There are a few good reasons why I decided, after long (long) deliberation, to write my first real meaningful post about George. Obviously he was an important person in my life at a particularly important phase of my personal growth… so by definition he is someone I should talk about. But also… I am quite disappointed that when I google his name there are only a few brief mentions of him.
Apologies ahead of time… it’s fairly TL;DR but worth the effort I think. And yes… this has something to do with the band The Misfits. There is a bit of backstory first through…
Without further adieu I’d like to present my Story of George Germain.
We start in the long long ago, which in this story means late summer 1993. I had just graduated high school and attended my college “MiniVersity” Orientation. It was a pretty cool experience and one of the first “adultier” things I did after leaving the safe bounds of Catholic school. Most importantly, and relevant to this story, I received my first PC computer at orientation. After 10 years of using an Apple IIe.. and endless fruitless begging my parents.. I got into the mainstream.
The first thing I did when I got the computer home was put a modem in it. That’s how the trouble started. Yes.. it all began with a stupid 2400 baud internal modem that I got included with a Prodigy starter kit we bought at Costco weeks before. Yes I did also get a membership to Prodigy, 25 cent e-mails and all, but that’s another story.
So now having this modem I did what every computer kid/geek did at that time.. figure out where the hell to go online (for free). Eventually I found my way to a list of BBSs in a Computer Shopper magazine. Computer Shopper was the big mega-bible sized magazine that contained everything relevant about computers. It was HUGE and filled with yellowbook-thin paper. I am not sure if they still have them in print anymore.. it’s been a while since I bothered to check the magazine section of the bookstore.. but I think the web site is still very much active.
BBSs were/are stand alone computer systems you could dial up into. We are talking stuff like the movie Wargames. Using a terminal with a rudimentary interface you could play games, send messages around the world using FidoNet, or download files off CD-ROM archives. This is pre-pre-Internet times… They were around for a long time before I got involved. Frankly I discovered them just as the BBS era was ending.
At some point early during my freshman year I found my way to The Technical Forum BBS in Wood-Ridge, NJ. Back then we still had “regional long distance” charges so my list of places I could dial into without paying a toll was limited. So really besides the Tech Forum there were only a few others I could go to. I believe I had about 5 or 6 go-to spots and that was it.
The Tech Forum was pretty cool. It has a huge file archive that was updated fairly regularly. I also enjoyed playing TradeWars which was a text based space-trading game that was fairly popular at the time. Compared to other places it was pretty well organized and had a active user base. It also had dual dial-up nodes so if one was busy you could get in with a second line. At the time this was high technology.
So one night I was on the Tech Forum and found myself dumped into SysOp chat. Basically this is a split screen where the person sitting at the keyboard of the BBS system can talk directly to someone logged in.
That’s how I met George.
George was the SysOp/Owner of The Tech Forum. And to put it mildly: George liked to talk…. about everything… and anything. At first we BS’d a bit about other users that I knew. Another topic was a young woman named Molly who was a Co-Sysop of the BBS but had her own as well (which name I can’t remember.. we just called it the Molly-Board from what I remember). Chit-chat evolved into all sorts of topics since it appeared we had many interests in common. The fact that I was a musician, and a engineering student, really struck a chord with George.
So anyway… George and I talked and talked and talked… eventually talking on the phone as well. He was an older man.. like my parents’s age.. and boy did he have a story to tell.. no let me rephrase that… STORIES.. as in many many many stories. If I were to sit here and type out all different things George said he did or was involved with it would take me years..
The biggest thing was George was involved with the infamous band The Misfits. Yes… THE Misfits from NJ. He spoke of Jerry and Doyle as if they were his own kids.. until many years later I thought they WERE his kids. He spoke of working with them in the studio, going on tour with them, and all the fun/frolic they experienced out in the wild. I heard stories about jail, fights, and the music business of that time. He talked for hours about the finer details of audio engineering and how they got the Misfit’s sound on those early records. Glenn Danzig? Oh Jesus… He vilified him every chance he could get. There was a legal action at this time (if i recall correctly) between the band and Glenn and I heard every detail every day.
George also talked about owning a machine shop. He had a dragster car which I was also educated about in conversation (for hours). He loved Boxer dogs and spoke lovingly about a previous dog Magnum who he claimed was killed by a neighbor (who he promised he would kill one day but never got the chance to).
Our conversations lead to being invited to join the BBS as a Co-Sysop. This embarked one of my first great experiences in the computer world outside of my own bedroom.
Eventually I actually met George at his house. He lived down the street from some high school friends. When I walked in the door the first thing that happened (Every time) was I got licked and pounced on by his three huge boxers. Chief was the boy. I think another was named Danielle (Who was a big time licker). The other I don’t remember. I do remember one died and he replaced it with Angel who eventually had a littler of puppies.
George, to put it mildly, was not in good shape when I met him. He was very (very) overweight, and seemed somewhat frail. In pictures he was a fit burly man. Something had happened to him not long before I met him and it ravaged his body. I don’t remember what it was.. but it was bad. I believe it was some kind of medical procedure that went wrong. By the time I knew him he was walking with a cane and was limited in what he could do. Hence… why he got involved with computers.
Over the next several years George and I had a pretty interesting relationship. We talked. I went over there to help with the hardware of the system. We made upgrades from time to time. On two occasions we took field trips..
Once I drove him in his mini-van all the way down to exit 4 of the NJTPK to pick up a new case for the system. (in retrospect I think the only reason why we drove down was because he wanted to spend time with me) It was a small computer store and I have no idea how he found out about it… but it took all day and he was just happy to be out doing it.
Another time we went to a computer show.. this time with his wife Madeline. He was in a wheelchair at this point and made all sorts of jokes about it. I suspect it really bothered him and that was how he dealt with it.
I remember George got into it with a few people (besides the whole Glenn Danzig thing). There was this guy (if i recall correctly) who owed George computer software or stuff. Fred Clark was his name (I believe). He was the person behind PC Board which was the software we used for the BBS. Lots of people were shit out of luck with him from what I recall. No idea whatever happened to him. Another guy Steve worked with Fred and was in conversations often. No idea where Fred is these days but I know Steve has had a career since (found him on LinkedIn out of curiosity).
George eventually met some of my other friends. He met my high school friend Carmine (who from what I understand saw his dragster). My friend at the time Tom was also around, as well as my better friend Jeff who got to know George for reasons I don’t remember.
Now… the thing is.. George told all these stories and I listened… but I never really believed it. Some things were obvious… he was involved with the Misfits in some way. He did have lots of memorabilia so he had to be involved somehow. My friend Carmine saw his dragster… which was parked in a trailer somewhere off the highway…. But it all just was soo.. unbelievable. I never said anything. I never asked questions. I just played along with it. I felt that if that was what he waned me to believe.. they why spoil it? What does it matter? It wouldn’t change a damn thing about being friends with him. I was friends with him because I enjoyed being his friend.. not because he did this or that.
At one point.. I believe 1995.. I got some level of authentication. I was recording a song with my friend Tom and George asked if I wanted to use Jerry’s bass amp. I said.. “umm.. ok sure!”. A short time later this huge (HUGE) vintage bass rig appeared in his living room. When I say huge.. I mean ginormous. The sound was incredible. I got my recording using it in his living room and my Tascam 4 track. Not long after George handed me the phone and it was Jerry on the line. I had a brief conversation with him (again not really appreciating who he really was). If I only knew now what I knew then… I’d probably have been more fanboyish.. (not that I am into punk music.. but I do appreciate Musicians who “made it”).
I now have a slightly better understanding of his relationship to the Misfits… which was (to my knowledge) just what he told me except that Jerry/Doyel were not his kids (but he thought of them that way). The rest… I have bits and pieces that I found out here and there.. but nothing more. I have no idea what most of the truth is.
My relationship with George continued all through my college graduation. Things slowed down in the BBS world. The Internet was rising and we had some talk about getting the Tech Forum on it. It was all just “talk” though.. because George didn’t have the money or health to really pursue it. And frankly… I didn’t have the time. I was in my early 20s and was more interested in my college girlfriend than the BBS by now.
George’s health started to decline further. He couldn’t leave the bedroom and asked me to build him a computer to use up there. I did. I set it up next to him so he could use it. I remember he wanted it to say “Yes Master” when it turned on.
At some point, I believe around 1998, the BBS shut down. It was just time, and at that point George’s health was really preventing his involvement at all. I still talked to him. We were friends. We had long conversations about my school and my new job after I graduated.
Spring of 1999 I was still living at home, but preparing to move out. My college girlfriend and I were in the last throws of our relationship. I was busy with my job, my band stuff, friends, and doing what 20-something kids did. George and I were not as close, but we still talked. One day my phone rang and it was George. I didn’t answer it because we were running out the door. He left a message asking me to call him back. I had been trying to make plans to go up to see him and the new litter of puppies he had. A few days later I remembered and called him. His wife answered and told me that George had died the night before.
We went over. Madeline was in shock. She was giving away the puppies to whoever wanted them (George would have flipped…). We were offered one but couldn’t take it. She kept asking me about the computer hardware.. If I could sell it. What it was worth. I had no idea. At this point it was all just junk. We were there for a while playing with the puppies. At one point we went upstairs and I looked in the bedroom. It was a absolute mess. The bed was torn apart. I am assuming it was due to the rescue people working on George. From what I recall he died of a heart attack.
George’s funeral was a few days later. It was surreal. Several members of the classic punk rock community were there including Jerry and Doyle. I had no idea who the other people were, but from the sound of their conversations they were “known”. We had a repast at The Crows Nest after and I sat across from Jerry. He asked me how we (my friend Jeff was there too) knew George. We told them our story with the computers. Again… really surreal… talking to Misfits about computers. Geeks meet the cool musicians.
After the funeral I never saw Madeline again. We kept in touch via phone for a short while. Someone (someone George knew) came and took all the computer stuff away. A few months later I got a postcard in the mail from her down south. She moved away. I wrote a letter to her. I explained how much George meant to me, and told her how great it was having him as a friend. I never got a response. A recent internet search pulled up a record indicating she died in 2000 not long after. I seem to remember she was in poor health herself at the time.
As far as I know there is no other family. I don’t recall any other “real” friends either. Other than talking with Jerry/Doyle I don’t think I’ll ever have any closure about George and his stories. I would love to reach out to them but I wouldn’t even know where to start. (And if by chance they are someone that knows them is reading this… feel free to get in touch…)
I don’t have much memorabilia wise from my time with George. No pictures, no video, nothing… this was before the digital camera revolution. I have a mental picture of what he looked and sounded like though.
I have (or at least had at one time) a PCBoard manual. I have some copies of software from back then. A couple of Misfits heavy guitar pics. My recording I made in George’s living room is in my archive somewhere. My US Robotics V.Everything modem, which I purchased as part of the SysOp program for my personal use (at a bargain price of $250) is one of the few pieces of “old” hardware that I decided not to send to recycling. I have in my “old data” collection (which goes back to college years) my first publication.. a help guide for TradeWars I wrote with George.
It’s about 17 years since he left us now. Since then I’ve grown up and become way more adultier. George is on my mind from time to time. There’s no doubt that he had an impact on me becoming who I am. I still have a tendency to hit a “double return” when I am chatting with someone because that’s how George and I used to do it in SysOp chat (to indicate when we are done talking).
Those were interesting times. It’s a shame that George didn’t get to see what became of the computing world or spend any time on the Internet. He would have loved it.
And that’s my story about George Germain…