you can see from the Facebook Chat message between us which I ended with that 50+ year old memory, Bob's witty response showed that he too remembered that night after all these years.

Learning to Drive

Bob was several years younger than me and in my final years of high school before going off to college, he didn't drive. He never really seemed to want to (nor did he ever seem to need to), but I was always up for trying to teach him if and when he did want to learn. So it was on a snowy winter day one year when he decided to give it a try. I had a car, an old Nash Rambler; it was my mom's, but she hardly ever drove it and it became more or less mine as I used it all the time. I don't know if this was the first time Bob had ever driven, but it sure seemed like it! He was nervous, and so was I, and as we came to a curve in the road leading to his house, he hit the brakes on a snowy, icy road and started skidding - right towards a lamp post! Slowly, but not too slowly, we drifted out of control towards the curb and the lamp post's cement base, and, not knowing what to do, Bob just casually held on to the wheel and hoped for the best. For my part, I imagined my parents' anger when they would eventually see the banged up car. Fortunately, we were stopped by the curb, the front of the car just inches from the lamp post, with no damage done. I took over driving and got us back to his house safely.

It was probably pretty stupid of me to start him out on an icy road. And that was the last driving lesson I ever gave Bob.

Going To NYC

After high school, I spent three semesters at the University Of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. During my second semester, the Fall/Winter semester of 1964-65, I lived in an off-campus one-room apartment. I hated college, and within a month into the semester, stopped going to classes. I didn't tell my parents - they wouldn't know until grades came out and got sent home - so I just stayed in town and enjoyed the "college life" Champaign-Urbana had to offer.

At some point that semester, Bob came down from Chicago to live with me. I remember we'd buy canned food like Spam and mini-hot dogs in barbecue sauce and other stuff like that, eating most of it right out of the can, not even heating it up. And we'd play music, a lot.

Bob wasn't there for more than a few days, when one day we just decided to leave town and hitchhike out to New York City to try to meld in with the folk music scene in Greenwich Village. We loved a lot of the music that came from performers out East; Bob Dylan, of course, Dave Van Ronk, Erik Darling, and even Peter, Paul, and Mary, and so many others, and wanted to be close to it, to be involved with it. We had to go to Greenwich Village.

Our hitchhiking went pretty well, despite the cold weather. We left Champaign and headed east along Interstate 74 towards Indianapolis. We had no plan and not much money, but we both carried our guitars along with us. When people would stop to pick us up and ask us where we were going, we told them we'd be happy to ride along with them as far as they could take us in the general direction of New York City. Catching a ride got tough when we hit Indianapolis, with the highway bypasses going around the city to the north and south, and we spent a lot of time walking there, east, of course.

Eventually we got picked up by a traveling salesman in a Volkswagen bug who was also headed somewhere out east (but not to New York City). With the three of us, his suitcases, and our two guitars, it was pretty crowded. As we rode on, he told us he was planning on spending the night in Richmond, Indiana, right on the Indiana/Ohio state line. Not bad for our first day on the road.

Our friend told us he would be spending the night in the Richmond Holiday Inn and, if we could get there in the morning, we could continue on east with him. We, of course, had to find some junky one-star (or less) motel to stay in, based on the amount of cash we had. So we walked around Richmond looking, but before we found one, we got picked up by the cops. It turned out that Bob's parents had reported him as a runaway, and the word got out to the Indiana State Highway Patrol, and, well, they found us. I was over 18, so they couldn't do anything to me, but Bob was still a minor, so they took him away to hold him overnight until his parents could come and pick him up the next day. Me, they dropped me at a cheap motel, just the sort of place Bob and I were looking for, and, despite some comments about "dumping these guitar-playing beatniks' bodies in a field just across the state line," they let me go. Into the cockroach-infested motel I went.

When I got to the main desk to check in, who should I see sitting in the lobby of this dump, but our traveling salesman friend! He apparently tried to impress us with his Holiday Inn reservation, but here he was now, sitting in a ratty old chair watching television with a few other nattily dressed men. I didn't let him see me - no need to embarrass him - and quietly sneaked off to a bare-bones room to spend the night...while Bob spent the night in the Richmond jail.

Bob's parents drove through the night to fetch Bob out of jail and take him back home. Fortunately, they were willing to take me back with them. It was OK, I guess. I really didn't want to go on without Bob. New York City and Greenwich Village just wouldn't be the same for me without him.

I think Bob eventually made it to NYC, and maybe Greenwich Village. I remember him telling me something about sleeping on a bench in the subway there, but I can't remember anything else about it. That story may be gone forever.


Some of Bob's paintings. I stole these images from Paul's Facebook page. I hope he doesn't mind. Click on any of the above pictures to see it enlarged. To see more, click here.

As a kid, Bob never painted. Or if he did, he never shared his painting "hobby" with me, nor did he ever speak of it. I never saw an easel set up in his house, and never had the slightest idea he was a painter. Maybe he wasn't back then; maybe he only discovered his love and talent for painting at a later period in his life. I don't know. But in the last few years via Facebook, mostly through posts by Bob's friend Paul that I could often see on Bob's sister Judy's FB page, I got to see a few of Bob's paintings, albeit, very small in size and limited in color and contrast by the constraints of a 23" computer monitor. But, yet, I saw the Bob I remembered in those paintings. Of course he was a fine painter; it didn't surprise me at all.

Though this part of Bob wasn't a memory from our times together in the '60s and '70s, my discovery of his talent as an artist certainly affected the way I now think of him and his creative mind. I felt it was appropriate to include this here, as his art is now part of my "Memories of Bob."


There are probably a lot of other stories I could set down here, but these are the ones that stand out in my memory of my years with Bob. I hope everyone who reads them will get something out of them, and will get to know an extra little piece of Bob.

As I said at the beginning, I haven't seen Bob in over forty years. Now, hearing of his untimely death, I recall the events of our youth quite vividly, and feel like I have known him and have always been close to him all these years. And so, like those who are close to him, his sister Judy, his friend Paul, and all the others, I, too, will mourn his passing and keep him in my memory forever. And rue the fact that I'll never get to see him again, nor will we ever get to make music together again.

Rest in peace, brother.