Friday, April 10, 2009

Mike Sylwester Rembembers the Meyer Family

Columbia Avenue's Home 2 was occupied by the family of Herb Meyer, who taught chemistry at the college. The oldest boy, Alan, was about three years older than me. Lois was even older, and she babysat at our house a few times.

Herb Meyer taught a summer school about science for local kids. He showed us a lot of interesting effects from mixing chemicals – changing colors, causing fires and explosions, etc. He let us play with dry ice. He grew enormous crystals, and he taught us how to grow crystals. He also coached several athletic teams at the college – football, swimming, and track and field. He (and Luther Schwich) could open up the athletic building any time for us to play.

Gene Meyer was in my class. He was very intelligent, friendly and athletic.

Gene Meyer pictured as a member of the eighth grade in the 1965-1966 yearbook of St John Elementary School in Seward, Nebraska

I would call him the popular, social leader of our class. Even during the years when Bill Schwich was in Seward, Gene was more respected generally than Bill was, because Gene had more gravitas than Bill and varied qualities. For example, Gene played the trumpet very well, whereas I think that Bill didn't play any instrument at all. Bill was like Class Leader #2 when he was in Seward.

Gene Meyer, Bill Schwich and Steve Roettjer pictured as members of the basketball team accepting the second-place trophy at a basketball tournament in Bee, Nebraska. The photo is taken from the 1965-1966 yearbook of St John Elementary School in Seward, Nebraska

(Gene Meyer, Bill Schwich, Steve Roettjer =
#1, #2, #3 in 8th Grade)

Update: After reviewing our eighth-grade yearbook, I see that Bill Schwich was class president. Hmmm ...

This documentary evidence indicates that my memory about our class's social leadership might be mistaken. Maybe I voted for Gene Meyer and considered him to be "my class president" and considered Bill Schwich to be "everyone else's class president" -- or at least "the girls' class president."

For sure, all the girls voted for cute Bill over plain Gene. In the picture above, you can see Bill emoting sadly at accepting a second-place trophy at the Bee Tournament when we were in eighth grade, whereas Gene is more stoic. (What did I tell you? Gravitas!) Bill's emotion at this event would have broken the heart of every girl in our class.

The picture below shows Gene as first trumpetist in our eighth-grade orchestra. Next are Steve Roettjer, Scott Brinkmeyer, and Jim "Winston" Miller. Eventually Steve Roetcher surpassed Gene Meyer as a trumpetist, however.

Gene Meyer, Steve Roettjer, Scott Brinkmeyer and Jim Miller pictured as trumpeters in the orchestra in the 1965-1966 yearbook of St John Elementary School in Seward, Nebraska

I was Gene's comic side-kick. I was the class clown. Gene would say, "Sylwester, you always crack me up," and then I would try to crack him up again. When our class was assigned to write poems, I would write poems that lasted for about five minutes and were kind of funny. Gene tried to do the same, but with less success. The only time he slept over at my house was for the purpose of trying to write a long, funny poem together for the next day's class.

Gene and I were on the same summer (PeeWee?) baseball team. As I remember, we were on Team 3. He was the captain and pitcher, and I played third base. Sometimes I would try to make him laugh while he was pitching, which he did not appreciate.

After we were old enough to work in the college cafeteria (seventh or eighth grade?), Gene and I worked there together frequently. We shared a lot of laughs there. We spent one entire work shift imagining how we could take over a hotel and murder all the guests. We would ambush and murder the guests in small groups as they came out of the elevators.

Alan Meyer worked in the cafteria a lot too. When I was a high-school freshman and playing on the high-school football team, I was terrified especially of Alan Meyer. Alan always would go block someone as hard as he could, even when the play was on the other side of the field. My idea of playing football in high school was to avoid the other players and the ball while appearing to participate in the action. My cowardice on the field used to exasperate Gene, but I never was injured!

The memory I have from Faculty Lane about Alan is about him mowing our family's grass. I was to blame for wrecking his lawn mower. The newspapers I delivered came wrapped in wire, and I had left some of those wires in the grass, and so they wrapped around his mower blades. He came to my Dad to complain, and so I got in trouble. Later, when we were playing high-school football and he came over to block me hard, maybe he still was trying to get his revenge on poor little me!

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