Jim Jenkins' Stories

High School Adventures

By Jim Jenkins

Park Class of '65



A World Class (of '65) Weekend

Hi everybody. A lot has been said about the reunion, but I'm going to give it my slant, by describing   my very personal view of it. Sue and I did everything, from the Thursday mixer at Buckets to the Hunnicutt garden railway tour Sunday, so we had a pretty good vantage point. 

Thursday we arrived at Buckets after a long drive in heavy traffic. We went right to the pub, tired, hungry and thirsty. We walked into the party room and it was just too much. All we saw was a roomful of anonymous geezers! 

We didn't recognize anybody. Might as well have been at the Horlick—or Grand Rapids MI—class of '65 reunion!  We were about to slink out to watch the Republican debate when Chuck Carothers (who looks remarkably un-geezerish) stepped up to the bar and said hi. That broke the ice and we were ready to jump in. So glad we did. 

I spotted a few folks I knew already, from the organizational meetings, and pretty soon we were renewing all sorts of old friendships. We weren't anonymous geezers anymore, we were actual people! Everybody in the room started looking younger by the minute and soon it was 1965! We went home energized and ready to go for the weekend.

Friday we got up when the rooster crowed, for the Panther Scramble golf outing. I was supposedly helping run it, with Linda Campeau. Actually, Linda did it all. Occasionally, over the past year, she'd email or call and say “Jim, what do you think about this?” And I'd tell her it sounded good to me.  And it was! Great fun.

We met up with our partners, Chuck Carothers and his wife Laura, and hit the links. Laura is a great gal and very forgiving. Chuck and Laura saved us from total embarrassment on the course, as they actually know how to golf.  

After our round we sat down with a bunch of tired and thirsty golfers, and had lunch overlooking the beautiful course. Let me tell you, that cold MGD tasted great. This was the best part of the outing. We talked about careers, hobbies, families, fulfilling retirement activities.

Then, while lurking around the clubhouse, I spotted two other silverbacks and asked if they were with the Park reunion. They said yes. We introduced ourselves. 

They claimed to be Paul Lowry and Dave Wieczorek. 

Huh? Two of my best friends in high school, and I hadn't recognized them and they hadn't recognized me! After we got our identities straightened out we were set for hours of reminiscing over the weekend.
The Wingspread tour was cool. It is amazing how small people must have been back then, at least in Frank Lloyd Wright's eyes! And can you imagine the guy who built your house coming back, years later, and switching out your furniture while you slept? That's the price of hiring a genius, I guess. 

When we got to Infusino's we were getting to be old hands at this reunion thing... saying hi to people as we stared at their chests (apologies if I offended anyone... my eyesight isn't great) to read their name tags. If you didn't feel welcome already, there were Trudy and Art Rozzoni at the door, hawking scholarship fund raffle tickets and joking with everybody in line. We bought an arm of tickets, which is a lot of tickets, measured by Art's mile-long arms. 

My pockets were jammed with chances to win the big money. We were sitting pretty.  
Infusino's pours a nice drink, and the pizza just kept coming, along with the stories and laughs.  At some point in the evening I told Sue I'd be right back... just wanted to find out when the raffle drawing would be, so I could count my money. I never found out, but I didn't return to the table for forty five minutes. Had some great conversations with old friends and new. 

While I was away from the table, Kathy Sidwell had come around, and she and Maureen Wieczorek convinced Whiz to let the moths out of his wallet and buy a couple raffle tickets. Of course, I figured his last minute purchase was too little, too late, to stop the Jenkins Juggernaut. 

Then Kathy got up and announced the winning numbers. We didn't win the two smaller prizes, but that was OK... it was go big or go home for us. 

Kathy announced the jackpot number... Drumroll.... And the winner is... None of my numbers! 

I went into a fog of disbelief, til Whiz nudged me. He showed me his ticket... “read this... is this what it looks like?” 

It was. 

Last-Chance Wieczorek won the pot of gold! 

“I've never won anything!” he giggled. 

Right. That's when I came to learn about the Amazing Wieczorek Luck. Comped rooms in Vegas, without gambling a penny... upgrades to free food and luxury suites all across the world. A better hotel room at the Marriott than we had, even though they reserved it at the last minute. 

One thing I can say for Whiz... he bought the drinks that night. I can see why Mo has stuck with him all these years. Intelligence, wit and charm? Maybe. Luck? Damn straight. 

One of the neatest things at Infusino’s was the number of our teachers who were able to join the festivities. It was a great field trip. Here is a list of the teachers who joined us: Ruth Ann Baumann Fennell, Carol Hatch Baldry, Jack Parker, Jeanne Ferraro, Robert Holroyd, Jane Voss Holroyd, Ron Gardina, Paula Von Scheidt Gardina. I remember Miss Hatch struggling to teach me math, and I remember Mr. Gardina leading a trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum. That was a real adventure, since we took the North Shore up there. (Remember the North Shore?). Thanks to each of them for making the night particularly special by joining us.

Saturday we toured the Johnson tower and office building, a real dream for us. And again, weren't those people small? 


Genius   __X__ 

Jerk       __X__ 

After the tour I had a nice chat with Tom Patt, Jean Tiles' hubby, class of '66. Tom said his class is just getting started with their reunion, to be held next summer. Pikers.

Thanks so much to Bill Guenther for making all these insider tours happen for us. And for jazzing up every event he put his hand to. Which was every event. 

I put on my best Hawaiian shirt for the Saturday night gala. Steppin' out! By then, we felt so comfortable with everybody, after two and a half days renewing friendships and sharing laughs.

It meant so much to introduce my old friend Dave Huck and hear his inspiring words. And Dennis' video was a perfect bookend at the back... particularly with his addition of photos of our days gone by. Great job, buddy. We only regret that Don Piggins couldn't join us at the podium, as we'd originally hoped. If you're reading this, Don, we missed you... get better soon.

The evening was a blast, seeing so many people and sharing stories of some of the many cool alums in our class. It was easy, because people were so approachable, and they had so many interesting stories, written while putting down the roots of their lives.  We have a perspective that we didn't have at the twenty year reunion, or certainly the tenth. Thanks to everyone who shared their stories with me! 

After the emcee gig I was ready for a drink and some de-compression.  Sue and I sat at a table in the bar area, and spent time talking to just about everybody who walked by. Great tales of heroism and adventure emerged.  The Roma Lodge venue was perfect. Thanks to Art and Trudy for arranging it all. Delicious food and plenty of it.  The main hall was roomy but not a cavern. Good acoustics and sight-lines. The ante-room with the bar and plenty of tables was a great place to relax and enjoy the music in the main hall. 

And what music. I knew the Doo-Wop-Daddies were fun guys when I went up and talked to them while they were setting up. I asked them how they wanted to be introduced, and one of the guys said “how about 'nine men and a truck?'” Love it. It was their joke but I got the laughs.  

What a band! I couldn't believe how many people danced... and danced! It was the Y-Dance and Spectator's all rolled into one! And no apparent heart attacks, blown knees or slipped discs. The power of good music, good friends, and Advil.

Sunday we toured the school, which was fun to see, and the kringle was pretty good too. It was neat to link up with the current teachers and students and see that the Panther Pride is alive and the school is thriving. And it's nice o know that the money our class has raised will help it's students to continue thriving. 

I must admit that I mentioned to the nice young man who was one of our student tour guides, that there is an easily-accessible system of tunnels that run throughout the school, and enable an erstwhile spelunker to access the whole kaboodle unbeknownst to faculty and staff. But I warned him that, if caught, it would land on his Permanent Record, and he'd wind up just like me. He said “not interested.” 

I did find the trap door, by the way, but I didn't open it. I was afraid that the wrong entry on my Permanent Record—already at the tipping point—might screw up my Social Security. You gotta get serious some time, no?

Our final leg of the weekend was to journey up to the Hunnicutt Railroad and see what Jim and Kevin have been doing with their free time. Their place is at the end of a semi-rural cul-de-sac in Mukwonago. They have a charming older home, with a huge, shady yard. 

The crown jewel of the garden is the outdoor model railroad they've built over the years. A garden railroad is a large-gauge model railroad built in and around intricate landscaping, integrating the plantings with the layout to create a world of it's own. Jim and Kevin's layout included farms, beaches, tenements, and even a gambling hall and bordello. 

We got there before others arrived, and had a chance to see their home, filled with artworks by Jim and Kevin and others. Beautiful. The best part is that we all sat on their deck and talked about our lives. That's what this was all about. 

I promised Kathy I wouldn't thank her anymore. She said this was a team effort and that it took all of the awesome dudes and dudelles of The Class of '65 to make it happen. And it certainly did. We've always been a group with a ready overdrive gear. We were in '65 and we are now. But I will say this. If you hear that Kathy is ever named the CEO of General Motors or Apple... BUY STOCK!

What a world-class weekend.


Written in memory of our wonderful teacher Don Mittag, who died the evening of our reunion. Don was a serious teacher who still helped helped people see the humor in everyday situations.




My friends and I were involved in many school activities, and by the time we were seniors, we became like trustees in prison; teachers trusted us with pretty wide access to the school. Big mistake. 


We discovered that if you went down the long stairway leading down to the boiler room, halfway down there was a hinged metal opening about 4'x4'. Being curious types, we wondered what was behind that door. Finally, we pried it open and found a whole new world available to us.


We called it spelunking, and it became a great after school activity. We'd make sure the janitor was in another part of the building, go down to the janitor's table in the boiler room, grab a screw driver, pry open the metal opening, and crawl in. 


Voila! Access to the entire school, through the duct work! 


We'd pull the door shut, flip on a flashlight, and the inmates had the keys to the asylum. You could get to every classroom that way. At least on the first floor... I don't recall every scaling up to the others. 


But we did get over a lot of classrooms, and you could look down through the vents to see what was going on. No... no locker rooms! Damn! But we did, separately, discover how to get to the false ceiling above the gym, and we'd crawl around there on the beams... that was a bit dangerous, as I recall. 


The big key to it all was making safe re-entry to the school through the trap door. You did that blind, not knowing if the janitor had returned to the boiler room. But we never got caught. I won't name my compadres, but you know who you are.





1) Go to the attendance office.


2) Tell them you feel sick.


3) Call your parents from there. Your parents say come home, and the attendance office approves it.


4) Wait fifteen minutes.


5) Call your parents from the pay phone in the hall. Tell them you took an aspirin and feel better, no need to come home.


6) You are now free to roam about the cabin. 


This is a classic embezzlement, except instead of money, you stole your freedom. The challenge was to do it as a group. You had to claim an epidemic... maybe that you'd all eaten the cheeseburgers at A&W. 





I was never a great student, but, despite knowing how, I only skipped school once in high school. The Day of the Iguana. 


Rich Eisenreich wanted to get an iguana for a science project best left unexplained. We piled into Dave Wieczorek's '52 Chevy and headed up Highway 41. I'm not sure who else was in the car, but it probably included Paul Lowry, John Morgan and Dennis Treu. The Usual Suspects.


We drove up to the huge Gimbels department store, in downtown Milwaukee. In those days department stores were just that... each department was like a separate shop and together they met all your needs. Even some things you might not specifically need, like iguanas. 


We went to the top floor pet department, where they had everything imaginable, including The Iguana. We bought him, threw his cage in the car, and, after the requisite stop at Big Boy, headed back to Racine. 


It wasn't big, as iguanas go... maybe a foot long. Twelve inches of muscle and a primitive drive that did not want to be handled by teenage boys in a '52 Chevy. 


Our mistake was taking it out of its cage on the drive back. You think it's dangerous to text and drive? That's nothing compared to trying to keep the car on the road with a crazed foot-long reptile with a body like a wound-up rubber band. And it had claws. Sharp, talon-like claws. I will never again underestimate the power of a frightened iguana, though I doubt it will ever again be an issue.






Since Park was jam-packed with Baby Boomers, there wasn't enough room to educate us all under one roof or one schedule. One of the results was the Zero Hour.


Several of us in the Usual Suspects had zero hour classes, meaning that we started an hour early and got out an hour early. Since we had to go to school in the frigid dark, we felt we deserved to treat ourselves a bit, to make up for it. We conjured up one potential treat in Kenosha, that far-inferior city eleven miles south of Racine. 


It was a well known fact, among my friends and me, that Kenosha girls were fast. We had come to that knowledge through absolutely no research, no personal experience, no facts whatsoever. We just knew it. Keno girls looked like the girls on Bandstand... short skirts, pouffed up hair, mohair sweaters and lots of eye liner. The girls at Park were much more wholesome... the kind of girl you'd bring home to meet mom, and marry some day. But for fast times, go to Keno. 


So we did. We planned to leave school at two, the end of our day, and get to Bradford high school, in the heart of Kenosha, by three, when their classes let out. Our well-crafted plan was to park out in front of the school, slap on some extra English Leather,  lean against the fenders of our carslookin' fineand the Kenosha Girls would be drawn to us like ants at a picnic.  


The thing about it was that Keno girls were coming out of those Bradford doors along with Keno boys. Guys who were shaving by twelve and worked a shift at American Motors after school. Instead of letter jackets, they wore Auto Workers Local 240 jackets. Oops.


We got out of Kenosha without any serious injuries but without any hot dates either. 



Your Permanent Record


Do any of you know what your Permanent Record is? 


I don't mean the records that businesses and government keep about our taxes, spending habits, credit, driving record, etc. I mean that dreaded Permanent Record that teachers and school administrators threatened us with if we got in trouble in high school. 


I was warned by teachers, many times, that if I transgressed... fooled around too much in class, skipped school, drank beer, that there would be greater consequences than just an immediate punishment. The information would be entered into my Permanent Record, and would dog me for the rest of my life, shame my family, cause untold strife for my future, and leave me and my heirs, friends, neighbors and pets struggling just to stay afloat in life.


And you know what? It did! 


I'm sure that the promotions and raises I didn't get, my children's' failure to get advanced placement in math, my dog's propensity to chase cars and my wife's insistence that I re-paint the family room ceiling are a direct result of that time that Miss Holiday caught me throwing an eraser out the window of her room. 


I'm sure that misstep went straight onto my PR. And look where it got me. 



Road America


A lot of my high school memories involve high school friends, but activities away from school. One of them was going to the sports car races at Road America, that fabulous sports car racing track up near Sheboygan. That place was like Mecca to me and my gear-head friends. I remember going up there with Paul Lowry, Dennis Treu, Tom Christ, Rich Eisenreich, Dave Wieczorek and John Morgan. We'd run into other guys from school up there, too. 


It wasn't so much the racing but the overall environment that we loved. By the time we were juniors at Park, a lot of us were wannabe college guys, and RA was where the college kids hung out and partied. To me college didn't mean lectures and exams, it meant dancing to Louie Louie at three in the morning on top of a frat house bar. I hope my children aren't reading this.


Road America was the Daytona Beach or Ft. Lauderdale of springtime Wisconsin, and the big weekend was the June Sprints. School was just out, and young people from all over the Midwest came to Elkhart Lake and camped and partied and if things got boring, watched some sports car racing. 


I still go to Road America with my buddies and I look around and it's all the same people who were there in 1965. Seriously. The only things that have changed are our hair lines and the size of our jeans. And, depressingly, now we're there to watch the racing. 





That's what I remember calling the Spectator Club, which may have produced the most fun I've had in my lifetime. The first summer, I didn't even drink. And that's when it was the most fun. No idea why.


Here's how it went. The summer after our junior year, everybody was talking about Spectator's, as Kathy Sidwell says, "the place to see and be seen." Right there on Main St.... the heart of the Loop we Scooped! All the Usual Suspects were joining and I did, too. It was amazing.


The first time a bunch of us went we were ready: Seventeen year-olds with grownup bodies, heaps of young energy, jazzed-up hormones, and the judgement of children. The perfect combination for fun. 


We parked somewhere on Main St... MGs, bugeye Sprites, Corvair Spyders. Sportin' our best duds from George and Lester's: Madras shirts, "white Levis," penny loafers. Swimming in English Leather or Jade East.


The place was jammed with young funk. Not an inch of breathing room. Kids from all over the city, which at the time was like saying "people from all over the world." Hot and lubed (apologies to Tom Waits) and dancing to the music of the Sultans. 

You can have your Beatles and Beach Boys and Stones. They're all fine bands. But none of them pumped out the fun like the Sultans singing "Tonight is the Night." 


We danced til lesser humans would've dropped into a river of their own sweat and cologne. And then danced some more. No hook-ups, just showing up with your buds and dancing with everybody in the house. When the place closed, we jumped into our cars and sped down to Zoo Beach and plunged into the surf with our clothes on. 


A flat-out perfect night.


When I got hgome, I was so full of the evening that I jabbered like a speed freak to my parents. Five minutes into it, my mother demanded to smell my breath. Guys, there wasn't a drop of alcohol on it. 


I've partied all over the place. College parties, Road America, Latin-American discos, you name it. All fun. But NOTHING like the fun we had at Spectators, at age 17, on Main St. in Racine, Wisconsin. 




Y Dances


One of the best things about Racine in the Sixties is that grownups provided so much for teenagers to do. But unlike nowadays, the adults stayed far enough back to let us be kids.  Help was always there if things went south, but they weren't breathing down our necks, either. 


Y Dances were a perfect example of that. They were such a blast. Kids from all the schools would go, giving Y Dances cosmopolitan flair that school dances didn't have. And your parents, or worse, your girlfriend's parents, weren't chaperoning. 


I don't remember who did chaperone... do you? All I know is that there were cops around if things got too wild. But until you crossed that line, cops weren't as judgmental as your parents. Unless, of course, they WERE your parents... but that's a discussion for another day.


Within the walls of that Y gym, you could do pretty much what you wanted, with whomever you wanted. Even dance with exotic ladies from Horlick or St. Cats. 




Where Were You When JFK Died?


One of the seminal moments of our high school years was that day, when we were juniors, when John Kennedy was assassinated. Where were you?


I had sprained my ankle playing basketball the night before... one of those sprains that lands you in the ER, where they tell you that you'd be better off if it was broken. So I was home on Nov. 22, in bed, nursing the injury. My mother came in and told me the news. 


My first instinct, injury or no, was that I had to get to school to be with my classmantes. I was on crutches, and I hobbled out to my old MG... no idea how I got in or operated the clutch on the drive to school, but where there's a will there's a way. I remember hobbling through the halls of Park, seeing our friends and classmates crying, or staring into space... just trying to make sense of it all.


A couple years later, Dennis Treu and I drove down to Dallas (after things in Norman, Oklahoma didn't work out so well) and visited the assassination site. It was all still fairly primitive, not the monument it is today. It was more of a spontaneous observance, with flowers, photos, etc. tacked up to the first, small, "official" monument.


Nov. 22, 1963 shaped all of our lives in some way or another. Does anybody have memories to share?





So many of the guys (and some of the gals) in our class served in the armed forces. I know that many of you were drafted. I never went, because of a last-minute decision that changed my life. 


I was a college senior, about to graduate in a month or so. I'd had a student deferment that ran out after four years of school. I got my notice to report to my draft board in Racine, at 6:00 am, to take the bus to Milwaukee for the draft physical. 


While my "permanent residence," thus my draft board, was in Racine, I was living in Madison. I wasn't looking forward to driving to Racine at 4:00 am to catch a bus to Milwaukee, when many such buses were leaving each morning from Madison, too. But I was resigned to it. Then a friend of mine suggested that I go to the draft board in Madison, and ask if I could board a bus there the next morning, instead of Racine.


It was quarter to four, the afternoon before the physical, when I decided that sounded like a plan. The Madison draft board office closed at 4:30 pm... I had 45 minutes to ride my bike from my apartment in the 'burbs to the draft board on Monroe St. near Camp Randall Stadium. I got there at 4:20.


I explained the situation and asked if I could take the bus from Madison to Milwaukee, rather than from Racine. The clerk said fine, but that I'd have to go the following month. They called Racine and got me off the next morning's list.


That month put me into the draft lottery. Number 240.


That was a "middle" number, but it was enough to keep me from being drafted. My friends who went to the physical on the morning I was originally scheduled for, were drafted and served in Vietnam. I stayed in Madison and got a job and met Sue and got married. 


if my friend hadn't convinced me to try to reschedule, or If I'd had a flat tire on my bike that afternoon, or if the gal at the draft board had been less accommodating... or a dozen other "ifs," everything in life, including the fact of life, might have been different.


Thanks to each of you who did serve, however you served. 






This is straying a bit from high school memories but it involves a lot of us in one way or another. 


Summer jobs. 


They were building blocks for growing up. Joining the fraterrnity of life, with real people as our guides. Of course we didn't realize it at the time. 


As in so much back then, the guys were luckiest. We got replacement work for vacationing full-timersyeah, blue collar workers got paid vacation back then... and had jobs when they came backat the factories, foundries, construction companies and the like. 


You worked, and swore and joked and had Miller-Time beers next to real grown ups... guys who had families and houses and had been in the service and knew about the world. You learned a lot about being a man from them... and about contributing to things beyond yourself. 


Those guys worked hard but saw the humor in everything... it kept them going in some tough jobs. And yet they were serious about some things... their families, their unions, their roles in the community. Damn good role models for us kids. 


I think it's such a shame that young people don't have that opportunity, that coming of age, much anymore. Working at Mickey-D's is noble work, but it's not the same. 


My first summer job was at the wonderful Park Pool. It was a natural, since I'd pretty much lived there, with the Usual Suspects, every summer day for years. I was lucky... I was able to get city jobs easily because of "pull"... my dad, being police chief, could get me in pretty easily. 


I worked as a basket checker and ticket seller and cleaner-upper and substitute guard. I'd got my life saving/water safety instructor certification at The Pool,  but as I recall, you had to be eighteen to be a guard. 

Jeez, did we have fun. Massive water fights that the managers... remember Paul and"Rookie?" - would turn their heads from as long as we eventually got the place clean. Swimming underwater through the filter beds when we'd do the big back-washes... I think that was pretty dangerous, looking back on it... and god knows what we were swimming through! But great fun...and great parties!


Next I worked for the City DPW. I did everything from hauling garbage to tarringcracks in the road. But my main job was in the sign shop. Our job was to paint the lines in the street. Crosswalks, center lines, etc. 


My first day on the job, seventeen years old, one of the full-timers, Dave Tradewell, (his son Gary was a class ahead of us at Park) said "Hey college boy, (the summer guys were all "college boys" even if we were still in high school) do you have a driver's license?" 


I nodded and Dave tossed me a set of keys. "Go out and hook up the small trailer to the gray Ford pickup and back it in next to the loading dock." Holy crap! Of course I didn't want to seem incompetent, but I'd 1) never driven anything bigger than a VW, 2) never hitched up a trailer, and 3) never done what is the most difficult single skill on earth (apologies to the physicists, engineers and brain surgeons out there)... backing a small trailer into a precise location.  


While I was attempting the challenge, time was moving on. I watched trucks come and go in the lot, I saw my co-workers, Dave and Lenny Bircham and a few others go off to coffee break... and come back... 


Dave grinned at me as he went by... "Hey college boy, havin' trouble?" Everybody was choking back laughs. Then Dave came over and showed me how to do it. That was my initiation into what turned out to be three summers of hard, healthy work, outside, with great guys. Dave Tradewell and Lenny Bircham were like uncles to me. The best kind of guys to work with.  Wouldn't change it for anything. Though I still have trouble backing a small trailer. 


The other great thing about that work is that it really helped me appreciate college. In late spring, after final exams, I'd come to work at the city and it was nirvana... after nine months of book work, I couldn't wait to get out and do something physical. Then, after three months of sweating my butt off on a hard job, I was MORE than ready to get back to Madison, relax, and hit the books again!







I don't think Park was very cliquish, at least for the guys. But we had groups of friends. My friends, The Usual Suspects, are the co-stars of the stories here. I was thrilled to see many of them at our 50th.  


The group included mainly guys, but a  number of girls were along for the adventures, too. You know who you are!