On Thanksgiving Day two years ago I blogged about the 18 minute opening track from Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 album Alice’s Restaurant. I included a video illustrating the real life events from Thanksgiving Day 1965 that inspired the song, whose full title is “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” “Massacree” is an Ozark colloquialism used to describe events of a strange nature. This differentiates from “Massacre,” which involves killing. Coincidentally (or was it?), the next Thanksgiving, on the 50 year anniversary of the events from “Alice’s Restaurant,” an actual Thanksgiving Day Massacre nearly occurred at a Church in Oaklyn, New Jersey.
At The PLAS Place, Progressive activist and then-presidential candidate Robert Milnes described the scene in a manner reminiscent of Guthrie’s stream-of-consciousness from Alice’s Restaurant:
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I went to a church noontime gathering/feast. Then I went to my dad’s apartment. Then I went “home”-my rv parked at Walmart but I have to move between 12midnight and 6a.m.
My uncle got me to go with him to Saint Mark’s Lutheran church in Oaklyn, NJ for the past several years. One year he persuaded his daughter Aleasha and her grandmother Ruth Blumenstein to go with the his 2 grandchildren. Bob Wakely is a staff member there and gives people a ride there. Yesterday my uncle said he wasn’t feeling well and his daughter hadn’t called him back about going so he assumed that was a no. Ruth is of course “dead” so she wasn’t going. So I went with my friend from the trailer park Bill K. Bob was at the door greeting people. We went to the multipurpose room/gymnasium with stage. There was an empty table near the back. We sat and promptly 3 elderly people joined us, Judith, Robert and Elizabeth. Shortly Sarah joined us. She seemed to be with the other 3. Then a little later Monica joined us with her 2 little girls about 6? The round tables comfortably seat about 8. There was seats and plates for 8.
We sat and waited to be served by several young servers, probably church members. We conversed a little slowly getting a little acquainted. Sarah and I didn’t say much. Robert had some sort of speaking problem which Elizabeth mentioned promptly. So most of the conversing was by Elizabeth and Bill with some by Judith and later Monica. Robert was in some sort of facility according to Elizabeth who said she was born in Switzerland and had the accent. Judith lived in Collingswood, a nearby town and went to church in Cherry Hill, not St. Mark’s. Elizabeth said she worked at I believe Lockheed/Boeing(Martin/Marietta?) but couldn’t talk much about it because it was classified.
I was gathering that Elizabeth, Robert, Judith and Sarah were together and jewish. I of course had no problem with that although I did note that it was quite a coincidence. I have been writing about the recent Palestinian uprising involving stabbing jews randomly. And here some jews were randomly in my vicinity. Then a server came around with turkey but couldn’t cut it because she said they had taken the knife away. I thought that was odd. Then Bob came by taking the bread which was in a basket covered with a large paper napkin. He said I’m taking the bread. I hope you don’t mind. Please don’t stab me. Again I thought that was odd. Someone came around and took the upper paper plates and knives. Again I thought that was odd. Then a man who looked homeless came up to Judith and hugged her. They spoke for a while and he left. Bill said Judith told him she knew that man and let him in her house sometimes etc. , so evidently he was actually homeless. Bill said he recognized him from around near the trailer park near the liquor store. He had told me previously about a guy that sexually propositioned him. That was the guy! We decided to call him Hanging Around Guy after Umbrella Man, the man with the umbrella at Dealey Plaza, Dallas during the assassination of JFK.
The rest of the time went without incident. I left with an uneasy feeling. Like something was SUPPOSED to happen. A covert operation. For example something like Hanging Around Guy was supposed to start a fight with me and plant a knife on me then accuse me of attempting to stab someone-Judith?- which he interceded. Someone may have called the church saying something about a possible stabbing at the church which alerted Bob, who promptly removed all the knives. Yet after all no significant incident happened which leads me to suspect the operation was aborted for some reason.
Reader, what do YOU think?
Days later, Milnes visited the Police:
Today I received a phone call from Bob Wakely in response to my messages asking him to call. He seemed sketchy on the details but did recall someone acting strange at another table. I asked if it was the guy who came to my table talking with Judith. He was evasive. He mentioned he has 2 daughters volunteering there. I thought that was odd of him to mention that.
Then I went to Oaklyn, NJ police. I asked to speak to a detective. The receptionist/dispatcher said they just left. So I could speak with an officer in what was called a “walk-in”.
I explained what happened at the Lutheran church. He said since nothing actually happened(an act of violence) there seemed to be no reason for further police action. I asked him to report what I said to the detectives. He said he would and wrote down my info-name, address, phone.
It sounds to me like Bob knows a lot more than he said. And either he is protecting someone-whoever was acting strange-pursuant to some sort of Christian humanistic notions-or he/his family was threatened/extorted.
Remember this Hanging Around guy has ALREADY violated my friend. He knows Judith. Was he being there just a coincidence or is there more to it.
This makes a compelling story. Perhaps someone could turn it into a work of art.