B y Jaime Thomas
Everybody’s seen them.
Drive by Scotties’ on any given summer day and they’re sitting out front, chewing the fat. Stop in for lunch in the cold weather and they’re gathered, ribbing each other and watching the goings-on.
Among themselves they’re the “sidewalk supervisors,” the “senior debate team” or “just the guys I go and talk with.”
The subjects in question are a group of five or six men—with Chuck Gray, Jim Sloane, Herb Burkhard, George Henry and Ernie Wood at the core—that meet up regularly at Scottie’s Coffee Shop on Main Street.
For about five years, the men have built up a very familiar friendship with each other that takes place almost exclusively at Scotties’.
“They’re a wonderful gang; I would hate to get along without them,” said Chuck Gray, a founding member. “It’s really my entire social life.”
Because he is at Scotties’ daily, rain or shine, Gray is the group’s corner stone, or “master of ceremonies” as Henry referred to him.
“We all strive to be like Chuck,” Henry said playfully, “He’d sit out front; his animal magnetism drew us.” This larky description is more or less the origins of the group, and the friendly satire illustrates its rapport.
“We started getting together, and another guy would come along and join. It just sort of happened,” Gray said.
That they get along is no surprise; all of the men are veterans and for the most part grew up in the same era. And most of them no longer have wives around (head’s up, ladies!)But Gray said the group’s diversity is partially why it thrives.
“These guys, they’re unique. They’re all very interesting, as different as you can imagine,” Gray said. The men include marines, sailors, a former fireman, a mechanical engineer, a musician and the former owner of an asphalt company.
Though Henry refers to Sloane as “Uncle Jim,” none of the men are related. But they seem like they’ve known each other for years and years.
“In a small town, everybody already knows each other’s business anyways. But when you’re close like this, even more so,” Gray said of the group.
And as the days together have grown into weeks that grew into years, they haven’t run out of subject matter.
“We talk about politics, a lot of reminiscing; there’s a certain amount of girl watching,” Henry said, adding that a topic isn’t really important.
“It’s nice to just share the sunshine with somebody. We share life experiences, whether in the moment or in the past. It gives you something to look forward to, camaraderie,” he said.
“It’s a good way to pass the time,” he said.
Gray said the men discuss everything under the sun, all one has to do is bring up a subject and the others take off with a conversation.
The men also have inadvertently become a sort of support system for each other. When Gray was in the hospital, he said the gang visited him three to four times per week.
When Ron Shepard, who died recently, could no longer drive, Gray picked him up every day. And Henry said the men check in if one of their own doesn’t show up for a while.
The stipulations for joining the group aren’t tough. Henry said it’s open to anyone older than 40 and younger than 100, as long as they can take a lot of good natured teasing.
“In this group there’s only one rule, and that is there are no rules,” Gray said.