It was an ordinary day at Whittier School. 7th and 8th graders were transferring from their English classroom to their Math classroom and so forth. Mrs. Woestehoff stood in front of her Social Studies classroom door with her usual broad smile and welcoming persona. All the teachers stood in the hall to ensure that the changing of classes was a smooth one without nonsense. After all it was just four rooms rotating from one room to the other in this K-8 neighborhood school in north Oak Park, IL. Somehow however two students managed to not leave their Social Studies environment and took advantage of the situation of being 8th graders left alone in the third floor classroom overlooking a courtyard with a lawn area and a bench and a couple of fledgling trees trying to grow up.
In a flash of what could only be moments a pair of eyes sitting on that bench in the courtyard looked up and saw a student hanging upside down from a third floor window. She shouted at the student to get back in his classroom immediately. Ronnie just looked down with a meek smile. He wiggled a bit and yelled to Bud that perhaps he should pull him back up. The 6’2” eighth grader tightened his hold on the 4’ 11” Ronnie’s ankles attempting to hoist him up to the window ledge. Ronnie’s butt bounced on the brick wall causing him to winch a bit and yet when he arrived at the ledge and Bud took hold of his back to give him that final thrust through the window they both were laughing. That is until they turned to see Mrs. Woestehoff with hands on her hips standing inside the doorway and holding any students from entering so as not to cause a sensation or perhaps a dangerous event to take place. The rest as they say is history. Ronnie, President of the Class, eventually became a teacher himself and would have been horrified if any of his 8th graders ever pulled that type of stunt, which of course they didn’t. He just had to worry about them smoking pot, being exposed to sexual situations through the TV and movies, trying to drive a car without adult supervision, mooning the other team at a game, having pillow fights on a class trip to Disney World, and “copping a feel” in the swimming pool. Times had changed to be sure.
But the Urban Legend of Ronnie hanging out the third floor window lived on as the Reunion of Whittier’s Class of ’57 once again rotated between their former classrooms and posed for a photo under the hoop of their gym on their nostalgic tour. The spirit of Mrs. Woestehoff was particularly strong as she is still alive and well. The most loved teacher was going to receive a portfolio containing profiles of all her former students outlining what they’ve been up to these last 50+ years. Holly was to make sure of that.
A Whittier Gang is being formed by Doug as I write and soon those urban legends which probably never happened quite in the way I have retold the tale, will live on for yet another decade. Ah yes Dole Library rocked with many stories on that September day in 2011 where the alumni gathered for lunch, secret pledges and handshakes, quizzes about other legendary people, places and things at John Greenleaf Whittier School. They had come from as far away as Utah, as nearby as Indiana and Wisconsin and even closer,
Des Plaines and Glen Ellyn in Illinois. Only one still resided in the oldest and largest Village in the United States, Oak Park. But that didn’t matter, we were home. We walked past the houses in which we once lived and the shadows of our youth flashed in their windows. We enjoyed each others company with a zestful spirit and warm hearts. And I guess that’s what reunions are all about, bringing to life those days gone by and sharing our tales of time past and present.
And Yes, the Ronnie of whom I write is me. Ronald is my middle name and my family used it in my youth to avoid confusion as my father and grandfather had the same name.
What did they call my father you may ask, why “BABE” of course since he was the youngest in his family at the time he was born.
Hope that your reunions are as much fun. Now it’s on to my High School Reunion and more tales to tell.
(Arthur Cola is a retired educator and author. His novels include: The Stone Cutter Genius, The Shamrock Crown and Papa and the Leprechaun King. His book for children is titled Papa and the Gingerbread Man. He has also written screenplay version based on his novels. You may join him on a tour of Ireland, Britain or Italy which are based on his books. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Become his friend on Facebook. Order his books at Amazon.com/arthurcola.
Blog site: http://www.arthurcolalegendarytales.wordpress.com )