The adventure below is the latest in a series sharing my quest to explore Pennsylvania by visiting each of the sixty-seven county seats and eating a hot dog while in town.
Peter Noone, Herman of Herman’s Hermits, (Not one of my classmates but almost the same age) stated at a concert in Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe a couple of years ago “I feel like a 17-year-old trapped in a 63-year-old body. The second insight I experienced visiting with the Class of 67 relates to Peter’s statement. I learned it is possible to be physically 66 years old while time traveling emotionally to the age of 17.
This trip to a picnic with my graduating class has had a profound effect on me this first year of retirement. My experience of being 17 living in a 66-year-old body began when I called Linda, our Valedictorian, to RSVP for the picnic. When Linda answered the phone she sounded just like she did in Chemistry Class. In an instant, Whoosch! I am sitting in Mr. Suder’s classroom where she and I have a unique friendly relationship. Hey, I didn’t do much Chemistry but I did socialize with Linda and the others near me in that room with enthusiasm. Linda is a retired teacher and does some camping at Raystown Lake (Huntingdon County) with her grandkids. She was easy to find when I arrived at the picnic because she looks very much like she did in school. Even with all the time we spent socializing in Chemistry and Physic class her ‘smarts’ didn’t rub off on me.
In the last blog I mentioned that Greg regaled us with sports stories. Speaking of Greg,Whoosch! I am transported back to the baseball field my Junior year. Greg didn’t go out for baseball our Junior year but he loaned me his spikes to wear that season. The spikes are a little big but much better than wearing some sneakers and really looking dorky. Greg wasn’t the only one telling stories at the picnic. (George is closet to the camera with Greg beside him across from Marsha.)
George who excelled in the three sports we had (baseball-catcher, football, end/quarterback and basketball, guard,) is retired from the pool business in Centre County. It was my good fortune to reconnect with George while My Jane and I lived in Centre County. George added insights to the sports stories being shared on this day. He was our Senior Class President and in his spare time George was the front man for Chalk and the Erasers. Speaking of George, Whoosch! I am 17 dancing (and sparkling because we didn’t sweat!) at the borough building and at “The Pink Pussycat” in Somerset. Staying in the time warp I find myself in the locker room with the rest of the basketball team before the first game our senior year. The guys are trying to decide who will lead the team on to the floor for the warm-up lay-up drill. Suddenly, George came over to where I was standing and handed me (the 12th man) the ball to lead the team onto the court. What an honor George bestowed on me that night. Yes, I did make the lay-up!
Bill, the one taller than me, separated from the Air Force while he was stationed in Duluth Minnesota. When I told him I retired out of Minot, ND he replied that from what he had heard Minot was the one assignment less appreciated then Duluth. I assured him that this was true. (Bill is the closest guy to the camera next to Laura) Bill was Senior Class Vice President and also played guitar in Chalk and the Erasers. He joined in the football story remembrances about blotched plays, the water balloon fight at football camp (I was the team manager) that left a couple of inches of water on the basketball floor which hastened the remodeling of the gym. Speaking of Bill, the one taller than me, Whoosch! There I am on my cot in the gym in the fall of 66 watching those water balloons silhouetted by the stairwell lights flying through the air before the first one landed. That floor needed a remodel anyway. The court was so short the foul circles intertwined with the center circle and the backboards were attached directly to the walls. Of course I threw my share of water balloons-it was a total team effort!
George and Greg shared a story about both of them being academically ineligible for a basketball game with Salisbury. Speaking of George and Greg, Whoosch! To be eligible to play sports everyone had to turn in a weekly eligibility slip signed by, I think, four teachers. I am in the moment holding that slip of paper with sweaty palms walking the halls trying to find enough signatures to be eligible for the next game. It was a weekly close call.
Bill, the one not taller than me, (Bill, the one not taller than me, is being fitted for a locker by Len) and Bill, the one taller than me both spent part of their working years in coal mines in the county. They declared in unison, “If you stay around here that is one of the few ways to make some money.” Speaking of Bill and Bill and making money, Whoosch! Here I am mowing lawns and digging up Dandelions so I can buy a corsage for Karen (who had invited me-see the Somerset blog) for the Chico Dinner Dance. I am on a double dated with my BFF Stu to that dance. We are coming home and Stu’s date Jane is giving directions to her house. Suddenly, she states, “Turn right here.” Stu turns and almost runs into a barbed wire fence and a pasture. Jane explains she means for us to turn left, right here, of course.
(Stu is standing behind Linda who moved after her freshman year, Mary and Marsha) Stu, a retired school teacher, still sings in a Barbershop Chorus and loves to travel. He was part of our class comedy team named; The Stag 4, later named The Stag 4+3, later named The Stag 4+3-1, later named The Stag 4+3-1+1. It’s a good thing we graduated or we wouldn’t have had enough room for our name. Stu was our star running back, basketball guard and our all-star shortstop. Speaking of Stu, Whoosch! I am sitting with the Stag 4 (I can’t remember exactly which version) in the locker room working out a skit. Like in a dream the scene changes and we are doing our lip sync version of Ray Steven’s “Harry the Hairy Ape” on the grade school stage during a class dance. We are a ‘filler’ during one of Chalk and the Erasers‘ breaks this evening.
LuAnn, Larry and I got together to ‘recreate’ the picture of us from the year book.
I think we still look pretty good. The only difference is that in 1967 LuAnn was showing the leg and in 2015 I’m the one showing the leg. That’s just wrong! But speaking of LuAnn, Whoosch! for a brief moment I am watching the majorettes (LuAnn, Kerry and Cathy present at the picnic) practice while the band mingles around on the school parking lot. I’m joking about our half time show. We march on the field in a square, turn right and play one song to the guest stands, do an about-face and play to our stands, turn right and march off the field. I call it the ‘Square Formation’. We are not an award-winning band. But, our majorettes look good.
Mary is still managing the business after her Jim’s death twelve years ago following a long battle with Leukemia. She was our homecoming and prom queen. Mary wondered if I remembered “our date.” I asked her out the summer after we graduated. (Yes, I remember.) Speaking of Mary, Whoosch! Mary and I are on that double date with another BFF, Ed and his future wife Betty wondering why there is so much space between Mary and me in the back seat. Ed’s back seat was really wide! Here is something intriguing to me, the two girls I liked so much I ‘almost asked out’ during high school were sitting beside each other at the rowdy table. (Marsha in yellow and Mary in black) Mary has been following the quest and invited me anytime for a hot dog at her house.
All this time travel has worn me out so, we will continue the picnic story in the next blog, after the 66 year old me takes a nap filled with pleasant dreams I’m certain.
See you next time.