Old Boys in Back, pictured clockwise from left: Claude Staley, Tom Fendler, Jim Jackson, Coby Ellingwood, and Bob Sawyer were joined by guest Merrill Roth, far right, to celebrate three nonagenarian birthdays at Poppy’s.
Some Things, and Boys, Just Never Get Old
The first table set up on the new Purchase Street pedestrian mall June 22 was at Poppy’s, which seemed fitting considering its standing as a village icon.
The special occasion was a 95th birthday gathering for Jim Jackson, which became a joint celebration for his longtime pals Coby Ellingworth, who turns 94 in August, and Tom Fendler, who will be 92 in July. Rounding off the party were two more OBIB (Old Boys in Back) members, Bob Sawyer, who is in his 80s, and Claude Staley, who is in his 70s and the youngster in the group.
The famous five have been breakfasting together daily at Poppy’s for 25 years, a tradition all agree was begun by Tom, who has been dining there the longest — 50 years. His family ran a church outfitting business just up the street. He recalled, “Coby was the first to drift in and join me, then the rest dribbled in and sat at the table.”
All five men served their country: Jim and Coby in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps; Tom (Korea) and Claude in the U.S. Air Force; and Bob in the U.S. Army Signal Corps (Vietnam).
The boys were also celebrating the first time they had been together since the pandemic sent everyone indoors. They kept in touch by phone and an occasional drive-by, but they acknowledged missed each other’s company. Once Poppy’s own Geri and Desiree made sure they were comfortably shaded, the men had a lot of catching up to do over bacon and eggs.
- Tom McDermott