Harvey, the the "love god"
IN ALL HONESTY, THIS PHOTO DEFINES HARVEY COLBURN
MORE ABOUT HARVEY'S LIFE
The comical term, "love god," was coined by legendary comedian, writer, actor and producer, Steve Martin. He used this term on his "monster" live comedy concert album in 1978. The black and white album cover with Martin dressed in his white suit and rabbit ears on his head. And I still recall how he put this term "love god," into our vocabulary, "People come up to me and say, Hey, Steve. How can you be such a swinging love god?" And that, like ninety-eight percent of his material, blew the audience out of their seats.
Oh well. Time marches backward sometimes. In 1971, I met and became friends with a true "love god," by the down-home name of Harvey Colburn. And yes, that is, or was, his real name. No joke. Harvey Colburn. No matter where he was, he was just Harvey. No pretense. No false fronts. "What you see is what you get," fits Harvey better than any term "I" can manufacture.
No one in my hometown of Hamilton, Alabama, ever knew that much about Harvey, except that he "gave the illusion," of someone with great intellect. And if you met him, you would be among the hundreds, maybe thousands, who were easily-fooled by his casual demeanor. Smiling face. Neat haircut. And always wearing either corduroy or pressed slacks, "Sunday pants," as Harvey insisted on calling them, and his trademark sweater vest and unmatching suit coat. Now in July and especially August, the temperatures in Hamilton can reach the mid-90's to sometimes 101 degrees. This didn't matter to Harvey. Everywhere he went. Everyone he met. He was dressed the same way, but sometimes wore corduroy instead of his "Sunday pants." Harvey was a living mass of complexities that mocked our IQ's. And silently laughed at our mental frustrations at not being able to pin him down into one category. I guess, at this point of my life, that this was Harvey's only enjoyment. To see us all with confusion wrote like a book with big print on our faces.
But to those who knew Harvey Colburn best, he was a rural "love god," in every respect. He had an overwheming respect and appreciation for women. All women. No culls for Harvey, for he loved them all. Skinny. Overweight. "Wall Flowers." Homecoming queens. Harvey made no distinction. People told me, and I cannot disprove them, that on rare occasions, Harvey would be with his guy friends and just listening and grinning at whatever they said. But when just a glimpse of a trim female figure came into view, Harvey's face turned into something like a Fourth of July celebration in Galveston, Texas with thousands of dollars in high-tech fireworks all exploding at once. Harvey would be as patient as a trained hunting dog (a term of respect, not fun making) until the woman walked by him. He would then, tip his hat (if he were wearing one), smile and say, "Howdy do, ma'am?" She would give Harvey a obligatory smile and walk away with Harvey's laser-beam eyes tracking her every move. When she faded in view, instantly, Harvey's face would return to the grinning, smiling, and injecting nothing at all into the conversation with his buddies.
Now to let you in on what I haven't told you about Harvey's wardrobe. And this too, is a fact that I'm sharing with you out of respect for my good pal, Harvey. No matter, and I mean no matter where Harvey was seen, he always, and I mean that strongly, always had his shirt collar buttoned-up in the last button hole. No, he didn't wear a necktie. Just buttoned all the shirts, maybe three, that he owned, in the last button hole and never complained about his breath being cut-off. He loved it. The look of his shirt being tight on his neck. I viewed this as an eleventh-grader, okay, a junior at Hamilton High School, as Harvey the "Curiosity Magnet," just waiting for someone with a weak will power to ask him why he did such a thing.
Then one Friday evening it happened. My dad and I were sitting on the sidewalk that ran north of my high school, waiting for my mom to get to Hamilton with her friends who rode to Detroit, Alabama, to work in a factory called Detroit Slacks, a textile company, so we could pick her up and then buy some delicious Friday night groceries. This, you might already detect, was "the" highlight of my week--maybe getting a rare treat of a real hamburger cooked by my mom, a true master chef in my mind. Two men, the now-late Elzie White and James McCarley, whose wives worked with mom, were just "shooting the breeze," with my dad, as most men do while they wait on their wives. And in the distance I saw Harvey Colburn "hoofing" it down the sidewalk in his usual brisk walking style. This too was a mystery for he had nowhere to be or anyone to see. But Harvey walked as if he were late. All of the time.
I suspicioned what was coming next. Dad had told me once about how good James McCarley was at pulling good, clean jokes on people just for fun, and sure enough, James was ready for Harvey on that particular Friday evening.
James winked at Elzie and my dad. I held my breath for I was afraid that Harvey, for some reason, would "fly-off" the handle, as old people were prone to say, and let James have it in the chin. Step-by-step, Harvey saw us all on the sidewalk, but didn't break his stride. Nor remove the wide grin from his face. James whispered, "watch this," and then put his masterplan into motion.
"Hey, Harvey! Come here a minute," James said in an humble tone of voice.
"Uhh, yeah, mister. What is it?" Harvey asked very politely.
"You in a hurry, Harvey? You sure are walking fast?" James said almost laughing.
"No, sir. I was just walking around town. Not hurting anybody," Harvey replied and telling the whole truth. Harvey was the most non-violent man I ever met.
"You sure look nice, Harvey. You got a hot date for later tonight?" James asked looking Harvey up and down.
"Uhhh, no, sir. I just wanted to 'dress up,' a mite' and walk around some," Harvey said still grinning that famous Harvey Colburn grin.
"Well, let me ask you, Harvey, why do you have your shirt buttoned-up to the last hole? Is that not hot on your neck, son?" James said with the skill of a high-end prosecuting attorney.
"No, sir. It feels fine, sir," Harvey said without any notion that he was about to be made into a "laughing stock."
"Well, Harvey, why do you do it---wear your shirts buttoned-up to the last whole?" James said knowing that he had Harvey backed into a corner. Yes, his back to the wall. A terrible place for some men, but not Harvey.
Harvey's smile disappeared like affordable gasoline prices in 2011. James, Elzie, and my dad and I could only look at Harvey as he slowly looked up and down at his clothes, then looked out in space as it he were about to land the winning point in a debate between Harvard and Yale.
Then with the confidence of John Wayne in one of his classic movies, "McClintock," Harvey said . . .
"So I won't look too sexy," smiled to the stunned men who didn't know whether to laugh or just be quiet, and briskly walked off whistling "Daydream," by the Lovin' Spoonful, a band who were very popular in 1971.
James, Elzie, my dad and I didn't laugh as James had hoped. Now in all honesty, we did chuckle a little, but somehow Harvey's on-the-spot remark made us respect him all the more.
For the rest of that year and the next, 1972, when I was a senior at Hamilton High School, I pondered and became vexed sometimes at the mysteries that surrounded our buddy, Harvey Colburn. These are just some of the mysteries about him that I know of:
1. No one knew where and if Harvey Colburn was employed.
2. Harvey always had money on his person. Always. Never saw a broke day in his life.
3. No one really knew where Harvey lived. We all just grew accustomed to seeing him walking around Hamilton in daytime and at night.
4. No one ever knew if Harvey had a social life, or if he knew what the term, "social life," meant.
5. No one knew who Harvey's parents were, or if he had any siblings. Harvey was always talking, when he talked, in first-person.
6. No one could recall if EVER, Harvey Colburn had any trouble with anyone. With his overly-friendly disposition, who could get angry at him?
7. No one ever witnessed Harvey at our local drive-in theater or skating rink. Or at any of our famous teenage hang-outs.
8. No one ever saw Harvey ride in or drive an automobile.
Makes you wonder doesn't it?
And when the dark day came that we learned of Harvey's demise, another mystery came to life. Literally. And this one tops the eight mysteries listed above.
At Harvey's funeral, the funeral home was packed tighter than a can of imported Swedish sardines. Friends as far as the eye could see. The funeral home director, a Mr. Jeffreys, had trouble finding room for everyone to "fit in" to pay their last respects to one of Hamiton's most-beloved and yet most-mysterious citizen.
The last mystery was this one: (and when I pass from this life, I should be so lucky). . . .according to reliable sources . . .
there were untold numbers of super-hot brunettes, slim and trim blondes and redheads who could easily pose for any magazine--men's or women's. All dressed in appropriate funeral wear, not for show, but weeping and showing true remorse at losing Harvey and to show their respect for him.
And all this time. A "love god," in our midst.
Gosh, I wonder what would have happened if Harvey had not buttoned-up his shirts in the last hole?