One of the nicest guys in Lodi went to heaven the other day. He came to Lodi as a kid with his family and blended in instantly, because he was the kind of kid who was a combination of lots of good things: Among others, he was handsome as the day is long, so that took care of the female contingent, and he was a remarkably gifted athlete, so that made him one of the guys right off the bat.
Well, I say one of the guys, but he wasn’t one of the guys. He was a better ball player than eight out of 10 of us, and he could pitch a baseball through a wooden fence, so that made him special there as well. It didn’t hurt that he was from a whole family of folks who people quickly learned to like.
I’m talking about Ted Case.
Among other things, he was a gifted mason and has had a hand in the construction of hundreds of buildings in the Lodi area and its environs.
Some time ago, one of my 1949 fellow graduates from Lodi Union High School gave me a class picture that was taken on the front steps of the old Lodi High, which became Hutchins Street Square. There were more than 300 of us there, and more than 90 of the people pictured there have already joined Ted in the Lodi in the Sky.
The class was a unique one because we formed so many lifelong friendships and still have reunions on a regular basis. The picture Biff Baffoni gave me is a good one, and it is clear enough so that even an old duffer with nearly 80-year-old eyesight can instantly recognize everyone.
That ain’t the worst of it, however; everyone in that picture has a story to tell, and I can remember way too many of them. As a matter of fact, I know stories that will never make it to this column because I would have to incriminate myself in relating some of them.
For instance, when I worked in the Knoll Family Winery with son Fuzzy and a few other “Niners,” at lunchtime we would wash down the sandwiches our dear mothers fixed for us with sauterne wine. (We were old enough to work in a winery and drink wine but were too young and klutzy to make our own sandwiches and too dumb to drink the good stuff.)
Of course, if our dear mothers knew what we were drinking with those chicken sandwiches, we woulda caught all kinds of heck, and maybe a word or two would have found their way to Fuzzy’s dad, but he had no idea what was going on, either. The ultimate punishment might have been having to work somewhere else, not mention having to make our own sandwiches.
The Class of 1949 was comprised of a wonderful bunch of kids. It would be a simple matter to track down all of those people, and I can guaran-dang-tee ya, there wasn’t a criminal in the bunch. Quite a few of the guys ended up in the service, many went to college, one ended up homeless on the street in downtown L.A., where I saw him one day as a beggar as I was leaving my evening job where I was working my way through school.
(I am being generous with myself; I was a spoiled brat in those days. I was subsidized by my wonderful dad and he made it possible for me to buy a new Austin Healey as a student, because as a student, I was parking cars for a living. The generous people of L.A. tipped me so lavishly, I was able to go to school, live and buy the car of my dreams all at the same time. Thanks, Dad!)
The “livability” of Lodi is borne out by the fact so many of our classmates still call it home.
Lodi High was a marvelous school to attend. We had no-nonsense teachers. The most elegant edifice in Lodi as our home away from home, and we had the coziness that comes from living in a small town.
Gotta tell you a story about Cy Londahl, my English teacher at LUHS. He wore a suit and tie to school every day. He had a slightly rowdy history as a student in college. (There was a rumor circulating about his allegedly riding a Harley in the halls of his college — a feat that endeared him with the guys in school because years later, they would lie and say it was them that broke the law — guys lie like that all the time. It’s a boy thing, don’t ask me to explain it.)
Mr. Londahl gave his classes a 100-word spelling test on the first day of the semester. I happened to get 99 right. It was a no-grade test, he just wanted to know where we were as regarded spelling,
Halfway though the year, he gave us the same test again. I got another 99, but I missed the same word. That resulted in an F grade and a lecture because Mr. Londahl blamed himself. He said, “You have been in this class for half the year and you haven’t learned a thing, not one word. I am taking the blame for that as I have failed you.”
Well, he didn’t fail in embarrassing me and I didn’t stop blushing for days. He ended up being my favorite teacher. I will always remember the word as long as I live. It was ... rats, I forgot. (It was phlox.)
Bob Bader is a chiropractor and the guy who writes this column. His email address is email@example.com.