WYOMING — Sometimes, all it takes is a Tootsie Roll to make someone smile and feel as if the years are melting away.
“It was so thoughtful and kind of her,” said 87-year-old Earl Watson, who was delighted when hair stylist Debbie Beynon treated him to a handful of the chocolate-flavored candy during her recent visit to the Wyoming Manor Personal Care Center, where Watson is a resident.
Watson, a writer who retired from the former Sunday Independent newspaper in 1991, has been a lifelong teller of stories, so it’s not unusual for him to reminisce.
As Beynon cut his hair during one of her weekly visits to Wyoming Manor, Watson told the stylist his father used to take him to two different barbers when he was growing up in Lansdale.
One barber handed out lollipops to young customers; the other gave Tootsie Rolls. Young Earl strongly urged his father to frequent the barber with the Tootsie Rolls.
Beynon remembered that sweet little nugget of information when she was passing through the candy aisle of a dollar store, and, during Watson’s next haircut, she had Tootsie Rolls for him.
“It was a small thing to do,” Beynon said modestly. “But I always figure, if you can do something so simple and make someone so happy, why not?”
“It’s not just about doing great hair,” said Beynon, who bought the Dallas location of the Mary Taylor Family Hair & Skin Care Center from her long-time employer, Mary Taylor, in 2016, and also styles hair each week at the Meadows Nursing Facility in Dallas in addition to Wyoming Manor in Wyoming.
“We develop friendships with these wonderful people that last a lifetime,” she said. “We talk about everything and anything from baseball to Sinatra at the Paramount (Theater), old-time farming to ketchup sandwiches. We have a great visit.”
The first time she brought Tootsie Rolls to Wyoming Manor for Watson, Beynon said, “He had such a big smile on his face.”
Now she makes sure to have some on hand for every visit — and Watson appreciates it as a memory of his youth.
The retired newsman still has his manual typewriter, one he used to type “reams of copy” during a 44-year career. He still uses it to type the occasional letter, using mostly the red part of the typewriter ribbon because it’s in better shape than the black part. “I don’t know where to get a new ribbon,” he said.
“I used to go out to political parties on Friday nights and write about them on Saturday (for Sunday publication),” Watson said, showing off yellowed clippings of a column called Making the Rounds with The Baron.
“They call me The Baron when I go to visit my wife,” he said, explaining he visits his wife, Maria, who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives at another facility, every day.
Watson also wrote under his own name, exploring subjects that ranged from the memories of World War II veterans to the way saloon owner Mickey Haslin from the Parsons section of Wilkes-Barre described former Chicago Cub Hack Wilson angrily pulling on and permanently damaging his big toe when they both played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1933.
He enjoys retelling the mysterious story of a jockey named Mary Bacon who claimed in 1969 to have been kidnapped from Pocono Downs. She said she escaped from her knife-wielding captor, but later said the entire incident had been fabricated.
More recently, Watson wrote for Hoof Beats magazine, describing in a 2015 article the way the former Pocono Downs racetrack became an evacuation center after the 1972 Agnes Flood, with “mountains of scrambled eggs, served from silver chafing dishes onto paper plates,” a “$2 win window serving as a backdrop” to an inter-denominational church service, and a woman searching frantically through a large pile of donated footwear because she had found a shoe she liked, but couldn’t locate its mate.
A graduate of Temple University’s School of Journalism, Watson served with the U.S. Army on Okinawa during the Korean War and met Scripps-Howard executive Ed Kennedy there in 1954. Five years later, Watson accompanied Kennedy to Madrid, where Kennedy hoped to launch an English-language newspaper. Those plans fell through, but on that trip to Europe, Watson met his wife, who is a native of Regensburg, Germany.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMTcomments powered by Disqus