My Dad and brothers loved to play golf, and one of our favorite places to play was Townhouse, a par 3 course in Cedar Rapids. It was lighted, and we often would play at night under the lights. Unfortunately, this little course is gone today, but it provided many wonderful and fun memories for me.
Another fun golfing destination for us was a course in Tipton, a small 9-hole course. What I remember most about this course was hole number 7, which was a par 4, and a dogleg to the right. Dad was a notorious slicer of the golf ball, which put him frequently in the path of immovable objects, and in this case a large shed or barn in front of the green from where his Spalding was resting. Upon arriving at his ball, he surveyed his surroundings, checking out the tall structure, and displaying a strange smile.
Undeterred, Dad announced his intentions to us that he planned on hitting up on the roof and have it roll down the other side of the structure unto the green. We all laughed at his intent and then watched in amazement as he pulled the shot off precisely as he said he would. To him, it was just like Babe Ruth “calling his shot.” Dad made sure we would never forget that moment for the rest of his life.
One time, in Elkader, I was getting ready to hit my drive on the first tee, and an old guy came running down the cart path toward me and told me to wait and not hit yet. I knew him, he was a local attorney, Al Earhardt. He was carrying a strange contraption, and I didn’t know what it was. He said he wanted to video my swing. I told him that it was ok. He got it all set up and told me he was ready. I took the swing, thinking more about the device and didn’t hit a particularly good shot. He thanked me and hurried excitedly back to the clubhouse. I never heard what he intended to do with that video.
Our high school golf season was in the spring. Before our season started, me and one of my teammates decided we were going to get a head start on playing. Our course in Elkader wasn’t open for play yet. We went to our school superintendent, who was also our golf coach and explained we wanted to travel to Cedar Rapids tomorrow and play golf instead of going to school. He said that would be ok. So the next day, Mark and I drove to Cedar Rapids and headed for Chapmans, which was the only course open for play. They were always the first course to open for the season. There was still some snow on the ground, but with the temperature tipping a balmy 50 degrees, it was perfect.
The next day, Mark and I went to the school office to explain our previous day absence and get a pass to get back into class. Mark lied and said he was sick and quickly received his required pass. I didn’t believe in lying, so I told the secretary the truth that I was playing golf. She refused to give me my pass, even after I explained that I had permission from her boss. The discussion went back and forth for a few minutes before she relented and gave me my pass. I learned that day, sometimes a lie is better than telling the truth.
When the high school season started, one of our first meets was a big tournament at North Fayette. In my foursome was a kid from North Fayette. I didn’t remember him, but he apparently remembered me. When we introduced ourselves, he told me his daddy was an attorney. I don’t know if he intended to intimidate me or what, but I took an instant dislike to him. I always got along great with the golfers from other schools, except this kid. He made no secret, he wanted to beat me, and he had no qualms on how we would try to.
I was up on him after a few holes, and after he missed a short putt, he started cussing and slammed his putter to the ground and broke it. His girlfriend, who was following our group in a golf car went to the clubhouse and brought him out another putter, which is of course illegal. The three of us playing with him didn’t say anything.
Later in the round, the lawyer’s son hit a shot in the tall grass. We all searched, trying to find his errant shot, but to no avail. I saw him reach into his golf bag, pull out a ball, put it in his pocket, and watched in amazement when the ball traveled down his pant’s leg and emerge by his shoe. “Found it,” he told us. He apparently had a hole in his pocket for such an occasion. He was a real treat. I shot a 35 on the back nine and got first place.
I got to play with him again for the conference tournament at the golf course in Luana. He was ready to try new tactics to beat me. He had a pocket full of coins that he would rattle every time I putted. He would stand in my line of vision every time I hit a shot. Not any of that worked, and I bested him pretty easy. It would be the last time I had to play with him. I’m sure today, he is either in prison or a great attorney. I shot 76 for the round and tied for first place with the number five golfer of MFL. We had a 3-hole playoff. I should have won easily, but I hit two in the water and lost in the playoff. It was my last high school tournament.
My friends and I liked to play cards for money. Our game of choice was Man or Mouse. It was not unusual for us to stay all night at one of our houses and gamble all night. We played for quarters, and at times the stakes could get quite high.
One evening, 2 of my friends, Audie and Ricky went to Freds Bar in St. Olaf. None of us were of legal age at the time, but Freds didn’t believe in IDing anyone. His philosophy was if you could see over the bar that was ok. St. Olaf was a small town with no law enforcement to speak of. After imbuing a few beers, we decided to head to Postville for a school dance. Postville was a big rivalry of ours, and we generally didn’t get along very well. I was wearing my heavily medaled red and white athletic jacket, which stood out amongst the black athletic jackets worn by the local Postville kids. Like a memorable scene from Animal House, it got eerily quiet. My friends and I retreated to a side booth where 3 girls were sitting, whom we didn’t know. Somehow it was decided, we were going to take them home from the dance. They were from Farmersburg. We drove them to their destination, and one of them took my jacket and ran into the house with it. For reasons unknown to me, I didn’t go after her to get my jacket back.
After a few days, word got back to me that the girl was wearing my letter jacket to her school, another rival of ours. I decided it was time to get my jacket back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember where exactly she lived. Anyway, I drove to Farmersburg and started knocking on doors in town and finally found out where she lived. She gave me back my jacket and reminded me that I promised to take her to homecoming, prom, all sorts of events, I didn’t remember any of that. A few months later I ran into her at the Rathskeller Lounge in Elkader. She was with some guy. She came up to me and whispered in my ear, “She wanted to run away with me.” I hightailed it out of there and started wondering, how do I get into these messes.
During our lunch hour at school, I liked to get involved in pick-up basketball games. One day, Danny, a new kid wanted to join in. We said ok. Danny was apparently confused and thought we were bowling. He was the bowling ball, and I was the pins. Twice he crashed into me and knocked me down. I didn’t want to get into trouble, but I wasn’t about to let him get his third strike against me. He came at me again, and this time I raised my elbow to his jaw. Danny spent the rest of the lunch hour picking up his teeth from the gym floor. He didn’t squeal on me, and I didn’t get into any trouble. Danny didn’t play with us again.
I got another job working at the grocery store. I really loved working there. I got to unload the trucks, stock the shelves, put the prices on the goods, and carry out the groceries to the cars. For all that, I was paid $1.34 per hour. When our produce manager retired, I got to perform that function too. One thing I didn’t enjoy was picking out the rotten potatoes from the 100-pound gunny sack bags in the summertime.
Steve, a classmate of mine worked there too. After graduation, he was going to school to be a Priest, which I thought was interesting, because Steve, drank, smoked, cussed, and had a serious girlfriend, not behavior I expected with that profession.
When I was a senior in high school, a couple of us decided to join the Jaycees, an organization for males 18 – 35 to perform service for the community. I joined because they told me I could play basketball for them which I did. They also put me in charge of the town’s annual Easter Egg Hunt. I also volunteered to dress up as a clown and travel to area towns and participate in parades. A lady I worked with at the grocery store made me a clown outfit to use. We had a skit where another clown would hit me with a whiffle ball bat knocking me out. 2 other clowns would bring out a stretcher and pick up the bat instead of me. The little kids always seemed to get a kick out of it.
We decided we wanted a memorable senior class trip. Our school had just completed construction of a new gymnasium. To christen it, we invited news celebrities from TV station KWWL in Waterloo to participate in a basketball game with our teachers. The gym was packed, and we raised enough money for our entire class to travel to St. Louis for 2 days. We would tour the Anheuser Busch factory, see the Clydesdale Horses, and go to Six Flags. Chartered buses were leaving on Friday night around 10:30. Most of my friends spent hours waiting at the Rathskeller Lounge getting inebriated. I was working at the grocery store till 9:00. My friend, Ricky needed to go home to get his clothes for the trip. Ricky lived about 10 miles out of town on a gravel road. Ricky was in no condition to drive, so I drove him in his car to his place to get his stuff. When his parents saw what condition he was in, they refused to let him leave to go on the trip. I had no way of getting back to town to make the trip. Finally, after a big fight with his parents, Ricky just got up, got in his car, and left with me to go on the trip.