LIFE ON THE FARM
PART 5- 
SENIOR  YEAR

                       

As promised, my “senior year” chapter actually begins with the summer of 1963 following the end of my junior year. 

The summer of ’63 was little different from prior summers on the farm.  For the most part, I did as I usually did, which was danged little of value.  Sweet Valley had little to offer in the way of employment for teenagers and such jobs as there were had already been taken by other boys.  Ernie Davis pumped gas at Paul Farver’s Gulf station, and Joe Roginski and Ronnie Covert worked at the two grocery stores.  Paul Farver felt sorry for me, I guess, and I did get to mow his yard once a week and I had another mowing job which required hitching to Huntsville.  With the few measly bucks so earned and what I could bum from Dad, I managed to see all the Elvis movies in Wilkes-Barre and have a few cents left over for a Coke or two at North Lake.  As I have previously written in The History Of Sweet Valley History of Sweet Valley, “In the late 50's-early 60's, teenage boys from Sweet Valley would hang out at "Aunt Mae's" store to dance with the town girls. I was happy to dance with the gals now that I was bold enough to do so. 

Aunt Mae’s jukebox held many, but not all, of the latest tunes we’d heard on WARM (the “Mighty 590) or WABC with Cousin’ Brucie.  One thing we certainly did NOT hear was a bit of rock’n’roll trivia I’ve only learned decades later.  The very first song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney to be released in the US was NOT sung by the Beatles!   Del Shanon (“Runaway”, “Hats Off To Larry”) had been on tour in Europe and heard “From Me To You”, which was a hit there.  He liked it and recorded it upon his return to the states.  It was released on June 15, 1963 but only rose to number 77 on the Billboard chart.  Hearing of that minor success but not quite ready to take on the US market, the Beatles did release their version here but not until a month later, on July 20, 1963.  It fared worse than Del’s, rising to only #116.  Eight months later, on January 18, 1964, they re-released it as the “B side” of their #3 “Please Please Me”.

Around 10 PM, Aunt Mae would get ready for bed and would turn off the jukebox and pull it from the porch back inside her residence\store. That was the signal for the boys and girls to finish up the evening's entertainment with a walk around the lake, sparkin' all along the way. I should hasten to point out that I, personally, didn’t do much sparkin’ but that is what went on amongst the others.  Oh, I didn’t refrain from “sparkin' all along the way” out of any sense of shyness.  No, I had met an angel from Edwardsville named Joanne and I was totally smitten.  She was beautiful and had a brilliant mind; more than I could have hoped for.  Our trip around the lake meant simply holding hands while we discussed all sorts of worldly events. Our conversations continued while sitting on a stone bench near the end of the circuit,  even after all the other kids had gone home. Among the subjects we discussed, naturally, was religion.  Given her Polish heritage, it was not a surprise that she was a devoted Catholic and, by 17, I was definitely an atheist.  That major difference clearly ruled out any chance of a “long-term love affair”. Then, too, a brilliant gal like her was definitely headed to college while I had no such prospects.  Still, I was determined to remain as close a friend to her as possible.  It must have been near 11:30 most nights when we’d reluctantly finish the trip outside Joanne’s house and I would tenderly kiss her good night under a pine tree.  I don’t know HOW she managed to not get pine sap in her hair.

Ken Ellsworth is one of my oldest chums. He had turned 16 in March of ’62 and gotten his driver’s license, I guess, soon after that momentous occasion.  Our adventures must, therefore, have begun at the end of junior year but we sure didn’t stop in senior year.  His Dad, “Bugsy”, knowing that Ken would be off to college in a little over a year, didn’t buy Ken a car of his own but he did let him drive the family car.  Sometimes Ken really didn’t have permission to take it but did so anyway.  He’d get the key and the others of our crew would push it a block down the fortunately-flat street and only then start the engine where, we thought, “Bugsy” wouldn’t hear it.  Benson got a used car, too, but not until August, since he’s two weeks younger than my August 17 birthday.  Fred Brown, like Ken, is a Spring baby and he, too, drove his Dad’s car but not as often.  I’m not sure when Jay Ruckel’s birthday is but I don’t recall us going in his family car very often.  Our adventures that summer of ’63 were, for the most part, in Ken’s family car and you’d usually find at least three and sometimes all five of us in that one car. 

By 1962, Ray Kroc had something like 200 McDonald’s restaurants around the US but we had never heard of them being anywhere near Wilkes-Barre.  The first fast-food place in our area was Stop’N’Go, not far from Kingston Corners.  It featured 19-cent burgers, although Gladys Foss Chapple, who’s a few years older than me, says that, when it opened, they cost only 15 cents. While we did eat a mess of those burgers, our main purpose in going there was to see “town girls”.  While Ken and Fred and Benson may have actually TALKED to some of them, I was too shy and only looked.  Our merriment didn’t wait until we got to Stop’N’Go.  Getting there involved travelling down Wyoming Avenue, a broad thoroughfare with many red lights.  It was a perfect place to hold a “Chinese fire drill.” For all you non-cognoscenti, that involved stopping at a red light, all occupants piling out of the car, and a merry circular dash around the car to climb back in before the light turned green.  Half of us would run clockwise and half the other way.  It was absolute silliness that caused no harm but served to amaze adult onlookers.  Other wilder youths may have engaged in “mooning” but we were the nice guys, all academic students near the top of our class.  The wildest we got was to sneak over to the Riverview drive-in theater in Pittston. It  featured what, today, would be “R-rated” fare. In those days, the rating system hadn’t yet been invented and we eagerly looked forward to seeing Brigitte drop her towel. More than once I didn’t have money for the admission and, instead, rode inside the trunk where I remained until it got dark.

Senior year began and Benson and I were shocked to see that “Punkin’ Ass” was again to be our English teacher!  “This should be fun”, we thought, given that, at the end of junior year, she had nearly prevented our advancing to senior year.  Not long after school began, we took a state-wide achievement test in English to see how far we’d advanced in 11 years.  Luckily for me, a fair portion of it involved grammar and I KNOW my grammar.  I rang up the highest score in the entire class; beating Sue Fielding and all the girls who, as poetry devotees, were “Punkin’ Ass’” favorites!  It must have chapped her shorts a great deal to have to give me an “A”, just one marking period following giving me an “F”!

Entering senior year, our crew had varying plans for the future.  Only three of us could say we had definite plans to attend college: Ken, a teacher’s son; Jay, who was on his way to being our valedictorian; and Chip, who lived in ritzy Oak Hill.  I guess Karl, who’d been adopted by principal Lester “Bulldog” Squier, was expected to go but I can’t say if he looked forward to it.  (Karl, after 45 years, has fallen out of touch with us and I can’t ask him about this.) Dick Lopasky was never more than a “C student and I don’t know what his plans were either.  Benson (a farmer’s boy), Fred (son of a Lehman township employee), and I saw no college in our futures; we just didn’t have the money to attend.  There was a war in Vietnam underway but, nonetheless, we three determined that we’d join the Navy.  We three went over to a Wilkes-Barre recruiting office and took a Navy test, which we all passed with flying colors.  [As it turned out, Fred managed to scrape together some minor scholarships and a lot of part-time jobs and WAS able to go to Wilkes College.  My future was determined by, as you shall read later in this chapter, something that happened just before graduation.  Benson was the only one of my crew who did end up in the Navy straight out of high school.]

November 22, 1963 was a Friday and our schedule called for us to be, in the last period before dismissal, in whichever club we had chosen.  Only on alternate Fridays would we have assemblies where one class or another would entertain the rest of the student body.  THIS particular Friday was different, though. An announcement told us all to leave our clubs and report to the auditorium.  As we passed through the hallways, word filtered down that the President Kennedy had been shot.  At that time of my life, I was still a Republican and said “Oh, he’s just a Democrat anyway!”  Only when we took our seats did we learn that the president was DEAD and the mood grew much more somber. 

Music-wise, we were hip to the latest “surf music” coming out of California even though there was no surf within 100 miles of our school.  The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean topped our lists of must-hears, with songs about cars. We giggled mightily at “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen (released 11/13/63), singing along with it “Well-a bird, bird, bird, bird is the word” for we all knew that to “flip someone the bird” meant to give them a middle-finger salute.  Around that same time in the fall of ’63 we started hearing more about four guys from England who grew their hair long and did a lot “whoo!” amongst their lyrics.  I specifically recall a dance at Dallas High School where one or two records by The Beatles were played a lot.  I don’t know where those students bought those 45’s, for “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, backed with “I Saw Her Standing There” wasn’t released until January 4, 1964.

Basketball season started and, once again, Jonny Rogers and I were the team managers.  Our team managed to win slightly more than half its games (Surprise!) over the first half of the season and so our coach, Ken Maciak, was chosen to coach our league’s all-star team over the holidays.  Our North League would play the Catholic League in the first of the “Dream Games”. There were two other leagues involved, too, but I can’t recall their names.  The games were a very big deal in the Wilkes-Barre area and were aired live on a local radio station.  I can’t tell you if we won our game or not, only that 3 of our 5 starters were from Swoyersville and Ellsworth was another.  What remains in my mind is the trick I attempted to pull.  Prior to the game, it was my job to hand in the starting lineup to the radio announcer.  On the lineup card was, of course, the names of our coach and assistant coach.  I took the liberty of naming MYSELF as the assistant coach!  I guess I never did get mentioned and thus, never got in trouble with Cal Kenyuck, our physics teacher who was the real assistant coach.

Our crew, being academic leaders and “nice guys”, never did get into any serious trouble but that doesn’t mean we didn’t admire some folks our parents didn’t like.  Beyond the Beatles, there was also a loquacious boxer.  Our Dads had rooted for Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano but we were transfixed by a young man from Louisville named Cassius Clay.  Born in 1942, he was only four years older than us.  I can’t say that we watched him win gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome or that we knew all about his early rise as a pro but we sure were interested when he took on Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship on February 22, 1964.  Liston was a mean bear of a man with reputed mob ties but Cassius was unfazed.  He danced around “the Bear”, flicking his jab out and landing right hands whenever he chose, all the while teasing him.  Liston did not come out of his corner for the seventh round and “our man” was the champ!  I’m sure most of our crew have since seen that happening many times in re-runs but, on the night of the fight, we were huddled in Ellsworth’s car outside the school, listening to the radio.  We were absolutely thrilled for, unlike our Dads’ champs, this young man actually ran his mouth to no end, bragging about his prowess and, what’s more, he could BACK IT UP!

As I have previously said, I wasn’t an athlete at all in high school.  I was on the baseball team for two years but couldn’t hit the curve ball and never got into a game that counted.  I went out for football for exactly one day.  Basketball was beyond me for, having no courts in Sweet Valley to play on as a youngster, I hadn’t developed the coordination to even dribble a basketball.  Still, helping Jonny Rogers out as a basketball team manager did earn me a “letter” and I was awarded a sweater with one stripe on the sleeve.  (Even though I’m way too fat now to wear it, it still hangs in my closet.)  Belonging to the Lettermen’s Club afforded me a chance to travel with the club to the PA State Class “A” basketball final game at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg in March, 1964.  The game was won by Plymouth-Whitemarsh from the Philly area.  They beat Irwin from out near Pittsburgh even though Irwin had a guy named John Naponick, a 6’9” giant.  It’s odd how I’ve remembered his name for all these 40+ years, but I just Googled him to find out what became of him after high school.  Holy heck!  From Post Gazette John Naponick (class of 1963), a 6-foot-9, 285-pound all-state basketball center and a football player. He scored a school season-record 724 points as a senior, leading the Knights to the WPIAL title and a PIAA runner-up finish in Class A, then the highest classification. He also played both sports at the University of Virginia, and for Winnipeg of the Canadian Football League. A physician, he is a British government-sponsored medical consultant to the Cambodian minister of health.”

Another event in March, 1964 had a longer-lasting effect on me.  Despite my intense dislike for “Punkin’ Ass”, the English teacher, I did go along on her school-sponsored trip over to King’s College to see a matinee performance of a Shakespearean play.  King’s, a Catholic college was, at the time, all-male but, by golly, they had GIRLS in that play.  Even better, these girls wore low-cut gowns!  I quickly determined that I wished to see more of these plays but little did I know at that time that, just two months later, I’d find I was going to attend King’s!

My interest in theater was further spiked by our senior play.  I don’t recall even having tried out for the junior play but, here in senior year, it seemed to thing to do.  Memory also fails as to who directed it (probably an English teacher, but certainly not “Punkin’ Ass”) but I do recall the title: “Green Grow the Onions”.  Googling now shows it to be a 3-act comedy by John Henderson, which also explains what drew my interest because I WAS something of a class clown (see Class Night later).  I won’t lie to you and say I was a really terrific actor but I did have the ability to memorize lines so I got the LEAD ROLE! 

As our final year grew closer to ending, it was time for more once-in-a-12-year-scholastic- career events.  The senior trip was one that was always eagerly anticipated, for many of us had seldom, if ever, been out of Luzerne County.  While the school did bear some (probably most) of the cost of the trip, each student also had to pay a part of it.  I got really lucky since they awarded points for various things we had done to contribute to the class.  Absent that, I probably couldn’t have afforded to go.  I hadn’t sold many magazine subscriptions but I did get points for being a letterman and more for being in the senior play and, in the end, I don’t think Dad had to pay more than $15.  I have previously written how our class was lucky in being, as freshmen,  the first to be offered four years of language study in lieu of the standard three.  That luck extended to the length of our senior class trip.  Classes before us had only a 2-day trip.  They’d head out from Lehman on buses, make a stop for lunch in Harrisburg and then continue on the Washington, D.C.  Once there, they’d see the sights, spend one night in a hotel, and then see some more sights the next day before heading home.  Lucky for us, though, in 1964 there was a World’s Fair in New York and the school board graciously extended our trip to three days to go there, too.  (Based on info just received from the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library , I can categorically state that our trip took place from Thursday, May 7, 1964 through Saturday, May 9, 1964.)  We were chaperoned by four of our teachers: Mary Lamoreaux, “Punkin’ Ass”, John Milauskas, and Jay Zaleskas.

Lunch in Harrisburg was at a hotel where our governor, Bill Scranton, happened to also be dining.  I had previously shaken his hand while he was campaigning at the Bloomsburg Fair and, now that he’d been elected, I made sure to do it again as he passed our group in the hotel lobby.  He, of course, didn’t remember me. LOL.

I can’t recall exactly which D.C. sites we visited on which day, but they did include the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials plus an elevator ride up the Washington Monument.  We had a group photo taken in front of the US Capitol. 

     Courtesy of Joe Zbick

I’m the only guy on the third row wearing a light-colored jacket.  It was the only jacket I owned and had been given to me by some kindly soul in Sweet Valley who felt sorry for me and Dad.  That evening, we took a riverboat ride down the Potomac to an amusement park.  While on the boat, music played and we got to dance to the latest tunes.  A class from an all-black high school was there at the same time and, while we didn’t mix much with them, we were amazed at the dances they did.  In the amusement park was a “Fun House” which featured, among the usual mirrors that made one look fat or skinny, one section where the walls were very close together. To get through, one had to walk sideways.  A couple of us guys decided it would be great fun to lure “Punkin’ Ass” inside and get her stuck there.  Despite our cajoling about how much fun we’d had inside, she didn’t fall for it. 

Back at the hotel, my regular crew of buddies seemed to have all made arrangements to room together and I was, more or less, left out.  It didn’t bother me all that much for, after all, those Lehman Township guys had known each since first grade.  I took the same route and roomed with Bob Moss, Richard Henry Long, and Leroy Wandel, all of whom were, like me, from Ross Township.

On Friday, May 8, after a second day of sightseeing in DC, our buses pulled out for New York and made it there in about 4 hours.  We checked into the Piccadilly Hotel not far from Times Square.  That name has stuck with me for, as a wordsmith, I decided “we picked a dilly when we picked the Piccadilly.”)  Most of the class stayed out in the hotel but, along about 9 PM, Mr. Zaleskas headed a scouting party of about 10 guys (all lettermen) and we went out to take in the sights of Times Square.  I only recall one place we stopped.  There was a juice bar featuring drinks from all over the world and I sampled some papaya juice, which was quite tasty.  We heard a sharp “BAM!” and Mr. Z yelled “Shooting!”  At that, we all ran as hard as we could back to the hotel.  Only 25 years later, at a reunion, did he ‘fess up to having put us on.  He’d known we’d only heard a car backfire but decided to fool us.  He certainly had.

The next day, Saturday, May 9, we left the hotel fairly early and headed to the World’s Fair.  Unlike down in DC where we’d been herded about in a large group, at the Fair we were free to wander about as our whimsy took us, a la the Bloomsburg Fair.  Unfortunately, at that early point of pre-summer, only about one-third of the various countries’ exhibits were open and we didn’t see nearly as much as was available to later-arriving visitors.   At the Brazil pavilion, I was nearly knocked over by the STRONGEST coffee I could ever imagine.  The IBM pavilion was an egg-shaped structure and it had an unusual display.  A mass of BB’s would bounce off a series of baffles randomly as they settled downward into a group of maybe 15 plastic columnar tubes below.  The most BB’s would collect in the columns directly below the starting point while fewer and fewer settled into the tubes to the left and right of center with the outer-most tubes getting the fewest.  When finished, it was  perfect illustration of what I later leaned in an economics course, was a bell-shaped curve. 

At some point during that Saturday, probably in the afternoon, we heard sirens approaching and a motorcade, replete with police motorcycles, swept by us.  Onlookers said “There goes the president!” but we high schoolers had had no inkling he had been anywhere near us.  Only now, for the purpose of writing this chapter some 45 years later, did I contact the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library.  They report that, yes, President Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, WERE at the fair on Saturday, May 9, 1964.  He had given a speech at the Venezuela pavilion.  Had we known, I doubt we would have gone to hear him, for we weren’t all that into politics at that point  in our lives and, had you asked me, I’d have told you I was a Republican. LOL

At some point in early 1964 we seniors sat for our pictures to be snapped for the yearbook (titled “Roundtable” to match the “Golden Knights” nickname of our black-and-gold sports teams.)  Being that close to graduating, our crew was feeling mighty rambunctious and managed to “flip the bird” where we appeared in a couple of the pictures of the various clubs to which we belonged (see the Advanced Math Club, for example).  Our daring feat paid off and we weren’t caught by proofreaders. 

“Graduation”, in and of itself, was comprised of three events.  One was Baccalaureate, which wasn’t very memorable in my mind, for it consisted chiefly of clergy offering readings and a benediction.  I guess we had one Protestant minister and one Catholic priest.  There certainly wasn’t a Jewish rabbi for, to the best of my knowledge, there were no more than 10 Jews living in our five townships and none had kids in my class.  Had I been as bold about my atheist beliefs back then as I am today, I probably would have skipped this event.

Class Night was a whole bunch of fun, based on a theme of the Broadway musical “Camelot”, which had run from December, 1960 through January,1963.  Our Class President, Jack Sorber, took the Richard Burton role as King Arthur and our May Queen, Sue Fielding, played Julie Andrews’ role as Queen Guinevere.  While I would have preferred playing the handsome Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot Du Lac (I’m not sure ANYONE played that role), I ended up as a court jester, which suited my mien perfectly.   I think I wore a jester’s harlequin cap with floppy tassels and jingle bells.  While Class Night did have “roles”, we didn’t have many true “lines” as in an actual play.  Rather, the setup was that our class members would entertain the king and queen and, by extension, our family members and friends who attended.  Ellen Harris, she of the beautiful soprano voice, sang “The Sound Of Music” and played the piano for the rest of us soloists.  Those in charge were really brave, for they let ME sing!  I did “Graduation Day” but never came close to matching the version by The Four Freshmen. LOL.  I know Ellsworth did a song, too, as did maybe Fred Brown and Chip Landis but I’m not totally sure of the latter two.  We all joined in to sing our class song which had been written by Jay Ruckel to the tune of Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red”. (Given that our class colors were red and white, I had written one using the tune of “The Days Of Wine and Roses” but they had chosen Jay’s.)

The graduation ceremony of the “Lake-Lehman Joint High School” took place, according to that evening’s program, on Tuesday, June 9, 1964.  Note that the cover indicates that it was the SIXTH such graduation.  That seemed a bit confusing when I just looked at it but I have now figured that the merging of Lehman, Jackson, and Ross townships with Lake and Noxen townships must have officially occurred in 1958, with the first JOINT graduation coming in 1959.  Gee, I really hadn’t realized the merger had taken place that early for, after all, our Class of 1964 was only the SECOND one to have featured students from all five townships together in the same building. 

I forgot who gave me this this

By the way, page 3 of the program contained an error.  “Upper 2/3 of class” should have read “Upper 1/3 of class”.  

 Courtesy of Ailene Boice.

The ceremony itself was held in our auditorium. Our band brought us in with, as the program states, “War March Of the Priests”.  We were paired up two-by-two to enter and, though the song was a typical march with steady, measured beat, my marching partner, Ronnie Gosart, simply couldn’t stay in step.  I don’t recall a word of the honor orations by valedictorian Jay Ruckel or salutatorian Pat Kanasky.  I was far too eager to hear my name announced TWICE.  The latter time was right before being handed my diploma, which caused me to giggle mightily as I grabbed it and crossed the stage.  The FIRST time they said my name was to let the audience know about something that had happened to me not long before graduation; an event that would change my life.  I have saved the telling about it for next-to-last.

As you will know if you’ve followed my life up to this point, I was frighteningly poor with little aspirations of moving on up.  Guidance counselor Edwin “Birdie” Johnson had talked with me a bit about college but had mentioned only a combination of minor scholarships plus loans.  Great!  No use to talk about loans to a kid who doesn’t have running water at home! No way I would ever consider taking on a huge load of debt.  My only plan was to join the Navy for four years but I had no idea whence that would lead.  With only six weeks or so remaining until graduation, I found myself outside the principal’s office  looking at the bulletin board.

Principal Tony Marchakitus approached and asked what I was doing. “Oh, just looking at things”, I replied.

“Did you apply for the Sordoni scholarship?”

 “Nah – never heard of it.”

“Get your butt into my office! Secretary, get together Hontz’s transcript.  Hontz, you’re going to have to dress up for once in your life.  You’re going to an interview.”

Andrew Sordoni, Sr. had been a PA State Senator from our Back Mountain region for quite a while.  A quite-wealthy man, his will had left money for scholarships for kids from our area.  To qualify, one had to be a graduate of either Lake-Lehman HS or Dallas HS, or be living in the area and graduating from West Side Central Catholic in Kingston. The idea was “local kids for local colleges” and winners would attend either of the two catholic colleges in the area, King’s College in Wilkes-Barre or College Misericordia in Dallas, or non-sectarian Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre. 

The interview was held at the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre, which was owned by the Sordoni family.  Selecting the scholarship winners was a group of community leaders called the Back Mountain Protective Association. It was comprised of two clergymen, an attorney, a real estate man, the owner of Back Mountain Lumber, another fellow whose position I don’t recall, and A.J. “Jack” Sordoni, Jr., son of the senator.  It seems as if the interview lasted only about fifteen minutes and, while the questions seemed easy enough, I totally blew one.  “How’s your retention?” “Oh, I pay very close attention.” DUH – they then explained what “retention” meant and I figured “now they know I’m really a dummy!” I left the hotel totally unsure as to how I’d fared.

Graduation grew ever closer and, with only two weeks or so to go, I was called to the principal’s office.  There was a phone call for me.  It was from the scholarship committee and they asked “We know you’re not Catholic, Mr. Hontz, but would you like to go to King’s College?”  I reckon I almost hit the floor but I did manage to stutter “Yes!” Ohmigod!  I had won a four-year, full-tuition scholarship!  Talk about a life-changing moment; no more Navy talk.  I was going to college!  I could hardly wait to tell Joanne!

There was only one hitch in the plan, up-front.  Having a scholarship was of no value unless I could get admitted to King’s and, as of that moment, I wasn’t.  I hadn’t even taken the SAT (“College Boards”) because they cost money and, after all, I was headed to the Navy.  Wait a sec! – back in junior year I HAD taken the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) given for free by the King’s guidance counselors and I HAD been granted “advanced acceptance.”  Well, now let me see if they meant what they had said a year earlier.  I hied off to King’s immediately after getting the phone call but, sonuvagun, they couldn’t find a record of that previous test! L  Their advice was “You better take our King’s entrance exam.”  I made sure I got plenty of sleep and showed up on a Saturday morning with a fistful of well-sharpened #2 pencils and took the 3-hour exam.  I felt I did well but was still a wee bit worried as I returned home, wondering “How long will it be before they let me know the results?”  Not to worry: when I got home, there in the mailbox was the announcement that I HAD been accepted.  They HAD found the old test results! Yay, me! (It turned out I had also aced their entrance exam, so there was no doubt I was doubly qualified.)

The committee had also chosen my classmate, Sharon Strzelczyk, for a comparable scholarship and she would attend Wilkes College.  Her first choice had been College Misericordia, which was closer to her home in Lake Township. Like me, Sharon had had no intention of ever going on to higher education and had been a commercial student, at which she excelled.  She lacked the requisite academic courses and “Misery” wouldn’t accept her.  Wilkes College WOULD take her and there she could major in business education.  Sharon was twice as lucky as me for the third person chosen was a girl from Dallas named Charlene Makar who had attended West Side Central Catholic.  Charlene’s first choice was Wilkes but, seeing Sharon’s predicament, she switched and went to “Misery”, allowing Sharon to attend Wilkes. 

Sordoni Scholarship Winners

Sharon graduated from Wilkes and went on to teach high school business classes in the Wallenpaupack school district.  (Now, 45 years after high school, she is also my proofreader.)  I don’t think either of us ever saw Charlene again after the interviews and I hope she, too, turned out well.  The rest of MY story will be told in chapters I have yet to write.

Now for what became of my crew.  Ellsworth graduated from Penn State with a BS in Industrial Engineering and went on to a career with General Motors and, later, with one of GM’s spin-off firms, Delphi Packard Electric, all in Ohio.  Fred Brown graduated from Wilkes and became an elementary school teacher and, later, a principal in down near Philly. Chip Landis graduated from Dickinson College and went on to teach elementary school in the same school district as Fred. Jay Ruckel was a Wilkes grad with a double major in Philosophy and Psychology, and after a varied career, has ended up as a master glove maker in Manhattan, making gloves for Broadway shows and various entertainers. Lacrasia Gloves Benson did his four years in the Navy, took some classes at Penn State-Wilkes-Barre, and eventually ended up back on his Dad’s dairy farm, which he now runs with his brother Jim.  Dick Lopasky worked in a Procter and Gamble factory outside of Tunkhannock.  Karl Squier went off to college somewhere but has fallen out of contact with the rest of us.

Our class has been quite faithfully having reunions over the years since 1964.  I guess the first was our 5th, in 1969, but I didn’t make it to that one because I was AWOL from the Navy at that time, hiding out in Dodger Stadium.  The summer of 1974 found me out in Ohio working for SBA on the disaster loan program.  By the time of our 15th, in 1979, I had settled into a permanent job with SBA down in Richmond, VA and I did make it home for that one. I guess we had a 20th, in 1984, but, for the life of me, I can’t recall being there. LOL  Our 25th, in 1989, was held at the Apple Tree Terrace at Newberry Estate in Dallas and, without counting the folks in the picture, I think about 65, or about ½ of the class, attended. 

Courtesy of Ailene Boice. 

In this one, I’m almost hidden from sight; in the right-most 1/3 of the picture, directly behind Chip Landis, who’s wearing a light-colored jacket and green tie.   We held our 30th and 35th reunions at the Castle Inn on the Harveys Lake Highway but we came back to Apple Tree Terrace for our 45th

 Courtesy of Ailene Boice

Our class graduated, per my King’s College transcript, 134 students, and I ranked 18th, mostly because I seldom, if ever, worked very hard. LOL. As this is written, in 2010, we’ve lost 12 over the years, with 121 surviving. The missing ones are (in chronological order of year and month of passing): Marty Brobst (deceased 1969-10), Marc Whitesell (deceased 1980-10-11), Mary Ann Jeffery (deceased 1991-04), John Koslosky (deceased 1995-06-16), Dennis Tobin (deceased 1996-11), Bob Bombick (deceased 1997-06-12), Susan Howard (deceased 2005-12-22), Tony DiGiosa (deceased 2007-05-02), and John Keris (deceased 2007-08-09.) Betsy John also passed on, not that long after graduation, but I don’t have even an approximate date for her. Carol Remley left us on Easter Sunday morning, April 4, 2010, and Francis "Bud" Schuler followed her the very next month, on May 28, 2010.

For the most part, our class has done much better in remaining together than other classes near our age who have held NO reunions. Carol Remley did a yeoman’s job, pretty much by herself, in maintaining a list of contacts for 30 years. Only for the past 2 or 3 reunions have I, Ailene Boice, and Sharon Strzelczyk volunteered our time in to help her. Now that Carol has passed on, we’ll have to work extra hard to fill her shoes. We manage to get quite a few out-of-staters to attend but, as is the case with many classes, I suspect, many locals can’t be bothered. High school was for me, as with many people, a very memorable time. I formed many friendships that have remained with me for 45 years.

Ronald E. Hontz

33 Whitcraft Lane

Shrewsbury PA 17361

(717) 235-5791

cell phone (717) 309-1402

e-mail: Sweetvalleykid@gmail.com

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