Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, April 1, 2019


I have been going through old copies of “Oak Barks,” the school newspaper of the Oakland City, Indiana High School. I was the editor for the issue of February 4, 1955, [coincidentally, my 18th birthday].

David Lamb, “Oak Barks” art editor, and the creator of the “Super Snooper” cartoon page, became one of the premier ad men of the late 20th century, and he started early, right there in Oakland City as a high school junior. The second headline on the 2-4-1955 front page proclaimed:

Lamb Wins: Now Known as “Relish King.”

Dave had won the contest for naming the Hosmer Company’s new relish as “Spiced Rite.” Hosmer was giving him a free trip to Mardi Gras plus $100 worth of groceries, and he appeared on Evansville’s WFIE-TV.

Another article noted that Don Falls had scored 55 points against the Haubstadt Elites, the second highest individual point total in the state so far in the season. I assume this article was written by our Sports Editor, Russell “Rowdy Russ” Riddle, but for whatever reason, I did not give him a byline. [He was known as “Rowdy” because it would have been impossible to find a less rowdy boy in the school, except for James Burch.]

Asst. Editor Peggy Hunt wrote that we were sending 125 contestants to the solo and ensemble contest in Evansville.

Otherwise we just ran a few senior biographies and a lot of gossip. I don’t know who was doing our gossip column then, but one of the items said, “I hear Bob Wallace is having a gay old time as of late.” These days that would have raised some eyebrows, especially later while he was in the Mississippi State Police and head of the security detail for the governor.

Since Valentine’s Day was coming up, we had a whole page of couples listed, inside a big Valentine heart outline that our art staff had done nicely. Must have been close to 300 kids altogether—almost the entire school. I can’t remember who did the list, but I remember being in the office practice room, which was also the “Oak Barks” office and production headquarters, by myself one lunch hour, laboring to get the paper ready, when I saw the dummy for that Valentine page for the first time.

My girlfriend was a typist for the paper, and I scanned down the page to see our names. I found hers, but not mine. She had typed her name in with a different boy! Mine must have been the only name in the whole school that was not in that heart.

I was shocked. How could she do that? I was the perfect boyfriend! I operated by assuming she would be available any time I wanted a date and otherwise ignored her so she could spend time with her friends. What more could a girl want than that?

What made it worse? The guy paired with her name was better-looking than I. My girlfriend had traded up!

At our 50 year high school reunion banquet, I accidentally ended up sitting between her and my wife. No problem, because my wife likes her. Her husband, seated on her other side, was good looking, but not the guy from the Valentine’s page in “Oak Barks.”

I was pleased to have the opportunity to thank her for being such a good girlfriend back then. She really was a good girlfriend--kind and pleasant and undemanding. She was my “beard.” Not the way we usually mean that, a girl a gay guy dates so he can pretend to be straight. She helped me hide the fact that I was the world’s worst boyfriend. But her patience that February 50 years before had finally worn out.

Thank goodness. Dumping me was the best thing she ever did for me. At least, that’s what Helen tells me.

John Robert McFarland

 “In theory, there is no difference in theory and practice. In practice, there is.” Yogi Berra

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