IN 1972, 50 years ago, I was a boy growing up in Canton, Ohio. I still have, somewhere, a picture of Mrs. Matthews who was my second grade teacher. She was the one that convinced that I was smart and had a big future ahead. Life was simple then. I road my bike up and down Monica Ave, often to Gary’s house after school. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we watched Ultra Man as he saved the world those days. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we watched as Giant Robot and the forces of Unicorn fought against the Gargoyle Gang and the Emperor Guillotine in the same time slot with similar results.
(As an aside, some 50 years later, I am pleased to say that I own all the episodes of both shows, either on DVD or digitally.)
School was fun and came easily. Prairie College Elementary still existed in those days, and we often had arguments in class, and at recess, and at lunch, over who ruled the playground, the boys or the girls. I still remember one day working out a compromise with Lynda Steckman, who represented the girls, after a week of discussion and multiple notes in class, that would allow us to take turns ruling. Everyone agreed it was a great plan.
(Another aside, Congress today could learn a lot from us about how to negotiate things to everyone’s benefit.)
Of course, I also found out in 1972 that I was incredibly stubborn and determined. One day at lunch they served us tomato wedges. I had never eaten tomato wedges, and they did not appeal to me at all, so I decided I would not eat it. Mrs Matthews insisted that I would. I insisted I wouldn’t. We had a standoff. She then told me if I didn’t take at least a bite I would not be allowed to return to class. Talk about motivation to not eat a bite. They left me in the cafeteria. She came back and I was still sitting there. She took the fork, sliced of a piece put it on the fork. I covered it with my napkin. I never went back to class that day. I still have never eaten a bite of a tomato wedge.
The summer of 72 I was going to play baseball on our little league team based out of the school. The start of a Hall of Fame baseball career was in the making. I can still remember how excited I was that I was going to play second base. I wasn’t the most athletic guy in the world then, and I knew it, but somehow, I had made a team and had a place and it was the beginning of something great. That dream fell apart when someone (an adult) forgot to turn in our team roster, and we were not admitted to the league. I think my major league career was totally derailed in that time.
The fall of that year I started third grade. Mrs. Phillips was the teacher. On our street some important things were happening. We had always ridden old bus number 18 to school, but that bus was being phased out and new bus number 28 was brought in. I remember the first day on that busy and how new and modern it was, and how thick the seats were compared to the old one. I shared the bus stop with the three girls from next door and the two from across the street. For a couple weeks we had serious discussions about who was in charge at the bus stop each morning, and we finally agreed it should be in age order. I was fourth on the list, so I was prepared to bide my time to be in control, not even aware that a year later we would be moving away.
My parents had multitudes of friends it seemed, and on Fridays and Saturdays would take us in the car and we’d go to one of their friends’ houses, have supper, hang out with their kids, and then they’d put all us kids to bed around 8 pm. They would warn us not to get out of bed and to go sleep, and they would always separate us into different rooms.
Then they would go to the other room, or downstairs, depending on the house, get out the card table and play cards for hours, making so much noise we could never sleep. They’d check on us every now and then to make sure we were where they put us. Often, we were at the house of mom’s lifetime school friend Deloris. They had grown up together and gotten into trouble together for years. She and her husband Jim were great friends with mom and dad, and their kids were fun to hang out with.
(Aside number three, Mom and Deloris both passed away a little over a year ago just a few months apart, friends for almost 70 years)
So in 1972, 50 years ago, I learned things about heroes saving us from monsters and heroes, and about teachers who had lifetime impact. In that year I learned about compromise and working together. I see now that I learned that being a guy meant I had to respect girls. I learned that some friends last a lifetime, like mom and Deloris.
One other thing happened in 1972 that changed my life. Dick Carpenter was Minister of North Industry Christian Church. As he was speaking one day, the truth of Jesus hit my young heart. On May 7 of that year I was baptized as a believer. Over the years I’ve failed to live up to the faith confession more times than just about anyone I know. I’ve often struggled with doubts, even in years in ministry. Yet, here I am 50 years later, and I am even more sure than I was that day in 1972. Thing is, God has never faltered in that time.
Fifty years later, I am beyond grateful for 1972.