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Laughter abounds as old pals reunite

It was like we died and were laughing it up 60 years later down in hell. We three old codgers, who had not seen each other since the 1940s, sat in Tim Hortons eating jelly doughnuts and remembering.

As kids, we went to church at Blessed Trinity on Leroy Avenue. Tommy and I went to grammar school there. Sonny went to School 61 up the street. Blessed Trinity's 100th anniversary celebration is this year, so that gave me the excuse to phone Sonny.

I should stop calling him that. He's been trying to change what we call him since he was 10, when he switched to his real name, Jasper, after his grandfather. That worked out even worse than Sonny, so he went to Joe. But I still feel that the best way to get hold of him is, like when I needed him for street football, to walk into his driveway and sing out: "Oh, Sonnn-eeee."

Joe and I talked for an hour. We decided to meet and I agreed to call Tommy. Joe asked, "Should we wear carnations?"

When we met, it took just a second of updating before all eyes brightened in recognition. Tommy has the most hair, but it is steel gray. We are all thicker about the middle. We shook hands and fell into serious nostalgia. "What ever happened to Richie and Bobbie and Phyllis? And remember in Scouts we used to hike out here to Mike's Pond, before the Thruway?"

The Korean War was our war. Joe was a Morse code intercept operator for the Army in Europe. Joe's father emigrated from Italy and, during World War II, got a draft notice signed by Benito Mussolini. Tommy was in Korea during the fighting, as an Air Force photo interpreter.

In Japan, he ran into our classmate, Patrick. Patrick wangled extra leave for Tommy so they could enjoy the sushi and sake before getting back to war. I spent four years as an Air Force M.D. in Japan. A lot of our colleagues are dead. One died in jail, another was murdered.

I recall Patrick in third grade. "Shot," the toughest kid in our class, moved away and Patrick called the gang together to announce that Shot had made him the leader. We laughed that off. You don't get appointed toughest kid.

I came to Blessed Trinity in second grade. My first day, I joined the kids in front of the Elite Bakery across the street from school and met Tommy. He knocked my new three-ring notebook out of my hands and put me down on the ground. The next day, Jack and I teamed up. Tommy had an allowance and he'd bought a bag of penny candy at the Elite. Jack knelt behind him. I walked up, said, "Hi, Tommy" and gave him a shove. He and his candy went flying. We were good friends after that.

Elite Bakery supplied free stale doughnuts to us when we got up early to attend Mass and receive communion for a special "First Friday" indulgence that promised we'd not die without extreme unction. After Mass, we'd eat our doughnuts in the school basement kitchen.

Once, Richard was washing down a mouthful of cruller with milk. We got him laughing so hard that milk squirted out his nose and I got my first gross anatomy lesson -- the nose and mouth are connected.

The school is closed now. The Elite Bakery and its candy store are an empty lot. All of it passes. But our eternal bull session will soon reconvene, down below. Do you suppose they'll serve doughnuts?

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