I have to post this again because it looms large in my memory every holiday season.
Another year, another Thanksgiving and holiday season begins. Another year of having the burden of deciding whose food and liquor I can consume without lifting a finger to make any meaningful contribution.
It’s that time of the year when those “New Yorkers of the Week” loom large on NY1. Committing selfless acts, being generous and basically putting themselves out, not just at the holidays but all year long. Man, I hate those people. Don’t get me started on the “Student/Athlete of the Week.”
On top of all that, the City just released stats on how the use of food pantries and soup kitchens have spiked in the last year. Every borough has seen an increase since last year with Staten Island leading the way with a 100% increase.
But that’s not what I what I want to talk about. I want to talk about a few years…er… decades, back when I was a teen. I want to talk about Pinhead Bomberger.
My father owned a small grocery store in small town Pennsylvania. Each year around this time, he would personally make certain grocery deliveries. He made me go with him to help. The groceries were full meals for a family, all the fixin’s, turkey included. It was food for people who couldn’t afford it.
It was weird that the old man was making these deliveries personally. It was even weirder that he dragged me along. I asked on more than once occasion what the deal was, but he would always brush it off saying that it was someone who gave him money and a list of people and said to deliver the groceries.
To this day I can vividly recall the faces and emotions of those people, mostly single mothers, when we showed up at their doors with the food. They were sure there was some mistake. My dad assured them it wasn’t a mistake. When they asked who was responsible my dad would just say, “Santa Claus.” (It worked better when we did the Xmas deliveries, but what the hell?)
They were really thankful to get the food they otherwise wouldn’t have had for the holiday. I remember a few mothers, kids hanging on them, who got tears in their eyes.
Years later, while visiting at Christmas, I decided to ask my dad what that was all about. He said that since the guy was dead, there was no harm in spilling the beans.
This is where Pinhead Bomberger comes in. Bomberger was the German teacher at our high school. He was a real miserable prick. Everyone hated him. His unfortunate moniker “Pinhead” was due to his tiny head.
Dad said that one year Pinhead came to him with a list. It was a list of poor people, about a dozen or so. He wanted to buy them holiday dinners. My father was sworn to secrecy. Under no circumstances were these people to know where it came from. Dad didn’t know where he got the list. Then, as was his way, the old man decided to chip in and sweeten the deal. He added to Pinhead’s list and threw in more food.
Pinhead did that on Thanksgiving and Christmas until he died. The list was always different from year to year.
I asked why he made me go with him when he made those deliveries. He said it was a personal thing and he wanted to have me with him. He also wanted me to know how good I had it; to not take for granted my good fortune. Oh, by the way, did I mention dad was a Republican?
So, what do we take away from this? Is it that you never really know people? What made Pinhead do what he did? He knew he was hated. He could have easily made a big deal out of it, but he didn’t. He insisted on secrecy and the old man took that secret to the grave. I was the only one he told and it was only because I asked.
There are people like us who want to be liked, yet we probably haven’t done very much to help those less fortunate. And when we do it, we make sure people know it. It seems to me Pinhead was a real hero… a real human being.
And speaking of real… his real first name was Harry.