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Forgotten Friends or "memories can be painful"

Submitted by Albin Johnson - June 19, 2006

My memories start in 1936 and end with my "dottys" in 2006. I have a 1936 1st and 2nd grade school photo on which I had circled my 2 best friends, Bud Hoyt and Austin Lindley. By 1937 super smart Austin had skipped a grade plus lived in the country and Bud had moved to Toluca so I set about meeting new classmates. Apparently Bud and I had, if you can imagine it, made a promise to be each other's "best man" at our weddings. We moved on with our early lives and saw each other on occasion. He was there for my wedding in 1951 but I was not able to be at his. We still exchange cards at Xmas but I know little about his past and current life. It never occurred to me that I could call or visit him in Lombard. Sadness? Yes! But I move back to my grade school years. During the 40's they built the high line electric towers and several new faces entered my life. I met Shirley Black who was a petite sweet girl who lived a couple of doors from the Catholic School. Their family moved on and I then met a coy Scandinavian Blonde named Dorothy Koski. Unfortunately I accidentally spilled ink on her and messed up that friendship. Others who I remember were the Vietinghoffs, (sp) Bill Kuhne, Don Goodwin Smith Judy, Gordon Duncan and an unnamed friend who once showed me a white Ku Klux Klan sheet and hood hidden in their closet.

All my cousins were much older except for Suzanne Hill who lived in a nice neighborhood in Evanston, IL. She loved to come and stay with us because we had so many young neighbor kids to play with. The Dishinger and Toler families were especially coveted. The Tolers, because their barn held a wealth of old clothing we could all dress up and "play act". Conversely I enjoyed going to Suzie's as her next-door neighbor named Billy Black (no relation to Shirley) had a large gauge electric train in their basement complete with buildings and landscaping. Billy's sister also had a huge playhouse in their back yard complete with all the sized down furnishings.

Ever so often some little event or name comes up and stirs my memory until I can place the event. Just thinking about Lake City, MN starts a series of thoughts that bring back a host of names and events from the several summers I spent there. I recently watched a documentary about the early days of Hitler's Germany. A spark!! A connection!! Some memories. My mind went bananas! With a touch of help from my computer asking for info about books describing life in Germany during that early Hitler domination. I remembered a connection to some of the kids I knew in Lake City. I tried to remember names, but only came up with the time that one of the girls invited "our gang" to go visit her parents house, a new lake side home with a great view. We were told her father was gone but he had a great library as he was a writer. She spoke proudly of the book he had compiled from the daily diary she kept for over 6 years living under Hitler's rule. I only knew her as Patsy and had forgotten her last name. I checked the Internet thoroughly for authors, no luck. So I sent an e-mail to the librarian in Lake city, no answer, but then I called and gave the aide info of what I remembered. 15 minutes later an e-mail came with the author, title, and a brief bio. She was Patricia Ziemer and her dad was Gregor Ziemer who had compiled her diary into the book "Two Thousand and Ten Days of Hitler". Soon with a little more thought and old photos, I came up with the names of "our gang". For 2 summers running we met most every day or night at the lakeside park or the swimming beach. This discovery was heaven reincarnated with warm happy thoughts. I found a snap shot of the girls, Betty Reding, Phyllis Kenitz, Pat Wise and Sherrie Ludwitski who I had a crush on. The guys were twins Jim and John Law, Don Olson, and Richard Wiebusch. Eureka! This was tantamount to finding gold because I had forgotten all except Sherrie! I should have kept in touch because I didn't return until many years later. There was one memorable evening that I recall that somewhat says it all when revisiting "project recall" Lake City. One evening the girls asked me to drive them to the cemetery to see the gravesite of some prominent man. It was reported to be "awash" with beautiful flowers. Four of them piled into my car and we found the site, but it was pretty dark to see all the colors so I turned toward a slight downhill grade so the car lights would highlight the grave. Several minutes later, I couldn't start the car? BATTERY DEAD! I spent the next hour walking the girls home and apologizing when needed. My Uncle came to my rescue and we returned to get a jump-start. I asked him not to tell my folks. Remembering my Uncle always bring many fond situations. I had met a lot of kids vacationing at the Tourist Park including a couple of other girls. Marilyn Mckinsey, an au pair working for a doctor's kids and Marilyn Shad, an "older woman" who was 20 and told me about French kissing. I imagine kids today heard about kissing a lot earlier.

Back in Minonk, my yellow and blue Ford coupe provided lots of trips and chance meetings of new friends, especially girls. Gen Boland from Toluca was a petite beauty. Gert Merrick from Bloomington was older and I told her I was her age. That came back to bite me a couple of times. After a church camp, I was so smitten that I drove to Iowa City to see a great girl named Charlene Blake that I had met earlier. Amazing how the names and memories grow nostalgic with time. Next, High School graduation and enrolling at Colorado A & M. Don Uphoff and I lived in a boarding house along with several Colorado boys. There was Bob Armstrong, Ed Engler, and Ron Jerman whom I remember. I also remember a beautiful girl named Micheline Starr a French student who was living in Bloomington. I decided our "house" needed a "pinup girl" and so wrote and received a picture and graceful reply.

A year later, 1949 I returned to Illinois State Normal University and shared living conditions with a whole host of mostly athletes in the old ISNU barracks compound. The fellow students that I remember most were: Don Richards, Jack Gallagher, Al Austin, Jack Hardesty, Milt Kadlec, John Statts and of course Uppy, and Merle McKeon. I didn't date much as I had a steady girl friend in Minonk, but I do remember a beautiful redhead majoring in Art, Donna Morrison. BUT, things changed when that "real" love of my life, Marilyn Bloomingdale, and started serious dating. All my other female friends were filed away in what became distant memories in my mind. This Marilyn was TRUE love!!

In February 1951 I quit school and enlisted in the Navy. Boot camp at Great Lakes. I ran into 2 old friends from Lake City, Olson and Wiebusch, a nice reunion. A high school classmate of Marilyn saw her picture above my bunk and asked "who" I was. I told him and much later I found out he had developed a virus and was put back until he was cured. We have become friends again by my attending Monticello's Class of 49 reunions. I met many friends during the next 4 years. First names were usually dropped and I became Johnson and the few I remember were Ashenbach, Brenner, Krug, we played basketball. Softball had Moon and Hudak. Other friends were Caylor, Elden Krug, Granby, Baxter, Rutland, Huffmeier, Brock, Kopez and Callaby who I discovered much later was at ISNU the same time I was there.

Jumping to 1955, a discharge and acceptance at Colorado State College of Education at Greeley. Now upper division classes, 2 children, a full time job as night janitor at Greeley High School left little time for new friends. Fate and poor GRE scores found 3 ex GI's and myself in a remedial English class requisite for learning how to compose and write! There was Dwight "Beef" Eddelman - Army, Bill Holmes - Marines, but the WAC dropped out. I did keep in contact with Bill until his death several years ago. I did graduate with my MA and then, "California here I come". And yes, so did my family.

After a year of teaching and new circumstances, A summer in Minonk and then I started a new job in Aerospace as a Technical Illustrator. I worked for 3 large firms during the next 6 years. New friends such as Les and Dorothy Craig and Steve Linthicum come to mind. Steve, a great, guy who had a boat, flew, and enjoyed sports car racing. There was Charles Denova, close friend, Art Thissel, who died! Bob Kachler artist, who got me interested in trying to sell a Drag Racing TV production. and George Morrissey writer of Management Training books who mentioned my name in one of his books for helping him develop training aids. A proud moment!

So now after 20 years of teaching and trying to remember an estimated 75 faculty and over 2000 student's names and 10 years of retirement, I started "moving on" and lost track of anything from my past. Retirement is a new life, you know! Viola! I then suddenly woke up the other night and wondered about some one I had met briefly about 60 years ago. From that search I managed to come up with all the afore mentioned names. Of all these re-remembered people, I find I still send cards and occasionally see only about a dozen. Oh yes, I still maintain contact with most of my High School classmates. I could give excuses for the omission of all the rest, but somehow my apologies ring hollow. Maybe this could be a valuable lesson to others. Try to stay in touch with old friends, it only costs 39 cents!