NBHS 76: Friends Forever

nb76 et al

Some high school classes are lucky enough to have one committed classmate who values his NBHS friends enough to invest the time to keep them connected.  For NBHS ’76 that person is Dan Davis and his lovely wife, Anne. 

 

Last Saturday, Dan and Anne hosted approximately 25 folks with ties to NBHS at their home in Bay Village.   Saturday afternoon was spent enjoying snacks and chatting in their beautiful backyard.  Next the group carpooled downtown to Progressive Field to see the Indians lose possibly the ugliest baseball game ever:  four errors and nearly four hours long.  But, even the Indians’ poor performance couldn’t limit the enjoyment had by the NB group.

 

The evening ended with an amazing fireworks display at the stadium called “Rock n Blast” set to the backdrop of Rolling Stones music.  The only downside was hearing the lyrics to “Mother’s Little Helper” that reminded the group “what a drag it is getting old.”  Wasn’t it just yesterday that the Rolling Stones were talking about us when they sang “time is on my side?”

 

For all in attendance, the highlight of the weekend was seeing Kevin Sterling reunited with the group.  Unfortunately, Kevin had a tough health year.  Due to a cardiac infection, he had a stroke and he has spent most of the last year working very hard to be healthy enough to attend this year’s gathering with his classmates. So not only did Dan Davis’ positive energy keep old friends together, it gave Kevin a goal for his healing.   What a gift to see a year of prayers for Kevin and his wife, Nadine, answered! 

 

Dave Koppenhofer and his wife, Lisa, traveled the farthest to join the group as they drove from the Charlotte NC area.  The most popular attendee was their four year-old son, Houston, who was a real trooper at the Indians game and he was even able to stay awake throughout the fireworks display.

 

Sue Crouse served at the unofficial class historian and she brought picture albums complete with photos from elementary school, high school, past class reunions and even copies of the NBHS newspaper from 1975-76 era called “Tiger Paws.”   In the current movement towards anti-bullying cultures in our schools, it was shocking to see the cruelty in many of the articles printed in “Tiger Paws.”   One would have to wonder about the adult supervision that enabled that type of behavior.

 

Luckily, the high school bullying is now long gone, and the group was just happy to be together talking about kids, grandkids, jobs, retirement, vacations, and best of all, old childhood stories.  The most common start to any sentence was “Do you remember when?”  And the end to almost every sentence was shared laughter. 

 

 

 

As the weekend wrapped up with a Sunday brunch overlooking Lake Erie, our host Dan Davis summed it up best by saying, “It is extra special spending time with childhood friends.  Even if we haven’t been together in several years, it is easy because we know each other’s history:  parents, siblings, and even the same stories.  It is like we have never been apart.”

As the brunch concluded, we drove away with shouts of “See you next year” resonating in our ears and a smile on our faces, knowing that we’re lucky to still have such great NB friends and leaders like Dan and Anne Davis to keep us connected.

 

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Free At Last

little julie

Recently, a long lost memory came back to me when I watched a five-year old girl learning to ride her bike in my neighborhood.  Her dad ran alongside as she began to pedal her brand new pink bicycle complete with pink streamers flowing from each bike handle.  As she began to gain momentum, dad was jogging alongside trying to protect her from a potential fall.  When I looked beneath her pink bike helmet into her eyes, it was there that I glimpsed that long-forgotten feeling of brand-new independence that comes with the ability to ride a bike.

 

I learned to ride a bike on North Third Street in North Baltimore.  Once I mastered that bike, I had the freedom to travel the length of an entire block.  Better yet, I had faster access to all of the neighborhood kids.  I lived right across from the Paul family:  Becky, Connie, Tom, Linda, and Kenny.   Down the street, there was Danny and Mary Stimmell.  Sometimes, Laura Smith and Lynn Cameron and their siblings visited grandparents on our block so that added even more fun.   And on my little red bike,  fun was always close at hand.

By the time we moved to the corner of Broadway and Beecher Street in first grade, I was an accomplished bike rider allowed to even ride around the corner as opposed to just up and down the block on Third Street.   Bikes were critically important to many of our activities on Beecher Street.  Always, our freedom was linked to our bikes.  First, we were able to visit one another’s houses on our bikes.  Soon, we were going to the library or the IGA.  As time passed, we were able to ride to Powell School, to the Little League field, and eventually all the way across town. 

Besides transportation, our bikes provided other entertainment.  As example, a bike, a deck of playing cards and a clothespin created the best neighborhood noisemakers.   Sometimes we used the garden hose to wash our bikes.  Usually, this activity ended with more wet kids than clean bikes.  And when all else failed, we would try bike stunts like riding with no hands or standing on the seats.  This occasionally ended in bike accidents that caused bumps, bruises, and probably a few stitches.

When my neighbor, Ron Bean, started a paper route and purchased an olive green Schwinn Collegiate bike with his earnings, I was jealous of his new ride.  Eventually, I was able to buy the girls’ model of the same bike in bright blue.  This was the era when we finally achieved our highest level of bike freedom:  the privilege of riding our bikes to the Wixom Quarry.  Armed with a beach towel around our necks and a dollar in our pockets, we pedaled two miles for a day of fun and sun with our friends.   I cannot remember feeling more free than on those bike rides to the Quarry. 

My final memory of complete freedom provided by our bikes was pedaling the five miles to Stuckey’s near I-75 at the Van Buren exit.  Zipping along Angling Road seemed like the ultimate adventure.  Once we got to Stuckey’s, we loved looking at the display full of gag gifts: a fake ice cube with a fly in it, whoopee cushions, and chewing gum that turned teeth black. 

 

Sadly, this is my final memory of liberty on our bikes.  I suspect it was then that we began to dream of new adventures that could only be obtained with a driver’s license and a car. 

 

NBHS Alumni Banquet Speech

When I graduated from North Baltimore High School, I might have been voted the least likely to stand here and sing the praises of our alma mater before you tonight… because I was pretty sure that other kids in other places were getting a better education.

When I went to visit my cousins in Findlay during my junior high years, it seemed like they had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t:

  • They could choose from several foreign languages and we had Spanish (and for those of you who were in high school in the late 1970s, you can attest that barely qualified as a Spanish class.)
  • My cousins even had accelerated classes and kids in Findlay were graduating with knowledge of topics such as calculus that we never even knew about at North Baltimore High School.
  • That was also an era when Findlay High School had some great sports teams too.  I always thought it would be fun to cheer for teams that were so competitive.
  • And then to top it off , Findlay had cable television and pizza, and to me North Baltimore just didn’t seem to measure up.

I also went to church with kids from Elmwood and Van Buren and they were always bragging about their new school buildings while we were in an old outdated building.

So as a student at North Baltimore High School, I always suspected there was something bigger and better out there and when I graduated, I went out to find it as fast I could.  I hurried down to the Ohio State University and quickly became immersed in the excitement of the Buckeyes and the accounting education I was receiving there.  Before I knew it, I graduated from college…. and three days later, I started work at a large accounting firm.  Life happened fast…. like it always does….and eventually, my husband Byron and I settled in Findlay and raised three children.

During this period, I did spend a lot of time in North Baltimore visiting my folks and Byron’s family and going to church at St. Luke’s , but I really didn’t think much about my North Baltimore High School education until my kids started taking college visits.  And oh did we take college visits!  I would guess that between three kids, we conservatively visited 50 schools throughout the country.  All three of our kids were drawn to colleges focused on the liberal arts, which is the notion that an undergraduate education is the time to explore new things so students are exposed to a wide range of academic subjects, including sciences and the humanities.

On these visits, college admissions counselor after admissions counselor, from schools all across the country, boasted about why our kids should attend this specific college.  Regardless of the college, this is the sales pitch:

  • FIRST….This is the time of your child’s life when he can try new things.  An artist can play a new sport.  A science student can learn a new language.  A musician can write for the school newspaper.   This is a safe environment to take risks and often, a student will learn that he loves something that he never tried before. 
  • SECOND… There are adults here that will care deeply about your child.  Before he graduates, your child will eat dinner at the home of a professor.  The university president will know your child on a first name basis.  Your child will graduate from college with a cadre of adults who are willing to serve as his references and will remain his friends or mentors for life.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? 

After I heard variations of this same speech a few dozen times, I began to realize that quite possibly I had undervalued my North Baltimore High School education.  Here I was, sitting on the campus of a fancy college helping my kids try to find the very thing that Byron and I had at North Baltimore High School and we hadn’t even realized how important it was.

In hindsight, I now understand that North Baltimore High School provided us so many risk-free opportunities to find the things that we loved.  When I was in high school, I was on two sports teams for sports I had never even played before:  volleyball and golf.  Byron got to sing in the choir and participate in class plays and he never had a voice lesson.  I was in the marching band and barely ever practiced my saxophone at home.  I wrote articles for the school newspaper. 

NOW…..Think about all of the opportunities you had at North Baltimore High School, chances to be a team captain or a class officer or be a cheerleader or march in the band.  I would contend that those opportunities made you who you are today!

This is very different than the experiences our kids had at a bigger high school.  Our son wanted to play hockey when he was 3 because his sister was a figure skater and he was stuck spending hours at the ice rink.  We signed him up for skating lessons and he was on a travel hockey team by the time he was four and hockey was his sport.  The end.  Boom.  There was no way he could have decided to jump onto a basketball team or a baseball team in high school since he hadn’t practiced that sport since a very young age.

Here’s another example.  If you watch the TV show, Glee, you see how competitive show choirs can be.  At our kids’ elementary school, students were getting cut from the fifth grade show choir because they hadn’t taken dance AND singing lessons yet.  Kids, at a very young age, are locked into one or two activities at a big high school.  Maybe that’s why there is so much need for them to attend a liberal arts college where they can finally explore….for the first time…. at age 18.

In hindsight, I think even more important than the opportunities to lead, follow, and participate that we had at North Baltimore High School are the caring adults that were always there for us.   In larger school districts, there are very few teachers that a student has for more than one year so there really isn’t time to build long-lasting, trusting relationships.  At North Baltimore, we often had the same teachers year after year and I believe that was a great gift.

For those of you who weren’t in high school during the 1970s, bear with me because I’m sharing my memories from that era, but I guarantee that each of you can substitute similar names and similar memories from your time in North Baltimore Schools.

Close your eyes and think about a school staff member that believed in you during your time in school.  I bet there are almost too many to remember. 

For me, I remember Mrs. Mong in first grade and the excitement of actually being able to first read a Dick and Jane book under her tutelage.  In second grade, I had Mrs. Bockbrader, who was a jolly soul.  It was almost like having Santa Claus for a teacher.  She smiled and laughed the whole year.

My favorite elementary teacher was Emma Apple in fourth grade.  She made us believe we could do anything.   I was in her class two months after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  She put a paper moon near the ceiling and a path leading to the moon that was measured in pages read.  I never thought reading was more exciting than when I was trying to race to the moon.  She also let me serve as a safety patrol-girl which seemed like the biggest responsibility ever.  I was so proud to put on that reflective vest and even more proud that she believed in me.

Soon, we were in junior high and that brought us into Jim Dennis’ English class.  Much of my work today is focused on writing so barely a day passes when I can’t hear his voice in my head repeating a grammatical rule.  I hated that class when I was in it, but I’m sure happy now that he laid that important grammar groundwork for me. 

Does anyone remember how he would calmly walk to the door when we heard someone get a “whack” in the hallway?  Without interrupting the lesson, he would say the student’s name who had received the whack and the teacher who had delivered it.  He was wise enough to know that we would never refocus on sentence structure until those questions were answered.

Speaking of whacks, junior high was the time when Melody (Blake) Drewes and I learned that when Don Lang said, “The next person who says ANYTHING is going down to the office to get a whack,” he REALLY meant it.  The next thing we knew, we were both were sitting in the principal’s office worried, not about the upcoming whack, but if our moms would find out.  Stella and Nancy, that’s tonight’s surprise for the two of you.

I had Don Lang as a social studies teacher during a presidential election year and remember how exciting he made the most lopsided presidential election ever seem.  I still carry that passion for a good presidential election cycle thanks to Don.

Once we entered high school, there were so many teachers and coaches who were consistently positive role models in our lives.  Obviously, my list is in no way complete, but I wanted to share some thank you’s to some of those solid folks who were there for me:

  • Gwen Mauk was my basketball coach for four years and gym teacher for 6 years.  I’m not going to lie, I’m still scared of some of the 8th grade girls who could throw that dodgeball at incredible speeds when a bunch of us scrawny 7th grade girls shared a gym period with them.  When I see those ladies at Krogers, I slink down another aisle for fear of a rocket dodgeball.  But seriously, Gwen was a teacher who I always knew had my back.
  • Fran Weith.  Show of hands.  How many of you are Fran’s Facebook friend?  If not, why aren’t you?  She’s still encouraging us and supporting our endeavors.  How cool is that?  Also, Fran taught me how to write my first term paper.
  • Tom Gohlke taught us about literature and made us read tough, complicated books that we thought were old and boring.  Little did we realize he was teaching us how to analyze and synthesize information.
  • Dick Schemmer taught us about biology.  Oh, in case anyone is still wondering, I know who let the fruit flies out ….
  • Beryl Heminger taught us about bookkeeping which inspired me to major in accounting.
  • Carol Reed made math the funniest subject ever.  How is that even possible?
  • And then there was Vern Bame.  What didn’t we learn from Vern?  I actually remember a lot of driving lessons  from Vern.  They were usually in the genre of “when it’s a tossup between a car and a semi truck, the law of physics will be on the side of the truck so you better look twice before you pull out.”  We learned about Ohio State sports, past and present.  Who knew there was so much to know about Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek and Hopalong Cassady?  Mostly, we learned about the trajectory of softballs in flight.  Yet somehow, in between all of that, he managed to teach us about physics and chemistry in a very down-to-earth way.

It’s impossible to thank every teacher individually, but I hope you know that each of you made a big difference in our lives.  You were those trusting caring adults that each kid needs to succeed.  Thank you to each and every one of you.  How about a round of applause for all of the teachers here tonight??

Growing up in North Baltimore blessed us with another important gift that I initially overlooked.  In my current role at a community foundation, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to invest in programs that build strong youth. Research shows that there are 40 developmental assets that contribute to the healthy development of youth into strong adults.  OK, Don’t panic, I’m not going to read all 40!  There are two developmental assets that we were rich in during our childhood in North Baltimore even if we didn’t appreciate it at the time.  I know they helped us become who we are today.

The FIRST external developmental asset is “other non-parental adults model positive behavior and encourage children to do well.”  I just mentioned the teachers who supported us, but there were other school staff members who always encouraged us too.  I still remember Bob Mong, the bus driver, saying each day when I got off the bus in fifth grade, “Make sure you learn something new today.”  There were also school secretaries who were so kind to us.  The best thing about going to the dentist was the chance to chat with Cay (Smith) Andrews in the school office when we signed out.  I also remember the smiling faces of the lunch ladies even as we were openly complaining about the food they were serving that day.

We were surrounded by positive adults throughout the town as well.  Whether it was the ladies at the library, Sunday School teachers, old guys at the golf course, Dr. Roberts, the ladies at Weith’s, Bill McMahan at the Food Center, Gene Swartz at the SOHIO station, they knew our names and took the time to see how we were doing and encouraged us to succeed. 

 NOW….Think about those people that were part of your life and were always cheering for your successes.  Heck, think about those people that are still encouraging us.  Bonnie Knaggs was my softball coach one summer about 43 years ago and a year ago she gave me the opportunity to write articles for the North Baltimore News.  As another example, Clair Blackall taught my husband, Byron, calculus over Christmas break in college.  That’s the kind of commitment and lifelong support that North Baltimore provides that you don’t find elsewhere. 

The SECOND external asset is “neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young peoples’ behaviors.”  OK, who in this room can’t remember doing something bad in North Baltimore High School and your parents knowing about it when you walked in the front door?  Seriously?  I don’t know how they communicated but it seemed like it was faster than the internet.  I remember one day when I took my lunch money and ate at the B and N……  OK, I ate at the B and N almost every day…. but this particular day I got busted.  That evening, when Dad came home from work, he said, “Did you really eat a Hostess yellow cupcake and a can of Mountain Dew for lunch?”  Seriously guys, how did they find this stuff out?

So, this is just another example of something that seemed annoying about growing up in North Baltimore, but really was a blessing in disguise and helped us turn into better adults.    

There’s something special about every small town.  That character is why people love their towns.  It’s why they live there.  It is the heart and soul of a community.  It might have taken me 53 years to figure it out, but I know now, what makes North Baltimore so unique.  It really just comes down to people who support each other ….day in and day out. 

For a long time, I suspected the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.  I know now that I grew up in the greenest pasture and I am thankful for that gift.  I’m proud of my personal evolution from least likely to most likely to speak at a North Baltimore High School Alumni Banquet.

 

Now it’s our job to pass that gift on to future generations, to celebrate what makes North Baltimore so unique, to be the heart and soul of this community.  If you live here, continue to do what I suspect you do every day:  support and encourage local kids and take a minute to thank those folks who encouraged you when you were a child here. 

 If you don’t live in North Baltimore, take a little North Baltimore spirit and share it on your world.

Finally, stay connected with your childhood friends.  I know….it’s complicated.  Our lives are busy and people have scattered….. but thanks to social media and Google, there are ample opportunities to find and connect with them.  They are your first ….best friends.  Find them.  Share your old memories. Together, we represent the heart and soul of North Baltimore.  Let’s keep it strong for generations to come.

 

 

 

 

Best Weekend Ever

Rhonda, Kathy, Laurie, and Anne.  NB 78

Rhonda, Kathy, Laurie, and Anne. NB 78

Still tired from last weekend’s festivities, I decided to quickly share my perspective on the weekend that included the NBHS Alumni Banquet on Friday and the NBHS class of 1978 35th class reunion.

Special thanks to Don and Tami Thomas, Sue and Jeff Miklovic, and Jill Guy for the hours of work that go into planning the Alumni Banquet.  Thanks to your labor of love, many of us had a chance to reconnect with old friends.  What a wonderful gift! 

Giving the alumni banquet speech was a great honor.  As I reflect on it, the most enjoyable part was listening to the cheers from the St. Luke’s Lutheran crowd every time I mentioned my childhood church.  I never thought I’d hear, “Rock on St. Luke’s!” at an alumni banquet.  It was a great pleasure to see some of the St. Luke’s faithful at the banquet highlighted by Lois Vanaman (’37) and June Blake.

I had a wonderful time after the banquet chatting with long lost friends at the Legion.  My favorite part was the liars’ table where four fishermen gathered:  Dave Stephens, Dave Casey, Byron Brown and Roger Cowan swapped fish stories all night.  Thanks to the advent of iPhones, many of the fishing tales were actually supported by photographic evidence.  I don’t think you could find four guys who love to fish more than that quartet.

On Saturday night, I quickly learned that Mike and Rhonda (Reynolds) Nye are the best host and hostess in town.  They were kind enough to open their home for our reunion.  They both have an easy, relaxed entertaining style that makes everyone feel included.  I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality.

More thanks to my monthly dinner buddies (Kathy Vermilya Cramer, Melody Blake Drewes, Sue Gerdeman Brim, Rhonda Reynolds Nye, and Laurie Brumbaugh Poland) who turned into a class reunion planning machine.  We were all reluctant in the beginning, and started late, but once we committed to it, there was no stopping us.  Mission accomplished, ladies!

Thanks also to our husbands:  Gary Cramer, Mark Drewes, Jerry Brim, Mike Nye, Jon Poland and Byron Brown who probably learned long ago that when we girls undertake a project, it is going to mean a lot of physical labor for them.  The guys were gracious enough to set up the tent, table and chairs on Thursday and clean up again on Sunday afternoon.  Thanks guys.  We love you.

We also learned that getting Julie Stephens Cowan to return to a reunion from Montana ensures the success of the event.   We were pretty proud that some of the big kids:  Sue Crouse (’76), Nancy Swartz (’76), Ginger Reichenbach Povenmire (’77), and Julie Waaland Holbein (’77) crashed our class reunion to chat with Julie Stephens Cowan.  Only the coolest reunions get crashed by the older kids!

We were also blessed to have another classmate, Anne Steiff Whiteman, travel a long distance from Texas to join us at the reunion.  Anne never missed a day of school so it’s no surprise that she never misses a class reunion.

One of my hypotheses was proven at the class reunion.  I have a theory that all of us who grew up in North Baltimore have an unhealthy fascination with fire.  I wonder if it was caused by exposure to those big tank farm fires in the 1960s.  Regardless of the cause, my theory was once again affirmed as the most fun activity of the class reunion was lighting Chinese lanterns on a windy night.  Luckily, this has been a wet summer so there was no collateral damage to local fields.

Unfortunately, my husband Byron had a very early flight on Sunday morning, so we had to head home early from the class reunion on Saturday night.  I was extremely happy to hear that our most committed classmates were still celebrating as we passed North Baltimore on the way to Detroit airport the next morning though.  All of those years of training has obviously paid off.

I guarantee that last weekend was the most action-packed weekend that I ever experienced in North Baltimore:  from the reunion preparation to the Alumni Banquet to the downtown SummerFest to the class reunion to the reunion clean-up, it was a long weekend.  Thanks to everyone who worked to plan the activities and to all of those who made time to join us.  It was perfect seeing so many familiar faces.  The weekend was the consummate celebration of everything that makes North Baltimore so special.  

Now I’m going to take a nap to recuperate.

 

 

Marching Band Camp

Band Camp

As the back to school season approaches, my memories return to the summertime activities of the NBHS marching band in the middle 1970s.

 

At the end of each school year, the NBHS marching band spent a day at Cedar Point.  Wearing our summer uniforms consisting of black shorts, white shirt, orange vest, and a string bow tie, we marched around the park in the morning and were able to spend the rest of the day on the rides with our friends.  This was definitely the highlight of the marching band calendar!

 

Once school ended, the interest in marching band lagged a bit as the marching band participated in a couple parades in not-so-exotic locations such as Fostoria, Ada, and Holgate.  Band members were also supposed to attend one optional evening band practice per week in June and July.  Attendance was spotty at best because summer was full of vacations, part-time jobs, and mostly fictional excuses for absences.

 

As summer wound down, it was time for band camp: a weeklong practice of music and marching to prepare for the fall football games.  I can clearly remember 1974, my first NBHS band camp.  We spent most of the day at Powell School, eight steps to every five yards.  We practiced the music indoors in the small gymnasium.  We also spent a lot of time learning to march on the Powell School playground.   During a gap between football practices, we transitioned to the football field and marched there.  The changeover to the football field was my favorite part because as an eighth grader, I was able to ride in the cars of high school band members who could drive.    Apparently liability wasn’t an issue in 1974.

 

Band camp was always packed with drama.  There was angst surrounding the selection of squad leaders, the person in charge of a group of three other band members on the field.  Also, band camps happen during notoriously hot weather so there was concern about becoming overheated, sun burnt, or dehydrated.  Then there was the worry about being prepared to march at the first football game.

 

Luckily, the band camp drama was trumped by the amount of enjoyment we were having spending a week together.   The best thing about marching band was the multi-age component.  As an eighth grader marching in the NBHS band, we were exposed to students from grades 9 –12.  Marching band has a way of breaking up cliques; rather than clumping with our age peers, we were spending most of our time with the other members of our band squad.  Band camp was a time for new friends and new experiences.

 

In hindsight, it really didn’t matter how the 1974 NBHS marching band performed on the field.   Memories of the music we played or the routines we performed are long gone, but we still remember how much fun we had at band camp, on the band buses, marching at Cedar Point, and the friends we made in band.  For me, some of my closest adult friends were my band friends first.   #Priceless