Friday, October 27, 2017

127. Graduation and Separation

The closer Nancy and I got to graduation from Gettysburg High School in the spring of 1949, the busier we were. Preparing for finals was a chore, especially in courses like chemistry, a subject we never used the rest of our lives. What a complete waste of our time and energy.

Swanee Serenade, our senior dance, was a very special event in our lives. Nancy wore a new yellow gown, and I wore a new suit. Unlike proms today, there was no limousine, no restaurant dinner, no tuxes and unfortunately, no photographs to remind us of this special occasion in our young lives.

On May 30, we stood in front of Nancy’s home on Baltimore Street, and with a crowd of over 5,000 people, we watched one of the best Memorial Day parades held in Gettysburg in a long time. As we watched the children walk by with flowers for the graves in the National Cemetery, we were reminded of our participation in this annual event.

Graduation was painful because it meant we would no longer see each other every day. In the fall, Nancy would attend Shippensburg State College, and I accepted a football scholarship to attend Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. We would be 86 miles apart, and we were concerned about staying together as a couple.

We knew the separation would be stressful, but we kept in touch with letters and an occasional visit on a weekend, and we made it. On May 30, 1953 we were married, and sixty-five years later, our twin sons, our daughter, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren are living proof that “love conquers all.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

126. Thrill of Victory: Agony of Defeat

In my scrapbook of faded news clippings, readers will find an account of my participation in sports from seventh grade at Lincoln School through our senior year at Gettysburg High School. From the beginning to the end, it is a record of “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

One of the thrills in our senior year included my selection as a member of the first team on the South Penn All-Conference football squad. In addition, I was the leading scorer and a member of the second team All-Conference squad in basketball.

In track, I continued winning the 110 low hurdles, setting a new school and conference record which will never be broken. That’s because that race was replaced by the 180 yard low hurdles in the Fifties and Sixties.

The first time I ran the 180 yard low hurdles was at the District meet in Lancaster. I won that race and that qualified me for the State competition at Penn State University. 

After winning my heat in the preliminaries, I ran in the finals and fell, something I never did in any other race in my high school career. That incident truly best represents the agony of defeat in my career in sports.

When I returned to Gettysburg that night, Nancy was waiting for me.   In her diary for that day. she wrote, “He was kind of blue at first, but he soon got over it and we had a good time."

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and the joy found in a loving relationship.

Monday, October 9, 2017

125. Segregation in Gettysburg in 1949

The last few months of our senior year at Gettysburg High School in the spring of 1949 were filled with baseball games, track meets, final exams, a Student Council Conference hosted by our school, an Easter music program, dances and a senior prom.

One of the most memorable events was our class trip to Washington on  April 25 and 26. We left school early Monday morning and toured all the major sites, and returned to Gettysburg late Tuesday. Monday night the girls checked in at the Cairo Hotel and the boys stayed at the Martinique. 

Nancy’s diary for that trip reveals a forgotten and troublesome memory.  According to Nancy, our seven black classmates did not join us. That information prompted me to call our classmate Betty Lee Dorsey Myers who still lives in Gettysburg.

Betty Lee confirmed Nancy’s notes and revealed the reason they didn’t go was because they knew they would not be welcome in Washington.

Then Betty Lee also revealed that when we were in Gettysburg High School in the Forties, she and her black friends were never welcome at the places we frequented including the Teen Canteen.  Nancy and I were dumbfounded. How could there have been such racial discrimination, and we were not aware of it? Or were we simply naive? Nearly seventy years later, we are both embarrassed and ashamed.

Betty Lee also informed me that she is a former elementary school teacher in Gettysburg who graduated from Shippensburg University. She is also the author of Segregation in Death:Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery.

Incidentally, Betty Lee prefers to be recognized as a “black” woman which is why she is described as such in this report.

Monday, October 2, 2017

124. Team Party and the National Cemetery

In the spring of 1949, the basketball season was over for the Gettysburg High School JV and Varsity teams and also for the Girls’ Athletic Association as well. Nancy was one of the leading scorers on her GAA  championship team, Senior II.

After the Varsity boys’ season ended, Nancy and I attended a party at the home of senior team member, Bill Eisenhart. Nancy’s diary reveals that a few boys drank beer, but most drank cokes. No one drank hard liquor, and no one used drugs. Matter of fact, in 1949 we weren’t familiar with recreational drugs except perhaps for marijuana, and no one we knew used it.

A front page story in the April 4,1949 issue of the Gettysburg Times reported the bodies of two men who served in World War II were to be reinterred in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Pfc. William O’Neill, of McKeesport and  S1C Joseph Coradetti of Wilkes-Barre were originally buried in American cemeteries abroad.

In 2010, there were 1,624 WWII veterans buried in Gettysburg, including Marine Pvt. Paul Heller who was killed in action on October 8,1942 at Guadalcanal at the shocking age of fifteen. Heller is probably the youngest serviceman buried in the National Cemetery outside of the Civil War section.

My Uncle, Herman “Bud” Houck who served with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific in WWII, is buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and each year in December, members of our family place a Christmas Wreath on his headstone and pause to remember him.