Monday, May 29, 2006

Anyone's Classmate

Originally sent 7/2/05:


I was surprised to find the post card announcing that a film about Harvey was being made. I don't know why but I wanted to share with you, the screen writers, something of my experiences with Harvey from that period. I didn't want to post them to the public forum and I'm not sure yet if I would want to be a "consultant" on the project. I just figured I'd relate some things I remembered clearly in the hope that it would help.

Harvey and I were chums of a sort off and on for many years through the cub scouts, grade, middle, and high school. We were the same age and in many of the same classes and early on he and I were the kind of geeky kids who were always teased and bullied by the other kids. Later on in high school he started hanging out with some of the very people that were the instigators of our earlier tortures and his lifestyle took a turn that didn't appeal to me, so our friendship started to wane after awhile. Towards the end of high school and over that summer in 1976 we started seeing more of each other, but it was never up to the level of our earlier years.

The first time I got drunk in my life was with Harvey along the railroad tracks just outside of our town. I think we were both in the ninth grade. He bought the beer because he looked 18. During his later teenage years he smoked and dealt pot. Once in a while I'd buy stuff from him and he would always give me a good-chum discount. He also had a very hot car which he no doubt bought with his earnings. (As you'll no doubt recall the 70's was well before the drug crack-downs of the Reagan years. At that time no one in authority cared that much about marijuana. If the police caught you with an ounce or under they would simply confiscate it and send you on your way. It just wasn't worth the paperwork to arrest anyone for that. In high school and college almost everyone I knew was either smoking it or dealing and you could buy it practically anywhere. It was very different then.)

Though I don't personally remember much about his dad, he had a reputation as a harsh disciplinarian. (There are others who would use more colorful language.) According to newspaper accounts of the time his dad was an orphan whose life was "straightened out" by a stint in the military. I recall people saying he was a paranoid gun-nut and was purported to keep loaded guns in the house including a rifle under his bed. When his dad did a stint as the cub scout leader Harvey was never allowed to play with the other boys at scout functions. He always had to stand at attention (or maybe it was "parade rest") next to his dad. (My mother was a cub scout den mother at that time and had a great dislike for the man.) Since Harvey was never up to military-specs in his father's eyes it was off to the Citadel he sent him kicking and screaming.

Like his father, Harvey was also a paranoid gun-nut, which was another reason I started applying the brakes on our friendship. One summer day before Harvey had his driver's license (probably 1975) he came over to my house on his bicycle and wanted to show me something in secret. So we walked to the side of the house and hid behind some tall shrubs where we would be out of sight from all directions. Harvey then pulled what looked like a 38 caliber handgun out of his pants and showed it to me. He'd just gotten it and wanted to show it off to someone. He said he wanted to have a gun on him at all times so that the "Feds wouldn't take me without a fight."

Years afterward I recalled that summer afternoon and remembered reading or hearing somewhere that Harvey had killed his family with a handgun. For all I know they were killed with the handgun he showed me that day, and since then I've never forgotten it.

On that Thanksgiving Sunday I was in my car traveling east on the main road through town going back to college. I had just picked up a fellow classmate downtown and was on my way to the interstate highway. When I passed Harvey's house the police already had it roped off. My first thought was that he'd done something. I figured it was probably an altercation during a drug bust. I was completely blown away when I heard the gruesome newscast on the radio halfway to RI.

Of course I, like everyone else, followed all the news stories about it and I bought the book when it was published. I remember the author didn't draw any conclusions about his guilt or innocence, but at the time I never had any doubts that he'd committed those awful murders. I can't say why. Knowing something about Harvey it was a strong feeling I had at the time.

Thanks for reading this and I hope it helped even if it was only a little. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Thanks, Joe

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