Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another chapter to whet your appetite

Note: Here's another chapter, another of the stories that made our class special.


Tony Barile lost teammates, friends and a cousin in the 1970 Marshall University football tragedy that he avoided because of an injury -- and a trip to Woodstock.

If you want a perfect example of that old saying about the size of the fight in the dog mattering more than the size of the dog in the fight, look at Tony Barile.

He was only 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds, but he lettered in four sports at Woodson. He was a standout running back for the school’s first winning football team, and he was the starting point guard for a basketball team that went all the way to the state quarterfinals his junior year.

He also played third base for the baseball team as a sophomore and ran the 440 and the mile relay in track as a senior.

"My size never really bothered me until I got to college," Barile said. "I was the same size from junior high on, and the first time anybody ever referred to it was when I was a junior on the basketball team."

Walter Hawkins, a transfer who played center on that team, called Barile "Midget Pizza."

Midget or otherwise, Barile could play. In what turned out to be the last game of the season, at state against top-seeded Patrick Henry High of Danville, he sparked the Cavaliers to a halftime lead that disappeared in the third quarter when Coach Paul "Red" Jenkins sat Barile down for too long.

He could play.

Of course, when colleges came looking for recruits, 5-8 and 158 spoke a lot louder. Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, offered him a full scholarship to play football. He accepted, never realizing he would become part of one of the most tragic stories in the history of American sports.

By now most people know the story. On November 14, 1970, after losing a close game to East Carolina University, players, coaches and fans of Marshall’s football team boarded a DC-9 with a crew of five for the return flight from Kinston, N.C., to Huntington.

It was only supposed to be a 52-minute flight, and players and friends who hadn’t made the trip had beer on ice waiting for their friends to return.

The flight never landed. The crew scrubbed the landing and began an effort to go around and try again, but the plane crashed to the west of the airport, killing all 75 people aboard. It was the worst air disaster in American sports history.

Barile, a senior reserve on the team, hadn’t made the trip. Two weeks before the game, a teammate had speared him in practice and lacerated one of his kidneys. He spent three days in the hospital, his kidney packed in ice as doctors waited to see if they would have to remove it.

He was fortunate that he didn’t lose the kidney, but it was obvious he wasn’t going to play anymore for the rest of the season. He started letting his beard grow, and when he was eating dinner at the training table, the head coach came up and confronted him.

"He told me to cut my beard, that I was still a representative of the team," Barile said. "I told him I knew my football career was over and I wasn’t cutting it. There was total silence at the table. The coach looked at me like he wanted to punch me and then he turned and walked away."

Five years earlier, that might never have happened. Barile grew up in an era when if the coach said jump, the only question the athlete ever asked was "How high?" But college sports – particularly football – had gotten really nasty at many schools in the 1960s. Books like Gary Shaw’s "Meat on the Hoof" and Dave Meggysey’s "Out of Their League," published in 1970 and 1971, exposed how players were treated in college and professional football.

Marshall wasn’t much different. In fact, during Barile’s four years at the school, the Thundering Herd was put on probation for numerous violations and was also expelled from its conference. Prior to the 1969 season, the school fired the coach responsible for much of that and promoted Rick Tolley to head coach.

"He was a sadistic madman," Barile said. "He used to have an ambulance at all our practices because someone inevitably would get hurt. Sometimes we would finish practice and then he would make us start all over again."

It was family that had brought Barile to Huntington. He had an aunt living there, and her husband was a major university booster.

"I went there and I loved the campus," he said. "It wasn’t too big or too small. My cousin Frank Loria said he could have gotten me a scholarship to Virginia Tech, but he had been a two-time All-American there and I didn’t want to follow in his shadow."

Loria actually came to Marshall for Barile’s junior year as an assistant coach under Tolley.

"He was my size, but he was really tough and loved contact," Barile said. "He taught me that toughness, hard work, determination and heart went a long way."

After the training table confrontation, Loria talked to Barile privately.

"He told me if I cut the beard, to come see him on Friday and he would get me on the plane for the trip," Barile said. "I didn’t say anything. I just didn’t show up."


It wasn’t the way he had envisioned his football career ending, sitting in his dorm room on Saturday night with a couple of teammates who hadn’t made the trip either. The game was over and they were waiting for their friends to return when somebody came running into the room.

"He told us to turn on the television," Barile said. "There was a plane crash at the airport."

The first thing they heard was one of the news anchors saying they thought it was the Marshall plane. In the background, they heard someone say three words.

"They’re all dead."

Then the station went blank. To Barile, it seemed as if time had stopped.

"Everybody ran out of the room," he said. "I was just sitting there, not knowing what to do."

Most of the other people in the dorm went to the airport, but Barile knew there was no way he could go. It was beginning to sink in that not only his roommate and his teammates had been killed, but that his cousin had died in the crash as well.

He drove up to a park that overlooks Huntington. It was one of those dismal autumn nights when the rain that was falling was so fine it was like a mist creating halos around all the lights below. As he looked down, he could hear the sirens from all the police cars and fire trucks racing to the airport.

"I was devastated," he said. "I sat there in the rain for hours, and when I finally got back to the dorm, there was no one there. They had all gone to the airport. I left and went to my aunt’s house."

He returned to the dorm the next day to find pandemonium. Parents and family members of the players who had died, as well as players from previous years, were looking for the right rooms.

"Guys who had been my teammates would see me, grab and hug me and start crying," Barile said. "They didn’t know I hadn’t been on the trip and they were stunned to see me."

He found himself directing parents and friends to the rooms of the departed players, and many of those rooms had large football pictures on the walls. Memories of happier times. The toughest was when he showed one player’s fiancĂ©e his room.

"There was a big picture of him on the wall, along with other guys, hugging after a touchdown," he said. "The girl just collapsed into my arms. That same scene went on and on; I was the one who had to show everyone to the rooms."

When it was over – at least when he thought it was over – he returned to his own room. For the first time, he looked at the wall and his roommate’s face was looking down at him.

"He was a good-looking, 6-foot-5 receiver," Barile said. "I got him stoned for the first time in that room. I remember us sitting there and laughing so hard I thought we were going to throw up."


The next week was particularly brutal. Searchers spent six days trying to identify each of the bodies so that they could be properly buried. One of the ones they had trouble identifying was Loria, and members of Barile’s family asked him to go down there and see if he could help.

He told them he couldn’t do it.

"All those boys were my friends," he said. "Those bodies were charred like burned pieces of wood."

Searchers finally identified Loria from dental records. Six other victims never were satisfactorily identified, and a number of the coffins that were buried held only pieces of bodies.

It’s difficult for people who have never played competitive sports to understand the closeness that develops between members of a team. Especially for Marshall, which had gone through some terrible seasons and had started to improve significantly in 1970, one could have said that closeness was something akin to people who had survived some sort of disaster.

It was why Roger Childers, a linebacker who had suffered a head injury and undergone brain surgery, had decided to stay with the team as its student manager. Of course, his dedication put him on that plane.

Twenty-two members of the varsity team weren’t on the flight, either because of injuries or the fact that they weren’t on the traveling squad. One player just missed the flight.

They buried their teammates in a mass funeral at the basketball field house. Barile sat in the audience throughout the heart-breaking ceremony, looking at the basketball team standing behind the caskets as pall bearers.

"At the end of the ceremony I started to walk up to the front," he said. "I saw this one basketball player who was a good friend of mine. He was crying. For all I had gone through for six days, I didn’t cry or break down, but when I saw him, I broke down and started bawling."


Most people who know the Marshall story now probably learned it from the 2006 movie, "We Are Marshall," which starred Matthew McConaughey as the coach who rebuilt the program after the crash.

It was definitely inspirational, but it wasn’t the story of the team that died.

"My brother Joe wrote a screenplay," Barile said. "We talked about it before the other movie; it was more about the team that died in the crash and my own personal experience. I thought the movie they made was actually kind of sappy. If they would have incorporated more about the team that crashed, I think people would have had a greater sense of the real loss."

Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t make that kind of movie anymore. If it’s about sports, it has to be inspirational, even when it comes to changing the truth of what happened. That’s why all sorts of false drama was built into "Remember the Titans," despite the fact that the football team in the story didn’t actually play one close game all season.

And it’s why "We Are Marshall" had to be the story of how a university came together and came back from tragedy, instead of the story of all that was lost when the plane went down on November 14, 1970.

We look forward, though. We always look forward, and if anyone spends too much time musing about events that have already happened, we accuse them of living in the past.


After Barile finished up at Marshall the following spring, he married a girl from a small town on the other side of the Ohio River. He worked for her father in a small construction company and then managed a wine distributorship. The marriage didn’t last, and neither did two others.

Eventually, Barile moved back to Virginia and met his fourth wife Michele at the old State Theater. During our high school years, the State was a popular movie theater, but in this era of multiplexes, it has become a venue for live music. Acts like Little Feat, Gregg Allman and top local and regional talent have played there.

"The fourth time has been the charm for me," Barile said.

The two had a baby in the fall of 2008, and Barile is thrilled.

"I had a son in my first marriage," he said. "Miletus is in his thirties now, but I wasn’t around enough for him when he was a kid. My daughter Sofia has made my life much more rewarding. I have a lot of time to give her that I didn’t have for my son. Being older does have some benefits. You know where you are in life, and you’re better off financially and emotionally.

"I missed out on so much with my son, even though we are close now. He is a fine young man and I am very proud of him. Sofia will have my full attention and I am very excited about that."

He says he doesn’t think of those days at Marshall all that much anymore, although he has returned for an occasional game or presentation. When the Thundering Herd went 13-0 and won the Motor City Bowl, led by future National Football League stars Chad Pennington and Randy Moss, the school presented Barile with an engraved ring with his name on it, the same ring the players got.

They remembered him and honored him as a survivor of those worst days.

Another classmate – this one from Woodson’s Class of 1967 – remembered him too.

"I didn't realize that Tony was on the Marshall team," Diane Dunkley said. "I was at East Carolina in the fall of 1970, and the Marshall game was the first home game we'd won that year. There were celebrations all over town, and a lot of noise and excitement. As word came in and spread about what had happened, everything got very quiet, and the evening's celebrations ended.

"I was so glad to know that Tony wasn't on that plane."


Before all the marriages, before the plane crash that changed everything, there was Woodstock. "Three days of peace, love and music," the festival that grew from almost nothing into a crowd of 400,000 that shut down the New York Thruway and became the symbol of a generation.

It changed Barile’s life, and according to at least one of his friends in college, might have saved it.

"Woodstock set my life on a different course," Barile said. "I was a pretty straight-laced athlete before Woodstock."

Barile was home that summer when his younger brother Joe asked him to go with him. Their parents had told him he could only go if Tony went along.

"I love music, so it was a no-brainer for me," Barile said. “I told my brother I hoped there would be at least 50,000 people there. We left Virginia on Thursday night and drove all night to get there."

When they reached the area on Friday morning, they stopped for gas and asked for directions. The attendant pointed to a dirt road, and Barile saw a line of traffic heading in one direction. He got into line, and the traffic got slower and slower.

Eventually it stopped, and cars pulled onto the shoulder in an effort to move ahead. When the traffic on the shoulder stopped, cars moved to the other shoulder and eventually into the left lane. Four lanes of traffic moving slowly on a two-lane road.

"I remember music playing out of vans," he said. "Then people started abandoning their cars and walking. We walked for a while and the crowd got bigger and bigger. I was like walking down the streets of New York. Joe looked and me and asked me if I thought there were enough people for me."

They walked a few hundred yards more until they found an opening in the woods. Then they looked down into a bowl-shaped area and saw a massive stage, 50-foot speakers and spotlights at the top.

Everywhere they looked were tents and tepees.

"It looked like an Indian nation," Barile said. "We looked at each other and we knew this was going to be the most moving experience of our lives."

The music hadn’t started yet, so Barile and his brother got as close as possible to the front of the stage. Then, just after 5 p.m. on Friday, Richie Havens came on stage and started singing "High Flyin’ Bird."

Folks near the Bariles lit up a joint and started passing it. Eventually it made it to Tony.

"I looked at it," he said. "Then I looked around at everything and took a big hit. It was an amazing weekend – three days of love, peace and tranquility. It was like everyone was on a high the whole time and it changed me.

"I started growing my hair and my beard," he said. "Then it was time to return for fall football. I walked into training camp with long hair and a beard."

Of course the coaches didn’t like it, but Barile had changed. The kid who had never questioned a coach had realized there was more to life than football, and he wanted to experience all of it.

It probably did save his life. In 1968, if a coach had told him to cut his hair, that he was still part of the team, Tony Barile would have rushed out and grabbed his razor. But in November 1970, with his lacerated kidney, he knew football was in his past and the coach was just another guy yelling at him.

He stayed home and lived.

"I was talking with my brother Casey about that after the crash," Barile said. "He told me going to Woodstock had saved my life."


All that was a long, long time ago, and the boy who said no to his coach is now a man looking ahead to 64.

He still has dreams from time to time, one in particular.

"I dream that I’m in the locker room," he said. "I dream that I’m trying to get my equipment together. My teammates tell me that I’ve got to hurry, that the bus is getting ready to leave for the airport. I’m looking around for my stuff but I can’t find it.

"I’m getting desperate, because I know I’m running out of time. Then the bus leaves without me."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day still important to us

There are dates in all our lives that have significance -- birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases.

Then there are those that matter to all of us as a nation, and today is one of those dates. On June 6, 1944, thousands of young Americans and Englishmen came ashore at Normandy Beach in France in what was certainly the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler's Germany.

That was 65 years ago today, and President Obama was in France with other national leaders for a commemoration of the honored dead and those who survived.

I wonder how much longer D-Day will matter, how many more years we will celebrate it. I was in France the summer of the 50th anniversary and I will be there later this summer as well. The youngest veterans of World War II are now in their 80s, and it won't be too much longer before they're all gone.

We no longer celebrate the signing of the peace at Appomattox in 1865, and most Americans would have no idea on what day the Maine was blown up in Havana harbor.

Eventually, all things pass.

There will even come a time when the date Sept. 11 won't mean much to Americans.

All things pass.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Forty years now since Woodstock

When you talk about our g-g-generation, one of the biggest things that ever happened was Woodstock.

Four hundred thousand people and three days of "peace, love and music" in August 1969. Who can forget it?

I remember that fall, registering for classes at George Washington University, talking with a couple of people who had been there. Even then, I knew it was going to be remembered as one of those legendary things.

Didn't make it myself. I was in New York City a day or two before the festival, and the thought crossed my mind of hitch-hiking up there and going. But I wasn't that kind of kid; I was a very immature 19 and my parents would have been horrified.

I know two members of our class who went -- Jayne Houghten and Tony Barile. I know one other -- Lee Millette -- who had wanted to go but his dad talked him out of it because he might have trouble getting back for work on Monday.

It has been 40 years now, so all the statutes of limitations are past. I'd love to hear some Woodstock stories in the comments section.

Feel free.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Alas, no Northwest Roundup this summer

I'm really disappointed.

I've been hearing about these WTW Northwest Roundups ever since I went to the 40th anniversary reunion, and I always figured that someday I might be able to make it to one.

Ever since my daughter married a kid from Seattle, the odds went up that we would someday visit the Pacific Northwest. Well, Pauline and Ryan are finishing their tour in China in a month or so and they're spending their two months of home leave and vacation in Washington State.

They'll be in Seattle with Ryan's family during July and they're renting a house outside Snoqualmie in August. We're taking our vacation up there, and I was hoping we could time it so that I could catch the Northwest Roundup.

Alas, there isn't going to be one this year.

Not that I needed another reason to go. I don't get to spend nearly enough time with my wonderful daughter, who is an officer in the U.S. Foreign Service. And of course, there is little Maddie, my first and to date only grandchild.

By August she may be walking. She's already managing to do it with support, so at this point it's just a question of balance.

So I'm sure I'll enjoy myself.

Still, a roundup would have been nice.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Classmates still striving in new directions

That was great news we got from the lovely and vivacious Dale Morgan, wasn't it?

Penny Viglione -- and who could ever forget her "Molly Brown" -- is opening an art gallery and wine bar on June 18 in New Bern, N.C.

What's really great about it is that for all we hear about life winding down toward retirement and our part of the baby boom generation getting ready to shuffle off the stage and make room for those damn kids (who won't get off our lawns), here's someone going out and starting a new business.

I also just received an e-mail from Katie (Reichel) Dyer about her trip to the Sahara Desert in 2005. Of course that'll be in the book, in a chapter to be called "Midnight at the Oasis."

Looks like more than one person in our class is still enjoying adventures.

We'd love to hear from more of you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Best memories are of endless summers

I was in Best Buy the other day to pick up a portable CD player for my wife, and as I waited in line to pay for it, I noticed something.

There was yet another repackaging of Beach Boys songs from the '60s, this one called "Summer Love Songs." Most of them were songs I've heard literally a thousand times over the last 47 years, but for some reason I dropped it into my basket.

I don't know why, but nothing else in my life evokes summer, the '60s and yes, high school, than the music of the Beach Boys.

We may all talk now about how much we loved the Beatles, the Stones or other groups, but I went to an awful lot of parties during high school where, when people wanted to dance slow dances, they put on songs like "Surfer Girl," "Warmth of the Sun" and a lot of others.

I don't know how many of us ever surfed in high school -- you probably did, Dudley -- but it was the California surf scene and the car culture that captured an awful lot of our imaginations.

It's funny now to remember that "American Graffiti" came out only six years after we graduated, but do you remember the almost perfect musical ending? The plane carrying Richard Dreyfuss flies off into the clouds, we learn what happened to the four main characters and then boom -- cut to the credits and the Beach Boys' wonderful "All Summer Long."

I've always thought it was THE classic summer song.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on others that take you back.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Humor -- even raunchy humor -- is rarely bad

I don't know how many of you are on Facebook, but one of the things I love about it is the humor.

One of the favorite targets -- in about three or four different applications -- are those lovely desktop and wall posters that have been around for the last 20 years or so trumpeting good virtues to follow in life.

Some of them are very nice. My son got me one called "Integrity" a few years back that sat on my desk at work for three or four years. In fact, it was there longer than I was. I had to go back for it after I got canned in January 2008.

The ones on Facebook certainly don't celebrate our good qualities. In fact, they glorify our snarky side, as in this one with George W. Bush checking out a target-rich environment.

There are other ones, covering everything from video-game nerds to enormously fat people to all sorts of sexual themes. This one, for instance:

Yes, they're lewd, crude and fairly rude. And yes, most of us are 59 or 60 years old at this point.

But I always thought one of the things we lacked in our high-school days was something really funny and raunchy like the National Lampoon.

I've often been accused of being an aging frat boy. To which I plead gloriously guilty. (I was also called Wally Cleaver gone to seed sometime in the '80s, which I had more mixed feelings about.)

But I sure hope I never stop laughing at stuff like this, and I sure hope I never stop enjoying stand-up comedy or funny movies.

One of the greatest thrills of my life came in the summer of 2001 when I had the opportunity to do five minutes or so of stand-up at a sort of open-mike night for new comics. I can't say I "killed," but I got laughs.

Other than family stuff, I don't know if I ever enjoyed myself more.

So look at the pictures and laugh. If you can't laugh, mutter something about some people ought to grow up.

I've heard it before.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A look back at a very average day

Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?--every, every minute?
Stage Manager: No. Saints and poets, maybe--they do some.
-- OUR TOWN, Thornton Wilder

If you came of age in the '50s and '60s, the odds are pretty good you saw a production of "Our Town" at least once. It was the story of Grover's Corners, N.H., a pretty nothing little town in which very little ever happened.

Of course that was exactly Wilder's point, that it's the little things in life -- the things we rarely notice at the time -- that in the end mean everything to us. When Emily dies in childbirth, she asks to go back and witness one day out of her life. She does, and she is overwhelmed by the simple beauty of it.

I don't know how many of us would want to do it all over again, but I would be willing to bet most of the people who visit this site would love to have the chance to spend one day just observing. Not graduation day, not the prom or the day we took the SATs.

Just one simple day, say maybe ... Sept. 16, 1966.

Since I'm the writer, I'll have to tell it through my eyes. I hope you enjoy it.

My clock radio goes on at 6:30. WEAM is playing the No. 1 song in the country ... "You Can't Hurry Love," by the Supremes. Other songs that are high on the charts that week are Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine."

One of the big summer hits -- "Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful -- is still hanging around, but the song that's coming up fast that's got everyone's attention is the Association doing "Cherish." It'll be No. 1 next week and on into October.

I've got the bathroom for a quick shower. My complexion is hanging in there -- there have been worse mornings -- but I'm still annoyed that my hair is short. My mother made me cut it for our senior pictures and it hasn't grown back yet.

The good news is that it's a Friday, and there's a big football game tonight. Woodson is playing at Annandale, which hasn't lost a game in more than four years. A few years from now, the Washington Post magazine will write a cover story about them called "Notre Dame in Peach Fuzz."

It's a daunting challenge, but we've got a pretty good team this year. I know -- I see every game as one of the tuba players in the marching band.

I dress quickly. A collared shirt, slacks, socks and loafers. We're not allowed to wear Levis or sneakers to school, and socks are a must.

I hustle down to the bus stop at the bottom of Atlanta Street in Mosby Woods. I'm 16, but I don't have my driver's license yet. Even if I did, there's no car for me to drive to school. Two friends from the neighborhood, Tom Kensler and Jim Nelson, are sophomores this year. We horse around a little waiting for the bus. Everybody's kind of psyched about the football game.

When we get to school, I go to the band room. That's where a lot of us hang out when we're not doing anything else, and I've got two periods of band this year. In addition to Symphonic Band fourth period, I'm the student director of the Concert Band second period. I had planned a free period in hopes of winning the election for student government president the previous March, but when that fell through, the band director, Mr. Buskirk, asked me if I wanted this job.

He was my favorite teacher after three years of band -- and three of private lessons -- but he had moved up to be an assistant principal during the summer, and Mr. Lawrence had taken over. He was very different from Buskirk, but it looked like he and I were going to get along.

First period was U.S./Virginia government with Mrs. Johnson, a class that should have been my favorite. All my ambitions at the time were centered around law and politics; it's amazing how things happen so differently from the way we plan them. It's not a bad class, but I feel like I know most of the stuff and wish we could go deeper into some of it.

Second period, Concert band. Actually, Mr. Grant is the director of the second band. He generally has me warm them up -- scales, etc. -- and then he takes over. I go into the office and see if Mr. Lawrence has any filing for me to do.

As I walk through the halls between second and third period, I see lockers of football players. They've been decorated by the Pep Club. Since it's a game day, the players are wearing their jerseys and the cheerleaders are in full uniform.

My third period Chemistry class has a cheerleader in it. Emily Pennington is a junior, but to me she's one of the cutest girls I know. She's got a boyfriend on the team, of course.

Chemistry is Mrs. Jones, a younger, divorced teacher. She's fairly pretty, and there are rumors that some of the more "mature" seniors have tried to ask her out. That's so far beyond my experience that I can't believe it. Of course in 1966 I'd never heard of Mary Kay Letourneau.

Fourth period is two hours long so that the school can serve lunch in four shifts. It's supposed to be divided into one hour of class, half an hour of lunch and half an hour of study hall, but for band kids, we have 90 minutes of practice on the field for that night's routine. I'm second chair out of four tubas, but the junior who sits in first chair, Pete Carlson, is out of my league.

He's going to make the All-State band this year, and he can play like I can only dream of. He's a really cocky kid -- he calls me "Fan," as in me being his fan -- but we get along very well.

Since it's a Friday, there's no meat for lunch. It was usually something like fish sticks, but on this particular Friday it's a slice of cheese pizza, which pretty much everybody likes.

Seniors with cars sneak off campus and go to McDonald's, but I never got the opportunity to do that. I never drove to school once in four years.

After lunch is fifth period, French II for me. It's my most tedious class, because I'm really not that involved in learning French. If I'd known I would fall in love and marry a Frenchwoman in 1992, things might have been different, but as it is, I mostly just sit and ogle our teacher. Miss Dubrow seems to enjoy wearing tight knit dresses that show off her figure, and I don't think I was the only guy who ever walked out of class with a book covering his excitement.

Sixth period is Senior English, the one class I really do enjoy. Mrs. Maguire is a wonderful teacher who really conveys a sense of wonder about English literature, which is what we're studying this year. She was the best teacher I ever had at any level, including college, and my younger sister Laura -- who had her three years later at Oakton -- felt the same way.

When the last bell rings, we head to the buses to go home. Since it's Friday, my friends and I spend about an hour and a half playing football in the street. I go home for dinner and then my dad drives me over to Woodson to get on the band bus for Annandale.

It's a great game, just as we hoped it would be. The Cavaliers really throw a scare into the invincible Atoms, and we lead 14-12 in the fourth quarter. But Annandale lives up to its reputation, driving for the winning touchdown in the closing seconds and winning 19-14.

After the game, a lot of the band kids get together for a party at someone's house. Very tame -- no booze -- except for being able to slow-dance closer than the chaperones let us at school dances.

Tom Bates, a junior who lives near me, drives me home after the party. I'm in bed by 1 a.m., looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday.


A long post, for which I apologize, but I find there are tears in my eyes as I type this. When I was 16, all I wanted was to be older. All I wanted was for days and weeks and months to pass as quickly as they could so that I could be off to college and adulthood.

It wasn't all wonderful. There were things I wanted to happen that didn't, and things that happened that I wish hadn't.

But why didn't I know? I had seen "Our Town." I understood what it meant.

I wanted to get out of Woodson so I could live my life, as I'm sure many of you did too.

But as the late John Lennon once said, life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.

I wish I had known.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh yeah, and also ... we're back

I should have posted this before the Tony Barile post, but I wanted to apologize for four months of inactivity on this site.

We're back, and we'll be posting a lot more regularly.

Of course, I do post almost every day at my other blog, All that Matters. Check it out.

Great stories just keep popping up

"Hey, Mike. How the heck is the book going?"

I'm here to report to you that "When I'm 64" keeps getting bigger and bigger. I have been working on the book for more than a year now, and I just got word of a wonderful possibility for a chapter in the last two weeks.

Remember Tony Barile? He was one of the finest athletes in our class, a star running back on the football team and a standout point guard in the basketball team that went to the state tournament our junior year.

Well, I hadn't realized that Tony got an athletic scholarship to Marshall University. In fact, he was a senior running back on the team that was all but wiped out on Nov. 14, 1970 in the plane crash that was the worst sports tragedy in U.S. history.

Tony wasn't on the plane; he missed that trip with a lacerated kidney.

His story is going to be one of the most fascinating in the book -- if I ever get it done.

There are some of you who have promised me stories, either about yourself or about friends. I still need them. And if you have any great memories of Tony from high school, I could use those too.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Some chapters are very interesting

Sorry I haven't been posting here lately. A lot has been happening in my life and I have been trying to chug along on "When I'm 64."

I recently finished a first draft of a chapter on Barbara Lanzer, the one member of our class who returned to Woodson as an administrator before being promoted last year.

I'm not posting her chapter yet -- she hasn't commented back on it -- and I don't know if I will, but the one very interesting thing I found in talking to people -- particularly guys -- about Barbara was that she was remembered as one of the really "hot" girls in our class.

Now I didn't know Bobbie in that way (actually I didn't know anyone in our class in that way), but I find myself wondering what "hot" meant in '66-67 compared to 10-15 years later.

I always liked the song "Good Girls Don't," by the Knack, which came out in 1979, but I have a feeling a girl didn't need to be that active in 1967 to be called "hot."

Maybe just kissing with something other than tightly pursed lips would have done it.

More soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Moving right along ...

Happy New Year to all of you; 2009 is our third year on this blog, although we started relatively late in 2007.

I'm currently working on four different chapters -- Mike McCuddin, Dale and Susi, Dale and Judy (different Dale, of course) and Bobbie Lanzer. Any thoughts, any reminiscences, are greatly appreciated.

Happy 2009.