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Jerry Gibson

Class of 1960
Lincoln Community High School
Lincoln, Illinois

     In an email to LH on 6-3-01, Jerry offers a little background for his interest in writing.

     "In 1985, I was without work for several months because I was
laid off by an employer, and then by choice as my wife suggested I take some
time off anyway, and so I attended Elgin Community College for a few courses.
(By the by, Paul Hegele was an instructor in the Business Department. He
lives in St. Charles ...about 10 miles south of here. I attended a one-day
seminar sponsored by one of my employers, which he taught in 1978.  We talked
at the last reunion. He is retired.) Well, writing was the course I liked the
best. It takes so much time. I never stayed with it. I guess my impatience
rules. I did my best writing when I sent letters home from my military days.
My mother kept all of them; however, some were inadvertently lost, and there are
gaps, but some of the stuff was a real weekly chronological documentation of
one soldier's life."

All material copyrighted by Jerry Gibson.

* * * * *

My Diploma

     When I was turning in my cap and gown on graduation night, I opened my
diploma and discovered that Jack Hodgson had not signed it. I asked Dick
George if his diploma had a genuine JOH...sure enough his had the handsome
signature.  As panic set in, I hunted Mr. H down in the hallway by the
cafeteria and asked him if he really wanted to keep me. Hurriedly, he grabbed
his pen, snatched my diploma from my hand and placed the document on the
concrete block wall to make sure he had a firm surface to make it legal. As
he signed, he uttered something about 'Of all people, I want to make sure you
aren't back next year'......but I think he actually had me confused with my
cousin Vic, who had graduated the previous year!
Just kidding, Vic.
JG (June, 2001)

One Summer

     Hay baling season during the summer of 1959 was as typical as any Logan
County Illinois, the days were hot and humid.

     Jon Diers, Ron Castor, and I would wait at Dial & Jones Texaco for our 4th
baler and leader, Carson Culleton, to pick us up in his car, so we could ride
dusty hay wagons and stack hay in stifling hot barns and sheds.
Our reward for working for John White, George White's son, was the best pay,
kind people to work for, Mrs. J.White's lemonade, tea, sandwiches and cookies
during breaks in the shade.

     Possibly the best reward, for me, was the memory of the companionship of
working together with those guys. Diers could unwittingly get in enough
trouble on his own, but Castor was always 'helping' some how.
One day, George volunteered to drive the four of us in his car to the next
site where we to put up hay.

     One of the reasons George White was financially successful may have been
because he knew how to use his money. For instance, his 1953 Cadillac doubled
as his pick up truck by removing the rear seat. By omitting this cumbersome
object, George now had  practical room for hoes, shovels, spades, fence wire, 
hammers, and boxes of hardware items needed for farm work (material most 
likely purchased from Lauer's Hardware).  Now, if this 'pick up truck' would 
not have had a car top on it...there would not have been a problem for Gibson and Castor.

     Since Culleton and Diers were previously aware of this vehicle, they landed
in the front seat next to George.  In the back seat area ,we could not sit on 
anything, so we had to crouch in a duck walk position for about 5 miles over 
gravel roads, farm lane ruts, and pasture pot holes to the next work site. So each 
bump resulted in our backs or heads hitting the top, or our rumps stabbed by 
garden tools. Plus, the back of the back seat was removed, allowing the dust
from the tires to roll into our part of the compartment.

     I don't remember if we ever got back at Carson for his quick move, but Diers
was reminded, by us, every time George was in earshot, with, "Diers, if there
is a way to do it wrong...you'll figure it out." It came about when the
vehicle approached a long gate blocking the entrance to the field where the
hay shed was located.

     George told Diers to 'Open the gate.'  Now this may seem a moot point to some,
but to George White it was a big deal.  Well, to any farmer who does things
his own way it is a big deal. The gate was hooked at both ends. Diers headed
for the end closest to him.....BUT it was the WRONG end!!! Yep, George wanted
the other end unhooked. George's voice was shrill and weak so Diers couldn't
hear him, over the engine noise, that he was at the wrong end of the gate.
George wasn't as spry and agile as he once had been so it took him many
seconds too long to exit the car to get Diers' attention. Diers unhooked his
end of the gate; the gate proceeded to fall to the ground in a huge billow
of dust (which slowly settled all around George).

     That gate was heavy to lift back upright especially when we were weak from
suppressing the laughter we wanted to release at the scene of the heavy set,
red-faced, coveralled, straw-hatted individual shouting at a skinny city kid
about which end of the fence gate to open.

     The footnote to this is that a vehicle could have been driven around the
gate! The gate had no fence on either side of it, only posts at each end!
I guess you know what our quoted phrase for the rest of baling season
was...'Diers, if there is a way..........'
JG (June, 2001)

Birdhouse Blues
 
(Pete is the author's wife's nickname, and this context was sent to her
sister):
     Pete wanted me to tell you that yesterday morning as I was doing some outside
work, I walked near our decorative bird house which hangs from the garage
side of our pergola. I looked up and found a sparrow with its head wedged
into the entrance hole.  The poor thing was stuck with all of its body on the
outside and its head inside the house.

     Well, my first reaction was to run inside to get Pete because it was such an
unusual scene. She was painting our bedroom closet, and she wasn't too
thrilled at my request for her to stop immediately and look out the window at
the plight of a bird.

     At my request, she grabbed the video cam.  I rushed back outside with the
Polaroid to make a still record of the event. By this time the bird [I don't
have any idea how long it had been stuck] is running out of gas.
Pete suggested I take the birdhouse, and the bird, off the hook so I could
work with getting it unstuck. The bird is so pooped it doesn't give me much
of a struggle. It did, however, have to wait while I donned gloves and
protective glasses. So I gently wrapped my hand around both wings and legs to
see if maneuvering my index finger to its neck would help the little rascal
out.

     Geez! I did not realize what a fragile creature it is. I immediately let up
for fear of pulling its head off or injuring it to incapacitation. Now, I
look to Pete for help. "What should I do?", to which she advises me that
either I do something or the bird dies in the hole.  Great.
     So I set the birdhouse and its part occupant down to try and decide the bird's
fate.....and the damn thing pulls its head out and flies off in a noisy
flurry to a large bush at the far corner of the garage! As it peeped and
twitted to the other birds in the bushes, I'm sure it told its fellow birds I
tried to kill it by first catching it in a torturous trap and then separate
its little birdy body from its little birdy head.

     In order to avoid such incidents in the future, I boarded up the hole, and we
now have a birdhouse for decoration only.
JG (June, 2001)
 
Detasseling
 
     A recent correspondent reminded me of my then life's ambition to be tall
enough to detassel corn. Oh, to reach the required height to be accepted by
Fuller's so I could earn my own spending money (and maybe be taller than the
girls my age), at last.

     First, I had to obtain a Social Security number. Now, that was a big deal in
1954. I made sure I had  'Jerry' on the card.  I detested Jerome. Little did
I foresee the hassle that I would have many years later trying to get the
legal thing straightened out with Uncle Sam.
 
     What a privilege to wait on Hodnett's Corner for the truck to pick me up so
I could dress in clothing, fit for winter, to protect me from corn leaf cuts,
pollen down the back of my neck, mud inches thick on my boots, and a
skin-burning sun.  Yeah, I walked the rows. I think I only rode once or twice.

     Anyway, the most vivid detasseling story I have is Jim Cave's adventure into
manliness. If the boy crews were lucky enough to work in the same field as a
girl crew, and the boy crew were even more fortunate to take a break at the
end of the rows when the girls arrived at the same time...then it was a
signal for the boys to show off.
 
     Cave whipped out a plug of tobacco from his shirt pocket while all watched.
He was so excited he had a coed audience, that he inserted the entire plug
into his face and somehow moved his puffed out cheeks into a chewing motion.
As the mess in his mouth began to expand, the boy's side wondered how much
longer before the inevitable expulsion and the girls, sensing something not
good was about to be seen, hurriedly prepared to go back to the wet,
insect-infested corn stalks.

     Noticing the quick preparation by the girl crew, Cave chewed faster to get an
impressive wad to prove his manhood. As he inhaled to muster a most man-like
scene, he quite underestimated the size of his mouth and size of the contents.
As physics prevailed (in order to launch, as it were) in the amount of air
needed to accomplish the deed, he sucked most of his hard chewed labor into
his stomach.

     The boys were in shock, the girls were already in the corn and Cave was
yelling for water. Now, this was not a real smart request, because he
immediately got his wish granted.

     Let's review.  What happens when you mix tobacco and water? I believe that boy wretched for
several hours.

     As I recall , he did not return to detasseling for a couple of days.      
JG (June, 2001)

* * * * * 

Mudjacking

(A story addressed to Carson Culleton's son, Chris)

Chris,

     The political story is another story leading to this one, but I must put the
cart before the horse to get this one on paper. You gave me inspiration to
clean up and add detail to this story:

     During the late 1950's, Carson, myself, and a lot of guys had summer jobs
with the State of Illinois, working on road clean up crews...cutting grass
with hand sickles or long scythes, redirecting roadside ditches with shovels
after heavy summer down pours and mudjacking.

     For a number of geological reasons the highway top surface would sink at a
certain location....many times at the approach to a railroad track that
crossed that portion of roadway. It was the State's responsibility to bring
the highway up to 'grade' or level with the tracks. In comes the mudjack,
which is a device consisting a gasoline engine which in turn forces a mixture
of clay, water, and some sand through a two inch hose into two inch holes
drilled at strategic sections of the sunken road.

     Road crew history has it that the rookie crew members would be the first
candidates for this job. Usually it was the strongest guy or a guy who thought
he was the strongest know it all. Pretty straight forward...hold this hose in
the dinky little hole until it fills up and then move the hose to the next
hole, so on, so on, until the road rises up to the required grade....easy
job..hole fills up...move...

     My memory vividly sees the impish grin on Carson's face when the road foreman would announce at the morning pre-workday meeting that today was
mudjacking day.  Man, Carson would smile all the way to the work site while
us veterans would be silently wondering to ourselves of his choice rookie
operator au jour.  You see the garage foreman, Ed Masterson, knew of Carson's
game and he always appointed Carson as the 'instructor'.
Carson knew this procedure and he knew the ins and outs (so to speak) of how
to accomplish this method. I do know Carson and Ed had a motive. I know it
was great sport and I know Carson liked the limelight. Hell, it gave us all
levity and an esprit de corps.....naw...it was good ole boy stuff pure and
simple.  

     After giving the new operator most of the instructions on how to
fill the holes, Carson would position himself well out of mud flinging range
behind the air compressor with his hand on the main control valve and wait
for the filling to begin. The rest of us were, of course, busying ourselves
with shovels and brooms moving a few rocks and a little loose dirt, a safe
distance away from the action but well within spectator distance. With a down
hand motion signal to the hose holder victim, Carson would adjust the roaring
compressor to commence filling the hose. The hole filled within seconds
catching the guy completely off guard because he couldn't hear the hole
filling up over the damn compressor noise. His clothing goes muddy first and
then the work area around him while he ties to catch the out of control
withering hose.  Carson wouldn't let the poor guy go too long as it gets
messy real fast. Hell, the stuff gets all over the place in a few seconds and
guess who gets to clean up the surrounding mess.. yes us!!! ..but it is worth
the few seconds of panic expression on the new guy's face. The laugh for
us......

     Ok, philosophical time.. Sure it was funny to us...'the guys'...,but this is
important to you, Chris......Carson was testing the guy...could he take it?
That's what was the attraction to Carson: he was a leader.  He was the first
to help the guy, to help him get settled down, and to help clean him up.  All
the while Carson is testing the guy..could he take it?... can he work with
the rest of us.  Oh, yeah, by this time the rest of us are very busy cleaning
up the mess because we have to get this job finished for the State of
Illinois. 

Jerry Gibson, Winter, 2002

* * * * *

Traveling with the LCHS Tennis Team in 1959

     
My apologies to all named and especially Mr. Royce Lovelace and family. If I did not have any respect for such a fine educator and tennis mentor, I would not relate this:

     The traveling tennis squad consisted of six players. Whether that was Big 12 rules or all that we could fit into Royce's (again, no disrespect but we all unofficially referred to him as such) Chevrolet station wagon. The road trips to Bloomington, Springfield, Decatur and surrounding conference schools were painfully long mainly because Royce wanted to set a perfect example by practicing EVERY driver's training law written, since he was the LCHS driving instructor.

     I must note the mechanical data of this period automobile which doubled as the driver's training vehicle: straight six cylinder engine propelled by a clutch-actived three speed column mechanical shift. Speed and propelled may be oxymoron's, here, because Royce did not exceed the posted limits.

     After each match, we players were tried and bored. In order to obtain comedic relief, we resorted to a teenage antic of pestering Coach Lovelace. I am going out on a limb here and say this was one team member's idea but all contributed to the 'gag.'

     Seating arrangement was designed by Dan Dutz who was the number one player and had shot gun front seat. The number 2,3,4, members Luther Dearborn, Gerry Dehner, and Thom Zimmerman sat three across in the second row seats. The back of the station wagon belonged to the number six player, Steve Schreiber, who had to lie in curled position around the rackets and equipment in the far back compartment. The number five player (me) was in the front row suicide seat where the exposed rearview mirror was at the vulnerable forehead level. In those days rank had its privilege.

     In his every effort to set a prime example as an instructor and educator to us as future drivers, Royce would shift the wagon with PRECISE engine speed, clutch engagement, and gear shift movement through EVERY gear EVERY maddening start up. So instead of encouraging him to move a little faster to get us home quicker, in our teenage mind's it was better to make a joke of his efforts.

     With a lot of encouragement from row two passengers and the idea seeded by mister shotgun rider, Dutz and I would subtly move heads when Royce shifted which would make him think he had not shifted smoothly. So the long story shifts down: Mr. R shifted the vehicle in a perfectly acceptable diving school manner and we passengers made it seem like he was not so proficient.

     I really think he caught on and let us play our silly game, because, after a time the snickers from row two were not subdued. However, I still believe the performances from row one were outstanding.

     Jerry Gibson (2-2005)

     Leigh's note: the following are from the 1958 Lincolnite:


 

Working at the Illinois State Fair in 1959

     This doesn't pertain to this article, but who will forget the waving neon figures, the service station attendant and the waitress on top of the Tiz-Rite at the four corners?

     Since you asked about the brief stint I had helping out in a carnival, I must include some Logan County, Illinois, background before I get to the point. Lincoln is the county seat and is located 25 miles northeast of Springfield on what is now I-55 which once was the famous Route 66. Before that it was Route 4.

      This easy access route to the state capital made it possible for a lot of folks in Lincoln to procure employment compliments of the taxpayers. The one catch was that you had to have a profound affiliation with either the Democratic or Republican Parties, as a good portion of the jobs were 'political.'  For whatever reason my dad and his brothers had always declared Republican in the primaries and so our family was established on that side of the political fence.   

       During my high school years the Secretary of State was Republican, and one of the responsibilities of that office was the 400-plus acre Illinois State Fair grounds.

       In late July 1959, I was at the usual early evening hangout, Dial's Texaco, (just one block down the alley and a quarter block from my house) when the Republican County Chairman, Joe Sapp, stopped in to buy gas from his Republican friend, Harry Dial.  He usually came in to say a few words and look over the teens gathered there to make sure they told their fathers that Joe was circulating.  As he surveyed the teen group this particular evening, he announced he had some job openings at the Illinois State fair grounds, 'Anybody free for those couple of weeks?'

       We weren't as dumb as we looked so we asked him what was available. Turns out there were several openings for night grounds cleaning crews and a few for ticket takers on the Midway on both the day and evening shifts. Most of us were broke and so he had plenty of takers and we settled in dividing up the jobs. It was really a very orderly process because we were all life long friends and there wasn't any bickering over who took what.  Surprisingly, the groundskeepers went first and that was ok with me because I didn't have any transportation. I did have a better chance at the day job of ticket taker so I got that with a guy by the name of Tom Werth. His dad was a big-time farmer and I figured I could get a ride with him. I knew there was no chance I would have a ride as we only had one car, a 1954 Packard, which was, unfortunately, a lemon.

          I worked with Tom on his grandfather's farm painting a barn and white fence, which must have been two hundred miles long, the previous fall.  Since we knew each other fairly well, I was confident this adventure was going to be a breeze.

          We had to report to Springfield a few days prior to the fair opening day to get our assignments, orientations, and badges. Tom drove. On the way back from Springfield, Tom got a speeding ticket and as punishment, his dad took away his driving privileges and told him it was his responsibility to find a way to work. This is where the 'breeze' ended and ten days of 'headwinds' began for us to arrive at our job sites on time.

          Since we were the only two from the area on this shift and this assignment, we were reduced to the Greyhound Bus lines. The only bus left Lincoln for Springfield just before 6:00 am., daily, from the Maid-Rite all-night restaurant. This was about the only traveling luck we had during the ten-day running of the fair.

          Our job assignments were ticket takers for the carnival rides and shows on the Midway which was located in a natural land indentation on the grounds referred by all as 'Happy Hollow'.  Neat name but during the hot humid days of mid August, all of this stuff was trapped with the heat from ride generators, grease pit carnival food stands, and over- heated human beings waiting in long lines to board rides. Oh, yes, and if it rained, and more than often than not August rains are downpours, and the topographical lay meant that all the run off water ended up as 'Lake Happy Hollow'. Maybe it should have been 'Electric Lake' because of all the cables running from the generators to the rides.

            Each day the "Call" or opening was staggered; sometimes 9:00 am; one day it was 11:00 am; and so Tom and I had time to get some sort of breakfast and find our friends for their stories from their nightly clean up jobs, until time for us to report for our assignments.

            At least the bus drivers were always helpful by making a special stop near a gate for us, with our sad story, of course. We always managed to catch the evening bus but I don't know how.

            So our job was to deposit the sold ticket stubs into a locked ticket box, which was given to us at the beginning of each shift. That box stayed with the ride or sideshow through the next ticket takers' shift and then it was turned in when the carnival closed.  The purpose of this tabulation was to insure that the agreement between the carnival operators and the State of Illinois received equal half share of the receipts. The fox was watching the hen house.

            Now then, for all of the hours of listening to mixed sounds of 'Come see the Three Legged Man', 'Jo-Jo the Dog Face Boy', (who I did without asking, thank you); 'Miniature Horses so small you will not believe it you MUST see them with YOUR own eyes'; 'They are Rolling Thunder! Motorcycle Daredevils riding on walls of Death!' over and over and over, the same blaring, scratchy, repetitious voices coming out speakers not far from our sun-drenched ticket taking posts; plus there were few breaks from this din as the utility men who were assigned to relieve us usually got stiffed by a lot of the guys they relieved, we were paid the handsome net wage of: eighty (80) bucks.

           The benefits, you ask?  The female scenery was like a smorgasbord to a high school kid. We all gave free rides to our ticket taking buddies, which was more than cool, the experience was a lesson in, "don't work in a carnival", although, I almost did, since I had plenty of offers from 'Carnies', I was a lousy student, I had a hankering to see what the world outside of Illinois was like and I got to write about this teenage experience.

Jerry Gibson (spring 2005)

    
Email Jerry for comments, questions, and suggestions for more:

 
j42Gibson@aol.com

 

 

Home

Introduction

1960 Photos of Classmates, Faculty, & Staff

Mementos, including The Railsplitter 5-60

Reunion Photos

Directory & Contributions

Guestbook & Archive of Emails to the Class

Links & Things, including Brad Dye's Lincoln Web Site