Monday, September 14, 2009

Starting A Riot

Many of you know that over the years I have been a participant or leader in over a dozen youth trips to New York, NY. What you may not know is that in the early days of these trips my group would travel as a part of a larger group from North Carolina Yearly Meeting (NCYM), which was itself part of an even larger group representing Friends United Meeting. To cut through the "Quakerese," it just means there were Quaker youth from all over the country on these trips. One such trip was in 1982 (I think- check out the picture of me on the ferry to see just how long ago!) and it was memorable in many ways, including the fact that it was Marilyn's first New York adventure. But today I want to tell you the story of Wallace Sills.

Wallace Sills was someone who was very important in my early participation with Friends (Quakers). My first week as a Quaker Lake camper, he was the acting camp director. He was the Youth and Christian Education Secretary (Quaker word for person in charge at that time) for NCYM, and I grew to know him pretty well.  He then became the Associate Pastor at Springfield Friends Meeting while I was working at New Garden, and I got to know him even better. In 1986 I would follow him at Springfield, after he had burned a few bridges there, but we remained friends over the years as he ministered at Jamestown Friends and later as a hospital Chaplain. Wally was a great guy with an amazing laugh and a huge heart for ministry, but those were not his most distinguishing traits. You see, Wallace looked like Paul Newman. And not just a little bit. People often did double takes when passing him on the street, and he once created quite a stir while trying to check out of a Sears.  Mr. Newman was a major star, having just done Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, so everyone knew him. Wally hated the attention. He didn't like people to mention it, and he certainly would never talk about it himself.  Of course, it did offer us some opportunities...

So we are in New York, catching the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty to watch the seagulls crash (another story for another day!). It was the week of Thanksgiving, and the ferry was packed with tourists just like us from all over the world. Wallace was standing on the upper deck of the boat looking at Liberty Island, when we noticed that he was sharing that deck with hundreds of Japanese tourists. Now this will sound like an ethnic stereotype, but I promise you that nearly every single one of those Japanese tourists had a camera! After a quick meeting, several people (not me!) positioned themselves in the middle of the group and yelled loudly "LOOK! IT"S PAUL NEWMAN!!!" People began to turn and stare, and Wallace was frozen like a dear in the headlights. At that point, what seemed like 1000 camera flashes began to pop, and we could hear the tourists, in broken English, saying "PAUL NEWMAN!"  Wallace made a break for it, heading down the stairs with flashes following him all the way. He was not happy with any of us, but we were pretty pleased with ourselves!  To this day I still wonder how many of those tourists have framed pictures of Wallace Sills hanging in their homes, regaling their friends and families with stories about the day they saw him on the ferry to Liberty Island.

Over the years we actually did see a number of famous people on the streets and in restaurants in NYC- Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Evander Hollyfield, Chris Farley and more. And of course, I met Batman, but that too is a story for another day. But even with all of those celebrity sightings, nothing ever topped the day we gave Paul Newman to the world! And people say Christians don't have any fun...

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Jay Wilkins9/15/2009

    Danny and Kathy Newfont and I were remembering and discussing this event recently. We three were there yelling Paul Newman as he got on the ferry, and I think that Kathy was able to flash her camara without taking pictures, so she was flashing as quick as she could to draw extra attention. I feel like Donna Haynes wsa there yelling and I think that her sister Kim was there yelling too. I seem to remember two girls walking in on his arms, but we couldn't remember who they were.


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