Are We There Yet?
September 16-22, 2019
By Jay Edwards
Stroll down memory lane
I’m writing this on a high school classmate’s birthday. He was in the school play from our senior year, “Sugar.” You probably remember Billy Wilder’s film version better with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis called “Some Like It Hot.” And that blonde, what was her name? Anyway, she played Sugar. My birthday friend, Steve, got the lead gangster role of Spats Colombo, who was played by George Rafat in the film.
So, I found a picture in our annual from 1975 of Steve and his gang, looking pretty ominous with their toy Tommy Guns as they walked through the halls of Catholic High. I posted it on Steve’s Facebook page, in honor him making it to such an old age. Cringe.
KM saw the picture and said, “I guess you couldn’t get away with that these days.”
“What?” I asked her.
“You know, walking through a school hallway with toy guns.”
“Oh yeah, I guess you’re right. Crazy huh?”
We had a lot of talented people at our school in those days. The play was truly wonderful. I loved it so much I saw it twice. Some of you may know the stars. Besides Steve Johnson as Spats, we had the lovely Sharon Binz as “Sugar” Kane Kowalczyk. Sharon could have given MM a run for her money. I think Josephine was played by Jim Hathaway. The reason I say that is there is another picture in the annual of Jim and Sharon rehearsing a big kissing scene. At least I think they’re rehearsing.
That left our future United States Congressman from the 2nd District in the other lead role as Daphne.
Of course, all this talent needed a director, and that fell on the shoulders of Father J. Gaston Hebert, who didn’t even have to change his name when he got the job. I thought I had a good shot at a lead role, or even a lesser role, or even an understudy. I didn’t want to be the gaffer though, whatever that is. But when I asked Father Hebert about trying out for the play he gave me that look of his, where he peered smugly over the top of his glasses. Then he said, “Did you look into the Army like Mr. Palazzi suggested?”
“Not yet,” I answered. “It’s on my list. I really want to be in the play.”
“Can you sing?”
“Can you dance?”
“Not too well.”
“OK, how about lifting over 60 pounds?”
This wasn’t going the direction I was hoping for, and it was plain to see why he was the director.
“Well Father, I had this back injury in football, and heavy lifting doesn’t really work for me right now.”
“That’s great!” He said. “Stick with football, that’s your ticket. Now run along Mr. Edwards. I’m busy.”
He obviously didn’t know or care that football had ended three months ago, with me sitting on the bench wearing a broken helmet from the Jimmy Doolittle era that didn’t even have a chin strap.
Five months later I was headed off to Fayetteville. And after a big fight in our dorm after the Texas game, and a judicial board hearing that got me and three of my Catholic High brothers put on double secret probation for a while, I decided to join a fraternity to get some stability in my life. Mom and Dad seemed happy with the decision as the highlight of that first semester had been when I won a watermelon seed spitting contest.
So, I became a pledge, or Phikeia, as the Phi Delt members like to call us. And you’ll never believe what happened next. I was named chorister of my pledge class. Maybe my dream of being a thespian wasn’t such a stretch after all. I tried calling Father Hebert to tell him the good news, but the secretary said he didn’t like just anyone having his number. So, I asked her to please give him the message. She said she’d be happy to, but I think she forgot because I never heard from him.