Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Thank You Old Gray Goose

I have lived in Lockport for all but four of the years I have been alive. I grew up here, which means I had plenty of contact with the Old Gray Goose. We kids knew him as Goose. For some reason, when we became adults it became necessary to put a last name on him, so we call him Goose Gray. He always claimed to be 150 years old, and I don't think there is a living Lockportian today who would contradict that. On February 14, 2018 we lost our Old Gray Goose...but we will never forget him.

Ravioli, lots of ravioli.
Ravioli, that's what I like best.

My first encounter with Goose was when I was in fifth grade. To me, back in the 70s, he already looked to be 150 years old. He sang to us during recess at Roy B. Kelley Elementary School and he got us to clap our hands. Whenever the Old Gray Goose was at recess, there was a throng of us around him.

Do you like it, on your ear?
Yes we like it on our ear!
On your ear! 
Ravioli, lots of ravioli.
Ravioli, that's what I like best.

When Goose would sing about his ear, he would touch his finger to his ear and we instinctively did the same thing. A couple of the fifth grade "cool kids" flicked Goose's ear when they walked by to try and be funny. Goose ignored them, and so did we. Goose was focused on the kids who wanted to sing and laugh. Funny how, decades later, I would read about those cool kids and their long jail sentences and miserable lives. All Goose wanted was for them to sing. They lost out, and no one laughed at their little pranks.

Do you like it, on your arm?
Yes we like it on our arm!
On your arm!
On your ear!
Ravioli, lots of ravioli.
Raviloi, that's what I like best.

I would always see Goose around town after that first experience. He always made every encounter feel like it mattered to him, probably because it did.

"Hey, Goose! Hi!"
"Hello young man. You keep on going to school!"
And then he would keep on walking.

The Old Gray Goose was famous for what he did for Camp Kenan and the Kenan Summer Day Camp. He spent most of his time at Camp Kenan, which I never attended, but we saw him plenty of times at the Kenan Summer Day Camp. The moment Goose would show up at day camp, dozens of children would forget the other counselors and follow Goose out into the open field where he would tell us stories and sing songs. He had his tennis racket guitar with him, of course, and we all swore that we heard the music.

I never knew Goose personally, but I never felt like I needed to. None of us did. For the youth of Lockport, Goose was just . . . Goose. He was the first adult we trusted besides our parents, and he always seemed like he was everywhere.

We lost our Old Gray Goose today, and this is a big loss. Goose always spoke up for the youth of Lockport. He is the perfect example of a guy who never grew up, but also never lost sight of what was important.

Was he 150 years old? I guess it doesn't much matter now. From every single kid who grew up in Lockport over the past five or six decades - Thank you, Goose. Because of you, many of us learned to trust the right adults at young ages. Because of you, we laughed, we sang, and we danced.

Ravioli, lots of ravioli.
Ravioli, that's what I like best.

Thank you, Goose. Rest in peace.

George N Root III