December 4, 2012

Phred the BalloonMeister



FredeMy friend Phred-Fred, a professional clown and balloon-maker, asked me for help the other day. The Huntsville, Alabama, resident wants me to help him generate five-hundred visits to a video he just had made about his balloon-making ( ).

My family met Fred Wells while we lived in Atlanta, Georgia.


My husband Monte, daughter Sandy and son Nolan moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia, in August 1982. Monte had just retired from teaching physics at Slippery Rock University (PA) and was beginning seminary at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta. We chose to live in Stone Mountain because the good friends we made in Slippery Rock, Shirl and Wayne Murray, had moved there several years previously.

At the time Nolan was interested in clowning. When I heard about a clowning class in December 1982 I enrolled him and presented the entrance form to him for a Christmas gift. The classes started January 18, 1983, on his eleventh birthday.

On the sixteenth of January I was told he was too young to register for the class—he had to be eighteen. I objected, not wanting to disappoint Nolan. I was given the name of the teacher who said yes, he could enroll, he could try it. It was a great experience for Nolan.

In July 1983 Nolan was hospitalized for a ruptured appendix. After his surgery he developed an abscess and had another surgery. The combination was devastating and he wasn’t doing well. I thought a visit from one of the members of his clown class would cheer him, so I called the restaurant where I could contact the teacher with my request. The teacher, Dave, wasn’t there but Fred was.

Fred had participated in the class briefly, and was willing to visit Nolan. Later Fred called me to ask if I could make a clown hat for him (I had a craft and sewing business in Atlanta).

And so a friendship began that continues today, not only for me but also for my family.

Before we left Atlanta our home became Phred’s residence while he did gigs in the Atlanta area. We had soon discovered we had a friend in common, Mark Murray, son of Shirl and Wayne.

In 1983 we had to have him investigated because we were foster parents to a thirteen-year-old pregnant girl who planned on releasing her baby for adoption and he planned on staying with us while she was in our care. It felt strange doing a background check on a friend, but he took it in good humor. His pastor and Mark were two of our references.

One of the events he participated in was the Atlanta Arts Festival. One day, during the summer of 1984, he took Nolan with him, and they performed as street clowns. Nolan earned forty dollars that day, not bad for a twelve-year-old.

When we moved to New Castle, Pennsylvania, Fred was one of our visitors. While in that community I also made him a royal purple and lemon yellow striped full costume. At the time fabric stores had discontinued carrying lemon-yellow fabric (they were selling school-bus yellow instead). Fortunately I knew about the Amish fabric shop in New Wilmington, and was able to purchase the correct yellow fabric.

After we moved to Jamestown, Pennsylvania, Phred asked me to make him an embroidered vest. We were pleased at how that turned out.

Occasionally Phred and his wife, Grace, travel north to visit family in Ohio. They stop by our home while in the north. In July 2000 we were looking for a retirement home in the Ligonier area. We had money down on a nice property in Unity Township, and explored it with Phred and Grace. We were all irritated when the real estate agent called Monte and I seven times on July 4th. Otherwise, we had a nice visit. (Later the agent offered us our money back—he recognized we knew he had lied to us—but that’s another story.)

We enjoyed a visit with Phred and Grace just last July. While here we sat on our patio and visited. We also went to the latest Flight 93 crash site memorial, the Flight 93 chapel (unfortunately, it was closed), Quecreek mine memorial, and the Coal Miners Café.

On Phred’s last visit to Ohio he didn’t stop. In early November he was part of a two-bus group that went to the Dayton suburbs to encourage people to get out to vote, and to do so early. Since I was undecided on who to vote for he spent quite a bit of time trying to convince me to vote Republican.

Phred (and Grace) is among the great friends I’ve gathered on my life’s journey. In that spirit, I invite you to help him attain his goal of five-hundred visits to his video by clicking on .



DARE TO BE A CLOWN: Clown History

Dare to be a Clown: Clown Types



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