Saturday, June 04, 2005

Basketball: a game for those with good eyes

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - About six years ago, I had Lasik surgery to fix my nearsighted eyes after nearly 40 years of wearing glasses (and later struggling with soft contact lenses).

Two things became apparent almost immediately:

1. The world is a lot neater place when you have 20-20 vision, unassisted by glass or plastic lenses.

2. My ability to hit a tennis ball, throw a basketball through a hoop, catch a fly softball, or actually hit a golf ball down the fairway, went up exponentially within weeks of the procedure.

Tiger Woods has nothing to fear, but my leaning toward wrestling and track in high school in retrospect had a lot more to do with not needing good vision than any desire to grapple with other sweaty guys or run until my lungs were on fire. I can still hear Coach Joe Rushin screaming at me, GOGOGOGOGOGO Fitzgerald, GOGOGOGOGOGO...

Today's photo - courtesy of Shirley Adams - is, we believe, the freshman baskeball team and I can recognize most of the people, including the two folks at the end of the back row, Randy Carlson on the left, and Bob Erickson on the right. The late Mr. Stark, Coach Stark in this case, is right in the middle of the back row. Paul Slocum is to the left of the coach, Jack Eckdahl to the right.

I have a much higher resolution version of this which I'll be happy to email to whoever wants one.

In the meantime, I think I'll go outside and see if I can beat my seven-year-old granddaughter at badminton. She's pretty nearsighted - and wears glasses - so I have a good shot at a win, but she's good, so I'm not making any predictions.

More tomorrow.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A math whiz & one night, a partner in crime

Dave Carlson
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
LAKEWOOD, N.Y. - I can't remember which summer it was, exactly, but I didn't have driver's license yet (or my motorcyle, damn) which when I tell this tale will prove to be a good thing.

But about Dave Carlson... Dave was good in math, good enough that he landed in all the 9-1, 10-1, etc. math classes while I landed in the elementary algebra class mostly populated with people who had failed it once already. We had a teacher whose first name was Carl - an older guy - who we would pepper with paperwads whenever he turned around to the blackboard.

No wonder I failed algebra and went to summer school at Jamestown High (with a Mr. Rizzo, but that's another tale).

But this particular summer - the year after that I believe - I started hanging out evenings at the phone booth in the center of Lakewood. The phone would ring and some bored teen somewhere would chat with whoever was around.

Eventually, the Lakewood gendarmes figured out that this was trouble and started coming by, rousting folks. And this particular night Dave Carlson and I were among the roustees, along with a fellow named John O'Neill, a year younger than us but well on his way to catching up with our deliquency.

The three of us wandered over to a young lady's house quite late - and yes I remember her name quite well but will leave it out of the blog but not The Class of '66 - who pleaded with us to get lost before her father woke up and came down stairs. To encourage our departure, she gave us a nearly full bottle of Scotch.

Can you guess what happened?

The next morning when I awoke (in my house), my mother was alternately slapping my face and splashing me with cold water, convinced that I was suffering from alcohol poisoning. I probably was, but I had been sick enough in the night to make pumping my stomach quite unnecessary.

My Lakewood phone booth days were over for that summer and when I talked with Dave later (maybe weeks later) he had slipped in through a bedroom window and woken up with a buzz from his portion of the Scotch, but nothing like the bellringer I had.

To this day, the smell of Scotch whiskey across a room will turn my stomach.

Dave continued to be a math whiz while I failed Math 11 (with Miss Goller) and ended up in summer school again! But at least that year I rode to and from summer school on a motorcycle, not a Jamestown bus.

And John O'Neill? I don't know what happened to him that night or after he graduated.

Or if he likes to sip Scotch.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Kathy should be on, too

Kathy Widrig
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Kathy Widrig (Kathy Widrig Bradley) is another one of our classmates whose yearbook picture cries out to the people who run

Look at the smile, the hairdo, the collared blouse, the sweater - it shouts 1966. (And it's a good look even in 2005.)

The entry today is datelined Rochester, because that's where Kathy hangs out now, the office manager of a tool and die shop.

"Sometimes I call it the arm pit of the world. But I have a good job. Been working here for 24 years," she says.

Kathy jumped onto the reunion mailing list right away. And if memory serves correctly, I saw her at the 25th reunion perched on a barstool at The Main Event bar in downtown Jamestown, near the old railroad station.

It was at The Main Event that I realized that there might be a book in all this stuff: reunions, high school, growing up. Ok, it's been 15 years and the damned book is still in progress.

Maybe I should turn it into a screenplay instead. How about Class of '66 - the Movie? You can name the actor you would want to play you. I'll write it into my contract with Paramount.

I didn't know Kathy well in high school - she was from Celeron, I believe. And while that's hardly Indonesia, it seemed sooooo far, particularly until I got my own wheels (a Yamaha 80 motorcycle) but that was senior year.

I think all of us were mobility impaired, which influenced what passed for social life. Once I got my license, my mother would turn loose her 61 Rambler occasionally, but compared to most of the cars my friends had, it was a pretty sad unit.

Still, it went to the drive-in and a place I just remembered that was near Celeron called the 'bum roads.'

But that's for another blog or someone else to fill in the blanks.

Any takers?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

2nd grade, Lakewood Elementary School

LAKEWOOD, N.Y. - This 2nd grade shot comes courtesy of Marianne Jim, who found it among her mementos with the 5th grade shot I published earlier.

I can make out Buddy Hooper, Jim Lindell, Jim Nelson, Linda Foster, Frank Nobbs, Barbara Bunce and Bonnie Anderson. (You'll have to find them yourself, I'm supposed to be writing a story and I'm already a little late...).

When this picture was taken, I was still living in Brooklyn, going to a Catholic school where I had Sister Perfecta for a teacher. I'm not kidding. Her name was Sister Perfecta and she was barely taller than us - in 2nd grade.

But she had a wooden ruler that was faster than Zorro's sword and a clicker that could drop a whole classroom of Catholic kids to their knees in a heartbeat.

This Lakewood elementary group should seems like everyone is, well, happy! Compare it to the fifth grade photo and see how many folks are smiling.

Later today (when I am off deadline), I will email the original hi-resolution version of this to everyone on the list.

Second grade. Kee-rist! I have a granddaughter in 2nd grade.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Isetta automobile - some Class of '66 history

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - I spotted this car in the parking lot yesterday, right near where Sabbatical is moored. It's an Isetta and if Bud Hooper is reading this, or Bob Fulcher, they will remember that a neighbor of ours had one of these tiny things back in the very early 1960s.

Remember the early 1960s? Except for the very rare Volkswagen Beetle, every car was a monster. So the Isetta was such an odd duck and, well, so light.

How do I know how light it was?

Well, on several occasions, much to the chagrin of its owner, we would move it around in his driveway, by lifting it. And on a couple of other occasions, I seem to remember tipping it on its side, once actually putting it on its top and spinning it. I doubt that we actually spun it on its top, but who knows, that was more than 40 years ago.

All of these incidents occurred in the dead of night, of course, so we could remain anonymous and blame it on others.

I suspect the owner probably knew which neighborhood miscreants were busy moving his car, but we didn't really damage it, much. Of course, if some teenagers did that to my car today, it would be war.

It's hell to get old.

The Isetta - which was the urban equivalent of cow tipping, I suppose - reminded me of Halloween and how destructive everyone was back when we were growing up. It seemed like it was open season on anyone. But we did learn a few good tricks, like putting dog crap in a paper bag on someone's doorstep, lighting with a match and then yelling Fire! Fire!

With most people today using those little plastic bags to pick up after their dogs, where would teenagers even find a good load to trick their neighbors with?

Now there's a question to ponder for today, classmates.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Mr. Gugino & the Class of '66 (5th grade version)

IONE, Calif. - We have Marianne Jim to thank for the photo with today's blog posting - and another grade school shot I will post tomorrow (or tonight if the fog blows in here in San Diego and I can't work on my sailboat).

Marianne dug through her memorabilia and found this shot. What a beauty!

I remember making those marionettes - and the play we put on.

You can kind of figure out who most people are. I can name most of people in the photo. Steve Larson is in the back row at the left, for example. Linda Hetrick is in the front row on the right. Ted Capella is in the second row, third from left next to George Opdahl. One thing that surprised me is how young Augustine Gugino appears in the photo. He looks like maybe he in his 40s. I thought he was ancient when we were in 5th grade.

Later today I will email out a jpeg copy of this photo - but be warned, it's a big file and might take a moment to download. But then you should be able to see the faces quite well.

Thanks Marianne.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Mr. Butler died in 2003, not in 2005...

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Sometimes I move way too fast for a 56, soon-to-be 57-year-old guy.

And in moving too fast, particularly very early in the morning, my old eyes don't see things properly - like the date on an obituary. Mr. Butler died in May of 2003, not a few days ago.

Does whoops cover it, or do I need to go leap off the cliffs here in San Diego at Point Loma?

Allan Winger was a lot kinder in his email to correct me than most of the folks I ever had to deal with when I was a newspaper editor and made those kind of gaffes. (Not that I made that many.)

And Allan has kindly started a discussion group at:

The idea is to, well, discuss things. It's a great idea... I'll try to jump on from time to time (in between other stuff) and when appropriate, perhaps I'll pull some of the comments for this blog. Allan and John Rupp (who goes by the name Kelly, a long-ago reference to the TV show "I Spy") will probably be talking some about Vietnam. Me? Well, I'm trying to track down a couple of people from classes other than the Class of '66 and hope the list can help me out. Okay, they're girls I dated, there, it's out.

So far today, Yahoo! hasn't wanted to let me in the system...but I have a lot more perservance than I did when I graduated 39 years ago.

Stand back Yahoo!, the Class of '66 is on the way.