The three smartest guys I knew during my pre-college years were George Javaras, Bob Wyatt and Art Solberg.
I met George Javaras when we were in the fourth grade at Holmes School. All through grade school, George was at the top of our class. He and I had one thing in common — we were born on the same day. That's where the similarities ended.
When we attended OPRF High School, George made the four-year honor roll, played football and won a scholarship to college where he majored in accounting, became a CPA and then graduated from law school. It was believed by many that George had a "photographic memory." I asked him about this when we were in our junior year, and he told me how he developed this gift.
He said that a student must read a lesson carefully, take notes, make an outline and learn unfamiliar terms. This is what he called the basics. However, what really helped him to develop a fantastic memory was after he did the basics, he would put the book and notes aside and either write down or recite aloud all he could remember. He would repeat this until he had it down perfectly. He was able to retain the material because he actively recalled it, and this, he told me, reduced the time he needed to study for finals. Since the method worked so well for George, I put it into practice. It took self-discipline, but it worked. I used this method for the remainder of my high school years and through college and graduate school.
I met Art Solberg at Holmes, but he was in the class behind me. Art was an "A" student, but his great love was aviation. When my pal Mike and I decided to build model planes and fly them, it was Art who showed us how. He showed us how to construct them better and how to increase their flight time. Even though our three major flights ended in crashes, we learned the basics of aeronautics from Art. He taught us in a quiet manner and demonstrated all facets of model building until we understood them. Art went on to become an aeronautical engineer.
I met Bob Wyatt in freshman algebra class. He stood out because he carried a small slide rule and a number of pencils in his shirt pocket. It didn't take me long to realize that he was a math whiz. If I had a problem I couldn't figure out, Bob was more than willing to help, and if I didn't understand it right away, he would explain it until I did understand. I was also in trigonometry class with Bob, and it was in this class that I had a moment of glory. I beat Bob by one point on the final exam. He was happy for me and said that he must have been a good influence. Bob was on the four-year honor roll and won a scholarship to IIT where he earned a degree in engineering.
I have lost track of Art, and George passed away a few years ago, but Bob is doing fine and lives in Texas. All of these guys were quiet, kind and unassuming. It was a pleasure to have known them and to have shared a part of my life with them.
John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and an English professor at Elmhurst College. Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn't gotten far in 71 years.
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