OFF T0 NTHS
(ROBERT L. YOUNG DECEMBER 1996)
IN THE FALL OF 1939, I ENTERED NEOGA HIGHSCHOOOL. I HAD GROWN RAPIDLY
AND AT 5 FT 10 IN 180 POUNDS WAS BIGGER THAN MOST OF MY CLASSMATES. I
TOOK ENGLISH, HISTORY, MATH AND AT MY MOTHER'S INSISTENCE LATIN. I HAD
EXCELLENT TEACHERS WITH LATIN AS THE HARDEST WITH A LOT OF HOMEWORK BUT
A LOT OF HELP FROM MOM WHO HAD TAUGHT HIGHSCHOOL LATIN.
I much enjoyed an association with a fine
faculty and staff. Mr. Duncan was a principal of the old school variety
and ran a tight and proper ship. Albert Martin taught courses well that
were very useful to me in my engineering career and it was he who
noticed me in a noon basketball game and asked me to come out to
practice with the team in late Novermber, 1939. Rowena and I wish to
pay special tribute to Miss Irene Ruecklos. She was a very proper and
demanding English teacher who expected the best. We continue to benefit
from her instruction and in particular in engineering studies at the
University of Illinois and Northwestern University I found her courses
in English enabled me to compete well with graduates of much bigger
public high schools and private high schools with big reputations.
At the start of basketball practice in my Sophomore year Coach Fulton
noted that I was shooting my right handed jump shot off of the wrong
leg. He also selected me to play center (pivot man) on the varsity and
helped me develop a fake to the right turn to the left pivot shot which
was very effective.
WE WOULD BE REMISS NOT TO MENTION SOME OF THE OTHER FINE FACULTY FOR THE YEARS 41 - 42 AND 42 - 43.
1. Mr. Duncan retired in 1941 and Mr. Andrew Meurlot became Principal as has been discussed elsewhere in this paper.
2. In the Fall of 1941, Bob Mirus and wife Esther joined the faculty.
Both were recent graduates of Eastern Illinois University.
3. Esther taught mathematics and was a favorite of the students. She
initiated and directed a GAA group (Girls Athletic Association) that
met after school and she tried to pass on her bridge playing skills to
some of the students.
4. Bob was our basketball coach and he introduced a controlled offense
with much passing that drove the usual run and shoot teams crazy.
He also enforced strict training rules and insisted that we never
blindly put a ball back in play that was about to go out of bounds.
That may have been a good rule but I notice that the college teams
today do not follow it. We had a very successful season and were
Champions of the National Trail Conference. According to the 1942
Tomahawk, we won 20 and lost 7 that year and BEAT T-TOWN both at home
(12/23/41 34 to 27) and away (11/27/41 19 to 14). I had not remembered
those facts but if the Tomahawk so noted it must thave been true.The
Mirus family drove a robin's egg blue 1941 Ford V8 coupe that was the
envy of all students and faculty. Class of 1942 graduate Professor John
Tolch reports that he has been in mail contact with Coach Mirus who
lives in Kissamee, Florida. After leaving high school teaching and
coaching, Mr. MIrus served as a public relations official for a Florida
College. They report that Ester Mirus died several years ago.
I CONTINUED PLAYING THE TRUMPET AND PLAYED IN THE HIGHSCHOOL BAND.
OTHERS WERE BETTER THAN I ON THE TRUMPET BUT I REALLY ENJOYED THE BAND.
IN THE SPRING OF MY FRESHMAN YEAR, THE BAND
HAD A PARTY AT THE HIGHSCHOOL. I MADE A DATE WITH A PRETTY BRUNETTE
COUNTRY GIRL, IMOGENE WINKLER, GOT THE USE OF OUR 1938 CHEVROLET AND
TOOK IMOGENE TO THE BAND PARTY. SHE WAS A SENIOR AND AFTER A FEW MORE
DATES, SHE GRADUATED AND THAT WAS OVER.
MR. MARTIN, MY MATH TEACHER AND THE BASKETBALL COACH SAW ME PLAYfNG
BASKETBALL IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND ASKED THAT I COME OUT FOR THE
TEAM. THEY PRACTICED FROM 4:00 TO 5:30 AFTER SCHOOL AND INITIALLY I
RODE WITH DON KING WHO LIVED NEAR MY HOUSE. BUT DON WAS A JUNIOR WITH
HIS OWN CAR AND HE DID NOT MUCH LIKE MY TAGGING ALONG SO LATER THE
FOLKS MADE A SPECIAL TRIP EACH DAY TO GET ME AFTER PRACTICE.
I MADE THE B-TEAM AND PLAYED IN SEVERAL GAMES. AS DESCRIBED IN THE
LAMBERT DISCUSSION, I WAS SHOOTING OFF THE WRONG FORWARD FOOT A DEFECT
WHICH WAS DISCOVERED BY OUR NEW COACH DERALD FULTON. HE HAD BEEN A STAR
AT EASTERN AND WAS A VERY COOL CHARACTER. DURING MY SOPHOMORE YEAR HE
WAS THE COACH AND HE PUT ME AT CENTER ON THE FIRST TEAM AND HELPED ME
DEVELOP A PIVOT SHOT. FAKE LEFT AND PIVOT RIGHT TO SHOOT LEFT MANY
PEOPLE TRYING TO GUARD ME HELPLESS AND ALLOWED ME TO SCORE SEVERAL
POINTS PER GAME. COACH FULTON HAD USED A SIMILAR SHOT AT EASTERN
ILLINOIS. LATER HE MARRIED DAISY GREESON AND THEY MOVED TO ARIZONA.
IN AUGUST BEFORE MY JUNIOR YEAR, ON A HOT SUNDAY I WAS SWIMMING IN THE
MATTOON LYTLE PARK POOL WITH SOME FRIENDS. THEY HAD A SLIDE WITH A
METAL LADDER WITH CUTOUTS ON THE STEPS. IT WAS GREAT FUN TO GO DOWN
THIS SLIDE INTO THE WATER. THE LAST TIME I DID IT, I NOTICED A STRONG
JERK ON MY 2ND RIGHT FOOT TOE AS I LEFT THE LADDER. IN THE WATER, I
FOUND THAT THE FLESH HAD BEEN STRIPPED BACK TO THE FIRST JOINT ON MY
2ND TOE. I WAS TAKEN TO A MATTOON DOCTOR WHO REMOVED THE BONE BACK TO
THE FIRST JOINT AND SEWED THE FLESH OVER THE STUB TOE. I WAS STILL
CRIPPLED SOMEHAT WHEN HIGHSCHOOL STARTED IN SEPTEMBER, BUT I RECOVERED
SOON ENOUNG TO START BASKETBALL PRACTICE.
AT THE START OF MY JUNIOR YEAR, BOB MIRUS BECAME THE COACH. HE WAS A
SHORT, COCKY PERSON WHO HAD BEEN A STAR PLAYER AT EASTERN. HE
INTRODUCED A SLOW, PATIENT OFFENSE WHICH SERVED US VERY WELL AND WE WON
THE NATIONAL TRAIL CONFERENCE THAT YEAR. THAT OFFENSE FRUSTRATED MOST
OF THE OPPOSING TEAMS AND THEY WOULD GET EXCITED AND MAKE MISTAKES. I
PLAYED CENTER IN THE PIVOT AND AVERAGED 12 POINTS A GAME. WE BEAT
TEAUTOPOLIS AT THE NEOGA DECEMBER HOMECOMING GAME WHICH WAS THE FIRST
TIME NEOGA HAD BEATEN T- TOWN IN YEARS.
IN A GAME AT NEOGA AGAINST MARTINSVILLE, WE DID NOT RUN THE OFFENSE
MIRUS WANTED, I FOOLISHLY TOOK A SHOT FROM MID-COURT WHICH I ALMOST
MADE AND MIRUS GOT SO DISGUSTED THAT HE BENCHED THE ENTIRE FIRST TEAM
OF ME, VERNON GREESON, SAM SAEGESSER, DON BISHOP AND BOB BURRY AND LET
THE SECOND TEAM PLAY THE REST OF THE GAME (ABOUT THREE QUARTERS),
MARTINSVIlLE DID NOT HAVE A STRONG TEAM AND WE EASILY WON BUT THE FIRST
TEAM BOYS HAD LEARNED THEIR LESSON AND FROM THEN ON WE RAN HIS OFFENSE.
PARIS WAS UNDEFEATED IN THE STATE AND EVENTUALLY COMPLETED AN
UNDEFEATED SEASON BY WINNING THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. WE WENT TO THE
PARIS HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT AT CHRISTMAS TIME AND HAD THE BAD LUCK TO PLAY
PARIS IN THE FIRST GAME. WE DID REASONABLY WELL THE FIRST QUARTER AND
TRAILED ONLY BY 14 TO 12 IN THE SECOND QUARTER PARIS TURNED IT ON AND
SNOWED US COMPLETELY. I DID GET 16 POINTS AND HONORABLE MENTION IN THE
TOURNAMENT BUT THE FINAL SCORE WAS PARIS 72 AND US 32. MOST OF THEIR
PLAYERS WENT ON TO OUTSTANDING COLLEGE CAREERS AT U OF ILLINOIS AND
ALTHOUGH I WAS PLAYING BASKETBALL, I ALSO PLAYED IN THE BAND. SO AT
HALF-TIME OF HOME GAMES, I WOULD PLAY WITH THE BAND WHILE THE OTHER
PLAYERS RESTED IN OUR DRESSING QUARTERS. I WAS IN GOOD SHAPE AND COULD
DO THAT DOUBLE DUTY EASILY. AFTER BEING DEFEATED BY WINDSOR IN THE
REGIONAL TOURNAMENT, WE WENT TO CHAMPAIGN TO SEE THE STATE TOURNAMENT.
WHAT A SIGHT. CENTRALIA WAS THE FAVORITE BUT MANY OTHER GOOD TEAMS WERE
THERE INCLUDING SAlEM, PEORIA, AND THORNTON OF NEAR CHICAGO. SALEM
FEATURED ROY GATEWOOD WHO HAD AN IMPOSSIBLE TO STOP PIVOT SHOT FROM THE
SIDE CORNER. WEST FRANKFORT FEATURED MAX MORRIS, 6 FT 2 AND VERY
STRONG. LATER I KNEW MAX WELL AS A FELLOW V-12 STUDENT AT NORTH ESTERN
WHO WAS A STAR NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL PLAYER.
CENTRALIA FEATURED DWIGHT EDELMAN BIG SCORER AND GREAT ATHLETE. HE
LATER WAS A STAR FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL PLAYER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
ILLINOIS. CENTRAllA HAD AN INTERESTING STYLE OF PLAY. IN ADDITION TO
EDELMAN, THEY HAD A BIG BUNCH OF BRUISERS WHO USUALLY WOULD SHOOT A
VERY HIGH lONG TWOHANDED SHOT WITH ALL RUSHING TO THE BASKET TO REBOUND
IF THE SHOT WAS MISSED.
CENTRALIA PLAYED THORNTON IN THE FINAL GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT. THORTON
HAD A VERY DISCIPLINED SMART TEAM. CENTRALIA COULD NOT MAKE THEIR LONG
SHOTS, THORNTON SLOWED THE GAME DOWN MUCH AS MIRUS HAD US DO AND TO
EVEYONE'S AMAZEMENT, THORNTON WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
IN THE SPRING, I WAS THE LEAD MALE IN OUR JUNIOR CLASS PLAY. LEONORE
DOUGLAS WAS THE LEAD FEMALE ALTHOUGH EVERYONE THOUGHT THAT ROWENA ELSON
WOULD HAVE THAT ROLE. I HAD HOPED THAT MY VERY GOOD FRIEND ROWENA WOULD
GET THE LEAD ROLE BUT LEONORE WAS SO PROUD OF IT THAT SHE REMINDED ME
OF IT AT EVERY REUNION SHE ATTENEDED SO A NICE THING DID HAPPEN. THE
PLAY WAS A LOT OF WORK BUT IT WENT WELL AND KINDLY RECEIVED BY THE