Thursday, October 25, 2012

Random Memories



By Harold Ratzburg

    Way back in the fall of 1942, I was a shy little ole farm kid, walking into the "big city" school in  Marion.  I, like a lot of other kids that day, was fresh off the farm, having graduated from Maple Valley Grade School, way out in the Town of Dupont.
    My only experience in the big city was when I came with my folks to do shopping in town, usually on Saturday night on "Market Day". 
    I got a little more experience in town when I went to religious training at St. John's Lutheran Church under the guidance of Reverend Olrogge, a real preacher type preacher, who could really preach a fire and brimstone sermon from his pulpit.  After our weekly religious training class was over, I would walk down town to the soda fountain at Mee's Drug store.  Each week my Ma would give me a quarter to blow in town, and that 25 cents would buy a chocolate malted milk and a Walt Disney, Donald Duck or Micky Mouse or Superman comic book.
    Clarence Mees made the best darned malted milk in the world!! (my opinion of course)
I don't know what happened to the ice cream industry since those days, because I don't think that they make malted milks anymore----just plain ordinary milkshakes.  It pains me that I haven't found a malted milk in years.
    Anyway, Mees' drug store is where my parents would pick me up and bring me home.
    Walking into MHS where I knew very few of the other kids was a little awe inspirering.
I found my way to the "Cloak Room"---maybe it was called the Coat Room---and claimed a coat hook in the simple square room.  The school didn't have lockers, just the room with the hooks, and that hook pretty much remained your hook for the rest of the year.
    As I remember, most of the time while in Maple Valley grade school, I wore the very practical---for farm kids----the good old bib overalls.  When we did get into town, I was always impressed by the city kids because they wore the classy pants that required a belt to hold them up and you could tuck your shirt inside the belt and not look like some "dork" kid off the farm, but I think by the time I got to high school I had graduated to the belted pants.
    I'll be darned if I can remember how I got to high school every day.  Brother Lyle tells me that he remembers that some neighbor up the road picked us up and took us to town and back on school days.  At some point, I suppose that after I got my drivers license----at sixteen I think----that I drove the family car back and forth and traded rides with other farm kids.  School buses came to town well after I graduated.
    I do remember that Dwaine Dieck, from the other side of town, did have his own car that he used to get to school.  It was a big old limousine type car, with wooden spoked wheels and  I envied him a lot.  Take a look at the photo attached to this article and you will see what I mean.
    Most of our studying was done in the "Main Room", which was a big room with a stage to put on school plays and for all us students to meet for general meetings and announcements.  As I remember, that is where we were assigned desks in which we could keep our books and not have to lug them around all day, and remember, back packs had not yet been designed for the general population like they wear these days.  There was always a teacher assigned to monitor us students, but we still got away with passing notes and clandestine whispered conversations.
    The Agriculture Building was a separate building to the south of the main building.  It was set up to teach us about milk separation and testing, carpentry, animal husbandry, and all the other things that us FFA (Future Farmers of America) kids needed to study.  One of my favorite classes through the years was 'woodworking' in which I built a three legged milking stool to be used at home to get under those damned cows to do the milking.
    Sports, back then, as now was a big thing.  The best players that made the sports teams  were the elite students in high school crowd---i.e.---the big men on campus.  My own sports career was a short one.  Dad needed the help at home for doing the evening chores, so for the first three years, I didn't have the time to try out for anything.  In my senior year, Dad let up a little, and I was able to go out for football.
    I was a pretty good sized guy, one of the biggest in the class, so guess what?  I made first string the first year I tried out for the football team.
    I had one big problem however----I was not as aggressive as I should have been.  Even in a game, after I tackled a guy and he still kicked me in the face, I didn't get mad.  I guess I was just a lover, not a fighter, and I didn't go after him when I later had a chance.  I figured that getting kicked in the face was just part of the game.
    "Buck" Hintz (Reinhard) was a lot more aggressive, and he was the guy that Coach Grasser went to when the Coach needed a guy to pick on a guy in the other team to get him ticked off and make a mistake.  Bucky was just the guy to do it.
    The most memorable game that I played in that year, was against our arch rival ---Clintonville----in the first game of the season.  What made it memorable was that they kicked our butt to the tune of sixty to nothing----60 to 0!!!!  I couldn't wait for that game to end and put us out of our misery.  The Marion Pigeons could do nothing right that day, and of course, having such an aggressive name as "the Pigions" didn't help us strike fear in the hearts of our opponents.  I was happy when many later years I heard that the name had been changed to "the Mustangs".
    Buss's Sweet shop----or was it Buss's Soda Shop----was a big part of our high school  culture back in the 1940's.  It was located a few doors south of Mee's Drug store and that is where a lot of the kids headed at lunch time.  He served up milk shakes and malted milks (not as good as Mee's) and hamburgers and all the usual fast food stuff that High School kids like 
    Mr. Buss was tolerant of us kids and he was fair in his dealings.  In the 1940's, World War Two was in full swing and there were shortages in everything, including Hershey Chocolate bars.  They cost a whole nickel back then, and Mr Buss, when he was able to obtain a box of the Hershey bars, would ration them out so you could only buy one bar at a time to each kid that had the money to buy them.  You can't get more fair than that, can you?
     The Photography club  was a lot of fun.  Mr Anderson, the Science teacher, showed us how to develop film in the dark room and arranged for me to use the school camera to take photos of school activities like the Football Bonfire celebration and other affairs.  All cameras back in those days used black and white film with eight photos on each roll.  Photos were kind of expensive considering the income of people in those days, so we had to ration our picture taking.  That meant that the number of pictures to look back on in our albums today after 60 years is very limited in comparison with the number of digital photos that are taken every day today.  Almost every kid has a cell phone with a built in camera  and photos are taken by the thousands every day.  It makes me think that sixty years from now when people look for photos of their old school days, they will find so many of them that it might scare them off from the research, IF-- they can find them in all their computer files and CD disks.
    One last memory of high school days in this story is one of disappointment.  Being a farm kid meant that every day I was needed to help milk those damned cows at home, and since the Scouts met once a week at 7 PM in town, my family just couldn't arrange for transportation to get me there.  To compensate, I managed to get a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook that every Scout carried and I studied that on my own.  With the manual, I learned how to tie rope knots, build fires, first aid, and all the other neat things that a scout was supposed to learn. It did help to ease my disappointment and that was the best I could do, but there were no merit badges that I could earn.  Damn those cows.
    So Folks, that wraps up my Marion High School memores, the ones off the top of my head.  As I look through the old copies of our Mario Year Book and read the comments of old friends that signed it, I realize that more memories come forward that could fill all the pages of the Marion Advertiser.
    So I better stop so that Dan has room to put in some paying ads that keep the paper in operation.

copyright Harold Ratzburg, 2012

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