Thursday, July 29, 2010

Billy Roberts, Part Deux

Billy was a really smart guy. And his "value system" for lack of better terminology, though in many ways just like mine, was totally different. Maybe that was because he had access to things that I didn't know much about.

Somewhere along the line when Eisenhower was president (there are fewer and fewer of us who can reference those days), he taped one of Eisenhower's State of the Union speeches on a reel-to-reel recorder about the same size as a cigar box. It was battery operated, so we were able to walk along the sidewalk in front of the high school listening to the speech. I don't think I even knew what a State of the Union Address was. But for some reason, Billy knew it was important. And my thought of the importance was all dialed into that recorder.

When we got into high school and had to prepare a project for the science fair, we somehow got teamed up to do this. Billy's role was to build a model house using balsa wood and other supplies. He even included indirect lighting from low-voltage bulbs secured behind a piece of balsa wood that caused the light to spill around the edges. I didn't even know what indirect lighting was, or that it existed. My only role in this team was to show up at his house from time to time and do his algebra for him.

He didn't seem to be able to make it to school during most of the few weeks prior to completion of this project. The notes from home probably said he was sick, but I suppose most of us knew better, and I sure wasn't going to argue. Right or wrong, it wasn't something that was going to happen at my house, I knew that.

And when we were seniors, one day I realized that I had screwed up not making arrangements to drive to Mason City for a doctor's appointment. When Bill heard that he said, "No problem, I'll take you," and away we went. On our way back home we stopped at Van Horne Auto Salvage, which I think still exists, right on Hwy 65 on the north edge of Mason City. Shopping the junkyard for auto parts was not in my routine, but Bill had the skill set including financial savy to be able to get what he needed. In this case it was the air conditioner from a late model Cadillac. He told the counter guy what he wanted, they said they had one available, and he asked "How much?" The price was $250 if he removed it himself. He agreed, and we walked away with one huge smile on his face.

He may have never installed it, I don't know. But that lifestyle was way unlike my own. He didn't graduate in the Top 10 but he was smart enough to have done it if he had seen any reason to do so. He was one smart guy.


  1. Yah Ha,

    When Bill put one of those plastic model cars together, He didn't just follow the assembly instructions like the rest of us did. He would suspend the wheels using the "stays" that men used to slip into the little pocket on each collar to stiffen the collar. The car acted more realistically because each wheel has a spring --- just like the real deal.

  2. I checked out this model & year on You Tube. Neat looking car.


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