The late Frank Amadon mainly will be remembered as a reclusive eccentric who lost his house rather than pay back taxes, shot a burglar, and then abandoned a derelict foundry where a woman died, transients shot dope, and metal thieves thrived.
However, there are others who will remember Frank “Spike” Amadon as an affable and creative boyhood friend.
He was an adopted, only child who usually got what he wanted. I recall my envy during third-grade “show and tell” when he announced that his bullwhip had arrived. (I was not allowed to have one.)
Neighborhood friend Birck Cox, now of Philadelphia, remembers Frank’s early interest in firearms. His collection included “an old WWI French Chauchat light machine gun (deactivated), courtesy of The Museum of Historical Arms. ... He taught himself a lot about gun smithing. He respected guns and never pointed a real one at me or anyone else,” Birck wrote in a recent email.
He also recalls that Frank “had an ability to design and complete a construction project. When he was about 14 yeas old, his mother gave him permission to take over the upper part of their garage and (gave him) a stack of plywood sheets to work with. So he built a flight of stairs, floored it, then proceeded to build a complicated clubhouse in the rafters with trapdoors, sliding panels, a crawl-maze and a brig with a barred door.”
Another memory is Frank’s making a camera obscura. This device consists of a box with an opening on one side where light passes through and projects an upside down, focused image onto an opposite surface.
While we were students at R.A. Long High School (class of 1963), Frank was an outspoken conservative and business advocate. He gave an oral history of capitalism during our college-prep American history class, and it puzzled him that I, the son of a newspaper publisher, would be so interested in organized labor.
It was assumed that Frank would take over management of the family business — Amadon Forge and Machine Works (now Wayron). Somehow, the business was sold, and Frank turned to making heavy implements in the now abandoned foundry on Beech Street.
During the last 10-odd years, I’d occasionally run into Frank, usually at a restaurant. Foundry work is hot and dirty, and I could see that the grime deeply embedded into his face and balding head gave him a swarthy look, far from the well-scrubbed appearance of his youth. It’s hard to keep clean when one lives in a makeshift apartment with no electricity or hot water.
I didn’t know until recently that Frank’s health had been failing. His death at 68 is a sad end to what could have been a more fulfilling and productive life.
Why did he choose to isolate himself, not pay property taxes and continually defy authority? Perhaps he was so used to having his own way that he couldn’t accept the norms that life requires.
And as his friend and former employee, Dan Peterson, told The Daily News: “(Frank’s) always enjoyed living on the edge.”
John M. McClelland III lives in Longview.