Road Trip

A long, long, long time ago–back when students could write perfect sentences and paragraphs manually, with a pencil or pen, in a beautiful, flowing cursive script… “Yes, Virginia, there was flowing cursive script”–TCHS use to have a senior skip day.

In 1965, most of my classmates used the skip day opportunity for road trips. Many seniors hooked up with their girlfriends or boyfriends and headed off to bucolic places like Turkey Run or Fox Ridge State Park, to, as one classmate put it, “commune with nature.” I believe that’s what they called it then.

I left with two buddies–let’s call them Alphonse and Gaston–to go to St. Louis to see a ballgame…because no one wanted to “commune with nature” with any of us three.

We were so excited we couldn’t sleep, so we left early, about 2 a.m. On the way, we stopped in Springfield around 3:30 a.m. at Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school. I stopped there because of an on-again, off-again relationship I had with a fetching young Catholic lass at the time. At the time, it was off. I had just been dumped. One would think I would have been use to it by then, not only with her but any number of previous fetching dumpers. (In the senior yearbook, I was voted “Most Likely to get Dumped.” You can look it up.)

Anyway, I decided to protest my rejection in ways that, at the time, seemed reasonable. I drove up to the dorm on the Sacred Heart campus and laid on the horn. At 3:30 a.m. Just let her blare. When a few light popped on, and I was convinced I had her attention, I screamed out something or other about how “you’ll be sorry, etc. etc.!” It was all handled quite professionally, then I smoked the tires and sped off. Reflecting on my behavior, I realize now that I should not have smoked the tires.

A few days later, I was informed by the same fetching young Catholic lass–who had learned of my wee-hours escapade through rat finks, either Alphonse or Gaston, I never found out–that I had miscalculated. I had not parked in front of her dorm as thought. Rather, I’d parked in front of the motherhouse or dorm of a Dominican Order of religious sisters. Yee gads, I had terrorized Dominican nuns. And in the process, I had created quite a commotion among the Order about which nun had a secret boyfriend with a hot Italian temper, a smoking car, and an obvious inability to handle rejection.

Looking for flashing red lights in our review mirrors, we proceeded warily on down old route 66 to St. Louis. After a few more escapades, we arrived at Sportsman’s Park on North Grand. On that day, in bright sunlight, enjoying the national pastime, all three of us sat in the upper deck, front row seats, first base side, doing what every red-blooded American boy did back then on senior skip day: smoked cigarettes. We were bad dudes.

Then it happened. Alphonse, who really didn’t know much about smoking…actually, neither did Gaston. I was, of course, the expert of the group, my dad having shoved a stogie in my mouth when I was about 4.

Anyway, this clownish rookie smoker, Alphonse, just flicks his still lit, half smoked cigarette out into the air. I’m not sure he even knew he should have put it on the concrete and ground it out. We watched it drift downward, flitting around, here and there, like a feather. Down it went. We all leaned up out of our seats, peering over the railing, to see where it eventually landed. We all gasped when we saw it disappear down the back of the pants of a guy leaning forward. He had what we call today’s “plumber’s butt.” There was a fleshy gap between belt top and shirt bottom, revealing a moderate to severe case of gaposis. And that lit cigarette just fell in there and disappeared in the dark nether regions like Amelia Earhart did over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

We immediately froze, almost in a state of shock, waiting for some obvious reaction from the plumber below. But nothing happened. Eventually, we just leaned back in our chairs and watched the game. Within seconds we heard screaming, looked back down over the railing and saw our guy jumping up and down with people on either side beating his backside like his pants–or something worse–was on fire. Which it probably was, but we never knew for sure, because we shot out of there like North Korean rockets. Got back in the car, smoked the tires, yet again, and headed home.

The next year, brand new Principal William Butkovich, a peerless disciplinarian extraordinaire, announced he was ending the senior skip day tradition, primarily because of complaints he’d received from not only the Archdiocese of Springfield, but also the Barnes Hospital Butt Burn Unit (BBBU). But the class of 66 begged him to reconsider, asked for one more chance. He gave it to them. What a world class brain dead decision. Senior skip day died with those wild cats.

mike carroll