My Religion Is a Lot Like the Game of Baseball

Chapters Chapter 1 Early Years Chapter 2 Patty Chapter 3 1-room School
Chapter 4 Friends Chapter 5 High School Chapter 6 Grandpa
Chapter 7 Marianne Chapter 8 Rookie Chapter 9 At the Plate

Chapter 5 - High School

Our last year at Mound school, there were six of us in the eighth gradeJoann and I, Lois, Lloyd, Claudie and Kenneth.  Kenneth had a sister in fourth grade and a brother, Keith, in fifth with Junior Brewer.  Wanda and Nelson were in seventh.  Without Dean as our leader, our enthusiasm for baseball faded.  With so few players, we played “move-up baseball.”  That is when there is only one team and each plays a position until the batter gets a hit.  Then everyone moves up one position to create another batter.

When it was cold outside the game we played in the school basement was a circle game with one person chosen as the witch.  Together we would chant:

I’m going to town to smoke my pipe
and won’t be back
til broad daylight.
And don’t let that old witch take any of my children.

As soon as the song ended, two people would run through the circle to change places and the witch would try to take one of the places.  If the witch succeeded, the “stolen child” was outside the circle.  When there were only five left inside the circle, the game was over.  There were barely enough of us to play the “Witch Game.”

A new music teacher came once a week.  She didn’t bring games or talk about classical music, but she brightened our time together with her laughter and lively piano playing.  With Dean having moved on to high school, we had no music except the few hours she spent with us.

The gravel road running north and south in front of Mound School was the dividing line between two high school districts.  When we completed eighth grade, students living west of the road went to Fairview and those on the east side went to Canton High School.  Lois, Kenneth and Lloyd went to Fairview High School and Joann, Claudie and I went to Canton.

At Canton High we were in the biggest freshman class ever enrolled to that date.  Those of us from Mound School went from an eighth-grade student body of 6 to a class of just under 300 students.  Physical Education was probably our most difficult adjustment.  The kids who had gone to grade schools in town were used to group games and contact sports.  Joann and I were not in any classes together, including gym class.  I am not sure she dreaded gym, especially basketball, as much as I did.  Joann and I continued to sit together on the bus through the first semester of high school.  We each developed new friendships and spent less time together.

When Joann and I were together everything was funny.  We laughed as we waited at the corner for the school bus.  We both wore camel coats, saddle shoes and bobby socks.  Under her coat, Joann wore coordinated skirts and sweaters.  Anything could be under my coat.  My choice in clothes had not improved even with Joann’s hints.  It wasn’t too funny to wait on cold mornings while our bare legs, exposed below the hem of our coats to the top of our bobby socks, changed from pink to red.  We’d get on the bus laughing and find a seat together and laugh.

It was 1943.  The war continued.  Most movies were based on the war, but not Lassie Come Home.  The days of going to the movies with Joann’s parents were coming to an end, but we went with her mom and dad to see Lassie Come Home.  We could laugh a lot, but we could cry, too.  We cried and cried through the movie.  Our handkerchiefs were wet.  Instead of going for ice cream with her mom and dad, we waited in the car and cried.  We cried most of the way home thinking about Lassie.

When the school bus taking us to Canton stopped in Norris, I recognized some of the kids who got on.  I remembered Robert from first and second grade.  We had been good friends.  I had liked him because he could whistle and fly kites.  One change in our lives was sitting on the bus with a boy.  Even though I’d known Robert in the school in Norris, we were just friends.  I would not have shared the seat on the bus with Robert.  But Bill was another story.  Bill was in the sixth grade at Norris school when I had last seen him at the end of second grade.  He had a good singing voice and was an outstanding student at the Norris School.  When he asked if he could sit with me on the bus, I was flattered and flustered.  He had a car and didn’t ride the bus every day.  He was a senior.  Sometimes he met me between classes and he’d walk with me to my next class.  He asked me for a date, but I refused.  I knew my mother would say I was too young.  After he graduated I never saw him again.  Maybe he joined one of the armed services or was drafted.  Bill was my first boyfriend.

Ruth and Beverly - the year is 1944

Ruth and Beverly - the year is 1944

I met Ruth on the school bus.  Her grandmother lived on a farm on our bus route.  Ruth could ride the bus to her grandmother’s to spend the weekend.  Ruth was not quite as tall as I was, but she had big bones and firm muscles and a personality that went with her physical presence.  She was strong-willed and fearless.  We were unlikely buddies, but a lasting friendship developed between us.  When she rode the bus, she always sat with me.  After I met her on the bus, I’d see her in the halls between classes and realized we were in the same English class.  That meant we could do homework together.

Sometimes I spent Saturdays with my sister who lived in Canton.  Ruth and I worked out a plan to stop at the farm so I could meet her grandmother who would take me to my sister’s house after the chores were done.  Grandmother Lena was built like Ruth and was taller.  She managed her farm by herself.  When I told my sister about meeting Lena, she told me Lena was an outstanding member of the community and loved by everyone at church.  She went to the Christian Church (Disciples), as did my sister.

Every baseball team wants that one player who makes a difference.  I was never a Cincinnati Reds fan, but I admired Pete Rose when he played for Cincinnati and for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the pennant.  Pete Rose was called Charlie Hustle.  He ran hard to first base even on a walk.  Many times he ran so hard his hat fell off.  He ran hard to second base to break up a double play.  He ran hard to Home Plate to score a run.  Pete Rose made a difference on the team.

Ruth had friends she’d known through grade school, but we got along well and spent more and more time together.  The school bus left about an hour after school, so we had time to go to the Candy Kitchen to get cherry Cokes.  Cherry Cokes were made by adding a little cherry flavored syrup to Coca Cola.  That may have been the only thing we ever ordered at the Candy Kitchen.  The place was alive with music and the kind of laughter and talk that only high schoolers can make.  There were tables down the middle of the long, narrow store and booths along one side.  Ruth would not sit at a table.  If the booths were filled, she’d look for someone she knew in a booth and ask if we could share.

Ruth arranged for me to stay overnight at her house on basketball game nights.  We rarely went straight home from the games.  If her parents said, “Be home by 10:30,” Ruth dragged her feet to be home by 10:45 or 11.  No one, not even her parents, could tell her what to do.  Sometimes we stopped at Cardossi’s for a malt or a hamburger to be late getting home.  If her parents were still up when we got to the house, they liked to talk to us about the game and what was going on in school.  Her dad called me “Starch Box.”  I didn’t have an overnight bag, so I carried my clothes in a cardboard box that once held Argo cornstarch.  I stayed with Ruth so many nights, it would have been worthwhile to invest in a small overnight bag.

At the beginning of our sophomore year, Ruth told me we had to try out for glee club.  I told her I wasn’t much of a singer, but she said we’d let the chorus director decide.  We were both accepted into the alto section.  The director was a man loved by all.  Once he told us he had eves-dropped as he walked past a door thinking he’d heard voices inside talking about him.  As he listened he realized the talk was about him, and not something he wanted to hear about himself.  We couldn’t imagine any negative words about him, but we understood his lesson.

My brother, Ben, was wounded in action and sent to Hines Hospital near Chicago.  When he recovered he went to live with my older brother who worked for Burlington Northern Railroad.  Ben got a job with the Railroad, too.  My dad may have hoped Ben would come back home and work with him.  At the beginning of the year, my mom and dad decided living in town would be better for all of us.

Living in Canton made it easier for me to take part in after-school activities.  The basketball games were at night, so I continued the routine of spending game nights at Ruth’s house.  Except for English, we were not in the same classes, but we took the same subjects.  That gave us the incentive we needed to work together on homework before we left for a game.  English was my favorite class.  I liked algebra and science a lot.  Latin and gym were the two classes low on my list.

Ruth suggested I meet her at church on Sunday.  At our house Sunday continued as big meal and family gathering day, but I could go to church and not miss too much.  Ruth said she would meet me in Sunday school class.  She told me to go in the east entrance and up the stairs to the balcony.

It took me about twenty minutes to walk to the church.  I followed Ruth’s directions and found eight high-school-age kids seated in the balcony facing Opal O’Brien.  Miss O’Brien taught home economics at the high school.  I soon found out our teacher had the ability to talk to each of us individually in a group setting.  She had a way of asking a question that got to the core of what I wondered about.  I had always been aware of God in my life and I suppose it was assumed I was a Christian, but I had never thought about Jesus and his relationship to God.  I had never thought about forgiveness of sins.  Some of the kids, including Ruth and me, had not been baptized.  In the Christian Church baptism was by immersion for candidates old enough to make the decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Ruth and I stayed for the worship service.  Her grandmother, Lena, was there as was my sister with her children.

I had talked to God often, but my prayers didn’t sound like the poetic words from the minister nor the words the two men prayed before they gave the trays to other men who carried dry bread and juice in little cups to everyone.  Ruth and I didn’t take any bread or juice because we had not been baptized.  My sister’s oldest daughter, June, took some and looked proud of herself.  June was just a few months younger than I was.  After the service was over, June told me how happy she was to see me in church.  What did I think of the elders?  The what?  The men who prayed before we took communion!

Ruth and I continued to meet at Sunday school almost every Sunday.  Palm Sunday was approaching.  That is the day Ruth said we would get baptized.  We didn’t talk about it through the week when we were together at school, but I worried about it.  I couldn’t swim.  What if I drowned or choked under water?  The communion part worried me, too.  I was sure I had lots of unidentified sins.  And my prayers were bad.  I simply told God my problems and asked for some things to be fixed.  My prayers didn’t sound pretty at all.