Chapter 3 Section B
"So that's the high school!" I thought when Dad brought my cousin Ted and me to enroll a few days before the opening of school.
"Man, that's a far cry from the Wichita school where I would have gone!" Ted complained. As I explained earlier, he had come to live with us after his parents' divorce. As he was one year behind me, he would still have been in junior high had he stayed in Wichita. Here he was to be a freshman, and I a sophomore in the Hanston High School.
The high school was built on the western edge of town, barely inside the town limits. It consisted of one two-story building, a parking lot, and a football field. On the front were the words "RURAL HIGH SCHOOL."
When entering the two front doors, one was confronted with two flights of stairs, the one to the right went up and the one on the left went down. At the top of the large stair, left and right, was a long hall. The hall walls displayed pictures of past teachers and graduates from way back.
The principal's office was directly left of the steps and to the right was the study hall. As would be expected, the rest of the floor was divided into classrooms. The physics room was next to the principal's office. That was a subject I especially enjoyed. I also liked typing. I suppose I liked it because it was easy for me. I could type 55 words a minute the first semester. I'm sure my piano playing had something to do with training my fingers. The typing class was at the end of the hall, to the left. Opposite on the right end were the rooms where I had English and business arithmetic classes.
On the lower floor were the home economics and manual training classrooms. The toilets and showers were there, also. Of course, these were very important places, if for no other reason than to get away from the teachers' routines for a few moments. The principal set down the rules, however. Only one person could leave the study hall at a time. You wrote your name on the blackboard as you left, and the next person had to wait until you returned and erased your name before he left. There was a strict rule against smoking in the toilets, but this seemed hard to enforce. Actually, anyone caught smoking anywhere in the building could be, and probably would be, expelled.
In the back part of the building was the gymnasium, called "gym" for
short. When you were not in class or study hall, you were either in the
toilet or in the gym. Of course, there was also the principal's office,
and you might be summoned there. In other words, you were not to leave
the building for any reason without the principal's permission.
Principals and Teachers
Professor Will Seacat was my principal for two years. He was well liked. He belonged to the Methodist Church, and once told my Dad that anytime his car was needed for church activities, the gas tank would be full. That meant lots in those depression days. Many of us had little money for gas. Unfortunately, Professor Seacat took another job during my senior year.
Professor Frank Craft was the new principal. I liked most of my teachers.
I was especially fond of Miss Thomas, my music teacher. However, Professor
Craft was definitely not a favorite. In fact, he was not very popular with
any of the kids, so I have lots of tales to relate about him and his problems.
It seemed that he did everything he could to make us all dislike him. He
had the habit of sneaking up on us, trying to uncover something wrong.
Although he was a tall man and had big feet, he could slip around those
halls and never make a sound. Some of us referred to him as "Sneak-foot
Craft," and he certainly earned that name!
Business Arithmetic Class
Professor Craft taught business arithmetic and he had a definite routine he followed each day. After taking the roll, he would start pacing back and forth across the front of the classroom as he explained the problem for the day. Then, picking up a nice piece of white blackboard chalk, holding his book and making sure there was an eraser available, he would start writing on the upper left corner of the board.
That class was a great place to get bored while trying to appear interested at the same time. The minute Craft turned his back on us, all kinds of mischief began. Passing notes was the "in" thing to do. The girls were great at it. The boys sometimes joined in the fun, but several of the girls in the back of the room were artists at it. If Craft caught anyone doing such a dastardly thing, he would get "fighting" mad. Now I don't say words like hell and damn much, even when I am mad. However, "mad as hell" is the proper way to explain just how angry Craft often could, and did, get at that business arithmetic class.
Cecil Miller, one of the students in my business arithmetic class, was the cause of Craft's anger one time. Cecil and I sat in the rear of the room next to the window. Both of us were rather harmless kids, and, therefore, had been assigned seats in the back. I guess Craft didn't feel he had to watch us as much as some of the other more mischievous kids. Cecil was a brilliant guy, and made straight "A's." In fact, the Professor would sometimes get a little aggravated with Cecil because Cecil often would be ahead of him in solving some of the problems.
One morning Craft announced that he was going to solve a particularly long problem for us on the blackboard. He admonished us to watch carefully and wait until he finished to ask any questions we might have.
That was Craft's fatal mistake. Neat as he was at writing on the board and as carefully as he tried, he made a mistake. Now Cecil noticed immediately that his learned professor had made a mistake copying the data onto the board. I, for one, did not know the difference, but Cecil did. After about five minutes, he began to squirm in his seat and grin like a Cheshire cat. Once in a while he would also let out a snicker. However, he waited until the professor had filled the board with figures, and then he stuck up his hand.
"Mr. Craft," Cecil blurted out, pointing to the board. "You made a mistake up there on that first line."
That did it! The class roared, and so did Craft, but not in glee. He was mad. He had been caught by Cecil, that smart farm kid. Not only did he yell at all of us for laughing, but he then started acting like a little kid. He began stomping back and forth across the front of the room. Then he actually jumped onto his chair and then onto his desk. All the time he continued to yell at us. With all that kind of ruckus, we all wondered if he might have a stroke, but he didn't!
I'd better not say anything more about that incident, or Professor Craft
may roll over in his grave and haunt me for the rest of my life.
Rides to School
The Miller family lived on a farm south and east of us. There were three children in the family who attended the high school--Cecil, Vernon and a younger sister, Jennie. After we moved to our basement house on the farm, Ted and I usually rode to school with the Miller kids. Most of the time Cecil was the driver. Morning and night he herded his old 1930 Chevy Sedan full of us kids. Sometimes there was even a sixth or seventh passenger. I remember those rides as fun times with good friends.
There was one occasion, however, when my ride with Cecil was not so much fun. This time we were going to the school for some nighttime affair. Just as he started down the Buckner creek grade, the car lights went out. It was a miracle that we were not all killed. The ride down that grade towards that low bridge cannot be completely explained in a few lines. There was lots of yelling and hollering, for sure.
"Hey, turn on the lights!" everyone blasted out at once. Of course, Cecil couldn't see a thing, and neither could he do anything about the lights. It was pitch dark so all he did was giggle and laugh as only Cecil could.
"Get over, you are going into the ditch over here on my side," Ted yelled.
Ted was right. Cecil was off the road. Then he yanked the Chevy so far to the left that he went off the road on that side. He actually jumped the ditch and hit the embankment. Quickly he pulled back onto the road just in time to go over the bridge. He even got over without bumping into the cement bannisters bordering the bridge, and shot right back up the grade on the other side. About that time the lights came back on, and stayed on the rest of the trip. Believe me, we were all petrified with fright, except Cecil. He just kept laughing and giggling throughout the ordeal and the minute the lights came back on, he laughed even more. Cecil's steady hands and cool head got us out of that predicament, for sure.
"Thanks, Cecil, wherever you are, for getting us to the school safely
The Condom on the Bannister
Frankly I didn't have the slightest idea where it came from. It really was quite a sight. One of the boys had filled a condom with about two pints of water and hung it on the bannister where everyone could see it as they went upstairs. Craft was furious and knew he had to discover the culprit who put it there. I don't know how many kids he questioned, or if I was first, middle or last.
"Glenn, who put that condom on the bannister? Was Ted involved?" Craft queried of me.
"No, no, Ted wouldn't do such a thing," I said. It was a weak lie because
I wouldn't have been surprised to learn that Ted did actually do it. If
he didn't, he probably knew who did. Of course, I would never say that
to Craft. Truthfully, I didn't know who had put the condom on that bannister.
I stuck to my story regardless of that grilling by Craft, and didn't even
reveal any of my suspicions. As I left the office, he warned me that I
should report to him if I learned any more about the affair. To the best
of my memory, I never did discover who did it, and I don't believe Craft
did either. I guess one could say that it was the perfect crime.
Flattening the Prof's Tires
One day someone looked out the front windows at school and discovered something to tell everyone in sight.
"Look, Craft's tires are all flat! All four of them!"
The word spread quickly around the whole school and everybody, including me, looked out the window as soon as possible. Sure enough, there they were--all four tires as flat as pancakes. For some reason most of us suspected Shirley or one of his friends had done it. Craft's car was parked right in front of the school where everyone could see it. How some kid got a chance to leave the building and let the air out of those tires in broad daylight, I don't know.
Professor Craft didn't discover that his tires were flat until he went
out at noon to go home for lunch. We all enjoyed watching him stomp around
in his anger. He had quite a problem getting someone to fix the tires,
get home for lunch and return by class time. It was hilariously funny to
us kids. We giggled and gossiped about it for days. Again we were never
sure who really played that trick on Craft.
Prof's Polluted Milk
As the school year went on, some of the kids continued to do everything
they could to make life miserable for Craft. One morning he discovered
that the bottle of milk which had been delivered to his back porch had
been tampered with. Someone had emptied part of the milk and then had urinated
into the bottle. Soon the news about Craft's polluted milk spread like
wildfire around town. The town constable even got into the act. It seemed
everyone knew about the affair, but no one really knew who did it, except,
of course, the guilty person. It was another perfect crime.
For some reason, probably a good one, Craft finally thought he had discovered the kids that had been giving him trouble. One evening Shirley and one of his friends were driving around town doing absolutely nothing. Craft called the constable and together they started to follow Shirley's car. Suddenly, when he discovered he was being followed, Shirley headed toward the road leading out of town.
Of course, I wasn't an eye witness, but the story that went around town afterward was something like this:
Just as the race picked up and things began to get tense, the boys slowed down and then stopped beside the road. Craft and the constable also stopped and crawled out of their car to confront the boys.
"Arrest those kids, constable!" Craft demanded. "Put the handcuffs on them."
The constable was ready to do just that. As he approached the car, the guys got out and headed toward him.
"Now just wait a minute. We've got news for you. You are not going to arrest us. We are outside the city limits and you have absolutely no authority here," one of the boys said.
Then he slugged the constable and knocked him down. They wrestled on the ground with the constable getting the worst of it.
Craft tried to stop the fight, but the other kid warned him, "Let's just you and me watch."
Finally, all got back into their cars and returned to town. Needless to say the constable had a black eye the next day.
How did this story get out? I'm not sure, but I imagine the boys told
it, and slanted it to their advantage. So far as I know neither the constable
nor the principal ever said much about it. I'm sure the story got embellished
with each retelling. I have related it many times, and have probably been
guilty of some embellishment myself. However, something happened that day,
because the constable did have a black eye.
Trouble at a Football Game
It was not only the boys that had trouble with Professor Craft. He had made many disciplinary rules, and some of them didn't really seem very fair. One such rule forbade anyone leaving the school, except the players themselves, when our football team played at the nearby schools. We could not understand why we couldn't attend such games and cheer for our team. On one occasion, Viola and Jettie decided to defy the rule. They were good friends with a couple of the players and they went with them to the game, skipping their afternoon classes.
The next morning Craft called them into his office.
I can well imagine how the conversation went. "You know you have broken a school rule and you must be punished," Craft said. "You may have your choice. Either you stay in an hour after school for two weeks or I'll cut your grades for the semester by one point."
Viola and Jettie were straight "A" students and Craft felt absolutely sure they would choose to stay after school. He gave them a long lecture about their excellent records. He said they had always been such nice girls and that now he was really ashamed of them. He gave them until school was out that day to decide which punishment they would choose.
That afternoon, the girls marched into his office and informed him that they would take the cut in grades. That really made Craft angry.
"You can't do that," he bellowed. "Think about your parents and what they will say. Do you mean that you are willing to sacrifice your spotless record of "A's" instead of staying after school?"
Those girls sat there and let Craft rage on and on. He had a record of his own to keep unblemished. He knew he had blown it. Their parents would blame him. In fact, they had given their permission for the girls to go to the game. Craft had put himself in an untenable situation.
Craft cut the grades as he promised, and when the story got out, the girls became the heroes, or should I say, heroines around the school. They were much admired for standing up to the professor, and Craft's reputation continued to go downhill.
It was no surprise to anyone that Professor Craft stayed only one year
at Hanston High. I'm sure he was glad to leave after all the trouble the
kids had given him, and I'm also sure that almost no one was sorry to see
I have another memory of what I considered unfair punishment. This one involved Ralph and the coach. During my study hall period I was probably doing what I usually did, that is, I was not engaged in deep study. Rather, I was just observing any interesting activity that might be happening.
That afternoon my friend Ralph was in one of his giggling moods and simply was not able to control himself. The coach was in charge of the study hall that day. It wasn't his regular duty so he wasn't in a very good mood to start with. He became impatient with the way Ralph was cutting up, and trying to get the attention of the other students. He repeatedly warned him to be quiet.
Later on the coach left the room for a moment, probably to go to the restroom. When he returned and found Ralph still disturbing the other students, he was mad. The first thing he could see was the large Webster dictionary at the front of the study hall. He picked it up, walked down the row to where Ralph was seated, raised that monster of a book up into the air, and whacked it down on Ralph's head. Ralph's glasses flew across the room to the floor. He was completely stunned and for several moments could not move or talk. I was stunned myself at the unreasonable punishment he received from the coach. I suppose today someone would have sued the teacher, but then nobody complained so far as I know. I know I thought it was inappropriate punishment. I thought the coach was really out of line.
Another time Ralph got into trouble with a different teacher for quite a different reason.
"Ralph, get out of my room," the teacher said. "What in the world happened to you? Did you kick a skunk or something?"
"On second thought, it isn't enough for you to leave the room. Get completely out of the building and don't come back until you get that skunk smell off you!" the teacher continued.
It's a wonder that those words weren't directed to me at onetime or another. I did lots of skunk hunting during the fall. Catching and skinning skunks for their pelts was one way to earn a few dollars for spending money, or for a pair of pants, a shirt or some new shoes.
Ralph grabbed his books and his dinner pail and went home. I'm sure it didn't bother him one bit. He was happy to get out of school for the day.
The room stunk for hours. I had had so many experiences with skunks
the smell didn't bother me much.
High School Athletics
The athletic program at Hanston got lots of attention. There were special
awards for those students taking part in them. The big "H" was given to
those who played enough time during the year. The football "H" had a small
football in its center and, likewise, the basketball "H" had a small basketball.
Black and yellow were the Hanston High School colors, and we were proud
of them. We had great cheer leaders and great yells. We also had a good
school song which we sang with gusto at the games. These are the words
as I remember them:
‘Neath the sky so blue.
Far away from surging ocean
Noble friend so true.
She shall wear a crown of victory
All her glorious years.
And when we in triumph gather
Loud shall ring her cheers!
The too biggest sports were football and basketball. Now my Mom didn't care much for football, and she especially didn't want me to play. She was afraid I'd get hurt. It was a rough game and she thought it was one game that shouldn't be allowed in high schools. I really had no desire to play football for several reasons. The fact that I wore glasses and couldn't see comfortably without them gave me a good excuse. Furthermore, I couldn't stand the idea of getting hit by some bruiser and all the rest of the team piling on top of me. Forget it! I had seen lots of guys get hurt, and I thought the roughness allowed in the game was absolutely ridiculous.
I did play basketball, but was not good enough to be on the first team until my senior year. Even then I played "bench" most of the time. While on the second team, I played almost every game. Despite the fact that I was always afraid I would get hurt because of my glasses, I had fun playing. The coach always encouraged me.
During the last game of my senior year, coach Wassinger said, "Glenn, the game is about over and I want you to earn your letter. At the next time out, you are to go in."
"I don't want to play tonight, coach," I replied.
Nothing could have made me budge. No amount of urging from the coach could made me get on the floor.
My reason was that I was in pain. I didn't have enough nerve to tell the coach that I had a bad case of the jock itch. I'll never forget how bad it was. My right leg was so raw that just lightly touching it was excruciating, and I couldn't bear the thought of my jock strap rubbing on it. I thought I was having the plague or something. Alcohol on it set it afire.
To me the jock itch was some kind of punishment for some wrong thing I had done. My imagination ran wild. Anyway, I didn't want to admit anything I might have done so I just suffered.
Later the coach asked, "Why didn't you want to play that last quarter last night. Even one minute of play would have earned you your "H" letter?"
Finally, I explained my predicament. "What?" the coach asked. "Great guns, Glenn, you should have told me when you first noticed your leg was getting sore. I could have put salve on it and cured it in a hurry."
It was too late to do anything about the situation. I didn't get the
big basketball "H." I did get a smaller one for being a regular player
on the second team. That made me happy.
Music and School Plays
I enjoyed all the musical activities at high school. I had sung and played the piano most of my life. Ted also liked music, but hadn't had the musical opportunities which I had as a child. Both of us were promptly asked to take parts in the all-school operettas. I especially remember "An Old Spanish Custom," which was the first operetta in which I had a part. I had played the piano for the operetta at Sherman Junior High in my ninth grade, but that was quite different from being on the stage.
When I started to Hanston High School, I just assumed that I would play for the operetta there, but, Verna already had the job. In fact, Miss Thomas asked Verna to play the piano for all the musical activities, for all three of my high school years, including playing "Largo" for the graduation activities. I really would have loved to have played at least once for Miss Thomas. I knew I was a good player and could do just as good a job as Verna did, but, no, I lost out.
"I have someone to play the piano, Glenn." she would say. "I need you on the stage taking part in the operetta. Besides, I have just the part for you. I need both you and Ted. I already have plenty girls, but not enough boys."
I did get to play the piano at church, however. It seemed that I played for Sunday School the first day I got there. The church folks seemed to like my style, and soon I was asked to play for many church functions. That didn't quite make up for my not getting to play at school, but it helped. I always enjoyed being asked to play at church for programs, weddings, funerals, and the regular Sunday services.
It was obvious that my high tenor voice and Ted's baritone voice were just what Miss Thomas needed for her musical groups. I really didn't think I was much of a singer, but, again, I was needed. It seemed that we sang in about everything except the girls- only stuff. I not only sang solos, but was also in the boys' chorus, mixed quartet, and male quartet. Each year there were contests with other schools. Although I usually entered various events, I didn't really enjoy singing in contests. I did like singing solos at other activities around town, however.
Each of my three years at Hanston High, we gave a play. Miss Hoss, Miss Pocock and Miss Logan took turns directing the plays. One play that I remembered was "The Depression Blues" that Miss Hoss directed. It was an appropriate play for the time because, as the name implied, the country was in a deep depression. During those "dust bowl" days, Western Kansas farmers were not only economically depressed, but were also often emotionally depressed.
"We just as well have some fun over the depression," Miss Hoss said as she introduced the play to the cast. "Maybe we can get people out of their depression moods." The play had a song in it called "The Depression Blues." The audience loved it and we had lots of fun presenting it. I even got to play the piano in that play. That made up, in a way, for the fact that Miss Thomas would never ask me to play for any musical events.
Another fun play was Charlie's Aunt. Miss Pocock directed that play, as I remember. She was my history and international relations teacher and she introduced me to those subjects in a way that my entire life was affected. She was a great teacher.
"What? Play the part of a woman? Oh, no, not me!" was my first reaction. However, Miss Pocock convinced me that it was a great part for me.
"LaVere will also take the part of a girl and you'll have fun doing it."
The play was all about Charlie, played by Ted, and his escapades when he discovered that his rich old uncle, played by Cecil, was to visit him. Charlie had been bamboozling him into giving him money under false pretenses. For instance, he had told the old codger he had a very charming aunt who had a very sophisticated daughter, and that he needed funds to entertain them. That so aroused the erotic feelings in the old man that he decided to visit his nephew in person. As Charlie had no charming aunt with a sophisticated daughter, he had to convince his two college friends to play the parts.
LaVere and I made perfect fools of ourselves playing those parts. I even wrote to my Aunt Florence and asked for a pair of her old shoes. I knew she had big feet so I thought maybe I could wear her shoes. She sent me a pair, and although they fit fine, I still had lots of trouble keeping my balance. The heels weren't very high, but they were higher than I was used to wearing for sure. Both of us also had trouble with our breastwork.
The old uncle arrived and immediately fell in love with me, the charming aunt, and wanted to marry me.
The funniest part came when Charlie admitted LaVere and I were fakes. The old uncle was supposed to shout, "Oh, horsefeathers!," and promptly faint into my arms at the revelation. Because I was so excited about doing my part right, I didn't give him time to fall into my arms. I just reached up and pulled him down. The audience roared! The whole thing was a hilarious experience for both actors and audience.
I was always nervous about having to memorize anything. I was sure I'd forget my part and make a fool of myself. Usually I came through all right, but once in college when I forgot and improvised, I really caused lots of trouble. The rest of the cast weren't getting the right cues, and didn't know how to respond. Finally, after some confusion, we got through the situation. I doubt if the audience knew the difference, but the rest of the actors really got mad at me over the deal.
I do remember one time when I recited Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address"
at a Memorial Day community affair. Everyone said I did a splendid job,
so I guess I must have remembered it correctly and didn't have to improvise
My Sophomore Year Grade Card
My Last Report Card, Senior Year
Graduation presents that my Class of 1935 were given were quite different from what most high school graduates of today expect. I can't even remember whether my folks were able to give me anything above whatever expenses were involved for the affair. I'm sure they had a difficult time paying those. My Aunt Elizabeth, Uncle Ed's wife, sent me two dollars. I had found a watch that didn't work and I was able to get it fixed with that $2.00. Another present that meant lots to me was a letter containing a one dollar bill from my grandma Deal. This is what she wrote:
May 6th 1935
Monday morning the sun is shining and no wind, so we are
washing. We had a nice little shower yesterday, good for
garden. I enclose you a small gift. I never go to the city so you get
yourself whatever you want with it. I wish Glenn I could do
more, but you will have to wait for my oil well to come in. Ha!
Your cards are very nice and I am glad that you now have a High
School Education. Must close as we have so much to do this AM,
Love to you all,
Of course, Johnny Lingenfelder took our Graduation Photos, and made a composite one for the whole class. .
My Graduation Picture
My Graduation Class
Top Row: Berniece Powell, Gladys Kuhn, Charlotte Bowie, Verna Lingenfelder, Mary Stegman, Edna Miller
Middle Row: Marlyn Korf, Mildred Miller, Glenn McMurry, Melvin Stigman, Dwight Smith, Viola Bauer, Virgil Salmans
Bottom Row: Fern Goller, Irene Bamberger, Lois Horton, Cecil Miller, Edna Clews, Linda Lingenfelder, Jettie Clifton
Although I had to spend lots of my time going to school and helping Dad with the farm work, I was still able to find leisure time to explore our farm and the surrounding area. I liked to get in the old Model-T truck, ride my horse, Bess, or sometimes just walk by myself. Usually I carried my 22 caliber rifle, and always Rover, my trusty dog, was at my side. Those moments I spent fooling around by myself were some of the happiest times of my life on the farm.
One interesting place I liked to go was what I called my own canyon. It was about two miles to the east and north of our farm. I discovered it one day while I was following an old trail in the hills. It didn't really bother me that it was not on our land. I adopted it as mine. In places its walls were at least 50 to 60 feet high. It was exciting to explore, but I had to be very careful because there were rattlesnakes in the area. In places where the sun's rays got through, snakes came out of their holes to warm themselves. As Rover had sharp eyes and a good nose for finding snakes, he helped me avoid them.
There were places in the hills to the east of our farm where I could
see many stone fence posts. Sometimes the rows of posts stretched away
into the distance as far as I could see. It made me feel weary just thinking
of the work it took to quarry the rock, haul it and set it. What fortitude
those men had, and what dreams of tomorrow! At one time there must have
been miles and miles of wire around thousands of acres of grassland!
There was very little commercial entertainment in those days, but we often had parties. Some were at the church, and at times the families with kids would invite a group to their homes for the evening. Each party was different, but usually the same kids were there. The parties I remember best were at the Miller home.
I didn't know anything about party games until I moved to Hanston. I soon learned they were about the same as folk dances. Folk dances were considered OK, but all my childhood days, my parents and my church frowned upon any type of ballroom dancing. There were a few night spots with music and dancing, but "nice" kids didn't go there. The school board allowed no dances at the Hutchinson schools until years after we moved west. At Hanston, also, that general attitude prevailed.
At most of the homes we had to create our own music. We sang and clapped are hands as we played the "party games." There were no wall flowers at those parties. Everyone had to participate. As the saying goes, the more, the merrier.
The Millers always arranged to have a house full of kids when they gave a party.
"Get a partner and form a large circle. It's time to play!" Mr. Miller would call out to start the festivities. Away we'd go around and around, in and out, or whatever movement the game called for. Some of the favorites were "Skip to My Lou," "Swing Your Girl," and the "Virginia Reel." Mr. Miller lead us in many different games. When we got tired, we'd play less active games, such as wink'em, gossip, find the ring on the string, and spin the bottle. Then there were rest periods for conversation and refreshments, which were usually lemonade and cookies.
"OK," Mr. Miller would call out, "it's time to get at it again." Then away we'd go until late into the night.
Many of the families with young people planned parties of one kind or another, such as Halloween parties, birthday parties, and "party game" parties. The McNabney family would include ballroom dancing at their affairs. They had a phonograph, and also a player piano. Sometimes I'd play some of the popular songs for the dances at their house. One of my favorites was "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
At times we'd play our party games out in the pasture under a full moon.
That was always lots of fun.
A Party Disaster for Me
Every year, our Methodist youth group would have at least one Christmas and one Halloween party. Although our church Halloween parties were rather mild compared to the rowdy and even sometimes destructive ones given by the older guys around town, we always enjoyed them. They took lots of planning and that was half the fun. We'd prepare one room full of spooky scenes and scary noises. In a darkened room, wet noodles and skinned grapes would be passed around, and a story told about some unlucky guy who lost his brains and eyes.
One Halloween party turned out to be a disaster for me. The party in question was at Gray, a little town just east of Hanston. Actually, about the only thing in the town was the elevator, and the Swint's home. Mr. Swint ran the elevator and his family held our party in their home. They had cooperated with the party planners to give us a good time. Everything went along just fine until it was time to select partners for refreshments.
"OK, you guys and gals, it's time for refreshments and this is the way we are going to select partners." Boy, were they organized. "All boys in one room and the girls in another. Now guys, take off your neckties and hang them over that door."
That door was strategically placed between the boys' room, which was the living room, and the girls' room, which was the dining room.
"Ready? Girls, each of you grab the end of a tie. Boys, line up and take a turn at choosing a tie, anyone, except your own. The girl that has hold of the tie you choose will be your partner for refreshments."
Oh, oh! I didn't like that idea. I wanted no part of that kind of pairing arrangement. The right girl for me would be one that I had previously dated and really liked. The wrong one would be the world's greatest disaster for me, and would spoil my whole evening.
Such suspense! Would I get the right girl or... Oh, no! When I pulled my tie, it was "the wrong girl."
Unfortunately, I had told the guys, "If I get 'what's-her- name,' I'll skip out." Now that was exactly what happened. I got "what's-her'-name!" I ran from the house like a streak of lightening. I didn't have the slightest idea where I was going. I just wanted to get out of there.
Well, the rest of the evening was one disaster after another. First, I headed toward the pasture hoping to hide among the cows some distance away. I don't know what gave me the idea that I would look like one of the cows and not be seen. I headed for the fence and jumped it. Disaster of disasters! I slipped and fell.
Falling would not normally have been such a problem. I was nimble and could usually have jumped up and continued without much trouble. But, right where I fell there was a fresh cow manure pile awaiting me. I jumped up quickly and continued to run towards those cows. Then, reality hit. I had manure all over my feet, my pant legs, the seat of my pants, and even on my hands.
I could hear the guys as they started after me. "Let's go find Glenn. He can't get away with that trick. He's got to be out there somewhere."
I was so embarrassed! They were determined to find me, and I knew I couldn't let them catch me. In my condition I knew I couldn't return to the party.
To make things worse, the moon was full and moving objects were easily seen. I had to make a circle, go back over the fence and around to the back of the house. The only place I could think of to hide was on the roof of the porch. I climbed there quickly and lay very quiet. The boys hunted all around the place, but they never thought to look over their heads. They figured I was either behind or under something.
I had to spend the rest of the evening on that porch roof trying to figure out how I was going to get out of the mess into which I had gotten myself.
Do I have to tell the rest of the story? How cold I got? How the party finally came to a close? How I slid down from the porch and rolled onto the ground to rid myself of the manure on my pants? How I finally admitted where I was and how ashamed I was? Believe me, I was the laughing stock of the week.
Did I learn anything from this escapade? Probably nothing, except to
be careful where I land the next time.
I knew absolutely nothing about Halloween pranks before we moved to Hanston. Well, almost nothing. We had plenty of candy, paper witches and such, but my folks didn't pay too much attention to Halloween as a day to celebrate. We had an entirely different experience, however, when we got to Hanston.
About twilight high school age kids and a few younger ones who tagged along would start to mill around town and make their plans. One typical activity was emptying garbage cans on front porches and other places where it didn't belong. In general, messing up the streets and people's yards with whatever was handy was always high on the list of things to do. Another prank, considered an absolute necessity for the evening, was soaping as many windows as possible on cars, stores and houses.
As it got darker, plans were made for pushing over the outhouses, which kids considered it smart to call "shithouses."
"Hey, where shall we go first?" someone would ask.
"Why don't we start in the north end of town and go at it in an organized way. In that way, we'd not miss any," some wise guy would pipe up.
Of course, if any of the group had a grudge against someone, now was the time to get even. He wanted to be sure that person's toilet got the proper treatment. There always seemed to be lots of grudging going around on Halloween.
"OK, all ready? On the count of three, everyone push." Creak, groan and down it went.
"Ugh, I wonder when they last cleaned that one," was sure to be heard during the escapade.
The owners would try to watch for the gang, but as the evening went on there was not too much they could do. I especially remember Mr. Heimer's attempts to be ready for the pranksters. Each year he did his best to keep his nice little privy upright, but to no avail. It always went down. And how mad he would get! One Halloween, Heimer almost won the battle. He had hired someone to stake large stone posts to the base of the toilet. Although the gang couldn't push it down completely, they hurt its pride considerably.
Usually before the evening ended, someone would get caught in his privy.
"Get me out of here!" would be heard, but you can bet no one stayed around very long to help. Who would want to be near when that person got out!
In my first Halloween I started to be just a bystander, but soon, it seemed to be the hep thing to do. They did need help on some of those heavy ones.
What a bunch of hooligans, and all in the name of Halloween fun! But that was not the end of the night. Later on some of the older guys came along. They would pull every piece of machinery available, such as plows and cultivators, into the streets and into the fronts of the stores.
For years an old steam engine tractor had sat back of the Clifton Cafe. It had at one time been used to operate thrashing machines. It was so thoroughly rusted that no one had attempted to move it for a long time. One Halloween some of the guys decided to put it out in the street. They hitched a John Deere tractor to it and pulled as hard as they could. After much effort all they could do was turn the front wheels a little. I guess it was a good thing they couldn't get it into the street, because moving it out again would have been another problem. That was one mess that didn't have to be righted the next morning.
One morning after a night of Halloween activity, what do you suppose was found in the upstairs of the high school? A cow! Yes, it was a milk cow. By the time the cow was discovered, it had splattered manure and pee all over the place. Everyone, except the guys who did it, wondered how anyone managed to get that cow up that long flight of stairs.
Cleaning up all the messes the day after Halloween night was a big job. For sure, it took longer to clean the town up than it did to mess it up.
I always used to wonder where the constable or the sheriff was on that
night. For some reason they seemed to keep themselves out of sight. Maybe
they had some grudges of their own to settle.
Fourth of July
The Fourth of July in Hanston was typical for those times. We always had plenty Roman candles, cherry bombs, snakes, sparklers and all sizes of firecrackers. We kids blew cans and bottles to smithereens. Once I saw a kid put a cracker into the mouth of a frog with the inevitable results. Those were the days when everything was tried. How kids kept from getting seriously injured or even killed, I don't know. I'm sure many did, but one tends to forget such aspects of the "fun" times.
I do remember several times before we moved to Hanston when I had narrow escapes with Fourth of July fireworks. One was an accident with a three-inch firecracker. After I lighted it, I decided it wasn't going to go off and I continued to hold it. While I was trying to relight it, it blew up in my hand. My hand was numb for several hours. I've often thought how lucky I was that I wasn't hurt more seriously. I could have easily lost a few fingers.
Another scary time was when Junior was driving home from Hutchinson and I was lighting firecrackers to throw out the window as went along. One time I missed the window and the firecracker fell back into the car on the floor between us.
"Look out, June," I yelled. "That firecracker is on the floor."
"Lean out the window as far as you can, Glenn, and hold your ears," was Junior's reaction.
It went off with a tremendous bang and there was smoke all over the car. We were lucky it didn't start a fire. Believe me, we were both plenty scared and we never tried that trick again.
Usually the wheat fields were dry and ready to be harvested around the Fourth of July. Everyone knew being careless with fireworks could easily set them afire. One time we had a hot air balloon which was powered by a small can of powder. When the powder was ignited, it would create heat which filled the balloon and caused it to rise. It made a pretty sight as it went into the sky. This time, however, the wind started to carry it over our wheat field and we all began to panic. There wasn't much we could do, but watch and hope. Fortunately, it passed over the wheat and fell into a hedge row on the edge of the field. I can still remember how relieved we all were, and we never did try that again.
We were lucky that time, but as I recall Fourth's through the years, there were always stories of wheat field fires caused by careless celebrators.
While we lived in Hanston, the fun place to go on the Fourth of July was our neighboring town of Jetmore. Every year the merchants there had a big celebration. The streets would be cleared and cornmeal spread on them so the people could dance. Most dancing was regular ballroom, but square dances and "party game" singing dances were sandwiched in. There was always a western band to play for the dancing. Sometimes people got rather rowdy, and you can bet there was lots of wine and liquor sipped.
The only theater in town showed a free motion picture. Needless to say I spent my time watching that film, over and over. They showed some "Our Gang" comedies and a feature. "What Price Glory" was shown one year. It was about a little kid that was killed in a battle between two youthful gangs. That film really made an impression on me. I guess the fact that I still remember it so well is evidence of that.
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