Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Memories of good friend don't fade over time

The “reunion committee” of my high school class (Willoughby Union, 1946) meets for lunch every three months at Dino’s Restaurant on Route 306.

Our last gathering, in December, brought the sad news from class President Ish Krul that another of our stalwarts, Bud Gibson, had passed on.

Although Buddy and I had not kept in close contact for years, the memories of our comradeship over a long span of years have not dimmed with the passage of time.

We were in Boy Scout Troop 83 together when we were still in grade school. I was in the Daniel Boone Patrol in Wickliffe, and he was in the Panther Patrol in Willowick, but we converged at the church at the corner of River and Union streets in Willoughby for meetings.

By the time we arrived at high school, there were nine young men who became virtually inseparable. We went places together, had a million good times together, and even formed our own softball team that played in the Willoughby Recreation League.

Our first team was called “Alcatraz, Class of ‘99,” with black lettering on yellow T-shirts. Buddy’s father owned a hardware store on Vine Street, and the second year he became our sponsor, so we were called Gibson Hardware.

That lasted for one season, then we became the Brichford Shells, a fast-pitch softball team that was around for many years and eventually started taking in players outside our ranks.

Some of the newer guys were terrific players. The original nine lost interest, drifted away, or went off to college.

Buddy and I decided to go to college together, and after considerable thought, chose Boston University.

Our discovery process, however, revealed it was a Catholic school, so we turned our attention elsewhere — to Kent State.

Our first day at Kent was a miserable experience. Remember, it was September 1946, the first big college influx of World War II veterans.

We stood in the registration line for 3 1/2 hours, and were about to give up and go home when we finally arrived at the head of the line.

At the table the lady asked us if we were veterans. We said no.

“Non veterans go to the next table,” she advised. We went there, found no line at all (there hadn’t been one all day) and signed up, launching our college careers.

He majored in business administration and I in journalism. We were roommates all four years, first in a private home on Water Street, then for the last three years in a private home on College Avenue right across from the library.

The house was jammed with students who lived there during the week and went home every Friday, to return on Sunday night.

We made the trip back and forth in Buddy’s ancient Chevy coupe, about a 1932 model that we sometimes had to crank to get started.

We ate most of our meals together, went once a week to Mandy’s Moon Night Club, where Black Label Beer was 20 cents a bottle, to watch wrestling on a 9-inch black and white TV screen, and managed to have a great time and get good grades despite the distractions.

He constantly complained that I didn’t give him any money for gasoline (it was 18 cents a gallon) and I always reminded him that I lived on $13 a week for all my expenses, including rent and food money, by saving virtually all I made working summers at the Ohio Rubber Co. in Willoughby.

Buddy and I drifted apart after graduation. I started working as a reporter at The News-Herald and he became a hardware salesman, covering a large territory out of Michigan.

When he was making his rounds in Ohio he would stop in to see me at the paper, but his visits became less frequent.

I have been communicating via e-mail with two of our teammates and close high school pals, John Rentschler in Excelsior, Minn., and Dean Phypers lives in Vero Beach, Fla.

I think Don Myers still lives in the Miami area. The rest, Bill Shunkwiler, Wally Haas, Dick Mease, Don Slagle, are gone.

The messages I get from John and Dean make it clear that their minds are as quick as ever.

Their recollection of a sidewalk pushing and shoving match next to Hammerstrand’s Delicatessan over the beautiful — and recently deceased — Nancy Burnett attests to the clarity of their memories.


Anonymous Jerry Micco said...

Dear Jim -

One point of fact and a question about today's column:

1 - Boston University is NOT a Catholic College. Perhaps you and your friend were thinking of attending Boston College, which IS a Catholic College.

2 - What is the problem with attending a Catholic college, anyway?

January 15, 2012 at 7:29 AM 

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