This post was prompted by the event last week at my Mother’s care facility. That will be the brief subject of the succeeding post with was prompted by this posts preceding post. One of the challenges of a blog is putting information in an order which make sense as a reader goes backward in time reading older posts.
In 1968 I was on the Mankato High School Swim team. I’d started swimming with the team the last couple of weeks of the previous year at the behest of my friend Steve Skelly.
I got to be a fair swimmer that year and one of the reasons why was that a girl was given permission to swim with our boy’s team. This was before Title Nine required schools to offer girl sports and Jan C. was not satisfied to swim with the YMCA girls team in town. I didn’t give my coach the credit he deserved at the time for his forward thinking although I’m sure it raised plenty of eyebrows at the time. Having Jan in the pool swimming laps with us boys made me determined not to let her lap me. I’m sure she had a similar affect on the other guys.
One of the other people in the pool was Randy a kid from California whose family had some Minnesota connection which allowed him to stay for his senior year in Mankato. Like Jan and me he was new to the team. He was also a year older than me and we got to know each other well enough so that when he asked Jan to go to some dance, maybe the Spring Prom, we joined forces and drove together.
He graduated that Spring and would be heading back to California but before he did he invited me to go up to a lake in Northern Minnesota with his family when they came to pick him up. We went to a Green Lake although just which one it was I have no idea as there must be dozens of them. Randy’s was a family with boys and I got along with them all pretty well. The following year after I graduated from High School my Dad took us on one of a half dozen cross country camping trips of my youth through the west coast and a few miles from Randy’s home. I prevailed on my Dad to let me call Randy and lucked into dropping by his family’s home for a short visit. I can’t recall whether Randy was present or not and if I just met briefly with his younger brothers. I have only one indelible recollection from that visit. On the wall of the living room was a large Marine Corps emblem. It might have included at screaming eagle bearing Semper Fi or USMC in a banner clutched in its talons. Randy’s Dad was a marine and probably a WW II warrior. I think I got the impression that Randy felt he owed it to his Dad to follow in his footsteps.
A year or two later Randy was a newly minted marine and came for one last visit to Duluth. Like most college campuses Mankato had a strong whif of anti-Vietnam War attitude about it. There were already a few Veterans at the school and many of them were unsympathetic to the war. I too was anti-war but I kept my attitude about the war separate from the soldiers sent to fight it. As I recall Randy was in uniform when I invited him up to lunch in the Student Union. I know he felt conspicuous in a college setting although no one said or did anything to make Randy feel unwelcome. I was curious to know what he thought of being a marine. He didn’t seem to think of the experience as highly as his Dad had. Randy joked about being called repeatedly by his Drill Instructors whatever it was they were yelling at recruits in that Era’s bootcamps. Puke’s maybe or worse.
We may have exchanged a Christmas card after that visit but my association with Randy pretty much ended there. We were headed into different paths of life. I have the feeling he escaped Vietnam just as I escaped being drafted but I can’t be sure.