HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
....or Conversations With the Quarterback's Bride
I just returned from a visit to my home town of Claflin, Kansas. It is a wide place on Kansas Highway 4 in just about the exact center of the state with a population of about 800. During the trip my wife and I attended a high school reunion for the 49th, 50th and 51st classes dated from the 2006 graduating class. I was in the 49th year class-1957. These three classes are honored at the current graduation ceremony. About 45-50 class members and spouses showed up for the cocktail hour, dinner, and other festivities, which is about what I expected. That’s what you get when the classes all graduated around 20 kids. I saw folks I hadn’t seen in 50 years. It was a good time with the exception of the following potential disaster, naturally caused by me.
During my junior year I was the center on the Claflin High football team. The quarterback, Roland Buehler, was a senior and was at the reunion with his wife Carol, who had been a cheerleader at Wilson High School, the school who was our bitterest rival. We hated each other. Our games were bloodbaths. She and Buehler were dating and she got so much crap from her school mates at Wilson High about the relationship that they broke up. After graduation, Buehler did a hitch in the Navy, went to college, and they hooked up again after a 13 year hiatus and got married. True love wins out. The quarterback marries the cheerleader. A nice story in itself but not pertinent to this tale.
Buehler’s Navy service had been aboard the USS Bexar (APA-237), a Westpac amphib that made its living hauling Marines hither and yon. At the reunion he was the only one who could really relate to me because of our common military backgrounds and the fact that both of us had reputations as hellions in high school…he worse that me I might add. Yeah, right, you’re thinking. Although most of the guys in attendance at the reunion had served in the military as a result of the draft in the 1950s, none but Buehler and myself had been in the Naval Service. It also turns out that I was the only one in the whole group with combat experience since most of them had finished their service by the time Vietnam started.
But I digress. Before dinner at the reunion I was talking to Carol Buehler and told her that during our high school days every afternoon in the fall I would go outside and bend over. Her husband would then come up behind me a put his hands on my butt. She was horrified when I said that! I thought she was going to faint. I quickly recovered and explained the quarterback-center relationship, and she immediately understood that I was just being a wiseass. Thus was prevented a medical emergency at the reunion. Sometimes I forget that my brand of humor doesn’t work on everybody. But as I thought about it, I wondered how she could be shocked being married to a guy like Buehler for all these years. What kind of a guy was Buehler? I’ll relate one incident that occurred in October 1955 and let you make up your own minds. As a point of reference, he is still remembered as the orneriest kid in town by the surviving town elders.
The football team voted for the homecoming queen in Claflin. The results of the voting were kept secret until the ceremony at the Friday night game so it would be a big surprise. We had just voted on Thursday and the coach knew who the queen was and had the results on a piece of paper in his pants pocket. His trousers were hanging in his office in the locker room. After practice the coach hadn’t come into the locker room yet. Buehler had finished showering and had crawled through the little cubbyhole in the office door and found out who the queen was. The coach caught him crawling out of the window and started chasing him around the locker room. We all scattered to get out of the way and Buehler ran out of the locker room. One problem…he was naked. Since it was after practice and late the school was empty, or so we thought. Buehler ran up the stairs to the second floor followed closely by the coach, who in turn was followed by the rest of the team in various states of undress. We wanted to see what the coach would do to Buehler when he caught him. Coach was about 6’ 4" and 230 pounds and had played football at Kansas State. At the top of the stairs you turned left to head down the hall. The first door in the hall immediately after the stairs was the Home Economics room, and the teacher, a very proper lady named Lois Wingate, was coming out the door just as Buehler turned the corner. He bowled over Lois and flattened her and was lying on top of her naked when the coach rounded the corner. Coach grabbed Buehler and started working him over on one side of the hall. On the other side Miss Wingate was regaining her feet and screaming bloody murder. When she was upright, she headed down the hall in the opposite direction at high port. The rest of the team was gathered around cheering the coach beating Buehler and Wingate thundering down the hall screaming. I’m sure Buehler was beaten twice as hard for running over the teacher naked as for getting the name of the queen. Remember…this was 1955, not 2006. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was amongst the cheering team at the top of the stairs, and I remember that I wasn’t naked.
This tale doesn’t have much to do with being a Marine, but were I not one, and were Buehler not at the reunion, I wouldn’t have thought of it so I could share it with you.
Anyway that’s life in a small Kansas town in the mid-1950s. As I look back on it, there was no better place to grow up. Lois Wingate did not teach at Claflin my senior year. I wonder if the memory of a naked Buehler on top of her and being surrounded by a wildly cheering half naked football team had anything to do with it. I wonder if they still have Home Economics in high school.
Dirck Praeger sends