Missed birthday evokes memories of friend
Jul. 1, 2005 12:00 AM
I forgot Barry Sollenberger's birthday, this year. I always sent him a card on June 23. He'd call me to say what a nut I was for remembering his birthday. This year he went for a jog on his birthday. His 60th birthday. He suffered a heart attack and died.
Barry, a longtime Tempe resident, is remembered as the publisher of Phoenix Metro Football and a great historian. That's true. I just never thought of Barry as an historian. Unless it means having a ton of books, magazines and literature scattered all over your apartment.
I met Barry in spring 1982. He was 36, I was 20. We were living at the Parkside apartments on South Cutler, near Priest and Broadway. I lived there for nine months. He lived there about three decades. No one stayed there that long. They eventually put him to work in the office.
It's a unique apartment complex. A single story with a huge shaded courtyard. I met other memorable people there, including a younger guy who lived a few doors from Barry, who eventually became my husband.
The first thing Barry told me about himself was that he grew up on the same street as Steven Spielberg. He showed me the pictures of him and Spielberg as teenagers. They were riding banana-seat bikes with high handle bars. Barry looked like Barry. Spielberg looked like a geek.
Barry was a star in some of the home movies Steve (that's what they called him) had made.
Barry took me to see ET The Extraterrestrial at the Scottsdale Drive-In Movie Theater near McKellips. He must have paid for the tickets, but he rarely carried cash. He was mugged once and the thief walked away empty-handed.
He'd always include a picture he'd drawn of ET on any note he'd write. He also enjoyed imitating Donald Duck. He'd refer to himself as Uncle Barry, even though we weren't related.
Barry thought I had a big mouth and said, "I have a job for you." He invited me to sell programs at the 1983 Fiesta Bowl. I enjoyed yelling so much that I continued to work with him and the Kukulski brothers at ASU sporting events and Fiesta Bowls for 18 years. That was my social life.
In the early days I'd travel with Barry to the University of Arizona games where I'd get $10 and a free meal. Usually we'd eat at a rundown steak house in Casa Grande.
We often went to restaurants that advertised in the program. He'd call it a trade-out. We'd eat at Herman Frazier's sports bar, the Firehouse and occasionally, The Salt Cellar.
He loved hanging out at the Melody Lounge on Scottsdale Road, where everyone knew him.
After the baseball games, we'd sometimes gather for laughs at late, great ASU coach Jim Brock's house. Those were fun times.
Barry has been called "the" utmost authority on high school football. I remember him as the guy who asked me to feed his cat while he was on vacation and didn't tell me the animal was giving birth to kittens under his bed.
I remember him as the guy who brought the cat's food dish to Sun Angel Stadium for the quarters I had to give out as change.
When I teased him about it, he forced me to beg up-and-coming sportscaster, Mark Curtis, for his autograph.
Mary Ann Hemmingson is a 23-year resident of the East Valley who has been a Tempe stay-at-home mom for 16 years. She can be reached at email@example.com.