Opa Memories - March



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When our grandson, Geoffrey, was four years old he sent me the book, “Grandpa, Tell Me Your Memories.” As I filled the daily pages  over the next year was able to relive many fond memories.Opa, Tell Me Your Memories
by W John Schuck


Mar 1: Tell about being in a school play or program.

I was in the church choir and the school Glee Club since my freshman year. In my junior year Mr. Harold Zahorick, who was forming a drama department, came up to me and handed me a program and said, “Learn this; we are having rehearsals in two weeks.” It was a play that he had written. It was mostly a musical where people would come out of this giant book and perform in skits and sing. Next he directed Moliere's Imaginary Invalid and he asked me to play a foppish, quack of a doctor he didn’t want to leave his side. The next play I was in was The Song of Bernadette and I played the role of a blind man who was miraculously cured.

Mar 2: Tell about a school principal you remember.

Sister Mary DiPazzi was the principal for most of my school years. I went to school at Lourdes for 12 years but I don’t remember if she was there for all of them but she was there when I was in high school. She wouldn’t put up with any guff from the students and I remember one day when we were jamming up the doors to the gymnasium and she came through telling us to clear a path. We didn’t react fast enough and I can still see the footprint of her shoe on Jimmy Doran’s bottom where she kicked him.

Mar 3: Did you ever pretend to be sick as an excuse to stay home from school?

Once we had a gas leak in the house. Mother was sleeping on the downstairs sofa and she called out to wake us up. I helped Jane get downstairs and she just dropped on the other sofa and my legs just locked up on me and I went down too. Mother had the gas man on the way and after he turned off the gas mother had already opened most of the windows. It was winter — and the house was cold.

We recovered fairly quickly and Jane and I thought we should get the say off from school because we were weak from inhaling the gas. That didn’t work; mother said it would be good for us to go to school as usual. We couldn’t get away with it.

Mar 4: Do you have a story about yourself cussing?

I’m not sure what I said but it probably was the sh-- word for blue mud, a term that was more popular as a cuss word in our house. Mother then told me to go to the bathroom to get a bar of Palmolive soap. I knew what was coming but I though it was a dirty deal to have to get my own soap to wash out my mouth. It was an effective method though. I think I still watch my language even this day.

Mar 5: Tell about how you spent your Saturdays during the school year.

I had a paper route and usually had to make my weekly collection for the Milwaukee Sentinel. That took most of my Saturday mornings. I would return home around 11 o’clock and if I had the time to do so I would watch Leonard Bernstein’s Children’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In the summer we had a season ticket for a series of movies at the theater. Often there would be a serial such as Superman or Flash Gordon; a few cartoons, and maybe a Roy Rogers movie. With the season ticket our cost was 9¢ per movie.

Mar 6: Tell about how you spent your Sundays.

I was an alter boy and usually served an early mass on Sunday. Then we would return home and read the funny papers. Sunday dinners were usually at 3 or 4 o’clock. After dinner we would listen to radio programs if our homework was finished.

Mar 7: What was the naughtiest or meanest thing you remember doing in school?

I was mad at someone on the playground and when we were playing dodge ball I blindsided him. I think I broke his glasses in the process.

Mar 8: What were the consequences?

One of the nuns saw it and I had to carry a note home to my parents. That was pretty intense having to carry home a letter. You couldn’t throw it away because the nuns and my mother talked all the time. I just had to worry all the way home and then take a The Shadow poster (click to enlarge)grounding for a couple of weeks.

Mar 9: What was your favorite radio program?

My favorite program was The Shadow but there were many good programs that I liked. The Lone Ranger, Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Roy Rogers, Gang Busters, and Dragnet come to mind.

Mar 10: What was your favorite movie as a youth? Why?

When I had tickets for the summer series of films we saw Mickey Rooney as Young Mr. Edison and Don Ameche in Alexander Graham Bell. I really enjoyed biographies, especially of inventors.

Mar 11: Did kids over tease you? About what?

I was the slowest runner when we played baseball. I could hit home runs and did so quite frequently but if I didn’t get a home run and just got on base I sometimes got tagged out because I was so slow. They used to tease me about that.

Mar 12: Tell of a difficult school essay or term paper assignment.

School was easy for me and I have always enjoyed writing. The only time I remember having a difficult time with writing assignments was when I was at the University of Nebraska. For one semester I had three term papers and four book reports in history subjects. It was a bit overwhelming and I realized I needed to begin my research right away. If I had procrastinated I would have not been able to complete the requirements.

Mar 13: Tell about your first smoke.

The first time I smoked I was about 11 or 12. I somehow had a corncob pipe. My dad always smoked a pipe but he never had a corncob so I don’t know how I came by this one. At any rate, I took some corn silk and filled up the bowl and lit it. It smelled bad and tasted worse. It was a nasty experience.

Mar 14: Do you remember your first pizza?

Pizza was new to the Midwest, at least in my home town of Marinette, when I was in high school. We did not have pizza restaurants and I remember seeing ads for pizza you could make at home. We would buy a box of Chef Boyardee at the A&P. This had a package of pizza dough, some parmesan cheese and a can of sauce in a box. Mom would spread out the dough in a 9 X 13 cake pan and bake the pizza. Maybe a year later the hot lunch program at school would serve pizza once in a while. The first pizza restaurant I ever went to was Paisans in Madison when I went to the University of Wisconsin.

Mar 15: If you went to college, tell which college you chose and why.

When I was in high school our pastor suggested that I attend the University of Marquette as a continuation of my 12 year parochial school education. The only problem with that idea is that since it was a private university, the cost was out of reach. I went to the University of Wisconsin because it was a school where I could work my way through college. My parents could help pay for the first year but the rest of the costs were mine.

Mar 16: Tell your major and how you chose it.

I initially majored in zoology with the intent of going to dental school. If I had actually gone that route I probably would have had to enroll at Marquette because the UW did not have a dental program.

Mar 17: Did people wear green on St. Patrick's Day?

Our school, Our Lady of Lourdes, was operated by one of the four parishes in Marinette. The pastor at St Joseph’s was Father Champaign who could hear confessions in French. Father Schueller was the pastor at St Anthony’s and he spoke German. Polish was spoken at Sacred Heart and our pastor spoke Gallic. Since we were the “Irish Church” and our nickname was “The Fighting Irish” we certainly wore green on St Patrick’s Day.

Mar 18: Do you have any other memories of St. Patrick's Day as a youth?

We wore uniforms in our school. The boys wore dark slacks, a white shirt and a tie; the girls wore a dark blue jumper with a white blouse. On St Patrick’s Day we allowed to wear something green to celebrate the day. Sometimes we would have a show in the school auditorium.

Mar 19: If you ever hitch-hiked, explain.

Sometimes we hitchhiked to get from our house in Marinette to Victory Beach in Menominee during the summer but more often we rode our bikes. I didn’t really hitchhike until I went to the University of Wisconsin. The trip was about 250 miles between our hometown and Madison and each of the boys made that trip back and forth during the school year.

Mar 20: What do you remember as your favorite time of year? Why?

I think I really enjoyed fall. It would signify the beginning of school, opening football practice, re-meeting old friends for the new school year, and even preparing the house for the winter.

Mar 21: Describe some household chores you had as a child.

Chores would vary as you grew up. Early on my job was to take out the garbage. As I got older I was expected to make my bed, clean up my room and help vacuum the rest of the house.

Mar 22: Describe some outdoor chores.

Still later I was expected to mow the grass, rake the leaves, and shovel snow. I also washed storm windows and installed them plus the storm door for winter. We had a stoker which, by means of a worm gear at the base of a coal hopper, would feed coal into the furnace. I had to fill this stoker and clean out the clinkers from the furnace. Once again, these chores were done by each of the boys in turn.

Mar 23: Which chore did you dislike the most?

We had snow very often. Shoveling the first snowfall of the year might seem like fun but soon it became work. I would get out of bed early to clear the steps and the sidewalk before I went to school. When I had a paper route I had to get up even earlier to do the job. At times this job seemed unrelenting in its need.

Mar 24: What bones have you broken and how?

I never broke a bone. Much later I sprained an ankle leaving work from the second floor window of an otherwise locked building.

Mar 25: Did you ever need stitches?

That is a different matter. When I was just a toddler I fell off the toilet seat and hit my head on a radiator. When I was about eleven I got into a fight with a neighbor kid and was struck on the head with a 2 X 4 which had a nail in the end. That took four stitches. One time when I ran into the house I caught my arm on a hook on the door. That gouged a chunk out of my arm. Another time I was walking out in the water at Red Arrow Beach and stepped on a bottle and required three stitches in the ball of my foot.

Mar 26: Do you have any other good stories about being injured?
Interstate Bridge over the Menominee River from Marinette, WI to Menominee, MI
One spring I was riding my bike across the Interstate Bridge from Menominee. A car came by and the tire threw a rock right across my left eyebrow. I thought I was going to lose an eye. My face swelled up and the entire left side turned black and blue. About a week later the bruise had started to heal and was changing color.

I was serving as an altar boy for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. I was carrying the crucifix which was covered with the Lenten purple cloth. As I came along one of the pews a man looked up and saw that I had a huge bruise on the side of my face and it had changed color to match the purple of the crucifix cover. He started to giggle… so did I.

Mar 27: Tell of a childhood illness.

I had the usual chicken pox, measles, mumps and whooping cough. We used to think that if any child in the neighborhood came down with something mother would take us over to visit so we would get our childhood diseases and build immunity.

Mar 28: Tell about an experience at the doctor's.

When I had to get stitches for the cut in my head after being hit with a board, I was bleeding and crying. We had been to the Ringling Brother’s Circus the Sunday before and the nurse said, “You need to have stitches or your head will become as large as the clown’s at the circus.” I really got upset then.

Mar 29: Name your best school chums.

25 Dec 1959: Back from college for Christmas, L–R Bruce Verstegen, E. Geoffrey Meyer, James M. Doran and W. John Schuck (click to enlarge)               B: Jim Doran, John Schuck, Dick Langrill; F: Geoff Meyer, Ronnie Paris, Ralph Christopherson (click to enlarge)

We were a tight group throughout school. We played baseball and football during the summer and went sledding during the winter. John Paul Bergstadt, Bill Dettman, Jim Doran, Kenny Falkenberg, Billy Grun, Kenny Kuehl, Dick Langrill, Geoff Meyer and Bruce Verstegen were my best friends.

Mar 30: What were some of the crazy names or nicknames in your school?

Probably the most unusual name I remember was Zylpha Baseler. I don’t remember any nicknames.

Mar 31: Tell about a practical joke or prank you played on a person.

Oh, I made telephone calls to the tobacco store and asked “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?” Then when they said yes I would say, “Well, let him out!” I thought that was a great joke, especially since dad smoked Prince Albert pipe tobacco.



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