One day in the summer of 1971, when I was ten years old, my boyfriend Bill and I were out riding bikes near Longview Park, when we came to a big house "on the register of historic places." There was an old guy in the back yard, sitting in a lawn chair reading a newspaper.
He had his shirt off!
He was very muscular, with a thick hairy chest, big shoulders, hairy flat abs, and square hands. Balding on top. A round open face.
"Hey, I know that guy from church!" Bill exclaimed. [He was a heathen Presbyterian] "Hi, Mr. Franck!"
Frank -- like my Dad?
He looked up. "Hi, Bill. Who's your buddy?"
We went into the back yard through a little gate, and Mr. Franck stood up and shook both our hands -- not many adults did that! He told us to call him Sonny -- everybody did, even kids. He was a teacher at Rocky High, so he would see us both in his biology class in a few years.
After that, the promise of beefcake brought us past Sonny's house quite often. He was often in his back yard in mid-afternoon, giving us just enough time to gawk at his muscles and get home in time to watch Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat.
During the school year, we went on Saturday afternoons. Sometimes he wasn't there, of course, but often he was, sometimes in back yard, sometimes on the front porch, often with his shirt off, even in October. He always waved, and talked to us when we stopped.
Once he invited us in for lemonade. There were pictures of cute, muscular guys all over his parlor. Sonny must like men with muscles, too!
"Is this your friend?" I asked, pointing to a teenage bodybuilder lifting an enormous barbell.
"It's me, when I was about your age. Sports were sort of my bag, back then. You boys like football?"
"Sure!" We actually hated football, but it seemed polite to say we liked it.
Sonny told us that he was an All-American wingback at the University of Minnesota, and then he was a halfback for the New York Giants.
"They're good," Bill offered. "I like...um...."
Having to hear about football was almost a deal-breaker, but beefcake was hard to find in Rock Island, so we continued to visit Sonny. We could see his hairy chest, and maybe someday we would even get a glimpse of his shame (his beneath the belt gifts).
No sausage sighting, but the next summer, when I was 11 years old, we biked past Sonny's house, and he was sitting in the back yard, drinking lemonade with Tarzan!
The full story is on Tales of West Hollywood.