The only thing that Kevin and I did as kids was cut everyone down, especially kids in our class. Not a soul in our class was free from our eleven year old sledge-hammer wit. Besides, most of them were nerds and swingers (another word for nerds) and so we thought they deserved it. We were much cooler than all of them anyway---at least back then...
For one, there was Peter Strand who was more than a bit overweight, ate paste, and always sang off-key during music class and Church service. He would also blow his nose into a sheet of notebook paper since he never had a handkerchief. No lie! He would take out a fresh sheet of paper from his regulation issue folder, then vigorously rub it together for what seemed like six hours (actually it was probably about a good 15 minutes). It was then kinda soft-- somewhat akin to a hanky--but not really. Then he would blow his nose in this sheet of paper like crazy. It was weird yet disgusting. We would tell him what a sickening slob he was. We used to call him PENGUIN. Not because he looked like a nun, but because all he cared about were airplanes. Planes, aircraft, and anything associated with flying. So we called him Penguin because the penguin is a bird, but it can’t fly, get it? Hilarious huh?
Richie Cantrell, a sixteen year old three times flunked 8th grader, who once drove a car to school---but got in big trouble because it was his neighbor’s, once told us that penguins can’t fly because they’re too fat. Since Rich was 6ft. 2in. and weighed over 200, we believed him. So we, being normal mean cruel kids, would torment Peter constantly, saying stuff like: “Peter the Penguin, Peter the Penguin, loves to fly, loves to fly, but can’t get off the ground, off the ground, too fat that’s why, too fat that’s why.” Witty stuff...We even laughed at him when he fell off a swing and cracked a bone in his leg. His Mother also looked to us to be older than our own Grammas, but we never laughed at him for that. But overall, we sure gave him a miserable time.
Pete is now the owner of the PENGUIN FLYING SCHOOLS, the largest independently owned flying school company in the world. “Never too fat to get off the ground” is his company’s motto. There’s a Penguin Flying school in over thirty states. He has his own private fleet of charter jets, PENGUIN PRIVATE AIR, which is also the largest. He is an avid golfer on the charity circuit, and more than once has played golf with the President at Camp David.
Another easy target was Ronnie Bender who was always in a bit of a need of a bath. He had the same dirt spot on his neck once for six straight years. Later we found out it was a birthmark. He was forever dickering with model cars. He always smelled like glue and didn’t know who the Beatles were. We had a freakin’ field day with him.
Ronnie was the class pet...we really were peeved at him for that. One time, Ronnie came to school with a new banana seat on his bicycle---being the craze at the time. Every kid had to have a banana seat & high handle bars on his bike--great for poppin’ wheelies. But when “dirt-neck” rode up and parked his bike with that new seat, we just had to do something about it. So Kevin whipped out his little antique pocketknife. (His Granddad bought it at an Apache Trading Post in Laredo, and had given it to Kevin on his 11th birthday. I didn’t have the heart to tell Kev that I saw a crate of the same knives at “Reinert’s Flea Market” in nearby Fisherton for a buck.)
Anyway, together we took turns slashing the seat, foam rubber flying all the place. Then we ran away laughing like hyenas on nitrous oxide, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the stern Mother Bertanus, arms folded, staring a hole right through us. I swear I could feel HEAT from her stare. Scared the poop outta me. I felt like I had caught a glimpse of the eyes of death. (Weeks later, we saw what looked like shoe imprints burnt into the blacktop exactly where she stood. We never told a soul...)
Later on, I also saw the look of death in my Dad’s eyes when he came to get me at school after Kevin & I were suspended for five days, and as partial punishment, we had to do Ron’s stupid paper route for two rotten weeks. When we came back to school, we still called Ronnie, “Grease Monkey,” “Dick Stick,” “Gordon,” “Gluie” and other names too numerous to remember. We continued to make fun of him because Kevin and I played the drums and were someday gonna be huge rockstars who would laugh at the world, while Ronnie just cared about his stupid models and was probably going to be a crossing guard or something.
Well, Ronnie now is a multi-multi-millionaire with his “GEARDADDIE” auto fix-it shops. This Midwest chain is a true American success story with 113 outlets in twelve states. The last time I saw Ron, he told me that he had just met and made friends with Ringo Starr at an auto parts seminar in Los Angeles. He said Ringo is a big car buff, and insisted that Ron look him up when he tours America next Summer. He promised him that he and his family would be guaranteed backstage passes and free front row seats. He also gave Ron his “Yellow Submarine” Gold record and a pair of platinum drumsticks that say “Ringo’s All Stars” on them.
There was Judith Taft who spoke so fast when she got excited, it sounded like some kind of Oriental language or something. She always had Band-Aids on both knees and the
dumbest glasses I’d ever seen. She wet herself frequently back in second grade, which I know isn’t funny...unless you’re a second grade boy, which I still might be...
Of course, I had no business laughing since I wet the bed until I was ten years old, give or take a few years. I couldn’t eat watermelon or drink Kool-Aid for five hours prior to bedtime. One time when I slept over at Don Mullins house, I woke up in the morning dripping wet after dreaming of peeing in a Sinclair gas station bathroom. I was so humiliated and embarrassed I ran home and never hung around with him ever again.
Judith was the type of classmate you spent eight years of grade school with and never got to know that well. But she sure was an easy target because she was goofy and different.
As we all know now, she is a world famous child psychiatrist practicing in New York City. She easily makes over a million a year, and was once interviewed on 60 Minutes after her book, “Teasing is Believing,” a self-help book about how children can cope with taunting classmates, topped the best seller list for two months. There’s even been talk of a “Made for TV Movie” starring the famous actress, Medina Cooper.
Christian Marks was a big dodo who thought 7 x 0 was 7, and could not tell you what 3 x 1 was...but he knew that 2 x 1 was 2---go figure. He wasn’t a retard, he was just a rather dim bulb. He thought Mick Jagger was a member of “Bob Dylan,” whatever that meant. He didn’t know who the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits was, and he always was the first kid down during the annual “All Souls Day Spelling Bee.” I remember in fifth grade he missed the word “snow” spelling it just S-N-O-. He also often spelled his own first name wrong on homework papers, if he did his homework, and he wrote so small you could hardly read it. He was constantly getting slapped by the nuns for this and other crimes, and one time he really got blasted when Sister Theodore found a sock in his desk.
One of our favorite names for Chris was LUMMOX. I didn’t know what a lummox was, I got it from my older brothers, but it fit him perfectly. We also called him MOOK. When his name was called in class, we would mutter-- “mook, mook” softly, but loud enough to be heard. The only things Lummox could do were catch a football, run like lightning, and block harder than a brick wall. All he knew and cared about was football.
One time he got yelled at by Father McInerney because he had his helmet and pads on in church. He was a big guy and lucky for us, a nice guy, because he could’ve snapped our spines in a New Lenox second, so I guess we took advantage of the fact that he didn’t have the slightest clue as to what was going on. More than one time, he wore a dickie on the outside of his shirt. At best, his future seemed “janitor bound.”
Last year, “The Ox” as he is now called, signed a five year contract with the Chicago Bears for 185 million dollars...
Jody Crenshaw was taller than any of us boys, and skinny as a skeleton. We used to call her “spider legs” or “Mommy long-legs” because they were so long and thin. She was the tallest and skinniest girl in the whole school. Her hair was so blond it was almost pure white. She wore braces with rubber bands all the way through eighth grade, and those blue horn-rimmed glasses didn’t help much either.
Through the years, besides the names I already mentioned, we also called her: “Mineral Mouth,” “Skeletana,” “Invisible Woman,” “Twiggy Junior,” “Miss Baggo-Bones” and “Phyliss.” We’d laugh and say that the only job she’d ever get as a grown-up would be as a light pole, or maybe a biology class skeleton.
I guess we were slightly wrong because she now is one of the most highly paid, sought after, famous, and beautiful super models in the world. She’s on magazine covers world-wide, she owns a company called “Boni-Blonde” that features an enormous line of successful products including: designer glasses, nylons, hair coloring kits, shampoo and make up. She also hosts an adult game show on cable, and just last year, she added the word “actress” to her resume when she starred in the summer blockbuster movie, Lethal Weapon Six.
I reminded Kevin just the other day about how funny it is the way things turned out. He shook his head and said, “It ain’t all that funny dude---guess who got the last laugh?” “Yea, I know,” I said, “there’s probably a lesson in there to learn, but we can’t waste much time sweating over it right now---ya dig, because we got twelve more stops to make before we can call it a day. We gotta step on it before the ship hits the land---or however that saying goes, because, you know as well as I do man, how pissed off those pea-brained store owners get when their JOLLY SHOPPER PENNY SAVERS ain’t there on time.”