Too hot a homecoming tradition


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John Stanger

In the 1950s, Concordia University of Chicago (Concordia Teachers College then) celebrated homecoming by lighting a huge bonfire. In the fall of 1956, one of my classmates and his friends decided to light the bonfire for the students. Well, my classmate got caught and was carried to the campus barbershop, where his DA became a Yul Brynner.

He took a lot of ribbing, but it wasn't long before he once again had a full head of hair.

At a homecoming a few years before the above incident, some guys at Grace Lutheran informed the German-speaking custodian that there was a fire on the Concordia softball field. In a panic, the custodian rolled out the 200-foot hose and started to drench the bonfire. Some angry students disarmed him and planned to hose him down. But when the jokers from Grace owned up and the students realized that the custodian didn't understand English, they let him go.

Many lessons learned

One day during my sophomore year of high school, our gym class attended a canoe safety demonstration performed in the OPRF field house pool. We sat in the balcony overlooking the pool and listened and watched as the YMCA instructor paddled a canoe and lectured at the same time. Word got around that one of our classmates would jump into the pool if each one of us – 30 – would ante up 25 cents.

The money was quickly gathered. The guy removed everything except his underwear and made the leap. He hit the water within a few feet of the canoe. The canoe flipped over and the instructor went into the water. It quickly became apparent that the instructor couldn't swim. So our gym teacher had to dive into the pool in order to save the water safety expert.

The "jumper" was told to get dressed and report to the dean's office. I don't remember how many days of suspension he received. But the plunge wasn't worth the $7.25, or the time and grades he lost. The rest of us were lucky we didn't get into trouble for abetting our hapless classmate.

For the remainder of my high school years, a canoe safety class was never part of our physical education program.

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Lynn Buske Lowe from Evansville, Indiana  

Posted: October 11th, 2010 12:34 PM

Helen, I wanted you to know how much I enjoy John Stanger's articles about Oak Park in the fifties. I grew up there in the forties and fifties and stayed until I finished college, married and moved away. It is a pleasure to read John's articles and remember Oak Park in the "Glory Days" so far removed from today's life styles. We are all are fortunate to have his well written reminiscences.

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