I entered Horace Mann Junior High (Middle school) in September of 1937. I was able to walk from my home, as it was only about eight or ten blocks down Lake Blvd to the school. This is where I met my three best life-long friends, Robert Holzschuher, Bill Kleine and Paul Silber. We were like brothers and pretty much inseparable from this time until we all four went off to WW II in 1942.
Bill, Paul and I were all in the same Boy Scout Troop #66 over at the church. Over time, each of us was elected to be Patrol Leaders. My Patrol was the Rattlesnake Patrol.
One particularly memorable trip we were camped on the Medina River, southwest of San Antonio. It was one of those especially cold weekends. We had built a huge bonfire and had spent the evening around it talking and singing songs. About midnight most of us had rolled up in our blankets (no sleeping bags in those days) as close to the deep bed of hot coals as we could, to try and keep warm. Every once in a while, one of us would get up and throw more wood on the fire. About three in the morning, Ernest Stieler got up to do this and decided he was hungry. He got a can of beans and without opening the can, put it in deep into the hot coals. You know what happened next. After a while, with a loud explosion, the can burst open, spewing beans and hot coals all over those of us who were on that side of the fire. Well, you haven’t lived until you have been awakened to hot coals in your bed and a face full of hot beans.
Ernie took off running with a bunch of us chasing him. We caught him and carried him down to the river. We stripped all his clothes off and threw him in the cold water of that river. Well, Ernie swam out and emerged looking not only like a drowned rat but a frozen one as well. He spent the rest of the night piling more and more wood on the fire, wrapped in a blanket trying to get warm.
I had great plans to get Mom and Dad back together again and talked it up whenever I was with each of them every chance I had. Mom had dated a retired Navy Commander named Gene Monagan and about this time he asked her to marry him. Mom asked me what I thought about Gene, who I did like a lot, but I pitched a real fit. I was so focused on getting my parents back together I would not hear of her marrying anyone else. As a result she turned Gene down and he left angry about it and went back to California.
It was not long after this time I was called to the school principals’ office, and my Dad was there. We left in his car and that was when he told me that he and Margaret Morris had gotten married. Her husband Clews had passed away several months earlier. I was very upset because he had promised to talk to me before he ever got married again and I still had dreams of getting my folks back together. All of my visions of reuniting Mom and Dad faded away because Dad and Margaret were already married. They had married on January 4, 1938. When mom heard the news she had sort of a nervous breakdown. Her sister Cot took us over to her house and we were there for about a month while Mom recovered. It was a hard time and I guess I was somewhat depressed myself during that period.
Photo of Horace Mann Jr. High found here.
Photo (and delightful sounds) of Medina River found here.