Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, March 23, 2019


I was on the staff of the Oak Barks newspaper of the Oakland City, IN high school for five years, since 8th grade was in the high school. I’m re-reading all my old copies before the mimeograph paper fades so much that they are illegible.

One of the most consistent features of Oak Barks from year to year was senior biographies. We published them each of the five years I worked on the paper, and I assume they were a feature before and after my years at OCHS, too.

They were pretty straight forward, a grocery list of staples, such as physical characteristics [I was 150 lbs, 6 feet 1 inch tall, and had blue eyes and blond hair. I still have blue eyes.] favorite subject, favorite teacher, favorite school activity, plus a listing of all the activities through that student’s years, and perhaps an ancillary listing or two that varied with the year, or the editor, like states traveled, favorite song or movie or actor.

Underclass reporters did the biographies. It’s interesting to me that the uncredited reporter who did the senior bio for this editor of the paper couldn’t keep my name straight. [Also I wonder why the editor didn’t make changes.]

In my extended family I was known as John Robert, to distinguish me from my father, John, and my uncle, Johnny [Pond], my mother’s youngest brother, who owned and operated Francisco Hardware and Lumber. [Although he was 16 years older than I, we were very close. He was the best man at my wedding.]

But John Robert was too much for high school. That double name served me well as an adult, in my professional career, but to teen ears in the 1950s it sounded like the rich boy in a story, an out-of-it rich boy. I was a poor boy, and I wanted to be seen as with-it, not out of it. Besides, this was southern Indiana, for heaven’s sake. If I tried to go by John Robert I would have been known immediately and forever as Johnny Bob, which is the equivalent of being called Bubba. So I decided to be Johney in high school.

This was partly to distinguish me from my father and uncle, [and my cousin Elizabeth’s husband] but it wasn’t just a family matter. John is such a common name, even more so back then than now. I wanted a name that said I was different and exciting. Johney didn’t really sound different, but it looked different, and exotic, like a hero on a ball field or in a comic book.

It never took. I was right; the name was different and exotic, but none of my school mates thought of me as different and exotic. My bio writer headed the piece with “Johney,” but called me John throughout the bio. In fact, very few of my school mates or teachers ever called me Johney. I was almost always John.

I understand that now. That’s why I’m so successful at being old. I’ve had so much experience. Even as a teen-ager, I was an old man, and John was the appropriate name for an old man.

John [Robert] McFarland

My cell phone just gave me a report on my screen usage. It’s never done that before. It said that I averaged one minute of screen time per day last week. I’m rather proud of that. Very appropriate for an old man who spends his days reading mimeographed stuff.

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