Friday, December 16, 2011

Home for the Holidays?

Home for the Holidays doesn't mean quite as much as it did in 1962 when college kids were approaching the end of the first semester, which in those days did not end until mid-January, or maybe those who had enlisted and would not be able to make it home until they had earned a leave.

Whatever the case, hearing the Perry Como tune inserted here caused some reflection on that first Christmas after graduation.  And I don't really recall a single thing about it.  Who I saw - what I did - what gift I received - NOTHING!  Bah humbug - maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be?  Call me Scrooge.

What I do recall is coming home the first weekend after classes started, and off and on after that point, frequently by hitchhiking.  Chuck Hendrickson and I did that often, and learned some lessons from it, plus picked up some life experiences.  

We'd find somebody to give us a ride out to the main highways out of Cedar Falls, like Highway 20 heading towards Parkersburg.  We always taped paper on the side of a suitcase with "Mason City" printed on it, figuring nobody knew where Northwood was, and once we'd get in a car we could somehow finesse the last 20 miles.  Often the drivers were heading north on 65 anyway, so it worked out.

Some folks went out of their way to help us out and sometimes we wish they hadn't because we'd be crammed into the back seat with some kid with a sucker, or something like that.  I think Chuck had a puppy throw up on him once and we'll have Janis grill him to find more about that - and add it to this blog.

One time I hitched over to Ames to see Phil Johnson and a semi driver picked me up.  I could not believe how that cab bounced around, but I still appreciated the ride.  I learned those guys probably retired with bad backs because it was really rough.  Phil came to Cedar Falls on a return visit and while there wound up talking to Norm Stewart, then UNI's basketball coach.

We were touring the campus, walked through the Men's Gym, and ran into Stewart, who saw Phil right away, recognized him, and said hello.  To Phil, not me.  As I recall the conversation Phil said, "Do you think he knows me?"  Of course he did, because he didn't greet me, that's for sure.  We turned around, Phil found Stewart in his office, and thus started the process that made Phil a Panther forever.  But that's another story.

I also learned that in hitchhiking you had to be instructive to drivers as to where they should drop you off.  One time we got dropped on one of the farm-to-market roads between 218 and Greene, and I thought we might die of loneliness out there.  Me, Chuck, a blacktop road, a gravel road, and lots of corn.  But if you just found out what route the driver was taking, you could set yourself up to get out at an intersection with traffic.  You always had to prospect.

On one occasion Denny Carnes and I hooked a ride home.  Somewhere out on Highway 20 a guy driving a big, long-finned Cadillac picked us up.  He pretty much looked like death warmed over.  His sallow face had a greasy mustache, baggy eyes covered by sunglasses, and a constant cigarette.  He regaled us with stories of Las Vegas, including his experience with Johnny Cash that we won't go into here, just to keep it clean.

To get back to Cedar Falls we turned the suitcase around with "Student to Cedar Falls" on the other side, and repeated the process.  I don't know how many trips we made like that but we sure wouldn't let the grandkids hitchhike today.  Too dangerous.  We grew up in a much better time.

So here it is at last - Perry Como.  This really looks like home, and it should take the Scrooge right out of you.  It did me.  Happy Holidays.

And if you have a wide-screen monitor, this newer and updated version is even better.  Notice all the trains.

1 comment:

  1. Chuck definitely remembers the the dog throwing up on him in the backseat. He had borrowed his friend's nice wool coat for the trip home - his concern was not for the poor was for the dog potentially ruining the borrowed coat!

    He also remembers hitching a ride home with Joe Orth, who was taking art classes at SCI/UNI. Joe was demonstrating his artistic expertise as he flailed his arms and hands around pointing out to the others in the car the different hues of the soil, corn, sky, etc., etc. After nearly driving off the road several times, Denny Carnes finally had to yell at him..."Joe, just keep you hands on the wheel and drive."

    It was definitely a better/safer time back then...our kids can't believe their dad was a hitchhiker...who'd have thunk it?!!

    Janis H.


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