My APG Story: Larry Brinegar

From right, Larry Brinegar, and his bandmates David Beatty on drums and Stan Walker on guitar entertain their fellow Teen Towners during the Aug. 28, 2010 Teen Town Reunion at American Legion Post 128 in Aberdeen. | Courtesy Photo

APG Teen Town cherished by area youth

Larry Brinegar grew up in Aberdeen, the son of an APG Aberdeen Test Center civilian who died suddenly on the job from a brain aneurysm in 1967.

Brinegar said he remembers his father was a foreman who tested equipment on post and “up in Churchville.” He was 10 years old when his father died just over 50 years ago. While the traumatic change shook his family, it did not change their relationship with the proving ground, where they already spent so much time.

Larry Brinegar cherishes every moment of growing up in the shadow of Aberdeen Proving Ground. | U.S. Army Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

I had uncles who worked out there, and my brother eventually worked out there,” he said. “I was only 10 but I remember my father very well. He was very well liked, a very popular man.”

He added that one uncle, who took him under his wing after his father’s death, was “very military in his bearing, because of Aberdeen Proving Ground.”

“He taught me all kinds of things, how to dress for certain occasions, how to fix my car, how to tie a neck tie.”

Back in the 60s everybody was employed on the proving ground, Brinegar said. All of the kids on post went to Aberdeen High School. And all, he said, were members of Teen Town, the post club for “junior high aged” youth.

“It didn’t matter if you were military or non-military,” he said. “There were buses that would pick you up, take you to Teen Town and bring you back.

“You had a membership card and you could bring a guest if you knew someone who wasn’t a member. They had a nice place to eat. And there was live music. It was a good era for bands and there were bands every Friday and Saturday night.”

Teen Towners dance the night away during the Teen Town Reunion at American Legion Post 128 in Aberdeen Aug. 28, 2010. | Courtesy Photo

said Teen Town originally began in 1959 with about 800 members but membership dropped off in the 70s to average about 400 members.

Brinegar’s brother Charles, who was seven years older, worked at Edgewood Arsenal and his boss, Dwight Bloom, was the director of Teen Town.

“He passed away in 2005,” Brinegar said, adding that it was Bloom who in 1980 had the sad task of turning the building back over to the installation.

He said the building, which was located on the now-empty field on Aberdeen Boulevard opposite the RDECOM headquarters complex, was condemned and slated for demolition due to a termite infestation.

Thirty years later, Brinegar and several friends got together to plan a Teen Town reunion. It took months of planning that included tracking down former members from as far away as California, but it all came to fruition Aug. 28, 2010 when more than 300 former Teen Towners gathered at American Legion Post 128 in Aberdeen to relive their ‘teenhood’ if only for one night. Three of the former bands – LIX, Alton Street, and Brinegar’s own band Lucifer’s Council – performed as they danced the night away.

The gathering raised more than $6,000, which was donated to the American Cancer Society in Bloom’s memory. Bloom’s mother, Erna Bloom, who was a co-guest of honor, said at the time that her son was devoted to the installation.

“APG was Dwight’s life,” she said. “He never took a day off if he didn’t have to. He loved serving the youngsters and the people of APG. It meant everything to him.”

“Dwight did everything,” Brinegar said. “He was military in his attitude; you didn’t make noise when he made announcements, but he loved being a part of providing a place like Teen Town for APG kids. He knew what Teen Town meant to us and that was important to him. It was a time when a lot of military kids were dealing with their dads going overseas. I grew up with a lot of the kids who were dealing with these things. So we pretty much all went through it.”

This black-and-white photo gives the Teen Town Reunion a vintage look and shows off the group’s custom-made banners. | Courtesy Photo

He said a lot of the great musicians from that period came back and played for the reunion. In particular were his friends, twin brothers Stan and Steve Walker, military youth who lived on APG in the 1970s.

“They’d been gone 40 years but they came back to Aberdeen from Oklahoma and so did their mother,” he said. “She was there every night when they played at Teen Town and she was overwhelmed by the love that welcomed them back.”

He said the twins taught him a lot about music and they played at teen and community centers throughout the area. Teen Town, though, was “just a unique place to play, “he said.

“You played for about two-and-one-half hours and got paid about $90,” which was a lot for kids in the eighth grade. Plus Teen Town was our chance to hang out with our friends.”

As he moved further into his teens Brinegar stayed connected to the proving ground. For a while he drove a soda delivery truck and serviced the machines in the barracks. After he obtained a security clearance to work behind the fence he said he was amazed to see “how big the proving ground really is.”

His brother, Charles, retired from Edgewood after 37 years of service.

In retrospect, Brinegar said despite the loss of his father, so many things came together to fill the void and help shape him into the man he would become. Teen Town in particular, sharpened his interest in music and introduced him to a stream of people who would become lifelong friends.

“I can’t think of a better time to have grown up in Aberdeen or a better circle of people who were as close knit,” he said. “Looking back I feel blessed and it all boils back down to the way of life that we had and Aberdeen Proving Ground was a contributor to that. A lot of people made choices not to go down certain paths because of APG.

“Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t perfect but we were raised with strong morals.”

He called the reunion one of the highlights of his life.

“What a great way to raise money for such a great cause,” he said. “It was one of my greatest accomplishments and something I’ll always be proud of.”

Tickets for the Teen Town Reunion of former APG youth that was held Aug. 28, 2010 at American Legion Post 128 in Aberdeen. | U.S. Army Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

My happy birthday message to APG,” he added, “would be just a big thank you. From when I was 10 years old to pretty much the present, I’ve been involved in music. I played the NCO Club, the Officer’s Club, the 1-2-3 Club and at the Bainbridge Naval Center. Plus, APG had so many extra-curricular things to do. I learned to work on cars at the Auto Craft Shop where my uncles would take me. It’s just been a big part of my life. I used to wonder how other towns could survive without military installations.

“So thank you, APG. Just for being there.”

By Yvonne Johnson, APG News