I was a police officer from 1976 – 1995 and on Thanksgiving weekend 1980 I met Harry Chapin on US 12 in a small town in SW Michigan.
I was patrolling on the midnight shift when I observed a Dodge Aries K-car speeding eastbound on US 12. I stopped the vehicle, which had 3 male occupants, 2 in the front seat and 1 in the back. I approached the vehicle and asked the driver for his license, registration and proof of insurance. The male occupant in the back seat stated, “I’m Harry Chapin”. I replied, “okay, does he (the driver) have a license”. The driver showed me his license and I found him to be Steve Chapin. I asked him (Steve) if he knew why I stopped him and he stated “I was speeding, we just finished a concert in Fort Wayne and we’re on our way to Detroit to catch a plane. The car is a rental.” Harry then said, “do you know the Cats In The Cradle?” I said “okay, lets hear it.” Harry got out of the vehicle with Steve and they both sang Cats In The Cradle. I didn’t tell Harry I was a fan. And I didn’t realize Harry was that tall, I’m 6’ and he and Steve were both 3″ or more taller than myself.
Well the song ended and I returned to my vehicle to run checks on Harry, Steve and their Manager. A friend of mine was riding with me that night as an observer, Tom Loveberry. Tom was a High School Junior with aspirations of becoming a police officer. (He ended up a fireman.) I got in my patrol vehicle and doing my best to maintain my professionalism with knees shaking, I said to Tom with uncontrolled excitement, “it’s Harry Chapin!!” I ran the checks and the dispatcher even responded, “thee Harry Chapin!!” I told her, “live and in person.” None of the three were wanted by anyone but the fans awaiting Harry’s next concert.
I returned to their vehicle to give them back their identification and I noticed a glass bottle somewhat concealed next to the front seat passenger (manager). I asked him what it was and he quickly showed me that it was mineral water and Harry asked if I wanted a drink. I told him thanks, but no thanks. I then advised Steve that I was warning him for the speeding violation and returned all identifications.
Harry then offered me 2 backstage passes to any of his concerts. I told Harry I couldn’t accept it, because I wouldn’t want it to appear that I took the passes in exchange for Steve’s warning. Harry then said, “write Steve a ticket and take the passes!” I didn’t take the passes, but asked Harry if he would come back to my patrol vehicle, meet Tom, shake his hand and give him the passes. Harry didn’t even hesitate, in fact Steve even went with him to meet Tom. Tom still has the passes to this day and more important the memory of meeting a real legend. Tom never did get the opportunity to use the passes, as Harry died July 1981.
As for myself, I did have Harry’s home address and I asked him if I could write him in reference some music I had written and he said “sure!”
I did write Harry, in fact I sent him a birthday card, because I also noticed Harry’s birthday was December 7. Harry wrote back immediately, thanked me for the card and wrote something I never forgot in reference his music. Harry wrote, “I had something to say, said it and people responded.”
In 1997 my first song was released by CER records. The songs title was “I’m Going To Church” and it was on the CD “A Question Of The Heart” by Charles Cravey. Also in 1997 I authored a book of poems called “Inspirational Poems from the heart of a cop”.
Now like Harry, I have something to say, have said it and have heard the fruitful responses, from the people.
Great story from Bill. For a look at some of Bill’s poetry, visit the link below. WEB SITE: http://www.policepoems.com/FreedomNeverDies.htm
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