Though I was born in Denville New Jersey in 1957 my fondest childhood memories were formed during our years of living in Connecticut. The best way I can describe my childhood growing up in Connecticut was like living the real-life movie “Sandlot” which featured a group of close boyhood friends doing what boys across America were doing in the 1960s, playing pickup baseball on neighborhood streets and makeshift sandlots from morning to night (at least it seemed that way). My parents grew up in Morristown New Jersey but moved to Connecticut in 1959 when I was 2 years old. My father whose name was Robert C Griffith obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering (years later on another Robert C Griffith would do the same – that comes later) and was offered a lucrative job with General Dynamics in Groton Connecticut for a whopping $8,000 per year. My Mom often said that was big money back then and they couldn’t turn down the offer, so they moved away from the only town they ever knew and from their families and started a new life in New England.
For me, it was the best decision they made because Connecticut was and still is very dear to my heart. I don’t remember anything from Groton but there is one incident from Groton that I have been told about over and over and it concern cowboy boots and poop. Around Christmas time I was told we were going to visit my best friend Johnny Giddle. Though I was happy about that, I was not happy that I had to first take a nap before the visit. Well, in protest of napping I guess I would show my displeasure by “pooping my pants”. It doesn’t stop there, I then promptly taking my “poop” and smeared it all over the wall, my crib and into the grooves of my brand new cowboy boots. Needless to say, it did not go over too well with my parents and I’m lucky I survived that day and lived to see my 3rd birthday. We moved to a nearby town called Montville in 1961 when I was only 4 years old. Like many suburban towns in that area I suppose, the neighborhoods were filled with Navy families who were from different parts of the country. My best friend was Bubba Hilby whose family was from Mississipi. Our birthdays were only a day apart, so our moms would give us joint birthday parties. They only other fond memories I have from Montville was a dog we owned called “Cocoa”. He was a brown boxer that patrolled our yard watching over us. I remember he once got into a fight with another dog. While the other kids all jumped up on a flatbed truck parked next to my house, I decided it was up to me to break it up. I ended up having both dogs bite my knee, ripping open my skin. Because of my heroic efforts, I earned a trip to the doctors where I had to get a tetanus shot. I ended up punching the nurse because, well shots at the age of 5 or 6, were not very fun. Cocoa ended up disappearing one day, he either ran away or was stolen we never found out but we spent months searching for him and never found him. For years I thought of him wondering whatever became of him. If I saw a brown boxer somewhere I would call his name to see if it was him, but it never was, and Cocoa was gone forever. It was the first of many experiences I would have in my life with losing a dog, something I never got used to.
The only other memories from Montville was getting punished for playing with matches in the woods behind my house and peeing on my neighbors’ front lawn. I remember a boy named David Creamer, who I can best describe him as the neighborhood bully. He would act like your best friend one moment and then punch you in the stomach for no reason except that he could I guess. My Mom tells me I once threaten to run away from home. I packed my bags and stormed out of the house only to turn around to see her waving goodbye to me. I made it to the top of the hill and I guess I decided the world for a 6-year-old boy was too big and scary. I then turned back around and headed back to my safe place, home. With that, my Tom Saywer adventures were over as fast as they started. Next up, the greatest place in the world to grow up in – Niantic Connecticut, and where tragedy ends it all.