THE CONVERSATION wouldn't end. That's what the 10-year-old next to me was thinking. The mission to the local 7-Eleven had been a success, the Slurpee procured, but this endless conversation with this older, friendly face - this had not been anticipated.
"You know that report you just did on Wilt Chamberlain?'' I asked the boy, finally. "Remember that radio broadcast you found?''
The kid nodded.
"This is Bill Campbell,'' I said. "He was the announcer on that broadcast.''
There are memories of your children that you will take to the grave. Some are big moments, like a home run or buzzer-beater. Most, though, are little ones, like this one, the day when he met Soupy for the first - but not last - time.
The look on my son's face at that moment, just days after he completed his report . . .
. . . It was the look of someone who had just discovered time travel.
Bill Campbell was time travel. When his long, incredible life ended yesterday at the age of 91, that is what his filled-to-the-brim life was to us. He was there when radio was a baby and he was there when television was a baby and he was still there when cable television channels took their first clumsy steps delivering sports into our homes.
To my son and those of his age, he was that guy who tied a neat bow around the day of sports in those KYW bits he did late in his career, but Campbell was pretty much the voice of Philadelphia sports through the 1940s, '50s and '60s. He was there announcing the Eagles' last NFL championship, in 1960. He was there when the Big 5 was college basketball. He was the voice of the Philadelphia Warriors from 1946 until they left for San Francisco in 1962. For most of the 1970s into the early '80s, he did Sixers games. He did the Eagles from '52 through '66. Before there was Harry Kalas, there was Soupy delivering the balls and strikes and channeling the Phillies' big moments.
And, of course, he was there that night in the Hershey Sports Arena, his radio account now a part of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., his voice even now sounding like a transmission that has traveled through space and time.
It's hard to fathom how he could do all this and remain happily married, but to see Campbell tend to his wife, Jo, in public even during their last mobile, healthy years, was to watch a smitten schoolboy guarding his good fortune.
They had been married 67 years when Jo died last January. His kids told the Inquirer yesterday that his health went south after that, and if you ever saw the two of them together in public, it makes perfect sense.
Harder to fathom is how he wrapped all the excitement of his public life inside of this normal life, raised a family, met and talked to people as if he was, well, your neighbor. He was, of course, but it was still kind of surreal when it was his voice in church on Sunday telling you which page to turn to in your missalette, or his voice on the line behind you at the 7-Eleven, or sitting in the booth across from you at Ponzio's in Cherry Hill.
Most of the time, you didn't have to worry about bothering him, because he sought you out, wanted to talk about the latest game, the latest controversy, brought the enthusiasm not of a been-there-done-that guy, but rather the enthusiasm of a native son discovering for the first time the reality-television magic that live sports so often provides.
Proudly, I will tell you that the son with the Slurpee is now 22, and has maintained and fed his early interest in the life of Wilt Chamberlain over the years. I would like to think that chance meeting with Soupy and on a few occasions after had something to do with it, but I can tell you for sure that each time one of us ran into him, he seemed as interested in our mundane lives as we were with his extraordinary one.
Oh, and then there was this: I finally took the kid to his first Bruce Springsteen concert last May, and wouldn't you know it, it was at Hershey Park. And wouldn't you know, with the son inheriting his father's awful sense of direction, the two of us got lost afterward looking for our car and wound up at the steps of the old Hershey Sports Arena - amazed that it still exists, touched that we arrived accidentally at it together . . .
. . . And imagining what that night must have been like for our old friend, the time traveler.
Enjoy this latest trip, Bill.
God knows, you earned it.
On Twitter: @samdonnellon